The future of publishing, part 2 of 2

As I blogged about yesterday, and to give a nod to Mr. Mark Twain, the rumors of the publishing industry’s death are highly exaggerated. With advancements in self publishing, eBooks and social media, there are simply more ways for more players to get into the game. What does that mean for us? It means that we have to make our product the BEST THAT IT CAN BE if we want to gain the attention of agents, editors and, ultimately, readers. In other words, first write a damn good book (DGB).

After writing the DGB, if you believe what the presentors, editors, and agents talked about at the 2011 DFW Writers Conference, there are a few paths you can go down:

1. Traditional book deal – the first step in this process is to get an agent. How do you get an agent? You query an agent with a letter, synopsis and sample chapters. At the conference, they set up a “gong show” and had a volunteer read actual query letters from conference attendees while both the audience and agent panel listened. At any part of the letter, the agents could bang their gong; three gongs would bring an end to the evaluation, and then the moderator would question the agents why they gonged. Surprisingly, the answers revolved around three main complaints: 1 – too much stuff going on in the letter. The agents all said that writers should get in, talk about how many words their manuscript is, whether it’s completed or not, talk about the main plot (not subplots) and the main characters and get out. Don’t drone on how it’s a vampire mystery with a little romance and YA stuff thrown in. Oh, and by then way the heroine has cancer or some funky disease. Too much too soon. 2- don’t be cheesy. Just don’t be cheesy. 3 – keep it to one page. I got the impression that agents think of query letters like a first date. Don’t come on to strong, don’t bathe in Aqua Velva, and always, always leave them wanting more.   

2. Self-publish – I’ve self published 2 books, my latest one, The Brink, was self-published through iUniverse. With 90% of novels selling less than 500 copies, I can tell you that I’m in the other 10%. But, if I ever self publish again (my goal is to get a traditional deal) I won’t go through a self-publishing company. I’ll do it myself. Fort Worth Star Telegram columnist Dave Lieber, who as the Watchdog Nation founder, is like DFW’s answer to John Stossel, showed us how he does it, and even gave us the numbers that make self-publishing by yourself or becoming a publisher yourself makes the most sense if you choose to self publish. Want more info on it? Well, I wouldn’t be a good suspense thriller writer if I gave it to you now. More on Dave’s presentation next week.

3. eBook publishing – Mark Hollingsworth, a rep with Barnes & Noble, taught a class on how to publish for free with B&N’s new Pubit platform. It really is simple to do, and depending upon the price point at which you choose to sell your novel, you can keep up to 70% of the profits. If you want to hit all the eBook publishers at once, you can do it for a fee through Smashwords. A note to PC users, if you want your book on iBooks, the only way to do it is to go through Smashwords.

I could have written much more about what I learned about the future of publishing at the DFW Writers Conference, but as Kristen Lamb taught us in the blogging class, keep your blogs short. I’m at about 600 words here, so I’ll just mention a few words about the new format. Starting next week, Mark Fadden’s blog will come to you Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and we’re going to have themes:

Mystery Monday – Since I’m a mystery/thriller  author, we’ll discuss all topics mystery related including infamous murder cases (and what made them that way), forensics, and possible plots.

Writing Wednesdays – We’ll talk about the craft of writing and all things “authorpreneurial” including marketing and promoting our books.

Finance Fridays – Since my latest thriller, The Brink, uses the current financial meltdown for it’s foundation, we’ll talk about the cluster**** that is our nation’s current financial condition. Trust me, there is no lack of topics for this subject.

So, that’s the new format. I hope you’ll like it and tell others about it.

Questions? Comments? To the keyboards!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com.

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