Laura Howard: April 2012


Amazon Killed the Publishing Star

Where do you sit in the debate on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing? E-books or Hardcover?

About 2 weeks ago, I read an article about the DOJ decision in the conundrum between Amazon and the rest of the free the Legacy Publishers and Apple. In the comment section, people were firing off their opinions of who was right and who was wrong and I came to a realization:

There is no RIGHT answer.

Joe likes reading quick-paced crime fiction and he doesn't care whether it comes in a scuffed paperback from Dolly's Used Bookstore or a 99 cent e-book promo on Amazon. He just likes a good story and it's fast and cheap to download to his Kindle.

Suzie has a beautiful collection of the classics ranging from Charlotte Bronte to Oscar Wilde. She displays them prominently on the bookshelf in her parlor. She wouldn't dream of buying an e-book, because she likes to hold a real book, and she wants to preserve literary traditions.

Does either of these scenarios have to be wrong? I don't think so. We all love books. It's a matter of opinion. And everyone's opinion is valid.

But, back to the DOJ debate for just a quick second... I find it funny that people are so intensely on one side or the other.

Amazon is ruining the publishing industry!

Legacy Publishers aren't adapting to the advances in technology! 

I have never nor will I EVER be a business guru, but come on!!! This is BUSINESS! It's all about the Benjamins, baby! Nobody is trying to destroy or preserve the literary tradition. I believe they all just want the money, and if they don't get as much as quick as the next guy, they cry FOUL!


Maybe I'm under-informed. Maybe I'm crazy. E-books aren't going anywhere, and I have a feeling that the Suzie's of the world won't be too hard-pressed to find their hardcovers if that's what they desire.

But, change is coming. It's here. I'm ready to roll with it.

What do you think?


Find What Works to Build Your Platform

Imagine five years from now when you have 10,000 Twitter subscribers and 50,000 blog subscribers. Each day when you log in to check your email, you have pages of eager requests for your attention. What will you have done to get yourself to that point?

 Large followings don't just happen, do they? I've been experimenting in April, and I want to share what things I've found to be the most helpful in building my platform and growing my audience.

  • Make Goals Having a goal in mind is not the same as having clear, written out goals. Something about putting your goals on paper (or monitor) cements your commitment. I find that the cork board next to my desk is a great place to pin my personal goals, so that when I feel particularly lazy, they are there to stare me down O_O .
  • Create a Schedule  Everyone is busy. Using the I have no time excuse doesn't fly in the real world, so it shouldn't fly in your virtual world, either. The truth is that if you want to be a writer in today's world, you need to schedule time to write and time to nurture your followers. Five minutes before lunch, ten minutes after. First thing in the morning, or just before bed. The point is if it's important to you, you make the time.
  • Focus on What Works There are so many ways to connect with readers and writers on the web, how do you decide which one is best for you? I think the only way to know is to experiment. In April I've decided to tweet daily, and it's been a true eye-opener. I started the month knowing next to no one, now I find myself checking my Twitter feed even when I don't plan to, just to see who's on. Which brings me to my final tip...
  • Avoid Too Many Distractions  Like anything else, Social Media and blog-reading can become huge time suckers. It's easy to become too focused on Twitter or your RSS feed, but if you're so busy posting/reading updates, when do you write? 
I hope one or more of these thoughts resonates with you. I've had a great month meeting new people, and I hope to keep the momentum up in May. Make sure to leave a message in the comments about what you're doing to grow your following! And, follow me on Twitter too :) .


Why Bother with Twitter?

Are you Tweeting?

Do you Twit?

Or my favorite-are you on the Twittersphere?

What is Twitter?

Twitter first came on the scene in 2006. I just couldn't imagine why anyone would want to tell the world what they were up to on a continual basis... my thoughts were: Who really Cares?? Apparently, a lot of people do.

As more and more people I knew and encountered on a regular basis began living with their cell phones attached to their hands, I began to realize that there was something to this Twitter thing. That didn't mean I would Tweet, but I didn't scoff quite as much. Reading blogs and checking Facebook a few times a day was enough for me.

Something funny happened in late 2010. I had a sort of routine where I'd check blogs and chat on FB, but I gradually began to realize I was missing part of the "conversation". People were posting stories on their blogs, and giving intermittent updates on FB, but it was like they were all in on some kind of a private joke. They were tweeting to each other... and I was AGAINST Twitter, so I was an outsider. I begrudgingly signed up for an account, checked it here and there, but refused to post anything.

Fast forward a few months. I'd been writing on and off most of my life, but after the birth of my son I decided I'd like to see about getting something published, maybe make a career out of my hobby. So, I researched the publishing world and guess what? People everywhere sang praise to Twitter! "Build your 'platform'," they said. "Communicate with the literary community, interact with agents and editors!" o_O

Why are so many people on Twitter?

  • To drive traffic to their personal website
  • To connect with their peers
  • To share important dates
  • To gather feedback 

Three tips to use Twitter to build your platform

  • Be helpful- Don't just go on Twitter to spread the word about yourself. Share things you think other people would be interested in, retweet their important info, just be open to being helpful.
  • Be interesting- Yes, it's important to tweet about trending topics. But, nobody will care if it's the same old recycled info. Put your own unique spin on topics people want to talk about.
  • Be transparent- Put forth your best self, but also your real self. Sharing a small amount of personal information is acceptable as long as it's not too personal. In fact, it's important to be a real person, someone with feelings about things other than what their book is about and how their sales are this month.

Twitter is simple to use, and so many people are on it, it's definitely worth a try if you're serious about growing your influence online. If we're not connected yet, I invite you to join me in the-I'm gonna say it- Twittersphere. My handle is @laurahoward78 can't wait to chat!


Living the Dream

"I have this great idea, someday I'm going to write a book!"

How many people do you know that want to write a book? In an article for the New York Times, Joseph Epstein said 81% of people say they want to write a book, though very few actually complete one. I'm sure there are many reasons for that, being  2/3 done writing my own novel. 

Many days I sit at the keyboard and stare at the screen wondering what possessed me to think I could do this. Two years have gone by since the original idea began in my head. The original outline is unrecognizable, several lead character's names have changed, but still I have this drive to complete the story. Have you been there?

Assuming that a person actually slogs their way through an entire manuscript, even just a first draft, then what? Is it vain to think that your work, your story, is good enough to be published beside some of the greats? A storyteller doesn't want to share their story because of vanity, no- it's deeper than that. A storyteller needs their story to be told, it's almost painful to have that story living inside them.

So, what to do when the inner critic steps in? The fears and doubts start piling on- this dream of yours is too big, why can't you just be happy with a normal job like everyone else? It's a form of self-preservation, I think. If you never try, you'll never get rejected. It's really no wonder so many of that 81% don't follow through. But, again with the pain of having your story remain untold. How can you put that inner critic in the backseat?

You create a new truth. This expression is thrown around a lot, but stop and think about what it really means.What you've been telling yourself (or what I've told myself) is negative self-talk, and it's working! How about if you tell yourself that your work is definitely good enough! Could that work too? 

Take a (big) piece of paper and pin it over your work space-wherever you write, and have it say something like this:                 

I am going to finish this book. People are going to read my story, and they will love it.

It can be the truth if you let it be. Challenge the voice in your head, and plan the day you complete your manuscript! I'm pretty sure that's what the 3% who actually publish their books do. Never stop believing you'll be published, this is your time!


The Ripple Effect

Since the rise of the internet the world seems much smaller, doesn't it? People are making connections that would have never been possible before chat rooms and forums existed. Social media sites link users from many walks of life, making it easier to find people who share interests- whether it be an interest in antiques or graphic design, zoology or yoga.

Naturally these changes not only affect our personal relationships, they've also completely changed the way we do business. As writers, we might not like to think about the "dark side" of publishing- marketing. It might feel overwhelming that in addition to crafting a compelling story, we must also master an entirely different skill set-the ability to market our work.

What if our mindsets are all wrong? Could it be there is a better way to go about this business? (Because it is a business isn't it?) The word business conjures up images of men in pin-striped suits carrying leather briefcases to board meetings. That's not quite how I pictured my life as a published author.

Thinking deeper about this, I realize the most successful authors make it their business not to necessarily sell their books, but to reach readers on a much more personal level. This part hasn't changed. Through forums and social media sites, authors can now connect with their readers in a way they couldn't before. An author once reached out to readers at book signings or speaking engagements. Now, a fan can visit the author's website each and every day, reinforcing that connection.

When I feel connected to an author, I am eager to share my excitement with friends and family members. And the cycle continues outward, causing a ripple effect. The internet speeds that ripple, giving the author a larger audience if they nurture the small seeds they plant in the beginning.

The opposite can be true if an author doesn't see the value in building strong relationships. If they enter the social scene only to sell their book and promote themselves, they're completely wasting their time. It's a turn off for anyone to be "sold". We want to do business with people we trust, and in order to trust someone we have to feel valued. The takeaway? Build relationships with your readers. Honor their time. The harvest will be worth it- in many ways- in the long run.