Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Writerly Life ReKindled

Today on the blog we have author Paul Levinson. I read his novel The Silk Code which was very good. But that isn't all he has written. His other works include The Plot to Save Socrates and New New Media. He's done many TV appearnces and I'm delighted he decided to stop by this blog. Take it away, Paul.

I love talking.  I love writing.  Likely because to me, the two are pretty much the same, pretty much just as easy.  Ok, writing takes a tiny bit more thought, and that’s as it should be, since the act of writing is intrinsically a public act, a move to get your thoughts out into the larger world, in contrast to speaking which is usually more private.

Part of the joy of writing, then, is in seeing your words out there in the world.  In fact, for me, not seeing my words - my stories and my novels and my books - out there in world would ruin a lot of the fun.   I mean, I suppose if someone threw a ton of money at me to write something that no one else would ever see, I might do it - nah, I really don’t think I would.  Life’s too short.  The writerly life is too short.

Traditional publishers used to be the only way you could get your words and works out there.  It had its benefits - actually, just a few benefits: getting a decent advance and getting your books into bookstores.  On the other hand, you as an author were lucky if you got more than 10% of the sales, and the publisher was ever ready to drop your book like a hot potato if sales took an even slight decline.

I shouldn’t complain.  Traditional publishers got my books reviewed in The New York Times, on Locus science fiction best seller lists, and publisher clout was no doubt helpful or responsible in my getting on NPR, C-Span, the BBC, and other national and international media.   But these highpoints of promotion were exceptions rather than the rule, which had my wife and me working like demons on publicity, and the publisher deigning to get my books in a bookstore after I had arranged for a signing, or to a radio station after I had arranged for an interview.

I likely would have continued exclusively in a such a traditionally published arrangement had the Kindle not come along.   My nonfiction book, New New Media, now in its second edition, is indeed published by one of the biggest publishers in the world, and they do a good job of getting the book into college bookstores, where it is used as a textbook.  But the best decision I’ve made in recent years about my science fiction was getting two of my novels, The Silk Code and The Plot to Save Socrates, up on Kindle, Nook, iTunes, and Kobo, with the help of JoSara MeDia, a small, savvy operation in Texas.  Both books had been selling little more than a handful of copies a year, and some of that handful were used copies - which earn authors no money and sap potential sales of new copies.   It took me a while to get my rights back from the traditional publisher, and then a while longer before I got the Kindles in motion, but now the novels are selling as many copies a week, sometimes in a day, as they used to sell - just a year or two ago -  in a year.  I do lots of promotion, and I get to reap the benefits.  When PBS recently aired a NOVA documentary, “Decoding Neanderthals,” I didn’t have to wait for any publicity department or plead for any publisher’s permission to launch what was now easily accomplished via a campaign of tweets, etc., that pointed out that many of the speculations in that science show were explored in my 1999 science fiction novel, The Silk Code, now available as a Kindle.  Indeed, an old fan and friend, Gerry Elman, first wrote to me about the connection, so the impetus as well as the execution were all in social media, which cost me nothing except my enjoyably spent time.

I’m now just about finished with the sequel to The Plot to Save Socrates - Unburning Alexandria - which had been languishing on my hard drive for years.  Further novels and movies are in the works.  I’m going to get every one of my other novels, and all of my short stories, out there in ebook land as well.  The Kindle revolution has rekindled my love of science fiction writing - and, though who needs the competition, I recommend that route to one and all.

Check out his books by Clicking Here.


Mary Hill said...

Really interesting. I have stories I would like to get out there as well. How do you get started?

Rob said...

Hi Mary,

Thanks for commenting. Getting started is relatively simple.

Here's the process I use.

1. Once your story is done, hire a freelance editor. There are plenty of resources online.

2. After your story is properly polished, come up with a back cover description of your story. About a paragraph long.

3. Get a cover for your book. Not only can you pay someone to design the cover of your book but you can buy royalty-free images from the internet.

4. Sign on to Amazon KDP.

5. Fill out all the necessary boxes.

6. Price your story. 99 cents to 2.70 is the option for 35% royalties. 2.99 and up is 70% royalties. I usually start at 99 cents as the introductory offer.

7. Upload your book. I upload my document as a word document 1997-2003 format. It's a better conversion than PDF.

8. Click publish and you're done.

Have any other questions, just ask.

Paul Levinson said...

Thanks for the question, Mary, I agree with everything Rob said, with one proviso: You may not need to hire a freelance editor. Certainly not if you can write good, grammatical English. It's probably a good idea to have someone read over your work before you publish it - to catch typos, missing words, etc - but that can often be done by a friend or member of the family. Best of luck in your endeavors!

Doug Norton said...

Paul, your essay confirms a feeling that has been growing in me for about the last month, which was the fifth month after I published with KDP and Dog Ear. From the experiences of selling it into a handful of Indie bookstores, snagging an interview here, a local review there, and a signing somewhere else I believe that only through a pleasantly relentless pursuit of such goals, nearly every day, can a rookie novelist sell in print. And right after that realization, the epiphany: No traditional publisher would devote to my book the resources necessary to follow that approach, but they would get in the way by asserting the right to control my individual marketing efforts. Why would I want that? And why would I want to pass most of the revenue from my efforts to a partner who was contributing little and interfering often?

But KDP, in contrast. . . It’s very clear. Amazon puts it out there and everything else is up to me. And they send a monthly check for a very large chunk of the revenue created by my efforts in the market. What’s not to like?

So you see, Paul, your guest post is confirming and comforting to me.

In fact, my experience with the challenges of selling print—which span the entire supply chain from press to shelf—leave my inclined to publish my next novel only in eBook form. I’m not entirely of that persuasion, because there IS a market segment that reads only print media, because it’s hard to hold a book event without physical books, because many potential reviewers ask for a print copy . . . But still, in comparison to the effort I have expended on print sales, KDP is like selling while I sleep.

What do others think? Is print still a necessary item of the ambitious novelist toolkit, or is require more effort than it returns?

Paul Levinson said...

I agree with your analysis completely, Doug (which makes sense, given that you find mine confirmative and comforting :)

About your question about which is preferable, eBook only, or eBook and print? I would say go for both, as long as the print part in no way gets in the way of your eBook marketing. If, say, a traditional published offered you a contract, keep the eBook rights for yourself and let the trad publisher sell the printed book for you.