Writing on the Ether

The CEOs panel, moderated by F+W Media CEO David Nussbaum, was onstage Tuesday at the Digital Book World Conference + Expo.

“Ether” / Or?
Started out strong
Don’t try this at home
Good moves on the inky side
A proposal: Crossover Day

Note: Since publishing this column, I’ve had lots of good input from many folks, thanks. One especially keen comment comes from our good colleague Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, and I’m adding a link here to it in hopes that after you read my initial entry here you’ll check Guy’s very worthy counter-view and my comment that follows his. There’s more below, too, in this section. Thanks.

“Ether” / Or?

Just as the round tables were rolled into the Metropolitan Ballroom for the pre-conference DBW Marketing Summit

Just as the chillers cooled the low-pile carpeted pitch, slammed so bravely in those third-floor meeting halls…

Just as publishing industry stakeholders talked of achieving the “impactful discovery of niche markets through metadata”…

A small door at the back of the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers … clicked shut again for another year.

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Did you hear it? Shhh. Listen. Hear that? Nah.

No more than you could hear DBW’s Publishing Innovation Awards’ new QEDs announced over the din of Monday evening’s cocktail reception.

Barry Eisler speaks at WDC Jan. 21, 2012 / Photo by Dan Blank

That author standing in darkness is Barry Eisler at WDC (Jan. 21, 2012) / Photo by Dan Blank

No more than you could read the big-screen displays of the good Jack McKeown’s Verso Advertising slides about book-buying behavior Wednesday.

No more than you could be sure that it was really Barry Eisler on Saturday as he spoke in the annual darkness of the Sheraton’s New York Ballroom place of honor. The speaker in the middle of that room gets less limelight than a Rockette shopping her memoir.

In fact, NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty also spoke in that dim location. I might have guessed it was either John Malkevitch or Seth Godin on Viki Noe‘s shoulders, ship it.

Gathering for the first plenary session of the 2012 Digital Book World Conference.

If  you have a “wait — what?” sensation when I mention bookly events on Saturday and Sunday — or if you look at the well-lit stage (left) at the Digital Book World Conference + Expo and wonder if you’re in the same business — then your hearing is improving.

Wasn’t that the pitter-patter of writers leaving the building?

And they missed such a good panel of literary agents Tuesday, some handsome candor at the table. Here was Brian DeFiore mentioning that “indie” just isn’t the right term for a self-publishing writer. He’s right, it’s a euphemism. And Liza Dawson described her project with two existing clients — “we’re the guinea pigs” — to explore together the ins and outs of self-publication.

Then there was the take-no-prisoners sass of Ginger Clark saying that if an author insists on self-publishing a project, “Ultimately? The client is my boss. I get out of the way or I lose that client.”

Clark, who works with the Association of Authors’ Representatives as does  DeFiore, got off another good point: “If my client self-publishes, I’m not the publisher. The author’s name is on that contract, not mine.” At a time when the arrival of the agent-publisher is worrying a lot of us, Clark’s clarification is right, and timely.

I’m sorry our writers didn’t hear this panel and many other sessions of DBW.

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Started out strong

I’ve just live-tweeted a series of conference events produced by F+W Media across six days at the Sheraton. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the staffers on this reductio ad tweetum and I found these colleagues and conferees focused and committed, always ready with a laugh. These events were full of good cheer and sound intent.

I also appreciate the heads behind the programming of #DBW12, especially Mike Shatzkin, the conference chair and architect of the confab. In his opening tone-setter, Remaking an Industry: What publishers need to be thinking about in 2012, we heard him lay out a series of issues to be addressed. He showed clean-as-a-whistle slides to keep us on track as he went.

In some other parts of the world, Kindle does not start with the dominant position it had in the US (although it has the money to market and promote in a major way, so they might still get it.) Publishers need to cover all the ebook accounts and learn how to maximize sales in each of them.

By confab’s end, things seemed less clear, of course.

This is not unusual in times of complex change and when the progressive discussion format of a conference “migrates” the perception of topics. Some points had outweighed others heavily in 48 hours.

DRM went from gum on a shoe to a rebel yell once Matteo Berlucchi was given the floor.

Talk of Apple’s iBooks Author had given way to conversations about Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s deal to publish Amazon’s New York adult line of print books. (Both writeups I’ve linked to here are by Laura Hazard Owen.) Other issues seemed never to get off the ground.

The words “partnership” and “collaboration” popped up early and often at DBW, as publishers, agents, editors, marketers, retailers, technologists, researchers, journalists, and consultants were treated to panel chats and presentations — one by the excited futurist David Houle on what he calls the Shift Age. You can download his ebook free, thanks to Dominique Raccah‘s Sourcebooks, which will publish a new Houle work later this year.

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A surprise where I didn’t expect it: Oren Teicher of the American Booksellers Association in his address, “Booksellers Without Borders,” sounded genuinely moved as he assured the assembly Sunday that independent bookstores, overall, aren’t as bad off as many think they are.

The unparalleled role that indie bookstores play in discovery…this unique role that we play…is an essential catalyst.

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A subtle lesson showed up when executives of several romance publishers went over best practices from their viewpoints, their publishing houses standing among pioneers in the industry for digital-first production. Raelene Gorlinsky of Ellora’s Cave spoke as the veteran of this group when she talked about success with ebook prices up to $8 and more, her company resisting the “race to the bottom” in pricing.

But every time AllRomance.com moderator Julie Cummings used slides to offer statistics, the graphics were full of pastel colors and lightweight fonts. One of the folks at my table put her finger on it: “This is the look their readers understand,” she said. The romance publishers had missed a chance to adopt the professional look they’ve earned. Calling your strategy “faster, harder, deeper” might get you a laugh but little respect in the morning.

And by the time #DBW12 was coming to a close late Wednesday afternoon, we were deep in the land of the unanswered issue.

Shouldn’t publishers have their ebooks on public libraries’ catalogs for checkout? Of course, said the suits of Wiley, Bloomsbury, and Perseus. “We don’t have it yet, but we will…It just has to happen…It will happen.” No time frame.

Much of the closing afternoon’s material left points similarly adrift.

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Don’t try this at home

Earlier Wednesday afternoon, before we all gathered at DBW for blandishments in worsted wool, a panel called “Doing It on Their Own: Self-Publishing Authors Find Success” and moderated by DBW’s Jeremy Greenfield, gave us three self-published authors and a provider of “author services” talking about their success.

These were exceptional cases. In this game, the trotting out of big winners is common. People who can answer questions about “the largest check you’ve had from your writing” with responses of $72,000 or $112,000 are not representative of what most writers can expect in self-publishing.

And to be fair, the panelists worked hard to communicate how difficult this sort of success is and that there are conditions that need to be in place. Bob Mayer, one of the three, has been tireless in trying to explain the importance of his traditional-publishing backlist in his own road to selling around 400,000 ebooks last year.

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I heard an interesting anomaly, a break from common palaver on the topic: the entrepreneurial author Bella Andre said that her relationship to retailers who sell her books is her most important connection. In a biz that stresses relating to your readers uber alles, touting the retailers instead is unusual.

You know who I wish had heard that? The ones who were out that door before DBW started.

On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of writers left the same hotel. They finished up in some of the same ballrooms that would on Monday be occupied by DBW.  The Writer’s Digest Conference, also an F+W Media production, is the flagship annual writerly confab. The writers were in conference from Friday through Sunday, then they adjourned before the comparative big kids of publishing arrived.

There’s something about the stance of writers in the publishing community right now that isn’t what it should be. It never seems more evident than when these two big conferences are choreographed to pass in the night.

We each discuss the others’ business. In fact, publishing and writers are each other’s business.

But writers miss the exposure they need to the facts, the figures, the charts, the debates, the genuine fiscal binds and occasional braggadocio of corporate insecurity. And they miss the  charm and camaraderie of the DBW community. For the most part, these are fun, articulate, generous professionals.

I’m also sorry those specialists miss meeting so many members of “the talent” in one place. How many attendees of DBW (I’m hearing some 1,500 total this year) have seen WDC’s Pitch Slam in progress? The agents have. They’re the ones who sit across from jet-lagged and flummoxed writers who have 90 seconds to pitch their books. The agents respond for 90 more seconds. And then F+W’s faithful Sally Slack announces on the PA system that it’s time to move on. This goes on for three hours. Between 60 and 70 patient, supportive agents are there for 400 or more writers. Everybody stands in lines in these meeting rooms, a configuration vastly improved by Chuck Sambuchino and his cohorts this time around.

But this is the sole moment in which writers and their publishing counterparts come together in large numbers. Not that the resulting gulf is intentional, I regret the either/or reality at the Sheraton, the site (at least for the past two years) of these effectively firewalled conferences.

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Good moves on the inky side

Sessions the writers attended this year in their conference included:

  • University of Cincinnati e-media professor and former Writer’s Digest publisher Jane Friedman‘s clear eye for the myriad  approaches and services for authors who want to try to self-publish,
  • Agent Mary Kole on the background and status today of YA literature,
  • The platform-driven entrepreneurial perspective of We Grow Media’s Dan Blank and the tough-love career pounce of Christina Katz, better known as @thewritermama,
  • The devoted commitment of author James Scott Bell to the most elegant techniques of suspense (he shows a clip from The Graduate in his session),
  • Agent Donald Maass‘ hypnotic tones when he drops into “go ahead, just pick up a piece of paper and write this down” teaching mode (Socrates wept), and
  • The gravity of Baty’s closing commentary: on Sunday, the founder of the international mass-writing movement announced at WDC that he had resigned two days earlier from the organization he has led for 12 years.

Baty is going full time into writing, himself. And he told these several hundred writers gathered for WDC to go home packed as he was packing, taking along:

  • Deadline
  • Momentum
  • An appreciation of the mess along the way
  • Faith

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A proposal: Crossover Day

Writer’s Digest Conference ends each year on a Sunday, midday. I recommend that F+W consider offering an extra “between-confabs” event on the Monday that falls between WDC and DBW.

Currently, that Monday is a day of workshops and the marketing summit, which I’m glad to say is being expanded to full-conference status in the fall — Kate Rados made the announcement to us while doing her expert job of moderating the day this week.

I’d like to see programming developed for that “between day” that could show the writers some of the issues the business folks are dealing with, and, perhaps, vice-versa.

The organizers of these conferences didn’t invent the gap between creative and business workers, their conferences simply reflect it, and accurately.

But the industry overall can’t benefit from an assumption that you’re on either one side of the confab-weekend or the other. I found that I got a lot from being at both conferences this year and was very glad to be there for them. I hope to do this annually, there’s too much here to miss. I recommend it. And a crossover option, I hope, might be structured as workshops are now, as an elective premium for attendees interested in adding it to their base registration.

There are practical reasons of space and time and expense, needless to say, that may always prevent both conferences running at capacity simultaneously.

Many elements of WDC, craft offerings in particular, just aren’t in areas the publishing people can focus on for long. But that entirely necessary concentration on craft for authors can mean they know too little about the business, about technological changes, and about production availabilities and challenges.

And the DBW registration fee is a fairly big ticket for writers. It’s just under $1,500 per person. Don Linn has a nice piece at TheFutureBook today, A Question and Some Random Observations. As he cracks wise, on noting that ticket price:

My conclusion from the previous observation is that we should all be in the publishing conference business.

Clearly, the pricing structure reflects cost, and the full fee for Writer’s Digest Conference is about a third of that for Digital Book World.

But I hope there might be a chance to consider a “crossover” day when writers can opt to stay a day longer and work “with the industry” in the kind of format that F+W is adept at producing.

Nevertheless, again, do consider seeing what Guy Gonzales has to say about this.

His is a position that, while counter to mine, I fully respect — if anything, I’d apply it more quickly to myself than insist on it in others (another dodge of sorts, perhaps).  Gonzales argues that in the age of the writer-entrepreneur, we must all take responsibility for our business basis and pay to play in the real game of publishing, not expect easy outs. And I should note that I was there in a business capacity of my own, very glad to live-tweet coverage of these conferences, a part of my work as a journalist.  Here’s a bit of what Guy says in Should more writers attend publishing conferences?

What comes with authors’ shift to the business side is the reality that the water gets a lot deeper, particularly when it comes to attending conferences and registration fees. If you want to be a true self-publisher, there’s a lot more to it than uploading your file to Amazon, and that includes bearing larger expenses like conference registration fees. Any author’s money is just as good as any publisher’s, and no conference organizer I know would turn it down. You want a seat at the table, buy a ticket like everyone else.

I’m not about to say Gonzalez is wrong on this. While I might like to see this “crossover day” programming as what I think would be a healthy ice-breaker for many new writer-entrepreneurs, there’s everything right about Gonzalez’s “buy a ticket” position. Good conversation.

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Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) is a journalist and consultant in publishing. He's The Bookseller's (London) Associate Editor in charge of The FutureBook. He's a featured writer with Thought Catalog (New York), which carries his reports, commentary, and frequent Music for Writers interviews with composers and musicians. And he's a regular contributor of "Provocations in Publishing" with Writer Unboxed. Through his consultancy, Porter Anderson Media, Porter covers, programs, and speaks at publishing conferences and other events in Europe and the US, and works with various players in publishing, such as Library Journal's SELF-e, Frankfurt Book Fair's Business Club, and authors. You can follow his editorial output at Porter Anderson Media, and via this RSS link.
Posted in Writing on the Ether.


  1. Oh, what a beautiful morning…Ah, Porter, how did I know I’d show up in the Ether today?
    I totally agree about the separate but not-quite-equal nature of WDC and DBW: everyone’s talking about the people who are at the OTHER conference. To have spotty wi-fi – not to mention poor lighting and temperature control in the rooms – was frustrating, to say the least. I did advocate for a disco ball to help illuminate the keynote speakers, but that tweet probably vanished.
    However, and most importantly, your tweeting was magnificent. You gave everyone the feeling of being there. Made any progress on cloning yourself?

    • Hey, Viki, yes, I remember your crystal ball suggestion, still don’t know why the hotel didn’t jump rignt on that. :)  Thanks for the kind words, I’m glad the tweeting was helpful, it was fascinating to do and the DBW and WDC people are great to work with. Hope you’re getting rested up from WDC now for AWP, pack that crystal ball just in case. :)
      -Porter’s Clone

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  3. I think that’s a good idea.  I didn’t make it to WDC– wish I had.  But the line between writers and the rest of the industry truly blurs for the indie author.  I spend half my time running a business.  To the point where I now literally have two offices on opposite sides of the house.  One with Internet where I do business, then one without Internet, where I create. 
    I’m off today to the San Diego State Writers Conference to share all I learned.  My head is still spinning and To Do list is out the door.  I’m considering something I would never have before:  going to the London Book Fair later this year.  Such has the role of the author changed in publishing.

    • Hey, @Bob_Mayer:twitter , I hear you, #dbw12 (and #wdc12) leave your head spinning, all for the right reason but it does take a while to sort out your usual process afterward, as I’ve learned in the past. Great you have San Diego coming, though, and London BF might be a great one for you, too. As you say, the more entrepreneurial authors must become (even without self-publishing), the more some exposure to the publishing side via #dbw could really help. Great seeing you at the conference, good travels –

  4. Thank you, thank you for acknowledging the role of the writer in this business. While we’re often told not to “write to the market,” the reality is that most successful authors do just that. I recently attended a webinar with one of the agents named above and was thrilled to hear her lists of “what will sell” and “what will not.” Now that’s something I can run with. Social media gives us a glimpse into the world of agents and editors, but I often feel like that pajama-clad child sneaking downstairs after bedtime to eavesdrop on their parents’ dinner party conversation. I would love to have the facts, figures, and access to “the talent,” but these are limited and also financially prohibitive. Thank you for opening this dialogue, perhaps those in the publishing conference business will look for ways to crack the ballroom door open a bit so we writers can enter.

    • Hi, Ruth, and thanks for your comment. great of you to read me and engage. 

      I do think it’s important to note — and I’m sorry if I suggest something otherwise in my column — that there’s no effort to “keep the writers out” involved here, certainly not by the organizers of WDC and DBW  (truly a small team working extremely hard this time of year at F+W).

      And while I don’t think this idea of the writer-entrepreneur is nearly as new as some people seem to believe it is — ancient scribes did, after all, sell their services — I do believe that our friend and colleague Guy Gonzalez has a valid point that writers can’t expect the industry to coddle them with special access to the expensive advantages of commercial viability — a 4:20 a.m. way of saying that writers must expect to pay their way. I’m not sure they all do. Then again, I’m not sure they should anticipate doing so at the same rate that, say, a corporate concern of 10 or 30 or 100 employees does.

      It is a more layered and vexing issue than it appears on the surface. And some of the existing Monday offerings between WDC and DBW (workshops in transmedia, marketing, etc.) can, in fact, be used by enterprising writers as an effort at that “bridge” someone has mentioned between outlying-writer status and in-industry operative stance. As it’s developed now, though, the workshop format can’t reflect the evolution of thought that occurs during the course of a conference among stakeholders.

      And unless I’m mistaken, the Monday workshops weren’t flagged for the WDC attendees. Two writerly “bootcamp” extra sessions were, scheduled for after the main conference on Sunday (the 22nd). But I saw the Monday workshops of DBW promoted only via the main DB site and materials, not via WDC channels as something writers might want to consider. I think most writers left WDC feeling that they’d accessed all that might be available to them.

      And my bottom line is a need to see writers function as stakeholders in this industry and be recognized as functioning participants by peer-publishers.

      This is one reason that Writing on the Ether is not another writing-craft column (although those are terribly important), but something with which I hope writers and others can begin to get a grip on the business of literature. Writers can too easily shrug off business issues and day-t0-day industry developments as things not concerning them. This leaves them naive and short-changed in the business.

      “Dumb writers,” where “dumb” refers to ignorance of business (and “dumb” is still an unpleasant term, I use it carefully and regretfully) make none of us look any good and weaken the entire industry. This is, after all, a business in which armies of aspirational authors abide in woeful amateurism. The organizers of conferences are not required to save writers from such resulting “dumbness,” perceived or real.

      If there are things that can be done, however, when great gatherings of leading publishing figures create hubs of experience (these mighty conferences) to which writers could beneficially be exposed, then I submit we can do no less than figure out those things and do them. This is why I’ve just spent a week live-texting/tweeting WDC, that “middle Monday,” and DBW. And, as I always do in these cases, I found a warm welcome in-conference and a rich range of ready knowledge waiting.

      I’d like more writers, the ones ready to move as bona fide professionals, to feel the heat of this flame as I do each year.


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  6. Porter, I love your idea of a crossover day. I attended Day 1 of last year’s conference and we writers were thin on the ground. All good information but there was not a sense of a place or role for writers in the conference culture. I believe the future is collaboration between creatives and publishers/agents on the production side, and creatives with public/retail on the sales end. Social media and events serve the sales side of things. It would be visionary to have a mechanism beyond submittal and response at the beginning of the process.

    • Well said, @TinaHogatt:twitter    There is “no sense of a place or role for writers in the conference culture” — other than, of course, in writer-specific conferences such as Writer’s Digest Conference, and those events sometimes intensify the ghetto-izing feel, however unintentionally.

      I agree on  your perception of collaborative exercises being the key. And I think an enabler on this for us all in the future is a peer relationship with the operatives of professional publishing.

      Positioning writers as dear, precocious children of the realm is not the answer.

      Nor, by the way, is the sneering rejection of traditional publishing’s shortcomings by tantrum-tossing self-publishing author-braggarts.

      I do think social media can do more than serve sales. I have to hope so, having just spent six consecutive days live-tweeting up to eight hours daily of conference activity from both WDC and DBW. 

      Inasmuch as writers have a responsibility to make themselves parts of this industry (and not wait to be ordained as such by the industry), I think we need to use our social media to leverage just such sharing of knowledge as widely as possible — we must ping our farthest-flung amateur, as it were, so that she or he has at least the offer of a more professional tack to a frequently profession-less career.

      Because if we do our parts as writers to raise our own bar, then publishers will have no choice, eventually, but to deal with us as peers — the informed creative generators of what @brianoleary:disqus has termed the “engine of the engagement economy.”  http://www.magellanmediapartners.com/index.php/mmcp/article/the_opportunity_in_abundance/

      Thanks again for reading and commenting. 

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  8. Porter, between the Ether and your magnificent twitter stream at both #wdc12 and #dbw12, one would never have to leave the comfort of their own home to feel like they were there. For those of us lucky enough to actually have been there, your steady flow of tweets added a whole new dimension to the experience. Love your “crossover day” idea and Viki’s disco ball suggestion! Now I hope you are enjoying some well-deserved R&R from your Herculean efforts to inform, enlighten and entertain us :-)

    • Hey, @kathypooler:twitter — of course, the great thing is that you’re a conference-goer with us, and a follower of confab info online.

      You’re doing the things we need all writers to do, to pull our collected class up by its bootstraps and earn a place at the table of publishing, itself, not at the kids’ table to which authors have been too easily assigned for so long. Thank you for doing that, for following my (endless) dispatches from ConfabWorld, and for helping other writers to understand the importance of this.

      If we ever do establish publishing as the “engine of the engagement economy,” as our colleague @brianoleary:twitter puts it, it will be in part because you understood this and stepped up to the task.

  9. Excellent idea of the crossover day. That would go a long way towards creating a healthier atmosphere between writers and the industry.
    We have to stop thinking of one side as more legitimate than the other.
    In truth, both sides have a lot to teach each other. To take my own experience as a very tiny microcosm, I’m teaching my agent about Kindle and how a writer builds a rapport with an audience through social media. Writers who tweet and blog are well ahead of the industry on this, and when the industry try it they look like dads dancing at a disco. My agent, in turn, teaches me about what’s going on right now at the big-scale end, where books have to be business decisions so that people keep their livelihoods.
    Both sides need each other anyway. Publishers need creative talent, although they don’t always treat it with respect. Writers need partners who can help them achieve a lot more than they can on their own.

    • Exactly, @ByRozMorris:twitter — I like this example of the exchange of experience you’re doing with your agent in London, too. Smart author, smart agent. Then again, with so many books published, both ghostwritten and under your own name, you’re in a lot more mature professional moment than many writers are, and able to appreciate and create a peer relationship with others in the business, your agent being an example.

      While I won’t say that publishers necessary run around looking for chances to welcome writers into the fold as peers, I do think the burden at this point lies on authors to find ways to make themselves that.

      Writers need to get to the table with a new commitment to the professionalism that @glecharles:twitter has noted is implied in the ideal of a more self-sufficient, enterprising creative corps.

      This, of course, is something I like to think I can help along by live-tweeting coverage of the major conferences (thanks to the support of the F+W Media team producing these events led by @psexton1:twitter  ) as a way for writers to have more access to what’s going on there. It’s also the reason that I see the Ether as less a creative/craft column — we have yours and many others — than something about the industry’s developing character and culture. I’m grafeful that @JaneFriedman:twitter agrees and is so supportive of this Ether-eal approach.

      In the @DigiBookWorld:twitter conference just closed, our conference chair, @MikeShatzkin:twitter , did a great job, as I knew he would — and his programming showed me that at this point, the publishing side of the business simply doesn’t feel it needs writers present to adequately assess and evaluate where things are. Not even to the point of having the sort of appearance that @MargaretAtwood:twitter made last year at the Tools of Change @TOC:twitter conference, thanks to @jwikert:twitter and the estimable @katmeyer:twitter .

      The only substantive writerly presence at DBW was a panel of three very successful self-publishing authors. Lesser Hockings. The panel was moderated by DBW’s @JDGsaid:twitter and included one writer — @BellaAndre:twitter — who says she has made $1 million on her work but shared none of that cash with the audience, and another — @Bob_Mayer:twitter — with whom many of us are familiar. Bob and his wife @JenTalty:twitter  are actually publishing other authors now, through their Who Dares Wins operation. this was a good panel. But the  inference I draw about its novelty on the schedule of sessions is that writers have, so far, established themselves as interesting to the business camp only if they’re the ones taking some $100 million in revenue from the publishers by self-publishing (an estimate we heard  from the DBW mainstage).

      For my part, I’m not ready to assume that everything we can and need to hear from writers is about self-publishing, nor from self-published authors.

      Regardless of how they’re published, what I’m coming to understand is that unless writers can make themselves more influential in the professional community at large, they’ll remain curiously and sadly outside the circle of influence. That lack of respect for the creative end of things you note will, I fear, continue unless this amateur-laden sector of the industry pulls itself together.

      Writers are going to have to start leveling up their position in the industry. Let’s put our tired heads to that thought and see if we can’t think of ways to make this happen. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • One minor note– Jen Talty is my business partner, not my wife.  My wife is my story-pusher and works with other authors besides me.  And she always keeps the remote control.

      • One minor note– Jen Talty is my business partner, not my wife.  My wife is my story-pusher and works with other authors besides me.  And she always keeps the remote control.

        • Well, thanks, @ByRozMorris:twitter — somehow, we’ve just got to get our writing community seated in a more professional context than we’ve achieved so far. We simply must be able to approach the industry as its peers or we will continue to stumble along, kids at the “squirt table,” as we used to call the children’s spot in the kitchen in the South. Yes, we are absolutely fundamental to what the industry does — if we pull a Lysistrata and stop the storytelling, they have nothing. But then, neither do we. I hope to see the day when we can shock the most smug of industry observers with drop-dead writerly professionalism. Your work helps us get there. Here’s to the dropping of bigger jaws.

  10. I’ll try not to take offense at the crack  “‘indie’ just isn’t the right term for a self-publishing writer… it’s a euphemism.” 

    After all, readers seem to like GHOSTS ON THE RED LINE by Peter David
    Shapiro which, as it happens, is self-published through PenLane Press and available as a paperback and eBook on Amazon (http://amzn.to/GhostsRedLine) and BarnesAndNoble.com. Some readers are even going to the trouble of ordering it in bookstores. 

    Not all “indie” books are great. But legacy publishers have been known to shovel out crap as well (filed under Snooki).

    • Hello, @pdshapiro1:twitter
      — Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m grateful mostly because
      it’s clear that I need to correct a thoroughly wrong assertion
      you’re making in your comment. I won’t let it stand, and I don’t appreciate your tactic.

      Please read these points very carefully:

      (1) A self-published author can be fully as good as or better than a traditionally published author.

      (2) A self-published book can be fully as good as or better than a traditionally published book.

      I have never said otherwise. If you believe I have said otherwise, show
      me the words. Quote me. You cannot. I have made no such statement. And you have tangled with the wrong journalist.

      Whether we call a self-published author and book “indie” or
      “self-published” or “vanity published” or “a table and chair,” the
      opportunity for excellence remains precisely the same.

      (5) Our need for good literature is far, far too great for us to look askance at the means used to produce anything, for heaven’s sake.

      Apparently, when I mentioned the agent Brian @DeFiore:twitter’s comment at @DigiBookWorld:twitter
      about “indie” being a euphemism — and my agreement with him — you
      made a leap of bad faith.  That is to say, you decided that I had
      condemned self-published work to a lesser status than that of
      traditionally published work.

      Again, I did no such thing. Nor, for the records, did DeFiore.

      in truth, you took advantage of the moment to advertise your own book,
      didn’t you? — albeit oddly in third person as if you aren’t the author
      whose name is the same as yours. Did you think I wouldn’t notice that?

      Putting aside that strange POV, let’s hunker down together here for another
      moment. (You asked for it, my friend — welcome to the Ether.)

      We’ll take it again by the numbers because I’m as tired as I
      believe DeFiore is of this term-shifting business in self-publishing and
      I think we need to take it head-on and get clear about it.

      (1) “Self-publishing,” the term, is not pejorative.
      It’s not negative.

      It is factually accurate.
      It means that an author has caused herself
      himself to be published, as opposed to being “traditionally
      published” by a publishing house (or “legacy published,” if you prefer
      — I rather like that term, actually, because legacies can be great
      things indeed and are hard-won).

      (2) Using the term “indie” doesn’t change a thing.
      you’re calling self-published work “indie,” 99 percent of the
      attraction of the term is the whiff of Hollywood sizzle that disappears
      if you write out “independent.” Poof. Evaps right away.

      Can you honestly afford to labor under
      such whimsical buzzword nonsense and manage a responsible career?

      you really need the vague Sundance-sparkly implications of “indie” to
      feel good about what you do?

      Can you not find pride in your work for
      having self-published it by taking advantage of the new capabilities we
      all have to do that today? If you followed my live-tweet coverage from
      #DBW12, you know that we had a panel there on which self-published
      authors (called just that, not “indie”) told us of making more than $1 million in a
      year — and of the sometimes crushing workload that self-publishing
      requires to do well.

      I congratulate you on your work and the popularity that you claim it enjoys with readers. Good for you. I wish you nothing but more sales.

      it’s so well-received, then surely you have no need to call it anything
      but the prideful self-published work it is.  And I’d like to think you
      have no need to bomb people’s columns with advertisements disguised as
      comments that misinterpret others’ words.

      Be proud of your work.
      Be wary of reacting to a slight where there is none.
      Be careful of invading others’ spaces to advertise yourself — it does not help you, it hurts you.
      And be well.


      • I’m going to chime in with, I think, a middle position between Porter and Peter. I use indie, mostly because when I jumped back into reading on the industry last year, it seemed to be the term in use. But I’ve also come to like it because *some* – not all – traditionally published authors I know equate today’s self-publishing to the old vanity press. (Often followed by “Oh, but I’m sure yours is great…”) I find the indie term can be helpful in those cases to make the point that this is a different approach, driven by changes in the industry. I don’t try to hide that I either do all the work or arrange for others to do the work on the various production elements. 

        • Hi, @twitter-11541172:disqus , and thanks for the good comment. I must say, I’m with you on disliking any suggestion from people that “self-published” means something bad. For that reason, I certainly think “vanity press” was a terrible term (and unlike “self-published,’ it was indeed completely freighted with negative implication. “Vanity” has rarely been seen as a positive trait.

          I’d like to hope, however, that if we simply use “self-published” for the clear, factual, phrase it is, that in a rather short period of time, people will be handling it without connotation. Substituting the film world’s baggage for our own with “indie” just can’t be the answer.

          Not long ago, the word “swipe” was almost always negative in its usage. You swiped something from someone else in an underhanded move. Today? You swipe a page on a screen to make it change, and you swipe a card in a reader to pay for something. Neither is pejorative. And the term is a factual representation of the movement it describes.

          If we just say “self-publishing” faithfully enough, we can “swipe” it from the unfair souls who somehow hear “vanity” in all corners.

          • I use both ‘indie’ and ‘self-published’, quite happily. The lexical variety is useful. That is all.
            Someone will invent a new term soon and everyone will use it regardless.

      • Hello Porter Anderson,

        For the record, if it matters, I have no problem with the fact that GHOSTS ON THE RED LINE is self-published and calling it self-published. Calling it “indie” published is OK too. I don’t care.

        Perhaps you meant to say in your column that self-publishers should be proud of what they’ve done and not dress it up with a fancier term such as independent publisher, or “indie.”  If so, I misunderstood you.

        However, your comment that “indie” is a euphemism for self-publishing writers certainly doesn’t come across as complimentary, although to be fair, I didn’t hear Brian DeFiore’s remarks or the panel discussion so I don’t know the context. 

        It was very perceptive of you to notice that Peter David Shapiro, the author of GHOSTS ON THE RED LINE, and I share the same name.  If you were to visit http://www.ghostsontheredline.com you would also find that the author’s headshot looks a lot like mine.  I’m not using a pseudonym.  Readers like yourself are expected to be clever enough to recognize that Peter David Shapiro (author of GHOSTS ON THE RED LINE) and I are the same person. 

        Folks in the legacy publishing ecosystem lament the unfortunate tendency of self-published authors to promote their work in ways, and in places, where such promotion is unwelcome, not done, and contrary to etiquette.  How gauche!  Sorry about that… as a self-published author lacking the budget of a legacy publisher for saturation PR and privileged access to insider book critics who review only legacy published books, I’m forced to resort to self-promo to get the word out. This includes, by the way, old-fashioned paid advertising… if you were in Boston during November-December and rode the Red Line subway trains, you would have seen posters for GHOSTS ON THE RED LINE, for which I paid a hefty sum to the MBTA.

        You’re welcome to take a look at the book.  It’s not perfect, but readers say they like it.  Meanwhile I’m working on the prequel, currently called TRAIL OF MONEY, about which more will be heard later in 2012.


        • Thanks,@pdshapiro1:twitter , I won’t be needing a look at your work.

          I also won’t be agreeing with you that a lack of budget (or good form) excuses barnstorming others’ columns with self-promotion.

          @ByRozMorris:twitter , a self-published author and bestselling ghostwriter, recently had some good things to say about this in her interview with  @JennieCoughlin:twitter .  Here’s what Morris said:

          “Too many people are now shouting about their titles all the time. That’s
          never been a good way to sell anything. I think we have to earn
          attention, not yell for it. Give extra value, be interesting — and only
          mention our books if they seem relevant.”

          This is a great stance, and I commend it to all authors, self- or traditionally published. Screaming “Buy my book!” at the world simply is not a marketing program. I imagine that your posters might have been a more constructive approach.

          Bests with it all.

          • Thanks for your comment @Porter_Anderson. The posters on the Red Line trains were “constructive”  in the sense that they represented conventional advertising.  In fact they shared space in the trains with an ad from a legacy publisher.  On the other hand, they were quite costly for an “indie” publisher such as PenLane Press.

            Which brings me to the point that I was trying to make earlier, that apparently it’s OK for legacy publishers to place ads in all forms of media from newspapers to billboards that scream “buy this book!” and for critics and agents in the legacy publishing ecosystem to amplify these marketing messages in newspapers, on radio, and in blogs, on Twitter, Facebook, and so on, but it’s impolite for the author of a self-published book to do the same on a very much smaller scale.

            Yes, I am self-promoting GHOSTS ON THE RED LINE.  No shame in that.  Who else is going to promote it?  I understand the etiquette issue in  mentioning one’s own work in columns that are apparently about other topics, although in the case of your column I think my comments were relevant.  Perhaps on occasion this line is crossed, or to paraphrase Richard Nixon, “mistakes are made,”  one of the regrettable by-products of asymmetrical marketing, but if this results in someone finding out about the book who might read it, enjoy it, and tell their friends about it, then it’s worth it.

            Sorry you won’t be one of those readers. 


  11. Sorry for posting AGAIN, but this whole “author as entrepreneur” thing just got my attention. I’ve had two businesses – fundraising and educational book sales – that I’ve run from home for over 20 years So when I gave those up, the “conflict” of writing vs. entrepreneur never occurred to me. I assumed I was in business. I know we all want to be able to spend all of our waking hours “just” writing, but that’s not the reality now, even for established authors with traditional publishers. Conferences are a big part of the learning, networking, self-marketing and research. So we – or me, anyway – will jump at the opportunity to be part of DBW, if it can meet our needs. We have to advocate for ourselves, and now seems a good time to start doing that, well in advance of DBW13. Carry on, now, Porter. 😉

    • Thanks, @Victroia_Noe:twitter , I know you get the business side of a writer’s career well. And sharing it with other writers, helping them understand the importance of fulfilling this side of the role, is one of the best things you can do. We all take things more easily from our peers than from others. So spread the word, insist that writers you know become fully vested in this part of the job. Eventually, I hope all writers can get a look at the no-nonsense quality of the industry’s business colleagues at work. But especially while things aren’t set up to bring writers into these larger business forums, we’re going to have to do what we can to get the message across, ourselves. Otherwise, the business people will never see writers as having the places at the table they deserve.Thanks again!

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