So I’m an editor by trade. That means that I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about SEO optimization despite the fact that my job description makes me sound suspiciously like an inbound marketer. And I didn’t even know what an inbound marketer did until I stumbled across a webinar on YouTube a couple of weeks ago.
I write very little in the traditional B2B trade magazine sense. Of course, I edit copy for two magazines. But I post articles to our content management system (we use Joomla) on a near daily basis across two sites. I write SEO meta data and keywords. I manage and generate all of our social media content (that’s two Facebook pages, two LinkedIn groups, two Twitter profiles, a Google+ page, and a Pinterest page–there might be more I’m forgetting, honestly, and I’m always looking for appropriate ways to grow that presence).
The crux of this is that social media drives traffic to our websites (which gets readers to actually read the great content we produce) and also helps our sales people sell ads on our website. I am lucky to work for a company that cares more about content than the typical B2B (who, in my experience, cares a lot more about sales that content). We generate great content for readers in our niche and we want everybody who might care to read it to find it.
And that’s a whole new world.
I’m in a weird hybrid position. I’m not a coder but I need to understand everything Joomla offers to my small company (we’re small enough that we fit around a large dining room table). I’m not exclusively a social media manager but I need to maximize our efforts because we don’t have the luxury of expensive analytics or a team of people to manage it. I need to understand SEO writing and optimization so that I don’t waste my time (or the time of my co-workers) with pointless efforts.
I’m half editor, half inbound marketer. And the problem I’m facing is the gap between those skills.
I have often started and failed the “competition” that is National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I have failed at it at least three times that I remember. Probably closer to five or six.
In the past I have come up with endless excuses for dropping out that included: this is a silly endeavor that will result in a poor product; this is a waste of time; this isn’t going anywhere so why bother?; I have real work to do!; I hate this story and the characters and myself for writing it; I am really too busy to do this in November!
Needless to say I was wrong about all of those things. And what I was really wrong about was that the lesson (for me) was the journey itself. It was the discipline (which I guess I thought I lacked). It was the journey I forced myself to go with characters (and myself) even when I disliked them (and me). I learned about my creative process. I learned about sticking with something I created even when it was going horribly off the rails. I learned I need to have a better road map for long-form fiction. I can’t keep everything in my head at once, it’s just not who I am.
More than anything? I learned that I really can do what I set out to do with the proper tools and mind-set. And that’s the most important lesson of all.
This has inspired me to tackle some further challenges. I am thinking of editing the entire thing–it needs A LOT of work to put it kindly. So the editing itself will be another journey.
Recently I’ve worked with and known a few people looking to self-publish their own manuscripts and I’m considering going through that process–not because I’m looking to be the next Jamie McGuire or Jessica Park (both self-published and had huge hits with their books that caught on like fire). What I’d like to do is understand the process so I’m of more help to my author clients.
If you’ve been following my blog (you haven’t) I have been talking about New Adult Fiction and how the market for it was created by self-publishing for awhile now.
NYT headline: Self-Published Author Signs a Three-Book Deal, Heralding New Adult Fiction.
So weirdly excited by that. But also all the tidbits in the article make it clear to me that Cora Carmack doesn’t need traditional publishing–they need her. Hope she made a ridiculous amount of money from it.
I noted a while back that there was a gap in the traditional publishing shelf. I also noticed that Carina Press recently added a category called “New Adult” that focuses on 18-28ish protagonists. Clearly Angela James pays attention to digital trends (it’s her job to do so, of course, but it also means she’s savvy enough to make that leap quickly).
At any rate, the idea that there are endless niches that are being neglected by print publishers is no surprise. As Jessica Park noted in her screed against traditional publishers: “What they did pay attention to were their totally misguided ideas about what would and wouldn’t sell.”
So among the things publishers and agents currently do not think will sell are portal fantasies. This blog posts digs deep on it but my overall takeaway is that publishers are ignoring good stories because they just don’t care enough to bother trying to come up with a new sales pitch.
And that’s a shame–but one that self-publishing will fill.
In fact, I read a couple of chapters from a friend’s new novel recently that was a YA portal fantasy (though the characters were coming from their enchanted place to our world). It had funny, smart characters, a solid romantic element, and a fully realized fantasy world.
She shelved it to go in a different direction with another idea she had (and perhaps that’s a good thing, given its chances of getting past the query stage).
Yesterday I posted a couple of excerpts from Jessica Park’s essay on how Amazon.com made her career thrive. It got me thinking about how impossible it is to sell a novel that falls outside the traditional (or currently popular) boundaries. I like stories about young people who are struggling to establish themselves. And that’s a niche with no market. Nobody publishes books about college-age women that are not romance novels. Though that will likely change.
But then I took a look at Galley Cat’s Self-Published Bestsellers List for this week and found that a few of those novels–enough to notice–were also in that same gray area, the area publishers largely ignore.
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire would likely never have been published at a traditional house. It’s pretty controversial (and I don’t think I’d like it because I don’t enjoy mean boyfriends in my fiction) but it seems to have struck a chord. And it’s set among college-age people. Jessica Park’s book Flat-Out Love? Also features a college-aged protagonist. Slammed by Colleen Hoover? Protagonist is 18.
And that’s just from the Amazon.com list. Traditional publishers take note…you’re missing a market.
This essay on Indie Reader on how Amazon is giving her room to grow and create (where traditional publishing failed) has made the blog rounds and is fascinating.
I agree with many of her points–though very few publishing professionals live the high life and enjoy long summers in the Hamptons! But her points are still incredibly valid, particularly:
I have a lovely, smart, powerhouse agent, who tried to sell my next book, Flat-Out Love, to every major publishing house. She adored the story and thought it would sell. Fourteen editors turned it down, although each one said how strong the book was. But, editors seemingly didn’t give a crap about whether or not they liked the book. What they did pay attention to were their totally misguided ideas about what would and wouldn’t sell. I heard two things over and over again about my book. The first was that my story starred an eighteen-year-old college freshman, and that age was “categorically” too old for YA books and too young for adult books. It seems that one is not allowed to write about characters between the ages of eighteen and…what? Twenty-five? Because… because… Well, I’m not sure. The second thing I heard was that because my simultaneously-too-young-and-too-old heroine was not involved with anything slightly paranormal, the book wouldn’t sell.
SO SO SO TRUE.
Publishers pay terribly and infrequently. They are shockingly dumb when it comes to pricing, and if I see one more friend’s NY-pubbed ebook priced at $12.99, I’m going to scream. They do minimal marketing and leave the vast majority of work up to the author. Unless, of course, you are already a big name author. Then they fly you around the country for signings and treat you like the precious moneymaking gem that you are. The rest of us get next to nothing in terms of promotion. If your book takes off, they get the credit. If it tanks, you get the blame.
Also entirely true.
Her heartfelt essay caught the attention of Jeff Bezos and he made it the focus of a note on the front page of Amazon. I’m guessing her sales are going pretty well today.
I know, as a person working in publishing that has a master’s degree in library science I should rue Amazon and it’s e-book revolution.
However, as a consumer and avid reader? I can’t seem to do anything but marvel at how they are seeking to fulfill my book needs. Celebrity librarian Nancy Pearl is curating a new series for Amazon called Book Lust Rediscoveries:
Book Lust Rediscoveries is a series devoted to reprinting some of the best (and now out of print) novels originally published between 1960-2000. Each book is personally selected by Nancy Pearl and includes an introduction by her, as well as discussion questions for book groups and a list of recommended further reading.
The first title is available (and free to borrow if you’re an Amazon Prime member).
Needless to say A Gay and Melancholy Sound is now on my summer reading list!
I love niche magazines. Who knew mermaids were a lifestyle?
In the era of tl;dr it’s time to reconsider how we publish (online). I’m as guilty of this as anyone. Long-form is important but it’s also important to realize that most of the time your transition sentences are filler. I find this acceptable in print but tedious when skimming news on the web.
- I often long for bullet points.
- I hate five-minute-long expository videos.
- Pick up the pacing, people.
I am in the preliminary stages of negotiating to edit a novel that will be self-published. I’m excited about this prospect because I love the current tumultuous landscape of self-publishing and all the upheaval Amazon and e-books are causing. I know I should be nervous about this revolution, but I mostly just want to eat popcorn and watch the show.
Blogger Christiana Miller put together this round-up of helpful links for aspiring e-book self publishers. I think it’s awesome.