The SELF-PRINTED 3.0 Splash

selfprintedsplashbadge

As anyone who is interested in writing and has ever been trapped with me in a elevator, car, or coffee shop meeting room knows, I’m a HUGE fan of Catherine Ryan Howard.  When I was getting started in self publishing, I realised I was still stuck in the ‘vanity press’ mindset of old and didn’t know anything about Createspace, formatting, or selling online.

Enter Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard.  I thought I found the book by accident on Amazon (but later learned it was through Catherine’s savvy choice of keywords) and I was so delighted by it that it has become a large influence in the group I founded, the Athens Writers Association.

In celebration of Self-Printed 3.0, (releasing today!) Catherine is answering a question posed by yours truly: What can self-published authors do to help each other that you don’t see done often enough?

Here’s her answer:

Great question and one I really had to have a good think about. I’m afraid though that my answer won’t be very popular…

I don’t think self-publishers are in need of helping each other out more, because from what I see the self-publishing community as a whole is incredibly helpful towards each other already. You see it all the time: self-pubbed authors hosting other self-pubbed authors on blog tours, recommending each other’s books, gathering together to release box-sets featuring multiple authors so they can cross-promote, etc. etc. When one ascends the ladder a rung or two, more often than not they reach down to help another few take a step up behind them.

So, what would I like to see more of? To be honest I’d like to see more self-publishers holding their fellow self-publishers to higher standards. I’d like to see more self-publishers talking about how important it is to hire a professional editor, work on your cover, etc. It’s easy to forget that the vast majority of readers do not hold self-published books in high esteem because in the past, a lot of them just weren’t that good! Imagine now that John Smith, a new self-published author, manages to convince one of these anti-self-pub readers to take a chance on a self-published ebook – and the reader finds grammatical errors, typos, inconsistencies, bad formatting and a table of contents that doesn’t work. Now John Smith has just confirmed for them what they always suspected about self-published books: that they’re bad. So they don’t try anymore. And maybe the next one they would’ve tried would’ve been yours, or mine. Now John Smith has cost us both a sale. Shouldn’t we have tried harder to get him to self-publish professionally?

I think so. So if there’s something I’d like to see self-publishers do to help each that I don’t think I see often enough, it’s to encourage professional self-publishing and to point out that when you don’t, you let the entire side down…

Awesome answer.  I agree completely.  One of the goals of the AWA is to help everyone get better and send well-written, excellently edited books out into the world.  If you’d like to do likewise, I highly recommend Self-Printed 3.0!
Here’s additional facts about Catherine, who is herself a self-publishing success story:
Catherine Ryan Howard is a writer, self-publisher and caffeine enthusiast from Cork, Ireland. SELF-PRINTED: THE SANE PERSON’S GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING (3rd edition) is out now in paperback and e-book and available from Amazon. Follow the #selfprintedsplash on Twitter today (Friday 24th) and/or visit www.catherineryanhoward.com for chance to win an amazing prize that will get your self-publishing adventure started!
“SELF-PRINTED is my self-publishing bible. It taught me how to format, create and upload my e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks. It showed me practical things such as how to build a website/blog and how to promote my books. More importantly, it taught me how to compete with the professionals. Just look at the results – The Estate Series has sold nearly 100,000 copies and following that I got a traditional book deal with Thomas & Mercer too, so I’m now a hybrid author. Jam-packed full of hints and tips all in one place, I’m always referring back to it. In a word, it’s priceless.” – Mel Sherratt, author of The Estate Series and DS Allie Shenton Series  
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How To Write a Book (Part 1 of 2)

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— Lemony Snicket

Somewhere in your heart you know it.  Maybe this is a recent dream, but quite likely it’s been kicking around in your subconscious for some time and every once in a while, when reading a new book, or hearing an author interview, or thinking about your lifetime goals it comes to the surface — you want to write a book.  Maybe you dream of being a fulltime, famous, professional writer or maybe there’s just one idea or story that begging you to expound on it and send it out into the world.

Whatever your dream project is — a memoir, non-fiction, children’s book, or novel — there are some common elements needed to move from Chapter 1 to ‘The End’.

Elements of Success in Writing:

  • Figure out what you want to tell and why.  Before you write a word, get a good idea of why this book?  Toni Morrison says ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’  That’s always been my driving force.  Figure out what makes it special and different than similar books.  Don’t worry about originality yet (we’ll get to that part), just envision who your book is for.  Sometimes it helps to think of a person you know who is also your intended audience.
  • Plan (a little).  Finding a similar book can help you get an idea of number of chapters, number of pages, type of words (for children’s books) etc that your book might have.  The internet has acted to level the playing field and let you acquire ‘insider knowledge’ of the book business. Did you know there are four categories for children’s fiction?  Simply do a Google search for ‘books how many children fiction categories are there’ and you can find the answer.  Just remember that ten ‘Wikihow’ articles don’t necessarily equal the depth of one good how-to book.  This is the ‘know the rules so you can break them’ phase.
  • Make a roadmap, not a blueprint.  I wish I remembered what writing book this was from, but never the less it’s still important advice: make a roadmap not a blueprint of your book.  A blueprint is exacting and unchanging, but a roadmap lets you decide to take a detour when you see something interesting and you still know where you’ll be at the end of your book.  A lot of beginning writers start without a roadmap, and begin with a flush of excitement but can lose their way after a few chapters.  To me, a good road map is only a couple of pages long but will let you know the next ‘beat’ of your book if you get lost.  The outline for my novel ‘A Caged Heart Still Beats’ was two pages long and explained the main plot from beginning to end — just like you were telling a best friend the plot of a movie you saw.  For my self help non-fiction book, I decided to focus on five areas of improvement (Inspiration, Freedom, Peace, Energy, Strength) and then decided to have five little chapters in each area and named them (i.e. Do Yoga).  These outlines kept me moving forward while giving me the freedom to discover better ideas along the way.
  • Make your goal to finish.  Believe me — there’s nothing quite like the feeling of finishing your first book, of knowing you’ve done what a lot of people will talk about but never do.  You can always edit and polish on later drafts but just getting finished should be your first goal.  I started with screenplays and just told myself that whether or not the plot made any sense, I would reach page 100 (the length of a screenplay).  I knew one writer who kept rewriting chapter one over and over again.  I met him again years later and he was still writing chapter ones.  Now, each person must follow their own path and it’s great he’s still writing, but if your goal is a finished book — look toward that finish line.
  • Remember — you have potential.  My belief is that LOVE + TIME = TALENT.  If you keep writing, and reading, and learning you will get better and better.  The book ‘Talent is Overrated’ has some wonderful stories about how being born ‘talented’ might mean you get out of the starting gate before everyone else, but if you’re trotting and everyone else is working hard and galloping along you’ll soon be left in the dust.  If you love the book you’re writing, if you’re excited by it, the feeling will pass right along to the reader.  And you are the only you who has ever been, so your work (if it’s true to you) will be original and one-of-a-kind.
  • Just keep writing.  Even a page a day will get you to your goal.

Next time I’ll give you a timeline for writing your novel and answer some commonly asked questions.

Are You Selling What I’m Buying?

If you’re an author today (or any sort of entrepreneurial business person) this is truly a wonderful time to be alive.  The freedom and power given by the internet is unprecedented.  But for authors, all that power comes with great responsibility.  How to you make yourself heard, rise above the masses, and sell books without becoming a ‘MY BOOK IS NOW .99 ON AMAZON!!! RT THANKS!’ jerk?  Good question.

For myself, this is the simple formula that seems to work best (inspired by Austin Kleon) —

  • Do good work
  • Make it interesting
  • Put it in front of as many eyeballs as possible

In a moment I’ll explain each of those parts in more detail, but for now let me give an example of how this was recently successful in a RL event.

The Athens Writers Association had its first ‘Writers Read’ event and I wanted it to be a big hit.  So I picked good people and they (and I) practiced our readings and worked hard to bring our best (‘Do good work’).  Then I made flyers, put stuff up on the website, etc — all with the idea to make it alluring and exciting to people (‘Make it interesting’).  Lastly, I contacted local papers, and spent a whole day going to nearly 30 places around town to distribute flyers (‘Eyeballs’).  It was exhausting.

But it was SO worth it.  We had a giant crowd, and everyone who came seemed to love us and wanted to hear more in the future.  The excitement was palatable.

So what does that mean for you (and me) online?  I think the same rules apply.  Allow me to explain —

Do Good Work

People, this is the catch.  Right here, right in the beginning.  You want to put out good work, really good work if possible.  All the other time and effort you put into to advertising and marketing is pointless (in my mind) if you’re not pointing people to something they are going to love.  You’re just the matchmaker — you believe your book and this reader are destined for each other and you just want them to meet.  And just as you wouldn’t set up a good friend with someone you thought was unworthy, don’t set your beloved reader up to fail by giving them a bad book.

‘Bad book?  Wait a minute,’ you say, ’My book’s not bad’.  No, maybe not.  But you want great.  Not flawless, not perfect (because we are human and what have we touched that we could not imagine more perfect somehow?), but great — really fucking great.  As good as we can make it.

 Make It Interesting

This is where some ‘Mad Man’ magic mojo can help (by writing copy, not by sleeping with models BTW).  The simplest way to think about this is just to remember what made you in love with the world of your book, be interested in that character, or want to know more about a topic than you were finding (think: ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask’ or Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing).  Also check out my Amazon description posts for more suggestions.  It the end of the day, my advice is to spend a medium amount of time (more than five minutes but less than five years) on advertising, make it fun, and be confident.  Since I’ve release my first book, I’ve probably apologized to no less than five people — it’s too short, I usually write fiction, this book is just to ‘test’ self publishing for a future ‘real’ book.  What the hell?  These weren’t people who were unhappy, mind you.  Meanwhile, the people who have read it all love it.  Point is, I need to be more confident, and so do all of you.  If you have made a really good book, your advertising should (honestly) be able to confidently recommend your book to people.  They’ll love it; they’ve been waiting for it.  Now you just need to —

Put it in Front of as Many Eyeballs as Possible  

I’m still working on this part, but I think paid advertisements are one of the least important parts of the puzzle.  Sure, you have to spend money to make money, but be careful how you’re spending money.  To reference back to the title of this piece, I can tell you for a fact that I’ve never bought a book because I saw an ad for it online.  No FB little side ads, no banners, nothing.  Now, I’m sure a lot of people do buy that way, but my audience is probably more people like me, and ads turn me off pretty hard.  So is this the fall of capitalism?  No way; let me tell you how I do buy books (and games, music, etc) —

  • Heard the person speak (either in person or on the radio)
  • Read their blog and loved their ‘voice’
  • Read a review
  • A friend recommended something they love
  • Had met the person in real life
  • Searched Google or Amazon and the key words brought me to the perfect book (i.e. Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard)
  • Was given a gift by someone who loved the author

One of my favorite shops in Athens, GA is The Native American Gallery.  I only go there five or six times a year, but I’ll happily spend a lot (for me) when I do.  I probably just wandered by the first time, looking for presents for others, and just fell in love.

On the internet, the challenge is that no one in a hundred years is just going to ‘wander by’ a URL.  The great news is that there are billions and billions of paths, leading people from one place to another.  And there are billions of people.  So start making connections — start a blog, guest on others’ blogs, send books out for review, contact sites to do interviews, and even put flyers all over your home town.

I really believe being an author today is summed up thus —

So do the great work I know you are capable of, make it interesting, and start sharing it with the world.  There are readers who just dream of books like yours.

What I’ve Learn After 50 Blog Posts (Tips & Tricks)

from blog.pinkcakebox.com

TA DA!  (TWEET, TWEET!)  WE MADE IT!

Happy 50th post on this website.  I was kind of surprised that it sneaked up on me.  But I’ve learned a lot since March 2nd, 2013 and I want to share what I have learned with any would-be writers or bloggers —

10 Things I’ve Learned About Blogging

  1. Trust yourself.  People who are meant to find you will find you, so don’t waste time trying to be someone you’re not.  Always be yourself.  Unless you can be Batman, then always be Batman 😉
  2. ‘Tag’ your posts.  The world is wide and tags really help like-minded people find you.  And be open to tagging anything — in the beginning WordPress suggested ‘Mental Health’ for some of my inspiring blogs and that was a great idea I’d never thought of.  I also got a ‘re-blog’ link because I mentioned ‘The Simpsons’ once but I’d added a tag for it.
  3. Stick to a few topics.  Catherine Ryan Howard had that advice in her ‘Self-Printed’ book and it has worked well for me.  It also guarantees that people who like one post will probably like more down the line.
  4. Do your own thing but also find out the needs and desires of your audience.  I write mostly about how to live an inspirational life, writing, and self publishing.  But people really like the inspiring life bit (they like me even more, but that’s just coincidental 😉 ).  So I keep that need in mind and try to help people, even a tiny bit, on their journey toward their dreams.
  5. Post regularly.  If I had one tip, this would be it (along with be yourself, be interesting etc).  The keys to the kingdom.  Catherine Ryan Howard suggested three posts a week but for a long time I was ‘too busy’.  But when I got serious about posting more often (I aim for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) then people really started getting interested.  I did recently take a ‘birthday week break’ because, well, I’m only human (Skyrim!).
  6. Get great titles.  The number one thing I see when I look at blogs is a lack of inviting titles for posts.  Everything doesn’t have to be ‘How To Make A 10 Tips List To Drive Business’ but I see a lot called ‘Blah Blah, Dreary Day’.  And maybe that’s great and maybe it’s funny, and maybe it’s only meant to be cathartic, but I’m not that interested.  I saw one just called ‘L’ and the first line was ‘I guess this is really happening’, and I had to see the rest of that post.  I lot of times I’d pick a title, write the piece and find a better title in one of my lines, more original, more dramatic, and I’d use that.
  7. Pictures, Links, Ponies — whatever it takes.  People respond to great pictures and quotes (at least I do).  And links not only promote things you love (like my recent Frank Turner post) but they are also added valve/fun for your fans.
  8. If you can, proofread your ‘preview’ before you publish.  I have found seeing the post in its final form makes catching the error easier (warning: you will still find errors).
  9. If you Google something and can’t find the post you wanted — jump on that.  I was looking for a certain kind of list of ‘how to move to the next level as a writer’ for my Athens Writers Association meeting and I couldn’t find it!  So I wrote my own thing to bring to the group and it turned into a very successful post.
  10. Dream (and think) big.  Act successful to be successful.  I had no idea I’d have so many followers by my 50th post but I wasn’t put off when I had just one either.  I just sent my best, most professional work out into the world and hoped to find a few people who liked it.  Thank you all for being so kind as to be part of this wild ride with me.  Onward to 100!
The Amazing Austin Kleon

The Amazing Austin Kleon

“How Do I Format My Book?”

‘The Tragicall Hiftorie of Hamlet’ is only slightly sadder than ‘The Tragicall Hiftorie of Formatting’.

I’ll be upfront right away — if you need a good formatting how-to, Google onward or better yet, run off and buy Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self-Printed .  It will make the job easier.  However, if you’re about to lose your mind and want some comfort and camaraderie, then you’ve come to the right place.

Now, if you my age (mid-thirties) or older, you might have grown up wanting to be a writer, but you never thought once about growing up to be a ‘formatter’.  You honed your writing, and thought about book readings and tours, working well with your agent and editor, but you never thought much about self-publishing.

When I got serious about writing in the mid 90s, ‘vanity presses’ were still the main name for do-it-without-a-publisher printing.  For you youngsters, they were called that because — you guessed it — it was seen as vanity to publish a book the ‘real’ publishers didn’t think was good enough.  Of course, that’s a total fallacy, but a lot of people believed it.  It also might cost you $10,000 and you’d wind up with 1,000 copies out in your garage.

So I just assumed I’d never have to think about covers, copy editing, and FORMATTING.  I probably didn’t even know what that really meant.  Fast forward to this year, when I bought the above-mentioned book and started seeing my Athens Writers Association buddies bringing these beautiful, professional books into the world.  But behind every beautiful book came a horror story about formatting.

Still, I was a patient and smart woman — how hard could it be?  (long break for weeping here).

First, I couldn’t find any program that could save files as plain .DOC, not .DOCX (which I needed for Smashwords i.e. getting my e-book on Nook etc) except for Microsoft Word.  But I had never owned MS Word; I have gotten hooked on MS Publisher years ago and, like someone still typing that first draft on an old Smith Corona, I had never moved on.  So I broke down (despite a Windows 8-related grudge match with MS) and downloaded a trial of MS Office so I could try Word (verdict: LOVE it.  Must be an entirely different group than those Windows 8 tile-lovers).

So life was good, until I actually tried formatting.  See, following the advice in Self-Printed, I didn’t try anything fancy for my Kindle and Smashwords e-books — since an e-book is really a scroll-type document without real pages, it limits what you can do.

Not so with a paperback.  As soon as I started formatting my book ‘How To Come Alive: A Guidebook to Living the Life of Your Dreams’.  Two things became immediately apparent: I loved how beautiful and professional a real book could look and demons, DEMONS, must be in my computer.  At first the advice in the book helped me, but this was the brand-new Word and so I got a little lost, started pressing buttons randomly, and went way off the beaten path.  It was only the Headers and Page numbers that got me.

I would go through, think things were looking good and then, BOOM, everything would change and look wrong again.  It was also heartbreaking when it looked perfect in Word and then I saw my ‘digital proof’ copy from Createspace (the POD company that’s doing my paperback) and things were messed up AGAIN.  But I got it fix, for reals this time, and my good-looking, correct, paperback proof is now winging its way toward me.  If I can do it, you can do it.  Trust me.  And here are some tips I learned —

What I Wish I’d Known About Formatting

  • Use Page Break sparingly.  They have their place, but I was using them everywhere in the beginning and they were my chief problem when my ‘digital proof’ mysteriously looked bad.
  • ‘Link to Previous’ is the Devil.  Okay, say page 35 is a blank page and so you don’t want a page number on it — well, remember to click that button to un-link it (go to Insert-Header-edit Header to find the button on the Header and Footer tools area).  You’ll need to click on the page 35 page number area, then uncheck ‘Link to Previous’ as well as the page 36 page number area and uncheck ‘Link to Previous’ there.  It’s kind of like a chain of friends holding hands — Cindy 35 lets go of Lucy 34 so Cindy can do her thing (have no page numbers) but Joann 36 need to let go of Cindy 35 if she does want her and 37, 38, and 39 to have page numbers.
  • I kept having magical unwanted lines appear right below my header in the header box.  Don’t know why but they are easily gotten rid of — go to Home and then see a little square dotted-line box in the middle of the screen next to Styles.  It’s called Borders, click on it and then select No Borders (you need to have clicked on the header you want to change first).
  • Never give up.  I’m so glad I fought to get the headers, page numbers, and black pages I wanted — because the finished book is going to look incredible.
  • Spell check and proof read your work three more times than you think necessary — I let a few typos slip in during my e-book release and I have been eating humble pie ever since — not fun.

Formatting is hard, but some of the most rewarding things are.  It was hard to write a great book and now think how close you are to putting it in its best tuxedo so it can meet the world looking amazing.

YOU CAN DO IT.  Now go eat some chocolate and get this done!  Let me know below if you have any specific questions.  Good luck!

Publishing My First Book

Cover by Sarah Cerulean madnessofart@gmail.com

Cover by Sarah Cerulean
madnessofart@gmail.com

When I decided to get serious, to stop planning and start doing this year, my first goal was a writing one.  I decided to self-publish three books in the next year — crazy?  Yes.  But who wants to do anything halfway?

The Selection

How did I chose these three books?  Well, A Caged Heart Still Beats is my second novel and the one that I was sending out to agents since before the Earth’s crust had fully cooled.  I’d sent out probably a hundred queries and hadn’t gotten even one request to read it, so either my query was horrible, the industry is just really tough right now, or they didn’t like the idea of a love story with a man trapped in a cage.  All I knew for sure was that none of them had turned in down after reading the whole thing — because no one had read the whole thing.  It’s a book I believe in and can’t wait to get into readers’ hands.  So that’s coming out in November.   Fall Street is my third novel; I recently completed the first draft and it will be out next spring.

But my debut release is a bit of an odd duck.  It’s a little self-help book about living your dreams.  I’d had the idea for a while and then I was looking back at the best self-help book ever The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, and he told a story about a young man named Jason Dorsey who ‘didn’t know what couldn’t be done’ and so wrote a book Graduate to Your Perfect Job in less than thee weeks.  So I decided to write my little book and share it with the world.  Easier said than done.

The Writing

All went well in the beginning.  I picked 25 ideas (divided into five categories) that I thought had most contributed to my happiness.  Over the next month I wrote out each idea, added intros, and felt pretty good.  Then my first reader (my sister Sarah) called out some weaknesses.  That’s cool, that’s okay (sniff!).  I rearranged the whole book, cut some stuff, added so new sections, and it became much better.   Now I just needed to finalize and copy-edit (again) the manuscript.

The Cover

Now, my sister is an artist and she’s designed covers for my friend Rob White’s book.  I knew I wanted her help on my novels but I (naively) thought I could handle the self-help cover on my own.  And I’m sure I could have eventually come up with something decent but, just look —

CAcover

I think we can all agree the one at the top of the page is better.  I’d struggled through six different covers (all using my ancient MS Publisher’s 80s-rific styles) and then one day while I was out, Sarah surprised me with the blue sky cover.  Thank the gods.

What I learned from this is that it’s very hard to make a cover that looks professional and good enough to sit alongside traditionally published books.  And even if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you have to keep working and looking till you find a high quality look.  I’d suggest at least finding a local artist or graphic designer to help you, and going for a true cover designer if you can.  It’s your book’s intro to the world and I didn’t feel ‘right’ about any of my designs but now I can feel proud of my book.

The Advertising, Formatting, Etc

I’m now hoping to format my book, both to become an e-book and a POD paperback, in the next weeks.  The cover needed a few last adjustments (the size of my paperback is a little narrower than the design above and I wanted the title a little bigger).  Everything I’m doing is out of Catherine Ryan Howard‘s wonderful book Self-Printed.  I’m still pretty lost about advertising, but I figure that is the next great adventure.

I’m proud of my book.  I’m (pretty) proud of my Amazon page.  And I’m proud of myself for taking my future into my own hands.  Because the secret, as Austin Kleon says, is —

My Book is Alive!!! (well, live on Amazon)

Cover by Sarah Cerulean madnessofart@gmail.com

Cover by Sarah Cerulean

I’m happy!  I was feeling a little behind on my writing goals, so I today I buckled down, finished formatting my book and uploaded to Amazon!  That was a shot in the arm!

I still have a good deal of work to get the paperback out the door, but for now it feels like I’ve taken a BIG step toward living the life of my dreams.

I’m pretty tired, so let’s just you and I go gaze adoringly at the Amazon page.  Ahh.

The Post

right

Well, here it is — The Post.  Now, for my part I promise you it is the only one of its kind.  I’m not going to keep harping on this.  But I’m also going to speak very clearly and forcefully right now.

This post is about stealing.  Specifically, illegal steaming and downloading.

For the record, it’s not because I’ve had anything stolen from me or because I am religious.  I haven’t and I’m not.  This is about right and wrong.

Now, I’m sympathetic to how we got here.  Technology has come on so fast (when I was a kid in the 80s there was no internet — gasp!).  And in the ‘old days’ some sharing was allowed, or even encouraged.  You lent out your book or record to a friend so they could experience the same joy you did.  And then there were used book or record stores where you could sell or trade goods and even though the original creators didn’t get money, you were only selling your single copy and others had to be okay with buying used goods.

I also understand that the average household income has been going down since the 70s and corporate profits have been going up.

And lastly, I understand that there’s a certain kind entrepreneurial spirit that is sometimes at play.  I was recently talking to some self-publishing friends and they mentioned you could use Paypal when people bought your books, but to the sure to mark it as a ‘gift of money’ instead of a ‘payment for goods sold’ because Paypal will charge you a fee for the latter.  Now these are good people who didn’t think about it as lying or stealing, but Paypal is a business, and not paying them what they ask when you’re using their service to further your business is stealing.  And to their credit, when we talked about it, my friends agreed.  But as someone who has made signs from trash and done my own editing, I fully understand the ‘smart way’ thinking that led them to that place.

Now the fun part, where I tell you you rock and to stop making your grandmother cry

Bart: Uh, say, are you guys crooks?

Fat Tony: Bart, is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?

Bart: No.

Fat Tony: Well, suppose you got a large starving family. Is it wrong to steal a truckload of bread to feed them?

Bart: Uh uh.

Fat Tony: And, what if your family don’t like bread? They like… cigarettes?

Bart: I guess that’s okay.

Fat Tony: Now, what if instead of giving them away, you sold them at a price that was practically giving them away. Would that be a crime, Bart?

Bart: Hell, no.

— The Simpsons, ‘Bart the Murderer’ written by John Swartzwelder

Ah, the slippery slope of rationalization.  Now, I know you are a good person.  You have people you love, things that mean something to you.  You have a heart.  And as a good person you are going to have to give up stealing.  There is no justification.  People I’ve talked to who illegally download are almost always trying to justify it.  If you’re a thief, a criminal, and don’t mind that — at least you’re honest.  This post is for everyone who still believes stealing online is different than stuffing a CD down your pants and sneaking past the security guard at the local mall.

Below are the excuses / rationalzations I’ve heard:

The artists don’t get the money anyway.  Why should I give my money to a big corporation?

First of all, because it’s their property.  The same as a physical CD, they spent the time and money, took the risk, and produced a product — you take that product without paying, then you’re a thief.  Secondly, because the artists do get some of it.  They wouldn’t be doing this otherwise.  And they are getting enough to follow their dreams, and make more music, TV shows, and games you love.  And if their product doesn’t make money, guess what?  Your favorite artist would have to go and work at McDonalds.

The artists are millionaires.  And I don’t like some of them.  They don’t need my eight bucks.

 First of all, that’s still their work and effort you’re enjoying and they do deserve compensation.  And a lot of artists go through years and years of struggle to even get out there on the national stage; so just because you don’t think they deserve it doesn’t mean you get be cheap.  You would seem a millionaire to many in third world countries — can they come take your TV and wallet because you don’t deserve it?  You worked for your money and you should get to use it as you see fit — and so should every band, singer, game creator, writer, and TV producer.

Singers can do live shows for money.

Uh . . .  This one blows my mind every time.  Yes, and you can come listen to them.  But what you are suggesting is the end of every entertainment medium you love.  If illegal downloading was wide enough spread (if I couldn’t support the people you steal from) then there would be no cable TV (Do you know how much those HBO shows cost?), no professional quality CDs, no New York Times Bestsellers.  If event venues and artists who don’t mind working two jobs and releasing free content to you were the whole of entertainment, it would be a very sad shell of itself.  Your illegal downloading is killing the shows and singers you love most.

I just wanted to try it.  And after ten album listens (40 gameplay hours, etc) I didn’t like it that much.

Oh no, you don’t.  You got to experience a thing — that’s what you’re paying for.  Don’t think you’d like that album?  Then wait till it’s on Spotify, or listen to the singles on Youtube.  Rent that game instead of buying it, or only buy six-month-old games that have tons of reviews, walkthoughs, and are now half price.

I’m not stealing a physical item — it costs them nothing.

All the effort that went into creating something is not nothing.  For a CD — the case, burned CD, and paper cost about 50 cents.  That’s all.  The thousands and sometimes millions, go into the music itself — and that’s what you are stealing.  The same way when you gave a physical copy of a book to your buddy, that was maybe one sale they would miss out on as you shared your copy — but if you ‘share’ online you are taking away thousands, millions of sales.  If the artist or company made it, then they deserve payment — whether or not it’s in a 20 cent plastic jewel case.  If you wouldn’t steal from a store, you shouldn’t steal online.  It’s like that old joke —

He: Would you sleep with any man for a million dollars?
She: Well…I guess so.
He: How about sleeping with me for ten dollars?
She: (angrily) What do you think I am?
He: Oh, I know what you are.  Now we are only haggling over the price.

And lastly —

I don’t have any money.

I feel for you.  But in this day and age most people reading this have internet access.  And even if you don’t, there are a ton of events, libraries, and other public freebies.  And online you have Spotify, Pandora, Hulu, Youtube, and TONS of songs, shows, and games put up for free by their creators.  Maybe you are buying too much; try buying half as many things and wait for the ones you want most, or wait for price drops and sales.  Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s any better than the best of last year.

THERE IS A BRIGHT SHINY FUTURE OF PLENTY AHEAD OF YOU

. . . let go of the past.

You are a wonderful person.  You have big dreams and you want to live in a world of abundance.  That means supporting others’ dreams and works and helping make the world a more just, happier place.  You can do it.  Just stop stealing today (your grandmother would be proud) and start supporting the dreamers, the doers, and the creative freaks.  Because behind everything you steal, there’s a person like me, a nice, hardworking creator who only wants to make a living while entertaining the pants off you.

Cover for My First Book!

I’m releasing my first book, How To Come Alive: A Guidebook To Living the Life of Your Dreams in October and I wanted to share the cover with you.  It was made by the talented Sarah Cerulean (my sister).  The book is coming along nicely and will be available in e-book and paperback formats.  It is a challenge and a call to all those who know that life is about more than junk food and reality TV and who are excited about making their dreams come true.

I’ll share more details about the process of self-publishing as it happens.

HowtoComeAlive_001

Yay! I love this cover!

Is ‘Release Day’ an Outdated Term for Self-Published Books?

I am planning the release of my first book at the end of the month and I have a problem — I don’t have a burning desire to email everyone I’ve ever met, Tweet 24-7 about my “GREAT DEAL! ON AMAZON! CHEEP!”, or prime my fans to buy it on day one or else, I’ll insinuate, they’ll not really my fans at all.  I’m not interested in any of those things.  I’m happily sharing my most inspirational songs on FB and mentioning my book as I do it, but I realized this morning that ‘release day’ just doesn’t mean that much to me.

And then I starting thinking — how important are release dates for self-published books these days?

Now for movies, the first weekend of release is imperative.  Even if a movie ‘has legs’ and keeps making money, a slow opening weekend has very real implications — the actor, the director, and a franchise may be judged against it for years to come.

And for TV shows it’s even worse — a slow start may lead to a fast finish.  Your whole future is riding on a quick and intense public interest in your work.

Now we return to books.  In traditional publishing if a book doesn’t get enthusiasm from the publisher’s sales team, the initial run may be reduced.  If the book doesn’t sell right away, it may lose what little advertising it had, its shelf space, and even be headed for the dreaded ‘remainder bin’.  And then, after only 12-18 months, your book might go out of print altogether and disappear off the face of the Earth.

But with a self published book, everything changes,  Yes, selling more books in a short length of time can help you jump up in the Amazon rankings, but that’s about it.  Your book’s not getting ‘remaindered’.  It’s not going not of print.  You and your book can be on Amazon till the end of time.

I’m planning on growing my fan base (I’m aiming for 100 followers to this blog by the end of the month!) and I’m going to keep writing and improving myself and I plan on my book ‘How To Come Alive: A Guidebook for Living the Life of Your Dreams’ to be the first in a series.  So ‘opening day’ isn’t a big day for me.  It’s like the first day you meet the love of your life — it’s special, but it’s only the beginning.

And you all, my great readers of the world, are the love of my life.  And our adventure is only beginning — no countdown clock needed.