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Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff - Bestselling Author, Voice Over Artist and Media Assassin

Tag Archive for publishing

Self Publishing 101: Dispensing with the Obvious… You Need a Finished Manuscript


When it comes to indie publishing, let’s dispense with the obvious. To sell books, you first need a sale-able book. 

Duh. 

The good news is that these days, you don’t need 75K words to make a book. There is no prejudice against a thin book spine when it comes to e-books. 

One of my most successful titles was my Bin Laden book which clocked in at about 12K words total. It proved to me that you can succeed with a short book, but just know that you may face trouble charging a lot for a short book. You may be limited by how much people will be willing to spend on something they can read in an hour or two. 

Now writing a book is one thing. Everyone has their own way of doing it. 

However, in order for your book to be market-worthy, you’re going to need the holy trinity… Rewriting, Editing and Proofreading. There are very few people who can create a first draft that is publishing-ready. It’s the kind of thing that takes not only skill, but a great deal of experience. Trust me, your written work will only get better through rewriting. 

It should also go without saying that you NEED others to read your work before it gets published. Writing is lonely work that often takes place in a vacuum. You need objective and honest feedback in order to make your book shine. 

Unfortunately, my recommendation is that you do not trust the opinions of family and close friends. They may not be completely honest assessors of your ability to succeed. They may not want to see you get hurt. They may have an agenda. They may like you just where you are.

Find a writer’s group near you or online. If you have someone who will be straight up with you, you are already ahead of the game. 

Editing and proofreading are also jobs that are too important to be done by you, not so much because you may not be qualified to do it, but because you may not be qualified to do it objectively. It’s your book, you’re too close to it. You need to find and editor and/or a proofreader for your work before it goes out into the world. 

This is actually one of the most difficult tasks in the process and in many cases, the one that will carry the highest expense. Editing and proofreading are such important jobs that you should really hire someone to do it. Thanks to the e-publishing boom, there are lots of vendors offering these services to writers just like you and I. 

When it comes time to find a editor, ask around. If you have friends who have self-published, there’s a good chance they may know someone. Sometimes people are protective of their editors, not wanting them to get too popular lest they raise their rates and lose their availability. I have an editor I like a lot. He’s someone I’ve known for about 20 years so I trust him with my work and I trust him to be honest with me. 

If you really get stuck, I may give you his contact info, but just know he doesn’t work for free. 

Looking for an editor or proofreader can be as easy as an Internet search. You can also find freelance editors at sites like ODesk.com where freelancers hang their shingle looking for gigs. On these sites, you can often put your job up for bids and the editors who have registered have also taken various aptitude tests and their scores are visible on their profiles. 

Whatever you do, try as hard as you can to put your best foot forward. An audience will be your most honest critic. If your book is bad or good, they will let you know. 

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Why do you want to publish a book?

self publishingBe honest. Do you want to publish a book to impress people or to make a living as a writer?

If your heart is set on seeing your name on the cover of a book published by a traditional publisher, then go after it with everything you have. Chase it like a dog after a pork chop.

Just realize that today, self-publishing success has become an opportunity to gain the attention of traditional publishers. It’s the new way to fight the crowded bottleneck of all those millions of others out there trying to do the same exact thing. Success in any field doesn’t go unnoticed for too long.

Of course, traditional publishing isn’t without its pitfalls. As an industry facing a great deal of uncertainty, traditional publishers have tightened the reins. New contracts can include provisions that mean less control of your work, and worst-case-scenario, even loss of your copyright regardless of whether or not your book even comes out. Feeling frisky about an education into the horrors faced by writers under contract to publishers? Go visit ThePassiveVoice.com, a site run by a lawyer who has worked in the publishing industry for decades. Often, he highlights the egregious things found in the publishing agreements sent to him by writers under contract. One thing is clear. Publishing is an industry facing drastic shrinkage, where sometimes the most creative work done by the publishers involves dreaming up inventive new ways to upend the writer by the ankles and shake until more money falls out from their pockets.

Regardless, with a publisher behind your book you may even be forced to wait 12 to 18 months to be released. In some cases, books are never released for whatever reason… even after the contracts are signed. This is the pure definition of literary blue balls.

Plus, to make things even more difficult for the writer to make a living doing what they do best, uh, writing…the contract you affix your John Hancock to may prohibit you from, uh, writing anything else. At the very least, you will be under embargo against competing against yourself.

All in exchange for an advance and the hope there will be more royalty checks coming.

How big of an advance? Well, it seems the days of windfall advances to new writers is past history. Today, advances for new writers now average in the mid-five figures and are shrinking faster than Luke Skywalker’s junk after a cold dip in a Degoabah swamp. Now, I realize that a few thousand bucks may represent a life-changing sum of money for some, but it seems a paltry sum to sign away nearly all control of something you devoted so much of yourself to create.

You also have to take into account that your advance is recoupable against future royalties. That means the 8 to 10 percent royalty per unit sold they’ve given you in that contract has to earn back every penny of that advance money before you see another dime. That is if you even get an advance. Some publishers have started to move away from handing out any upfront dough and are instead basing their deals on royalties alone.

In a way, it’s almost like religion. It’ll work out better for you if you have faith there’s a reward at the end.

Yes, dear writer, the deck is stacked against you. However, those awful publishers put up the financial risk and you signed the contract allowing them to do whatever they want.

A deal with a major publisher can open doors for you. Maybe even lead to bigger opportunities. The sad truth is that because publishers release so much content every month, not every one of their books will succeed and not every writer under contract will make a living. Some writers succeed with major publishers and go on to have those careers the rest of us drool over. Most however, do not. That’s the way it has always been.

Can you make a living self-publishing? Yes.

Be your own boss. Write what you want to write. Be on your own schedule. Just remember… if you don’t sell books, you don’t make money.

How much can you make through self publishing your own books?

Possibly the best-known examples of DIY self-publishing success are John Locke and Amanda Hocking. Both were making six figures, monthly, on their self published books. That’s right, hundreds of thousands of dollars a month! Look it up. Both eventually signed big deals with major publishers. Google the term: “self-publishing success” and you’ll find the latest person to use their self-publishing efforts as an audition to land a major book deal — because a writer with an audience and the know-how to make it happen on their own is a much more attractive proposition for a risk-adverse industry. 

The good news is that you don’t have to be today’s buzzed-about indie author to make a decent living at this. Because e-books are being sold today in mind-blowing numbers, you can stay under the radar and still move enough units each month to make a living. It takes luck and perseverance and a growing catalog of content.

Me? I’ve had my own indie publishing imprint since 2005, and have been doing this full time for the last two years. I can tell you it’s thrilling to be able to write what you want, how you want and sell it to book buyers without a middleman screwing everything up or putting their hands in your pocket.

If you could do anything in the world, anything at all, what would it be? Personally, I’d want to do exactly what I’m doing now. The only difference is that it would be from a desk with a view of the beach.  

*****

I’m a full time writer, publisher and digital content creator. I’ve been marking the 8th anniversary of the launch of my indie imprint, Glenneyre Press by sharing some of what I’ve learned about about digital publishing. 

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A Pair of Fun Articles on My Writing

A couple of really neat interviews I gave on THE KILLING OF OSAMA BIN LADEN and my writing in general came out last week. The first, at the KINDLE AUTHOR blog, is a great all-around interview by talented writer David Wisehart. Here’s a small excerpt.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

MARK YOSHIMOTO NEMCOFF: It’s been a long and winding road for sure. A loooong time ago, during the early ’90s, I lost my job during a bad economy and I started my own business as a professional composer of music for TV and video games. I worked extremely hard and after a while I had done a few national series and a couple of big game titles. I went through some really heavy personal stuff and woke up one day to find that the most horrifying thing had happened to me: I completely lost the ability to write music. All the melodies and stuff I would hear in my head constantly, morning to night, were all gone. Poof. Just like that. Nothing. Crickets. Nada.

I had always been a creative writer in school, and one day while feeling very lost, I had a flash of an idea for a story. All I did for 19 days was write, and in the end, I had penned my first novel, The Doomsday Club, a furious thriller about 4 college friends who inadvertently kill someone and then invent a phony terrorist group to take the blame. I’d never attempted anything longer than a short story, but the book came out really well. I just hit the accelerator and never looked back. This being L.A., as I started showing my book around and getting some good responses, I got it into my head that I should try to break into TV and screenwriting. I put together some specs, got an agent. Got a couple of assignments. Got into the Warner Bros. Drama Writers Fellowship. Had one of my TV scripts directed by Bruce Campbell. Developed a couple of feature screenplays with a producer on the Sony lot. Wrote some more features on assignment… but nothing happened. I got fed up and was ready to give up, but I polished up another novel I had written, a noir thriller called The Art of Surfacing. In 2005, I put the book out in print myself and, needing a way to promote it, stumbled upon an article about creating something called a “podcast.” So, I started this podcast, at first in my car with some cheap mp3 recorder, that within 4 months got me a deal with a podcasting network and then, surprisingly, a drive-time slot on Sirius Satellite Radio five nights a week. An editor at Playboy heard my show and did a nice feature on me and all-of-a-sudden, I was podcasting as my full-time job, making a great living at it.

So then, inspired by Scott Sigler, I took an old screenplay of mine that I had optioned a few times but never got made and very quickly adapted it into a book. Number One with a Bullet, came out as a serialized podcast novel and because it was a success (winning a Parsec Award in 2007) I started putting out more original audiobooks and growing my brand as an author. Around that time, I also had this crazy book out about the lives of Hollywood assistants named Where’s My F*cking Latte? After Lindsay Lohan was arrested chasing her assistant in a car, I got a call to appear on “Access Hollywood” to talk aobut the lives of celebrity assistants. Boom. WMFL took off.

When the economy around audio podcasting started to erode, I started a video podcast, a funny news show called Things I Learned This Week, which I was also writing. Two years into it, that show was seen by a producer who offered me the hosting gig on a new nationally-syndicated TV newsmagazine about smartphones and mobile entertainment. I didn’t even have to audition. We taped the first season of The MoShow earlier this year and are waiting to hear about a second season pickup.

In the meantime, to my surprise, I discovered that WMFL had been sitting on a Kindle subcategory bestseller list for over 2 years. I went back and looked at how much my Kindle sales had grown and realized with the release of the Kindle 3 and the proliferation of Kindle apps running on millions of smartphones, there was a very, very serious market here. In March, I started putting out more of my back catalog and new content for Kindle, including a book called Go Forth and Kick Some Ass: Be the Hero of Your own Life Storyrelating to some of the motivational “sermons” I had been podcasting (I am an ordained minister). Since I started really focusing on ebook content my sales have exploded. All the stuff above, those are just most of the highlights so it may seem like it’s been an easy path, but I can tell you that I’ve fought tooth and nail for everything, and all the opportunities and doors that opened up were because someone saw something that I created and worked very hard on and decided to take a chance on me.

READ THE REST OF MY INTERVIEW OVER AT KINDLE AUTHOR HERE.

The next one is a fantastic feature piece that really goes into some depth about THE KILLING OF OSAMA BIN LADEN and the effects the book’s sudden success has had on my career. Pardon the billboard sized photo of me they used in order to scare children, but once you scroll past that the rest is really cool.

Often in life, one thing leads to another and an initial act can be parlayed into great success.  Enter this tale into the life of writer and television host Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff.

Following the capture and subsequent killing of Osama Bin Laden in May, things would start to fall into place for Nemcoff.  The morning after news broke, he became stirred by acquiring information about how United States Special Forces pulled off the feat inside the Pakistani border.

This passion developed into writing a book, titled “The Killing of Osama Bin Laden: How the Mission to Hunt Down a Terrorist Mastermind was Accomplished.”  It was about the end of Bin Laden and as details came flowing in, the realization that he could have the first piece of any circumstance on the topic became great motivation.

READ “ONE MAN’S PATH TO PUBLISHED SUCCESS” HERE

 

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Physical Media is Doomed. Blame Oil.

Here is a portion of an interview I did with Colin Barnes, a very talented up-and-coming writer from the U.K. The first question has to do with whether or not the exploding popularity of eBooks is temporary. As you’ll see, I don’t think so, but not just because they’ve ignited an indie publishing boom. I wanted to highlight a portion of the interview here that gives you an idea why I feel physical media such as printed books, DVD’s, CD’s and such are totally doomed.

Being a proponent of indie-publishing, do you think we are in a bubble (of ebook popularity) or the beginnings of a long-term publishing paradigm?

This is no bubble. Thanks the staggering proliferation of devices that can access eBooks including smartphones, tablets and of course devices such as the Kindle or Nook, we are in a golden era of change in the publishing industry. Sure, it may not seem that way to major publishers struggling to understand how to survive in a world where their bloated and antiquated methods of business feel as archaic today as Edison’s hand-crank Gramophone, but the winds of change, they are a blowing.

eBooks offer a tremendous amount of opportunities for enterprising writers, mostly because by cutting out the cost of the middlemen (publisher, distributor, retailer), you can lower your price points in order to be competitive which helps level the playing field. Other than maybe specific genre writing, I don’t think there’s any kind of “brand loyalty” that book consumers have to a publisher. People just want to read good stuff and don’t want to pay too much for the privilege.

Obviously you can point to how mp3s changed the music industry, and how they quickly eroded the market for physical media as a parallel. I won’t argue with you that reading a printed page is in many ways a superior way to enjoy a book, but just because something offers a superior media experience doesn’t mean it will survive over a content delivery method that offers better access and massive proliferation. (see “Betamax, CDs, DVDs”).

Look at vinyl, I love the warm sound of music on vinyl, but since there’s no mass market for them anymore. It’s a collector/enthusiast/music fetishist/ thing now, mostly created by indie companies and sold at a premium. The same thing will happen to physical books within two generations. By the time my grandkids are ready to read, they’ll view the dead-tree book as quaint as we view a black and white TV set or a 78 RPM record. eBooks are here to stay.

Ultimately though, if you want a culprit to blame for the future demise of dead tree books, blame oil. The undeniable fact that petroleum supplies will continue to dwindle means the paper book is doomed. Every step of the process of book manufacture and transport relies on this non-renewable resource. As fuel costs continue to rise dramatically, which then drives up the cost of bringing physical media to market, thus lowering profit margins, shareholders of these publicly traded companies will demand the abandonment of physical media to meet the bottom line.

Check out the rest of the interview on Colin Barnes’ Blog.

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My Self-Published Bestselling Book Hits Number 60 on the Amazon Non-Fiction Chart for All Books

The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, a book I furiously wrote in 4 days and self-published on Amazon through my own publishing imprint, Glenneyre Press, pulled a full-frontal assault on Amazon’s Bestselling Non-fiction book chart. Not just Kindle books, ALL non-fic on Amazon. I wrote earlier how my book hit #78 on the best-seller list. I mentioned on Facebook how the book had continued rising to #63 where I was outselling books by bestselling superstars like John Grisham, Jon Krakauer and David Mamet. Then, in between innings at my son’s T-ball game, I checked the list on my phone and BAM… my book had jumped up to number 60!

Saturday, I also mentioned about how I was outselling Donald Rumsfeld in the Amazon category of Middle East History.

And that’s not even the coolest part… because of my Bin Laden book, an entertainment company CEO contacted me and offered me a gig to write a brand-new comic book series! Since I have no lit agent or manager, I closed the deal myself (got what I thought was a pretty good deal). Monday, I’m off and running writing something I think will turn some heads.

And what I’d like to think is that in these exciting times, it’s beyond obvious you don’t need a mainstream publisher to do cool stuff in the literary world. You can build your brand, open doors and generate revenue if you’re savvy enough. Fortune favors the bold.

And even though I’ve had a lot of luck with a couple of my other self-published books, “Where’s My F*cking Latte?” (stories about what it’s like to be a hollywood assistant) and “Go Forth and Kick Some Ass” (a book to help you get motivated), both of which are still on their respective Amazon sub-category bestseller charts, what has happened so far with this crazy Bin Laden book has been the sweetest win so far. You could possibly argue that being on a sub-category bestselling chart doesn’t count, even though “Latte’s” been on the ones for “Television” for about 2 years… but hitting the overall non-fiction top 100 feels real. I am a Bestselling Author… and you can never take that away from me, baby.

 

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