Tag: writing (page 1 of 7)

10 Thoughts on Thrillerfest 2016

TFestI’ve attended numerous publishing and writing events. Thrillerfest is one of the more accurate gauges of where traditional publishing stands. For several reasons:

  1. The vast majority of the published authors who attend are traditionally published, or are seeking the traditionally published route. RWA events tend to be more of a mixed bag as Romance quickly embraced indie publishing. The thriller world, not so much.
  2. Thrillerfest is held in New York City. So there are plenty of industry people. While BEA is packed with industry folks, it’s not focused on writers. Thrillerfest is focused on both those who are already published and those who want to get published.
  3. The founders of ITW—International Thriller Writers—are heavy hitters in the world of traditional publishing and the conference always draws prestigious guests. This year, Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn was one of the guests of honor.

So here are my takeaways:

  1. The conference, ranging from Craftfest through Thrillerfest is extremely well run. Lots of people put in a lot of time. Kudos to Kimberly Howe, her staff, and all the volunteers.
  2. People in publishing tend to be nice people. Actually, one thing I’ve always loved about being a writer is I work in a world where the players tend to be honorable and friendly. But it is a business and . . .
  3. Once more, the refrain is that the dust has settled in the world of traditional publishing. Which, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth. Some people are grasping onto data that dedicated e-reader sales are slowing to be indicative that eBook sales are doing the same. There seems little recognition that millions of eBooks are sold that aren’t being tracked in the industry standards.
  4. Despite that refrain, many are aware that things are changing. However, I didn’t get a sense many people have a plan for change.
  5. On a panel, a senior editor talked about how they were chasing the technology and the changes. I’ve heard that many times in the last ten years. In most industries, if one is chasing the changes, one is losing. I know there are various efforts to try to utilize what is available and innovate, but overall, what I saw and heard indicated that much of publishing is still business as usual instead of forward thinking and more importantly, taking action to make the necessary changes so they don’t have to chase the technology.
  6. Traditionally published authors seemed focused on the cocoon of the NY Publishing world. For what I call “Airport Authors” that’s understandable. It’s a nice cocoon. These authors are so big, they’re racked in the airport. But there are only a handful of those. There are many high-end authors who are NYT bestsellers, move a lot of books, but are not cornerstones that are indispensable, and not racked at the airport. Mass market paperbacks are being hit the hardest. Simply put, there’s less rack space available. Also . . .
  7. The flood of eBook content has affected indie, traditional, and hybrid authors alike. Publishing is a business that relied on distribution for many, many years. The reality for authors is that discoverability is the key to success and is a term everyone in publishing needs to be intimately familiar with.
  8. I write my Time Patrol books with the premise of “what if . . .” something in history is changed. I run my business the opposite way: “What if . . .” something in the present changes? What is my plan? I look to the future and contingency plan, something my Special Forces background beat into me. I pose a “what if” that every author who relies on print sales must consider: What if Barnes and Nobles folds? I don’t want that to happen, but it is a possibility. Last I checked, roughly 30% of print sales are already via Amazon. What needs to be considered is that even if those who bought print from B&N shift to Amazon, the focus has shifted, again, from distribution, to discoverability.
  9. Further, the future of print is going to be Print-On-Demand, which will completely wipe out distribution as a chokepoint. I foresee Amazon kiosks everywhere with POD technology in it. But not many shelves. Well, maybe for the Airport Authors.
  10. Authors who have not gone hybrid, and who need to, are behind the power curve by two years are least. And it takes 3 years to learn how to do it. Any author who has been in the business for more than a handful of books has learned about reinventing themselves in order to survive (except, perhaps, some Airport Authors). That reinvention needs to be happening now. I didn’t get the sense of eagerness for adapting and innovating for the future that I’ve picked up at romance conferences for the past several years.Spinal tap 11
  11. Because, we must always be able to turn it up to eleven: We’re living in an exciting and dynamic ecosystem in publishing. The distance between the author and the reader is the Internet. That’s a radical change that we can embrace and enjoy.

Nothing but good times ahead.


On the way to New York & Thrillerfest

I’m here at TYS– that’s Tyson-McGhee Airport, aka Knoxville, at oh-dark-thirty. To fly to Charlotte, to fly to LaGuardia, to meet Jen then take a car in to Manhattan. Going to be a long day, but then again, I have a great job so I can’t complain. Sometimes I forget how neat it is to work for myself, and to make a living coming up with stories about people and things I find intriguing.

The question is: why even going to Thrillerfest? It’s traditional publishing heavy. I won’t be meeting with my agent (well, I will, but she’s a friend and we haven’t conducted business in years) or my publisher (although I will go to the Thomas & Mercer get together on Friday night and Amazon Publishing has done some of my titles). Networking is an intangible and one I did poorly early in my career. Often, when flying back from events like Thrillerfest or RWA Nationals of even Book Expo America, I wonder what it is I accomplished.

The answer is: who knows? But publishing is a people business, just like any other business. We’ll sit around in the lobby, wander the halls, I’ll do a workshop on character, a panel on something else. Have some meeting. Chat. Whatever. The thing is, one has to be open to the unexpected. I believe that some big name traditional authors will go hybrid in the coming years. Just for the creative opportunity. To control all aspects. Which actually frightens a lot of people, especially those who’ve been held tight in the bosom of publishing for their careers. I’ve experienced the spectrum of publishing from being the guy whose phone call doesn’t get returned to bestselling status and can affirm there is a huge difference in how the publishing world treats you. The concept of not having that warm cocoon of what one is used to can be threatening.

However, the freedom to not have expectations, to make choices, to have control, is exhilarating also.

indexPlus, I’m going to New York, NY. Which, even after having grown up in the City, is still exciting. I grew up in the Bronx.  I’ll be staying at the Grand Hyatt above Grand Central Station. I never saw Saturday Night Fever (even though, yes, I came of age in the disco era, staying alive, staying alive– which was literally my mantra for survival in da’ Bronx, not a dance), until a few years ago. But when I did, I identified with the concept of Manhattan being a world away from the outer boroughs. Not that I didn’t go to Manhattan. Like when relatives came from out of town and we took them to the Empire State, the Statue of Liberty, the Staten Island Ferry, to a mugging or two. I was telling my wife how different NY City is now from the NY I knew. Like the time I took the bus down from West Point to the Port Authority and had to walk over to the Lexington Ave. subway line at like 4 in the morning (in uniform) and got propositioned a half dozen times. It’s so Disney now. I miss the old gruff and grind. And it seems hardly anyone in NYC is actually from NYC. But I digress. Independence Day (Time Patrol) came out yesterday and the response has been overwhelmingly positive so far. Loving the history and am developing some intriguing character arcs in Nine-Eleven which comes next. Already Roland, back in 9 AD, in the forests of Germania, has run into another Jager; some of you might remember that from D-Day when he met Beowulf and Grendel. So lots of blood and gore there. But it’s Scout that’s intriguing because she was but a child during what everyone thinks of when they consider 9-11. One wonders how the world looks to a generation that grew up in the shadow of that age and the “War on Terror”. Every generation is shaped differently.

Anywho. Now in Charlotte, watching the sun come up, drinking a gatorade and eating a slice of pizza for breakfast, which is sacrilege, because I’m going to NY, where you can get NY pizza, which you do not eat with knife and fork.

Nothing but good times ahead!

True Grit. Writer Style.

true gritThere is a word that applies to successful writers: GRIT.  Science has too long focused on intelligence & talent as determiners of success.  And it’s not.

Tweet this! The key to success is to set a specific long-term goal and to do whatever it takes until the goal has been achieved.

That’s called GRIT (defined as courage and resolve; strength of character). Duckworth did a study in 2008 at West Point. GRIT was the determining factor of Beast Barracks success. My plebe squad, back in the old days when men were men and the sheep ran scared, had five members. Three of them didn’t make it to Christmas the first year. They weren’t bad people; they just didn’t really WANT it. It’s the same in Special Forces training. There are those who go into it because they want to wear a green beret (you know, like Girl Scouts do). They don’t make it. The ones who make it want to BE a green beret. There are those who want the lifestyle of ‘author’. They never get published. The ones who want to BE an author make it. Way back in 1869, Stephen Jay Galton wrote a book titled: Hereditary Genius. He found that ability combined with zeal & capacity for hard work trumps talent.

Successful people have a growth mindset. The problem with many talented people is that they know they are talented; they think that they already know everything they need to know. So they never adapt and change and grow. A growth mindset person believes they can always learn more.  Successful authors are always expanding their craft and their business savvy, especially in today’s rapidly changing publishing environment. If the key is to set a long term goal and doing whatever it takes, the first question is:  Do you have a long term goal as a writer?  I call it the Strategic Writing Goal and discuss it in more detail in Write It Forward.

The Hierarchy Of Goals

  • Overall Writing Goal. (Strategic)
  • Book goal. (Supporting)
  • Business goal (Supporting)
  • Shorter range/daily goals (Supporting)

Let’s talk about your strategic writing goal. It can be anything, but it’s important that you lock it down. Some broad examples: I will be a NY Times best-selling thriller author in five years.

  • I will write my memoir for my grandchildren in the next three months.
  • I write part-time simply because it is a hobby and spend an hour a day on it.
  • I want to be published within 2 years by a major, traditional press.
  • I will have my book in print within 2 months via self-publishing.
  • I will earn X amount of dollars per month indie publishing in six months.
  • I will write a book that will help people with —– and spend the next three years using it to bolster and complement my speaking career.

The Importance Of Your Strategic Goal

It starts your creative and practical process.  Everything you do is going to be slanted to support this goal.  Your strategic goal determines your supporting goals. Writing it down and posting it where you can see it every single day helps keep you focused.  It determines how you approach the publishing business.  It is also the core of your work regime.  It is the core of your marketing campaign. All supporting goals must align with it in the hierarchy.

One of the things I did this year was sit down and look at my supporting goals. The last several years I’d been all over the place with my focus. Writing stand alone books. Writing a short series because I loved the idea: Burners. Writing another Horace Chase book as part of the Green Beret series. I’m proud of all those books, but the reality is that this supporting goal wasn’t supporting my strategic goal. I re-evaluated, balanced what I was passionate about (emotion); interested in (intellect) and what made business sense (reality). I decided to focus on pushing the Time Patrol series forward. It combines everything I want to do as a writer. Writing about science fiction and history allows me to delve into those things I am most interested in and feel the most about. And realistically, putting books out in the same series made sense. I’m seeing that now as D-Day just came out and I’m seeing sales go up in the series overall.

Rooster Cogburn: I mean to kill you in one minute, Ned. Or see you hanged in Fort Smith at Judge Parker’s convenience. Which’ll it be?

Ned Pepper: I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.

Rooster Cogburn: Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!

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