The Occasional Blog Post

Independent Publishing – Lessons Learned

My interest in independent publishing has been rekindled. Back in 2010, I got into it, releasing some guides on creative writing. But most of my attention was drawn to other things, namely travel, running retreats, building our off-grid house, and working with Divine Arts for Writing from the Inside Out.

The rekindling happened as I started collaborating with a good friend of mine on a sci-fi collection. It’s a different kind of writing than I usually do. It’s fun, but I am also taking it seriously, because I look forward to some day sharing these books with readers. And I want to do this independently.

I’m floored by what I have recently discovered about independent publishing, and I want to share some highlights to help other writers. Let me know if you have other recommendations, comments, or suggestions.

Independent Publishing / Self Publishing

I’m a fan of traditional publishing and I’m a fan of independent publishing because I am a fan of writing. Publishing makes writing available to readers. There is a misconception that traditional publishing is ‘real’ and self-publishing is a road to quiet obscurity. Both are real, and both can lead to success.

I like the phrase ‘self-publishing,’ though ‘independent publishing’ is probably better— it avoids some of the stigma associated with self publishing, and it makes clear that the process requires motivated action.

Collaboration

Book Layout and Cover Design

The difference in terms (independent vs. self publishing) also points to the collaboration involved with making a good book. The writer (alone or with a team) fills the book with words and such. So far, so good. But that’s not everything. A book needs a good cover, and good book covers are hard to do unless cover-making is your expertise. So, why not hire an expert?

99designs.com is one of many good resources available for independent writers who want to work with independent designers. Very cool!

Editors

Even when a writer is good at writing, it doesn’t mean she is also good at structuring a book, copyediting a book, laying out a book, thoroughly revising a book, proofreading a book. Editors tend to be quite good at this. Many editors actually enjoy doing this kind of work, revising for usage while retaining style, and so on. So, why not hire one or more editors?

Joanna Penn has a good link list of recommended editors.

Readers

Every writer needs beta readers, people who can read a draft and give feedback. My suggestion is to do what you are already inclined, which is to share your book with a close friend. Make sure the draft you send him is as polished as possible. Be considerate! And let him know your doubts and questions about the draft so he can know what to look for.

Reviewers

Writers really benefit from online reviews because reviews are proof that people enjoyed the book. It’s nice when reviewers share some highlights about the book, because in doing so, the reviewer is also kind of characterizing herself. As a potential buyer, if we have something in common with the reviewer, and the review is good, then we’re likely to buy it.

Goodreads, for example. This is a sort of community for people who really love to read. What writer wouldn’t be happy to give a free review copy of a book (in exchange for a review)?

I, for one, would love to have more reviews on Amazon, so contact me (comments at writingimmersion.com) if you would like a review copy.

Mentors, Teachers, Trailblazers and Success Stories for Self-Published Authors

Awhile back, I was on Audible looking for audiobooks on writing. I came across Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success). I bought it and listened to it as I worked outside building our house. I liked the information in the book. The simple concept of writing many related books had eluded me as a sound strategy for self-publishing.

As a sales model, writing a lot is fundamentally different than writing one. Writing only one book is kind of hoping for a lightning strike. Writing a lot creates more visibility, more potential sales, higher revenue per reader. More books means more for readers to enjoy.

Releasing a new book boosts the sales of previous books, so there is a kind of compounding-interest thing happening here. The more you have, the more you can grow.

Other strategies for indie writers:

  • Have a good call to action at the end of the book. Make it easy for readers to continue the series or find more from you. Link to a mailing list, a website, and give information about your other books and future projects.
  • The first book in a series is a kind of entry point. Price it low or make it free. Pricing low is a sound strategy for any entrance to a ‘sales funnel.’ Make it easy to enter. If readers like it, they will probably read more.
  • Be yourself. The fact that you are selling something doesn’t need to fundamentally change how you present yourself or who you think you are. You should be generous, professional, and such, and remain true to who you are. Don’t make the mistake of acting salesy because you think it’s necessary. Actually, no, it’s not necessary, and it’s not helpful at all. There’s nothing sleazy or untoward about paying for a book, or about being smart about how you make your writing available. Success in the marketplace requires a mindset shift toward generosity and self-assurance which can be difficult for introverted writers, but it is certainly doable.

A few months after listening to Write Publish Repeat, it came time for me to update my iPhone OS, and the new version included a Podcasts icon. I really hadn’t listened to many podcasts before, but suddenly I had this icon there, so I clicked that thing. Predictably, I searched for podcasts on writing, and I found one called The Creative Penn. In Write Publish Repeat, they mentioned Joanna Penn and her podcast. I figured I would give it a whirl.

Her podcast is excellent. I recommend it for any writer remotely interested in independent publishing. She is smart, generous, and she always has helpful stuff to say. She is also honest about her own journey. She has good resources on her site for self publishers. I would recommend this book: The Indie Author Power Pack: How To Write, Publish, & Market Your Book. It’s 99 cents. How can you go wrong?

Your 1000 True Fans

Worried about being just one of a zillion people vying for riches and fame? Well, don’t be. It’s not a zero-sum game, and the paradigm of publishing has certainly changed (and it continues to evolve). Also, more good news: you don’t even need to strive to become a big name. No selling out required to live well. All you need are 1000 true fans. This article is great for clearing that up:

http://kk.org/thetechnium/2008/03/1000-true-fans/

Successful Indie Authors

Barry Eisler has a very long (let’s say ‘exhaustive’) list of Resources for Indie Authors. Here it is:

http://www.barryeisler.com/indie-authors-resources.php

Hugh Howey’s blog articles are sophisticated, engaging, and timely

http://www.hughhowey.com/

Other

Smashwords is a cool source for selling and promoting your self-published book

https://www.smashwords.com/

As is Kobo:

http://store.kobobooks.com/

Amazon is most certainly the biggest player with the most traffic, but don’t forget about these awesome sites.

Want to publish a short story? Check out wattpad.com.

Finding this material has really impressed me. I already knew something about self-publishing, but what I had previously learned was still a bit off-putting to me as a poet and academic and reader of literary fiction. For one thing, I thought it would always be necessary to be salesy to sell something. These folks and others prove that there really is no downside to indie publishing.

So, in the near future, I will revise and update some of the self-published writing guides I put out a few years ago. And I will be releasing some cool sci fi stories.

The future of independent publishing is very exciting.

The power of Virabhadrasana in Pranakriya style alignment

Virabadrasana, or Warrior posture, is one of the most intense and rewarding asanas.

Rather than call Warrior One a “basic” or “easy” posture (because it is neither), let’s call it a fundamental posture — or even more precisely, an ancient and powerful one. To begin exploring the great power of this pose, I will tell a story that my teacher told me some years ago concerning its name and mythic beginnings.

Long long ago, on a remote hilltop in balmy India, lived a great being whose name was Shiva. Shiva was a renunciate — he lived in the woods and spent all of his time doing different practices to create power inside.

Shiva practiced intense tapas (which essentially means “the generation of friction and heat”). Tapas can indicate many different forms of friction, but for our purposes, it consists of holding one posture for a very long time, thus generating internal heat. In the time of our story Shiva had been meditating using breath retention on the mountain top with one arm over his head for one year. He was in a deep state of Yogic bliss.

Holding a posture for any extended amount of time generates a lot of intensity inside, and the more intensity one is able to generate without losing the will to hold the posture, the more powerful one feels. So, the ancient way, though it may seem archaic, has its basis in a felt truth.

In any case, the ancient yogis who followed Shiva were intensely devoted to their practice. They lived in the woods and let their clothing deteriorate to rags; they practiced extreme austerities and accepted any food offered to them. They were not interested in the pleasures of worldly things; rather, they quested for purity of spiritual discipline and power. Discipline was their motto, and Shiva was the most disciplined of them all.

Now, Shiva had a wife named Sati, and on this particular day, she was sitting in their garden downhill from Shiva’s meditation grove. She happened to look up at the beautiful clouds in the sky and saw a flying chariot above her heading to her father’s house.

“That’s odd,” she thought. And then she saw another one — full of her friends, laughing as though they were on their way to a great party. Which, in fact, they were.

“Were are you going?” she called up to them.

They seemed a little embarrassed as they called back to her, “Your father has invited us to a very beautiful party. Or didn’t you receive the invite?” And they flew on. Sati was very confused and insulted not to have been invited.

Shiva, meanwhile, was blissfully unaware. The wind rustled his matted hair and he felt the depth of the universe, and was unhindered by his clothes being in rags.

Four more chariots flew over, headed to the party.

Sati made up her mind and called up to Shiva, “I am going to my father’s house.”  Shiva continued his meditation.

Sati arrived at her father’s house and found every single one of their friends had been invited but she and Shiva. She was disturbed at this and asked her father why.

Her father said, “Oh, that Shiva is a mess. He is too dirty to come out in public. He is all in rags and I couldn’t invite him.”

At this point all the guests became a bit nervous and gathered their coats to leave.

Sati was infuriated. She said, “You insult my husband and you insult me. You insult what he stands for.” Right then and there, she sat down and began a powerful breathwork practice. The intensity of her breath was such that she burst into flames and began to burn herself alive in the fire of her devotion.

Now, way across the heavens, the great god Shiva felt a distortion in the field of existence. Stretching his mind to the place of the distortion, he saw his love burning to ashes. His deep wrath began to boil up inside. He called upon all of his power; he at last moved his arm which had so long been held aloft and with the great strength of his practice he pulled his own ragged hair out by the roots and threw it to the ground. From his hair burst forth a great monster — it grew as huge as the very sky. It had arms like thunderbolts, each holding a weapon, and it gnashed its teeth like mountains collapsing.

“Virabhadrasana,” Shiva roared to the monster, “Go and revenge my Sati,” and the being took one deep step across the heavens to the house of Sati’s father.

That creature is Virabadrasana, his great step is the warrior posture: all of the power of Shiva’s great devotion encapsulated in one asana.

So, how can we have diluted our understanding of this posture to such an extent that we call it an “easy” or “basic” one?

Because the power of the posture is hidden.

The keys to the posture are proper alignment and intensity. The intensity is generated through breathwork and by holding it long enough to witness the significance of what is happening inside.

Now let’s explore the posture.

Begin in tadasana (another much under-appreciated posture), mountain pose. Stand with feet hip-width apart, ankles engaged, knees engaged, belly engaged, hands shooting down toward the ground. Isometrically strengthen all of the body until the muscles shake. Deepen the breath while keeping every muscle taught and engaged.

Lift your right foot slowly off the ground and find your balance. Take a soft but large step forward with your right foot. Hips remain aligned front and center. The back heel can be lifted, creating a straight line from heel to hip flexor. This makes it easier to align the hips forward, and it turns the posture into more of a balancing pose: the intensity rises.

Straighten the back leg so much so that the lifting of the knee creates a lift in the pelvis upward to the sternum and chest.

Tuck the pelvis. This is very important to protect the lower back. You do not want to arch the lower back here, because it crunches the lower vertebrae together.

The front knee bends, sinking down just above the ankle.

The arms reach back and down. Breathe here. Feel the pelvis sink toward the ground, the chin tuck slightly, the back of the neck elongate. Isometrically pull your feel toward each other: feel the legs become strong and engaged.

Then, opening the chest to the sky, slowly raise the arms with three deep breaths. Let the breath guide your movements. Continue to reach back, chest opening toward the sky. Deepen your breath. Close your eyes and witness what is happening in your body.

If the back heel is against a wall, the hands reach to touch the same wall. Chin is slightly lifted. Try kapala bati (also called breath of fire) in the posture and feel the intensity increase. Notice what great power emerges inside you.

(Here is a video demonstrating kapala bati in warrior one).

When practicing this way, the body is flooded with a tide of intensity, and so it is important to practice witnessing and containing. This means developing an ability to notice what is happening in the body without reacting to it. In this way, the warrior practices peace by creating a strong container for all of the intensity inside. The mythic figure Virabhadrasana finds full expression inside, the body itself serving as a container for the warrior.

The ancient renunciate yogis said that every hour of asana practice should be followed by four hours of meditation. Bringing breathwork and meditative attention into yoga practice brings us closer to the ancient way. And maybe someday we can be present to the moment when wrathful emotions transform to blissful experience, like water into mist.

 

 

Jade Webber teaches Pranakriya yoga on Wellness and Writing Retreats in Italy, Bali and the Caribbean. Learn more here:

www.SummerWritingRetreat.com

Bears that Hum and Jump – Part Two

An excerpt from Jade Webber’s MFA thesis:

Painting is like humming up a melody from sounds that had no form. What exists just beyond objects are shapes and subshapes floating and merging (like if we squint our eyes and everything blurs.) Our colors mix with our surroundings, just as we each hum. Just beyond our own self-borders we hum together. Here is how we hum: when an attractive person walks in the room some part of my body hums. When someone is angry at me I can feel it when they walk in the room. When you feel someone’s eyes on you from behind then there is a hum happening. When we sit near each other and feel love for one another we are humming in our hearts. When I am drawing a bear he hops all over; my perception has him hopping: we hum. When the bear is made of just such colors in just so light, there is a hum.

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Bears that Hum and Jump

An excerpt from Jade Webber’s MFA thesis:

Each bear, usually sitting upright with his soft paws dropping at his fat belly, is a reminder to myself to try to be calm, to put love into the work of living. I see bears as forest people, unburdened by frenzy of the human mind — a furry person who has forgotten their troubles. They aren’t the same bears who chased me in the forest as a child; they are their invisible cohorts.

There is a sacred magic when bringing something to life on the page. “Art class was like a religious ceremony to me,” Miro said, “The instruments of work were sacred objects to me.”[1]

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[1] Joan Miro, “Art Quotes,” The Painter’s Keys. Accessed January 18, 2014, http://quote.robertgenn.com/auth_search.php?authid=123.

Jean Dubuffet’s tree in the country

I have a very strong feeling that the sum of the parts does not equal the whole.

My inclination leads me, when I want to see something really well, to regard it with its surroundings, whole. If I want to know this pencil on the table, I don’t look straight on the pencil. I look on the middle of the room, trying to include in my glance as many objects as possible.

If there is a tree in the country, I don’t bring it into my laboratory to look at it under my microscope because I think the wind which blows through its leaves is absolutely necessary for the knowledge of the tree and cannot be separated from it. Also the birds which are in the branches and even the song of these birds. My turn of mind is to join always more things surrounding the tree, and further, always more of the things which surround the things which surround the tree.

 



Jean Debuffet, Anticultural Positions, a lecture presented at the Arts Club, Chicago, 1951

Werner Herzog’s Social Network and Work Ethic

from this interview, Trust in My Wild Fantasies:

I just don’t want to be available all the time. I love to connect with people but in a more fundamental way. I never go to parties, but I invite friends and I cook for them. We sit around a table, maximum 6 people, because if there are more people there is no space around the table. And when we speak to each other, everyone speaks about the same topic. Whereas when you are at a party, there are 200 people and loud music and in each corner there is a different topic, and small talk.

also this:

There is a wonderful thing that Martin Luther the reformer said when he was asked, “What would you do if the world would disappear tomorrow in the apocalypse?” And Luther said, “Today, I would plant an apple tree.”