I am in the process of querying the first novel in my fantasy romance series. I decided to directly query publishers, without an agent, because most of the publishers I wanted were epubs who took unagented submissions. I feel good about that decision, most days anyway, but I still have very mixed feelings about traditional publishing in general.
Disclaimer: I love books. I love reading books. Print books. Ebooks. As long as it has words in it and is a genre I like, I will read it so I am not snobby about format. I also buy my books and ebooks from a variety of sources: Amazon, used book sales, brick and mortar book stores, direct from publishers, and places like Smashwords, so I am not snobby about where the book comes from either.
The trouble comes when I start looking at numbers comparing traditional publishing to self publishing. Courtney Milan wrote an honest discussion with Ask A Mermaid recently where she discussed how to do a Profit and Loss (P&L) analysis for a book. Milan is a very successful romance author with an established author platform. She started doing P&L comparisons for books when she received an offer from Harlequin for a book she was also considering for self-publishing.
So if I only looked at the first year of my P&L, I would have said to go with Harlequin’s offer. But year two was where I thought I would get ahead: I projected about half the sales from year 1 in year 2, making the worst case scenario $12,568, the best guess scenario $39,000, and the best case scenario $77,775.
Doing the P&L this way forced me to accept that I was taking a risk—that there was a real chance that I would lose money by turning down Harlequin’s offer—but that the upside potential for the book was much, much larger by choosing to self-publish.
Milan’s established platform has allowed her to be successful publishing both traditional and self-published books. The catch here is that she had a very well established author platform.
Recently, Mike Corker, founder of Smashwords, shared a long post which analyzed the indie book market using data from Smashwords. Smashwords enables authors to publish their work and easily distribute it to all major eretailers while allowing them to retain their rights and keep 85% of the net profit. The standard net for authors from traditional publishers is 25-40% for ebooks and range from 10-20% for print.
The analysis of the data from Smashwords is fascinating in terms of title length, price points, and word count. Where it really drives home, though, is author profit:
Allow me to break it down this way. An indie ebook author earns about $2.00 from the sale of a $2.99 book. That book, on average, will sell four times as many units as a book priced over $10.00. In order for a traditionally published author to earn $2.00 on an ebook sale, the book must be priced at $11.42 (if the publisher has agency terms, as Smashwords does) or $16.00 (if it’s a wholesale publisher). Remember, traditionally published authors earn only 25% of the net, whereas Smashwords authors earn 85% net. If your book is traditionally published, and your publisher sells under the wholesale pricing model, you earn only about $1.25 for a book priced at $9.99, whereas an indie ebook author would earn $6.00-$8.00 at that price.
If a reader has the choice to purchase one of two books of equal quality, and one is priced at $2.99 and the other is priced at $12.99, which will they choose?
The numbers are staggering, but Corker’s last question is an important one and too often overlooked. There are buckets full of arguments for or against self-publishing. Some of those arguments have merit and some are just people being ugly to the wild child threatening the marble halls of the publishing industry.
As a reader, I choose, almost always, to buy the cheaper, equal quality book because I can only buy so many and I would rather have more for my money. If I am going to spend over $10 on an ebook, I spend a long time thinking about it. Sometimes, I spend so long considering the purchase, I forget to buy it, even for authors I love. It is the main reason why there are some very popular series on my TBR list where I am more than one book behind. I love them, but I do not $10 love them.
Not only are books and ebooks from traditional publishers often more expensive, less of that price goes back to the author. Now, I know all about overhead costs with traditional publishing. I know why publishers price their books the way they do, but there will come a day, and that day might be now, when the way we do publishing changes and those price points will change too.
I did not decide to start writing for the money. No person with any bit of sanity and self-preservation does this for the money, but that does not mean I do not compare the number 85% and 40% and see the difference between them. I may not be great at Math but I can do addition and subtraction well enough.
There are costs to self-publishing, if you do it well. Editors, book covers, and marketing take both money and time. A P&L, as Milan pointed out, is essential to understanding the business behind your book. Even with these costs, if an author intends to build a platform over the course of a lifetime, self-publishing seems to be a better deal.
Recently, an author behaved badly and ranted about how good books do not earn money but popular trash, in this case erotic romance, sells well. (The original post was deleted by the author, but Heidi Cullinan’s response is brilliant.) Writers hear advice all the time about not writing to the market and writing the story they want to tell. That is good advice, but I am realistic. I know romantic epic fantasy is not a high selling genre. I have seen editors share frankly on Twitter that people say they want fantasy and sci-fi romance, but the sales numbers do not support it.
Sadly, if you go on almost any sci-fi/fantasy blog or website which reviews or lists books, there are very few by women and even fewer with romantic elements. Without some romance, the stories always feel flat to me. I want romance in the books I read and I want to write those books. I have done enough reading on the industry now, though, to know my audience is probably going to be small. I am fine with that, but a publisher may not be fine with the smaller earning potential.
Controlling my copyright is also important to me. It is hard to imagine signing over a significant portion of copyright for a small share of the profits. It breaks my librarian heart. I have done it for non-fiction in the past and it was hard to sign that line. I did it because I knew I had to sign to get what I wanted: a pretty print book in my hands. That is not to say I did not love my non-fiction publishers and editors, I did. They were wonderful to me.
When I started talking to Mr. Rochester seriously about writing fiction, he suggested I self-publish. I shook my head. I wanted a contract with a publisher, the golden ticket of affirmation in my hand. When I told my friend Jason Griffey I was writing fiction two years ago, he immediately laid out all of the reasons I should self-publish, most of which I have discussed in this post. I told him I would think about it, but what I was really thinking was that was not for me.
I have learned in two years things I did not know then, about writing and about the industry. My opinion is still evolving, but indie publishing has grown from a squalling infant to a college graduate, eager to please and show what it can do. I think the potential for indie/self-publishing is enormous I think the way traditional publishing stands at this moment there is no growth potential. Traditional publishing is having growth and change pains. They will figure it out eventually, but it is going to be a messy, rocky road.
I have been querying publishers for almost a year now. I am waiting on four more responses. If they all come back negative, I am going to make a detailed P&L for self-publishing, draft a plan for editing and marketing, and then move forward. If I receive an offer from one of the publishers, I am still going to do a P&L and I am going to think very long and hard about saying yes.
I want a better share of the profits. I want more control over my copyright. I also want that golden ticket of affirmation from the industry, but I want to build a platform over the course of my career more than I need a publisher’s approval.
–Jane, happy to be writing
This review is for the first two books of the Tales of the Underlight series by Jax Garren. The third book comes out today, so guess what I am doing for the rest of the day. You can read a mini review of the first book, How Beauty Met the Beast in my Books read in 2012 post.
Here is the blurb from the publisher for the first and second books:
How Beauty Met the Beast: Book 1
Scarred. Damaged. Living with a terrible secret. Agent of the Underlight Wesley “Hauk” Haukon has nothing left but the fight for liberty against the oppressive Order of Ananke. He’s starting to lose hope…and then he sees her.
Despite her night job as a burlesque dancer, grad student Jolie Benoit has always played the mostly good girl. That all changes following a scorching sexual encounter with a stranger whose face she doesn’t see. After she’s kidnapped by thugs and rescued by a man with a very familiar voice, Jolie becomes a pawn in a struggle she never knew existed.
Hauk knows he cannot have her, and resolves to protect his heart and his secrets. But as they work together and grow closer, he finds new reason to keep fighting. Dare he risk hope in a new life, one where Jolie can see past his ravaged face and where their friendship can grow into something more?
How Beauty Saved the Beast: Book 2
Jolie Benoit left her old life behind to become an agent of the Underlight. Training under Sergeant Wesley Haukon, she’s honing her combat skills, all the while coping with the intense sexual attraction she feels for Hauk. She keeps their friendship casual, but when his high school sweetheart transfers into their division, Jolie finds herself grappling with jealousy.
The Underlight gave Hauk a purpose, but he can’t escape his past completely. The physical and emotional scars from the fire that killed seven fellow Army Rangers will mark him forever. Jolie sends his protective instincts into overdrive, but he’s convinced he’ll never be worthy of her love.
Hauk is determined to keep Jolie from harm. But when the Order of Ananke ambushes them with a new weapon that neutralizes Hauk, making him vulnerable, it’s Jolie who must tap into her hidden strengths to rescue him–or risk losing him forever…
A tortured hero makes me swoon. A tortured hero who is a gentleman and does not use his baggage as an excuse to be an overbearing idiot is even better. A tortured hero who is also not conventionally handsome hits all my spots, the good ones.
Hauk is isolated physically and emotionally from others, even his friends, and this distance makes his growing relationship with Jolie nail biting. The way they gravitate towards each other, only to fling themselves away, builds the tension between them. Garren crafts Hauk and Jolie perfectly so their relationship woes are never forced or irritating to the reader. On the contrary, the reasons, especially on Hauk’s side, were heart wrenching.
Jolie has had all of the advantages of a privileged upbringing but has retained a decent moral character. Unfortunately, this has isolated her from most of her family and leaves few she trusts. Unlike Hauk, who is isolated because of his appearance (and that pesky thing about being suspected of murder), Jolie is isolated by her last name and her money. Both of these characters have some serious baggage dragging along behind them.
The pages are fairly smoking from the chemistry between Hauk and Jolie. The first novel starts off with an encounter that could set a sheet aflame (ahem) and the tension never drops from there. Hauk and Jolie, after the initial encounter, do not touch often but the reader keenly knows every time they do. By the time I finished reading the second book, the book was scorching my hands.
The romance is great, but the plot is not too shabby either. There are pagan, excuse me, heathen gods, good guys fighting evil power hungry men, magical mysteries, and people trying to build a better world. There are subtle, and not so subtle, references to steampunk, anarchy, fairy tales, science, burlesque, and Austin culture in the story line. It is a wild mix that Garren weaves together fluidly for a very fun ride.
These are books that I frequently recommend, and by recommend I mean beat over the head with, to people, and by people I mean anyone unfortunate enough to admit they read books. There are three books in this series, all increasing in length, and all very reasonably priced from the wonderful Carina Press. The third book, How Beauty Loved the Beast, comes out TODAY.
Do yourself a favor and make a very nice lady (Jax Garren) happy. Go. Buy. Read. And fall in love.
P.S. I will admit without coercion that I have read Met three times and Saved twice and all the bits around the web as well. I am head over burlesque heels.
Jane, has received nothing for this review except perhaps the right to stalk Jax Garren at the next conference we both attend.
In February, I helped the women’s ministry at my church come up with value statements to go with our new mission and vision statements. I had less than 60 minutes to get a room full of opinionated women to agree to seven or less short statements of value. Here is how I did it.
Before you start planning, I suggest you watch the Digital Strategist’s videos on Mission, Vision, and Value statements. She has an excellent way of explaining the purpose of each and simple ways to craft them. They are very short.
For this exercise, you will need:
- Post-its, regular size, one stack for each participant
- one flip chart post it
- pens for everyone
- a room of passionate people
- a good facilitator
- one hour
The women in the room had already discussed the new mission and vision statements so they were familiar with them and had already bought into them as a group. How we created group buy-in is another topic for another post, but your group needs to believe in what they do for this to work. The individuals do not need to be the same (personality, training, etc.) just passionate about what your group is doing.
I began by explaining that value statements tell others what you believe in and hold to be true. They do not express individual beliefs. They are not one word, but a phrase or statement. They are designed to bring our actions into alignment with the words of our mission and vision statements. This explanation and question time took less than 10 minutes.
On one of the large post it pages, I wrote the following question and posted it for the room to see: What are the guiding principles that dictate how we treat each other and how we treat our women? (or others?)
Each woman was asked to answer that question on their sticky notes. One answer per note. They had to write at least one and could write as many as they wanted. They created a pile in front of them or kept their notes in a stack. I gave them 10 minutes to do this.
While they were writing, I posted six flip chart post-its in a cluster.
When they were done, I instructed them to come and place their sticky notes on one of the six flip chart pages and to cluster their own that were similar together. After everyone had posted their notes, the group was then instructed to arrange the statements into categories. Things that fell outside of the six groups could be placed off to the side.
The area in front of the emerging categories was crowded, so we did it in groups. Half the ladies went and then after a few minutes, I made them rotate. I did that a couple times to let the groups rearrange and move things. They could make no more than seven category groupings. They had 10-15 minutes to do this.
If you are keeping track, we are about 30-35 minutes through the process.
Everyone then sat down. Our group had four distinct groups and only a few outlying sticky notes. We focused on the four groups and for each one I asked: How would you describe these statements with only a few words. What word ties them all together?
I labeled each groups with the words they chose. This took less than 5 minutes.
Next, I pointed to the first category and asked them to make a phrase with those words (the labels they had created). I warned them that this was not word smithing, but more like brainstorming. On the flip chart, I wrote what they said. The group came up with three or four statements for each category and I helped them reduce it to a single short statement. We did that for each of our four categories. This took us about 15 minutes, but allow for at least 20 when planning in the event your group creates more categories.
We had enough time to create final value statements so we did word smith a tiny bit.
Viola! That is it.
Bonus: If you have time, do something fun at the end. Ask them to write on a sticky note what they loved most about the day, exercise, retreat and post them on the wall for others to read. We were behind schedule that day, so I actually had less than 60 minutes for my section and we did not get to the extra fun stuff.
You can see my original notes here.
This works because the power of a group is huge when they are all passionate about something and you push them to think big.
If you are curious, and I know you are, the values my women’s ministry crafted that day are: We pursue and love others. We are growing in Christ and reflecting God’s love to others. We encourage one another with love, grace, and mercy. We strive towards being transparent and humble.
Is there something different you have done to make mission, vision, and value statements more collaborative?
–Jane, loves a motivated crowd
I have a set of Tipples out today with FreePint Newsletter (scroll to the bottom). Tipples are quick tips for staying informed.
It was excrutiating to boil down my information consumption into 4-5 places/tools with general appeal. The things I chose to include are things which have stood the test of time, but after making my list I realized this:
The number one thing keeping me engaged, up-to-date, and informed is my community.
My community, tribe, mob, crowd, or whatever label you give it is what influences what articles I read, what books I buy, what RSS feeds I subscribe to, in some cases where I shop, and how my opinion on a topic evolves.
I participate in different communities, because each one offers me a different information set and, occasionally, different values.
The tools and websites I mention are all well and good, but they are nothing without the community behind them and I am nothing without mine.
If you do not participate in different communities or even one community online, you are missing the point of this beautiful, living thing called the internet. Newsflash: It’s not just for porn anymore!
–Jane, loves her tribes
Every couple of weeks, I see authors I love remind other authors to just be nice already. Today, I came across a writer (no I will not link there) who has an entire website devoted to how much the genre they love has begun to suck and thus this person has decided to do the world the immense favor of writing non-sucking books for all of the languishing fans of that genre. I am not even going to touch the fact that this writer bashed women authors of the genre for being too touchy-feely, but stick with the main task at hand.
I understand that the range of tastes are immense and we all have our preferences, but there is a difference between bringing up critical issues with something and being a douche.
Be constructive in your criticism. If you have a complaint, explain why you believe the issue to be an issue. Painting everything or everyone else as crap because you do not like it, is not constructive. For example, in romance the rape scene as titillation, which was popular in the 80′s and 90′s, is problematic because it normalizes the belief that “she really wanted it so it’s not rape.”
I can have this opinion and not think that all authors who participated in this trope are terrible. Some of the authors I like have written books with this trope. I just choose not to like those books. If you have a problem with a trend within a genre, then talk about the trend with other adjectives that do not involve excrement or expletives.
Offer a solution to the issue at hand. If you see something wrong, offer ways that issue can be fixed or another way to handle the challenge. If there is a problem in your organization, brainstorm some ideas on how YOU can make it better. If we are talking about writing, write something different and then let your writing stand on its own merits. There is no need to bash other writers of your genre as you seek to instigate change. That brings me to my last point.
If you can not be constructive or offer a solution, be nice. If you feel you can not have a civilized discussion, do not have the discussion at all. Instead, find an author, company, or person who is doing something right and applaud them. Point out all the ways they are doing the opposite of the thing you dislike. Cheer on the people you think are doing a good job.
In the words of Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick.”
Jacob, the BeerBrarian, has an excellent post on why men should just be nice to women already which goes along nicely with my directive to be nice. Jacob’s post is a good example of pointing out issues without being a douche. That and the gif on his post is fabulous.
Perhaps, if we all spent more time applauding the good, the bad would get less airtime and thus seek our attention less.
I do not want to be perceived as a Pollyanna. Readers who have been around for a long time know that is not me, at all.
However, when we have conversations about how we dislike this thing about a genre or that thing about a company, can we please be constructive and seek to solve the problem? If you can do neither of those things, can you choose to be nice instead? Because if you are just mean and complain about everything and everybody, you are being a douche.
–Jane, don’t be a douche
Updated to add the Wheaton quote because I did not want my nerd cred to be revoked.
Dr. McDaniel teaches history at Rice University, which is just a few miles down the road from where I live in the south suburbs of Houston. This semester he is teaching a survey course in American History (I can see some of you are already falling asleep. Wake up!), but he does not want this to be a traditional survey course. Dr. McDaniel is going to teach this survey course starting in the present and going backwards into the past.
This is not an entirely new concept, as McDaniel points out in a very well reasoned argument about why a survey in history especially benefits from starting at the end. While the idea itself is compelling, it is the methodology of the course he envisions that strikes my imagination.
Dr. McDaniel wants the course to be question driven. Questioning the material and facts is a level of learning that students never achieve simply listening to lectures. It forces students to understand what they are learning and create new avenues of thought based on those new facts.
Students will read and review primary sources and then investigate some aspect of that source, an unfamiliar name or event mentioned in the source, for example. Based on their investigation, the students will then create a list of questions.
In class, the questions and issues the students have generated will be discussed as a group. The class, as a group, decides the top questions they wish to explore further. On the next class day, Dr. McDaniel will give a lecture that addresses the questions the class has identified as the most important.
This backwards, participatory approach not only forces the students to be engaged in their own learning process, it gives them the ability to control the direction of the class. It is mob rule learning at its finest.
As Dr. McDaniel points out, this process will also develop information literacy in his students. He says,
“Focusing my efforts on “historical thinking” will, I hope, better prepare students to critically analyze the history and pseudo-history they will encounter throughout their lives, whether at the movies, on cable news, or in written form.”
Dr. McDaniel has developed a course that teaches students how to navigate and evaluate information they will encounter in the real world, not just memorize facts on a timeline. I hope Dr. McDaniel updates us on the progress of his class over the semester and at its conclusion. His new approach has all the hallmarks of a course in which the students will be engaged and aggressively seeking a new understanding of their world. Bravo, I say, bravo!
–Jane, thanks to my friend Andromeda for sending this my way
Total Books Read: 69
Most Books Read in One Month: November, 9
Least Books Read in One Month: February, August, and September all had only 4 books
Summary: As always, my list is dominated by romance, with a smattering of other things lest I become boring. There are a ton a good books on the list and a lot of returning authors I love. I could go on for paragraphs about many of them, but I will spare you. I wish I had more time to write reviews, but I can not do everything I wish. Almost everything I read was an ebook.
Favorite Reread: The rereads on my list this year were all Harry Potter books. We are reading them to Gideon and as I am doing some reading and listening, in turn, I included them. My favorite reread this year is not actually on the list because technically I did not read the entire thing, but the story is funny enough I wanted to share. While doing some research for the book I wrote last year, I wanted to flip through some books to see how they handled a couple things. I picked up Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab and started reading a few chapters in. I think I started a little before the scene with the bat. It was a quiet evening, Mr. R was playing on the computer, and I kept reading and reading and reading. Before I knew it, I had finished the entire book, again, in one sitting no less. Somewhere in Germany, Sandra is laughing at me.
Favorite New Read: I hate this category every year because I can almost never pick one. This year is no different. I have a short list of books that I positively swooned and swooned and swooned over. You must all go read these books right this moment. For different reasons, each of these books or series grabbed me and still have not let me go. Here they are:
The Blades of the Rose Series by Zoe Archer (April) – This is a great historical series with some steampunk and steamy romance. The characters are delightful and the stories, which revolve around different cultures and artifacts, are interesting and filled with adventure. The romances in all four books will delight. Archer writes dialog that sticks with you and brings her characters from the page.
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison (June) – This urban romance is the first in a wonderful series. You will love the main characters, but the supporting cast is equally delightful. It will make you laugh and the romance will make you grab for a glass of ice water. Urban fantasy is a saturated market, but Harrison stands out among the others. Dragon Bound won a RITA Award from RWA last year.
The Iron Duke (The Iron Seas Series) by Meljean Brook (August) – Oh My Goodness. The first two books in this series completely blew me away. Brook has a way with words that brings new worlds to life with poignancy. The steampunk world she has created in this series is gritty and damaged, but the ability of people to overcome war and circumstances shines in this novel. The hero is definitely an alpha, but he won my heart. I had given up on steampunk, but this series has be begging for more. Brook is a master.
Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant (November) – ZOMBIES! This book is part zombie thriller, part political commentary, part media commentary, and all fun. They are hilarious, tense, and sad all at once. Grant has created the best zombie book since World War Z. The pop culture references, instead of being dated, are fabulous. If you even remotely like zombies or you want to give them a try, this is a magnificent place to start. ***Repost Freely*** ***Repost Freely*** Georgia Mason Lives. ***Repost Freely*** ***Repost Freely***
How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren (also November!) – November was a great month for books. This is the first of a trilogy. The next one comes out February 11th, which gives you plenty of time to read the first one. This book is set in Austin, the capitol of my home state. I adored this story because it is a beginning, one that starts with a tentative friendship between two people you fall for, hard. Plus, it has burlesque dancers which is all kinds of awesome and win. Hauk is a war veteran, horribly burned, and a member of an underground society with some steampunk elements. Jolie is a graduate student and a burlesque dancer. Their friendship and budding romance is sweet and full of all kinds of warm fuzzy things. You will never look at a sheet the same way, either. Though this is a novella, it did not strike me as too short. I am often frustrated by novellas, but this one left me just satisfied enough with the story and aching for the rest of the tale. I have so far resisted the urge to reread this, but I think I will give in right before How Beauty Saved the Beast, the second book, comes out.
January – 7
(W)hole by Ruth Madison
Falling Hard by J.K. Coi
Witch and Wizard by James Patterson and Gabriella Charbonnet
Dangerous Magic by Alix Rickloff
Slip Point by Karalynn Lee
Entwined by Heather Dixon
The Viking’s Sacrifice by Julia Knight
February – 4
Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving
Marry Me by Jo Goodman
Viper’s Kiss by Shannon Curtis
Chaos Tryst by Shirin Dubbin
March – 5
Miss Foster’s Folly by Alice Gaines
Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart
Lament: the Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater
Chesapeake Blue by Nora Roberts
Charming the Shrew by Laurin Wittig
April – 5
Hunger Aroused by Dee Carney
Rebel: The Blades of the Rose by Zoe Archer
Scoundrel: The Blades of the Rose by Zoe Archer
Stranger: the Blades of the Rose by Zoe Archer
Warrior: The Blades of the Rose by Zoe Archer
May – 7
Super Zero by Rhonda Stapleton
Wolf Signs by Vivian Arend
Reiver’s Bride by Amanda Scott
What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages: the English Experience by Michael Prestwich
Ashfall by Mike Mullin
June – 6
Snowbound With a Stranger by Rebecca Rogers Maher
Chain Reaction by Zoe Archer
Ruined by Rumor by Alyssa Everett
Skies of Fire by Zoe Archer
The Restorer by Amanda Stevens
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison
July – 6
Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson
Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert, and Richard Isanove
Serpent’s Kiss by Thea Harrison
Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood
Slow Summer Kisses by Shannon Stacey
August – 4
Kilts and Kraken by Cindy Pencer Pape
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
Beyond the Night by Joss Ware
Enclave by Ann Aguirre
September – 4
Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook
Burning Up by Angela Knight, Nalini Signh, Virginia Kantra, Meljean Brook
All He Ever Needed by Shannon Stacey
Stolen Love by Carolyn Jewel
October – 7
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
Chains and Flames by G. A. Aiken
Dragon Actually by G. A. Aiken
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling
Matt Archer: Monster Hunter by Kendra C. Highly
Never Seduce A Scot by Maya Banks
Beast by Marian Churchland
November – 9
What I Did For A Duke by Julie Anne Long
Feed: Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
Deadline: Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant
Blackout: Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant
How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Heart of the Dragon Realm by Karalynn Lee
Moonlight and Mechanicals by Cindy Spencer Pape
December – 5
All He Ever Desired by Shannon Stacey
Shattered Magic by Rebecca York
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
A Galactic Holiday by Anna Hackett, Stacy Gail, Sasha Summers ed. By Angela James
An Infamous Marriage by Susanna Fraser
–Jane, thinks her time this year was well spent
Yesterday, Ann Aguirre wrote a post about how her writing habits have changed, for the better, and how she has become so prolific. Her post-apocalyptic YA series that starts in Enclave is fantastic. In her post she says this:
Process is not a permanent, indelible thing.
This statement, while I am applying it to writing, can be applied to any work process. It made me think about how my process has changed over the last ten years and that we should be examining our processes periodically to improve them.
When I had an office job, my writing process involved sitting down in my office, closing the door, cranking music, and hacking away. No one interrupted me (well, sometimes) and I could write until I was done with that thought, post, or article. At the time, I did not understand the blessing of interrupted time.
When I needed to write something longer than 1k, like an article or when I wrote my Library Technology Report, I needed whole chunks of time to think and write. I needed to be able to spread out my research and papers in a large area that would not be touched. I needed music.
I left my library job to become a mom and many things in my life changed, but my writing and working process did not. This caused much anxiety as I was writing Mob Rule Learning, which I did in about 5 months. Because I thought I needed those large chunks of time, which you do not have as a parent of a small child, I was only able to write when someone else could watch the Bairn. Since that was not always an option, I started writing while he was playing on his own, which is only in small chunks of time. Sometimes very, very small chunks.
After finishing Mob Rule Learning, I decided to tackle the writing project I have always wanted to do. I wanted to write a book of fiction. With two small kids, instead of one, I had to reassess my process.
It was hard and at first I was more frustrated than anything else. I would write two sentences and be interrupted. A scene would just start to form and then there was whining and crying, usually mine, as I had to feed, change, or console one of the boys.
With a detailed plot outline in hand, I found I could work in smaller amounts of time. My boys are allowed to watch no more than 1-1.5 hours of TV a day and I usually use that time to write. I used to write with headphones and music blaring. Now, I write to the music of Dinosaur Train, Sesame Street, Justice League, and Iron Man. I still wear headphones, but I can only wear one earbud, two if I do not turn it up too loud.
I find those small cracks in the day to write. Some days, I am lucky and will have two hours of mostly uninterrupted time. Those are the days I can churn out 2-3k. Other days, I am lucky to turn my computer on at all. I have learned to accept and take what is offered, but I make time when it is there.
It took me a year, mostly because I was doing some learning about writing fiction verses nonfiction, to write the first book. I have been working on the second one for a month now and the first draft is halfway done.
The difference in my pace is due mostly to the fact that I changed my process. I taught myself to write in smaller segments. There is always something we can improve in our process, whatever your work may be. We just have to brave enough to peer closely at our own habits and pull the weeds holding back our garden.
I still prefer to sit alone for 2-4 hours with music blaring to churn out words. I revel in that, but I do not need that anymore.
–Jane, some weeds are pretty and harder to remove
p.s. I wrote this with Dinosaur Train on the TV and Mumford and Sons crooning quietly in my ear.
When discussing using mob rule or crowdsourcing within organizations for staff training, strategic directions, or problem solving, there is one challenge that arises often. During my session at Internet Librarian, it came up again.
These ideas are great, but people in my organization say they can’t talk freely in front of management. How do we use these ideas in this environment?
The answer is simple: Remove the managers from the room.
Crowdsourcing works best when everyone can be given equal footing. When you have a situation where people can not leave the organizational chart at the door, for whatever reason, you need to do what you can to remove those structures.
In order for a mob top solve a problem well, they have to be able to share, to offer solutions, and criticism free of the things within your organization that have thus far prevented you from finding the solution through traditional means.
Remove the managers from the room, but put a great facilitator in there with the rest of the mob. The facilitator can be internal, but it should be someone who will be able to keep the group focused and be able to report back to management with some kind of reliable authority.
Reliable authority means that the mob trusts that their words and ideas will be conveyed truthfully and someone management trusts to keep the mob from burning down the organization entirely.
If you are using mob rule for something which requires input from management, then have management engage in their own mob discussion. Add the two parts together and see where the junctions lead. At the least, the junctions can serve as great starting points when you do get the mob back in the room with their managers.
–Jane, a reliable authority
Come see me in the flesh Monday at 1:15 in the DeAnza 1&2 in the Portola.
Added: Grab the Handout. View the slides.
The track I am in for Internet Librarian, Track D: Library Issues and Challenges, is a special one where the speakers are encouraged not to talk much and to let the participants do most of the talking. Meaning: It is my kind of presentation. Because I will be speaking for less than 10 minutes and have only 5 slides of a PPT, I wanted to write a post on the content of my talk instead of posting just the slides online which would be meaningless without context. The slides can be found here.
The title of the session is Engaging and Inspiring Staff. I am speaking with Lisa Hardy, who is going to give some real world examples after I talk about the big picture. My segment is called Human vs. Zombies: Organized Survivors vs. Mindless Horde.
When you are only speaking for a handful of minutes, you really only have time for one main idea. My main concept is crowdsourcing only works when you give people a purpose.
Crowdsourcing without a purpose is like unleashing zombies on the human race. Things will get done, but it is going to be very, very messy.
Using crowdsourcing methodology is a fabulous way to engage and inspire staff because it forces them to participate in the process from start to finish. Once people start investing time and resources into something, their heart will eventually follow.
You should want your people to have heart in what they do for the organization. People who have heart give more, believe stronger, and work harder. They give because their heart compels them to do so. Not only that, but people who have a heart in your organization will then tell other people why your organization is so great.
Crowdsourcing can be done many ways. I have a handy hand out that I am giving to the participants and that you can download here (link is to a Google Doc). It is similar, very similar to the one I used at Computers in Libraries last spring. The handout includes some quick and dirty facilitation style and pointers. I do not discuss the handout in the presentation. It is just a resource.
But how do you organize your mob? How do you take a bedraggled group of humans and outfit them to face the future, even if the future is a teeming mass of zombies?
To give your mob, your humans, the means to organize, to create, and to find their heart in your organization, you need to do three things.
Give them a goal. Without a goal, your people are the zombie horde. The have one things on their mind and that is a selfish thirst for brains (or whatever it is that suits their fancy). Crowdsourcing only works if you give the crowd a goal so they can then work together towards the same goal as a team. It is possible to let the crowd define the goal, but they still need an overarching purpose.
For instance, do not just throw people in a room and say, “Get to it!” Put them in a room and ask them to come up with a product: a new slogan, a new service with a plan to execute the service, a strategic direction, a marketing plan to increase business, a charitable campaign, or an organizational restructuring. They can do anything, accomplish anything. Just point them in the right direction and let them go. You will be amazed at where they take you.
Let the crowd choose their weapons. This seems obvious, but it is one of the worst abused within organizations with robust bureaucracies. Often, more often than not, crowds contained within an organizational structure are asked to perform a task, but are then also told what tools to use and how to complete the task. This cripples your mob of survivors before they have even ventured forth.
Give your crowd the direction and then let them choose the method. They may want to work asynchronously or synchronously on Google Docs. They may want to create a facebook group. They might prefer video chat. They might * shudder * want to use a word doc that they save and forward around on email. Let them work their way. Give them resources so that they are able to choose the tools they want and then step away. Let them know you have faith in their choices and then follow through on that statement by leaving them alone to work.
Celebrate their successes and failures alike. We are wonderful at pointing out successes, but we have to celebrate our mistakes, even the crash and burn ones. Why? Because we learn from our mistakes and we get better. Give high fives for every zombie kill, but learn from the near misses and improve your swing. Do not be afraid to get dirty. Killing zombies is hard work.
After a very condensed version of the above motivational speech, Lisa is going to take over with some examples of things they have done at her library. Then, we will get to the really fun part. The attendees will form groups and talk about things they can do in their own organization to motivate staff. They will come to a consensus about the best ideas from their group and then share them with the room.
At the end we are going to give away some copies of my book, Mob Rule Learning, for people who can answer some of my nerd trivia.
–Jane, do you have a plan for the zombie apocalypse?
Original link to the Zombie pic can be found here.