Sunday, August 23, 2009

Is traditional publishing dead?

Like many writers, I’ve been utterly gutted by the changing face of publishing. Watching magazines fold, newspapers go online or go under altogether, and book publishing struggle to find a financially viable place in this ever-changing and nutty world has been devastating.

I’ve taken my own hits. A book I finished writing was canceled within a week of the manuscript being submitted. A crafting website for which I was contracted to write weekly blog posts and tutorials cut all their paid content. I, and my fellow writers, fell by the cyber-wayside.

But you know what? I’m picking myself up. I resold my book to another publisher and like the Six-Million Dollar Man, it’s going to be better, stronger, faster. The blogging gig I had was a terrific experience and my takeaway is a huge online community of supportive writers and crafters.

That, however, doesn’t pay the rent. Out-of-work writers and editors are scrambling to find ways to make coin. When I saw the Seattle Post-Intelligencer cease publication and the Ann Arbor News—a paper in which I was thrilled to be published during college—go softly into that good night, I was dismayed. Kindles initially chilled me to the bone, I’m not gonna lie.

Then I started to see the forest through the trees (the ones that aren’t being chopped down for paper and pulp). I started to see opportunity. I don’t know what publishing is going to look like in a year, let alone a few months, but it will survive. It will evolve into something better, stronger, faster.

Publishing is far from dead; it's being reborn.

More people than ever are reading, be it through laptops, Kindles, or traditional mediums. Content is already starting to shake out, with quality writing separating itself from the chaff through user recommendations and trusted online voices, not through conventional publishing gatekeepers. In addition to having written 20-plus books, I was also an editor for many years, so I value an educated recommendation. But isn’t it just as exciting for a piece of writing to be discovered and embraced by the community you originally hoped to reach, or even by an unexpected readership?

My friend Diane Gilleland, a fellow author and blogger who worked with me on the aforementioned crafting website, has found that putting her considerable talent into e-books is an effective way to reach her community in much less time than traditional publishing can accommodate. And she’s able to reap a quicker ROI since she is, in essence, the publisher. She’s one of many writers who are finding ways to transition successfully into publishing 2.0.

Here's Diane's take on things: "As much as I love my traditionally published book, I find it much easier and more authentic to publish my own work digitally. I see no reason to put good ideas on hold until a publisher decides there's a wide enough market for them. An enthusiastic niche audience is in many ways more fun than a mildly interested mainstream."

As for me, I’m putting the social media experience I’ve gleaned as a writer and author to use as a consultant. Over the years, I’ve discovered effective ways to promote my books and other products, build a strong personal brand, and connect with a community that expands daily. And in a similar fashion, I am helping businesses come out guns a’ blazin’ in this Wild, Wild West of Web 2.0. When the smoke clears, let’s be the ones still standing. Let’s be better, stronger, faster.

To become a more powerful publishing gunslinger, here are a few tips:

For the writer:
  • Certain genres still work in the printed form, such as gift books and children's picture books. Investigate which areas of the bookstore continue to see strong traffic. Retool a book idea to fit into a market that is still drawn to bound books.
  • Explore new mediums to publish your work, such as e-books and monetized blogs.
  • Build your personal brand and develop a strong online community (which will enhance your desirability to a publisher) through the use of various social networking platforms.
  • Write a blog to further solidify your brand.
For the publisher:
  • Embrace alternative channels of publishing. Kindle content may be inexpensive to consumers but it creates another income stream for you and your authors.
  • Create a strong social networking presence to build a loyal community around your company and your authors.
  • Use every possible avenue online to market your books. This includes blogs, forums, chat rooms, e-mail blasts, Facebook fan pages, YouTube videos, aggregate sites, and Twitter.
  • Once you set up profiles and accounts online, actively participate by posting interesting content and connecting with your community.
  • Partner with authors to achieve wide-ranging online publicity. We have skills far beyond being fabulous writers.
For more on the state of publishing, give a listen to Diane's Craftypod podcasts about publishing, here and here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Vacation, all I ever wanted?

I’m on a mini-vakay at a gorgeous South Florida resort. They have 23 pools, I can hear and see the waves breaking gently on the beach, the balmy air kisses my skin.

I’m seriously freaking out.

I have a book manuscript due, not to mention all sorts of other deadlines and responsibilities that are sticking to me like sand on wet skin. This isn’t a new problem. I’ve always had a hard time relaxing and over the years, working for myself, it’s hard for me to even take weekends off. There’s always something that I think demands attention. There’s always something (or to be honest, a litany of items) that works to keep me from falling asleep.

Does this sound familiar?

While I hope not, I suspect some of it rings true for you. It’s hard to turn off the worry and the responsibility and let yourself relax. Here at this wondrous place, I don’t feel I deserve what the resort and the time off has to offer. I don’t deserve peace of mind.

I haven’t worked hard enough. I didn’t get enough things off my plate before I came. I can’t just turn off a chaotic life that I created. Or can I?

I often go around thinking that there’s a magic wand that I can just wave around and suddenly, I’ll be in a Florida state of mind. It doesn’t work that way. In fact, I have to consciously work and make choices to give myself this break.

And I also have to cut myself a break. I’m committed to social media and for me, that means tweeting around scheduled events, sharing photos of the amazing things I’m experiencing in real time, and turning my iPhone to vibrate, not off.

I’m making choices that will help me to be present in paradise while still staying linked in.

Maybe my next trip will be to a destination sans a signal (I’ve already got an invite to a remote cabin in Maine next year) but for now, vacation isn’t quite like the Go-Gos said.

Vacation, all I ever wanted. Yes.
Vacation, had to get away. Okay. I’ll buy that.
Vacation, meant to be spent alone. Nope, not without my tweeple.

(I'm staying at the Amelia Island Plantation. Book a trip now.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The social media revolution

"Social media isn't a fad. It's a fundamental shift in the way we communicate." I couldn't have said it better myself, and I certainly couldn't have shown it better than this short video filled with mind-blowing statistics about the increasing power of social media. Please take the 4 minutes and 23 seconds to watch it. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Is authenticity the new transparency?

I've been all up in social media's grill for quite some time now and it's very easy to start talking the talk. But I have a high bullshit sensor and really hate "bizspeak." Masterminding, low-hanging fruit, and taking a conversation offline all make me want to claw my face off. I realize that some work-specific vocabulary is necessary but much of it strikes me as pure posturing.

These days, I've been hearing a lot about the importance of "authenticity" and "being authentic." These words are being bandied about with as much abandon as "transparency" was last November. I admit that I've used these terms. Who hasn't asked an antique dealer if an oak clawfoot table is actually authentic? And, yes, I've used them when describing the importance of real, true social networking and communications, because there are a lot of phonies, blowhards, and chuckleheads out there in cyberspace. You can't see, hear, or reach out and touch someone when he sends a tweet. How do you know if it's worth your time to click on a link? Is it going to be a blog that touches the soul or captures the imagination? Or is it going to be an ad for penile implants? Sometimes you just don't know.

But you can increase your chances of striking cyber gold if you are engaging in social media regularly (and by engaging, I mean having conversations, reading your streams, posting your own compelling content, and not just stalking your twitterfeed and facebook home page). You can see someone's tweets, status lines, and thoughts over time and get a sense of their credibility, their authenticity.

And what speaks to me as authentic may not resonate with you at all. We have to find our own tribes, or twibes, as the case may be, and work on building our own, ugh, authenticity within them. Don't retweet everything you see. Don't hashtag people for #followfriday unless you really are digging on them. There is a buttload of quantity out there (which is admittedly hard to stomach if you're a professional writer like me who values great writing and likes to get paid for it); help yourself and your tribe sift through it. Recommend the things and people you truly like, write to your personality and not your bottom line, and seek out strong voices within the social media din. You'll come through loud and clear.

But remember: please use "authentic" sparingly or I might have to cybersmack you.

What's your definition of "authentic?" Are you fed up with this or any other buzzword these days?

You can find me on twitter @Jennifer_Worick or on Facebook. Follow me, friend me, join my tribe/twibe.

(A great book about building credibility within social networking is The Whufffie Factor by social media maven Tara Hunt, @MissRogue on twitter.)

Changes are afoot

As you can see from the new masthead, I’m tweaking this blog. I initially called it “Prairie Tales,” as it tied in nicely with my book, The Prairie Girl’s Guide to Life. In addition, it conveyed my desire to talk about how I navigate through the world as a crafty urbanite with blue-collar background.

Write about those things I did…and do. But as I and my work have evolved, so too has my focus for this blog. I’m a crafty prairie girl, sure, but I’m a whole lot more. I’m a humorist, a lecturer, an author of wide-ranging nonfiction, and a social media consultant.

Prairie Tales is too limited a focus to convey all the hats I wear. Believe me, my hatboxes contain a whole lot more than a sunbonnet!

To that end, this blog will now be called “Word: The World and Word of Jennifer Worick.” In it, I’ll get into anything and everything that’s on my mind, from publishing and writing, to social networking to crafting, to things that strike my fancy or stick in my craw. And I want to hear from you. "Word" is a great forum to talk about the good, the bad, and the zeitgeisty stuff that intrigues us.

I look forward to the conversation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bath bomb: the musical

Not really. But here is the TV spot I did on KOMO4 back in June. Learn how to create bath bombs in this televised tutorial.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bath bomb demo was the bomb!

By the looks of the happy faces on vendors and customers, the Urban Craft Uprising was a huge success on all fronts. My friends Susan Beal and Sister Diane conducted workshops and signed books on Saturday. I had the pleasure of doing the same on Sunday.

A baker's dozen of crafters gathered in the demo area to learn how to make bath bombs (one of the many nature-based projects in Backcountry Betty: Crafting with Style). In short order, participants were sniffing essential oils and mixing up their bombs. After packing ice-cube trays with crafty goodness (as Sister Diane would say in her craftypod podcast), they gently twisted the trays to pop out their fizzy treats. There were a few casualties, I'm not gonna lie, but overall, everyone was pleased to learn how to make these easy and inexpensive bombs. Thanks to the great staff at the Uprising, my friend Jessica Campbell (who originally showed me how to make these lovelies), and everyone who stepped up to the table to get their hands dirty, at least temporarily.

A sampling of my books