The Final 12

It’s hard to believe, but we are in the final 12 days of the 365 Full Frame Project. To celebrate, I will be making a big deal with the final 12 photos starting tonight with #354.

For those who are not familiar with 365 Full Frame, the project was created to add high quality full frame photos to the Internet at a low licensing cost. This was to reaffirm the need for high quality visual assets in the current era of social media. All dollars earned were reinvested in more photography equipment.

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It’s been quite a ride, and there have been times that I just wanted to stop. There were other times where I just thought the whole project was super annoying to people.

But I persisted, and here we are. One year later I have published more than 700 photos for the project, only half of which were selected for public consumption (the pug pic is an one of the 350+ outtakes).

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Along the way I became a better photographer and a professional one, too. I have been hired twice now by companies as a photographer this year and several others have asked to bundle photography with writing or social media services. So there is much to be said for dedicating oneself to consistent practice, photography or some other interest. Or you could say it helps to develop a third pitch. ;)

I plan to publish a photo book using the best 365 Full Frame photos created over the past year. Anyone who sponsors the project at a $100 level or more will get a complimentary copy of the book. And for those at the $50 level, if you chip in another $50 you will get a book, too. No bull (pun intended).

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And yes, after the cost of the books, I will continue to reinvest any 365 Full Frame dollars raised in more equipment. Thank you for your support and on to the final 12.

Writing Fiction Hurts More than Nonfiction

Successful author and friend Chris Brogan asked me to pen some thoughts the process of writing fiction works versus penning business books. My gut response was that it hurts more than nonfiction.

How can writing a book hurt you ask? I think most people who have accomplished the task will agree that it’s a laborious two-year process (give or take six months). For every accolade you get, you’ll invest hours of your time. Most authors make very little money.

After my last business book I felt a great emptiness, a lack of purpose in my writing. I needed to turn back to my heart’s desire, writing fiction (as opposed to developing books about social media and marketing).

When I published Exodus, I released a demon that had bugged me for decades. I gladly sucked it up to make the dream come true.

Why Novels Are a Personal Journey

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Image of my first business book Now Is Gone by Dave Barger.

Exodus had little financial pay-off — in actuality, I published it at a loss. So today I find myself focusing on business needs first. Consequently, Exodus became my stepchild of published works. It was poorly marketed, but still moved more than 3000 units in spite of me (it’s true, I am not Stephen King).

Still, I published a novel. I finally wrote the book that I always envisioned would be my calling card as an author. No one can take that away from me.

With a successful business book there is usually some sort of a pay-off, including developing new business, introducing new ideas to the marketplace, garnering speaking gigs, or positioning yourself as a “thought leader.” These are the reasons to write a business book, in my opinion. While I am much less inclined to jump at the opportunity to write a business book these days, I probably will write a couple more before my career ends.

The pay-offs are much less obvious with novels. For most successful novelists, it takes a catalog of books before they start seeing strong financial gains. It requires real commitment, and it’s one of the reasons why I admire Brian Meeks‘ steadfast focus on his fiction career.

This lack of any significant financial gratification makes publishing a novel something you do to fulfill yourself. Most publishing houses are reticent to sign new fiction authors. These days most aspiring authors are going to have to self-publish or work with a hybrid publisher and share the financial risk.

After the First Novel

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I still want to write novels, but it’s less about fulfilling a lifelong inner need. Now it’s about being who I am, an author. In fact, I am still working on the last draft of book II, now titled Perseverance, and I believe it will be released this summer.

After Exodus was published, it became clear I had room to grow as a writer. Character development and style were all in need of mechanical improvements. So I set out to write a better novel, one that shows the lessons learned from experience. I owe it to my readers and myself to improve.

But because the pain has no obvious reward and I am not getting paid to publish the novel, I treat book two like a hobby and am taking my sweet time. Novel writing is a second tier priority compared to family and business.

This slower pace makes it less likely I will become a mainstream novelist anytime soon. That’s OK. Since I see novel writing as a personal act of art rather than a career, there is no sense of loss with that. The slower pace mitigates the pain and intensity of a major work, while allowing me to meet my responsibilities.

What are your thoughts on writing novels versus business books?

Everyone Has Written a Book!

Contraband - Now Is Gone

Go to enough social media conferences (like two maximum), and you will inevitably have a conversation about the cliche, “Everyone’s written a book.” This meme references the seemingly endless proliferation of social media books published. Consider this author a two-timer in that sense. But in reality, the meme isn’t true.

It’s really hard to write a book. This brutal, laborious process takes months, including endless rewrites and revisions, all part of a difficult editing process. This commitment to write everyday for very little money also significantly sacrifices numerous portions of your personal life. It can endanger your personal relationships and your physical well being. Having completed four books (two business published, two unpublished novels), these texts took almost three years to write… Before editing.

Scores of social media bloggers have been asked to write books because they have already demonstrated they can produce content on a regular basis (in addition to the ongoing demand for subject matter knowledge). Publishers figure the blogger can actually put in the effort necessary to succeed. Writing a book requires the daily commitment that many bloggers have already demonstrated.

But if you think the actual book writing is the hardest aspect of the process, you are sorely mistaken. It is the easy part.

Moving $15 Books

Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra)
Amber Naslund discusses the Now Revolution at last Friday’s YouToo 2011 Conference.

Book marketing beats the spirit out of authors. It requires travel, events, clever blogging and updates with a consistent focus on the same thing. You feel like a broken record talking about the same thing over and over again. It takes great creativity to make the same topic seem fresh over and over again.

There is non-stop pressure from a publisher to move books. Publishers provide almost no support for marketing (their editing support is questionable, too), insisting that their authors do the work. Publishes ask YOU, the author to hire a publicist these days. If you can’t market your own book then it won’t sell.

As a result, very rarely do you see Gary Vaynerchuk types of book deals. Books don’t sell without significant marketing, and Gary has one hell of a following. In 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. These days, the average book sells less than 250 copies a year. Most books fail, and the publishing industry won’t invest in the average book.

About the only thing publishers really do is provide access to Amazon, Barnes & Noble online and most importantly, shelf space at book stores. Unfortunately, distribution is hit or miss depending on the the publisher (and their faith in the book). Now that the Kindle and other readers are starting to dominate the market, brick and mortar book stores are closing throughout the United States. This in turn, even further diminishes the value that publishers bring to bear.

Given that so much of the work relies on the author, the very low financial reward, and the declining power of publisher distribution, self publishing makes more and more sense. It’s something that will definitely happen personally, if only for the novels (publishers see fiction as even less viable option than business books).

Of course, that truly means that everyone can write a book. Now if only they can actually write it; figure out the editing, publishing and distribution processes, and of course, market the book. That all assumes the book concept is actually interesting and worth reading. So since everyone has written a book, where is yours?