Why Write Author Guides

Why Write Author Guides
November 21, 2017 Maggie Lynch
In DIY Publishing

My good friend, Judith Ashley, asked me a couple months ago what inspired me to write my author guides. My response wasn’t a quick answer and had no pithy one-liner that captured my journey . She suggested I might want to put it into a blog post. I thought it would be a good post to include here in the latest incarnation of the DIY Publishing blog.

First, I strongly believe that we all have a responsibility to share knowledge. More than sharing facts and skills, we have the responsibility to share the use of that knowledge within an ethical context. It scares me that the amassing of knowledge is now big business, and that some knowledge is not accessible to the public because individuals or businesses use it to wield power by keeping it to themselves. It scares me that those who are unable to pay to attain knowledge may be destined to always remain without the skills that help them to get ahead.

It is at my core to share my knowledge and experiences with anyone who asks, as much as I can. Yes, I write books and charge for them. I also teach courses and workshops I charge for as well. But that isn’t the only way I share knowledge. I share knowledge on this blog and others where I guest blog. I answer questions when someone writes me directly and asks for help. I teach a number of free workshops for local writing chapters, participate in free panels for libraries, and do free videos when I have time to provide some knowledge and point to other free resources to start people down the path. Many people helped me in my journey to a full time writing career and this is also a part of paying back.

Chalkboard with question: "Has anyone here ever been influenced by the love of a teacher?"My mother told me throughout my middle school and high school years that I was born to be a teacher. Of course, being a teenager trying to find her own way in the world, I immediately set out to prove to her that was NOT what I was born to do. A counselor, an engineer, even an astronaut maybe, but not a teacher. Never! However, in hindsight, she really was right. My first career choice was counseling, I did a master’s program and internship and then worked in a clinic serving families with severely disabled children.Though I wasn’t teaching in a classroom, our work together was a form of teaching and learning together. I was helping families to learn.

Later I joined the software industry and once again my role was related to teaching. I developed curriculum to teach end users at the corporations we served. I was brought on to develop the curriculum in an online environment. This was in the early 1980’s, well before online learning was the big movement it is now. In the  mid-90’s I returned to college for a doctorate degree. This time I really DID want to be a teacher, but at the university level. I was in academia for 15 years as a professor and later as a Dean and then executive management. My mother was vindicated.

When I started indie publishing in 2011, I realized there were no books to help me understand how different this was from the traditional publishing I had done previously. There were books on individual parts of the publishing process, primarily marketing.  But there were none that were able to bridge the gap between the paradigm of being an author in traditional publishing and that of the author as the publisher. My entrepreneurial spirit saw the potential of this new movement, but I had to learn everything from scratch. Fortunately, I have a technical background in software development and I immediately saw that technology would be driving future access for self-publishers.

As I shared what I learned with other authors through discussions and workshops, I realized my niche was the ability to translate technical descriptions of software programs and processes into the contextual framework of authors and books. The majority of authors I met were distrusting of technology or simply had zero background in using it. They were book people not applications people.

There was an immediate need to help others to move from finishing a story to getting it formatted, uploaded, and distributed. I began writing DIY Publishing in 2012. It was published in Fall 2013 and well-received. I think I sold a little over 5,000 copies that first year. Unfortunately, as with most books focused on the technology side of processes, it was obsolete within two years.

The foundational concepts were still solid but the technology used to implement the process was changing as I was writing. Also, as more technological solutions were developed and ease of access to publishing mainstays like formatting and distribution became more the norm, the advice I gave in 2012 and 2013 was no longer what I would say just two years later.

From 2012 to 2016, I taught over 50 classes—some face-to-face in one to four hour workshops;  some as brief lectures to large groups; and many as online courses. All of them changed from one class to the next because things were quickly changing in the publishing landscape. Marketing things that worked in 2012 didn’t work in 2014 because of a saturation of new people coming into self-publishing and competing with the early adopters. By 2014 the availability of tools, aggregators, and a variety of author services were ubiquitous and the biggest problem was analyzing the options in order to make sound recommendations.

By 2016 I committed to writing what I thought would be the 2nd edition of DIY Publishing. As I began that process, I realized that 2nd edition would easily be 1,000 pages or more. Definitely not a viable option for selling. I also needed to find a way to share what I learned without the books becoming obsolete so quickly. My DIY Publishing book had hundreds of screen shots and step-by-step instructions. Software changes so fast that I could never keep up with replacing those instructions.

It was those realities that drove me to conceive a series of books instead of a single, all encompassing volume. The series would stick to core concepts that stand the test of time, while supplementing them with examples and actionable steps that reflected the current year’s needs. The screenshots and step-by-step instructions are gone. Instead, readers can get those from me as cheat-sheets if they need them by simply being a part of my email list. Thus my Career Author Secrets series was born.

Career Author Secrets Bundle Books 1-3

My new series focuses on core concepts authors need to know to be successful in each phase of the career. When technology is introduced I focus on the logic of navigating the software and how it fits into the day-to-day life of a writer. I share pros and cons of the software so that each reader can determine for herself it it fits in her business and career plan. I use examples from my own career, as well as case studies of other authors to make sure authors can see how to implement technology effectively with their own tweaks. Because it is a multi-volume series, it provides me with more flexibility to update as the publishing landscape changes.

I began the Career Author Secrets series with the concept of four books. I now realize it will be an ongoing series because more opportunities will present themselves, and past opportunities will no longer be viable.

In my mind, a teacher is someone who enjoys helping others to learn. The best teachers are able to convey much more than facts and rote memory processes. Instead, they teach students how to think. How to do research. How to conceive a world or concept different than the one they already hold, and evaluate how or if that new view is helpful at that time in their life or career. That is what I try to do, whether it is through a book, at a workshop, or through a multi-tiered online course. Only my readers and students of classes and workshops can tell me if I’m successful.

Yes, Mom, you were right. I am a teacher. It is an indelible part of me, even in my fiction. I just had to learn it in my own way.

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