OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
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Bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith has written more than 90 popular novels and well over 100 published short stories.He writes under many pen names and has also ghosted for a number of top bestselling writers as well as writing comics and Hollywood film scripts. Over his career he has also been an editor and publisher and is currently writing thrillers and mystery novels under another name. Dean has recently written the “Killing the sacred cows of publishing” series which we are talking about today. [For an excerpt of the interview on video, see the bottom of the post.]
In this podcast you will learn:
- Why Dean thinks this is the best time to be an author. He sold his first short stories in 1975, and started selling books in 1983. It used to be very difficult as there was only one way to go. Now writers have so many options, almost too many to count.
- You have to be good at business to be an author. You have to look after your own career. Don't expect anyone to look after you. Be careful with the type of contracts you sign. It's good to know that in business, there are often failures. Stand up and keep going and the failures get forgotten over time.
- How Dean had 3 day jobs when he started writing and understands how sacrifices have to be made along the way. Everyone starts like this.
- On “killing the sacred cows of publishing” series of blog posts. Based on Dean and Kristine Kathryn Rusch talks for writers. On getting past the myths in order to get going with writer's careers. Writers are stopped by what is between our ears, not by New York. The myths have been perpetuated for centuries.
- Writing fast is the way the brain works, not writing slow. On rewriting and “polishing” your manuscripts. You want your unique voice to come out so don't polish it to death. There is no one way to do everything – the publishing world changes by the moment.
- How the publishing industry are generally backing Dean's ideas here, but his main detractors are new writers who feel he is in some way attacking their belief systems. They believe they need myths to survive.
- On the New World of Publishing series of posts which is looking at the new ways authors and writers can work in the new publishing world. Dean talks about a paradigm where authors self-publish with print on demand and actually submit a finished book to an editor (not an agent). [This is the way I am considering for ‘Pentecost' where I can show evidence of platform and sales].
- Self -publishing in terms of independent publishing is being accepted . The worry of some publishers that a good book may be hidden inside a bad cover.
- NY publishing as a loss leader that gets a lot of readers at once vs. self-publishing which is a long view. Keep a balanced approach and keep submitting. The industry is in transition where the smaller publishers can move quicker.
- Ebook publishing ONLY doesn't make sense as 90% of readers are still on print books. Do electronic, POD and also sell the books into New York.
- On agents. There are good ones and bad ones. Editors are the ones looking for books so go to people who can buy them. You can go directly to editors and bypass agents. If you get a form letter “only agented submissions” then they didn't like the book. Most of the good agents can't be found by the beginning authors as they are not soliciting for work, and new agents are not that good for your book.
- The magic bakery for fiction authors. Writers make an enormous amount of money. The only publishing people on the Forbes list are writers. Think of your novel/story as a pie that you can slice up and sell. You must understand copyright for this approach. Don't sell all rights.
- On writing a novel fast. Dean is a slow typist at 500-750 words per hour. The key is having a better work ethic, just like all the other people who are so successful – Nora Roberts and James Patterson are mentioned. Spending more time at it is the key. 120,000 words in 20 days based on day and night writing. An enormous number of hours at 500-750 words per hour.
You can find Dean at his website DeanWesleySmith.com Please check out the great posts he has on publishing. It's a great education for new writers.
Janet Horton says
You have certainly written enough to have a clear perspective and be able to offer some important tips. As an indepublisher, author and writer I share your viewpoint. That is one of the many reasons I started Seminars@Sea and in particular the seminar Authors@Sea. I think it is important that writers have as much information as they can, but in the beginning and to keep them informed of the many industry changes.
Thank you for the tips.
Trish Heinrich says
I am wondering about the comment about ebook publishing only being a bad idea because 90% of readers still go to print books. How is this, or is this, still accurate with ebooks outselling print for over a year now?
Joanna Penn says
Hi Trish – this interview is almost a year old and things have definitely moved on a lot since then. Ebook sales have grown massively since then. Dean’s blog is still an amazing place to go for up to date info about the changing environment. Thanks.
Stephen J Carter says
In 2013 Dean Wesley Smith started publishing a ‘Smith MONTHLY’ ebook, with a new issue coming out every month. This totally fascinates me. This interview is from 2010, I’d love to see an interview where he talks on this process. The volume of work for each issue is just staggering. I want to do this for many reasons. Just having the deadline each month for finishing up work to appear would be great. Plus it just keeps you from the bugbear of endless polishing. It forces you just to clean up the mistakes then get it out the door & forget about it. I loved what he said about finishing a story / novella / book and just moving on.
His average monthly issue has 4 short stories (4 k wds each), a complete novel (40 – 50 k wds), a serial novel installment (1 of 8, or 1 of 4). Then after a novel or serial novel appears he publishes it as a standalone ebook). Isn’t that great! You chunk it down, clean it up, then publish it immediately in your monthly ebook mag), then a few weeks later you release it as a normal ebook with its own cover.
And something else I love about this — he includes a cover for each novel & novel serial, even each short story, inside the monthly issue. So even the 4 short stories, each one 12 or so pages, has a cover. Perfect! He gives the story its dignity, he acknowledges it, he gives it a cover. The little engine that could.
I’ve been trying to set this up, and there’s one caveat. The volume of material needed to pull this off is prodigious, gargantuan, Promethean, it’s crazy. And I love it! So I’m going to try the same, but I’ll need to create a 6-mo. backlog of material I can use in issues going forward. I’m not sure how, but I suspect this might offer forms of promotion & marketing that I’m not aware of. All the best!