I have a small, but kinda big, announcement to make. I am consolidating all of my e-newsletters, blogging, and book reviews into one monthly newsletter that I launched today called, “Rogue Writer, by Shari Lopatin.”
I’m using Substack for this change, but I’m still keeping my writer’s page here on WordPress. However, if you follow along on my blog for my book reviews, updates on my writing projects, or even the occasional social/political commentary, subscribe to “Rogue Writer” below to keep getting those posts.
And if the name, “Rogue Writer” sounds familiar to you, it should. When I first began my writer’s journey to blogging a decade ago, I named my original WordPress blog, “Rogue Writer.” So essentially, I’m going back to my blogging roots.
You might have heard about Substack, especially in 2020, when many well-known writers began migrating to the platform to go independent and make more money. Essentially, Substack acts as an email management tool, a newsletter publisher, and a blogging platform, all in one. And here’s the biggie: it gives the option for its writers to offer paid subscriptions.
That might come down the road for me, and if it does, don’t worry! You won’t have to pay to keep getting my posts. But I do have some fun add-ons and special access that future paid subscribers might get. 🙂
Right now, however, consolidating everything into one publishing platform is easiest for me. And although Substack has taken some recent heat as other competitors start to catch up and offer better deals for writers, I decided this is the place to start this new journey.
Also, I am writing another book, so if you want to keep up with its progress, then subscribe to Rogue Writer! See you there.
I’m Launching a Campaign to Support Authors and #StopFakeBooks, but I Need Your Help
I recently came across an article from Vox, and then the New York Times, that (quite frankly) pissed me off.
Apparently, Amazon has a problem with counterfeit books. I’m talking about entities that plagiarize an author’s book, print a fake copy (usually at much lower quality), and sell it as the real thing. The result?
The author doesn’t make any money, the reader receives a crappy copy, and the thief walks away richer.
Luckily, as a reader and consumer of books, you can help fight this! It’s an easy fix.
If you decide to buy a book on Amazon:
Always buy directly from either the book’s publisher, or from Amazon.
Do NOT buy from any “third-party” sellers.
Help spread the word on social media and to your friends using the hashtag #StopFakeBooks.
Many people are unaware of this issue and may purchase a counterfeit book without knowing it. Education and awareness are key.
It’s personal for me, too.
I am concerned this might have already affected my book, The Apollo Illusion. I see several paperback versions of my book being sold by third-party sellers on Amazon that list it in “new” condition. However, the only place a reader can purchase a new version of The Apollo Illusion is directly from Amazon, not from these so-called bookstores.
Many authors, such as myself, have invested years and thousands of dollars into the writing, editing, production, and marketing of our books. It hurts, both emotionally and financially, to have one’s work and revenue stolen.
So help me #StopFakeBooks! Take to Twitter, to Facebook, to text, to WhatsApp, and to book clubs. Share this blog post with your friends, family, and book club members. And support your favorite writers by ensuring they’re getting paid for their work!
I haven’t blogged in more than a month because I’ve been busy with other life priorities, but today, an image from The Atlantic forced me to stop and post:
The photo was snapped in Syria by Associated Press Photographer Manu Brabo, and the caption reads:
“A Syrian man cries while holding the body of his son near Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Syria, on October 3, 2012. Three suicide bombers detonated cars packed with explosives in a government-controlled area of the battleground Syrian city of Aleppo on Wednesday, killing at least 34 people, leveling buildings and trapping survivors under the rubble, state TV said. More than 120 people were injured, the government said.”
As a journalist, I knew this image was more than just a photograph, and had to be shared. As a human being, it made me ask, “What will it take to stop this bloodshed?”
A friend and former colleague of mine is a survivor of the Bosnian War. Her family suffered genocide. Whenever I see images of that conflict, it affects me deeply, because I’ve watched my friend cry—decades later—as if the wounds are still fresh.
Syria is beginning to remind me eerily of Bosnia.
I do not know the answer. I’m aware the U.S. is not capable of getting involved in another conflict, but I find myself asking, “Where the heck is the REST of the world??”
What in God’s name will it take, to make this stop?
So, have you heard about James Erwin, the writer who made it famous from Des Moines, IA, because his Reddit post landed him a writing gig for Hollywood?
Mashable wrote an article about him earlier this week (which is why I didn’t wait until next Thursday to post).
In short, from the article:
During a lunch break last August, Erwin joined a Reddit thread and laid down the first installment of a sparse, noir-ish narrative addressing whether a modern American marine battalion could defeat the entire Roman Empire. Fellow Redditors were immediately hooked. They demanded more with up-votes and comments, pushing his work to the site’s front page. By day’s end, Erwin had an offer for representation from the talent management firm Madhouse Entertainment. Two weeks later, he had an offer from Warner Brothers to do a full screenplay.
Yea, tell me about it …
But the thing I wanted to emphasize here, is the power of social media for writers, if used correctly.
Erwin is no everyday Joe. Personally, I think the man is brilliant. According to Mashable, he’s written TWO encyclopedias and is a two-time Jeopardy winner. But that’s not why I think he’s Einstein.
Erwin understands the power of “the tease,” and the psychology behind using social media to peak others’ interests. Of course, you can’t count out luck … but you have to give the man SOME credit.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Was Erwin just plain lucky, or was his social media strategy planned to get some attention? How does this story make you re-think your antics to garner exposure, as a writer?
[Stay tuned! Two Thursdays from now, I’ll share the SECRET I’ve discovered to get more readers and followers, using social media! Don’t miss it; subscribe for blog updates via email, in the upper right-hand corner.]
I also wanted to let you know they’re currently seeking new essays for publication!
And since many of you are writers, I highly recommend heading over and reading up on submission guidelines. I know many of you have awesome stories to share that would fit perfectly in the Anthem Exposition.
And, one more small reminder that I’ll be publishing on Rogue Writer every OTHER Thursday, moving forward. As life allows, I’d like to eventually go back to posting every week. Until then, however, look for fresh posts every two weeks on writing tips, funny stories, media strategies for promotion, and industry news!
My boyfriend asked me if I want a Kindle for Hanukkah this year. “What?” I responded, almost offended. “Why?”
I felt horrible immediately, because he was just trying to be attentive. You see, I’ve been reading a lot lately, and he thought this would support those efforts.
I then lovingly told him how I once swore I would NEVER own a Kindle. When I read a book, I want to hold it in my hand, feel the cover, flip through the pages.
There’s just something extra relaxing about taking a break from technology when you read. And in this day and age, there’s almost a romantic aspect to the printed word (which I miss, more and more). If I became a Kindle-owner, I’d become a traitor to my kind: traditional writers everywhere.
But then my boyfriend said something to me:
“I think Kindles have revitalized our society’s interest in reading novels. Without Kindles, I don’t think people would read as much. We wouldn’t be as literate.”
Hmm. Pretty darn good point.
Friend or Foe?
That got me thinking. Americans love their gadgets. I mean seriously, our own president has claimed addiction to his Blackberry. Every time a new iPhone comes out, people storm the stores. We don’t just want computers, we want T.V.s, phones, and newspapers all wrapped into one.
So, is it possible that Kindles have reignited our country’s excitement over literature?
We hear a lot of talk about the fall of book publishing.
Hardbacks are giving way to e-books.
Authors are expected to market themselves more and more.
I’ve heard mutters that writers (novelists and authors) may someday become obsolete.
But is that really true?
Is it possible that, because of Kindles, novelists and authors may still have a very solid future? Perhaps, the Kindle is securing our ability to be relevant in this technology-driven world. And taking this one step further, perhaps without gadgets like the Kindle, writers would be struggling more than ever.
Now I’m reconsidering. Maybe I would like to try a Kindle for Hanukkah.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is the Kindle helping secure our relevancy as writers, novelists and authors? Or is it helping to kill our profession, our craft, and our demand?
How many of us writers dream of making it onto the New York Times Bestseller’s list? For Bruce Cameron, that dream came true with A Dog’s Purpose—soon to be a DreamWorks movie, too.
I actually heard about Bruce’s “novel for humans” via a Facebook ad, of all places. I’d never clicked on one before, but being a complete animal-lover, I clicked this time. Maybe it was fate, because I immediately connected with Bruce’s story of striving for success, and asked his publicist for a Q&A. The timing worked out perfectly, as his next novel, Emory’s Gift, is releasing next week on Aug. 30.
So thank you, Bruce, for taking time out of your busy schedule to offer advice for those of us who are still working toward the Dream! Here are my 10 questions for Bruce:
1. SHARI: Your book, A Dog’s Purpose, is a New York Times Bestseller and soon to be a movie by DreamWorks, according to the book’s website. However, in your bio, you mention you didn’t reach success as a writer until later in life. What was the key factor that made THIS book successful, as opposed to other works of yours?
BRUCE: Well, I suppose the main factor in this book’s success is the fact that it was published. When I refer to my lack of success as a writer in the years previous, I’m talking about the fact that I wrote many books that were never published. However, my first book, 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter, was a New York Times bestselling book and was made into a television show on ABC. I think that once I began writing about themes that were universally appealing (such as family, relationship, animals, etc.) I connected with my audience.
2. SHARI: Many of my blog followers are developing writers, or professional writers looking to reach success as authors. What are the top 3 pieces of advice you can offer them, to help them reach that success?
BRUCE: The first thing that I would tell them, is that they should ask themselves what they mean by “success.” All my life I wanted nothing more than to have a hard cover edition of a book of mine for sale in a bookstore. I have achieved that, but it is during a time in which fewer people are reading and bookstores themselves are disappearing. Does success mean selling a few thousand copies of an e-book? Is it material success, critical acclaim, great reader response? What has happened to me with A Dog’s Purpose is that I have touched a lot of people’s lives. That’s not what I started out to do but it has turned out to be the most profound element of my success.
I wrote and wrote for years without selling a single thing. So my second piece of advice is keep writing, don’t get discouraged, don’t give up.
Most writers feel that a work is not successful if it is not read by large numbers of people. To reach large numbers of people one must spend an awful lot of time marketing. My final piece of advice would be to prepare yourself for just how much time it will take to connect with your audience so that they are even aware of your work.
3. SHARI: How did you start writing? Was it your original career (such as a degree in journalism or English), or did you begin writing later in life?
BRUCE: I started writing when I was in the fourth grade. I wrote my first novel when I was in high school. I was an English major, and worked briefly as a freelance writer before poverty forced me to get a day job. But I have always been a writer; albeit not always a professional one.
4. SHARI: What is A Dog’s Purpose about, and how did you think of the idea?
BRUCE: A Dog’s Purpose asks the question, “what if your dog never really dies?” I got the idea because I was riding my mountain bike in Colorado one day and met a dog along the way who reminded me so very much of my first dog Cammie, whom I met when I was just eight years old. I was struck with the odd sense that I had just interacted with my long dead friend. Ever since that day, I have wondered if it really was Cammie, and if so, what did that look like from the dog’s perspective? These questions ultimately led me to writing the novel A Dog’s Purpose.
5. SHARI: You have a new book coming out soon, Emory’s Gift. Tell us about this story, and when is it due for release?
BRUCE: On August 30, 2011, Emory’s Gift will be released in hardcover. It is the story of a 13-year-old boy who teams with his father to save a wild grizzly bear from the people who would do it harm. Once they embark on their mission, the lives of the boy and his father are changed forever.
6. SHARI: As a writer, what has been the largest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?
BRUCE: Because I was not able to make enough money as a writer to survive, I got a day job – a good day job – and wound up getting married and having children. The demands on my time were great and so it was always my writing that got sacrificed. I don’t regret any of it, but it is true that my choices led to me not being as productive as I would have wanted.
7. SHARI: What do you think makes a great writer, versus someone who’s just average?
BRUCE: The writers I enjoy reading the most are those who combine talent with an understanding of the importance of plot, character, and story structure. Writing is an art, but it is also a skill that must be practiced over and over.
8. SHARI: Now that you’ve finally reached success as an author, what’s it like? Are you enjoying it?
BRUCE: I am living the life that I always wanted. My biggest challenge is trying to adjust mentally to the idea that this is really it, that I don’t have to continually scan want ads for jobs that I could do to support my writing.
9. SHARI: Do you have any recommendations of other writers/authors/teachers for my blog subscribers to follow?
BRUCE: As a screenwriter I have had to spend many hours reading and rereading Sid Fields seminal work screenplay. It has taught me so much about story structure and I would recommend it even to people who have no intention of ever writing a script for a movie.
10. SHARI: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
BRUCE: Readers who were drawn to and pleased by the spiritual message of A Dog’s Purpose will find that this same theme shows up in Emory’s Gift. Though it doesn’t have a dog on the cover, I urge anyone who felt moved by A Dog’s Purpose to give Emory’s Gift a look.
[Want more interviews, like today’s Q&A with Bruce Cameron? Then sign up to get posts from ‘Rogue Writer’ delivered by email, every Thursday! Still not sure? Read up on this blog and my experience, first.]
If you’re a new author trying to publicize your book, a gold mine just landed before your eyes.
All you have to do, is reach out and grab the riches.
I’m talking about the new “inReads” social network, which celebrated its full launch about a week ago, reported GalleyCat. According to the article, inReads is a social network just for readers. They discuss books, they review books, and they recommend books.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
“After four weeks in beta mode, inReads counted 10,000 page views and 1,000 Twitter followers,” GalleyCat said.
Authors, right here is your target audience! You want to create buzz around your book? You want people to buy your book? Get to know inReads.
Here’s what I thought
I spent some time poking around the site to get a feel for this new social network. It reminds me of a blogosphere, with initial posts written by staff reporters (interview sessions and such). Here are the highlights of my findings:
inReads is a production of WETA, the Washington D.C. public television, media and radio entity.
The staff’s job (including contributors and advisory board) is to help the conversation along, but the community members are really responsible for driving it.
The platform actually has professional editors and writers (I kid you not, people with 25+ years experience in the journalism, publishing and corporate worlds).
It reminds me of an online magazine format, with more social and engaging aspects.
inReads has the ability to be a trendsetter. And because it’s published by such a notable entity, that gives it credibility. It’s still new, and therefore, has the ability to evolve. Will I sign up for an account right now?
I don’t have a book. But once I do, you bet your behind I’ll be diving–head first–into inReads and mastering it the way I learned Twitter, Facebook and WordPress.
SO TELL ME: Have you seen inReads? What did YOU think of it? Is it too traditional for you, or do you think the future of success lies in an even more social platform?
Ever wonder what those big-time New York City editors look for in a story pitch? Or how successful authors pulled off a great book deal?
Today, journalist and author Caitlin Kelly shares some of her secrets as a former senior editor for WorldBusiness in New York and a successful author of two books. Caitlin has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. She recently published her second book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.” Briefly, here’s a snippet from her book’s opening:
My writing career had gone well from the day I graduated from college, whether I had a staff magazine or newspaper job or worked freelance. But by the fall of 2007 I was scared of the precipitous decline in my industry, journalism. I was also newly aware, after pneumonia landed me in a hospital bed from overwork, I needed a ready, steady source of cash, something solid. And so I decided to join a populous, if largely ignored, tribe – the fifteen million Americans working in retail.
On a personal note, I can relate to Caitlin’s situation. The year 2007 was also when I left my beloved journalism job. That seems to be the fateful year—of the housing market crash, the journalism crash, and the start of the Great Recession.
So, here’s my interview with Caitlin Kelly. Hope you find some valuable insights in these 10 questions, as I did!
1. SHARI: You’re a veteran journalist, having written for notable publications such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Hartford Courant, and Glamour. Journalistically, what drew you to the topic of America’s retail industry–for a book?
CAITLIN: I was amazed that this enormous industry — $4 trillion, 15 million workers, the nation’s third-largest and its greatest source of new jobs — had not been examined in book form in any serious way. There have been several excellent books on low-wage labor, but none focused exclusively on retail. Once I had spent 27 months working at its lowest level for a large and well-known retail company, I realized what inequities and absurdities the industry contains. They spend millions on new technology and software but most refuse to pay their front-line workers — who drive sales — decently. Since we’re a nation of shoppers, I wanted to explore this subject in depth.
2. SHARI: “Malled” is your second book. Your first was “Blown Away: American Women and Guns.” I have several writers new to the publishing world who follow my blog. What tips can you give them about the process of finding a literary agent and publisher?
CAITLIN: It’s not simple, quick or easy! Finding an agent means finding someone whose skill, experience, ambition, personality and stable of other writers matches your vision of what you hope to accomplish. My agent on Blown Away, William Clark, was then — in 2000 when we first met — fairly new to agenting and was eager to build his brand, so that helped me. He, like my current agent, Kathleen Anderson, was also extremely dedicated to the project — both books received 25 (!) rejections each before finally selling to major NYC publishers. You need someone who really cares deeply about the work, and gets what you are about: this is not a game for the easily deterred or fantasists. You must find someone who is utterly straightforward with you about every aspect of the process and demands excellence and professionalism from you. It helps if you like them personally as you must trust them with your work.Find an agent by: reading acknowledgments in books similar to yours (they always thank their agent); attending annual writers’ conferences like the ASJA where members can meet and pitch agents face to face; networking well and generously with accomplished writers who may share the name of their agent (or not) with you. The agent will find the publisher, not you.
3. SHARI: You spent time working as a senior editor for WorldBusiness in New York City. From an editor’s perspective, what do you look for in a pitch from a freelance writer? What will make you choose one story (and writer) over another?
CAITLIN: You want a feeling of authority, why this writer really knows the issue and can handle it well and stylishly. I want to see that they have a strong news sense and feel confident they will be able to both report accurately and deeply and write well, which is a rare combination. I would almost always choose a former or current newspaper writer over someone with no news background. There is too much PR puffery out there, and experienced journos know to ignore it and dig much more deeply when necessary. I’m interested in writers who think outside the margins, who may have lived a less conventional life, as they may ask different questions and see things from a less predictable perspective. I want someone who is culturally sophisticated and who understands the need for diversity when sourcing, for example.
4. SHARI: On your website, you have a whole list of “work tips” for writers. What are your top three favorite tips, and why?
CAITLIN: Hard to choose! In general: 1) expect and learn to handle rejection. It’s normal and awful and expensive and you are going to run into it at every stage of your career. Set aside savings for slow times and keep your ego in a box.
2) Remain (or become) intellectually voracious. Read fiction and history and biography and magazines and blogs and websites beyond what feels cozy and familiar or in your current specialty areas. Read Canadian and British publications and those in other languages to remember that we all do not see the world in the same way. That alone will set you apart from many of your competitors.
3) Rest, recharge, relax. We tend to run ourselves at an industrial speed and intensity that can easily lead to fatigue and burnout, or worse. Make time for exercise, friends, patting the dog, long walks in silence. Creative work demands a brain and heart that are both open and refreshed regularly.
5. SHARI: “Malled” has been written about by Entertainment Weekly, the Financial Times of London, and the Associated Press, among others. So tell me, what is “Malled” really all about?
CAITLIN: Work, identity, class struggle, corporate greed. What professional status means, and what happens when you don’t have it. The true underpinnings of easy catchphrases we never really question or challenge: “shareholder value”, “global supply chain”, “operations management.”These are the underlying/overarching larger themes of “Malled,” beyond its many anecdotes, interviews and statistics. I’m fascinated by how we work, and the trade-offs we make and why we choose to make or accept them.
6. SHARI: You guest-blogged on the Harvard Business Review about a lesson you took away from writing your book (why retail workers drive the customer experience). Overall, what is the top lesson/experience you took away from this project?
CAITLIN: That every single person working in retail can add value, from the invisible stock room clerk to the associates on the floor — despite the fact that most corporate managers refuse to pay them accordingly. The most productive, yet unrewarded, people are often effective and high-selling associates working face to face with customers, whose skill and warmth can make or break a brand.
7. SHARI: As a successful writer, author and journalist, what have been your keys to success? What advice would you give other writers to attain a similar degree of success in their careers?
CAITLIN: I’m flattered by your description. Thanks! Persistence is huge. I simply don’t give up; my first agent said I was the most determined person he’d ever met. Once I connect with someone who seems to find my ideas or work of value, I stay in touch, sometimes for decades; having a strong network of people who believe in you can help you achieve many goals, from getting recommendation letters for grants and fellowships to helpful tips.
One friend in Canada — who edited me when she was at a magazine years ago — told me about a Canadian lawsuit settlement for writers I knew nothing about; it netted me a healthy windfall!
Network, in a generous and helpful way, with accomplished writers, no matter at what level of their career. I’ve gotten help from some of my former interns (now doing well!) and colleagues 10 to 20 years my senior. Truly ambitious and talented writers with a heart know what it takes to excel; they’ll cheer you when you win and cheer you up when the going is tough — as you, of course, will do for them too!I’ve given away a lot of time and advice to total strangers who’ve emailed me…it all comes back eventually and in surprising and terrific ways.
I also serve on the board of the 1,400 member American Society of Journalists and Authors and on the board of the Writers Emergency Assistance Fund; I like giving back.Invest in yourself. Create and update a great-looking and informative website for your work and book(s); attend conferences, take classes, read books, hire professional help to maintain your edge and focus, whether researchers or coaches. I recently paid a speaking coach (I found her on LinkedIn, Christine Clapp) to help me prepare for the Diane Rehm show on NPR (2 m listeners, live) and her advice has given me much greater confidence for all media and public speaking. And I’d been doing it for years already.
8. SHARI: Tell me about a discouraging time during your career’s climb. Did you consider quitting? How did you get past this obstacle?
CAITLIN: There have been more than one. This is not a business for the faint of heart or easily bruised! I studied interior design in the 1990s and planned to leave journalism, but stayed in it. I’m addicted to finding and sharing compelling stories, so my enthusiasm for the content is undimmed, even as the mechanics of the field have changed substantially. I have multiple skills, from photography and interior design training to foreign languages, so I have enough ways to keep pulling in income that I don’t panic. I also maintain a low overhead and don’t have children, so living with lower costs allows me more creative freedom in my choices of when and how to work.I also think you have to be very clear with yourself in how you define “success”. I am thrilled knowing that readers in Hong Kong, New Zealand and Ireland, to name only three, read my books — but am not (yet!) earning the sort of income some might wish or expect.
9. SHARI: Can you share a few recommendations of others experts in the writing field, whom it would be beneficial to follow?
SHARI: That’s a good question. I’ve recently started reading and enjoying Betsy Lerner’s blog and Kristen Lamb’s blog. I think once you’ve mastered your craft — through classes, practice, reading great writers’ work and analyzing it — it becomes a larger issue of finding and polishing ideas. I focus less on the mechanics of how to write and more on people whose thinking inspires me, so I read blogs that include Seth Godin and Design Milk, which is visual.Because I write only non-fiction, I try more to read great NF books and figure out why they’re so terrific: voice, language, tone, pacing, anecdote, etc.
10. SHARI: Anything else you’d like to add?
CAITLIN: Stay focused! The world is filled with a million ways to ding your confidence and/or to distract you, but only you and your computer can deliver the goods. If you want to produce a non-fiction book, read widely and critically to determine what place you might carve in that marketplace; “save string” — i.e. read and clip everything of possible use for that project; talk to people who might be able to help you.
Decide what you want to achieve and what is realistic, given your talent, time, energy and finances. It may not happen fast, or fast enough, but a life of ideas can’t be lived according to the clock or others’ dreams.