Tag Archives: e-Publishing

Can Writers Make a Living as Authors?

THIS POST IS FOR WRITERS:

A recent article by Jeremy Greenfield in Forbes online asks, “How Much Money Do Self-Published Authors Make?” Well, it’s a fairly simple article that touches on the macro end of the issue, but really, there’s so much more to it.

The immediate point of his article seems to be that self-published (I’ll include the whole “Indie” category here, including emerging small press) authors do not make a living at their craft. However, if you read further, you discover that most authors – period – do not make a living at their craft, regardless of which route they’ve taken to publish.

The figure he presents for self-publishing is an annual median income (I’m assuming this is a “net” figure) of “under $5,000.” That would seem to be his Ah-hah! point – self-publishing is bad (After all, why else would he use the title he did?). However, he then goes on to say that traditionally published authors earn an annual median income of $5,000 to $9,999. Anyone “making a living” on that?

So the real point of his article is that few writers actually make a living as authors.

To which I say, “No surprise there.”

It’s actually always been that way in the publishing industry. A few superstars make gazillions of dollars, and the rest make a little on the side while continuing with their day job. Nothing new here.

What’s new is that more authors can actually take a shot at being in that elite group of authors who do make a nice living. In the past, writers were stuck playing the literary agent/traditional publisher lottery. Now, they have options. Furthermore, I would argue that if they really do it “the right way,” they improve their odds significantly.

THE RIGHT WAY

I sometimes get the feeling that writers get sick of me making this point: the reason most self-published authors fail (in the long run) is that they simply do not go about their business as proper professionals. Why do I think some are sick of that point? Emails like this one are a hint: “I’m so sick and tired of you saying that all self-published work is crap!” Okay, I’ve only received one such email, and just to be clear: I have NEVER said that. I’ve said that “most” self-published work is crap. 🙂

One of the nice things about the new market opportunities for authors is that a lot more good work is making it into the marketplace, and into readers’ hands. A lot of talented folks are discovering that they don’t have to wait to win the traditional publishing lottery to become authors. One of the bad things about the new market opportunities for authors is that anyone can now publish last week’s grocery list – it’s cheap and relatively easy.

The result is a flooding of the market – more good stuff (Great!), but an absolute boatload of utter crap to go along with it.

This, of course, tends to drag down those “median” numbers that Mr. Greenfield cited in his Forbes article.

Yet consumers are not dummies. You might fool them for a short time, but in the end, if you publish crap, consumers will bail on you as if you were Typhoid Mary herself.

It’s actually pretty simple: those who write good stories, make a sincere effort to have it professionally edited, and who put up a professional cover as the face of that book – in short, those who invest in their business – can expect to improve their odds of ultimate success many fold. You’ll note I used the word “ultimate” in that last phrase. Why? Because it’s even rarer for an author to take off after just one book. Usually, an author must have three, four, even five books available before consumers really take note of them in a big way.

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Success in this business is hard as hell; let’s just be honest about that. However, it’s not impossible – not by a long shot. If you’re dreaming the dream, then go about your business, do it the right way, and work toward that day when you can say that you defied the odds.

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eBooks vs. Print Books – The Continuing Debate

THIS POST IS FOR WRITERS and READERS:

The debate over whether eBooks will eventually dominate the market, relegating print books to a niche market serving primarily hardcore bibliophiles, and perhaps parents to read with their kids, is settled in my mind. I no longer believe it’s a question of if it will happen, merely when.

The “Star-Trekification” of America, and the world, is well underway. There’s no turning back from technology; it pushes or pulls us, depending on our stance.

However, the full industry transition is by no means complete, as the infographic below shows. This was produced by Greg Vang of Coupon Audit, and it contains some interesting snippets of data. Enjoy.


Are E-Books Better Than Hardcover Books: Comparison

This Infographic is produced by Coupon Audit and Lane Diamond.


Copy/Paste the coding below if you’d like to share this infographic.

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Are there too many books out there, or never enough?

Dear Reader, we striving, emerging authors need you.

Prompted by a recent Facebook post, I just checked one author’s listings (she happens to be self-published) at Amazon, and she has 3 books out, the highest ranked of which is #972,xxx. That means she sells about 1 copy every 2-3 months. Her other two books are even worse. So no one is reading her books.

Yet she mentioned in a recent post that her 4th book is coming soon, and she’s all excited.

I’m not sure what to make of that. Part of me wants to say, “For God’s sake, go back to your day job and stop muddying-up the market for everyone.” Yet another part of me wants to say, “Way to stick to it.”

Sadly, one has merely to sample her work to understand the first part of the problem: no editing. It is simply rife with bad structure and grammar. And the covers are… err… not good. She’s trying to make her way completely on her own, without professional help, and not making it at all.

Yet, as a fellow author, should this bother me? Does it really muddy-up the market? Will you, Dear Reader, still find what you’re looking for in the vast sea of reading options? Will my book stand out because of its polished, professional presentation? Will you, Dear Reader, find it difficult to find the gem-like drops (he says not-so-modestly) amidst the ocean of poor work?

Honestly, I’m back and forth on this, and haven’t quite decided on the right answer. Some instinct deep inside me, however, believes that if the process becomes too confusing and disappointing for readers, they’re simply going to revert to their old stand-bys and give up on discovering new authors. This, of course, would be bad news for those of us newbies who are seeking to step into that light.

Yet one surefire method remains for us to find our way out of the abyss: word of mouth. Yes, if someone reads my book, and enjoys it, she’s likely to mention it to someone else, who might then give it a try. This is a time-tested and effective method of of bringing a new author out of the darkness. The problem with that, of course, is that if the author doesn’t have a great level of visibility out there in the world, and people are slow to find him in the first place, this process can take years.

Is there a viable alternative (without spending thousands and thousands of dollars on advertising)? Probably not.

So, Dear Reader, you now understand why it is so important to all of us authors that you post a review at Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or iTunes, or Kobo, or Goodreads, etc. You also know why we love you when you say to a friend, “Hey, have you read this book? It’s awesome!”

And, of course, we authors must continue to write. The author I mentioned above has that part of the equation right, if not the others. I’ve been struggling with that due to time constraints, but am determined to get my sequel out soon. For now, I’ll just have to hope that more people discover Forgive Me, Alex and feel compelled to shout from the mountaintop, “You must read this book!”.

Then, I must get The Devil’s Bane out soon.

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The Future of Publishing: How to Survive and Prosper as an Author outside the Big 6

Another guy with an opinion about this crazy industry. Yeesh!

[Revised/Reposted from original May 2, 2012 post at www.EvolvedPub.com]

As Publisher and Executive Editor at Evolved Publishing (linked above), I’m regularly asked by folks to weigh in on the state of our industry, so here goes. (Fair warning: you might want take that BRB and freshen up that cup of coffee before you continue.)

I spend a lot of time gazing into my crystal ball, opaque though it may be, to figure out what the future holds for us small fries trying to find our way in the mighty, mighty world of publishing. I’ve been doing that since long before my partner D.T. Conklin and I decided to open up shop as Evolved Publishing. Now, I must keep my finger on the pulse not just for myself, but for the fine and talented authors, editors, and artists who’ve joined our team – 15 authors, 7 editors, 7 artists, and more coming soon in every category. It’s early in our collective effort, but the train is gathering steam.

We offer an alternative to both traditional publishing, often referred to as The Big 6, and the self-publishing option – we offer a hybrid small press model. Since getting picked up by The Big 6 (assuming you would even want to given the current market dynamics) is akin to winning the lottery, I’m going to skip right past them and talk about the “indie” options: self-publishing, or a small press like us.

Self-publishing enjoyed a boost in credibility after the eBook revolution made it easier, even financially attractive, to self-publish rather than pursue traditional methods. Some reputable authors chose the self-pub route with fair success, and soon everyone followed suit. No… really… I mean everyone. Based on the 8.2 trillion blogs to which I subscribe, the comments left there, the social media buzz, and the latest gossip from my neighbor’s poodle, there are now approximately 4.3 billion self-published authors. Okay, maybe it only seems that way.

This David versus Goliath picture does not, as you might expect, represent us (upstart small press publisher) versus them (The Big 6). In fact, I intended it to represent them (self-pubbers) versus them (self-pubbers). Yep, individually, a self-pubber is the underdog, David. Collectively, they are the brute, Goliath.

As thousands upon thousands of self-pubbers flood the book markets with a tsunami of new material, authors and readers alike are shaking their heads and wondering, “What the devil is going on here?”

I’ll confess to something of a love/hate relationship with self-pubbers. I love their entrepreneurial spirit (for those who actually treat it like a business, which it is), their willingness to say, “Go spit!” to the train wreck that is traditional publishing (Hey, this is just me editorializing.), their daring attempt to walk the tightrope from which 99% plummet to their deaths. Yet I hate that such a high percentage of self-pubbers give short shrift to their profession, and publish substandard work.

I particularly love the self-pubbers who do it right: professional editing, professional covers, professional websites, professional self-promotion and marketing. Are you noticing a theme here? Unfortunately, even the professionals, given their self-publishing label, must suffer under the reputation driven mainly by the non-professionals. The early pioneers, and the traditional mid-listers who made the jump, have been able to defeat that reputation to some extent. The John Q. Nobodys lost in the sea of fellow John Q. Nobodys, however, have had less than stellar luck at combating the label.

Indeed, one of the reasons we formed Evolved Publishing in the first place, with an unwavering insistence that Job One = Quality, was that we didn’t want to be lumped in with people taking shortcuts. And let’s face it: a significant percentage of self-pubbers take shortcuts, and the people they probably hurt the most – aside from their selves, of course – are the self-pubbers doing it the right way… professionally.

Well, technically savvy book consumers are starting to figure all this out. They’re getting burned too often by $2.99 offerings, $0.99 offerings, even FREE offerings, and they’re getting frustrated. Yet what is an indie author to do?

The Fads

Well, we’ve learned a bunch in the past year, not the least of which is that last quarter’s brilliant idea is this quarter’s old news – and next quarter’s Dodo Bird.

It has always struck me as ironic that in an industry driven by highly creative individuals, the business aspect of the industry is one giant exercise in, “Hey, let’s do what that guy did.” Someone finds something that works, and then thousands – nay, tens of thousands – of people rush in to do the exact same thing.

We saw it with social media: Want to be a successful author? No worries. Just build a strong social platform and you’ll sell thousands of books.

We saw it with $0.99 pricing: Want to establish yourself as a mover and shaker in this marketplace? No worries. Just price your books at $0.99 and watch your career soar.

We saw it with Amazon’s KDP Select Free Days: Want to develop momentum for your book, and then sell thousands of copies afterward? No worries. Just put your book up for free for a day or two or five, and then watch your paid sales go through the roof. This is the newest fad, of course, and it started fading just four months in.

All of those tools remain viable components in our toolbox, but they no longer provide the “instant sure thing” they once did for some. Indeed, we’re now seeing that today’s big idea fizzles within a few months, overwhelmed by the rush of thousands of people chasing the same pot of gold, only to find that when they finally pursue the end of that rainbow, the sun has set.

Today’s ingenious marketing idea becomes little more than a fad. And fast.

Back to the Basics

Some things become increasingly clear every day:

  1. Quality Catalog: that simple concept drives the train. Without it, indie authors are sunk.
  2. Fads come and go, offering only short-term opportunities, but business fundamentals are forever.
  3. No one strikes it big with one book. Few do it with two books. It’s a long road. This business we call writing is a slow grind – always has been – and it requires hard work, determination, and more than a little perseverance.
  4. Quality Matters: this should be first, second and third on everyone’s list. Staying power requires an absolute commitment to quality.

We all got caught-up in the excitement of the eBook Revolution. We saw numbers by the early pioneers and thought, “Man, I want a piece of that!” Now, that excitement is winding down, people are coming back to reality, and the marketplace is reasserting itself.

Are there sufficient consumers to support 50,000 new authors? No. At least, not if we mean by “support” that authors earn a comfortable living as authors, or even a reasonable part-time income sufficient to the work that goes into it. Already, self-pubbers are seeing their sales numbers dwindle, and are increasingly complaining that they’re losing money, falling back into the old “Vanity Publishing” mode. Even some of the “stars” are experiencing declines of 40-50% during the most recent few months. Yes, summer is a bad season for books sales, but it’s more than that.

Indeed, even long-established pros have suffered the effects, dragged down by the entire market dynamic. The difference for them, of course, is their reputation, ready-made audience, and a staying power self-pubbers don’t have. As more consumers run away from self-pubbers, those old pros will be the first to benefit.

What does it all mean, and how do we counter it?

Frankly, we counter it by doing what we do, and by grinding it out for the long haul. We counter it by becoming those old pros.

Surviving the Mad Rush

The eBook Revolution encouraged a mad rush into the marketplace by newcomers. Hey, now it was easy and cheap – really cheap for those willing to compromise on quality, meaning the majority. The result? Writers first dumped hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands of substandard books into the marketplace, competing for a far-too-finite number of customers, selling for $2.99, then $0.99, and ultimately free, all in a desperate attempt to be that which they always dreamed of becoming: an author.

Yet those who succeed as authors have always been few – the true professionals producing high quality work – and despite the initial excitement of the eBook revolution, this will be true again.

If we are to be successful authors, we must continue to separate ourselves by providing books that aspire to and reach high professional standards. We must continue to write, each producing at least one book per year (two should be your goal, if you plan to do this for a living). We must continue to hone our craft, to learn, to keep our finger on the pulse of the industry we hope will support us. We must be professionals.

Reasonable Expectations

Part of that mad rush, of course, was the expectation that we were all immediately going to start selling thousands of books, making a mint, living the good life as authors. Well, now that we’ve all been dealt a dose of reality, we have an opportunity to take a deep breath, re-examine what we’re doing, and plan for the next positive steps.

Authors who make (net) even $5,000 their first year as authors are rarer than you might like to believe; nonetheless, it’s true even in the traditional publishing industry.

Most authors kick into second gear starting in year two, and then build speed through year three and beyond. This assumes, of course, that said author continues to produce good work. This is nothing new; it’s always been that way. The problem, if we may call it a problem, is that so many thought the eBook Revolution would change that, and bring us our riches more quickly.

Not so. It remains a “process.”

That’s one of the toughest things for writers to settle on: to stop worrying about what book one is doing, and get about the business of writing book two. Then, stop worrying about what book two is doing, and get about the business of writing book three. And so on.

In this age of instant gratification, and where most of us are accustomed to punching a clock or working on a regular salary, knowing precisely what’s coming in the next paycheck, it’s a hard thing to say, “Never mind that. Just get back to work.”

Yet history tells us that until you get book three to market, with each of the three a quality product, you’re probably not going to make a living as a writer. Even then, if you must fight to establish your reputation because of who’s publishing (or not publishing) your books, the odds are against you. It also tells us that when you hit that stride, achieving your “overnight” success, the whole of your catalog will rise at once. In other words, if book three or four is your magic bullet, books one and two will also sell better from that point on. The rising tide carries all boats.

So don’t obsess over the fact that you’re only selling a copy or two a day (or less) of your first book. Obsess over completing your second book, and then your third book, and so on. And those numbers will rise. It’s not magic. It’s just the business.

Investing in Your Field

I tread into this section with a warning: it may sound a bit preachy. Please bear with me.

As authors, we are all businesspeople. There’s no escaping that fact, so we must embrace it. That doesn’t mean you need to invest many thousands of dollars to get your career rolling. Indeed, I have my doubts about the potential payback of huge investments, if they don’t get you to your ultimate goal: quality catalog. No business survives for long that invests $2 in order to gross $1.

However, there are things we can all do that will make a difference in the end, and we should do some of those things sooner rather than later – a quality website, for example, with a blog that offers interesting, funny, poignant, or informative content (all of the above is a dream come true). Do you need a bunch of bells and whistles? Well, that would be nice, but so long as it’s functional, clean and professional, it’ll do. If you can do more, you should.

Learn your craft. This is a profession, like so many others, that requires a continuing education. The moment you stop growing as an author, you start dying as an author. I’ve been studying this crazy craft for 35 years, and every time I learn something new, I realize I have much more to learn. Read about writing; not only for the instruction, but for the motivation. I’ve read some 90 books on the subject, and untold thousands of articles, and any time I feel I’m slipping into a rut, I search for another piece to help pull me out of it. I love these books for the way they re-energize me and kick me in the keester.

My only advice here is that you choose your sources carefully. Just because someone has published a book (let’s face it; anyone can do that nowadays), doesn’t mean they’re an expert. Follow recommendations and trusted sources. Of the thousands of blogs out there, for example, many are valuable, many are confused, and many are just plain wrong. You would do well to start at a place like Writer’s Digest Books. I could also make any number of recommendations, as I do right here at this website (lower right margin of Home page).

Read your genre, of course, but reach beyond that. Stretch your wings and fly through some other genres. Don’t skip the classics. You’ll learn a lot.

There! That wasn’t too preachy, was it? I just wanted to emphasize here that part of being a professional businessperson is keeping your finger on the pulse of your industry, and being an expert in your field. Doctors do it. Lawyers do it. Accountants do it. Well… you’re an Author, so just do it.

The Long Road

The market is undergoing some rather severe adjustments. Frankly, many self-published authors are feeling the terrible squeeze. How do I know? Well, lots of them are blogging and commenting about it, of course, but more than that, several of them have recently inquired about joining Evolved Publishing.

Indeed, we’ve temporarily closed to submissions because we’re growing so fast that we need time to catch up, organizationally. (NOTE: We’ll likely start accepting submissions again in mid-October.) Will all those authors be great fits for us? No, but a few will, and new authors are inquiring with far greater frequency nowadays – most of them the aforementioned previously self-published. Indeed, three of our four most recent author additions fit into that category, and it’s likely that a high percentage of our next several additions will, too.

It’s not surprising, really; after all, we formed Evolved Publishing precisely because we dreaded going down that self-publishing road, fearing where it would lead.

We must all be realistic about the hard work, dedication, and patience required to succeed in this business. Historically, 94% of “published” authors fail and drop out (or resume their day job), and 99.8% of “self-published” authors fail. Even in the face of that, and although it’s impossible to provide guarantees in this business, I remain guardedly optimistic. The marketplace is trying to sort itself out right now, suffering the shock of that tsunami of new authors and books. Over the next year or two, it will find its equilibrium, and authors who’ve developed a strong reputation for quality work, and built their catalog, will be poised to prosper where others fail.

More self-publishers will be dying off over the next couple years, as they fail to make any money, and decide that being a Vanity Publisher isn’t worth the time, energy, money, or heartbreak. I say that not with glee, for I wish sad tidings for no one. I say it merely to indicate what’s happening in the marketplace.

The technological bubble that is the eBook Revolution is about to burst, because, like all economic bubbles before it, it grew too fast, too big, too out of control, and with no regard for natural market forces. It’s already starting. That’s not to say there won’t continue to be excellent opportunities for those who survive. Indeed, I think there will be fantastic opportunities.

First, however, the market must shake off the rapid excesses that have formed. Then consumers will do what they’ve always done: they’ll find the true values, “value” being a variable ratio of quality-to-price (Value = Quality:Price).

Want to survive and prosper on this long road? Then give book buyers the value they demand for their hard-earned entertainment dollars.

We at Evolved Publishing happen to believe that a well-coordinated team is likely to give us a better chance at success than trying to go it on our own. However, even if you choose to be that bold, daring entrepreneur blazing your own trail, just keep your eye on the prize, and remember that you must be the one thing too many in this business fail to be: professional. Then… write! And write some more. And never, NEVER compromise on quality.

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My Take on the Indie Publishing Industry

Today, I put on my hat as Publisher and Executive Editor at Evolved Publishing, and posted a rather lengthy piece on the state of our industry, and how aspiring authors, or emerging authors, or floundering authors, can still make a go of this business. Come on over and take a look.

It’s not all kittens and roses, but it’s an honest assessment.

The Future of Publishing: How to Survive and Prosper as an Indie

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Podcaster Timothy C. Ward Interviews Lane Diamond and D.T. Conklin of Evolved Publishing – Part 2

This is the second in a 2-part interview series by podcaster and aspiring author Timothy C. Ward, who was kind enough to sit down and talk to us about our business, about our authors and books, about why we do what we do.

I think this one is a little more about me as author and editor, and about my novel, Forgive Me, Alex.

We sure appreciate Tim’s taking the time give us this opportunity, and I hope you’ll stop by and enjoy our conversation.

AudioTim 26: Lane Diamond, Author of Forgive Me, Alex

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Podcaster Timothy C. Ward Interviews Lane Diamond and D.T. Conklin of Evolved Publishing

Podcaster and aspiring author Timothy C. Ward was kind enough to sit down and talk to us about our business, about our authors and books, about why we do what we do.

We sure appreciate Tim’s taking the time give us this opportunity, and I hope you’ll stop by and enjoy our conversation.

AudioTim 24: Lane Diamond and D.T. Conklin of Evolved Publishing

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Another of Lane Diamond’s editing projects is about to be available as an eBook – “Bella World” by Kimberly Kinrade.

The only thing better than releasing one of my own books, is releasing a book I’ve edited. Well, the next one is coming up fast: Bella World, book #2 in the Three Lost Kids trilogy by Kimberly Kinrade.

This is a children’s chapter book series, which includes some terrific and fun color illustrations by artist Josh Evans (Josh also did my cover for Forgive Me, Alex). If you’re a parent of a 4- to 9-year old, you might want to check out book #1 in the trilogy, Lexie World, currently available at Amazon.

Watch for the release of Bella World on Tuesday. Book #3 in the series, Maddie World, will be coming within a few weeks.

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Dear Readers, Have you posted your reviews online?

One of the tools that authors have always relied on, indeed that many have lived or died on (metaphorically speaking), is the priceless Reader Review.

In this new eBook environment we live in, this is easier than ever, and arguably more important than ever. Let’s face it, when you go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords or BookieJar, what’s one of the key indicators to help you decide if a book is worth your hard-earned entertainment dollar?

Yes, you can sample the book online, reading the first several pages, or even chapters, of the book. I always do this now. Indeed, I wouldn’t think of buying a book from an unknown author without doing so. The next thing I look at are the reviews. If there are only a couple of them, I assume—fairly or not—that those are from the author’s brother, or girlfriend, or husband, or favored pet. If there are several of them, I read them and get a better sense of whether I want to try the book.

And so, if you purchase (or pick up free) an indie author’s eBook, and you don’t leave a review, you’re making it harder for that author to succeed. Why should you care? Well, Dear Reader, if you like the author’s work, but that author fails and decides to just stick with the day job, you’ll lose a source of pleasant entertainment.

Sooooo…… As an example, to date I’ve given away 87 copies of my short story, Paradox, at Smashwords. Yuppers! It is Free Free Free Free Free. 87 times, it’s been free. I’ve even seen some nice reviews on blogs, Facebook, Twitter. Guess what I haven’t seen? Not a single review has been posted at Smashwords. If I had a big ‘ol frowney face, I’d insert it here.

Now, in order to post a review at Smashwords, you have to purchase (download) the book there. However, you can post reviews at Amazon, in all likelihood, without a direct purchase. Ditto at BookieJar. Ditto at Goodreads. All you need at those locations is an account, which is free and without obligation.

Thus, if you’d like to help out this poor starving author, or any other, please take a moment to post ratings and/or reviews. In my case, you can do so at:

For Paradox: Goodreads ; Amazon ; Barnes and Noble ; Smashwords ; BookieJar.

For Forgive Me, Alex: Goodreads ; Amazon ; Barnes and Noble ; Smashwords ; BookieJar.

For Evolution: Vol. 1: Goodreads ; Amazon ; Barnes and Noble ; Smashwords ; BookieJar.

For Devane’s Reality: Goodreads ; Amazon ; Barnes and Noble ; Smashwords ; BookieJar.

For Wind Tunnel: Goodreads ; Amazon ; Barnes and Noble ; Smashwords ; BookieJar.

So rate and review to your heart’s desire, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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Today I posted at the Evolved Publishing blog: For Aspiring Authors.

Stop on over and say, “Hi.”

Evolved Publishing Blog

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