Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Flying In the Face of Common Knowledge

Normal for Me and Kris…

Over the years, Kris and I have seemed to constantly talk about things that are not believed in the common knowledge of publishing. And after forty years in the business, still selling and making more than a living by a long ways, Kris and I still continue to do that.

Why? Because we believe in common sense and information, not common knowledge.

Interesting that a number of examples came up over this last week.

At Superstars, on the Craft Day, I taught three hours of Writing into the Dark. Now understand, I taught that you don’t need an outline, you don’t even need an idea. That you write clean copy, not sloppy, and that when you are done, you are done. No rewriting.

Wow, four things right there that fly right smack into the face of common publishing knowledge. (And if you like the idea of not needing to waste your time outlining or rewriting, there is a Writing into the Dark online workshop every two months you can jump into to learn how.)

Another example: On Kris’s blog this week she talks about how Kris and I have kept our personal business information to ourselves when every indie writer around us was sharing theirs. We had our reasons and now that Data Guy has done his scam on all of us, we seemed a lot more right than all the writers yelling at us thought. Read Kris’s blog.

Another example is the Kickstarter we fired up yesterday to help remodel and add rooms to our brick and mortar bookstore. Here is how the reaction we have gotten to us owning a bookstore.

Shock! Gasp!  I thought paper books were dying! That’s common knowledge, right?

Uh, no. Just bookstores that don’t know how to operate in the modern world are dying. New, innovative bookstores are springing up all over the world right now, run by people who understand this new world and who love books and story of all types.

We sell books not only locally, but all over the world. And we are expanding to make room in our store for indie paperback books. And we are setting up a submissions system online that if it works we will share with other bookstores so they can get indie author paper books in as well.

Thus the Kickstarter I announced in the previous post.

One thing most writers don’t understand is that almost all successful indie stores (those outside the big mall chain stores) are both new and used. New books shelved with used books. The two biggest in the country, Tattered Cover and Powells’ Bookstore are examples.

Think of your own indie publishing company. You put out a new book and it goes out there with the older books you have already published. And when a reader finds an older book, IT IS NEW TO THEM.

That’s part of the new world. Books no longer spoil and go bad. Readers want books. Period. And that same idea is now working for indie bookstores, helping readers find new authors.

Indie writers are another major part of this new world. And indie authors/publishers must never shut down a way to get their stories to readers. That’s just bad business.

And selling worldwide is another major part. We sell our paper books through ABE, eBay, and Amazon (not through a distributor, which we do as well, but through Amazon third party sales network. Most writers don’t even understand that is there.)

We are also slowly ramping up sales through not only a WMG Publishing bookstore, but North by Northwest Books will have its own online bookstore shortly as well.

So we own a bookstore. Two writers with a publishing company that has nine employees owns a bookstore as well. Right smack into the face of common knowledge.

Where Is This All Going?

I believe the future of all writers must have three parts. The writer must first be a writer. Second, they must be a publisher. Third, they must be a bookstore. (Not brick and mortar, but an online bookstore.)

The future of writers is going to be direct sale to readers at all levels. Direct control of the product we produce and how readers obtain it.

The old world, the trade channels were clear to understand.

— Writers sold to Publishers.

— Publishers sold to Bookstores.

— Bookstores Sold to Readers.

That was the way it was done. Period. You never argued with that common knowledge. At least until the last ten years.

The new world is not so simple, but yet it is.

— Writers are publishers.

— Sometimes the writer/publisher sells to bookstores, sometimes direct to readers.

So when you think you know it all because something is common knowledge, you might want to take a step back and really look around. The future common way of doing things might just be hiding in amongst all the innovative people.

You know, the ones flying into the face of common knowledge.

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  • Kate Pavelle

    Hi Dean! We are now selling my husband’s old comics on eBay, and I want to bring my books into the mix. Do you think I could have the physical books sent direct from CS to the buyer even though it’s through Amazon or eBay? I still have a pile of books at home, but doing any volume would be kind of hard out of the house. (Because this is not the only business we run out of the house, sigh.) Thank you! And, good sailing!

    • dwsmith


      We ship direct often from CreateSpace. Never been an issue so far. However, we also sell signed books as well and those we, of course, have to bring in and sign. We do it both ways.

      • J.M. Ney-Grimm

        Yes, now I’m wondering if I should look into becoming a third party seller on Amazon, so that I can sell my paperbacks that way (as well as through the usual CreateSpace distribution channels). The idea of being a bookstore owner myself (an online bookstore) intrigues me! I must think about this.

  • Vera Soroka

    Nice post. Yes I think that the future is going to belong to freelancers. And selling off your own website will become more. I plan on dong it. Some indies do it now. I bought art supplies through third party on Amazon. Never again. The experience was most unpleasant.

  • Mary

    You know, Dean, I usually assume that you and Kris know what you’re talking about. But when someone else who I also think knows what she’s talking about (in this case, Marie Force) agrees with you, then I know that you must all be right. Marie has started selling her books direct from her website, and she’s said it’s been really successful once they got over a few little technical bumps. So the rest of us need to take note, even if we’re not quite there yet.

    • Jason M

      The last few years, I’ve held off on selling direct from my website because a funny feeling told me that it was gonna get a LOT easier in the future. That future is almost here: its name is blockchain. It’s the same technology that underlies cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

      I never thought that making-friends-on-Facebook or endless Tweeting about #freebiefriday was an efficient use of one’s marketing energy, even when it used to slightly work. The real big advances in book sales are always structural — like the Kindle, or Bookbub– and this advance will be yet another big one. I think this is where indies will be able to make up some financial ground.

      This is still probably another year or two away, but we indies should dive in headfirst as soon as the infrastructure is there to support this.


  • Kessie

    This is why I’ve been quietly following your blog and reading both you guys religiously. You’re soooooo far ahead of all the newbie indies, doing things we’ve never even thought of. Someday I want to meet you and shake your hand.

    Re: the Writing without rewriting, I used to do that with my fanfics. I would sometimes make a list of plot points for super detailed stories, so I wouldn’t forget something important, then I would write. I’d read it through and make note of things I’d forgotten to add in, basic housekeeping, that kind of thing. Then online it would go and I’d move to the next story. But when I started writing for publication, I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote until all the life had been successfully removed from the story. My published works are far inferior to my fanfics, and I’ve scratched my head for years, wondering why. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, here.

    • dwsmith

      Kessie, I did the same thing for what I call my lost seven years. I rewrote everything to death, sold nothing, managed only two short stories a year. When I went to Heinlein’s Rules and stopped rewriting and just mailed stuff, I started selling instantly. The key is to keep the writing fun.

  • Philip

    Indies who share their (alleged) earnings and sales are just trying to sell get-rich-quick snake oil. That’s it. These are people who don’t care about the art OR business of writing and publishing. I won’t name names, but unlike you and Kris, they never focus on craft. It’s ALWAYS “beats” and “writing to market” and “buy my super secret recipe to earn a zillion dollars in Kindle Unlimited.” These people never were real writers and they never will be. They could just as easily have been selling some other internet 2.0 snake oil.

  • Gordon Horne

    With all the recent talk about keeping things private, which I respect, I would like to say I appreciate all the things you and Kris do share that make the industry stronger. Thank you both.