Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Adventures in Self publishing

Three years ago I self published my first book Visual Parables. On the anniversary of its release, I thought I might share a little of what I have learned for the sake of those considering trying this for themselves. There is no denying that the publishing industry has changed drastically over the past few decades. Changes in technology as well as society as a whole have brought book sales to an all time low. With bookstores across the nation closing their doors left and right, publishers are unwilling to take risks in favor of sure things. Which is one of the first challenges I faced in seeking publishers for an atypical type of work. One in particular told me "We like it, but we just don't know how to sell it." Which is what ultimately lead me to try self-publishing.

With technologies like print on demand and e-books, self-publishing is easier than ever. So easy that it wouldn't surprise me a bit if there were more self published books made available each year than industry published works. Which makes competition fiercer than ever.

When you get down to it, publishing a book is one thing, selling it is another. Which is one of the first things you should consider very carefully before seeking publication of any type for yourself. Do you have the skill set to sell it to the public? Let me put it this way. It takes an introvert to write the next great American novel, but it takes an extrovert to sell it, and most publishers expect you to be both. I say this because many publishing companies, especially the smaller ones are run by a bunch of book loving introverts, so they expect you to sell and promote your book yourself, mostly because they don't have the know how to do that themselves. While the really big companies do have separate staffs to assist you in that, but unless you have already made a name for yourself and come with a built in audience, they probably won't even give you the time of day. So my advice to you on that is, if you are an aspiring nonfiction writer, focus on your message, and making a name for yourself first. People often think that they can do that by writing a book, but in reality you probably won't even get a serious publishing deal until you are already in the public eye.

It's also been said of Christian publishing that if you don't promise something on the cover, nobody is going to buy it.  I discovered this is very true the hard way. It’s such a sad commentary on the state of the current church. Believers buy books to seek a specific answer, or to fulfill a certain need. They want easy answers just handed to them in a cut and dry fashion. Many won't buy a book that challenges them to be better people, because they find life challenging enough as it is. Little do they know that if they seriously sought to be a better disciple, they would find the growth that they need across the board, not just the short lived quick fixes that we perceive that we need in given moments.

If you are a fiction writer, I would suggest that you promote yourself by giving one of your books away. E-books make it rather easy to do that via services like book bub. People will be more willing to try an unknown author if they don't have to invest anything in it. If you are any good at all, they will be back for more. I can honestly say some of the more enjoyable series' I have come across lately were by independent writers who had given their first book in the series away for nothing, and they hooked me well enough that I did come back and pay full price for the rest of the series. A series I may have never even heard of, if it weren't being given away for free. Not that many are becoming millionaires that way, but their story is being told.

If after reading all this you still want to utilize a self publisher, keep this in mind. These services are typically designed to make sure they make a profit, even if you don't. So be smart about your investment. Books don't sell themselves after all.

With my tax person informing me that after 3 years of financial loss, the IRS will not likely be accepting my deductions any longer. So come September when my distribution renewal comes due. I have a choice to make. Do I keep going as I have, or do I take what I have learned and adjust my sails to the shifting winds. (John 3:8) Let me put it this way, if you have any interest in my book at all, I would order it right now while you still can.

With that being said, let me assure you that Visual Parables will go on in some fashion, however, the book may no longer be a component of it. My ultimate mission remains the same; it is only my strategy that has changed. Sometimes you got to take a step back and take a long hard look at things as they are. Consider why they are that way, and address what you find. Only then can you find yourself in a position to inspire people to seek to be where they need to be.

The Visual PARABLEist

A related article I found after this was first posted. Ten Awful Truths of Publishing (3-26-17)

click to enlarge

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Wanting to fail

You probably read the headline and said to yourself, what an absurd idea; who would want to fail? Don't be so certain. When it comes to succeeding spiritually that often means taking on more responsibility, getting involved, letting go of emotional security blankets, stepping outside our place of comfort, being honest with ourselves, facing the past, and dealing with mental scars. Now do you see how we might want to fail. One of these things may lie at the heart of why we keep making the same mistakes.  Consider this the next time you are confessing, repenting, or seeking forgiveness. Until we address the reasons we may want to fail, we will likely never succeed.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ -Matthew 25:23

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” -Exodus 4:10

The Visual PARABLEist

Man hiding from the world in his ivory tower because he is avoidace oriented, not goal oriented.
click to enlarge

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The two sides of Christianity

Some would argue that Christianity is man made. However, I contend that it is not the kind of religion that humanity would ever create for itself, at least as it should be practiced. How it is sometimes practiced is a different story. That is where the drawing comes in.

Jesus correcting two different kinds of believers
click to enlarge

You might have noticed I always portray Jesus with a two colored robe. The red side represents the love and forgiveness side of Christianity. The white represents the holiness and discipline side of it. Sometimes people will twist Christianity to our liking by forsaking the side of it that they don't find favorable, or too hard to live up to.

If we make it all about discipline and no love, it becomes heartless legalism, which leads to criticism, judgement, contempt, and condemnation. People would create this kind of belief since they are so fond of complaining, finding fault, and exalting their own sense of superiority. Not to mention it's a cut and dry, easy to understand, cause and effect theology. While righteousness is the goal, we cannot forget that holiness is not simply a list of rules to follow, because God says so, and if you don't you're in trouble. It is meant to be an expression of love towards God (John 14:23) as well as a reflection of God's very character. (Ephesians 4:24) By following it, our knowledge of him can turn into understanding of him, if we do so in more than a merely obligatory way. When legalists try to promote righteousness via impatience, unkindness, rudeness, or any other unloving behavior, our understanding and emulation of him is way off. Not to mention our righteousness is completely missing the mark since critical Christians are in fact, sinful Christians.

Make it all about forgiveness and no discipline, it becomes self-indulgent and permissive. Which leads us to rationalizing our bad self-destructive behavior. Which people would naturally gravitate towards and would want to follow, since humanity has never been at a loss for making excuses to avoid change. If we embrace that clean slate that God freely gives us, yet make no attempt to build a holy and meaningful life with our new and forgiven status; obviously we do not understand God's role of father in our lives. Such people are diluting themselves by claiming all the privileges as heir to the kingdom, but none of the responsibility of it.

This is why Jesus is saying to them "You are both half right, yet you are both completely wrong." While mankind would create half of true Christian doctrine, humanity would never unite these concepts together, and leave us absolutely no room to indulge our sinful nature in some fashion. That is what makes it unique, and impossible to live up to without supernatural assistance that only God can provide. Which he will do if we worship more than just half a God.

Let me leave you with one last thought; most people tend to judge a belief system by the people who claim to follow it. The problem with that is, no matter how good a belief may be, people are still people, imperfect and prone to error. I've just pointed out two ways how Christians make errors with their faith. The worst part is, many have no idea just how shallow their pursuit of their beliefs really are by forsaking half of it.

The Visual PARABLEist