Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Every year between 2006 and 2015, J. A. Konrath has written a blog listing his New Year’s Resolutions. He tried to teach his readers to become good writers. In 2006 there was no Amazon, no Kindles, no easy self-publishing.

Here’s Joe’s list of Resolutions for 2006:

I will start and finish my book.
I will always have three stories submitted and be working on a fourth.
I will attend at least one writer’s conference and introduce myself to agents, editors and writers.
I will join a critique group or start one.
I will listen to criticism.
I will create and update my website.
I will master the Query process and search for an agent.
I will keep up my Blog and social connections.
I will schedule bookstore signings and greet customers while there.
I will contact local libraries and offer to do book signings.
I will make selling my books my responsibility, not my publisher’s.
I will spend a large part of my advance on self-promotion.
I will help out other writers.
I will not get jealous or envious.
I will be amiable, accessible and enthusiastic.

Do we all know Joe Konrath used those sentences to become a best-selling author? We should because he did.

However, times changed, and Jeff Bezos developed Amazon. He invented the Kindle and turned every newbie writer into a self-published one. By 2010, Joe Konrath no longer needed an agent, or even a publisher. He was making his living as a writer. His list of resolutions was:

I will self-publish. Last year I earned $1650 in December. This year it’ll be $22,000.
This majority is on Kindle, but I’m also doing print with CreateSpace.
The Gatekeepers - agents who submit books - are no longer necessary.

I’m not saying to give up traditional publishing, but there’s no down-side to self-publishing. At the worst, you’ll make a few bucks. At the best, you’ll make a fortune with agents and editors fighting over you.

Do not take any deal that’s less than you’d make in 6 years. If you sell 1000 books per month, then $144,000 is the advance you need.

I have seven novels, each earning $24K per year. In 6 years I’ll have made a million dollars on them.

I don’t expect them to remain the same. They’ll go up.

In 2016, Konrath’s list of Resolutions is one line:
This year, I’m boiling them down to one word: WRITE!

It’s easy to get caught up in different aspects of a writing career. I’ve helped other writers; I started my own company. I evangelized, blogged, collaborated, experimented, promoted. However, first and foremost, I’m a writer. And writers write! I’ve spent a lot of time on my career, and backstory needs that. But now it’s time for me to plant more seeds.

2016 is going to be my most productive year ever. Come and join me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


“It’s a wonder English ever caught on,” said John McWhorter, “because it’s weirder than just about every other tongue.” English speakers know their language is odd. So do nonspeakers saddled with learning it. In countries where English is not spoken, there are no spelling bees. For a normal language, spelling corresponds to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.

Anglophones are not exactly rabid to learn other languages. We’re left like the proverbial fish not knowing it’s wet. Our language feels normal, until you learn what normal really is.

We think it’s a nuisance that other European languages assign gender to nouns for no reason. But it’s we who are odd. Almost all European languages belong to one family–Indo-European–and all of them, except English, assign genders. There is exactly one language whose present tense requires a special ending only in the third-person singular. Why is English so eccentric? What made it this way?

English started out, essentially, a form of German. Old English is so unlike the modern version that it’s a stretch to think of them as the same language. Icelanders can still read stories written in the Old Norse ancestor of their language 1000 years ago, and yet, to an English-speaker’s eye, Beowulf might as well be in Turkish.

When the Angles and Saxons brought Germanic speech to England, the island was already inhabited by people who spoke Celtic languages, today represented by Welsh and Irish. The Celts were subjugated but survived, and since there were only about 250,000 Germanic invaders, very quickly most of the people speaking Old English were Celts.

The next thing that happened was that more German-speakers came across the sea. England was a tiny country and probably looked easy to dominate. That was the 9th century, and they didn’t impose their language. Instead they married local women and switched to English. They were adults and adults don’t learn new languages easily. There was no such thing as school and no media. Learning a new language meant listening hard and doing your best.

Then the Scandinavians arrived and spoke bad Old English. Young people learned what they could, but soon bad Old English became real English, and here we are today. The Norse made English easier. Old English had the crazy genders of a good European language, but the Scandinavians didn’t bother with those, so now we have none. What’s more, the Vikings mastered only the shred of a once-lovely system. They smoothed out the hard stuff. We can display all these bizarre Norse influences in a single sentence, but it’s what they did to English in those days.

Finally, as if all that weren’t enough, English got hit by a fire-hose spray of words from more languages. After the Norse, came the French. They conquered the English and ruled for several centuries, and before long English had picked up 10,000 new words. Then, in about the 16th century, educated Anglophobes developed English as a vehicle for sophisticated writing. They even cherry-picked some Latin words to lend a more elevated tone. English-speaking workers slaughtered animals to serve to the moneyed French speakers at the table.

Thus, English is indeed an odd language and the spelling is only the beginning. Then it becomes peculiar due to the slings and arrows–and caprices–of outrageous history. Now, don’t you wish you hadn’t wondered why English isn’t normal?

Thursday, December 17, 2015



Darn! I worte my blog post a week ago and then discovered Anne R. Allen wrote one on the same topic for her new blog. I’ve been a follower of hers for several years, so I recommend you-all read hers.

Meanwhile here’s mine. To identify scams related to newbies (beginning writers) check out the following tips.

1. LOTS OF PROMISES. Scam artists try to lure in beginning writers by promising that, if they sign up with their ideas and follow their rules, the writer will get lots of interest, which - according to them - will lead to requests for manuscripts and sales to the Big-5 publishers.

2. BELIEF THAT THEIR IDEAS will lead the new writer/author will find editors and publishers who are looking for just what original stories you write. But, if you check carefully, you’ll soon see that their writers/authors have very few actually-published books available for the newbie to read. Nor are they very good.

3. STUDIES THAT SHOW THEIR PRICES are much lower than what other such services charge for the same service they’re offering you. These claims can be checked out, which you should certainly do. The truth is that all services are vastly over-charging for what they promise to do for you. Don’t be fooled.

4. PRETENDING TO BE A VANITY PUBLISHER. I thought this one died a long time ago, but, no, it’s still showing up. Real publishers, and also agents, don’t need customers to tell them how good they are, or have been. Their real customers do that.

So, don’t get caught in the sticky palms of fake vanity or other kinds of publishers. It won’t be funny.

Have a very Happy Christmas season, and I will be back by then.