JANUARY 13TH, SATURDAY, in Nice. 2018.

Patience is not my strong suit. I have spent most of my life trying to conquer my need for instant gratification. Do it now; figure out how to deal with the consequences later. Another way to say that is, stick my hand into the fire; then figure out if it is hot. Or, out of the frying pan, into the fire. Haha. Right now, I must have the patience to tell you about my Saturday morning. It has been a fun one.

I woke up this morning, raring to go for a walk. Some days, I have more energy than others. Today, I felt great! Time to get outside. What was the temperature? (I am trying to memorize the local units of measurement – Celsius, Kilometers, Kilograms, etc.). My weather map said 4 degrees. Cold. Very cold. So, I put on my warmest tights, a turtleneck, my down jacket, scarf, gloves, headphones, my phone, a stocking cap, and took off.  My mission was to take photographs. I am constantly trying to find interesting shots. (I miss my Encino roses). Something must motivate me to take its picture other than a rose.  The Sea works. Close ups, long shots.

I walked out of the front door and turned right. Right away, I saw a local baker’s croissants – fresh-baked – in an open-air window. That would be a good shot. Too cold. The baker was standing in the front door, having a cigarette. The butcher across the street was coming to ask her a question. Neither had on jackets. Damn! Didn’t they know it was freezing outside? Good shot, though. Nope! Too cold.

I kept walking, knowing I had underestimated how COLD 4 degrees was. What else could I have put on to be warmer? Nothing. I had to relax – to keep moving – briskly. Ugh. Had to be careful. Couldn’t push the knee. Where was the sun? Still coming up? The Port. Get to the Port. There, maybe I could find a coffee – somewhere, maybe. Explanation, buildings in my neighborhood block the rising sun. Cafes don’t open until 8:00 am, 9:00 am, 10:00 am on Saturday.  If it is too early, there is no sun, and cafes are closed. The French operate on their own schedules, especially on weekends and holidays. I call it “French Time”.  Welcome to France. 

Once I hit Garibaldi Square, I had sun. Blinding sun, coming up over the Sea. YES! I looked around for an open cafe. Nothing. I kept walking. Never mind. Stay warm, take pictures. Try close-ups. Interesting close-ups.

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Uhhh, maybe not.

By the time I got to the French Resistance Memorial, I was warm enough to take off my gloves to get a picture. Gorgeous shot! Even includes my shadow – making it more interesting.  

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After that, I went to my favorite spot, overlooking the Sea and facing the rising Sun. I faced the Sun, said my meditation prayers, filled my body with healing yellow, and took off. Selfie by the Sea – 

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people walking dogs,

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local police on a break,

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“#I Love Nice” sign backwards, haha,

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Rocks and waves, a fisherman, the Coastline – taking photos.

 

I crossed the Boulevard d’anglaise and cut-through to the Flower Market. That is where I saw open cafes and vendors. Nobody looked cold. Au contraire. Bustling activity, giving the Market energy. Shoppers with carts, buying fresh fruits and vegetables. Plus, tourists. Always tourists. Get close-ups, Jay!

I had to get clever with my camera. I have learned to wait until a vendor is busy with a customer – then, shoot. Most vendors don’t want people taking pictures, especially close-ups. ????  Not sure why. One painter had a sign, “no photos, merci”. OK.  No problem. 

 

I passed on to the flowers,

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OK. Job done. On to Lou Pastrouil for breakfast! YES! Time to thaw out. Interesting to note, most people have coffee and reading the Nice-Matin newspaper are sitting outside by open air burners. Not me. I was too cold. I wanted inside. Plus, my favorite table was open. Life was good. 

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Back through Place Massena, wondering when the Ferris wheel and the silver Christmas tree will come down.

 

Into Galleries Lafayette to “look” since the January sales are in full swing. Interested in finding a black crew neck sweater. I managed to find the perfect cashmere black sweater – one of the ONLY items in the entire store NOT on sale. Ugh. Can’t buy that. Too expensive. But, I did find one I liked OK downstairs in the Designer section – on sale and a “The Kooples”.  Not familiar with that designer, but I liked the sweater and it was on sale. 40% off.

Then, time for the “lighting ceremony”. It was time to light my January 2018 immediate family candles at Basilique Notre-Dame de l’Assomption.  Besides, my son Craig is racing, today. 

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A special candle for Craig’s safety.

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A final stop at Le Comptoir Irlandais for that light blue wool sweater from Ireland that I have had my eye on. NOT on sale (darn), and an Irish fruit cake, for good luck. Fun!

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On to home. I had been gone for four hours and walked 9707 steps, or 6,3 kilometers. The goal is 10,000 steps. I almost made it. I used 262 calories, but I ate more than that back with the two pieces of Irish Fruit Cake that I had for lunch. It was 12 degrees. Warming up! Sort of…..  I spent too much money. Oh, well, I will worry about that tomorrow. (Thank you, Scarlett!)  And, there you have it – Saturday, In Nice!! January 13, 2018. 

 

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A Gentle Reminder

“This life will go by fast.
– Don’t fight with people, don’t criticize your body so much, don’t complain so much. 
– Don’t lose sleep over your bills. Look for the person that makes you happy. If you make a mistake, let it go and keep seeking your happiness.
– Never stop being a good parent. Don’t worry so much about buying luxuries and comforts for your home, and don’t kill yourself trying to leave an inheritance for your family. Those benefits should be earned by each person, so don’t dedicate yourself to accumulating money.
– Enjoy, travel, enjoy your journeys, see new places, give yourself the pleasures you deserve. Allow dogs to get closer. Don’t put away the fine glassware. Utilize the new dinnerware; don’t save your favorite perfume, use it to go out with yourself; wear out your favorite sport shoes; repeat your favorite clothes.
– So what? That’s not bad. Why not now? Why not pray now instead of waiting until before you sleep? Why not call now? Why not forgive now? We wait so long for Christmas; for Friday; for Reunions; for another year; for when I have money; for love to come; when everything is perfect…look…
– Everything perfect doesn’t exist. Human beings can’t accomplish this because it simply was not intended to be completed here. Here is an opportunity to learn.
– So take this challenge that is life and do it now…love more, forgive more, embrace more, love more intensely and leave the rest in God’s hands.”  – from Pope Francis

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Food for thought…..   A client of mine, Len Indianer, sent me these interesting predictions in an email, yesterday.  It was an email sent to several people.  I am passing it along.  More about Len Indianer in a minute.

“INTERESTING PREDICTIONS….  In a recent interview, the Head of Daimler Benz (Mercedes Benz) said their competitors are no longer other car companies, but Tesla (obviously), and now, Google, Apple, Amazon ‘et al’ are……  

Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.  Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world.  Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.

Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Goplayer in the world, 10 years earlier than expected.

In the U.S., young lawyers already can’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans.  So, if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% less lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain.

Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, 4 times more accurate than human nurses. Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

Autonomous cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and you can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car.

It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% less cars for that. We can transform former parking spaces into parks.

1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 60,000 miles (100,000 km), with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 6 million miles (10 million km). That will save a million lives each year.

Most car companies will probably go bankrupt. Traditional car companies will try the traditional approach and try to build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will take the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels.  Many engineers from Volkswagen and Audi are completely terrified of Tesla….  

Auto Insurance companies will have massive trouble because without accidents, car insurance will become much cheaper. Their car insurance business model will slowly disappear.

Real estate will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighborhood.

Electric cars will become mainstream about 2020. Cities will be less noisy because all new cars will run on electricity. Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean: Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, and now you can now see the burgeoning impact.

 Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. Energy companies are desperately trying to limit access to the grid to prevent competition from home solar installations, but that can’t last. Technology will take care of that strategy.

Health innovations: The Tricorder-X price will be announced this year. There are companies who will build a medical device (called the”Tricorder” from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample, and you can breathe into it.   Are you ready for all this?”

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MORE about Len Indianer and his work….    Len Indianer is a retired optometric physician. He grew up in Miami Beach, Florida and attended the University of Alabama and Southern College of Optometry. He served as an Air Force Bio-Medical Services Officer for three years, before opening his practice in Daytona Beach, Florida. A long time lecturer on eye-related subjects, he has also lectured on International Terrorism over the years. He has written two plays and several novels.  He and I worked together to get one of his novels, A Bridge to Elne, before the film community. It is a novel of a French family’s struggle against the Nazi Occupation.  I am pitching this book because I believe it is a film that needs to be made.  More relevant today than ever.  It has yet to be purchased. 

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Here is the book’s description as outlined by Indianer on the cover:

“A BRIDGE TO ELNE is based on a true story of a courageous family who endured the German occupation of France during WWII.  Marcel Pointer is a successful dentist in Marseille until Nazi brutality leads him to join the Maquis, the militant branch of the French Resistance. He conducts several successful raids against the Vichy and the Germans, and is arrested by the Gestapo. After beating and interrogating him without obtaining evidence of his guilt, they finally release him. Aware of the increased danger, he decides to move his wife Angelina and their four children to Elne, a small village at the foot of the Pyrenees near the Mediterranean Sea. He returns to fight, leaving them with Paul and Elizabeth Courty, Angelina’s parents, and her sister Paulette. 

In November 1942, the Germans move their troops into the southern, unoccupied zone of France. Captain Johann Weller is sent to Elne with his German engineering battalion to build fortifications along the Mediterranean coast. Each family in the village is ordered to house a German officer. Johann is assigned to the Courty home. At first, there is much tension, but with time, Johann earns a degree of respect from the Courty’s and Pontier’s. He is not the evil monster they has expected. That doesn’t alter the fact that by participating in the occupation, he is helping to further the Nazi cause with all its evil. Paulette comes to know him well, and over time, they develop a close relationship. Only the taboos created by the war and occupation keep her from responding to his overtures. Paulette works for the mayor of Elne, where the Germans now make their headquarters. Speaking fluent German, she makes good use of her office next to the commandant’s to access their conversations and plans, and is able to help the Resistance by funneling this information to Marcel. This is complicated by Johann’s interest in her, and she is unsure how much he can be trusted. When the German commandant begins to suspect she’s a spy, the entire family faces the prospect of execution. What happens next is something no one would have anticipated.”

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Best,  Jay

 

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HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!!

LET’S DO IT! HERE’S TO 2018!!

 

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“SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS…..”

“So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Lets hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The road is so long
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over
If you want it
War is over
Now”

By John Lennon

 

 

“THE WISDOM CAFE”

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The Wisdom Café is a made-up name for a group of women – all ages, all nationalities – who meet twice a month at a restaurant, Les Pierres Rouges, in Valbonne, France.  Wise-wannabe’s attempting to solve life’s problems. (Haha. We wish.)

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It is fun!  Twenty or thirty women from the South of France talk, laugh, eat, and listen to some sort of program – usually a talk by Sara Randall, the “organizer”.

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I have been going since October. Sara invited me at the American Club‘s July 4th event at Castelplage.  My assigned seat was between her and her husband Roger.

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Sara’s great! She is from Houston, Texas, with a great personality. I don’t know how she got all of these interesting women together, but she did – with the help of Cynthia “Cy” Todd.  Cy is the organizer’s dream-come-true.  She also is a singer, singing at different venues all over the South of France.  Sara lives in Valbonne; Cy lives in Nice. Together, they get women to come to the luncheon from all over the South of France. I am still learning names, faces, and countries. Only three or four are expats from the U.S.

Last Thursday, December 14th, was The Wisdom Cafe’s annual “Christmas Luncheon”.

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My new friend from Los Angeles – Joyce Marshall – and I drove to Valbonne for the party. This is Joyce.

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Everyone had an assignment – bring a dessert from your home country. Yum! I took an apricot tart, saying we have “tarts” in the U.S.  OK, so they are French.  I should have made an apple pie or Mother’s boiled custard. A lemon-cheese cake or a caramel cake would have worked.

I sat between Betty (from the Netherlands, living outside of Antibes) and Val (Valerie, from the U.K., living in Cannes, spending years in Australia, traveling around the Mediterranean for three years with her husband and son on a boat).

Also, at my table at the other end was an actress who studied with Lee Strasberg. I did, too. Her professional name is Anita Strindberg. I don’t know what country she is from, but I will find out.  She now lives in Valbonne.  See what I mean? This is Anita.

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In the photos, I have tried to capture the fun of the event.  Usually, I am not one for luncheons with a bunch of women. This one is different. Probably because most of us are expats from somewhere in this crazy-mixed-up world.  Fate has brought us together at this point in time in a small restaurant, run by Annie and her husband (I think), in the South of France.  Here we are, laughing and having fun with each other for a couple of hours, twice a month.  It’s a special moment in time, now recorded on JAYSPEAK.  Enjoy.

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Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur

European Opera Houses have always had a special place in my heart!  Handsome men with top hats and tuxedos. Women in long gowns, wearing furs, jewels, and long gloves. Arriving in carriages.  OK, I saw lots of movies and read Dickens.  That said, I was one of the first to sign up for the American Club of the Riviera’s December Event – GERSHWIN at the OPERA Nice Cote d’Azur, on December 9th.
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On Saturday, December 9th, ACR members-only filled the ‘library’ room at Le Grand Balcon for a delicious “before concert” luncheon.  Member and orchestra conductor Cindy Egolf gave the group an interesting talk about “listening” during lunch. I took it to heart because she questioned whether an instrument is valuable if it remains locked in a vault? Like a Stradivarius violin? Doesn’t an instrument’s value come from the beauty of the sound?  If no one hears it, is it valuable?  One hand clapping?  I thought of my Steinway piano, made by Steinway in 1946, sitting in my living room. Is it valuable?  

After lunch, we all went next door to the 4:00 PM  matinee of the Nice Philharmonic  Orchestra, playing George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, Concerto in F,  Rhapsody in Blue, and An American in Paris, at l’Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur. The conductor, György G. Ráth, is relatively new.  He has been with the Nice Philharmonic since September 2017.  He was excellent.  And, I cannot say enough about the pianist, József Balog.  His touch was magic for me.  The combination of the atmosphere with the beautiful music was healing, inside and out.  As his brother Ira wrote, “Who could ask for anything more”

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On my way home, I used what was left of the battery in my phone to shoot some closing, fun shots of Nice at Night.  Enjoy!

#SmartAuthor “Journal of Janet Tallulah, Volume 2”

“Journal of Janet Tallulah, Volume 2 was published this week. (amazon.com and smashwords.com)  These Journals, Volume 1 and Volume 2, are the realization of my lifelong dream to publish my journals. Both are intensely personal. I think of them in the following way:  Journal 1 is the hatching of a baby chicken – rough around the edges.  Journal 2 is a bright yellow, baby chicken, beginning to experience life.* (*go to end of blog)

This brings me to Mark Coker’s “Indie Author Manifesto”.  I particularly like #9.  

THE INDIE AUTHOR MANIFESTO

By Mark Coker, originally published 2014 at the Smashwords Blog

We indie authors believe all writers are created equal, that all writers are endowed with natural creative potential, and that writers have an unalienable right to exercise, explore, and realize their potential through the freedom of publication.

  1. I hold these truths to be self-evident.
  2. I am an indie author. I have experienced the pleasure and satisfaction that comes from self-publishing.
  3. I have a right to publish.
  4. My creative control is important to me. I decide when, where, and how my writing graduates to become a published book.
  5. Indie does not mean alone. I choose my partners.
  6. I shall not bow beholden or subservient to any publisher. In my business relationships, I will seek partnership, fairness, equity, and mutually aligned interests.
  7. We indie authors comprise diverse writers, unified by a common purpose to advance, empower, and celebrate writers everywhere.
  8. I am a professional. I take pride in my work and I strive to improve my craft to better serve my readers, myself, my fellow indie authors, and the culture of books.
  9. My writing is valuable and important. This value and importance cannot be measured by commercial sales alone.
  10. I celebrate the success of my fellow indie authors, for their success is mine and mine theirs. Together, we are pioneering a better future for books, marked by greater quality, creativity, diversity, choice, availability, affordability, and accessibility.”

Okay, there you have it. Now let’s dissect it.

In the first sentence I wrote, “We indie authors believe all writers are created equal, that all writers are endowed with natural creative potential, and that writers have an unalienable right to exercise, explore, and realize their potential through the freedom of publication,” here I found a lot of inspiration from the preamble of the US Declaration of Independence, which states that all men are created equal and all men deserve the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

My critics said, “What do you mean all authors are created equal and all authors have a right to publish?” Yes, I believe that. Now I don’t believe that all writers are of equal talent, but I do believe that all writers have something valuable to share with the world. Then they should have the right to publish it for the judgment of readers. I believe it’s not anyone’s place to put one writer over another, or to decide what readers can read. Censorship and restraint of publication is almost always a bad thing.

In the spirit of the US Declaration of Independence, if it makes a writer happy to publish, then, gosh, darn it, let them pursue their happiness and publish it.

Now on to the next part, the part the begins with, “I hold these truths to be self-evident.” I used the word “I” and not “we” here because I wanted to allow writers to make the manifesto their personal declaration of publishing independence. Then following that line, “I hold these truths to be self-evident,” I list the 10 points. 

Item number one: “I am an indie author.” I viewed these simple five words as the ultimate affirmation of independence. Considering where the world stood a mere five years earlier, back when self-published authors were subjected to ridicule and shamed, today’s writers are wearing the indie author label as a badge of honor. A new generation of writers view self-publishing as their option of first choice rather than as their option of last resort. 

Now to item number two: “I have experienced the pleasure and satisfaction that comes from self-publishing.” If you’re already self-published, you’ve experienced this. But even if you’re preparing to publish your first book, I’m sure you can relate to it. Number two speaks to the pleasure of creative expression and the opportunity to control your own destiny. It also speaks to the heart of the human experience. 

We are social animals. If you lock a person in solitary confinement long enough, they will die. We humans thrive on social connection and communication. As any writer can attest, there’s a joy in creative expression and there’s no deeper or more intricately complex or capable form of human expression than this amazing magical vehicle we call the book.

Now to item number three: “I have a right to publish.” I touched on this in the preamble of the manifesto, but I thought it deserved its own affirmative statement in the body as well. This was a radical idea when I started Smashwords in 2008, and it was a radical idea when I wrote the manifesto. Even today, it’s not a universally acceptable or accepted idea, this idea that every writer has a right to publish, but you know and I know that you deserve the right and the freedom to publish. 

Now to number four: “My creative control is important to me. I decide when, where, and how my writing graduates to become a published book.” When I talk with indie authors and ask what they love most about self-publishing, creative control is almost always at the top of their list. They can publish their book their way. They control how they write what they write, how they price, how they distribute, how they engage with readers, how they do everything. 

On the flip side of this, if you’re a writer who wants to focus all of your attention on writing and delegate the rest of your publishing business to someone else, then maybe self-publishing isn’t for you. That’s okay, too. Self-publishing is not for everyone.

I love self-publishing, and I think every writer should consider it, but I also want to be completely straight with you and remind you that although publishing is easy, reaching readers will always be difficult. Self-publishing requires a lot of work. The great news is that it’s your choice. You’re in control. You can choose to pursue self-publishing or pursue traditional publishing or you can pursue both. 

For number five, I wanted to get across the idea that independence does not mean all alone. Most indie authors realize it takes a village to professionally produce, package, and market a book. Sure, an indie author can do everything alone if they choose, but the most successful indie authors partner with others to help their book reach its full potential. These partners can be an editor, a book doctor, a professional cover designer, a distributor, a retailer, a publicist, or even a traditional publisher. To a great degree, much of your success will be determined by your skill at selecting the right partners. 

Now to number six: “I shall not bow beholden or subservient to any publisher. In my business relationships, I seek partnership, fairness, equity, and mutually aligned interests. Number six is where I caught flack for coming across as anti-publisher. If “bow beholden and subservient” sounds a little like a master-slave relationship, that’s because that’s what it was. Sure, in the old days, you could publish without a publisher, but if you want to reach readers, you have no choice. You played by the publisher’s rules or you didn’t play at all. 

If you listened to the prior episodes of this podcast or if you’ve read any of my other writings over the last 10 years, you know I’m not anti-publisher. I love publishers. A great publisher is one that can do things for you that you cannot do or don’t want to do for yourself, yet we can appreciate publishers and still call them out for past transgressions and current inadequacies. 

For example, most traditional publishers pay ebook authors only 12% to 17% of the list price, whereas indie ebook authors typically earn 60% to 80% of the list price. It’s completely fair for authors to believe that they deserve greater compensation for their traditionally published ebooks and it’s fair for them to believe that they deserve greater control over how publishers price and promote their books, or that they deserve more equitable rights revision clauses in their contracts if the publisher doesn’t meet certain sales threshold. It’s also fair for the publishers to pushback, to disagree and argue their case for why their terms are fair and equitable given their value add. 

My main point of number six is that authors and publishers can have great relationships and great partnerships, but to achieve this greatness, both the author and the publisher must work together to achieve mutually aligned interests. My biggest criticism of traditional publishing is that due to their business model and absolute domination over print production and distribution they’ve developed long ingrained attitudes that aren’t always as pro-author as they should be. 

Publishers have long practiced a culture of no. Their business model requires them to say no to most authors and to view most writers as unworthy. It’s in their business model that you serve them and they serve themselves. It’s in their business model to judge books based on perceived commercial merit. 

Now you’re the author. How do these long ingrained attitudes and business model limitations make you feel? What author wants to be treated as a powerless lackey by their business partner? The power dynamic isn’t balanced. 

In my view, the key to publishers’ future success is to change their attitude and recognize that publishers are service providers to authors, and not the other way around. The best publishers will treat you like a partner. Although publishers have had the power to say no in the past, today’s authors can say no to publishers. Many authors now turned down publishing contracts in favor of self-publishing. In the show notes, I’ll share a link to an interview I did with New York Times bestselling author Jamie McGuire on this very topic. 

Now to number seven: “We indie authors comprise diverse writers, unified by a common purpose to advance, empower, and celebrate writers everywhere.” For number seven, I wanted to underscore that the indie author movement has brought together a diverse universe of writers, all with different backgrounds and experience levels but united by a shared purpose: to advance and support their fellow community of writers. It’s always heartwarming to witness indie authors giving back to the community and standing by their community. There’s power in unity. 

Now to number eight: “I am a professional. I take pride in my work. I strive to improve my craft to better serve my readers, myself, my fellow indie authors, and the culture of books.” I know number eight resonated with a lot of indie authors because these authors know how much sweat and sacrifice they’ve devoted to pursue this crazy dream of authorship.

In number eight, I wanted to draw an important distinction between amateur and professional. For writers who adopt the Indie Author Manifesto as their own, the mere act of speaking these words out loud, of feeling these words, “I am a professional,” serves as a personal declaration of professionalism. You’re making a commitment to strive for professionalism. 

Many people out there still consider self-published authors as amateurs. Most people don’t believe in you. Anyone can be an indie author amateur. These are the lazy self-published authors who don’t bother to learn best practices or who don’t bother to professionally produce a product that will make their readers proud, or who remain willfully ignorant to the reasons behind their inability to reach readers.

Indie author professionals, by contrast, approach self-publishing with pride and professionalism. Professionals honor their readers with the best possible product. They know it takes a lot of work to create that product. Professionals understand that success requires equal parts skill, perseverance, and luck.

Now to number nine: “My writing is valuable and important. This value and importance cannot be measured by commercial sales alone.” For number nine, I state a point that I’ve repeated multiple times here on the Smart Author Podcast. Indie authors and traditional publishers have widely divergent views on how books should be valued. I wanted to remind authors that the value of their writing transcends monetary measures. If your book has the potential to bring a smile to a single reader, your book is important. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, your book has the potential to change lives and maybe even save lives. What can be more important than that? 

Just because your sales suck doesn’t mean that you’re not worthy. Most writers’ sales suck, whether they’re traditionally published or self-published. Most writers will have good months and bad months, good years and bad years. If you only measure your success by money, you’ll probably burn out and quit, but if you develop other measures of success, like finding joy in the creative process or making your next book better than the last or finding joy in pressing the publish button when you’re finally ready to share your soul with the world, then you’re more likely to continue writing and publishing. Therefore, you’re more likely to eventually emerge from your obscurity to achieve the greatest commercial success. 

Now to the final item in the manifesto, number 10: “I celebrate the success of my fellow indie authors, for their success is mine and mine theirs. Together, we are pioneering a better future for books, marked by greater quality, creativity, diversity, choice, availability, affordability and accessibility.” Boy, that’s a lot of abilities. 

This final item is packed. This idea of shared success, which I touched on in the last episode (E8:  ART OF DELUSION), is a common characteristic that I observed in the most successful indie authors. They work hard, they fight to earn and deserve every reader, but they recognize that their gain is not someone else’s loss and someone else’s gain is not their loss. Every time an indie author pleases a reader, it benefits all fellow authors and it benefits all of book culture. It becomes yet another reason to celebrate indie authorship. 

Number 10 also gets across the idea that, as a movement, we indie authors care about something greater than our own selfish interests. In fact, we realize that our selfish interests are inextricably linked to the fate of the greater movement. We care about books and we care about the culture of reading. We care about diversity of thought and expression. We abhor censorship in all its forms. We care about serving readers and making books accessible to all. We will all sink or swim together. 

That concludes Episode Nine on the Indie Author Manifesto. I trust now you have a greater appreciation for the pivotal role you play within the indie author movement and how your contribution fits within the greater context of the centuries-old struggle for free expression. If the Indie Author Manifesto resonates with you, make it your own. Visit the show notes at smashwords.com/podcast for links to where you can read it, download it, print it, and share it. I’ll also put links in the show notes if you want to further explore the history of book publishing. 

Looking ahead, for the next six episodes I have a special treat for you. Earlier in the podcast I mentioned I’ve got an updated edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide coming out. It provides an expanded checklist of over 60 book marketing ideas that will help take your book marketing to the next level. 

I’ve decided to serialize the new marketing guide here on the podcast first. It’ll be like a podcasted audiobook. I’ll present it in six logical chunks of approximately 30 minutes each.

After you hear the final installment, I’ll release the complete ebook everywhere for free. 

If you’re enjoying the Smart Author Podcast, please share it with your friends.

Working together, we can change the world one indie ebook at a time.

Until next time, keep writing. I’m Mark Coker.  

https://www.smashwords.com/podcast/9

*Advertisement, page 125, Gainesville High School 1955 “Radiator” – GHS yearbook.

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ALLEZ-HOPS! cave à bière

This is a Christmas shout-out for Allez-HOPS! What is Allez-HOPS, you ask? It is cave à bière (beer cellar) in the heart of Nice, France.  Now, those of you who know me or have seen my pictures KNOW that I am a wine drinker. White at lunch; red at night. That wasn’t always the case. Here is the back story:

Back in the day, when I was a student at the University of Wisconsin, it was beer all the way.  In the ‘80’s, I started having reactions to malt (along with basil, cilantro, herb teas, and other things).  I quit drinking beer and eating Mars bars (just kidding about the Mars bars. Yuk.)

Last Christmas, I went to an American Club of the Riviera event – A Christmas Local Beer Tasting and Lunch. http://americanclubriviera.com/  I wasn’t sure what would happen if I tried to experience a “tutored beer tasting by Daniel Deganutti”, one of the governors.  https://allez-hops.com/  I was willing to try. This was my first Christmas after Steve’s death.  I needed to get out of the condo. 

The Tasting started at 11:00 a.m.  Beer, IN THE MORNING???  No matter. I could call Uber if I needed help home. Plus, the French 3-course lunch “by an accomplished chef at the nearby Pastry Plaisirs” sounded delicious. http://pastryplaisirs.com/en/ 

What a fun day!  I enjoyed every minute of it. Met interesting people, sipped a lot of beers, learned the type I like (forgot what he said), ate delicious food, and discovered I can handle malt.

Pastry Plaisirs only opens for lunch Monday through Friday, and dinner on Friday and Saturday.  Plus, it caters to private events, birthday parties, and such. It is small, intimate, and delicious, starting when the chef, Louis Dubois, born at Poitiers, decided to open his restaurant, tea room and pastry shop with his girl friend Aurore Parrant. He cooks; she serves. Yum. 

As for Allez-HOPS, I am not certain how it started.  I asked, got the Readers Digest version, and quickly forgot what he said. Well, he was preparing for a tasting while I wanted to know where he and his family lived in the Mid-West. Haha. I will get the facts and get back to you. What I do remember, a guy, Daniel, from the Mid-West moved with his family and his life savings to Nice in 2015, to open a craft beer shop in Nice.  What???? In the middle of wine country?  It was inaugurated in July 2016, and has a selection of more that 400 local and international references, and contains a micro-brewery, making on the spot the beers of their mark called “Brasserie Bluee”.  And, he is doing quite well!! 

Since then, I have walked by Allez-HOPS many times, going to and from my physical  therapist.

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I have not stopped in because, as I said, I am a wine drinker. But, last week, I was having a couple of friends in for cocktails, and one drinks Duvel beer. So, I went to Allez-HOPS, bought 4 Duvel beers, 4 Duvel-type beer glasses, and got “delivered” home by Daniel because the package was heavy and I was walking.

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What a nice guy. He and his family live in Grasse, and he commutes every day. I am pulling for him and his shop.  

https://www.facebook.com/allezhops/

 

 

#SmartAuthor – The Art of Delusion

This week, my son Craig (Craig MacIntosh), posted this on Facebook. Bingo! It spoke to me.  It applies to everything – life in Nice, remaining young in mind while growing old, practicing law, working as an actress, teaching, exercising, dieting, marriage, writing blogs, writing books, playing the piano, raising children, growing a garden….  

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Then, Mark Coker posted his 8th podcast about the Art of Delusion – the down times and dark days of writers.  That spoke to me.  I am a writer.  I have down times and dark days.  I thought about Steve, (Steve Orlandella, my television-producer-husband-turned-writer). One of the last things that I heard him say, “This is the last book I am going to write.  Nobody’s reading them, anyway.” I spend time after that, giving him pep talks about the joy of creating the book, not selling it.  He loved to write.  He loved the repartee  between his two lead characters.  Often, he read dialogue to me because it was clever.  

Mark has addressed this issue in his latest podcast, talking about his personal experience with writing and Smashwords. Instead of telling you how to access the podcast, I am posting the Notes. His guidelines apply to everything,  His story is inspiring. Maybe it will inspire you to keep going during a dark day.  It did me.  As my Daddy (Jesse Jewell) often said to me, “Rough Seas Make Good Sailors”. 

Episode 8:   Art of Delusion

Every writer – even successful writers – can have dark days when the reasons to quit feel more sensible than the reason to power on. In this episode, Mark teaches writers how to find the strength to persevere during the inevitable ups and downs of a writer’s life.  He concludes by sharing twenty tips for publishing success.

Transcript:

Welcome to the Smart Author Podcast where you’ll learn to publish e-books with greater pride, professionalism and success. I’m your host, Mark Coker. Let’s get started.

In this episode, the art of delusion. As writers, we all have dark days when it feels like nothing’s working and when quitting feels like a sensible option. If you haven’t experienced these dark days yet, you will. On those dark days, you’ll hear voices often from friends, family or negative reviewers, and these voices will amplify your doubt when they jump in and encourage you to quit. When this happens, it becomes all the more difficult to keep going, yet somehow, we find the strength to power on because we’re writers.

My writing journey started like the journey for most writers. My wife and I spent three years researching, writing and revising our novel. It’s titled Boob Tube. My wife, Lesleyann, is a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly Magazine so we decided to write a novel about the dark underbelly of celebrity culture and the novels written through the eyes of these fictional soap opera actors. Despite representation from an awesome top tier literary agent in New York City, an agent who believed in us, no publisher would touch the project. Previous soap opera theme novels had bombed in the marketplace. Publishers are reluctant to take a chance on us.

That was in 2005 back in the dark ages of publishing when a publisher’s rejection was absolute. Back then, a publisher’s refusal to acquire your book doomed your dreams of authorhood. Rejected writers became failed writers. Sure. Back then, you could self-publish in print but that’s if you didn’t mind filling your garage with unsold books. Most books were sold in physical bookstores and only publishers could get your books in bookstores which was where readers go to buy books. I could have quit back then. All sensible reason pointed toward quitting. We gave it our best shot. Our agent gave it his best shot and what was, was. Maybe we weren’t good enough. Maybe we truly sucked, but I don’t like it when the powers that be tell me I can’t do something I know I should have the freedom to do. Rejection doesn’t feel good. Dependence and subservience doesn’t feel good.

Here’s the problem as I saw it. Publishers were and remain unable, disinterested and unwilling to take a risk on every author. They simply cannot say yes to every writer. I don’t blame them for this. They’re in the business of acquiring books they think have the greatest commercial potential. If they don’t acquire books that sell, they can’t stay in business. They’re forced to measure a book’s worth based on its perceived commercial merit, yet most of their books are commercial flops anyway. Most traditionally published authors must still maintain day jobs to make ends meet. If you think about it, this means traditionally published authors have been subsidizing these publishers’ businesses for a long time. If publishers are so all-knowing and all-seeing, then why do so many of their books perform poorly?

I finally came to the realization that despite the wisdom and good intentions of these publishers, at the end of the day, they can only make an educated guess. The dirty little secret in publishing is that publishers are just throwing spaghetti against the wall. Publishers don’t know what readers want to read. Only readers know that and often, readers don’t even know what they want to read until it comes out of nowhere and smacks them upside the head. I imagine the hundreds of thousands of authors who came before us just like us who stared into this abyss of failure, whose dreams of publication were crushed by publishers. I imagine the millions of books that would die with those authors, unpublished and unread. I imagined the literary masterpieces hidden in those books that would forever be lost to humanity, undiscovered like buried treasure because these writers were never given a chance.

I had a crazy idea. What if someone somewhere could take a chance on every writer? What if that someone could be me? What if I could say yes to every writer in the world and what if, like the best of the best publishers, I could do it at no cost to the writer? Yet, it was a crazy idea. I didn’t have Bill Gates or Warren Buffett kind of money but I figured if people had the freedom to publish on a blog for free or publish a video on YouTube for free, they should have the freedom to publish a book for free. I realized print book publishing was expensive, what with all that paper, glue, cardboard and fossil fuels necessary to move those bits of paper around the globe from printer to consumer, but what about ebooks?

eBooks are composed of digital bits and bytes. The cost to duplicate and transport an e-book is close to free, so I decided to embark on creating a free e-book publishing platform that would make it fast, free and easy for any writer anywhere in the world to self-publish an e-book. People reminded me this was a crazy idea. Let’s explore the crazy on my idea. I wanted to create a business that would publish writers no smart publisher wanted to publish, writers just like me and my wife. I’d publish books that no publisher thinks readers want to read. I’d publish them as ebooks, a format that, at the time, accounted for less than 1% of the book market. It was a format no reader wanted to buy and I’d sell these books on a website no one had ever heard of, smashwords.com.

At the time, there was a tremendous stigma around self-publishing. No writer in their right mind wanted to self-publish a book back then. Oh, and to top it off, I was a clueless newbie. I had absolutely no experience in the book publishing business. My prior career was in public relations, so let’s review. I was going to build a business selling books no publisher want to publish in a format no readers want to buy at a store no reader had ever heard of, oh, and writers didn’t want to self-publish. Yay, but it sounded like a good idea to me.

In 2005, I started working on the business plan and by 2007, I hired a full time software developer to create my site. In May of 2008, we unveiled Smashwords to the world. Immediately after launch, my developer quit and curiously, about a year later, he was working at Amazon on their Kindle team. Dang. It didn’t feel right. Also immediately after the launch of Smashwords, the doubters pounced. I was attacked immediately by writers and industry watchers who thought that all self-published books were vanity books and anyone promoting self-publishing was a lying, cheating crook out to fleece authors. I was accused of nefarious motives. What was I selling? Was I stealing authors’ rights?

I received angry emails from writers demanding to know why I refused to put the cost of our service on our website. That’s because our service really is free. I received angry e-mails from previously published traditional authors who said, “There was no way in hell they’d allow their book to appear alongside amateur,” yes, they used that word, “amateur self-published books on Smashwords.” Now, a side note for these, what do we call them? Maybe we call them idiots. A side note for these authors, we’re a distributor and your books are already appearing alongside self-published books in every bookstore.

Another writer wrote me an angry e-mail asking if I thought he was a fool because obviously, he’d have to be a fool to make his book available as an e-book because as he told me, once his book was available online, millions of readers would pirate it. Yeah, right, if only he could be so lucky. I’d pay good money to have one million readers steal and read my novel but I digressed. By the end of that first year 2008, we’re publishing 90 authors who published 140 books at Smashwords. Sounds good, right? No. On a good day, we were only selling about $10 worth of books. The naysayers would have celebrated our misfortune with a big, fat, “I told you so.”

Smashwords only makes money on commission and the commission is about 10% of the list price. My little business was netting a whopping $1 a day. The business was losing, or I should say I was losing $10,000 a month on my crazy venture. I was the sole funder. The business was devouring my life savings. Common sense would have compelled me to quit, yet I powered on because I believed in this. My passion for this cause was all consuming. I had faith that someday, somehow, the world would come to respect the works of all writers.

I had confidence that it was inevitable that a few of these Smashwords authors would find an audience, break out and become hugely popular, if only given a chance to be judged directly by readers, if only given a chance to be freed from the shackles of well-intentioned but obstructive gatekeeping agents and publishers. I was also convinced that traditional publishing was broken and if I could build a better publishing system, authors would choose to use my system of their own free will rather than using us as the option of last resort.

By the middle of 2009, things still weren’t looking good. We were attracting more books but they weren’t selling very well on our little store that no one had ever heard of. Faced with this failure, I had two options. Number one, I could quit and go back to my old soul-sucking career in public relations or number two, I could keep fighting, so I had this crazy idea, an epiphany. I realized readers go to bookstores to buy books. Yes, you can call me a little bit slow. I won’t be offended but it took me a while to come to this realization. No one had ever heard of my little store, so I wondered, what if I could get our authors’ books into the big e-book stores? What if Smashwords could become a distributor?

When I first mentioned this idea to my sole employee, I remember laughing at the absurdity of my own idea. We had absolutely no clue how to become a distributor but we jumped in anyway and we figured it out. I found some inspiration looking at Ingram, the world’s largest book distributor. At the time, their primary business was distributing print books from large publishers to retailers. I realized they provided a lot of value add for publishers, retailers and readers alike by efficiently managing the physical logistics of moving all these bundles of paper and glue from printers to warehouses to bookstores and ultimately, to readers. They distributed e-books at the time too but only for large publishers. The world needed an e-book distributor for indie authors, so what if Smashwords could become the Ingram of self-published e-books? I laughed at myself again at the thought but I figured, even if I failed spectacularly, I’d have fun trying.

By the end of 2009, we signed distribution deals with Barnes & Noble and Sony. Those two deals were a breakthrough because prior to us opening up these two stores, these stores were closed to self-published authors. By early 2010, we had a deal with Apple iBooks. By early 2010, we were making progress. Once our authors’ books made it into these major e-book stores, the book started selling but we were still losing thousands of dollars each month. It’s tough to build a business when you’re only making 10% of the list price. My savings were almost tapped out.

I calculated I would run out of cash in about three months. Even though we were growing each month, I had already maxed out the line of credit on my home so not only was I cash poor, I was also in debt, so I did what any sensible adult would do in this situation. I called my mom. I asked my mom if she wanted to invest in Smashwords. I can still hear her response ringing in my ears to this day. She said, “Oh, Mark. That sounds so risky but I’ll lend you the money against your rental house,” so I mortgaged my only other asset to my mom.

Ten months later, Smashwords hit profitability and the rest is history. Today, with nearly a half million books published at Smashwords and over 100,000 authors working with us around the world, we’re the largest distributor of self-published e-books. For the first few years of this business, I worked harder than I had ever worked. These were 16 and even 18-hour days unpaid. I did everything except for the programming. Many nights, I was so emotionally spent that I could barely speak. If you would ask me my name, I would have struggled to tell you my name. I was that fried.

As soon as we hit profitability, I started hiring. Today, Smashwords has nearly 20 employees. Looking back upon those first few years, I had many reasons to quit. Those first few authors to use Smashwords had many reasons to quit too but they used Smashwords because they believed in our mission and they believed in themselves. Those early authors are my heroes. Those early authors gave me the strength to power on, to help me prove to the world that there was extraordinary literary talent locked between the brains and fingertips of ordinary writers across the world, writers just like you. Whatever success we’ve had at Smashwords, it’s entirely thanks to writers like you, so thank you. We exist to serve you.

Let’s talk about the path forward for you and your writerly dreams. Publishing platforms like Smashwords make publishing easy but it’s still not easy to sell books. I would never advice authors to put everything on the line like I did. Looking back, I was foolish and I got lucky. As I mentioned back in episode three, I think it was tip 15, you should never go into debt to fund your publishing dream. Luckily, you don’t have to. Publishing can be free or nearly free. For writers, there’s never been a better time to publish. Millions of readers around the globe are waiting to discover their next great read. You have the tools to reach them.

20 Tips for Success

Now, I want to share 20 tips that will help you power on to reach readers with your words.

1. Respect your readers. Write and publish super awesome books. Readers will determine your success, wow them. Anything less than wow is not good enough because good isn’t good enough anymore. Good will fail when readers demand excellence.

2. Write more. With every word you write, you’ll become a better writer. Hone your craft.

3. Employ best practices for incremental advantage. There’s no single magic bullet to success. There are millions of readers out there who should be reading you but don’t yet know that. They don’t yet know that you exist. The secrets to professional publishing are yours for the taking. Do things that give you a competitive advantage. Adopt best practices as we’ve discussed in every episode of the smart author podcast series. There are the obvious things like professional editing, professional cover design and tools like e-book pre-orders. Then, there are the not so obvious things that you need to do. Constantly work to hone and evolve your best practices. Remember, you can always get better. The truth of the matter is that most writers don’t take advantage of best practices. This means that if you do take advantage of best practices, you will have an edge.

4. Think long term. You’re running a marathon, not a sprint. Consider how every action you take today will impact your long term success.

5. Guard your independence. After decades of subservience to publishers, indie authors now have the freedom to break the yoke of subservience and make their own way. Yet, with the rise of self-publishing has come those who want to steal your independence by enticing you to go exclusive. The opposite of independence is dependence. Don’t become dependent upon any single retailer. Otherwise, your future is in their hands, not your own.

6. Connect with your community. Stay connected with your writing community, both online and offline. Join a local writers group or a critic group to meet with fellow writers, hone your craft, and learn from guest speakers. Attend a writers’ conference where you can further hone your craft and learn about the industry and network with industry professionals. In tip seven through 11, I’m going to share a few of my personal secrets to business success. 

7. Be kind to people. Treat partners and readers with respect. It takes a village to reach readers. Fellow authors, critique partners, beta readers, editors, publishers, cover designers, retailers and distributors can all contribute to your success. Choose the right partners and these people will help you achieve even greater success.

8. Be honest. Business relationships are built on trust. The fastest way to squander trust is to be dishonest. If you always tell the truth, you never have to remember what you told someone.

9. Be ethical. Do unto others as you would want done unto you. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Don’t harm others.

10. Finally, be humble. Yes, I’m confident you have super awesome potential within you and it’s the truth but know that all of us can always grow better and become better. Your success started with you but it was helped along by others. Celebrate those who help you succeed. Always know that none of us alone can achieve anything without the support, encouragement and love of those around us.

11.  Practice radical time management. Raise your hand if you have too many hours in your day. The truth is none of us have enough time. Organize your time so you’re spending more time writing and less time on the menial grunt work of publishing. As an aside, this is why so many authors distribute with Smashwords. We help them spend more time writing and less time fussing with distribution. Radical time management doesn’t mean that you’re working all the time. Carve out downtime to recharge. Spend time with your friends and family. If you’re an introvert like me, nothing recharges like a little solitude in my garden or on a hike. If you’re an extrovert, get out there and mingle.

12. Take risks, experiment and fail often. Failure is a gift. Success is impossible without failure. My failure to find a traditional publisher for our novel led me to create Smashwords. My early failures at Smashwords helped light a successful path. The challenge is to take many smaller risks and appreciate every failure as a teachable moment.

13.  Be delusional. At the Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado back in 2013, I attended a session on publishing that was presented by Uber agent Donald Maass. At the end of his session, he was asked what he thought of self-publishing. He responded to this room full of hopeful writers by saying, “Self-publishing is a fine option if you don’t want to sell any books.”

I watched as jaws dropped and hearts sank. I approached Don afterward at the dinner gathering that night and I calmly told him I thought he was underestimating the impact self-publishing would have on the industry. Without skipping a beat, he answered, “And I think you’re delusional.” I think I must have responded with an ear to ear grin like a mad man probably confirming his dim view of my optimism.

The next year in 2014, Inc. Magazine named Smashwords to its Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest growing companies. Smashwords authors now sell millions of dollars of self-published e-books at retail each year. Real readers have purchased over $100 million worth of our authors’ books at retail, so who’s delusional now, Don? Indie authors are just getting started. The industry still doesn’t appreciate the impact indies will have in the years to come as indie e-books continue to capture and ever greater share of the e-book market and as readers continue to slowly shift in the direction of screens. The industry’s underestimation of you and your potential is your strength and their weakness.

14. Embrace your doubters. They know not of what they speak. They’re delusional too. Give them a hug.

15. Celebrate your fellow author’s success because their success is your success and your success is theirs. If you’re fortunate enough to achieve extreme success, and I know some of you will, it’s inevitable, do everything you can to pause, reach back and lift up your fellow authors so they can join you for the ride. A journey shared is more satisfying than a journey alone.

16.  Past success is no guarantee of future success. I think a lot about this at Smashwords. We know we must continue improving and evolving every day and we do. The world is cyclical. Your publishing business will have ups and downs. When you’re having a great run, enjoy it. Soak it in and bank it. Pay off your debts. Save for rainy day and then, keep working.

17. Never give up. Quitting guarantees failure. Never stop running in the direction of your dreams. Fight for your right to pursue the best career in the universe. Every successful author I know once toiled in obscurity and you will too.

18. Dream big dreams. Be ambitious. Aim high. You are smart. You are capable. You must believe this because if you don’t believe this, you can’t achieve. Salvador Dali once said, “Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.”

19. Know that your writing is important. Books are important to the future of humanity and you are the creator of books. That makes you special. It also burdens you with a considerable responsibility. Your writing is unique. No one else can create what you have within you. Your writing is the manifestation of your life, your dreams, your soul and your talent. You are special. Others might think you’re suffering from delusions of grandeur but so what? What do they know? They can’t see inside you. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Don’t be discouraged if others, including those who love you the most, don’t understand the vision in your head.

20.  Find success and satisfaction in the journey of publishing. Know that the measure of your importance and your contribution to book culture and your contribution to humanity cannot be measured by your sales alone. The moment you reach your first reader, you’ve done your part to change the world and that’s just the beginning, so thank you for everything you do and thank you for taking the time to join me here on the Smart Author Podcast. That concludes episode eight.

In the next episode, Episode 9, I’ll present the Indie Author Manifesto. As an indie author, you’re part of a global cultural movement. I’ll discuss the indie author movement. I’ll discuss why I wrote the Indie Author Manifesto and I’ll read it and I’ll dissect it. Until then, keep writing. I’m Mark Coker.