Hi there! Ever notice how much Barry Eisler resembles Harrison Ford?
Don’t get me wrong, Barry. It’s a really awesome look. I’m sure it goes over well with all the
girls important people in publishing.
But I digress …
I happened to notice this post on Alan Rinzler’s blog, What Writers Can Learn from Barry Eisler.
So, I clicked on the link and thought, “
Yeah, right Oh, goody! Please, I want to learn more!”
And here’s what
Han Barry Amazon the article says (and I quote):
It’s inspiring when a successful author goes out of his way to help others in the craft of writing. Barry Eisler is one of those good guys.
Though he’d probably rather be known as one baaad dude.
He’s a one-time CIA operative, a judo black belt and an intellectual property attorney, who’s also a bestselling writer of political thrillers in a seven-book series featuring a freelance assassin, the latest one titled The Detachment.
Wow! That’s impressive. Did you know that I’m also an attorney. And a New York Times bestselling author. But does that really matter anymore? Ha ha ha … Yes, the cosmic joke is on me, isn’t it? Or is it?
Eisler speaks regularly at writers conferences and offers a treasure trove of resources for writers on his own website. He’s also famous for turning down a $500K advance from his publisher to go with Amazon. This fellow thinks for himself.
Oh, really? I also speak at as many writers conferences as I can afford to attend. I also share resources for writers on this blog. And, we’ll see who thinks for herself and who doesn’t, okay?
I saw him in action at the Grub Street Muse & the Marketplace conference in Boston last month where he spoke at length on how to write better and get published. Eisler’s a charismatic and flamboyant public speaker – charming, funny, articulate. He literally leapt around the room, flinging aside drapes and throwing open all the windows to the frigid air.
“People shut the windows and close the curtains when they want to sleep,” Eisler said, sounding like the exasperated parent of a recalcitrant child.
The message was clear: Wake up!
Well, Barry, I have been a public speaker, too. Now, given that I have a rare movement disorder with no cure that’s endlessly tortured me for the last seven years and it affects my left hand and foot, you can surely understand why I’m not leaping around the room, flinging drapes and ventilating rooms with freezing cold air, while I give talks.
However, I’ve managed to grit my teeth and give this presentation.
Now, despite the fact that I’m constantly squashing my hand against my thigh and my shoe is in imminent danger of falling off, due to the constant need to press both against something to counteract the clenching, I manage to say things that seem to make some sort of sense. In fact, people have told me they found my advice helpful. So, that’s awesome.
As a result, I have a tendency to embed this video a lot in my blog, because it saves me a whole lot of typing. In fact, I can barely find the strength to type this post.
But, I’m doing this because I want authors and readers to wake up!
On learning the craft of writing
There is always craft behind the art, Eisler said. “And craft must be learned if you want to be an artist.”
He thinks one of the best ways to improve your craft is to read like a writer.
“Read first for pleasure, then reread to see why it works so well,” Eisler said. “Discern if something’s good or bad and why. If it’s good, what works so well? If it’s bad, figure out how you would fix it.”
For example, Eisler says, “An opening sentence that just describes the setting is just a still life.” The opening he describes as “the most masterful” he’s ever come across is from the historical thriller The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett:
“The last camel collapsed at noon.”
Yeah, and my interest in Barry’s advice collapsed at this point.
Barry went on to provide a list, which he called “Barry Eisler’s Rules of Craft.” And I must say that for an intellectual property lawyer, you have one huge set of balls claiming ownership of rules as elemental and timeless as 1) show don’t tell; 2) engage all senses; 3) keep writing 4) read books on writing; and 5) ask “what if?” — boy, those are really original rules. Thanks so much for sharing these, Barry!
Eisler was adamant about the value of working with a professional editor.
“Of course I need an editor,” Eisler said. “All writers need editors.”
Something I have pointed out on this here blog!
How to get properly published
Eisler is one of the best-known authors to take on the traditional book industry, and is a strategic player in the complex and often devious game of book publishing today. In March of last year, Barry made big news by turning down a $500K advance from St. Martins/Macmillan to instead make a profit-sharing deal with Amazon. His decision was widely reported as a tipping point for a struggling book business flummoxed by the thriving self-publishing movement.
Yeah, in March of last year, I made no news at all by hitting the New York Times ebook bestseller list. I realized this was both a blessing and curse, and it gave me in an unusual perspective.
Eisler can get really steamed up on the subject of self-publishing, eBooks vs. paper, the future of traditional publishing, and what he sees as the true phenomenon and impact of Amazon.
Now, Barry. One must keep a cool head when presenting a case. Didn’t they teach you that in law school? Professor Kingsfield would be soooo disappointed.
At Grub Street in Boston, speaking at a session about Amazon and publishing Eisler said, “The Big 6 Legacy publishers are a cartel – OK, let’s call them a club – that pays royalties in lockstep, and reports them in byzantine statements.” Moreover, Eisler added, the consistent lack of competition resulted in no innovation in the past two or three decades.
Ahem! Barry, you are leaving a little something out, aren’t you? How about the way Amazon promised not to compete with publishers, then
stabbed them in the back hired a consultant from their ranks and proceeded to do so?
What smart writers have learned
Here’s Eisler’s bottom line on getting published, from his website’s section called For Writers :
“All writers think of what they do as an art. Smart writers understand that writing is also a business. Really smart writers see themselves also as entrepreneurs.”
Writing the book is only the first step. “You are now running a company (albeit a sole proprietorship), and your company is responsible not only for creating the product, but also for marketing, branding, and selling it.”
Gee, Barry, really? What have I been saying? Twice. In fact, I say it a lot of times on this blog
, and I’d embed each link, except no one cares and I’m way too gimpy.
Paper and print books are becoming a niche market for people born before the advent of e-book readers like Kindle, the iPad, and the Nook.
“The question isn’t, will paper disappear? Did firearms eliminate the bow and arrow? No–some enthusiasts still hunt with a bow. Did the automobile eliminate the horse and buggy? No–I can still get a buggy ride around Central Park if I want.”
Publishing houses as we know them today are probably doomed. They’re still selling paper, an increasingly expensive commodity that requires millions of trees, huge warehouses, complex and expensive shipping, storage, returns.
Oh, dear. Here’s where the curtains come crashing down on your own argument, Barry. You’ve signed a deal with Amazon, right? And that deal includes print distribution. So … this isn’t about ebooks versus print at all, is it?
Amazon has initiated a broad variety of self-publishing programs for everything from grandma’s recipes to substantial books of quality literature by serious and often previously successful authors, thereby establishing a direct route from writer to reader without the need for gatekeepers or intermediaries.
You can read more on Eisler’s website, from an incendiary conversation with Joe Konrath in a 150 page pdf called Be the Monkey.
Yes, the once amazing Joe Konrath, who’s slightly hairy and can rant at length, but writers love him, anyway.
Why is anyone’s guess. Joe’s like the lovable Wookie grumpy, but fuzzy animal by Han’s Barry’s side. Han Barry strokes his ego converses with him, Amazon gets good PR, and authors don’t realize they’re being snookered, right along with the publishing industry into measuring their success in Amazon’s terms.
Which is what led to this horrible realization. That if Amazon became the only publisher, it would also be the one and only gatekeeper.
BTW, Barry, you were betrayed by the indiscreet words of one of your own. An author accepted into your A-list fold, who said (essentially), Thank God I don’t have to be a mid-list author, anymore. Now, I have an Amazon contract and I’ll get my promotional and marketing support from them.
Oops! Does that sound familiar?
Indie authors and readers, it’s time to wake up!!!!
Kobo also has a ranking system.
And we all have great choices.
But it’s up to you to make the right choices.
Please click on this link and consider your decision carefully.
Sometimes I wish
I were completely stupid I’d fall into a coma.
Because … I really have no idea what the hell is going on here… (via My Other Career)
That’s why your choices are crucial.
On that note, let’s end with an awesome video from Nik Nak’s Old Peculiar that made me feel joy, for all sorts of reasons.
PS: Regarding the question in this tweet, maybe it’s because authors have been
fooled convinced by you and Konrath into thinking that Amazon is where they must list their books in order to succeed.
PPS: I should warn you, Barry. I don’t know karate, but my husband has a black belt. And I’m like a soldier who’s lived in secret Guantanamo. For seven years. But I’ve learned to let go of anger, applied Frankl’s theory and chosen to be a happy fool. #iamfoolish
So tell Bob Mayer that I’m the Joker in the deck you weren’t expecting. Ha ha ha … And I intend to survive, one way or the other.
And look out for spastic fingers. They could take out an eye!
Just ignore the twine. Ha ha ha …
PPPS: Here’s a better question. Can you walk away from Amazon? I can, if I choose.