Thursday, November 12, 2009
Sunday, November 08, 2009
It was really cool to see an article about FastPencil in the Santa Cruz Sentinel this morning. Especially because I used to work at the Sentinel many years ago and I know how many changes that paper has been through.
There were guys upstairs like Bill and John who had scars on their forearms from the hot lead they had to pour to make newspaper plates. When I joined the Sentinel we were still printing out stories on paper and waxing them onto boards to be photographed. We worked in Picas. I helped make the transition to direct-to-film where we would compose the pages on computer and print them to film. That's when Pixels became important. Just before I left we were implementing a content management system that allowed editors to enter stories directly onto the page... and the internet was taking off.
Today the Sentinel is basically a virtual paper. There is an office in Scotts Valley but the giant metal press, the million-dollar monster that used to occupy half a city block is no longer in Santa Cruz. In it's last hurrah, I heard it fell off the truck at the top of Hwy 17 and closed down traffic for hours!
So this morning I got to be featured in an article about FastPencil and how we are going to revolutionize publishing... the technology is finally ready, the people are ready, the customers are ready. Where will the Sentinel be in 5 years? Maybe using FastPencil?
Posted by Michael Ashley at 3:28 PM
Sunday, November 01, 2009
It Takes a Village to Write A Novel
You may have heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child. That's also true of novel writing. While the image of the lonely writer hammering away at her typewriter in a dark room for days on end springs to mind, today a writer has to employ every available trick to slip away from the chaos of life and get the words out.
One wildly successful program has helped thousands of writers get published. It's called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Every November writers are challenged to create a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. If you complete a novel, you "win" the contest. It's a challenge where your only competitor is yourself. Unfortunately most participants fail the challenge because they attempt to take on this Herculean task alone.
Today, you can invite your friends to take the NaNoWriMo challenge with you. Take advantage of Facebook and Twitter to post your progress. Do your writing online in a collaborative tool so friends can read, comment and encourage you to finish. It takes a village to write a book, and your village is online.
Don't Give in to Procrastination
Procrastination will kill your novel faster than a New York publisher. The good thing about joining a group of crazy authors in the 30-day challenge is heightened awareness, especially of procrastination. When you commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days, and you have a group of friends watching, it's much harder to put off the hard work of creating that novel. You quickly learn that one missed day means twice the effort the following day.
When you learn to write every day, resistance starts to diminish and you find procrastination fades, too. If you have a great idea, writing 3,000 words a day is the best way to keep it alive.
Think of Your Novel as A Sculpture
NaNoWriMo offers you a chance to focus purely on writing, the wonderful process of allowing ideas to flow into your book. Don't worry about perfection. Don't even worry about greatness. Just focus on your story, and getting the words out. Sculptors start with a big chunk of material and gradually chip it down. You can do the same thing. After you finish NaNoWriMo, you can clean it up, tighten it, and polish it.
Editing takes time and diligent effort, but it truly makes the difference between a good idea and a great book. It's not easy to strip down the words you have painfully called forth, but to quote Robert Louis Stevenson, "There is but one art, to omit."
Realize Your Dream of Becoming A Published Author
These days it's easier than ever to publish a book. So why not give yourself the goal of not just writing a novel, but also publishing it? Print on demand technology gives you the ability to inexpensively print a single copy of your book. You can even distribute it as an eBook for far less than you'd expect.
By combining social writing tools, inexpensive publishing, and hard work, you can not only win NaNoWriMo, but also get published. All in 30 days.
Join me on FastPencil as I trudge through my novel this year: FastPencil.com/users/mashley
Posted by Michael Ashley at 4:12 PM
Friday, October 09, 2009
We have been surfing this wave of publishing industry disruption for a year now and it's starting to get exciting. This morning the San Jose Mercury News had us on the front page. The Santa Cruz Sentinel picked up the story on their site, too.
But the most exciting thing is how the media is starting to understand what we are all about. This article was very close, but they said we focus on the paper book, not e-books. FastPencil actually makes it possible for an author to get their book in ANY format, paper or electronic, without having to jump through hoops. One click and we can make your book available as paperback, hardcover, Kindle, e-book, iPhone, and more.
That's the amazing thing about FastPencil, write once and publish anywhere! Our motto is "Your book, no boundaries" and FastPencil is the only place where you can make that dream come true with just a few clicks.
Come to FastPencil to connect, write, publish and sell your book. It's your dream, don't let anything get in your way.
Posted by Michael Ashley at 9:16 AM
Monday, October 05, 2009
If you are a FastPencil user and have an iPhone, we would love to get your feedback on a project we are working on. I was going to give you a sneak peak, but I've been told I have to keep it under wraps for now. Just believe me, it's awesome! Let me know if you want to be part of a special test group.
UPDATE: We've released our new iPhone App which allows you to connect to your project, write, edit and comment. Take it for a spin!
Posted by Michael Ashley at 11:39 AM
Friday, October 02, 2009
Dick DeBartolo gets it. Dick is a former writer for Mad Magazine and famous for his gadgets. Now Dick is writing a book on FastPencil and he's loving it. Check out his GizWiz podcast review on twit.tv, it's entertaining and informative, but most of all he describes the features and benefits in a way that makes sense. FastPencil is simple, fun and anyone can write a book.
Posted by Michael Ashley at 11:04 PM
Thursday, October 01, 2009
FastPencil helps first time author, Rick Rieser, fulfill his dream.
We just got a copy of Percy the Perfectly Imperfect Chicken and it looks hot! This is an example of how FastPencil can help an author go from idea, through collaboration and into distribution.
I was so excited I snapped a quick photo with my iPhone to share with you:
If you have a book inside and want to get it out, take a look at FastPencil and see if it's right for you.
Posted by Michael Ashley at 11:42 AM
It's been a fast and furious 6 weeks but the result that we launched on Tuesday is more than worth the effort. FastPencil got a new home page design, new Marketplace features to help authors and service providers connect, and we unveiled our ColorBook Creator. That means authors can write and publish cookbooks, comic books, graphic novels and photo books with just a few clicks. Plus we updated our Novel writing tool and added a new output template we call Elegance. Elegance was designed by our professional book designer to make your novel look and read like a million-bucks! Check out all the new changes and send me feedback on the design.
Posted by Michael Ashley at 9:26 AM
Friday, August 28, 2009
FastPencil is a startup so I thought I should share the experience with my friends. This is the view from my desk looking out at our 12 foot conference table. We practically live at that table and on the whiteboards tacked to every wall. I love this environment. The only thing I miss is my old green couch... When you work on a team sometimes you have to sacrifice for the greater good and the old green couch was too battered to survive the vote. But I got to keep the conference table, and though it's bigger than a ping-pong table, I love that it will fit 10 people easily. Now I'm pushing for a net so we can actually play ping-pong on it! FastPencil rocks!
Posted by Michael Ashley at 2:44 PM
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Bits of Destruction Hit the Book Publishing Business: Part 4 is the final installment of his analysis of the book publishing industry. Part 4 is particularly interesting for FastPencil because he talks about the trends with respect to the author.
Posted by Michael Ashley at 11:17 PM
I have been working on a new novel and I'm aiming at 75,000 words. But I can't decide if Twittering and Blogging are getting in my way, or helping me out. What I'm finding is that Twittering and Blogging are much easier so I do it often. But working through the story on FastPencil is more fulfilling and gets me closer to my ultimate goal of publishing another book.
So I came up with my Theory of Continuous Writing: It doesn't matter where you write, what you write or how you write it... just keep writing.
1. Tweet, Scribble and Share all day long to keep your ideas flowing.
2. Blog daily to practice writing complete sentences and tying ideas together.
3. FastPencil at least once a day to keep the novel moving forward.
When you look at writing from this perspective it's easy to see the value in each medium. The more you write, the better you become and the closer you get to achieving your dreams.
Posted by Michael Ashley at 10:35 PM
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Joel Orr is one of the few people who see the tsunami coming and understand how FastPencil sits at the crest of the wave. A free book-writing portal is his recent article in the Examiner.com where he outlines the pro's and con's of self-publishing with our new technology.
Posted by Michael Ashley at 11:12 PM
Saturday, August 01, 2009
WGN TV in Chicago put FastPencil up against Lulu in a little self-publishing story. The key point they make is that FastPencil helps you write and collaborate on your book from the very beginning, while you are still writing it. Come join the fun, it's free and you'll get the support you need to finish your book and publish it. Check out the video on WGN.
Posted by Michael Ashley at 1:22 AM
Friday, July 17, 2009
Steve and I were captured for this story in the Silicon Valley Business Journal. It was fun to do the photoshoot and talk about FastPencil. The article missed a key point: FastPencil is a FREE service. But overall it's a good glimpse of our business.
Posted by Michael Ashley at 6:01 PM
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Well it's been a long and winding road but FastPencil is now officially out of private alpha! We launched our public beta today so anyone can create a free account, write and publish their book. And our launch came with a big splash... the New York Times picked up an article by Anthony Ha of VentureBeat.
FastPencil isn't just about writing, it's a revolution. It's about doing something you never thought you would actually do. Something you've been wanting to do for years. The key to success is to bring in your trusted friends and family to help. They are the one's most interested in your success and will give you the encouragement you need to keep plugging away.
So throw away your excuses, take a deep breath and jump right in. FastPencil was built from the ground up to be a simple and fun way to fulfill a dream. And it's free to use. When you're ready to order a book or if you want to publish on Amazon, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, etc... you'll pay as little as $10. You're in control.
So don't wait for permission from a publisher anymore, don't let anyone stifle your dream, it's none of their business if you want to publish a book... dive in and have a good time.
Posted by Michael Ashley at 9:04 AM
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Seth Godin, in his review of the new Amazon Kindle, touched on something I believe in strongly at FastPencil: "Let anyone become a publisher with just a few clicks". The new Amazon Kindle is not just another piece of technology, it's part of a movement. So is FastPencil. It's the movement to revolutionize publishing.
The entire publishing industry must move forward to remove the barriers between authors and their tribes. Writing a book is hard, but publishing a book should be just a few clicks away. Anyone, anywhere should be able to write and publish a book. Anyone, anywhere should have access to books in any format.
Posted by Michael Ashley at 8:37 AM