For some reason my blog posted one of the very first posts offering a giveaway of White Jade.
That book has not been on Smashwords for almost three years, so, sorry, no giveaway. I don't know why it did that...
Sunday, June 23, 2013
I'm about to release Book Six in the PROJECT series, The Nostradamus File. There is a predictable process for understanding when a book is ready for publication.
How do you know when your epic is done? You've been through it a dozen times or more, editing, revising things, moving things around, tweaking descriptions, etc. etc. You have corrected spelling errors, and not just with spell check. You have eliminated unnecessary spaces, at least the ones you can find. You've eliminated typos, the ones you can find. You have made sure the formatting is consistent.
You HAVE been through it a dozen times or more, haven't you? Because if not, you are definitely NOT done. Revision is the key to any decent read, much less a good one. You must revise until you would cheerfully throw your monitor, your computer and possibly your mother into the ocean, or if you don't live near an ocean, off the nearest cliff. If you don't live near a cliff, I pity you because you probably don't have enough visual stimulation around you to make your scenic descriptions interesting.
But I digress.
Okay, you have done your dozen or more revisions. You have added in a few things to round out the story for your readers. You have considered how your market readers think, what they want from you and your book. You have incorporated any appropriate feedback from your Beta readers (you have Beta readers, right?). You have reached the point of changing a phrase here, a word there. Not often. The changes you make aren't doing much for you, in your story-teller's mind. They leave you with a ho-hum feeling. In fact, you find yourself changing something and then you change it back.
Are you done? Yes, you say. Then something in your mind says "NO YOU'RE NOT!"
That part of your mind will never, ever, believe you are done.
You have to do two things:
- quell the urge to get the book out there as fast as possible so you don't have to think about it anymore
- trust yourself to know when the time has come to quit messing with it.
Doing the first thing leads to the second. Simple.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Today's post is geared toward writers who want to earn a living by writing. If you are a writer who writes only for the love of it, a writer for whom financial return is unimportant, a writer who writes with no thought of recognition or reward, God bless you. This might not interest you.
I'm not like that.
I write because I really enjoy writing but I also write because it's the only plan I have after a life spent ignoring things like "wise retirement planning" and "a well-balanced portfolio". I never bought into the standard options. I frequently burned the candle at both ends (yes, a cliché!), which was almost always interesting, created an eclectic and varied life experience and took me all over the world. It provided me with material for my writing, since I've been in a lot of situations most people wouldn't experience. It also left me without any late life backup except Social Security, and not a lot of that. Writing is my retirement plan, my 401K, my Golden Parachute, my "portfolio".
What does it take to make a living as a writer? If you are an independent writer, you have to shoulder the entire process yourself. You don't have to DO it all. In fact, it's a better idea if you don't "do it all". But you do have to oversee the process, from the creation of the manuscript all the way to the marketplace and beyond.
Five years ago, I began White Jade, the first book in the Project series. Prior to writing fiction I'd had modest success with non-fiction in the traditional publishing world. Nothing earth shaking, just some money up front, some hard-bound editions and satisfaction. But it wasn't a living, not by a long shot.
With the Project series I have reached a point where I can honestly say I'm "making a living". Not a Stephen King/NFL kind of living (think of King as the Peyton Manning of popular literature), but enough to start paying bills. What does it take to do that? I've put together a list of things that worked for me and could work for you as well. For what it's worth, here it is:
- Write a minimum of five days a week. Write at least 1000 words a day.
- Believe in yourself.
- Either hire a good editor or REALLY learn how to edit: this is critical.
- Revise until you want to throw things at the computer. Go away for awhile. Revise some more. I usually go through 8 or 10 revisions or more. Plus I revise as I write the draft.
- Believe in yourself.
- Get a professional cover. Yeah, it costs a few hundred bucks. It's worth it. See Joel Friedman's excellent blog, The Book Designer (www.thebookdesigner.com)
- Use Amazon's KDP Select. I won't go into all the arguments about this program. It works for me. In my opinion, putting your unknown book on all those other platforms is a waste of time and energy and is counter-productive. I tried it; it didn't work. KDP Select gives you the benefit of Amazon's expertise and it gives you powerful promotional opportunities. It gives you real time figures. It pays royalties with consistency and provides statements that are accurate and timely. If you want the best shot at exposure, KDP Select is the only way to go. Without exposure, your book will die. Later, if you do well, you can move books off the program and onto other platforms, if you think it is worth the effort.
- Don't let critics, writing group members, others, tell you your stuff is no good. Assume it always needs work. Find someone who can give you honest feedback. There's room for improvement, but: Believe in yourself.
- Develop the virtue of PATIENCE. There is no overnight success. I'm fond of Lee Childs' comment about becoming an "overnight success" after ten years.
- Writing is a business. It is essential to understand this, if you want to make money at it. I admit, it took me a while to get past my resistance to the reality.
- Believe in yourself.
Advertising is a big stumbling block for a lot of people, because ads cost money. The big sites can get very expensive. Which site, which ad option, that is something each of us has to determine for him/herself. There are too many variables for a simple answer, except the basic one: you MUST advertise. You can start with simple $5.00 fees on sites that list freebies or discounted books. Take a look at www.authormarketingclub.com, which is free and features a convenient page that lets you submit your book to a number of sites when it's time to run a promotion. As sales improve, dedicate a significant part of the revenue to better ad venues. Let the book(s) pay for themselves.
I could put more info in here, more advice, but it's all out there if you look for it. For example, understand who your market is and write for them. Understand what keywords are. Don't try to be all things to all people. Study Amazon's category system. I highly recommend a book by David Gaugrahn called Let's Get Visible. Every self-published author should have this book, along with Stephen King's memoir On Writing.
You can do it. Go forth and prosper!
Thursday, February 7, 2013
"Zombie" got your attention, didn't it?
I love the word dilemma. It has such a poetic ring to it. In the sense I'm thinking of it, dilemma means "a position where each of two alternative courses (or all of the feasible courses) is eminently undesirable". That definition is from my 1972 edition of Webster's Dictionary (New Edition).
There are a lot of words that can't be found in my trusty 1972 New Edition, like internet.
I'm about to start the next book in my thriller series and I have a dilemma: who is the villain and what is the crisis? What nefarious plot is hatching? Why should I (and the reader) care? I have to come up with a theme/plot that will be fresh to the reader's eye. The dilemma arises because every option I think of seems boring at first glance. You don't want boring when you are writing or reading a book.
There are many options for a thriller. Meteors, a new ice age, volcanoes, nuclear bombs, earthquakes, plague, zombies, evil terrorists, global warming, world conspiracies, Nazis, a stolen secret that creates big problems for the forces of light. Not to mention assassinations, traitors in high places, military misadventures. They've all been done. I've done some of them.
It wouldn't be a dilemma if I didn't care, but I do. If a writer doesn't care, he/she probably isn't going to write a very good book, much less a successful one. There are, of course, exceptions. Many awful books have made gazillions of bucks for their authors. You may have come across a few, particularly in the last year or two. Bad books that sell well seem to be proliferating.
For many writers, especially new ones, there is a temptation to copy whatever is popular. Romance is big? Write a romance novel. Zombies are huge? Attack the White House or some other significant icon with hoards of 'em. That is a serious mistake, if you care. Authenticity demands that you write about what interests and excites you, not about what happens to be the latest big trend. Besides, by the time your book is done there will be another latest big trend.
Write what you love or you will go down in flames.
I could write a novel about terrorist zombies attacking the Pentagon while the heroine (the Secretary of Defense) falls in love with the Zombie leader, who is desperately seeking a cure that is being withheld by a military conspiracy. Maybe that would be big, sell a lot of books...hmmm...
A WRITER SECRET
The writer's mind is often filled with voices suggesting ridiculous plot situations. This is called "Inspiration".
ANOTHER WRITER SECRET
The best way to stimulate inspiration is to write something.
I began today in a dilemma (if it's possible to be in a dilemma-and if it is possible, what does it look like, inside a dilemma? I imagine it's rather like a bad motel), the dilemma being who will the villain be and what will he/she do to provoke the engagement of my heroes? Not to mention the fact that a thriller should rightly begin in media res, i.e., with action, stuff happening, things blowing up, threats. I have this nit-picky need to be believable. That contributes to the dilemma.
Since I couldn't come up with anything, I decided to doodle around in the garage with a motorcycle I'm working on and then write this blog piece in an effort to get the inspiration flowing. I'm still waiting. But I feel better, because I wrote something. That's one of the reasons to write, it makes you feel good when you do it. If it doesn't, consider a different career path.
If you like the zombie idea, feel free to use it. If you make millions, I want 10%.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Just what you needed, another blog post about how to sell your books. I don't want to repeat everything you have seen a hundred times already. Things like "use social media" or "do giveaways". There's some of that in this post, because those two things are inescapable must do's for anyone who wants to sell more than three books to Aunt Mary and mom and dad.
Here is what I do to promote my books. It works well enough that I actually sell some of them.
Use Amazon Kindle Select.
This is number one. Yeah, I know, everyone bitches about Amazon and its policy of exclusivity and so on. But unless you are doing really well on the other platforms and selling a significant number of books, KDP Select is the only way to go. Why? Because you want to take advantage of the many websites that will list your book when it goes free and almost all of them want an Amazon page to link to. You MUST do free promos. You can't list for free on Amazon. Amazon will sometimes match a $0.00 price on another platform, but you can't count on it, you can't plan for it and that means you don't have a plan that includes Amazon. Without Amazon you have eliminated around 80% of your potential market. Therefore, an opinion:
WARNING: OPINION ALERT
You can't reasonably plan a successful free promotion without Amazon.
KDP Select success depends on a lot of things. You need eight or ten or more 4 and 5 star reviews. You plan a promo a month ahead. Many sites want three to four weeks notice of a freebie. Sites change, the requirements change, sites come and go. The whole thing of self promotion is in constant flux. BTW, if you write erotica many sites will not list your promotion, so that might be a consideration for you.
Some sites want three days, some the same day or one day notice. Author Marketing Club (http://www.authormarketingclub.com) is a good resource, free, and gives an easy way to list promos on many sites.
Plan a 3 day promo Friday-Sunday. Make sure you tweet about it, mention it on facebook (follow the posting rules in various groups) , Goodreads (join), and especially a few select Amazon discussion forums for authors (the only ones that allow self promo and product listing).
Follow up with a thank you to the groups, etc. where you posted. Success means a lot of free downloads. To me, that means at least a few thousand. Giveaways work better if the writer has a series. One book, okay, but the idea is to stimulate sales of all books. In my thriller series, White Jade is the first in the series and gets people interested in the series as a whole. It's priced at .99. The other books are 3.99.
Where else except KDP Select can you instantly get ten or fifteen thousand people to discover your book for free? Plus you get borrows that pay, a shot at being on one or two top 100 lists and if you do okay, promo flyers go out from Amazon. Yes! Amazon promotes you!
I rest my case.
Social Media (okay, have to talk about it)
Facebook: you need an author page. Pay FB to promote likes, it's worth it. Figure $60.00/month. Acknowledge the folks who "like" your page.
Twitter: Get an account. Get as many followers as you can. It's simple and free. Follow everyone back, follow the suggestions Twitter sends, don't worry about it. Tweet as often as you feel like it but don't always push the books. (conventional wisdom). Post stuff that's interesting. Retweet anything you find interesting. Support people. Don't spend a lot of time on it.
Twitter has a lot of members who will retweet your free promo post if you follow them and/or let them know about your promo. You can find them by a search on the web (Google) or by looking for "free" etc on Twitter. Learn about hashtags. There's a lot of info out there, but you have to look for it. I'm not going to attempt to put it here.
Amazon forums: pick one or two and join in. On promo days, look for other Amazon author forums (there are many) to post. Again, don't spend a lot of time...maybe a half hour or so.
Goodreads: same thing as Amazon.
There are a lot of other social media sites like Pinterest. If you like them and use them, fine. Don't get caught up in all the social media whirl or you won't have any energy or time to write.
What else should you do?
Ads: Use discretion and don't spend a lot of money. There are a lot of sites that will advertise your promo for $5 or less. Use them if you like. Ads are hit and miss. I don't know what works and what doesn't. Don't worry about it, use your intuition and do your research.
Make a plan. A budget is good (I'm bad at that). DON'T spend hours a day on self-promotion. Write instead. An hour a day is probably right at most for self promo.
Get a professionally designed website. This is your main portal, your contact point, your key exposure on the web. Do it as well as you can.
Get a professionally designed cover. Everyone who knows anything says this. They're right. Use the money you didn't spend on ads to get the design services you need. It doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars.
Use the author page on Amazon. It's important. Make it interesting but not full of your life history.
Write good descriptions for the sales page and the best blurbs you can. Study how the big guys do it and shamelessly copy their style.
Respond to readers, always. Acknowledge people who help you. Share resources.
Help out other authors when you can. That can be an encouraging word, a retweet, a comment in a blog, a shared article or something on your facebook page. It's not hard.
There is no competition. What, you say? Think about it. There are over 30,000,000 readers in the US alone. Enough for everyone. Just write a good book. If you're not thinking about how the other guy is taking sales from you, you are not immersing yourself in resentment and poverty thinking. No one is taking sales from you. Everyone can succeed.
Keep writing. Get more than one book out there. DON'T fall into the trap of quantity vs. quality. Write the best book you can. Lately I see and hear a lot of talk about "commodity" writing, the idea being that cheap junk will bring in money because a lot of people don't care about quality, they just want something to read. I hate the whole idea of that and I don't agree.
Don't give up and get discouraged. If your book is well written and it's not selling, you need to find ways to get it out to as many people as possible, which brings us back to KDP Select as the best venue.
Be patient. This process takes time. It took Lee Child ten years to be an "overnight success". Figure a couple of years to start making consistent sales, maybe longer, maybe less. But believe in yourself.
Give up resentment about Amazon. I see a lot of that. It's a waste of time. Without Amazon the Indie Revolution would be almost non-existent. Be grateful. It's okay if they make a lot of money.
Set your intention. This is the most important thing of all. By this I mean that you KNOW you are a.) successful b.) going to make a bunch of bucks someday c.) you can trust the universe to back you up d.) your work is good enough to sell and sell well and e.) you're not worried about it, because you are definitely going to succeed AND you can FEEL it. Try it, you'll see.
Now go out there and sell a lot of books.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
I hope all of you have had a successful year in 2012. Hey, the world didn't end after all. Pretty hard to beat that for success, don't you think? I ended the year with an award for Best Thriller Series from a wonderfully supportive group called the Paranormal Romance Guild.
I don't write Paranormal Romance, which makes the award all the more significant to me. For me, the year ends with success. What comes in 2013? Let's see...
2 +0 + 1 + 3 = 6. 6 is the mystical number of relationship. 6 is the number of creativity. 6 is 2/3 of the way through a cycle of 9. I am in a 9 year. Surely, this means something. Or not.
I choose to believe that it does and that it is a very good year for anyone who is a writer. Why? Because relationship is the key to our success.
There is relationship to our readers. There is relationship to the characters in the story. Relationship to everyone else in our life and world. I don't think it's possible to write about relationship with any success unless it has been experienced it in the outer, "real" world.
That doesn't mean we have had to live the lives of our characters. It means that as writers we have to extract the core of our experience and observation of relationship in a way that communicates through the actions and feelings, thoughts and events we create for our characters.
I am currently hooked on the show "Sons of Anarchy", a powerful drama I would characterize as a soap opera of the highest order with guns and motorcycles. Now I am a bit biased, since I love motorcycles and have known people like the ones portrayed in the show. There is a degree of reality to the show that is based on more than imagination. I doubt that the writers belong to an outlaw motorcycle club and wear their colors to the studio. Yet they are brilliant at capturing the milieu of the outlaw. They portray a complexity of relationship and action worthy of Shakespeare, a story of moral corruption, betrayal, loyalty and love.
It's a violent show, not for the faint of heart, bloody and brutal. It is also a paean to love and brotherhood. The plot twists and turns in every direction. The characters grow and change. Dark minions from both sides of law and order weave their way through the maze. There are times when I want to groan when I hear the line about protecting family. But for an engrossing crime drama of complex relationship, nothing except The Godfather even comes close.
The show is popular because it goes beyond mere violence for effect. It resonates because each of us is, in some way, like different characters in the story. A piece here, a piece there. We watch and understand the demons that drive the actions of the protagonists. Maybe we wouldn't pick up a gun and shoot the evil ATF agent (fully justified by the story line) but we understand why it should be done. The writing and plot line make it right and inevitable. If there is any justice in the world, it has to happen. If I have a wish for the new year, it is that I learn to write as well as what I see in this show.
Before anyone jumps on me for advocating gun violence, please, that isn't what I'm doing. It's a STORY, meant to entertain and provoke. Shakespeare did the same thing and as I recall, left many a stage strewn with bodes. No one accuses him of advocating violence.
If this is a year mystically tied to relationship, then your writing will succeed if you remember to make that the foundation of what you write.