Sunday, June 23, 2013

When is it Done? Some Random Thoughts for the Self-Published..

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:
  1. quell the urge to get the book out there as fast as possible so you don't have to think about it anymore
  2. 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

Go Forth and Prosper

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:

  1. Write a minimum of five days a week. Write at least 1000 words a day.
  2. Believe in yourself.
  3. Either hire a good editor or REALLY learn how to edit: this is critical.
  4. 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.
  5. Believe in yourself.
  6. Get a professional cover. Yeah, it costs a few hundred bucks. It's worth it. See Joel Friedman's excellent blog, The Book Designer (
  7. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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, 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!