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Posts Tagged ‘goodreads’

I am fond of saying that one of the reasons I’m a writer is because I have absolutely no talent for higher math. I’m pretty good at straight arithmetic, I managed to hold my own in algebra (with a great deal of struggle), and geometry was relatively easy–but when I try to advance beyond that, forget it. Many of my friends can read complicated equations like I read the newspaper (yes, some of us still do read the newspaper, and not on our phones), but to me they don’t even form a language, let alone a readable narrative.

Words, on the other hand, have always been my bread and butter. I was always the best speller in my elementary classes (among the boys, anyway), and I was a top English student in high school. Now I’m a writer. My friends with physics degrees can build models of quarks, but I can build models of worlds.

It is ironic, then, that so much of what I do is defined by numbers. There are sales numbers, obviously, and numbers of reviews (never enough), and ranking numbers at Amazon (although I realize as well as anyone how arbitrary they are, it doesn’t stop me from looking). And there are other numbers, as well–first among them is word count.

When you’re writing a short story, word count defines what kind of story you’re writing: flash, short, novella, etc., and where you can sell it, because magazines have parameters, based on their page counts and budgets. Some are firm, some have a little elasticity, but they all have the limits. You have to know this if you’re going to have any success at all, because your 17,000-word novelette may be brilliant, but its potential markets are few.

Word count also defines something quite different: It defines how difficult this job is. Think about it. A commercial short novel these days runs no less than 65,000 words, and you’ll find damn few of those. Most are at least 80,000 words. My longest novel so far ran 122,000 words. The novels I’m writing now are designed to come in at 60,000. And these words are not random; every one of them is specially selected. How hard is that?

Let me give you some context: The average person speaks about 16,000 words per day. That means that my typical novel is the equivalent of everything you say for four days. And it all has to be entertaining, suitably paced, and come to a point. You think you could talk that way for four days straight?

I do. Granted, I plan some of it out ahead of time, and it may take me ten weeks, but in the end it’s the same thing. The next time you’re reading a book, take a look at its page count, and multiply by 300. That will give you a rough idea how many words it is (depending on the book, of course, but bear with me). Then ask yourself, “Could I write that many words in a fashion so entertaining that people would pay money to read it?”

If the answer is “yes,” then close this window and get to writing. But if the answer is “no,” then the next time you finish a book, take a few moments to rate or review it on Amazon or Goodreads.

After all, in writing, it’s the numbers that count.

#SFWApro

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I’ve been scouring my sources lately for ideas on how to promote The Scent of Death and, incidentally, my other books. I mean, to hear the Gods of Self-publishing tell it, there’s no reason in the world that you can’t be living off of your writing after a half-dozen books. (And apparently they do, so more power to them.) But you know what? That’s not a lot of help to those of us struggling to find a readership.

Granted, they’re talking about half-a-dozen books in a series, which I haven’t reached. That’s why I’m looking to push TSD, because I’m hoping to turn these books into a series–which is only possible because I recently discovered that (if I give up eating and sleeping) I can produce three to four books a year (which apparently is critical), but I haven’t done it yet. So, again, maybe those people are right. But this post isn’t for them; it’s for all the indies in my league who are wondering just how to get ahead. I am here to share my wisdom.

So. In a rare flash of insight, I went to the successful self-publishers that I know through my various on-line communities, and I asked them: If you have no reader base to speak of, and you’re not already a famous author, and you’re not a Youtube star, how do you start? How do you get those first few hundred readers for a new series?

News flash: They don’t know. (Before I go on, let me stress that these are nice, helpful people who volunteered their time to pay it forward. They just didn’t have any answers.) Two pieces of advice were repeated often: Buy as good a cover as you can find, and start a mailing list. Other than that, your guess is as good as anyone’s.

Buying a good cover is problematic: First, what makes a good cover? (How long is a piece of string?) My research says a good cover is one that features decent artwork and says something about your story. Since you’re probably limited to artists who work in stock photos, however, it’s wise not to set your sights too high.

And start a mailing list. Everybody says this, so it must be true, but it seems to me if you haven’t been able to sell a lot of books because no one knows who you are, getting people to sign up for your mailing list may be tough as well. You’re supposed to offer incentives, like an unpublished short story, but who’s going to want an unpublished story from some guy they never heard of? I’m going to try it, but I’m skeptical. (Then again, I didn’t think I could write a novel in seven weeks, either…)

There is paid marketing, of course, but… Writing isn’t a good-paying gig in the first place, and you want me to throw money at it. Not to mention that there are at least a hundred ways to advertise out there, and a thousand different opinions from experienced people as to who you should use, how much you should pay, who you should target, and whether the whole idea of advertising actually works at all. (And that’s not counting free marketing, like Twitter, Facebook groups, Goodreads, and of course, blogging.)

If I have any advice to give, it’s to do what you can afford. Start with the free stuff. It may work for you. (I’ve tried several venues. Some worked, most didn’t.) Create a mailing list (it’s one of the free things). If you want to spend a little money, there are lots of folks out there willing to help you do that.

But most of all, what you can afford is time to write. (If you can’t, you have other problems.) So write. Write as much as you can, get it out there, and write some more. At least then, even if you don’t sell, you’ll be doing what you love.

*Which means I’ll probably delete this before you ever see it.

#SFWApro

 

 

 

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It’s been a while since I posted here, and there still aren’t any huge issues I need to address, but since I know that blog-withdrawal is a horrible thing, I’m stopping by to sprinkle a few crumbs to sustain you until the next big idea stumbles in.

Burning Midnight giveaway

I don’t normally do book reviews (since I have so little time to read), and I can’t very well review this book because it isn’t out yet, but Hugo-winner and multi-award nominee Will McIntosh’s new book, Burning Midnight, is being featured with a giveaway through Goodreads. If you’re on Goodreads, you should check it out. Although a YA book, I can assure you that I read the original short story several years ago, and it’s still one of the finest short stories in memory. I have been waiting (and militating) for Burning Midnight for years, and it’s here at last. (Disclosure: Will is a friend of mine. Don’t let that scare you.)

The Invisible World update

Because people have asked, my own opus, called (at least this week) The Invisible World, sequel to The Invisible City,  nears completion. After a flurry of writing completely unrelated to NaNoWriMo, I expect the first draft to be finished before the end of the month.

Awards season is almost upon us

Seems we just escaped last year’s Hugo debacle and here we are again. The Nebula balloting will begin this month, and nominations for the Hugos open in January. I know the Sad Puppies are up for another fight, and this year’s Worldcon Guests of Honor include Patrick and Theresa Neilsen-Hayden (which will give the Puppies indigestion), but I hope that cooler heads will prevail this time around. Arguing about the Hugos is fun, but let’s try to keep it about the Hugos.

And that’s all for now. I have a book to write…

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