Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘self-publishing’

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 You’re supposed to offer incentives, like an unpublished short story, but who’s going to want an unpublished story from some guy they never heard of?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

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Now that it’s all over, and I’ve had a few days (not enough) to think about it, what data can be culled from the research project called The Scent of Death?

Well, for one thing, it still doesn’t seem real. I have now written my tenth novel, and it doesn’t feel any different from when I finished the ninth; in fact, there is less of a sense of accomplishment. This is hardly surprising, since I put in only one-sixth of the time; TSD did not occupy a full year of my life, so I don’t feel so invested in it. (Oh no! One of my children is not as good as the rest! I am a bad parent, er, writer.) I suspect that after I’ve commissioned a cover and start taking pre-orders, that will change.

Second thing: When you write that much, that fast, it’s hard to turn off. I’m already in the pre- pre-planning stages of the next book, no. 3 in the Captain Swashbuckle series, entitled Dr. Scar. (I like “Dr.,” but it could be “Doctor,” if public sentiment swings that way.) Dr. Scar is intended to be a recurring villain, a really bad person whom Eric (for very good reasons) thought was dead. But then, Dr. Scar thought the same about him, so everybody’s gonna be surprised.

Third thing: As I’ve alluded to before, this newfound ability to write quickly may have a profound effect on my plans. I usually alternate between novels and short stories, for economic as well as practical reasons. But now the world is turned upside-down, the practical reasons have dwindled, and they may have dragged the economic ones with them. (This last, of course, remains to be seen.) Everything I’ve read, however (and I have seriously researched this question) tells me that you have to put in some heavy lifting, as in, you have to write several books, before you can see if you’re getting any traction. I have two, and Dr. Scar would make three. If I can keep a schedule, I figure I can be up to five by this time next year. If sales warrant it, I will keep going. If they don’t, well…next year’s an election year and maybe I’ll just run for office.

Putting all this data together, I have reached a conclusion: If you buy my books, and tell all of your friends to buy my books, I won’t have to run for office. Believe me, we will all be happier.

#SFWApro

Read Full Post »

I’ve never really tried writing to an outline before, but now I’ve outlined the sequel to The Choking Rain, provisionally titled Something in the Air (but very much subject to change), and I’ve spent the last two evenings writing the first 4300 words. The idea is to write 2000 words a night, which would bring in the first draft before Labor Day.

I hadn’t planned to write another novel so soon; the idea was to concentrate on short fiction this year. But after a couple of tries (and one completion), the Muse wasn’t hanging around. “Well,” I thought, “no plan to do something is good if it keeps you from doing anything,” so I allowed myself to think about writing another book–but only if I could get it done quickly. None of this “twelve months and a bit” this time. None of this foundering in the middle trying to figure out how the plot was going to get from A to Z. (A and Z are easy. It’s L, M, and N that will kill you.)

So I tried outlining, and surprisingly, it wasn’t tough. (I’ve had this idea for a long time, so that helped.) I had the outline done in half the time I had allotted, including details for the first dozen chapters, so I started even sooner than I thought I would. So far, I’m 300 words ahead of schedule. We’ll see how tonight goes.

I’ll keep you all updated every week or so, unless I fall completely behind, in which case I will close this page and start writing under an assumed name, something with fewer expectations. I’m leaning toward “Will Shakespeare,” since no one thinks he ever wrote anything anyway…

#SFWApro

Read Full Post »

Today is the day! The final book in the Stolen Future trilogy is on sale! The Cosmic City is available as an e-book for $3.99 on Amazon and Smashwords, and the paperback will soon be on sale for $9.99 at Createspace.

Keryl Clee may think he has defeated his foes and started the Earth on the path to unity, but his greatest challenge–and Earth’s greatest threat–await him.While he languishes in a prison of made of history, the clock moves inexorably to the moment when humanity will be destroyed and Time itself may be damaged beyond repair!

To celebrate the completion of the Stolen Future trilogy, the first volume, The Invisible City, is priced at $.99. What are you waiting for? As Keryl Clee will tell you, Time is of the essence!

#SFWApro

Read Full Post »

From now until Christmas Day, The Invisible City is on sale at Amazon and Smashwords for $.99. This is a great chance to grab a last-minute (virtual) stocking-stuffer–and gives plenty of time to read the first book in the series, and The Secret Citybefore The Cosmic City comes out in 2017!

#SFWApro

 

Read Full Post »

…are the ones you should be listening to. I know the adage is, “Those who can’t do, teach,” but that is so dismissive and narrow-minded that I could spend most of this post on why I don’t agree with it. Suffice it to say, as it is commonly understood, it’s garbage.

Let me ‘splain. I recently read about a friend who has been trying to become a professional writer nearly as long as I have (which is saying something). Soon after I succeeded, he did too. And so he is justifiably very proud of his accomplishments. Recently, however, he was told in no uncertain terms that he was going about his career all wrong. Independent publishing was the only way to go! Everybody would do better if he’d only abandon the creaky old system of traditional publishing and self-publish!

Well, my friend was justifiably (again) upset. He’s got his career path, it’s starting to work for him, and he doesn’t need anybody coming along and saying how it’s so tough just because he’s doing it all wrong. Becoming a published writer (let alone succeeding at it) requires a ridiculous amount tenacity and a delusional level of self-confidence. Saying it’s only so hard because you’re doing it wrong is condescending and rude. In other words, my career is None of Your Business.

And yet, there is a value in learning from others. Sometimes this even involves being lectured, and occasionally, it involves being told you are wrong. This is called “teaching.” (Simply telling someone he’s doing it wrong because your way worked for you isn’t teaching. It’s gloating. And it doesn’t make you a teacher, it makes you a jerk.) And I would posit that some of the very best teachers are not “those who can’t do,” but rather “those who can’t do for a living.”

Let’s face it. Not everybody can be the best at everything–or even one thing. While there is value from learning from someone who has tried (and succeeded to some extent) what you’re trying to do, it doesn’t mean that just because your teacher isn’t making a living at, say, writing, he can’t be a good writing teacher. I’ve had teachers who were professional writers, and others who have merely written professionally. I have learned from all of them. (I’ve also learned a great deal from myself, and I’m certainly not making a living as a writer.)

I would go further and say I’d rather learn from the guy who hasn’t made it than the guy who has, or at the very least that you can learn more from someone who has failed than someone who never has. The successful (writer) can tell you how he made it and you can try to emulate him. The moderately-successful writer who has twice the number of rejections as acceptances can teach you how not to fail. In my experience, you can’t really understand winning until you understand losing.

Case in point, as provided by my friend: self-publishing. I entered the self-publishing field about three years ago. I tried to find out what I was getting into by going to panels at cons, featuring self-published authors. I went to all I could. They were very encouraging. They thought everyone should try it. After all, they’d succeeded with no more of a book idea than I had. The problem was, they had all succeeded. They never talked about failure. Eventually, one actually said, “Your first book never sells,” which was manna to me because my first book wasn’t, in fact, selling. No problem, says I, the sequel will.

The problem with listening to all these successful self-published writers was that they didn’t know (or talk about, anyway) how not to fail. They never spoke of the need to stick to one series in one genre because audiences won’t follow you across genres. They never said that it can take three or four or more books to gain an audience (if you ever do) and how those four books had to come out no less than every four months (six if you must, but you’re taking an awful chance that people will forget you). They never talked about the hundreds of dollars you must spend in cover art, copyediting, and advertising. Yes, advertising, preferably with a heavy social media presence to raise your books out of the morass of the thousands of other books self-published every year. They didn’t mention the ten hours a week you should be spending on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and whatever other media platforms have been invented since I started writing this post–and that if you’re not prepared to do that, or if you don’t already have 50,000 Twitter followers, your chances of ever being noticed are slim to none.

So, yes, I shared my friend’s outrage and being told he was writing “the wrong way.” Because no two writers work exactly the same, and self-publishing is not a panacea and anyone who tells you it is, is either selling you a bill of goods or selling one to himself.

It’s true that “those who can’t do, teach,” but it’s a damned good thing, because they’re the ones with the courage to admit they haven’t always succeeded. And that’s a lesson we should all learn.

#SFWApro

Read Full Post »

Every once in a while, if you’re going to write a blog about writing, you have to write about writing. Right? This is one of those times. If you’re not a writer or planning to be one, you can skip this one. (But you don’t have to…)  If you are a writer–why aren’t you writing? Oh, you’re just taking a break from the next Harry Potter? Then settle in. You need to know this stuff.

Writers are always concerned with how they’re going to get their message across to readers. Unless you’re planning to self-publish, that’s the wrong way to go about it. (And if you are planning to self-publish, there are some other blogs you should be reading.) What you want to do is get your message across to an editor. The editor buys your story from you. He gives it to the publisher. Readers buy their story from the publisher. If you don’t sell the editor, you don’t sell.

How do I sell an editor, you ask? Very good question. And a very big task. To begin with, there are as many ways to sell to an editor as there are editors. (Even so, selling to readers is a lot harder, because  there are a lot more of them than editors.) On the other hand, editors will tell you exactly what they are looking for. These are called “guidelines,” and if you follow them, while you still might not get the sale, you will develop a reputation for dependability, which can be almost as good. (For purposes of our discussion, we will limit ourselves to magazine editors.)

See, even though editors read hundreds of stories a month, they tend to see the same authors over and over, and they remember you. The first time an editor said such-and-such story was not as good as my other stories, I was over the moon. I never sold to him, but he knew my name. He found it worth remembering, and that’s huge.

If an editor is going to remember you, you want it to be for the right reasons. That means read the guidelines and follow them. You’d be surprised how many writers don’t.  On the other hand, sometimes guidelines aren’t as strict as they appear. An anthology’s theme might stretch to cover your story even if it doesn’t fit like a glove. And word limits may be flexible. If the guidelines say, “3000 – 5000 words, firm,” then respect them. But if they don’t, maybe they can be exceeded–but if you’re going to try that, ask first. You can query an editor to determine if exceptions are allowed, and the mere fact that you asked may get you the answer you want.

Well, you may get the answer you want concerning whether you can skirt the guidelines. Getting the answer you want about a sale, that’s going to take some more work. But when you sub that next story, having an editor who remembers you isn’t going to hurt…

#SFWApro

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »