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Posts Tagged ‘self-publishing’

It’s late, I’m tired, I probably should leave this until tomorrow, but it’s not been a good day writing-wise, so I’d like to go to bed knowing I accomplished something. I’ll try to be coherent.

My last book (The Scent of Death), I wrote up as “The Experiment,” a mostly-weekly rundown of how well I had kept to my 8,000 (later 6,000) word schedule. Now I’m working on Son of the Experiment (The Killing Scar), and it’s not going nearly so well. After seven days, I have close to 5700 words. (It is, again, ironic that under my old system this would have been considered quite satisfactory.) And the words are all right; I have no problem with them; the characters are behaving themselves. Although it took time, I have the major plot points worked out, and the settings, and all that. But it’s been slow, and I’ve been slow to realize why.

The problem, I now understand, is that I’ve been trying to go too fast. Not that I can’t put out 1500 words a day (I wrote 1900 last night), but I’ve put the cart before the horse. The whole basis of my new system is outlining–and I kinda sorta forgot to do enough outlining.

I thought that because I only outlined the last book up through the first dozen chapters and wrote the rest with a vaguer sort of guidance, I could write a whole book that way. Turns out I can’t. You see, as long as you know where you’re headed, the closer you get to the end of the book, the easier it is to write. In the case of The Scent of Death, I was able to apply that principle to the last 40,000 words (and the last 10,000 flew by). But that still means I wrote 20,000 words from a pretty detailed outline, a luxury I haven’t given myself this time.

Last night’s 1900 words came in the form of a prologue–that I wrote after I was 3000 words into the book. If you’re writing a huge prologue after you’ve started the book, something’s wrong with your schedule. It means, most obviously, that you began your book in the wrong place. And if you start in the wrong place, you cannot end in the right place.

So I’m going back to the outline. (I feel better about the whole process already.) I’ll outline the first quarter-to-half of the book, maybe more if it is working. Then I’ll be able to jump into the real writing with a sense of confidence. Yep, I’m rarin’ to go now!

After I get a good night’s sleep. I don’t want my characters yawning in the middle of their dialogue.

#SFWApro

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A friend pointed me to an article the other day regarding the latest generation of teenagers and their addiction to their cell phones and tablets. According to this author’s research, the more time they spend staring at their screens, the unhappier they are. Now I am not a teenager, and I don’t have any teen-aged children, so normally this would be of little import to me. But it got me thinking about something else I’d seen lately, not about kids, but about the time spent starting at a screen–in this case, as an indie author.

As I’ve said, I’ve spent more than a little time researching the subject of self-publishing and making it as an independent author. I’ve read a lot of postings and articles by people who make a very good living (six figures annually) doing that. Naturally, the “how” is important to me.

One author I read recently opined that the absolute minimum for success is to put out four novels per year. I’m assuming these aren’t 200,000-word door-stoppers, but that’s still a lot output, a minimum of a quarter-million words. (Right now, I’m aiming for 180,000 words; we’ll see how it goes.) And that means a lot of time spent writing. (These are people who make their living writing; you’d think they have no day job, but apparently some do. Wow.)

I have seen postings saying that to achieve this milestone, you have to work all the time. You are writing or you are promoting or you are researching your audience and how to reach more of them. You do not watch TV, go to the movies, and although some have children, I don’t know when they found the opportunity.

I’m sorry, there are things I’m not willing to give up. Granted, I watch a lot less TV than I used to (something has to go), but I have a wife, and friends, and hobbies, and I will not surrender them. I won’t spend my life staring at a screen.

When I was in high school, I took a class that was supposed to provide life lessons for after you graduated. (Yeah, it was pretty laid back, and no, grading was not tough.) One of our exercises one day was to write an essay naming people we thought were “successful.” I came up with a few obvious folks, wrote about them, and turned it in. Nothing ground-breaking, except that I can still remember thinking that “success” is personal. It’s not making the most money, or fame, it’s being able to do what you want to do. (Maybe I learned more in that class than I thought.) He who dies with the most books doesn’t necessarily win.

Well, what I want to do is not sit in my freezing garret every day for the rest of my life, spinning stories, if it means sacrificing what I find makes life worth living. If I can find a way to write four novels a year and not lose it all, then great. (I may; writing three a year would have been unthinkable as far back as 2016, but I’ve already written one this summer and just started my second.)

I’d love to make six figures with my writing. I’d love to shower my wife with vacations to make up for all the time she’s allowed me to leave her for the company of my fictional friends. But if I spend my whole life writing, then she’s going to spending those vacations alone…

…and I don’t think that’s the point.

#SFWApro

 

 

 

 

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To go along with the The Scent of Death (available for pre-order now at Amazon and Smashwords, hint, hint), I ordered a new cover for book no. 1 in the series, The Choking Rain (on sale through September). Although the cover has been uploaded, those sites have not yet posted it, so here, for the first time ever, in a Graffiti on the Walls of Time exclusive, is the new cover for The Choking Rain.

cover

 

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Lately, life has developed a way of grabbing me by the scruff of the neck, shaking me around, and saying, “Things don’t always work out the way you think! You’re not always right! Stop analyzing and just believe!”

Now, I’m not talking about a religious conversion here, but a couple of things have happened lately that jerked my head around ninety degrees. In short, I don’t know everything.

As you all know, prior to very recently, the fastest I’d ever written a book was just over a year. Most had taken longer (although in some cases there were extrinsic circumstances that slowed me down). But a few months ago, I decided to see if I could write a book more quickly, using outlining and a strict daily word requirement. Part of the reason I hadn’t been fast before was because I used 500 words as a benchmark, 1000 words if I was feeling ambitious. But I knew I could do better, because I had done so before, albeit in short stretches.

And I wrote a 57,000-word novel in 55 days. It still sounds weird when I write it. But it told me that I could do things I never thought I could do.

Then, in a completely unrelated episode, last night I attended a football game. It was hot and muggy; it rained. It was one of the ugliest games I ever saw. We had minimal offense; we had virtually no effective defense. People were leaving the stands in droves. I was ready to leave. As the third quarter wound down, UCLA was losing 44-10.

We won.

In the greatest comeback in school history, we scored five consecutive touchdowns, including one in the last minute. No one would have given a plugged nickel for our chances, except apparently the players. They believed.

If I can write a book in under two months, if the Bruins can come back from a 34-point deficit in twenty minutes, how can you not believe that the impossible is merely the unlikely with good PR?

In the past month, I have both done and seen things that I would have sworn were impossible. But they happened. From now on, when my reasoning brain tells me that this is a brutal business, that success may never in my grasp, that making it as an author is practically impossible…

I’m going to say, “Yeah? That’s your opinion. Me? I’ve seen miracles.”

#SFWApro

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Writers are like sharks: If we don’t keep moving forward, we drown. (Not in water, of course, but in our dreams. It’s messier.) And so now that I have (finally) finished editing The Scent of Death, I find myself starting to outline the next book in the series, currently tentatively entitled The Killing Scar. As I have mentioned, TKS will bring back an enemy from Eric’s past whom Eric thought was dead, and who, ironically, thought the same thing of Eric. Whether either of them survives this time depends on my mood.

I had planned to bring out TSD in mid-September, which seems feasible, since the cover is almost ready (I hope). I am hoping to find a couple of beta readers just to go over it and ensure I haven’t made any huge plot errors…if anyone is interested, you can email me at brianklowewriter@aol.com. All I ask is that you read the book and get back to me within a week or ten days, so if there are any necessary changes I can make them. (I’ll even throw in an e-book of The Choking Rain for your trouble. If you were moved to leave a review on Amazon, I would be grateful, but it is not required.)

So in a couple of weeks I hope to start serious work on The Killing Scar, and be done with it some time around Thanksgiving. Given the exigencies of the season, editing that will probably take the rest of the year. The first half of 2018 will be occupied by writing no. 4, Marauders from the Moon, and no. 5, The Invisible Crimes. Then we’ll see where we stand.

It’s funny; I have never planned this many works in advance before. It makes me feel like a real writer. Up until now, if I planned a year ahead, it was only to finish the current novel. Life certainly can surprise you.

What will really surprise me is if I can carry this off. The Experiment hasn’t ended, it’s only gotten additional funding…

#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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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

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