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The Indie Author’s quick guide to Twitter

January 24, 2014 – 4:49 pm

In a new feature, we’ve decided to provide some quick guides to various social networks, from our social media based moderator (Kai).  Remember too, that we have our own Twitter and Facebook page, and will be launching a Pinterest profile for our members soon!
The Quick guide to Twitter
Twitter is a basic social network where you can post tweets, which are 140 characters or less.  Tweets …

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A Tale of Self-Publishing – How authors slayed the dragon

April 25, 2017 – 4:47 pm
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Once upon a time, there was only traditional publishing and in traditional publishing there were gatekeepers. A gatekeeper’s job was to filter out the unedited, poorly written dreck that opened not with action, but backstory or prologues. Then their function changed from being mere gatekeepers to arbiters/purchasing agents and so the reading public was forced to read endless variations of Twilight with its moody, angst driven hero and wistful, victim heroine to 50 Shades of Grey, to use a few comparisons we hear from readers of the current cookie-cutter genre (which is a whole other readership in itself). But some were dissatisfied. Writers were becoming discouraged. This made a lot of people very angry and was widely viewed as a bad move. Justifiably so, since it kept a lot of good authors out of publishing.

And then, lo and behold, there was born a new industry (resurrected really – though in a new format) called Self-Publishing.

In the beginning, there was Smashwords, run by Mark Coker. He wanted to democratize publishing, and so there was and is no cost, no frills, it was (and still is) a quick way to get your e-book into production and distribution, and you could do it in a day. It deliberately allowed writers to appeal directly to readers without having to deal with gatekeepers such as agents and editors. In keeping with this mission, Smashwords applies no editorial screening. (This has turned out to be not necessarily a good move, either. More on that, later.)

Now authors who want to publish had a home.

The first to truly achieve success – by getting noticed – was Amanda Hocking. She virtually created YA – Young Adult, aka, what had once been known as ‘Coming of Age’, with a dystopian or paranormal twist. From that came NA – New Adult. Her sales took off and then a traditional publisher signed her.

(This doesn’t discount Chuck Wendig or JA Konrath or a handful of others, who were hybrid traditional/self-publishers and are now primarily self-publishers.)

Thus was created new venues – Amazon & Kindle, Barnes & Noble with the Nook (not managed very well), Apple & iBooks, Draft to Digital and Kobo.

Now, anyone who wanted to write a book could…and many did.

At first, a decent author with a decent cover could actually make money from their work.

And then, the hordes descended.

Like any other Indie/Self-publisher I hate the idea of gatekeepers, yet now there are none and, increasingly, it shows. And, weirdly, self-publishers have turned into their own worse enemies. Writers actually insist that they don’t need editors or cover artists. (Every author does.)

As the creator/admin/mod of the Indie Author Group, I constantly hear ‘woe is me, my sales are non-existent’, and variations therein.  And while I have sympathy, I can see why – sometimes when I look at their book, the cover is awful, the editing is worse, or the books they’re writing are in the most popular, most glutted genres. I can’t, however, say that to them or face the wrath of the angry author. Suggest they try a new or different take and all the mods have come to expect fireworks. Suggest that they don’t write to the tropes – the ‘romantic’ motorcycle alpha male, the hero’s journey/quest, the hard-boiled detective – and you’ll get, as I did, the one-book wonder or instant expert who will object. Strenuously.  Then, that one book insta-expert tries to hijack the group entirely and things get difficult for all of the team when all we want is to do what we love – write and support.

Yet, that’s how the most successful writers did it.

When Stephen King started writing horror, they said there was no market, but he practically reinvented it. J. K. Rowling created fantasy novels for middle-grade to YA. Hocking gave YA street cred. Wendig does mysteries and science fiction. As much as Twilight gets bashed – the author reinvented the vampire story with her angst-ridden characters. And E. L. James ponied onto the back of that, to write a Twilight fan-fic without the supernatural and with a twist, and brought erotic romance from a niche into the mainstream. Hugh Howey recreated dystopian fiction, sold the print rights but kept the e-books (at first), creating a new hybrid market while he was at it. And Andy Weir recreated accessible science fiction.

Hocking, James, Howey, and Weir all started as Indie writers. All signed contracts with Big Five publishers.

Okay, so that’s the good news, here’s the reality. The self-publishing industry has to change. You can change with it or be left behind.

Some venues are closing or have closed, others are teetering. Despite the Amazon bashing, with its international reach it’s still the publisher of choice for most Indie writers, and with all due apologies to Smashwords, Amazon does require some editorial screening (although it can’t do much about those grammatical errors and really bad covers). Bad spelling, editing, and cover art harm all of us. Few of the other vendors offer any marketing/support assistance, which makes publicizing books there difficult. But Amazon DOES take onboard specific reports – we’re seeing more and more of these books that people say ‘I’m not selling’ pop up with a yellow triangle under its name that says ‘issues found’, then details reports they’ve received, and lets folks know that the publisher has been informed. In other words, Amazon is pushing for a bit of crowdsourced control and DO check before they flag things. It’s a gatekeeper in the hands of readers, in other words.

You, the writer, have to decide whether you want to stay a midlist writer and disappear like so many others, or innovate, try new things and find your niche.

KDP Select and Instafreebie – a caution

February 1, 2017 – 6:30 pm

I’ve been talking to people a lot about the new promotional methods out there while we revamp the blog (you’ll notice that all bar a few articles are still up on the site for now – they need updating, to the point that we’re actually setting up some new projects and doing something new for […]

Pronoun merges with MacMillan

May 25, 2016 – 8:10 pm
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Pronoun announced today that they were merging with MacMillan, in a move that is probably going to be quite surprising to many. There have been a lot of changes recently in the indie author community, so what is clear is that people are trying to forge the best of their platforms for various needs – it’s just a question of finding the ones that work …

Self-publishing 101

January 15, 2016 – 7:49 pm

Write a good book and finish it. Do not even consider self-publishing until it’s finished, with good cover art and editing.
Write at least two and up to five more books before releasing Book One, even if it’s in another genre – nothing sells Book One like Book Two, Three, etc.
Give the first book to beta readers for evaluation – give them a time to return …

My experience with Twitter Ads

January 9, 2016 – 5:58 pm
Site visits

At the end of 2015 I had the idea to experiment with Twitter’s advertisement machine. It’s easy to find: http://ads.twitter.com. You sign in with your twitter account and there’s where you start.
You can set up all kinds of campaigns. I wanted one that got more traffic to my website so I went for that. (You can go into the ads site and look around without …

How to be a Pantser – Character Development

December 23, 2015 – 3:57 pm
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When you first met one of your best friends, did you know everything there was to know about them? Of course not. Sometimes becoming friends is instantaneous, something about them tells you that you just know somehow that you’ll like them. Maybe it’s the easy way they have about them, or the direct way they look at you, the way they’re comfortable in their own …

Pinterest for Writers

December 23, 2015 – 3:38 pm
Pinterest

First, remember that Pinterest is not a promotion or sale site, it’s simply another social media site except that it’s geared around pictures. For a writer, a Pinterest page allows readers to get to know the writer as a person, as well as your work. Your goal with Pinterest is to engage readers. So, with that in mind:

Create a Pinterest page for you as a writer. …

Our new classes, starting October 1st, and a freebie

September 27, 2015 – 12:45 pm
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If you struggle with marketing, you are cordially invited to join us for some accessible, affordable classes based around everything social media.  These classes are designed to teach you to handle your social media in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you, and gives you the chance to write, market yourself on various platforms, or work […]

Approaching Book Review Blogs

September 15, 2015 – 2:17 pm
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I have been reviewing at least a book a week for two and a half years over on my magic realism blog. I am also an indie author, so you could say I have a foot in both camps. I try to support my fellow indie authors on the blog by reviewing indie books as well as traditionally published ones, but there are times when …

How to write a best-selling novel

August 7, 2015 – 4:01 pm
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First, read. Read a lot. (Stephen King, paraphrased – “if you don’t have time to read, you can’t write.”) Reading will teach you how to write, how to write well, and how to write compelling characters.
Corollary – read the genre you’re writing in, that will teach you the ins and outs of that genre, and it may inspire a story.
Second, are you a pantser or a …

Writing series/sequels

April 13, 2015 – 11:57 pm
Looks like a good book

First, readers love series/sequels. However, the next book in any series should always be a standalone book, that is unless you really want to annoy your readers. And you should only write it because you have more to say, because you like the world in which you wrote it, or because you love the characters so much that you want to spend more time with …