How and why to use Paper.li

For those who aren’t familiar with Paper.li it’s essentially a ‘newspaper’ about whatever you want to share and it’s easy to use. Simply go to the site and sign up. There are two versions – free and paid. (More on that later.)
Give it a title but think long and hard before choosing one. Don’t make the common mistake of naming it ‘YourName, Author‘ or ‘RomanticTitle Series‘, because using your author name is a giveaway for ‘buy my book’ promotion and if you go off that series track you have to remember to go back and rename your paper.li.  You want to consider it as part of your marketing plan but you don’t want to be obvious about it or no one will read it.
Since I write self-published fantasy, and that’s usually associated with sci-fi, mine references that. And, since no fantasy writer worth their salt shouldn’t also know something about archaeology (to ground their fiction in reality) and people are interested in that science, I reference that, too.
I’m also interested in giving back to other writers and educating them on the common mistakes many writers of fantasy make. Food, for example, was a lot harder to come by, you had to forage for vegetables and fruit, and it took a lot longer to cook. Say you have a character who takes down a bird or a deer. In some fantasy novels, writers roast them on a spit. A bird will take a fair amount of time. A deer is bigger than you think, it takes half a day to roast that way, with frequent turning.  As another example of a common mistake, do you know why ancient peoples used chariots? Because most early horses couldn’t carry a person. Centuries of selective breeding (evolution) created an animal that could. Even so, a horse will take a long period of time, even with its longer legs, to get from point A to point B. More so if hitched to a wagon. And they get tired.
So, back to Paper.li. You can give it certain parameters to search for and feature, but some come with it.

Indie/Self-Publishing 101 – Vendors, Writers, and the Business of Self-Publishing

In the beginning, there were the bards, the storytellers, and the spoken word.

And then, language was written down.  Books became rare, hand-copied treasures.

Gutenberg changed that by inventing the printing press.

With the printing press came a new way for storytellers to share their tales. As time went by, multiple venues grew for those stories.

And an industry was born.

Publishers eventually sprung up; businesses who decided what stories would be printed, and then agents who sold those stories to those publishers.

And then, lo, there was self-publishing. First as vanity ‘publishers’ who would take advantage of those who could not pass the publishers’ gatekeepers, to fuel the dreams of those who thought they had wonderful stories to tell and a few who might have had those wonderful stories, filling their garages with their hopes and dreams. Only to watch them turn to dust.
Most, though, still though of traditional publishing as the only legitimate way to publish.

Then came Smashwords offering true self-publishing. However, there was one drawback – one had to read those first books on your computer or laptop. E-readers were few.

Smashwords was followed by Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble, who saw the limitations (and freedom!) of reading on the computer.  Thus was born the e-reader in truth as Amazon’s Kindle, the Apple iBook app, the B&N Nook, all of which helped bring about the tablet.

As with all good things, though, times changed. The Nook was the better e-reader at first but B & N wasn’t certain what to do with it or Indie writers and so Amazon came along with the new, improved Kindle. Amazon gave Indie writers a true home. And they all lived happily ever after…or mostly.

Here the fairy tale ends and so it should because it is a fairy tale.

Publishing, whether traditional or self-publishing, is a business like any other. Despite its reputation for being the big, bad wolf of self-publishing, Amazon, like Apple, is a business. But it’s not primarily a self-publisher, any more than Apple is. You could look at Amazon as a mall while Apple is more like an electronics store. Only Smashwords, D2D (Draft to Digital) and Kobo (primarily Canada) are true self-publishers. And what do they owe authors? In truth? Nothing, absolutely nothing. They are ultimately responsible to their customers – readers. All they do is provide authors a venue, a method of getting their work in front of readers, in exchange for a varying portion of the proceeds. That’s it, and nothing more.

Is Amazon sometimes draconian? Yep. They’re a business, and not primarily a self-publishing business. As a business, they owe their customers and only their customers. Like all the other vendors, that’s how they make their money. So, when any supplier pays for reviews – rendering the review process untrustworthy – the company cracks down on reviews. When authors on another site misrepresented the content of their novels and/or had covers that many found too revealing, all but Smashwords cracked down on erotica. When an author gamed the system to make it appear as if they’d sold more books than they had, they started looking at the sales and reviews of other authors.

Did they warn authors they were going to do that? No. Amazon – and other vendors – don’t have to. They are responsible to their customers, not their suppliers. And that’s true across the industry. Despite their avowed democratic and egalitarian outlook, even Smashwords had to bow to their distributors/customers – there are limits to what some distributors will permit when it comes to covers and content. In the one case, a father with his child on his lap looked for books about Daddies – and got an eyeful of content not suitable for small children. All because a few writers decided they didn’t want their books relegated to a separate corner.

Even vendors aren’t pure as the driven snow, though, one particular company colluded with traditional publishers to raise the price of e-books, primarily to cut another company off at the knees. This is why many traditionally published e-books are priced above the cost of paperbacks, even though e-books cost pennies to produce compared to the expense of printing paperbacks.

What do Indie authors owe vendors, whether Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, B&N, D2D or Kobo? In a lot of ways, they owe everything. Where else can they go to print their novels, their way?

Authors owe an understanding of the rules of the site. They should then follow those rules. If you notice one thing about the example given, it’s that in many cases it was an author or authors who pushed the limits, and a lot of innocent authors who followed the rules paid the price along with them. With hundreds of thousands of new books added every day, sites like Amazon and Apple must rely on their algorithms to detect problems.

How can we decrease the likelihood that we’ll be impacted?

First, read and follow the rules of the site.

Second, get legitimate, organic reviews – not from friends/family, not from review ‘exchanges’, but from sales and ARCs (advance reader/review copies). Third, be professional – have a professional attitude, purchase a professional cover, have your book professionally edited. And, on the be professional front, stop complaining and don’t talk badly about a vendor. What business wants to deal with a vendor who complains about them all the time or talks badly about them in public or social media? If you don’t like them, take your business elsewhere. You might take a pay cut, but you’ll do yourself and the provider a favor.

Oh, and stop complaining about how unfair it all is. It is unfair that a few unscrupulous ‘writers’ created the problem. Go to another site if you don’t like it. Indie writers are a drop in the overall bucket of a vendors offerings, however great some of us think our ‘great American novel is’.

Stop biting the hand that feeds you, or it will stop, and then where will you be? Nowhere. And while you’re at it, you’ll squash the hopes and dreams of thousands of others.

Self-Editing 101

  1. Spelling – Even the best spellers make mistakes. Use a software program like Grammarly or WordWeb (both of which have free versions.) Both may catch other errors in word usage – like affect vs. effect – and both do offer a thesaurus so you can find a better word or correct one that’s overused.
  2. One of the first things they may or may not tell you in writing classes or seminars is that in a novel it’s all about action. It’s about doing things. Show don’t tell. People don’t ‘begin’ to do things, they don’t ‘start’ to do things, they DO them. For example – ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to begin nibbling at her hair again’ vs. ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to nibble at her hair again.’ Which sounds better? (Smoke is a horse, by the way…) Don’t have your characters begin or start to do anything unless it’s the first in a series of actions. Do a search for begin and start.
  3. Ditto feel and felt. Which sounds better – When he kissed her it felt like she tingled all over -or- When he kissed her she tingled all over? For #2 and #3, a professional editor will often scribble “SDT”. This is not a disease, it means “Show Don’t Tell”. “The best “show don’t tell advice” came from Anton Chekov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
  4. Very or Really. They’re not very happy or really happy, they’re ecstatic or delighted. Use a better, more descriptive word. If nothing comes to mind get a thesaurus.
  5. Search for contractions. For some reason, many writers don’t write in contractions. Especially with ‘had’. He had, she had, rather than he’d or she’d. Be very careful not to do a universal search and replace to correct this or you’ll hate yourself in the morning because once it’s saved you have no other choice but to search the entire document for the awkward mess you made of things. (Always start a new copy when editing, just in case. It’s a lot easier to start over that way.) For example, a universal search and replace for ‘had not’ to ‘hadn’t’ will also change ‘had noticed’ to ‘hadn’ticed’. (This is a personal choice, in a more casual voice like dialogue in fiction, it works, but in more formal writing, it may not.)
  6. ‘There was’. Sometimes it’s justified. Look at each sentence to see if you can rephrase it to make the sentence clearer.
  7. Speaking of there – their (possessive), there (in that direction), and they’re (they are).
  8. *aargh* The dreaded ‘that’. That she, that he, that they… In most cases, the use of the word ‘that’ is completely unnecessary, but we use it in speech so it can sound correct when you write it.
  9. Try not to use that when you mean who. “The man that…” should be “the man who… “
  10. Just and only. Always make sure you really need to use them and that they’re next to the word you want to modify. For example – only costs vs. costs only or it just costs or costs just… Do you really need either?
  11. Was. Jim was shaking his head. Jim shook his head. Always watch for those ‘ing’ words. If you see a lot of them in your writing in conjunction with was, you need to change that sentence to a more active voice. Active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs the action stated by the verb. In passive voice sentences, the subject is acted upon by the verb.
  12. As if/like. Make sure you know which of them you really mean. Do a search for like, and in each place see if ‘as if’ doesn’t sound better.
  13. Watch for split infinitives. Not all of them are bad – to boldly go where no man has gone before, where boldly splits to and go – is generally accepted. “I decided to not go” sounds awkward.
  14. Of…. is another sneaky little beggar. ‘Inside’ works as well as ‘inside of it’ in most cases.
  15. ‘Then’ and ‘and then’ are telling words, don’t use them. For instance: Then he went to sit down. Just say: He sat down. Or…. And then she set a bowl on the table. Just say: She set a bowl on the table. Using then or and then is like a narrator in your book telling us a story, it slows it down. Show, don’t tell.
  16. Do not use really, very, or like. He’s either hot or he’s not. He’s not really hot, or very hot, he’s roasting, burning up, or he’s gorgeous, sexy, etc. She’s not ‘like’ that, she IS that.
  17. Commas. If you have more than two it might be a good idea to look at the sentence and decide if it would work better as two separate sentences. This is DEFINITELY true if you have more than three. For more information on commas and their proper use – http://grammar.about.com/od/grammarfaq/f/QAoxfordcomma.htm
  18. Singular and plural pronouns. When speaking about an individual, the pronoun should be singular, when speaking about a group, it’s plural. Ex. It brought him to their feet. Wrong.
  19. (Although this is primarily a grammar document, it is about writing and this has been seen too often to go unremarked.) Don’t ‘Slug a Nun’, as a well-known writer once said. In other words, when opening a chapter, any chapter, get to the point. Don’t say “Mikey slugged a nun” and then take ten pages, eight of which explain the history of the Catholic Church before you explain WHY Mikey slugged the nun.
  20. Another very common mistake – Her eyes wandered. Please put them back in her head, that’s disgusting. Her gaze might wander, but not her eyes. She might glance at him, their gazes may meet, or lock, etc., or they might stare at each other, but his eyes will never wander over her breasts unless it’s a zombie movie and they’ve gained legs. Some editors might let this go, but you should be able to find a better way to say it.
  21. Watch for sentences that start with the same word or the same type of beginning. He did this, he did that. Change it up so the reader doesn’t get bored.
  22. Too much use of “it” as a subject can make writing weak. Delete the vague pronoun and identify ‘it’ with a solid noun. Not – It felt good to dress up. Try – She enjoyed dressing up.
  23. Do not mix dialogue of one character in the same paragraph as another. Ever. Even if, or especially if, you’re using omniscient point of view. And always identify the person speaking or thinking.
  24. Action and reaction. Sentences need to relay information about the cause before the effect or result. Not – She jumped as the door slammed shut. Try – The door slammed, making her jump.
  25. Eliminate unnecessary words. In the above example – few doors slam open, so it must have slammed shut or closed. So, the door slammed.
  26. Try to avoid prepositional phrases (to her, at him, for her, etc.) that can be implied. Not – Seeing him proved what a distraction he was to her. Try – Seeing him proved what a distraction he was.
  27. Stephen King said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Try to evaluate each adverb (words that end in -ly), especially in conjunction with speaking tags. Replace with stronger words. Not – He leaned close and spoke softly. Try – He leaned close and whispered.
  28. Repeated words: There’s a function in Word that shows words you overuse, but a beta reader or editor can be a better choice. Sometimes it’s justified – a character tic.
  29. How often do you use ‘look’? Try variations like glanced, gazed, stared, their eyes met, saw.
  30. Said, but don’t get too caught up it. Studies have shown that said is a word that readers eyes pass over, registering only who is speaking.
  31. Starting a sentence with But when you could use However.
  32. Starting a sentence with And. Can you rework it? It’s acceptable, but too much or too often is a bad thing.
  33. Redundant actions: stood up. How else would you stand? Sat down – try sat. Nodded his head – just use nodded, if he’s nodding anything else it’s just weird.
Also, consider picking up The Elements of Style. It’s a small, thin book, perfect to keep beside your laptop or desktop computer. It answers some of those pesky grammar questions.
For style suggestions, try Hemingway Editor, a software program that highlights lengthy, complex sentences, common errors, and passive voice. Always be careful taking the advice it or other programs offer – you don’t want to sound too mechanical or lose your authors ‘voice’.
One last little hint. By not doing a read-through sentence by sentence but using search instead, it forces you to look at each sentence individually, in isolation. It makes it much easier to spot errors you might otherwise have missed or to question the wording of the sentence. Try reading it aloud, or use text to voice to read it back, that may help you pick up errors in flow.

 

Self-publishing 101

  1. Looks like a good bookWrite a good book and finish it. Do not even consider self-publishing until it’s finished, with good cover art and editing.
  2. 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.
  3. Give the first book to beta readers for evaluation – give them a time to return it to you with their critiques/evaluation.
  4. Hire an Editor (there’s a list in Files)
  5. Find Cover artist (there’s a list in Files). If money is tight, find an artist you like and see if they offer pre-made covers.
  6. If you’re not a geek, hire a formatter (A good formatter will prep for all sites.)
  7. Write your bio in something like Wordpad (text files are easy to copy paste.) Write it in the third person, as if someone else was describing you. Try to keep some of it light and a little humorous.
  8. Write the blurb for your book(s). There is no easy way to do one. Keep it concise – give hints to the genre, make it enticing, give a little information on your main character(s). The object is to entice readers to want to read your book, don’t give away the entire plot. (ex. Jack, an expert hill-climber, and Jill, a novice, are climbing a difficult hill, will they make it to the top?)
  9. When the book has been edited, the cover is complete, it’s time to set up promotion. (*grins* List in Files, but apply to Bookbub or E Reader News Today)a.) Set up a release date for at least three weeks in advance. b.) Decide whether to use Kindle Direct Publishing Select (recommended) or other venues. c.) Decide whether to do a pre-releasec.) Send out ARCs (Advance Release Copies) to other authors, bloggers, etc.d.) Decide which promotion sites to use (List in Files)e.) Do a cover releasef.) Set up an event page – with your blurb, the inspiration for characters – and offer a free copy as a prize for one of the people who responds.
  10. Post to Amazon KDP Select.
  11. Categories (genre/subgenre. See list of BISAC codes here in Files. Ex. Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, and the subgenre – Fantasy *Urban* or *Epic* or Mystery *hard-boiled*) and keywords (special tags that describe your book – Fantasy – Epic – keyword Arthurian or Sword & Sorcery.)
  12. Use the Kindle Select free days – split 3-2. (Save the two spare days for a special occasion or to boost sales)
  13. Set up an Author Central page on Amazon.
  14. Set up a separate Facebook author page.

Take off the check-mark to automatically re-enroll in KDPS if you choose. Upload to other sites – B&N, Kobo, D2D, Smashwords when your Select days are finished.

Weekly roundup, week ending 19th January

Last week’s roundup

Every week, one of the IAG moderators will round up what’s gone on, on the group and in the Indie community as a broader view.  If you’ve been busy writing, editing, or promoting, let us catch you up and find conversations and blog posts that should interest you and dive into the information you’re really keen to see.

On the group

Nikki Broadwell started a conversation about Createspace versus LSI last month, which concluded here.  All great information if you’re stuck with the decision.
Valerie Douglas shared a link discussing Pintrest and what it can do for writers.
Denise McGee shared a ‘How to write a one page synopsis’
Alison S Moore asks how a writer can get the most out of Goodreads
Brian Margraff asks whether free or deeply discounted is better (there will be at least one post on that in the coming weeks on the blog!)
We discussed an Eventvwr scam, raised by Valeire Douglas
KDP formatting tips from Rik

Resources and more

We’ve been cleaning up and setting up discussions on the Subgroups.  Come join us and see if there’s anywhere you’d like to join!

On the Blog

We launched our Twitter listing – come and join in (but read the instructions first!)
Formatting by Paul Kater
The Four E’s of Indie Publishing, by D Kai Wilson-Viola
The blog Two Midlist Indies merged into the archives 🙂

In the community

A great article from Bookbub partners – 5 Test Results To Help You Market Your eBook
Hugh Howey’s 13 Publishing Industry fixes

Repinnable images

Posted by Valerie Douglas, originally from the Random House page.

readers

 

Until next week,
Kai

The four E’s of Indie publishing

IAG oneThere are four e’s to indie publishing – four elements that just can’t be skimped on, or you’ll destroy yourself.  That destruction will come from poor reviews, and your image, once damaged, is really difficult to repair.  Once you’re known as a writer that doesn’t care about his/her product, though you’ll still gain readers, there will eventually be a barrier to your evolution as a writer, or even your ability to reach the next level.

So what are the four E’s?

Excellent story, editing, expert support for covers and formatting, that extra special push.
Each of these, coupled with writing more books, will give you the solid foundations you need as an indie writer to create the career of your dreams.  Of course, those goals are yours to set.

Excellent story

It all starts there.  If you’re bored with your own book, it’s possible that your readers will be too.  But there’s a difference between ‘been looking at it for so long I’m bored with it’ and a boring book.  If you’re not caught up in the rush of the story though, look at why.  If it’s because you’ve been working with it for so long it’s making your eyes bleed, take a step back.  If the story is weak or lacklustre, look at it again.  Work on it.

There are elements to an excellent story, but the best guide is how you feel about it.  And how your beta readers feel about it.  If it gives you a rush, chances are it’s an excellent story.

Editing

I know a lot of people are going to be sceptical about this, as I’ve listed the next point as expert support, so, why have I split off editing from expert support.  The short answer is that of all of the support you can get for your book, editing should be started while you’re getting your cover reveal and researching formatters.  Covers and formatting are OF COURSE important, but editing needs to come first – it’s also a good priority to make because it gives you the time to get your cover done without it being rushed, and time to investigate your formatting needs, and find someone to work with.  It’s always important to remember that just because your book is written, it’s still got a way to go, and you need to incorporate that into your timeline.  Editing isn’t a rapid process, and it also gives you a bit of time away from your story.

Editing is important because it’s a new set of eyes on your book and a professional opinion on your book.  Of course, you don’t need to take all of their recommendations, but professional editing is a must for any published book.  And you should always self-edit first.

Expert support

Covers and formatting come next.  You can start your cover design while your book is out for editing, fo course, but your cover and your formatting is really getting you to the end of your professional polish and getting ready for your launch.
You should consider running a cover reveal or other launch for your fans – not only does it build your fan base, but will also get you the start of your launch.
Once edited, your book should be formatted.  At this point you can work with your formatter, find the last of the errors (if there are any) and deal with anything that you’ve found.  These professional touches, along with editing will place your book apart from those that don’t look for professional support.

That EXTRA special push

Most authors can’t market to save themselves, and find it very difficult to do so.  And while it’s pretty much essential now, there are ways around it.  You should launch your book, and you should capitalise on as much of the attention as you can, but longer term, you may want to either have a support structure and team to help you, or set aside time for marketing.  Marketing is important, though there’s a difference between spamming people and interacting with them.  Most marketers will work with you, not against you, and author services can range from posting to your social networks, to a full service website, much like our blog.  It does come down to what you can afford of course, but do consider that professional marketing help might actually make back the rate they charge over the course of the project,  and if they don’t, they WILL create more exposure for you in the short-term and you will make the money back eventually.

And then your book is out there, and you can start on the next book!

How to be a new writer

English: Image of a fountain pen.

English: Image of a fountain pen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

There are so many decisions to be made it can seem overwhelming. The first and best advice I can give you to start is this – stop worrying and just write. Then write some more. Enjoy yourself, enjoy the process whether you’re a plotter – you have to outline – or a pantser – you just write. If  you’re loving what you do, then do it. Just do it. Before you do anything else, before you make any decisions, write. If you can, write at least three novels.

Okay, now that you’ve done that, it’s time for the next step. If book one is any good, send it to a beta reader or editor. If it isn’t, don’t beat yourself up, rewrite and send book two to your beta reader/editor.

Now you’re ready for the next step.

  1. Do you want to write for a traditional publisher or as a self-publisher, or both? Both is a viable option these days, and all three have their points.
    Traditional publishing gives you the editors, cover artists, and formatters, but they have the control.  They also give you access to awards and recognition. You have to do much of your own marketing, at least at first, and you’re one of those one-in-a-thousand writers at the top, and not one of the mid-listers.
    Self-publishing gives you all the controls – you choose your editor, cover artist and formatter. Awards, recognition, best seller lists are a bit harder to reach,  except for the one-in-a-thousand writers like Hugh Howey or J. C. Wilder. Many successful indies have gone with traditional publishers – those are the ones who’ve done both – but there are some who do quite well as pure indies.
  2. If you chose traditional publishing learn how to write a good query letter. Try the query shark blog to see what works. Find an on-line list of agents and/or publishers to query. http://querytracker.net/ is an easy one to use.
  3. If you chose Indie publishing you have to choose your editor, cover artist and formatter. Go to on-line groups to find them. If money is tight, there are cover artists who have pre-made covers to carry you until you can afford a custom title. Check out their offerings to find something that suits your story. Editors and formatters range in price – contact them and message to get their pricing.
    An unprofessional looking book is your worst enemy, and confirms for many the complaints of some writers about indies. (Not all of which is deserved.)
  4. Determine whether to go with all publishers, or just some. My best advice on this subject is this – try Amazon KDP Select for it’s 90 days free. It’s a good way to generate word of mouth for your book. It’s only in Select for three months, just uncheck the box so it’s not automatically re-entered. Most readers are using Kindles – with Nooks and other devices far behind – although some people are starting to read on their phones.
    You’ll need to know your genre – either find books like yours on Amazon, look up book genres on Wikipedia, or find an on-line writers group who can help you.
    Categories, too. Find books like yours and tailor your categories the same (that can determine bestseller lists per genre for your book).
  5. Market, market, market. First, when the book is pulled together, determine a release date. Set up a website, a Facebook writers page, and announce the date. Find anything that will create interest in the book – the inspiration for the book, the faces of folks who might have given life to the character, and announce a cover release date. Post the cover in advance of the book to generate interest. Offer an excerpt on your web page or blog. Offer to do interviews on other blogs. Find reviewer blogs and offer them ARCS (advanced release copies). Release your book on Friday, so people have time to read it. If its your first book, it’s also a way to get reviews from readers.
  6. LEARN PATIENCE – it will take time to generate traffic and reviews. Post the first good reviews.
  7. While book one is building an audience, prepare book two (it does NOT have to be a series) and post about it as it’s being edited to assure readers that more books are coming. Get the cover art chosen, post it once it’s ready.
  8. Timing on a second release depends on the editing. Just keep in mind that having book one and book two out,  with book three in your back pocket, gives you time to write book four if you’d like, and without pressure.
    Release book three while you do that to keep reader interest alive.
  9. Good reviews are a wonderful thing, rough reviews are learning experiences – either about things to improve in your books or to toughen your skin.
  10. Writing should be an act of love, and a life-long career. If you’re writing to get rich and famous, find another job. There are few Stephen Kings, Nora Roberts, etc., and there are moments when even they burned out. Define your own success. Are you happy just having people read your books? Then relax.
  11. More than anything else, do what you love. Even at the worst of times as Neil Gaiman says – Make good Art.

 

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How many, how often?

Writer Wordart

Writer Wordart (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

“How many books should I write, how often should I release them?” That’s a question I hear a lot as an administrator to a writer’s page, next to, ‘How do I become a rich and famous Indie writer.’ Or any kind of writer.

There is no simple answer, but I’ll do the best I can.

I once read that you should have at least three books written before you submit to a traditional publisher – and I think that still holds true for traditionally published and indie writers.  There were several reasons for that maxim. One of the primary ones is that very few writers become rich and famous with one book – barring a few notable exceptions. Another is simpler – both publishers and readers want to know that if they fall in love with your writing, there will be more of your books to read.

The new question is – How often?

That used to be dictated by the traditional publishers. Those publishers had thousands of books to release over a given year, and they didn’t want to saturate the market with a particular writer. If the author’s first book showed legs, they were more likely to produce and promote book two, if there was one. Knowing a writer had more books in their back pocket helped.

There was also a life cycle for traditionally published books – print for six months or so, paperback, then the new release a few months to six months after that. Especially for Christmas and pre-summer releases. Like motion pictures, publishers wanted to get the most bang for their buck. How many of you have waited impatiently for the next new book in a series? Only to find out the release date is six months out, so you pre-order it? (Giving the traditional publisher a pretty good idea of what their print run should be.) And then went searching for a similar writer to get your reading fix?

That, by the way, guaranteed them an income from that writer for at least a year or year and a half. With a second book, two years. Because another maxim was also true – book one sold book two, book two sold more of book one, and a third book would sell more of both of the others. (Otherwise known as the now-nearly-defunct back list.)

Fortunately or unfortunately, Indie writers don’t have the luxury of a large marketing department and a given reader base, so we have to create a new paradigm for ourselves. But that last maxim still holds true for us. Book one sells book two, etc. How many people have seen writers hawking the same book endlessly – to the point that you’re tired of seeing it? How many of you are inclined to buy said book, knowing that there isn’t another (or they’d have mentioned that book two is ‘coming soon’?) At a guess, not many.

And that maxim of putting books out regularly has been proven. From Amanda Hocking to Hugh Howey to Jasinda Wilder, all have proven that getting new books out regularly has made them successful. Hocking built a  reader base that helped push her books along, Hugh Howey released the Wool as a serial, and Wilder put out  (with her husband) about a book a month until she hit the right chord.

Do you want to be a successful well-known writer like Jasinda Wilder or Hugh Howey or Amanda Hocking? Then you have to get your name out, you have to keep it in the eyes of readers. Marketing alone won’t do that. Write a compelling book, get it edited, and while it’s being edited, write another. Get a decent cover artist. Release that first book while the second is being edited, then write the third. In the meantime, talk to people, do interviews, join FB groups. Talk about your works in progress so readers know there are more coming.

More than anything though, write what you’re compelled to write. Only Jasinda Wilder – that I know of -deliberately chose to write a certain genre. Then she and her husband got every romance/erotic romance they could find and read them – the ones that worked and the ones that didn’t. (Proof that reading your genre helps find your market.) She didn’t really hit it big – although they were making money, until she wrote Falling into You – a story of heartache, loss and healing that appeals to women readers. First, though, she built her name.

There is no easy way, but the easier way is to write, and write a lot. Put out new well-written, well-edited, books as quickly as you can. Indie writers have the ability to set their own time frame, and it doesn’t have to be tied to the traditional release cycle.

Wilder did about a book a month. A writer friend of mine does three different series and puts out three books a month – one in each. Her small publisher assigned her an editor of her own. She’s hit the USA Today bestseller lists. Yes, those two examples are romances or erotica – sex does sell. But Hugh Howey does post apocalyptic fantasy/sci-fi. Most indie writers do genre writing. Find your niche, fill it, and write. After all, isn’t that what writers do?

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The question of genre

Arthur Conan Doyle room, Toronto Reference Lib...

Arthur Conan Doyle room, Toronto Reference Library (Special Collections) (Photo credit: Toronto Public Library Special Collections)

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eleanor Roosevelt said.

Do you have to write in the same genre? Should you use a pen name?

(For those who don’t know it, genre is the category in which you write – mystery, science fiction, etc.)

It seems as if everyone is playing with genre today, Stephen King became Richard Bachman to write the stories he was compelled to as a writer that weren’t necessarily horror, Nora Robert writes great futuristic murder mysteries a J. D. Robb. John Grisham is getting away from strictly legal suspense, James Patterson is writing Young Adult stories about genetically altered kids. One also has to go back to Edgar Allen Poe – noted for his horror, he also introduced the world to detective fiction. And Arthur Conan Doyle wrote speculative fiction as well as Sherlock Holmes. So it’s not exactly new.

So when exactly did we start getting stuck with genres and categories? To some extent, when traditional publishers began to control more and more of the publishing industry. In the early days there were more options, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle serialized their fiction in newspapers and magazines. There were also a great deal more magazines that featured fiction, and would take work from new, untried writers. As those died out and book publishers became the primary method of getting published, though, the process became tighter, more narrow. You can’t really blame them – although their meat and potatoes were writers, they were also a business. Untried writers were a gamble, but as profit lines became tighter, publishers had to choose which writers to take a risk on – and the tried and true was safer. Better to have a thousand versions of a vampire story because vampires were popular.

What about you, though, the writer – and of course, all you readers. Do you have to stay with a genre?

Well, that depends on you. Some people are comfortable with a particular genre. (Heck, I know one person who only reads one writer!) I’ve heard a few times from folks (a bit in the minority, but they have that right)  that they’re not always happy when a writer changes genres. They like the style and path the writer is following. On the other hand, I’ve stopped reading some writers because they don’t leave their formulas, their characters aren’t learning or growing from their mistakes. (Some also became a bit depressing.)

If you don’t stay with one genre, how do you handle it? Do you use a pen name?

Again, that’s up to you as a writer, and I’ve heard differing opinions on it. Some readers have missed other books by an author they liked because it was under a pen name, others use it to know which books to avoid. I’d can also offer three examples of differing ways to handle it. Stephen King’s Bachman books lingered a bit in obscurity until he finally said they were his. Or at least that’s how I remember it.  If it weren’t for that we wouldn’t have The Shawshank Redemption or The Body – which became Stand by Me, a great little coming of age story. Nora Roberts, on the other hand, did fairly well with J.D. Robb, but I didn’t know the two were the same until I read about it somewhere. For myself, I write under my own name in any genre that strikes my fancy, but put my erotica under a pen name for branding purposes. Anyone  who reads a V. J. Devereaux knows they’ll be extra spicy, something with which some of my mainstream fans might have difficulty. I have two separate web pages and e-mail addresses, but both contains links to each other. I’m not trying to hide anything.

The big question, though, is… should you? Which takes me back to the quote at the top of the page.

As writers I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea to go places that stretch your skills, to try things you haven’t tried, to do the thing that scares you. Even if it doesn’t work, you’ll have found that out.

Lately I’ve tried standard fiction…a sort of Nicholas Sparks type novel. Am I scared folks won’t like it? You betcha! But, I liked the story and I needed to tell it – the key sign, I think, that it was the right thing to do.

I tried a horror novel, too, something I never thought I’d try, and that one was positively painful to write some days. It seems to work, though. We’ll see.

To quote Dickens –

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”

One of the best things about being a writer right now is all the options available, the ability to try new things without restrictions. We also have to deal with the marketing and all bits and pieces that publishers used to do. We’re living in the best time of all to be a writer, and the best time of all to be a reader.

*grins* Some, of course, will disagree.

 

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Ch-Ch-Changes

To quote Isaac Asimov and Heraclitus – The only constant is change. And there have been a lot of changes in the publishing industry, the most radical of course being the addition of Indie writing and Indie Authors.

e-books EPUB

e-books EPUB (Photo credit: ceslava.com)

Much of that change is due to Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, who took Indie writing out of vanity press and made it something viable. As a kid I remember having one of the last Woolworths in our town – Woolworth was the Wal-mart of the first three quarters of the last century – but it was succeeded by K-Mart, then WallyWorld and now Target. It’s the manner of things to change. Once Smashwords proved that Indie writing was not just viable but profitable, then Amazon (and more slowly B&N). Then Amazon upped the ante by adding their Select program, and an opportunity to make money from ‘borrows’. Sometimes more than the book itself.

It’s also in the nature of people to fear change. There are the die-hards who swear upon Smashwords and see Mark Coker as the patron saint of Indie writers. (Well, he more or less is… but lets keep things in proportion, okay?) Many swear that Amazon is the great big corporate boogeyman out to rip off all writers. Well, they’re a big corporation out to make a profit – if writers do it for them, they’re good with that.

Now there’s Kobo.

I have to admit, walking away from the security of Amazon and the Select program scares me. I’ve done pretty well there, so I’m a little nervous. My sales there are still good but alterations in the way the algorithms are calculated have definitely had their effect. Moving some of my books to Smashwords and B&N has shown that sales there aren’t what they were last year, so I need to try something else. (And yes, part of that plan is to release more books.) I’m going to take it in baby steps though, and just release a couple through Kobo – which is probably better anyway – and see how they do. I’ll add more if the returns are worth it.

I’m also going to do print. Why you ask, when e-books are increasingly exponentially, and DTB (dead tree books) are slowly fading. Um… note the slowly fading bit. They’re not gone, and I don’t believe they ever will be. They may become a luxury item, something you buy as a gift. Authors may release special signed copies as collectors items. More than that though, they’re still a shrinking 80% of the market.

So why am I doing it – going to Kobo, putting my books out in print?

I’m doing well, but I could be doing  better, I want to be higher in the charts, I want a LOT of people reading my books. Therefore, I need to get my books where LOTS of people can read them. That’s in as many venues as possible. I don’t want someone to look at my book listing and say “I’d really like to read that book but I can’t because…its not in print/not on Nook/not on Kobo, etc.  To do that I have to broaden my horizons and my market. That’s the next step….

Even if it does feel like I stepping into the dark…

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