Category Archives

41 Articles

The Different Publishers

It is funny that most people ask me the question:  Should I self publish or should I try the traditional publisher?  There are other options for publishing your book that just those two options.  We’ll explore some of those with this post.  I’ll give you my thoughts on each of these, and you can give me your thoughts in the comments.

The Conglomerate Publisher

We like to say “Traditional Publisher” but truthfully traditions are changing and the term doesn’t really fit anymore.  And, truth be told, traditional publishing can be divided up.  So we’ll talk about the conglomerate publisher.  These are the big guys in publishing.  Orbit Books, Tor, Del Rey, Bantam, Baen, and Scholastic are just a few examples.  And, if you look most of those up you will find a parent corporation they are under.  The parent corporation often has a number of press names they use depending on the genre.  They employe a ton of editors, copywriters, printers, and basically just a lot of employees that work to publish books.

Advantage: Well they are the big guys.  Land a deal with them and you are likely to get exposure in a wide market area.  They will handle most of your book’s marketing.  They have the ability to print out mass copies.  They may offer you a higher advance and royalties too (maybe).

Disadvantage:  Getting accepted is hard.  Many talented authors spend a lot of time just to get rejected from these guys.  Nearly everybody submits to them.  You often have to sell off a lot more copies to pay off your advance (they have a higher overhead then any other option).  Even if you do get published you tend to find that it takes a long time to get anything going.  And, I see a lot of people published by these conglomerates that are still marketing the heck out of their own works.  The other HUGE disadvantage is that authors often think getting published by these guys guarantee a hit novel, it doesn’t.  Plain and simple these guys can do little to make you any better of a writer and story teller.

The Mid-level Publisher

A lot of sites go straight from Conglomerate to Independent when they talk about types of publishers.  But there are a few mid-level publishing companies.  These companies may be only big in one genre, or maybe are big in one country.  The main difference here is that they tend to publish more books then the independent publisher, but not as many as the conglomerates.

Advantage: They handle the major marketing.  They can produce a moderate amount of books at one time.  They offer you a good advance and royalties.  They tend to have a smaller overhead which means more profit margin and hopefully more money in your pocket.

Disadvantage: Acceptance is still hard.  Exposure is not as big, but in the days of the internet and Amazon it is getting much better.  There can still be lengthy delays from acceptance to publish date.

The Independent Press

This is often confused with someone who sits in their basement printing books.  That is not the case.  These are simply smaller companies working to publish books.  They tend to specialize is a genre or two.  They often only have one or two editors (sometimes more).  They often don’t work to make huge profits.  Sometimes they are Sole Proprietorships (one owner) or Partnerships.  But many are now LLC, LLP, or even incorporating.

Advantages:  Acceptance times are often faster.  They are far more approachable.  They will market your book as well.  And, with the internet as big as it is.  They are often on the virtual shelves of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and their own private stores.  They often pay lower advances but higher royalties (though not always).  It often takes less sales to “burn off” the advance and start earning royalties.  They are in the business of getting good writers out to the readers that other presses are simply over looking.  But, you will find more and more authors are going with smaller presses to get their voice heard.  First, you still have to market your book no matter what way you go about this.  Here you get a little help.  Plus, even if your Novel is rejected.  The smaller presses are far more likely to tell you why.  Giving you a chance to fix the mistake and try again.

Disadvantage: They simply aren’t the big guys.  Most don’t stock book shelves of brick and mortar book stores.  But, some do.  But with how many books are purchased on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.  It is starting to be irrelevant.  Last, many authors worry about using a Independent press simply due to brand recognition factors.  But, I frankly never looked at who published a book until I started writing.  Most readers don’t care who published it, only how the story is written.

Vanity Press

A vanity press is often confused with a Independent Press.  But they are vastly different.  A vanity press publishes almost every thing they are sent, provided you cut them a check.  That’s right.  You pay them to publish your book.  They offer many of the services other presses offer, editors, marketing, ect.  But you have to pay for it.  They slap a publishers name on it and sell it.  They came is to play when self publishing was hard, and carried a much more negative image then it does today.

Advantages:  Frankly it is hard for me to think of any.  Money should always flow in the direction of the author.  I suppose if you wanted to self publish, but didn’t want to let people know you did it.  This is the way.  But why?

Disadvantages:  It’s a rip off.  Frankly they over charge for just about everything.  You may as well hire a good independent editor, and publish it yourself.  Or better yet, give a few of these Independent Publishers a shot and not have to pay a dime.

Self Publishing

This is just as it sounds you self publish your works.  You pay for the cover art (or make it yourself), you solely market, you format it on Createspace, KDP, or where ever.  You are the publisher of your own book.

Advantages:  No middleman to work with.  You get final say on everything.  You do it all.  You are guaranteed to get published.

Disadvantages:  You do it all.  Self publishing is the most underestimated form of publishing.  It is by far the most work.  You have to pay for an editor (and you really need to do that if you plan to self publish and maybe even if you plan to use a different method).  Sure you could just take your story, look it over and then throw it together on KDP and tell you friends to go buy it.  But, is that really getting published?  Or just perpetuating the stereo type that nothing good is ever self published?  Of everything I mentioned here, self publishing is the hardest.

 

You can see there are a lot of options, you can choose what works for you.  I strongly recommend that you look at them all.  I think Independent Presses give you the best balance between self publishing and “traditional” publishing.  That is just my opinion though.  Perhaps in another post I’ll highlight a few independent presses that specialize in certain genres.  If you know of one, visit the contact page and let me know.

0 views

Blurbs

Every time I blurb, my wife gets mad and opens a window.  All joking aside, blurbs are an important part of selling a book.  But, I find it rarely discussed in writing groups.  This is because in a traditional market, blurbs are often left to the Editor to write.  So, with my recent post on book covers, it seemed important that we discuss the back of the book.

Blurb Versus Synopsis

A synopsis is a very important part of pitching your book to traditional publishers and markets, but it is not a blurb.  If you want to sell your manuscript to a publisher you need a synopsis.  A synopsis is a summary of your story including key plot points and the ending.   You provide this to editors and agents in an attempt to get them to read your manuscript (and hopefully sign it).  It is not something you would use for marketing your book.

A blurb is that teaser you find on the back of the book.  Think movie trailer in written form.  It is a quick teaser.  It provides just enough plot, character, and scene to entice someone to read your book.  It is a tool for marketing your book quickly and effectively.

A self published author will find themselves writing more Blurbs.  Where as traditional publishers will usually write the blurb for the Author.  This goes back to what I have talked about in my post on self publishing, marketing is left in the hands of the author.  But really blurbs are not that hard.  In my opinion they are a bit easier, and certainly more fun, then a synopsis.

How to Write a Blurb

I mentioned this already, but you need to think movie trailer in a written form.  You need to construct your blurb in a form to sell your book.  Entice an audience.  Get them to take your book home (virtually or physically).

The blur should be short, somewhere in the 250 to 300 character range.  After all it has to fit on the back of the book but it also needs to be a quick “PICK ME” type of a sale.   A short quick description will hold the reader’s attention long enough for you to finish.  After all you want them to make a decision based on your whole sales pitch, not half of it.

Blurbs have three parts.  You can divide these parts up as paragraphs if you are looking for a simple formula for an effective blurb.  Obviously these would short paragraphs just giving a quick taste of what they can expect to read about.  Or, you can use the parts in your own way to make a blurb that fits your style and book.  Either way, you need these three elements to have an effective blurb.

Part 1 is typically a quick introduction to the setting and the characters.  The “In a world” line we’ve heard so many movie trailers start with. The first line needs to hook them.  Some blurb writers suggest starting with controversy or even asking a question.  But a hook is more then a punch in the face.  Sure a punch in the face gets your attention, but it would also piss you off.  Think of it more as a tap on the shoulder.  Get their attention, while giving them something to look forward to.  Don’t give away too much plot and certainly not any twists.  A question may work.  Think about every time some one has sold you something.  Most of the time they start with a question.  Questions call for an answer.  There is no formula for the perfect hook.  Establish setting and character in a way the interests the readers.

Part 2 is typically where you introduce the conflict, the major one at least.  Remember you are not highlighting plot points.  This is where you want to introduce the same conflict that got your story going in the first place.  Do NOT reveal the resolution to the conflict.  Why read if you already know how it ends?  Have you ever watched a movie trailer, thought it was great and went to see the movie?  Only when you saw the movie you realized all the best stuff was in the trailer.  You felt a bit disappointed with the movie, didn’t you?  Use some good stuff, but save the best stuff for the book.

Part 3 is the hardest of the part.  You need to lead the reader to the resolution with out giving it away.  Leave the reader wondering:  Will he escape?  Does she defeat the empire?  Is is possible they could fail?  In fact many blurbs end with a question.  Because once again our brains are wired to want an answer to a question.  The only way to get the answer is to read the book.

Blurb Tips

  1. Read a lot of blurbs.  Get some of your favorite books and read the back of them.  Go to the book store and read the blurbs on books you’ve never read before.  Take note of the blurbs that make you want to read the book.  What was it about that blurb that hooked you?  Identify it and learn from it.
  2. Make the reader care.  Give them characters they can relate to and a plot they want to read.  Provide an element most people can relate to.  A tough work assignment, a romantic crush, a victim of something out of their control, an injustice, or anything else a reader can relate to.
  3. Use riveting words but use them the right way.  Victim, hate, Peace, conflict, war, hopeless, are all words that bring a certain emotional impact.  Find strong words that invoke the emotional impact you want your story to have.
  4. Suggest all the possible outcomes.  You don’t want to give away the ending.  The key word here is “suggest”.  You don’t need to say:  “Will she win the war?  Will she die trying?  Will she lose everything for this one cause? Or, will she triumph over all in everlasting glory?”  First, saying all that is a mouth full.  I got lost several times just writing it.  But, you can hint that all these possibilities could happen.
  5. Shout lines.  This is a term used to describe bold text or other text that is distinguished from the other text.  It could be a short line that lets the reader know the type of book they are reading.  Personally, I haven’t seen much need for something like that.  But, if you are going to highlight a part of our blurb, make sure it is a strong part.  A defining line.
  6. Look at your manuscript.  Is there a great line in there that you think sums up the book well.  The blurb I am putting together came from the lines I had written.  Give you manuscript another read before you put together the blurb.
  7. Give your blurb the same love and care as the rest of your manuscript.  Edit it, read it over.  Give it to trial readers, and then edit it again.  It is okay to start with more that 250 words.  You can cut out what you don’t need.  But look over your blurb carefully.  Make a bad impression here and your book will sit.  Remember you can have gold written on the inside pages, but if no one ever opens the book they will never know.

The cover of a book is important.  The back cover may be even more so.  The blurb is your chance to tell a reader why your book is worth their time and money.  Sell them on your book with an effective, well thought out, attention grabbing blurb.

0 views

Updates: April 2012

I have spent so much time writing helpful posts, I had nearly forgotten to get my monthly updates out to all of you.  Luckily April isn’t over just yet, and I have some great updates to share.  So without holding things up too long, lets get started.

When it comes to short stories, I haven’t had really any new updates.  Both short stories are out to markets and only time will tell if either of them will get picked up.  According to Duotrope one story I could hear back on any day now.  The other, it will still be 25-75 days before I could hear back.  You can always watch my Twitter Feed or Facebook Timeline, I am sure to post something there the moment I get an acceptance letter.

Looking at my site traffic and link clicks.  It appears many of you are still checking out my story “Death Watch” in Liquid Imagination Online.  I love that this story has some staying power in all of your minds.  If you haven’t checked it out, you can here.  It took Second Place in the Preditors and Editors 2011 readers poll.

I have two new novel ideas in the works.  One brings back Samantha Baxter, the GPA Agent in “Dream Job”. (read it here)  It is still very early in the planning, in fact I haven’t written a word of it yet.  I’ve got another story to tell first.

Which brings me to my current work in progress: Volition Agent.  This story is a Science Fiction story that will likely be my second novel.  I will be making great strides in this novel over my weekend (tomorrow and Thursday).  I had trouble starting it, because my first novel was stuck on my mind.  I couldn’t think of a dang title for it.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know I was having some trouble with a title for my nearly complete novel.  It was on my mind so bad that I couldn’t think of much else.  When I wrote this Novel in it’s first draft (and very rough form), I have planned to call it Serenity after one of the the Main Characters.  Of course, all of us Science Fiction nuts know why that would likely not work now.  Firefly and the Movie Serenity have saturated the market with that name.  Since my book has nothing to do with the Firefly franchise, I thought it best to change the name.  When I underwent the significant rewrites I had hoped a title would jump out and bite me.  It didn’t even take a nibble.

Now that trial readers are looking at it, I felt I really needed to get a title.  So much so that my mind was stuck on it.  So stuck on it that I couldn’t write.  I clicked on the random title generator about 300 times.  And it sparked 25 titles that I liked but didn’t really work.  Then finally one hit me.  Looking over all those titles and playing with the words gave me the title.  After sleeping on it last night, I’ve finally got a name for it:  Dissolution of Peace.

I have set a tentative release for early August.  The trial readers are almost done.  I will then be sending it out to for final thoughts and proofreading.  Once that is complete, I will make the final tweaks and it will be ready for publication.  I will announce an official release date once I know when it will be done.  However, you can expect to see me begin marketing it very soon.  I’ll be working on cover art next.  I have an idea of what I want to see, but I’m not an artist.  If you know a good cover artist, let me know.  As always, for up to the minute updates on my book (including release dates, giveaways, and more) follow my Twitter or Facebook.

The last thing I’ll address is my son’s and my collaborative children’s book, Daddy is Tired.  For my new followers, Daddy is Tired is a book my son and I worked on when he was in Kindergarten.  I was writing during “quite time” and my son said he wanted to write too.  So together we came up with a story that he wrote down on scratch paper with a crayon.  After a few months, I took it and edited into what we will see published soon.  I tried not to make to many changes (it was pretty good), and sent it out for drawings.

I know the original release date was the first part of 2012, but we are now a third of the way through the year and the artist isn’t done yet.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but sometimes one delay follows another.  At this point I have no updated release date.  The artist underwent surgery and the timeline is now up to her body’s healing process.  You can’t always put a timeline on that.

It had been my hope that  it would be released while it was still at my son’s reading level.  But, it has already passed that.  He doesn’t know it is getting published (in fact by now I think he forgot he wrote it).  I only hope he is excited about it by the time it comes out and hasn’t lost all interest in writing by then.  I doubt that will happen since he loves to practice his words and his imagination is very strong.  Perhaps we can come up with a few more children’s books to share.

So, with two book released hopefully coming in 2012 I’ve got a lot going on.  Personally I am glad because my family hit quite the financial speed bump when my wife lost her job.  She was the sole provider for our family and my income doesn’t even pay rent.  Some happy news will be welcome this year.  While she tries so hard to find work in this slow economy, I’m trying to relieve stress the only way I really know how:  Write.

So that is the updates for April 2012.  Can’t wait to share more news with you in May!  I’ll see you next week for my next blog post.

0 views

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover… Wait

We all know that saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  We hear it all the time.  But, we rarely hear it applied to actual books.  That is because we all judge our books by the cover.

In a Disney’s Phineas and Ferb episode, “The Chronicles of Meap”, there comes a very funny scene (at least to me the author).  In which Candace is with her Mom (Linda):

Phineas: Yeah, it looked way outside, but then it was right in the zone. There’s a lesson, baseball fans: never judge a book by its cover.

(scene flips to Candace, looking at a row of books)
Candace: Boring, dull, stupid, lame— heavy-handed and derivative.
Linda: Oh, thank you for those insightful reviews of books you haven’t read.
Candace: Mom, that’s why books have covers: to judge them. I mean, why did you choose these books from the library?
Linda: They looked interesting.
Candace: So…

Linda: Point taken.

Every time I see that scene (and I watch a lot of Phineas and Ferb) it makes me smile.  Because it is so true.  Books have covers to entice us to buy them.  When I am in the book store (yes they still have those,) I browse the rows of books until I see a cover that jumps out at me.  I pick it up, look it over (including the back) and I decide if I am going to buy it based solely on the cover.

This is why cover art is so important.  Once you get them to pick up the book, you need to get them to turn it over and read that all important “sales pitch” printed on the back.  Only after you get past that will you be able to get them to buy the book.  Even if the person thumbs through the first few pages, they have to pick it up off the shelf first.

That is why covers are important in the store, but what about online.  Do people still browse the virtual aisles of Amazon.com?  I think they might.  Even if they know exactly what they are looking for, they may browse more.  For example, go to Amazon.com and search Richard Flores IV… no wait that sounds vain, search Robert S. Wilson instead.  If you were specifically looking for his book Shining in Crimson because you saw my post about it (vanity again).  How would you recognize it instantly in the scrolling list of results.  THE COVER.

Now, if you click on the link to his novel.  You will see Amazon puts that “People who viewed this also viewed:” on the bottom.  Now all you see there is the cover, the title, and the author.  Now, you may not ever use that (I have), but people do that.  Otherwise, Amazon wouldn’t use it.  Again, they will make the choice to click on the novel, based on the cover.

So the cover is important in store or online.  If you go with a big publisher, chances are they will have someone take care of the cover art for you.  But, if you decide to self publish you will need to deal with cover art on your own.  Perhaps you hire somebody, or you can do it yourself if you choose.  But be prepared to spend some time on it.

A good cover needs:

  1. To have the title on it.  That seems obvious enough, but the title should be the dominate text on the cover.  I have seen books where you could easily mistake the Authors name as the Title.  Or even a tag line.  You don’t need to place the Title on top, but you do need to make it the most eye catching thing on there.  Use easy to read, but stand out fonts.  Make sure the title contrasts with the rest of the cover art, you don’t want it getting lost in the artwork.
  2. To have the Author’s name on it.  Believe it or not, I have seen covers with no Author’s name on it.  If I want to find a book by Robert S. Wilson, Lee Gimenez, or even a blockbuster like Orson Scott Card; you need to have the name on it.  I am not going to spend time looking to see who the book is written by.  You may not think you are worth looking for, but if you are marketing your book, someone is looking.  Even me, the twice published author of two short stories, gets a hit to this site based on a search for my name, an average of once a week. Again, stand out font that contrasts with the artwork.
  3. The artwork itself.  Many would argue this should have been number 1 on this list.  Sure the art may be what catches the eye first, but title is what always hooks me in to reading more.  So as far as importance goes, you decide.  There are several ways to get artwork for your cover.  There are plenty of stock photo/artwork sites.  You can buy the artwork per piece or you can pay a monthly fee and get all the artwork you want.  Some are even free.  Always check the terms and conditions carefully.  You may not be able to use the stock art commercially.  The other down side to stock is that your image could be used by some one else  not giving you exclusive rights to the art.  If that is the case, you may want to commission an artist to do your cover art.  It will likely cost you (unless you are connected) and it will likely be more than the stock art sites.
  4. Relevant artwork.  Artwork is important enough to get two bullet points (that I didn’t want to turn off my bullet point format).  Make sure however you get artwork it is relevant to the story in some way.  It should be eye catching as well.  The artwork should not be overwhelming either.  It is not an art gallery exhibit.  Just enough to entice the readers to pick it up off the shelf.
  5. The sales-pitch.  Typically this is on the back cover.  Not seen right away.  But you got the book off the shelf (or they clicked on the link).  Now you need to get them to buy it.  If you buy paper books like I do, the first thing I do after looking at the front cover, is turn the book over.  This is where the author now has a chance to tell me why I should buy the story.  Online they have a section for the Book description or synopsis.  There could be whole blogs on how to write that.  The main issue is you want to have a quick sales pitch about what your story is going to offer.  And then, if you have them, some quotes for fairly well known (or just known) reviewers.  This is your chance to get them to check out with your book.  A poorly written sales-pitch will result in them putting the book down.  Of course, they may also put the book down because the story isn’t what they like to read.  That’s okay though.  You’d rather have them not buy it then get it thinking it was something else and hate it (and possible tell a lot of people they hate it).

Lets take a look at the cover of Shining in Crimson and The Nanotech Muders.

Cover design by CL Stegall of Dark Red Press.

On SIC we see a large red eye.  That certainly will get you a second look.  The eye is not just some red circle.  It is very detailed eye that almost starts to tell the story itself.  The title is a unique font, but very readable and stands out.  The author name stands out from the cover art, while not taking over the cover.  The book description from Amazon provides a brief sales pitch and some praise:

Set in a dystopian, religiously-demented American Empire, the city of Las Vegas is no longer a city of sin. Now called Necropolis, it is a city that eats sin. The vampires of Necropolis wait patiently for the Empire’s weekly drop off of guilty Penitents; sinners and criminals full of fresh blood.

Hank Evans is one of those Penitents and he would gladly let the vampires take every drop of his blood if it weren’t for one detail: Toby. Toby is Hank’s only son. Now, Hank must do whatever it takes to escape the city of the dead and save his son from an Empire as bloodthirsty as the vampires it uses to keep its people in line.

Praise for Shining in Crimson:

“A big-scale vampire thriller that changes the rules.”–Scott Nicholson, author of Liquid Fear, The Red Church, and They Hunger

“One of the best surprises I’ve had in a long while. Writing with a smart, self-assured ease, Robert S. Wilson has given us a gift with Shining in Crimson. Part Underworld, part Escape From New York, Shining in Crimson is genuinely frightening, genuinely thrilling, but above all, first-rate storytelling. I’m a Robert S. Wilson fan from now on!”–Joe McKinney, author of Flesh Eaters and Apocalypse of the Dead

“Robert S. Wilson shows a lot of promise here with this debut novel. Now it’s time to see where that promise will take him.”–Ray Wallace, The Chiaroscuro

“You’ll not find some glistening torsos and smouldering eyes in this book. What you will find is a brilliantly thought out society of Vampires.”–Jim Mcleod, Ginger Nuts of Horror

“The Mesh of Religious symbolism and political commentary tucked neatly between pure horror and suspense is superb.”–Lisa Lane, The Cerebral Writer

Cover art by Deron Douglas

On The Nanotech Murders we have a beautiful woman standing in front of a detailed back drop, holding a gun.  Let’s be honest here, it catches your eye for several reasons.  One you have an attractive woman, two you have interesting shading, that almost implies she might not be all human, and last you have that gun.  The cover certainly catches the eye.  The font on the title is unique while readable and the authors name is prominent but not overwhelming.  The book description from Amazon offers a brief sales pitch:

The year is 2071 and there’s a serial killer loose in Atlanta. Lieutenant Jak Decker, a homicide cop, is on the case but is getting nowhere. As the body count mounts, his boss assigns him a partner, the smart and beautiful Detective Cassandra Smith. Decker, a tough, wise-cracking loner, doesn’t want a partner, especially when he finds out she’s an android.

While I am no expert in Book Covers, I do understand that we judge books by their covers.  If you want to sell some books cover art helps a lot (and it certainly doesn’t harm anything).  We must also remember that your cover art will become that books brand.  And we all know how powerful branding is.  Just think about golden arches.  So consider your cover art carefully.  I can’t wait to get some cover art for my first novel.  Please comment below with your cover art tips and tricks to help others learn from your own experience.

2 views

Critiques

One of the most important parts of the writing process is the critiques.  I am talking about the step where you get trial readers to look over your work in progress so that they might catch things you missed.  You get a lot of valuable information from good critiques, but bad critiques can be useless.

Let me clarify that.  When I say good critiques I don’t mean positive feedback or five star reviews, I mean a critique that provides the author with feedback that useful (though not always positive).  And a bad critique provides the author with little help in their quest to polish the work in progress into a final draft.

I have had my share of bad critiques.  Some have just had useless comments that give me no help.  While others were just downright mean and hurtful.  I realized there are a few guides out there on how to properly critique another author’s work so that they get the most value from your reading.  After that, I will talk about how to accept the critique with an open mind.

How to be a better sample reader:

I prefer the term “sample reader” over critic, simply because it provides a more accurate description of what the real job is.  Your job is to provide your fellow author with the perspective of a reader.  For some reason, we authors tend to keep our author hats on when we read a draft copy of a manuscript.  We want to point out ways we would have written it differently, sometimes pointing out matters of style rather than structure.  Or worse, we want to provide our own rewrites.  Instead we need to put on our reader caps and try (as hard as it can be) to look over the manuscript as a reader.  We need to look it over as a reader would and find things that make a reader stumble.  Of course, we have advice to offer as an author and you can add it is correctly (I’ll get to that) but think like a reader first.

Well, shall we get started?  You have a draft manuscript one of the writers in your group has shared with you.  So where do you start?  First, read the Turkey City Lexicon.  I have read it at least ten times, and I continue to look it over as feel the need.  Not only does it help you learn what to avoid in your writing, it also helps you look out for these things when reading to help other authors.  Remember this:  Just because it is listed in the Turkey City Lexicon, doesn’t mean is necessarily always wrong.  I have read some really great stories that had one or two of these “no-nos” in them, but overall it worked for the story.  The author was right to keep them in there.

Start with the opening lines.  We call this “the hook” in my writers group.  This is the first thirteen lines of a manuscript (that is formatted at 12 point courier font with one inch margins all around).   On a short story that is usually what is seen on the first page of the manuscript.  Therefore, it has to be strong enough to get the editor to turn the page.  The bottom line here is, when you read these thirteen lines, are you ready to read on.  Is turning the page a must for you?  Is the pacing strong, does it establish a setting and a voice?

For longer works you will want to break the next steps into sections.  For novels, I suggest going a chapter at a time.  For short stories, I tend to be able to do it all at once.  Perhaps with Novellas you may want to break it down by significant scenes.  It is easier to manage your comments in smaller chunks rather than trying to comment on a whole novel in the end.

I use the comment feature on Word to make comments line by line as needed.  I don’t comment on every sentence, that would be tedious and useless to the other writer.  I only highlight areas I think are exceptionally strong, I had trouble understanding, or otherwise catch my attention.

Here are some things to add in your line by line comments:

  • Areas where you tripped up on reading.  This might be a confusing sentence, a long piece of exposition that loses you, or an area that just doesn’t seem right.  It is okay to simply put “This line tripped me up and I had to reread it, but I don’t know why it tripped me up.”  This at least lets the Author know you had a problem with it.  Other readers may have seen it to and can better put it into words.  But you would be doing a disservice if you didn’t mark a line because you didn’t know why it bothered you.
  • Areas that don’t seem to belong.  Perhaps you read a sentence and it just doesn’t seem to be part of the story.  A random mention of a character’s memory that seems to have no bearing on the story (in your opinion).  Or it could be something that seems to belong in another part of the story.
  • Pacing issues.  All stories have a pace and that pace changes as the story goes through.  But if you are reading a fight scene and the author stops to tell you about the scenery, that should be marked.  Or if you are reading an action scene and suddenly a sentence or two seems to be too long and disrupts the pace.  The reverse can also happen, a slow dramatic scene that is suddenly interrupted with bursts of short sentences.  The fact is, you will notice when the pacing of a story suddenly changes, and it will jar you from the reading.
  • Thrown into the real world.  Anytime you are reading a good story or book you will get wrapped up into it.  It is all you’re thinking about as you read it.  Your mind is pulled into the story and you are in its world.  Anything you read that jars you into the real world should be marked.  Did your mind wander at a particular section?  Did you suddenly become aware that you were reading?  Again, it is okay to tell an author that you don’t know why you were brought back to reality.
  • Inconsistencies.  The main character has blonde hair all story long, and suddenly there is a reference to his dark hair.  Or, the story seems to take place in one area and you read something that doesn’t fit the scene.  Anything you read that doesn’t seem consistent with the rest of the story should be pointed out.
  • Unrealistic.  This is a tough one in the Science Fiction world.  We like to write things that are just a tad bit unrealistic.  But, there are things that simply make you shout “OH COME ON!”   There are certainly unrealistic elements in the worlds we create.  So remember to look for things that are unrealistic it the world the story is told.
  • Don’t forget the good.  Did one particular line stand out as a real strong one?  Do you really identify with a character’s situation?  Was there a scene you found especially moving?  Mark those and let the author know.  Anything you think is really good; let them know you appreciate those points too.

You may have noticed I made no mention of punctuation in the list above.  All too often people confuse critiquing with proofreading.  The point of a good critique is to offer the author a perspective of a reader.  So, unless an author specifically asks for punctuation, I only point out the punctuation that confuses me as a reader.  Proofreading is best left for later.

After the line by line comments are put in, I always write an overall critique of the story as a whole (or of the chapter for novels).  This is my overall thoughts of the characters, the scene, and the tale.  This is where I put any thoughts that don’t fit in the line by line critiques.  Again, put the positive in there too.

Be polite and be nice.  All too often I have got critiques that were simply uncalled for.  Things like “this is terrible” and “you don’t know what you are doing.” will not help anyone get better.  It fact, it is just downright hateful.   That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest, but if you are not going to be constructive, leave it off.  There is no room for hate, or just being mean in the writing world.  Be constructive and be fair.  The overall goal of any critique is to make the writer’s work better.  Keep that is mind.

Accepting Critiques

So many authors cannot seem to accept critiques.  Perhaps it is our natural defense against being hurt, or perhaps it is the feeling that we know our own work best.  So here are some tips on accepting critiques from your fellow writers:

  • This is not an attack.  The goal of the critiques is to make your work the best it can be.  Not to attack you or your writing.
  • You want readers, right?  Remember you want people to enjoy your stories.  You didn’t write them just for you?  If you did you wouldn’t be looking into publishing them.  So remember these are readers too, open your mind to their ideas.  After all, if they are having trouble with something, chances are other readers will too.
  • Be receptive.  I have heard this a lot from writers.  “They want to change my style.”  or “That is just my style of writing.”  And most of the time I have heard that, they were not talking about style at all.  Style is the way you right, the type of narrative you use, ect.  The goal of any critique is not to change your writing style, but to strengthen it.  If your “style” is confusing it needs to be refined.  Most of the time “style” is used as a way of closing off to other people’s thoughts.  Be receptive to their ideas.  Chances are if people are pointing it out it needs changing (see below).
  • Don’t respond to a person’s critiques.  There is a need for us to defend ourselves.  When someone points out a flaw in our writing we want to tell them how wrong they are.  The problem is they are a reader expressing their opinion.  It can’t be wrong because it is what they thought.  And, chances are they are right… you just aren’t ready to see it.  And if you don’t want to change it, don’t.  But you don’t need to argue with them.
  • You are the Author.  This means you get final say in what you change and what you keep.  Just keep this in mind.  If the majority of your readers had trouble with something, it is likely something that needs a second look.  If even just one person has an issue with something, it needs a second look.  In fact, I can only think of two times I did not change something sample readers had an issue with.  Otherwise, I have addressed every concern as best I could.
  • Move on.  I haven’t ever gotten more sample readers on a piece after the first round.  It is my preference.  I move on to proofreading.  You may want to make the changes and have a second set of readers look at it.  If you do that, move on to a new set of readers.  Don’t use the same readers for the same work more than once.  The effectiveness is gone.

More tips for Authors:

If you want to get the most from your sample readers, ask them questions you want answered too.  Don’t just let them do all the work.  Do you wonder if a character is likeable?  Do you wonder if someone understands a particular concept?  When you send out your manuscript to the sample readers, give them a list of questions.

Some of you may know, I really took interest in the craft of writing after reading Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (among others).  It that book he talks about teaching your sample readers (I paraphrase but you get the point).  After reading that, I used some questions of his and added some of mine to create a list of questions I wanted answered by my readers.  Feel free to use some of these if you wish:

Questions about the story (or chapter).  Please answer these after your first reading of the draft.  Please put your first thoughts on these questions.

  1. Were you ever bored?  Did you ever find your mind wandering?  If so, can you tell me where it was you lost interest?
  2. Without looking back at the story, name some Characters from this story.  What do you think of them?  Did you like them, hate them, and why?  Did you confuse any characters or forget any?
  3. Is there anything a character did that seemed out of place for that character, against his/her nature?
  4. Did any dialogue seem excessive or not realistic for the situation or character?
  5. Is there any section you didn’t understand?  An area you had to reread? Did anything confuse you?
  6. Was there any time something happened you didn’t believe?  What was it?  Any time you thought “oh come on!”?  If so what was it?
  7. What do you think will happen next?  Is there anything you are still wondering about?
  8. What name might you give this story (or chapter)?
  9. Are there any other comments that can help?

In summary:

If you want to be a great writer, you will need sample readers to look over your works before you get them sent out to the editors.  But, you will also need to be a good sample reader.  I have learned more from the critiques I have given then the ones I have received.  That is why it is important the writer knows how to accept the critiques of his peers while also knowing how to effectively writing critiques of his own.

0 views

Updates: March 2012

I can’t believe we’re already six days into March.  A lot has happened since my last updates and as a result my regular scheduled blogs had been disrupted.  I hope to start posting every week again, but instead of Sundays it will be on Tuesdays.  So keep an eye out for regular blogs posts again, hopefully I can keep up the advice blogs.

Let’s start with some personal updates.  I spent President’s Day weekend moving.  I didn’t move far, just back to my hometown of Vacaville, but the move still took three days.  My advice… DON’T USE BUDGET.  I reserved a truck with Budget Truck rentals, and AFTER I confirmed the reservation they decided to tack on a $200 deposit.  Had the online reservation tool mentioned that prior to confirmation I would have canceled.  So, I called Budget and told them I wanted to cancel.   They charged me $50 to do that.  I can’t possibly believe that the 10 minutes from the time I pressed confirm to the time I canceled, inconvenienced them that much.

Well, that took away half my moving truck budget and made it impossible for me to rent from anywhere else.  So I had to move my whole three bedroom house with my minivan.  That made the move tiring, exhausting, and LONG.  But we got everything moved but we are still working on unpacking.

I finished that move on a Monday and started my new job on the Wednesday after  I had been out of work for just under a year.  I know many other people have been out of work even longer so I feel blessed and fortunate to have found work.  That being said, it is still hard to get back into the rhythm of working full time after so many days off.  I hope to get a schedule figured out soon so that I can fit in my scheduled writing and gym time.  But it feels good to have a reliable income again.

On the writing front, I haven’t got much done.  My January short story is still in it’s infancy.  I think it is just short and it needs to be developed more.  I didn’t get one done in February, but I may start in on another novel based on the Characters and world of “Dream Job” (you can read it here in the first issue of Cygnus Journal).

The two short stories I have out are still making their rounds.  “Miles from the Future” recently received another rejection.  However it was a rare personal rejection explaining that it made it all the way to final stages, but was apparently just nudged out by other works.  I am debating on where to send it next.  I have a very promising story called “Compassionate Death” that is currently still circling with some Pro Markets.  I haven’t got much feedback on it from editors, but my trial readers really seemed to enjoy it.  I think it could still be some time before either one is published, but I look forward to when I can share them with you.

My son’s Children’s Book, Daddy is Tired, has hit yet another road block in its journey to publication.  The illustrator has developed a medical issue that has impacted her drawing arm.  While it is not anything major (as in life threatening) it is very painful.  I hope she can get the treatment she needs and gets well soon.  There is one plus side.  I did get this sample image to share with you all:

My recently completed first draft for my untitled novel, is still resting.  I plan to get to the first rounds of edits this month, schedule permitting.  I am excited to get that one out to you guys as well.  I know it is a bit premature but I already wonder about cover art for that one.  I also hope the sample readers like it.  It will be a ton of work, and I do intend to use professional help for the final draft.  But that is still a long while away.  If I can think of a good title, I will certainly share it with you guys.

On this blog, I plan to work on another help piece for authors on the subject of properly critiquing other writer’s works.  I have found that helping others with their works has helped my writing improve more than any other method.  In any case, I am not sure if that post will be out next week or the week after.

But, I will have something to share with you next week.  So, until then, happy writing.  As always you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

0 views

Updates: February 2012

A lot has gone on since I wrote my January Updates in the first part of January.  There are new announcements and progress reports to share.  Let’s get started, shall we.

On February 5th, I finished the first draft of my still untitled novel.  It game is at just over 67,000 words and only took forty seven days start to finish.  As I mentioned before, I didn’t write everyday.  Life gets in the way sometimes.  So, it took 21 days of writing.  I am pleased to be finished, but now the real work starts.  There are many other steps ahead and I will probably start the self editing in March.

I did write a January short story.  I put it out for critiques and the overwhelming response is that it seems unfinished.  I originally wrote it with a quick little idea, thinking a flash piece.  But it seems it needs some expanding.  The problem is, I am not sure where I will go from here.  We will see.

My other two short stories are still out with various markets.  I hope to hear back on both of them soon.  Of course I will still announce their sales on Twitter and Facebook.

Daddy is Tired,  the children’s picture book, is still waiting on the illustrator.  So, unfortunately there is no cover art to show you yet.  I also don’t think a March release will happen either.  The lead time from the publisher is lengthy.  So, perhaps April.  The illustrator has told me she will be staying up late tomorrow and hopes to finish then.  Official release dates will be announced as soon as I have them.

I’ve done a lot of reading since I finished Shining in Crimson by Robert S. Wilson.  I read Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card and The NanoTech Murders by Lee Gimenez (review here).  Right now I am reading I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.  I know it is amazing that I have not read this book yet, not sure why I never got to it but I am reading it now.  Once I finish that, I will have to head back to the book store.

I’m planning a move any day now.  I plan to move back to Vacaville, my hometown here in California.  I’m living just up the road in a neighboring city right now.  We moved here for cheaper rent, but we miss home (even with it being so close) and we hope to move before March 1st.  But, that may not be possible.  It all depends on if we hear back from the applications we have put in.

Well, that’s the updates for February.  We’ll have to touch base on these again in March.  Hopefully then I will have release dates and other fun stuff to share.

0 views

“The End” Doesn’t Really Mean The End

So many of you made a point of letting me know that I forgot my weekly blog post this past Sunday.  I didn’t forget, in fact I let my Facebook and Twitter followers know exactly why I didn’t post.  I was finishing my novel.

Of course, by finish I mean putting ### (The End) on the first draft of my novel manuscript.  It is in no way finished.  But it sure felt nice to say it was finished.  I let myself bask in the fact that I had completed my novel for a few days.  And now, reality has struck.  “The End” on paper doesn’t really mean the end.

Many of us can write.  Most of us can write enough to create a short story.  A few less can write enough to create a novel.  But far fewer can keep following though on all the steps after “The End” to really finish a novel (or even a short story).  I’d like to see a few more people reach the real finish line.

When it comes to writing works for publication (even self publication) there are steps you have to take to reach the finish.  I’m going to clue you in on some steps so that you know what to expect after you type “The End” on your manuscript.  I’m new to the Novel steps, but they are the same as those for a short story, just longer (and maybe harder).

Let it Rest

You have to let the story rest in your head for awhile.  That is, you have to forget about it a little.  If you finish the first draft and then start edits the next day, you’re bound to miss things because the ideas and words you typed are still fresh in your head.

How long is enough time?  Well that is really up to you.  I know fellow writers who wait months to touch a short story and years for a novel.  I know others who can wait a week on a short story and two weeks on a novel.  There is no right answer when it comes to time.

For my short stories, I post the first 13 lines (or the hook) in my writer’s group.  I give them a week to ten days to share their thoughts and offer to read the story.  After that I move to my second step.  With this novel, I plan to wait until March to start the next step.  I think it will be enough time for me.  If not, I’ll give myself more time after the next novel.

You don’t need to forget the story as a whole.  If you are like me that could be impossible.  It’s just enough time to allow you to forget enough of the gritty details that you will see things like inconsistencies, grammar errors, missing words, POV errors, and other things.

Self Edit

Next, you will need to read your entire manuscript and self edit.  Check for errors that don’t fit the story line.  Maybe you typed a chapter thinking you’d go one direction and now it no longer belongs in the story.  Perhaps another area needs more development to increase the story.  Go though and edit all these things.  If you find grammar errors, punctuation mistakes and typos fix those too, but that isn’t the main focus here.  They point here is to begin to smooth out the story.  Cutting out unneeded areas, and beefing up areas that need it.  Once you are done with that, you’ve got a second draft.

Trial Readers

Once you are done with that second draft you need some trial readers.  You need someone who will give you HONEST thoughts on your story.  This isn’t likely to be a family member or even a close friend.  No one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings, especially not those of a friend.  Friends and Family are best left to read the final product, not your drafts.

This is where a writers group is very handy.  You can get honest thoughts and critiques on your work from other trusted readers who also know a bit about the business.  I’ve planned a blog post for later this month on critiques.  Watch for it.

Now, you are likely to get responses at different times.  One reader might be done in a week, the other might take two.  Since you definitely need to have more then one trial reader, here in my suggestion:  Don’t read any critiques or change anything until you get a response from all your trial readers.  Otherwise you may change something one reader hated, but the other four readers loved.  So save yourself the extra work and go through each critique after you have them all.

Self Edit: Part 2

Look at all these suggestions your trial readers gave you.  Some of them you will find completely useless and you should ignore those.  However, if all the readers point out the same trip up, you might want to fix it (even if you think it is fine the way it is).  But remember, this your work not theirs.   And only you know what is best.

You may really like a scene, but your readers have trouble with it.  Rewrite it then, or cut it.  That is up to you.  But again, this isn’t about grammar and punctuation.  You will be polishing this into a even better story.  Soon, you will have something resembling a third draft.

Proofreading

Unless you made major story changes, it is time to move on to the final draft.  I am a firm believer in four drafts and done (the done being the fourth).  It keeps you out of the endless rewrite circle.  I have a friend who is on their twelfth draft of a novel.  As I have told that friend, that novel will not be published.  They have become obsessed with making it perfect.  It won’t happen.

Now, with my short stories my proofreader is my wife.  She catches most, if not all, my typos, grammar mistakes, and punctuation screw ups.  And for a short story that is enough.

There are proofreading services out there.  I haven’t use any, but I may use one when it come to my novel.  I miss things, and a professional shouldn’t.  Now, some people don’t feel comfortable with that.  It is entirely a choice that is up to you.  I see no reason to do it for short stories.  But, my novel is 67,000 words.  So after my wife reads it she may miss some things.  If the rate is reasonable I will use one.  Otherwise, I am an author that has no money.  I won’t spend a lot on it.

However, no matter how you do your proof reading this is the time to go grammar cop.  Fix all those little mistakes.  Look for those rather then anything to do with the story.  Fix them.  Once they are fixed you have your forth draft and your completed manuscript.

THE END

You are done with your novel, right?  Well not exactly.  You want to see it published.  That involves a lot more work.  It is really a blog topic in itself.  But you have already accomplished much more then the average person who sets out to write.  You have a completed manuscript.  Pat yourself on the back.  Go get a snack, and then start working to get it published.

2 views

Self Publishing

Should I Self Publish?

I get at least one email a week asking me about self publishing.  Some are frustrated with the submit and reject cycle.  Others feel it might bring them more money.  And others think it may bring in more readers.  Most of all everyone wants to know if they will be successful if they self publish.

I don’t know much about self publishing because I have never done it.  So I have asked other writers to completed a survey on the matter.  I think a survey offers the best advise on whether or not you will be successful.  Success is a self defined quality.  You can look at these survey results and view them with your own view on success.  For example if selling 10 copies is successful to you, then look at the percentage of people who have sold more then 10 copes.  Hopefully this helps.

My friend and talented Author, Robert S. Wilson (@EmpireOfBloodRW) will be helping me as I write this.  Robert has self published a number of works, and was already kind enough to point out a forgotten company in this survey (more on that later).  I feel he has been successful in his endeavors to self publish, and he certainly has worked hard to get the success he has had.

In this blog, I will give you the results on the survey.  The survey results are separated into several categories.  At the end, I will provide my thoughts on the results.  I will give you my insights as an author who hasn’t self published, but is considering the idea.  Then, Robert will give you his thoughts.  He can give you some insights as an author who has self published.

The Respondents:

Two hundred and fifty nine (259) people completed this survey.  This does not count all the people who started the survey, but where unable to qualify based on their answers.  I posted links on my Google+, the Hatrack Writers Group, My Twitter, and My Facebook.  From there it was circulated by fellow authors.  Here is some information about the people who responded to the survey:

94% write fiction, the other 6% did not.  Those 6% did not finish the rest of the survey, as my concern was with fiction Authors.

51% where Male and 49% were female

78% where from the US, 6% Canada, 9% UK, and 7% where from someplace else.  Those places include: New Zealand, Australia, The Netherlands, Slovenia, and Bosnia

One person was under 13 years old and did not continue in the survey.  The rest breakdown in the following age groups:  2% were 18-20, 18% 21-29, 24% 30-39, 25% 40-49, 25% 50-59, and 6% where over 60.

89% write in English, 4% in Spanish, 2% French, 1% German

100% write primarily in English

84% spoke English, 4% Spanish 2% French, 3%German, 1% Japanese

94% spoke primarily in English

About the Writers:

Please note this was not exclusive to Self Published but rather information for both self published and “traditional” published authors.

The Genres broke down as followed (survey takers could select multiple selections):

Horror – 16%

Science Fiction – 18%

Thrillers – 11%

Fantasy – 21%

Romance -8%

Children’s Picture Books – 3%

Young Adult – 10%

Literary Fiction – 5%

Westerns – 1%

Other – 8%

68% had works published, 26% have not, and 6% were accepted but waiting publication

10% had 1 work published, 25% had2-3 published, 11% had 4-5, 4% had 6-7, 2% had 8-9 and 14% had 10+

10% had flash works published, 31% had short works published, 13% had Novella works published, 4% novelette length, and 24% Novels

How were your works published:

Short stories, including Novelette, Novella, Short, and Flash broke down as follows:

26% None published

7% Pro Rate Markets (6+ cents per word)

11% Semi Pro Rate (1-5 cents per word)

12% Token Markets (less then 1 cent per word)

23% Non Paying Markets (no monetary payement)

20% Self Published

Novels broke down as follows:

55% None published

5% Professional Publishing Houses (Random House, Orbit Books, and other big publishers)

11% Independent Publishing Houses (Regional or “small” publishers)

30% Self Published

My Thoughts:

I was surprised at how high the Self Publishing number where.  This was publicized as a “Survey on Self Publishing”  but I think it still shows a trend that moves towards self publishing.  Only those who marked self published in either of the last two questions continued with the survey.  Roughly 48% of the people who started this survey were Self Published (126 people).  That’s nearly half, which is surprising.

Robert’s Thoughts:

I’m not at all surprised by the percentage of people who have self-published. More and more people are self-publishing all the time. Writers are finding that they can find an audience by self-publishing whereas before they were spending so much time submitting their stories/novels and getting rejected and not reaching an audience at all. Now, whether this is a good or bad thing depends on many factors. I will be posting a blog post of my own for a more indepth look at that.

Self Publishing Results

Now I am sure you want to know what people had to say about Self Publishing.  There were a 126 people who continued to this section of the survey.  Here are the survey results:

How many works have you self Published:

26% – 1, 10% -2, 23% – 3, 6% – 4, 3%- 5, 6% – 6, 10% – 7, 6% – 8, 3%- 9, and 6%- 10 or more

Novelette or Shorter Break down.

26% had not self published any short works

29% said 1, 16% 2, 6%-3, 13% – 4, 3% – 6, and 3% said 10 or more.  5, 8, and 9 had 0%

Novel Break Down:

29% said they had not self published any novels

39% said one, 13% said 2, 6% said 3, 10% said 7, and 3% said 10 or more.  The others had 0% (4, 5, 6, 8, 9)

How they self published:

On a website, PDF or other electronic means 6%

Paperback and/or Hardcover 3%

Anthologies 3%

E-Reader Formats (all types) 26%

Both Paperback and/or Hardcover 38%

Multiple formats listed above: 23%

And which of these resulted in the most readers?

10% only used one format

13% Paperback

3% Hardcover

74% E-Reader

My Thoughts:

Clearly e-Readers have opened the door to new Authors and the ability for them to self publish their works.  From what I have seen, getting your works out in an e-reader format is easy, fast, and relatively cheap.  This means you can list your work for a better price and attract more readers that way (more on that later).  Perhaps I am the only one who doesn’t own an e-reader.

Robert’s Thoughts:

I agree with you on this one, Richard. Not to mention this data is completely consistent with what I’ve already seen with my own work and with other self-published authors I know. I have sold very little paper copies of my books. Even with setting them at low prices for print books. It really comes down to the fact that you really can price really low with ebooks and readers are much more likely to take a chance on an unknown if they don’t have to pay much for their work.

But how many works are selling when you self publish?

On Combined Total copies (or downloads) for all works was:

6% said under 10

6% said 11-50

13% said 50-99

6% said 100-199

3% said 200-299

3% said 300-399

6% said 400-499

3% said 500-749

6% said 750-999

13% said 1000-1999

3% said 2000 –  2999

0% said 3000-3999

0% said 4000-4999

13% said 5000-9999

16% said 10000+

The work that gave them the most copies sold (downloads or prints):

6% said under 10

10% said 11-50

13% said 50-99

10% said 100-199

10% said 200-299

6% said 300-399

3% said 400-499

0% said 500-749

6% said 750-999

13% said 1000-1999

0% said 2000 –  2999

3% said 3000-3999

0% said 4000-4999

6% said 5000-9999

13% said 10000+

My Thoughts:

Well really it means that the range is vast.  There is no clear dominate number of copies you can expect when you self publish.  It could very depending on how the work was promoted (more on that later).  I don’t think this is a far cry from Traditional Publishing.  They don’t really know how many copies they will sell of your book.  This is why they can be so touchy about what they publish.  You might get an advance if you go with traditional publishing, that would be the big difference.  Of course, that is if you even get accepted.

Robert’s Thoughts:

This data really does come 100% down to good promotion. But don’t let that statement fool you. Good promotion isn’t just getting the word out to readers who will like your work. Having a good product is a large part of promotion in and of itself. If you have a story that no one likes that can be the worst promotion you could ever have. The more the right market(s) for your work finds it, the more likely that work is to sell. Simple as that. The cover, description, title, story, and how you present all these things to your market are all factors that can make or break a self-published work just the same as a traditionally published work. Difference is, you’re SELF-publishing. You have to learn and execute the promotion yourSELF!

Self Publishing Companies

I forgot to to list Kindle Direct Publishing, however my survey responders didn’t forget.  They listed it in Other so many times.  I blame ignorance, I thought Createspace and KDP were the same thing.  Oops, consider me educated.

Published themselves (on their own website or printer) 11%

Createspace 21%

lulu 6%

Smashwords 40%

Kindle Direct Publishing (write in) 20%

Pubit (Write in) 1%

Other write ins 1%

Which Company did they like best:

19% said doing it themselves

23% said Createspace

3% said Lulu

22% said Smashwords

22% said Kindle Direct Publishing (Write in)

2% said Pubit (Write in)

9% listed other companies (write in)

My Thoughts

Clearly I am living under a rock to have not heard of KDP for one.  But, it seems Smashwords is very popular with 40% of survey takers using it.  I think the results would have shown a higher KDP rating had it been included, especially with how well Amazon does in the company ratings (see Rating Below).  I suppose that it is because it offers a diverse set of formats, but Createspace and KDP are also very popular among the survey takers.  When it comes to a favorite choice all three are nearly equal in popularity.  You may want to take a look at the company rating before choosing one.  Of course, it will also depend on you needs too.

Robert’s Thoughts

Honestly, Richard, when I took the survey, I didn’t know that you had made it. I thought you were just passing it along. If I had known, I would have contacted you asap and said, “Woah, you’re forgetting the biggest chunk of the market!” Because in my experience KDP really does have the self-publishing ereader market cornered. More authors may be using Smashwords, though I highly doubt those results would be the same if you were to manage to get a larger study pool, but more books are sold to a staggering degree through KDP than on Smashwords. Every self-published author I’ve spoken with and my own results both reflect that. We’re talking something like a 96/4 or higher ratio. That’s a significant difference. It’s as simple as this: MORE READERS BUY FROM AMAZON.

Promotions:

Yea, that’s right.  One of the biggest differences I see between using a Publishing House and Self Publishing is promotion.  You are in charge of getting your work out to the people.  Here are some of what the Survey Takers used:

1% had other works published traditionally

9% used promotional pricing (temporary discount prices)

8% low pricing (pricing the book low permanently)

3% said making the book free (permanently)

11% said they promoted on their Facebook Site

4% said they promoted on their Google+

10% said they promoted on their Twitter

10% said they promoted on their website

12% provided free copies for reviewers (6% for professional reviews and 6% for amateur reviews)

6% provided free copies to try and generate word of mouth

8% posted on sites designed to promote independent authors

5% did giveaways or contests

3% did paid advertising on Social Meda

0% (1 taker) did paid advertising in literary magazines

1% uses other online advertising (paid)

3% did book signing events

1% did booths at fairs or events

3% created a book trailer

3% used Youtube videos

2% listed other means

What way worked the best for them?

32% didn’t keep track

3% had other works published traditionally

3% used promotional pricing (temporary discount prices)

3% low pricing (pricing the book low permanently)

0% said making the book free (permanently)

13% said they promoted on their Facebook Site

6% said they promoted on their Twitter

6% said they promoted on their website

6% posted on sites designed to promote independent authors

6% said book signing events

6% listed other means

I removed the answers that got no votes.

How much did you pay for advertising?

45% said $0

48% said $1-$100

6% said up to $500

No 0ne said more.

Will paying more get you more?

3% said yes

35% said no

61% said they were not sure.

Will promoting one work get more readers for all your works?

13% said Yes and they wouldn’t have to promote the other works

58% said Yes but they should still promote the other works too.

3% said No

26% said they were not sure.

My Thoughts:

First of all, KEEP TRACK OF WHAT WORKS!  If you are not keeping track of what advertising worked, you are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.  This can mean wasted money and wasted time.  I was really surprised how little use social media had.  It is 100% free and takes little or no time.  The same goes for your website.  Sure, websites can take some time, but they are worth the effort.  I get anywhere from 10-100 new visitors to this site a day.  That’s new visitors that have not ever been here before.  That’s a lot of people I can promote my new writings with.

I think Authors forget that writing is a business too (I know I do).  And, for better and worse,  when you self publish you take the whole business aspect on alone.  Business is tough work, I owned one.  Keep track of what is working.  Use different codes for certain coupons so you can track what worked.  Offer 10% off if they mention a certain ad.  For example you might post exclusively on Facebook a coupon code that gives 10% off to Facebook Followers.  Then a little later cancel that coupon and post another one for 10% off to Twitter Followers.  Perhaps you make signed copies only available direct from your site.  Perhaps all your Giveaway contestants get a code for a discount.  This way you can track who heard about you from where.  If the Giveaway didn’t work, you won’t waste the time next time.  But if the Facebook ad was a huge success you may want to run one once a month.

Advertising is hard work.  I had a hell of a time with it in my business.  I learned a lot.  Perhaps when I get done with my first novel, I will blog about what advertising I used and how well it is working.

Robert’s Thoughts

Unfortunately, Richard, it’s just not that simple. You can’t give away coupons on Amazon. The only site you can really do that with is Smashwords and unfortunately, MOST READERS DON’T BUY FROM SMASHWORDS. Now, I wish that weren’t true. Smashwords is a great company for authors and publishers. But it just doesn’t get the commercial traffic that Amazon does. And any little thing you do can make a difference in sales. Things other people or things that the different distributors like Amazon, Lulu, Smashwords do can make a difference and you won’t even know it. There’s no real clear way to find out for sure as far as I know. It’s like blind voodoo. So, your best bet is to just do everything you can. If you’re doing something and sales go up, keep it up. If after a while of doing that sales go back down try something new. It’s a crazy game of cat and mouse, but if you want to sell more books, it’s what you have to do.

One thing that does work tried and true is to have an online presence and be in touch with possible readers. They will respond to you and you will meet new friends and everyone wins all around. They find new books to read, meet a new friend, you sell books, and also meet some great people as well. You don’t have to be terribly charismatic, just be yourself. Treat your readers as your friends because frankly. The people who like your work are more likely to be the kind of people you can be real friends with.

My Reply:

It is unfortunate that there is not better tracking for these self publishing solutions.  But what Robert describes is still tracking of some sort.  It is certainly better then guessing.  When I launch my first advertising campaign for my son’s Children’s Book (which will be self published this year).  I will post a blog on how I tracked what was working and what wasn’t.  Advertising and publicity is something I have worked with for some time, so I am a bit excited to see how I can apply it to this industry.

Pricing:

How much is your writing worth?  Well, I would say mine is worth a lot more then I would probably realistically sell it for.  Here is what the Survey takers had to say:

What prices have you priced your e-books at?

2% didn’t have any ebooks

19% said Free

27% said $1 or less

37% said $1.01-$2.99

14% said $3.00-$4.99

2% said $5.99-$9.99

What they thought was the best price of an e-book:

2% didn’t have any ebooks

0% said Free

10% said $1 or less

68% said $1.01-$2.99

19% said $3.00-$4.99

3% said $5.99-$9.99

What prices have you priced your Paper Copy Books?

28% didn’t have any paper copies

3% said $3-$4.99

23% said $5-9.99

28% said $10-$14.99

10% said $15-$19.99

10% said $20+

What did they think the best price was for paper copy books?

28% didn’t have any paper copies

3% said $3-$4.99

46% said $5-9.99

23% said $10-$14.99

0% said $15-$19.99

0% said $20+

How important is pricing to the self published Author?

Very Important – 71%

Somewhat Important – 28%

Neutral – 3%

Both Unimportant Categories received no votes.

My Thoughts

I have to say I agree with what I see here.  I have a huge problem with Kindle e-book pricing even from the big name Authors.  I will save that for another time.  The prices Self Published Authors are setting seems to be reasonable.  I don’t agree with making your book free to all forever.  A limited discount maybe, but give yourself some credit.  Surely your work is worth more then $0.  Don’t go crazy either, you are a new author and a self published author.  Consider how much you would be willing to pay for a work put out by an author you don’t know?  For me, I like taking a chance on new authors both self published and published by the Publishing Houses.  I have rarely been disappointed.  But I put little value on an e-book, therefore I am not likely to spend more then $3 on an author I haven’t hear of.  That’s me.

Robert’s Thoughts

Most self-publishers and independent publishers are competitive enough to price reasonably if not all out low. Most of the ebooks you find online for outrageous prices are the big publishers trying to push people into buying paper copies. You see they win either way: People want to read the authors they’ve come to know and love and now they either have to continue reading paper copies and not move on to an ereader or they have to start paying more for ecopies. That’s what these larger publishers are trying to do. So, either way, they win as long as people are willing to pay these outrageous prices. The best way to stop it is to NOT PAY SUCH RIDICULOUS PRICES. And one free work can be a great promotion for your other works. It’s all in how you do it. If you have a series, I could be great to have the first work free and then when the readers are done and want to read more in the series they are likely to buy your second and third and so on in your series. Of course there’s also a nice simple short story that just shows your skills. It may seem like a big loss to give one of your best works away for free, but when someone reads one of your best works and is impressed by it, they’re more likely to buy other works by you.

Companies to Use:

The last part of the survey was designed to give people an idea what companies work well with self published Authors.  Not just for publishing but for the all around needs of the author.  I have ranked them based on the survey responses.  For each vote in a certain catagory I assigned them points.  Then I divided the points by total survey takers, and I ranked them Highest to Lowest:

Companies in terms of Ease of Use (out of 4):

1. Twitter (3.46)

2. Facebook (3.39)

3. Amazon (3.22)

4. Blogspot (3.14)

5. WordPress (2.94)

6. Smashwords (2.88)

7. Google+ (2.87)

8. Barnes and Noble (2.7)

9. Lulu (2.67)

10. Createspace (2.63)

11. Goodreads (2.35)

12. Live Journal (2.29)

Companies rated on their ability to promote Self Published Authors (out of 4):

1. Twitter (3.17)

2. Facebook (3.08)

3. Goodreads (2.7)

4. Amazon (2.65)

5. Google+ (2.57)

6. Createspace (2.54)

7. Blogspot (2.5)

8. Smashwords (2.44)

9. WordPress (2.38)

10. Barnes and Noble (2.05)

11. Live Journal (1.76)

12. Lulu (1.71)

Companies Rates on Ability to Generate readers (out of 4)

1. Facebook (2.92)

2. Amazon (2.89)

3. Twitter (2.88)

4. Goodreads (2.55)

5. Google+ (2.5)

7. Blogspot (2.43)

8. Tied Smashwords and WordPress (2.29 each)

10. Barnes and Noble (2.19)

11. Live Journal (1.71)

12. Lulu (1.14)

How likely are you to recommend these companies to other Self Publishers (out of 5)

1. Amazon (4.63)

2. Facebook (4.26)

3. Tied Smashwords and Twitter (4.19 each)

5. Goodreads (3.82)

6. Barnes and Noble (3.37)

7. Createspace (3.22)

8. Google+ (2.96)

9. WordPress (2.74)

10. Blogspot (2.26)

11. Lulu (2.15)

12. Live Journal (2)

Companies rated based on ability in the e-reader market (out of 3)

1. Amazon (2.85)

2. Smashwords (2.28)

3. Barnes and Noble (2.27)

4. Tied Createspace and Lulu (1 each)

Companies rated based on ability in the paper market (out of 3)

1. Createspace (2.64)

2. Amazon (2.31)

3. Barnes and Noble (2.1)

4. Lulu (1.88)

5. Smashwords (0.57)

My Thoughts

These are people’s opinions on these companies from the perspective of being a self published Author.  Take it as that.  You may find you like one of these companies that was low rated here.  But, this might give you a starting point if you are not sure where to check out first.  I was surprised, as I expected Createspace and/or Lulu to dominate these numbers.   Clearly I was mistaken.  If print is what you want you might consider Createspace, but when it comes to the e-reader market Amazon and Smashwords seem to rate the highest.

When it comes to social media, Twitter seems to be the preference.  I can’t say I am surprised.  I have a lot more followers on Twitter then any where else.  I have seen a lot of writers say how much they like Google+, though I will be the first to admit I think it is useless.  Facebook is popular seems to rank well too.

If you like to blog, clearly Live Journal is not a good choice.  However WordPress and Blogspot seem to be equally popular.  It seems to be true of the Authors I know.  I would guess that about 50% of them use either site.  I picked WordPress.  It works for what I need and I find it really easy to use.  It allows the custom content I want, and in the future I can import/merge this blog with my own website.

In the end, the company you use depends on what you need and want.  Read all the Terms of Service/Use.  I hope this information will at least shorten your trial and error routine.  Check them all out.  Otherwise you might miss Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

Robert’s Thoughts

I self-published my first work in July of 2011. In the not even six months since then, I’ve gathered a great deal of my own sales data. And I’m here to tell you Ereaders are the future of books. Especially for self-published books. There are thousands if not millions of readers out there looking for their next favorite indie author.

I do find myself surprised on the social media front. I’ve found Facebook to be much more helpful for me. Or it could be that I’m still new to Twitter and haven’t put enough into using it to my advantage.

I use blogspot myself and have enjoyed that it is already connected with my Google account and is very easy to use and maintain. And with being free and having almost all the options you would have with a standard website, it works great for most everything I need in a website. Now, if only I could get it to make blog posts for me as I seem to neglect it all too often.

Overall as Richard has said already, your mileage may vary. It’s best to cover all the avenues you can. Clearly, you’re not likely to have multiple blogs but if you’re planning on self-publishing definitely cover all your distribution options and all the social media and free promotional options you can make time for. Because in the end what works best for one person may differ proportionately to another. So, in order to reach the most possible readers you should highly consider putting your work out at in all possible venues and in all possible formats and of course have an online presence in all the different social media sites. These thing can only add to your chance of becoming a successful self-published author.

What does this all mean?

Well it’s the results of a survey on self publishing, with the thoughts of two authors.  I hope you find this a helpful insight if you are planning to start, or even continue, in self publishing.  It has certainly shined some light on my own ideas in self publishing.  It is a viable means, and slowly the negative perception of self published works has dissolved away.

I am a paper book lover, but you can’t deny that e-readers have opened the door to the self published author.  The ability to reach readers worldwide, at a low cost, has allowed talented authors to emerge.  These are talented authors who have made the choice to control the process of their writing from creation to sale.  Perhaps that is more difficult when compared to waiting for an editor at a publishing house.  At the least I would say it is equally challenging.

If you found this helpful feel free to share it, re-blog it, or post it on your social media site of choice.  Thank you to all the survey takers and thank you to Robert Wilson for sharing his insights.

About the Authors:

Richard Flores IV

Richard is an author of Speculative Fiction who lives in California.  He fits his writing time around being a father of three young boys and a husband to his beautiful wife.  He has been published in Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction and Liquid Imagination.  He has a Children’s Picture Book, that he wrote with his oldest son, set to be released in early 2012.  For more information on Richard Flores IV, you can find him online at http://floresfactor.wordpress.com/.  You can also find him on Twitter @Richard_Flores4

Robert S. Wilson

Robert S. Wilson is the author of the Kindle bestseller The Quiet: A Novella and the critically acclaimed Shining in Crimson: Empire of Blood Book One as well as co-editor for Horror For Good: A Charitable Anthology, an anthology which includes stories by international bestselling authors and horror legends. All proceeds from Horror For Good will go toward amfAR, an international AIDS research foundation.  For more information on Robert S. Wilson, you can find him online at http://shiningincrimson.blogspot.com/.  You can also find him on Twitter @EmpireOfBloodRW

Robert lives in Smyrna, Tennessee with his wife and two children while he attempts to make time for everything and utterly fails constantly.

0 views

Distractions

I recently finished reading The Black Prism by Brent Weeks.  A great novel that is full of characters you can relate to and a plot that is imaginative and engaging to the reader.  It has a well thought out world that has depth and dynamic. The magic is believable and based a bit on real life.  In other words, you should go by this novel if you have any love for Fantasy novels.  You can wait until you finish reading my post, but as soon as you are done, go buy it.

Like every great story I finish, I find myself sad it is over.  But, I also find myself inspired to write a great novel of my own.  I also find myself looking at my latest novel and wondering why I have not done much to advance it.  When I undertook writing with a serious intention of being published this past March, I told myself I would complete one short story a month and a novel by the end of the year.

That means I should have written nine short stories and one novel.  Currently I have completed four short stories and about 2,500 words into the second draft of my novel (the first draft was written years ago, so really this is a rewrite first draft).  I also completed a Children’s picture book my son and I wrote together.  A far cry from being where I wanted to be.

There are some pluses.  First, two of those four stories were published this year.  The other two are currently out to markets.  The children’s book is currently waiting on the illustrator to complete the drawings.  It has a scheduled release for the early part of 2012.  Both of which I think are good accomplishments for a writer in his first serious year of writing.

But, why I have fallen so short of my goals?  When I finished The Black Prism, I really began to quiz myself of the true cause of my short comings.  The answer was simple: Distractions.

I have a long list of distractions.  Many of those distractions are worth it and they have to to come first.  Those include: My kids, my wife, my health, my chores, my job (when I had one), and searching for a job.  But there are some I could trim out.  Such as: Television, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Battlefield 3, and the internet.

Of course, the real trouble is actually making those cuts.  Every time I power up this laptop the first sight I go to is Facebook.  I can’t help it.  Then I have to check Twitter now (a site I used to hate and now for some reason I can’t avoid it).  Then I go look for work, then I go check out all the sites related to Battlefield 3, then I check my writers forum, then check the site stats for this blog, then I go back to Facebook, and then I check Google+.  By then I am tired of the internet, so I shut off my lap top and turn on the TV.  Through all of this my children need my attention.  I cook dinner, put the kids to bed, my wife comes home from work, we watch TV, and then off to bed.  And I always say, “Tomorrow I will have to get some writing done.”

Perhaps I am not taking writing serious enough.  I don’t think so.  I like doing it and I enjoy seeing the positive reviews of the things people have read of mine.  The truth is, and I have mentioned this before, I just have to make the time.  Most of the time there is nothing on TV, but I watch it anyway.  Most of the time there is nothing new on Facebook, but I check it anyway.  I am finding Google+ useless but I still check it.  And I don’t know why I am so addicted to Twitter now.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are great for me to get in touch with my fans and fellow writers.  I won’t cut them out completely.  I certainly won’t be able to cut out Battlefield 3 for a while.  I enjoy the game.  But, I can limit them.  I intend to limit them and focus on my novel.

One thousand words a day would reach novel length in just forty days.  Of course my novel may be longer and I almost never just write 1000 words in a writing session, but that certainly seems like a reasonable goal.  However goals are not worth much if you don’t try.  I will try to hold to that goal, and you can always follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see how I do.

So I know have two 2012 resolutions: 1) Exercise and lose weight, 2) Write more.

Of course I have more, but I will save that for another post.

0 views