The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

Month: November 2014

What to do after NaNoWriMo

For better or worse, NaNoWriMo is over on Monday. You’ve gone through the highs and lows, pondered your sanity and pounded out thousands of words of prose. Now that you’re ready to come emerge from your self-imposed writer exile, you’re probably wondering what to do after NaNoWriMo? Here’s some quick advice.

1. Finish that draft!

Even if you hit your word count goal, your novel might still not be done. Keep that momentum going. Don’t fall off the wagon now that you’ve spent a hard-earned month developing that writing habit — keep on trucking! The longer you can string together consecutive days, the more ingrained a behavior becomes. While other writers are making New Year’s resolutions to write consistently, you’re already two months ahead of the game.

nanowrimo_2_w2. Add some elbow grease

Just because you’ve typed “The End” doesn’t mean your book is done. As Sean Platt of the Self Publishing Podcast advises: say it, say what you mean, say it well. Your manuscript will need at least a second draft and a professional edit. Although it’s perfectly fine to take a month or so off from the project so you can revise with fresh eyes (rhyme intended), don’t let that writing habit we just talked about fall my the wayside. Work on a short story or another book in between the first and second draft. When you do come back to your work, pretend you’re going over it not as the author, but as your ideal reader. Keep a notebook handy to jot down any changes you’d like to make and ideas you have. If you spot any copy errors, fix them! The less work your editor has to do, the happier both of you will be.

3. Start on the next book

If you’re serious about becoming a full-time author, you need to develop a catalog. Even Hugh Howey had several books out before Wool went wild. Starting out, the best thing you can do is put your nose back to the grindstone and write another novel. It’s time to apply everything you’ve learned and improve on it — outline better and write faster using a stronger voice.

Silhouette of Success4. Give yourself a pat on the back

Seriously, good job! Whether you conquered NaNoWriMo or not, you still took action and that’s the most important thing. When you’re immersed in the writing world all the time, it’s easy to feel like writing a book isn’t that big of deal. It is. For every author in this business, there are three people out there who have a book in their heads but don’t the courage do anything more than dream about it. You’re making your dreams come true and you there’s not reason not to be proud of your efforts.

How did your NaNoWriMo go? Comment below and tell us about your successes (or failures).

 wpid-imag0065_1-e1410915663557-960x913 Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com.

Author Origins: Michael Sullivan

Author Michael SullivanMichael J. Sullivan is a publishing veteran, using a wide range of tools including: self, small-press, big-five, Kickstarter, print-only, foreign translations, and audio to get his stories “out there.” His best-selling debut series, The Riyria Revelations, was released by Hachette Book Group, has sold more than half a million copies, been translated into fifteen foreign languages, and appeared on more than ninety-five “best of” or “most anticipated” lists including those compiled by Library Journal, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and Audible.com. His most recently released work, Hollow World, is classic social science fiction reminiscent of Asimov, Wells, and Heinlein. Michael’s current project is The First Empire, a four-book epic fantasy which explores the difference between myths and legends and the true account of historical events. It challenges what it means to be a hero and the impact of ordinary people, long forgotten over time. Michael posts about the business side of writing for Amazing Stories Magazine and is a host of the writing podcast Hide and Create. You can learn more about Michael at his website www.riyria.com.

Introduction: Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

Thanks for having me. I’m Michael J. Sullivan author of twenty-six books (nine published, three in the queue). I’ve wanted to be a novelist ever since I was eight or nine years old when I found an electric typewriter in the basement of a friend’s house. To be honest, I never thought it would be possible to make a living this way, so that was never a goal. Almost every author has some form of horror story about their difficulties, and I’m no different. I spent over a decade writing and then quit because I wasn’t getting anywhere. I concluded writing had been an incredible waste of my time, and I vowed never to write creatively again. I stayed away for a decade before relenting…but only on the condition that I wouldn’t seek publication. Interestingly enough, it was those set of books that got me on the scene when my wife decided to handle the publishing aspects. As to where I am now, I’ve been a full-time novelist for the last four years and one of the lucky few who earn a good living from doing what I love the most.

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?

I’m one of the few who never had to balance writing with a day job. The first time around I was a stay-at-home dad and wrote when the kids were napping, or after my wife came home. When I wanted to return to writing, my wife was extremely supportive, and since her income was substantial, we could live comfortably on her paycheck. I’m grateful to return the favor, and she quit her job three years ago. As for balance, I find I can’t write well if that’s all I focus on and always “mix it up” with other activities including physical and educational.

Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

I start off each morning with coffee (essential), some oatmeal and fruit, and some time reading the paper and checking out the Internet. After that, I’ll read a few pages of an author whose writing I enjoy as it helps to “prime the pump” if you will and get my head in a “writing space.” I’ll write through until lunch, where I’ll take a break with my wife. If I haven’t hit my word count, I’ll write a bit more in the afternoon. Usually, though, that is my time for physical activity.  I’ll go for a bike ride, a jog, or workout. Depending on the time of year I’ll do something artistic (like painting) and in the evenings, I usually read, which often is something non-fiction so I can learn something new.

(Optional Question) If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

I initially published through a small press (before ebooks came on the scene) and I have no idea how they sold (I never received a royalty report or any money). Once I started self-publishing, I had a much better feel for things. With just one book out, I was happy to sell a few books a week. When it got to a book a day, I was ecstatic. I released my books on a six-month schedule, and they went something like this:

  • April 2009 book #2 was released: sales started at 100 and went to 250 by the next release
  • October 2009 book #3 released:  sales 250 then growing to 500
  • April 2010 book #4 released: sales quickly grew to about 1,000 a month
  • Oct 2010 book #5 released and that month’s sales were 2,600. But in Nov, Dec Jan and Feb they were 9,500, 10,500, 11,500 and 12,500 respectively. We negotiated a deal with Orbit during the first part of October and Orbit’s versions went up for pre-sale in March 2011. My self-published books stayed on the market until August 2011 (Orbit books were released in November – January) but I’m not sure what the sales were. I wasn’t promoting the self-published books, and it was definitely less than over the Christmas but I don’t recall the exact numbers.

At one point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?

During that Nov 2010 – Feb 2011 time period, income was really high $45,000 – $55,000 a month. Plus we had a six-figure offer from one of the big-five. Usually, a multiple-book contract will be paid out over many years. In my case, all the books were all written (and scheduled for release in three consecutive months: November 2011 – January 2012). Because of this, I saw the full amount fairly quickly. By April 2011, I had enough cash reserves to pay all the household bills for more than two years. With that kind of cushion, it seemed a safe bet for my wife to quit her day job. Still, writing income when traditionally published can be sporadic so we always have a good cushion on hand. If push comes to shove, Robin will have plenty of time to get a “real job” if needs be. I love having her at home, so I’m incentivized to keep the income flowing and repay her for years of doing similarly for me.

What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? Alternatively, what are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?

I have a fairly “open” online persona so most people know a lot about me. The one thing they may not know is when I get “stuck” with a plot I go for walks and have out loud conversations with myself. There is something about doing that aloud that activates a different part of my brain, which usually provides a solution. My hobbies outside of writing include: biking, hiking, jogging, painting, gaming, and hanging out at the local pub with some writer friends of mine.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

I’m always harping on three being a magic number. I see too many authors spending too much time promoting themselves when they have only one book available for sale. Until you have three books, you should be hyper focused on writing more books.  Once you have three books out, then you can spend more time on promotional activities, but doing so before then just won’t be productive. You really need readers who buy multiple books from you, so you need to make getting multiple books your number one priority.

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to touch on?

Not really, it’s been pretty comprehensive. I’ll just say in closing that this is a profession that rewards two things: persistence and quality. If you can write a book that people love so much they’ll tell others about it, and you can produce books at a fairly consistent rate then there is no reason you can’t find success. If you self-publish, make sure you are putting out a book that can go toe-to-toe with those released from New York. You owe it to yourself and to your readers to put out only your best.

Guest Post: Are You Ready To Publish? How Crowdfunding Can Help You

Reader’s Note: This week, we’re pleased to bring you a guest post from Justine Schofield, the Development Director at Pubslush, a crowdfunding site just for authors. As a special bonus for our readers, you can sign up for a free Pubslush account using the promo code EVERYDAY to receive The Guide: Tips to Successful Crowdfunding.

Pubslush High-Res-Logo

In the current publishing landscape, it has become the author’s responsibility to build their platform, grow and engage with their audience and develop a marketing plan for their books. One of the biggest pitfalls of publishing can be when an author is overly eager to publish. Many times, authors end up impulsively publishing before they’ve developed the platform that will help them sell books.

Building an author platform needs to begin well before an author releases their first book. Being established and having an interested audience for an upcoming book will build the momentum necessary to stand out in the market. Now, crowdfunding offers authors a tangible way to rally support from early readers and continue to build upon their established platform.

In basic terms, crowdfunding is a way to raise funds for an upcoming project by soliciting the support of the crowd—aka the author’s network and audience. For authors with an established platform, crowdfunding allows them to test the market by promoting and building excitement around an upcoming book.

Crowdfunding fits seamlessly into the publishing process and can help authors to:

  • Raise funds. Of course, a crowdfunding campaign is a way to raise funds for publishing or marketing costs. The basis of crowdfunding is to fund projects and ideas. Authors can use the funds raised to help produce a high-quality product.
  • Collect pre-orders. Every supporter of a crowdfunding project receives something in return for their financial pledge, which makes crowdfunding a natural way for authors to collect pre-orders. Authors are able to sell books and fulfill orders before publication and early readers can be rallied to promote and review the book once it’s published.
  • Talk about and drive traffic to a book before it’s published. Building a buzz around a book before it’s published is essential for success. If an author waits until the book is released to begin promotions, their book is starting out a step behind. It’s difficult to promote a product that doesn’t yet exist, but a crowdfunding campaign provides a tangible platform that an author can drive traffic to and market their upcoming book.
  • Engage with early readers. A crowdfunding campaign page is an all-encompassing look at not just the book, but the author’s story as well. Authors are able to connect with readers on a more personal level and provide them with much more than they would get from shopping at a local bookstore or Amazon. There is little to no connection between authors and readers in the traditional market, but crowdfunding works to help build and foster important connections.
  • Share their book with a wider audience. Crowdfunding presents a unique discoverability aspect. Supporters of crowdfunding projects generally enjoy being part of the creation process and are more likely to share their support with their own network, allowing for an author to be more easily discovered outside of their established audience.

It’s essential for authors to start thinking of their book as a business and manufacture themselves as entrepreneurs. To gain traction in the book market, authors must know how to stand out and crowdfunding can help them to do just that.

The ability to talk about their book and prove market viability during the publishing process is priceless and can help authors to build their platform and the momentum necessary to practice more informed and successful publishing.

Justine Schofield is the development director of Pubslush, a pre-publication platform that offers crowdfunding and pre-order options to authors and publishers. A writer at heart, Justine received her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. A prominent voice in the publishing industry and an advocate for educating authors and publishers about crowdfunding, she is a regular contributor to The Future of Ink, Business Banter and more. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter

A New Book is like Christmas Morning

A new book is like Christmas morning. It is a package of adventure and knowledge, wrapped in interesting paper, tied up with a bow, contents waiting to be discovered. Every time that I begin to read a story of my own choosing it is with the expectation that I will discover hidden gems and rare experiences to be found only in this tale.

It is exciting to be led morsel to morsel by a clever author. Not so obviHandcrafted and ecological Christmas packageous that you solve the mystery or find the end of the story before it is time to—but in an ordered, sensible way. It can be thrilling to immerse yourself in a story that bounces around and excites the mind with multiple possibilities, so much so, that you search for the point of the story until the ending. How skilled are authors who can write like this?

Most authors write with the desire to engage their audience. They also want to be engaged in what they are writing. We know that writing is work. Work shouldn’t be tedious, especially in the creative professions. I have written in previous posts that while reading a good book, I am in the midst of the action. It plays out in my mind’s eye as in a movie. Surprise, surprise—while writing my favorite stories the same thing occurs. I am engaged in the writing, so much so, that I write well beyond my time and word goals for the day, and only stop when my body cries out for food or rest.

As an author, I strive to write like that everyday. Authors know though, that things happen to stifle that state of writing. Maybe you have a 9 to 5 job, the phone beckons, children and pets intrude, or your spouse ‘suggests’ that a day off is necessary. Rysa Walker, author of The Chronos Files Series-Timebound, Times Edge, and unnamed third book, says, “I have to “unplug” except for my writing software and music, and go into the “writing cave.”  She goes on to say that she has her children ”almost” trained to leave her alone when she is in her “writing cave” but “the dog not so much”. Other authors have shared that they rise extra early in the morning to get the peace they need to meet their writing goals. Still others stay up late after the kids are asleep, or grab a paragraph or two during their lunch period—whatever it takes.

The craft of writing is like any other craft or skill that you may have. Native talent can take you only so far. Very few (very, very few) piano players can sit down for the first time and play a concerto, in fact, likely they won’t be able to play ‘Chopsticks’. Those gifted few who can play any tune without lessons or sheet music still are limited to the talent that they were born with. Without lessons and practice they won’t be able to surpass that. Us normal people who are desirous of having that great success, must work our butt’s off in school and with practice—lots and lots of practice.

“I have to “unplug” except for my writing software and music, and go into the “writing cave.”  She goes on to say that she has her children ”almost” trained to leave her alone when she is in her “writing cave” but “the dog not so much”. Rysa Walker

Developing stories that I described above takes much thought and writing. Nobody wants to read a story where the ending is revealed too early or tales where there is no solution to the mystery or resolution to the conflict. They are frustrating and depressing. Even if the ending is dark and sad, it is an ending. As a reader, you may be angry towards the author or characters, but at least there is finality. During my elementary school years, I wrote stories for assignments based on stories that I had read or television programs that I had watched. I usually threw in a twist on the original, such as, “Dandy the Tough Little Ghost” rather than “Casper the Friendly Ghost”. Of course ‘Dandy” was mis-behaved and used bad language. But, there definitely was a beginning, middle, and end to the story. Later, I wrote a short story based upon the John D. MacDonald “Travis McGee” series. Both efforts gained me poor marks. My critics (teachers) didn’t like that I used vernacular and grammar in the same style as my speech, a method that still populates my stories.

The point I am trying to get to is, you have find the ‘sweet spot’ that works for you both in time and in style. Don’t let your writing become tedious. Insert adventure into your life—somehow you have to find inspiration for your creative urge. Make your writing life as exciting as the stories you are writing. How do I do that, you ask? There are multiple avenues to try. Recently, I attended two days of the Heber Valley Western Music & Cowboy Poetry Gathering enjoying musicians and poets alike. I came home energized and inspired to work on my next story. Activities need not cost a lot of money, or any money for that matter. If you look around, often, libraries sponsor free readings by authors or poets, many have art exhibits. Bookstores (there are not as many as in the past) also have author and poetry events for free, where you can hear another author’s work and usually speak with them as well. There are book clubs where you can discuss stories and ideas, writer’s groups, conventions, etc. Maybe all it will take to keep your head in the ‘write’ place will be a walk in the park, or a trip to your favorite fishing hole.

At the beginning of this post I wrote, A New Book is like Christmas Morning. Let us agree, that type of story is engaging, waiting for our discovery as a reader. Those exciting stories are written by engaged authors. No matter if you write with a tightly outlined work or have characters who wouldn’t know an outline if they strangled on it; engage yourself in your work.

 

DSCN0042_2_3Michael D. LeFevre is the author of the newly published novella, “Ghost of the Black Bull”. He lives on the verge of the Great Basin, overlooking the historic Lincoln Highway, Pony Express Trail, and Hastings Cut-Off of Donner Party notoriety–literally in the midst of history. “There are so many anecdotes that lend themselves to dramatization, that I am at a loss of where to go next in beginning my next story.” He works at being retired, reading and writing. He is enjoying his hobbies as well.

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