The Everyday Author

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

Month: May 2015

Guest Post: 9 Factors Successful Self-Publishers Share

Self-publishing is hard work, there’s no getting around that fact. Successful self-publishing is even harder. If it’s your dream then it’s your dream and you have to go for it. Preceding success are some common factors understood by most prosperous self-published authors. Generally, these elements of the publishing business relate to just that; treating your self-publishing venture like a business. This requires the independent author to wear many hats but there are tactics available to ease this burden. We will cover nine key concepts for successful self-publishing.

Profit

Don’t write for money. Even though it is assumed that your goal is to become a full time writer, you can’t make profit your top priority. It will show through in the work. This is evident in the vast wasteland called Amazon. You don’t have to spend much time on there before you realize how much time you’re wasting sifting through junk written or rehashed by authors just looking to make a quick buck. In the beginning, just concentrate on writing a great book. Let your passion show through in the work and worry about the money later.

Length

Write longer books. This would be a minimum of 50,000 words and preferably more in the vicinity of 70,000 or more. This is not to say that shorter books don’t have value and can’t sell but if your goal is to be a professional full time writer and be taken seriously by your peers then you need to write a “real” book. In the past you’ve probably given a disingenuous look at a pamphlet being passed as a book. This clip illustrates this concept well.

Rights

Make sure you own the rights to the book. Many authors say to themselves that they will worry about this when the book gains some traction but the earlier you secure your copyright the better. This can seem like a difficult task but it’s really not. All creative work is intrinsically copyrighted in the U.S. but you should still register your work with the U.S Copyright Office as this can have some benefits should you ever face any infringement issues. In the meantime, make sure you include copyright notification on all printed material. This will dissuade most people from attempting to steal your creation.

Feedback

Get plenty of feedback. This does not just mean from friends and family. Make sure you get feedback from strangers and try to find people in the book’s target demographic. Don’t give a science fiction book to a group of church ladies. This sounds obvious but when undertaking the monumental task of bringing your first self-published book to market, it can be easy to overlook some issues. Create a questionnaire and make it clear that you appreciate brutal honesty. You may be able to get your book in the hands of a few people in the publishing industry. This will be extremely beneficial as they will give advice as to what they would like to see in a traditionally published book. Once you get all this feedback, be sure to swallow your pride and make any appropriate changes.

Outsourcing

Don’t be cheap. Your job is to write and if your budget is limited then that job will also include marketing but we will get to that later. There are a plethora of tasks necessary to get your book published. Editing, cover design, layout, photography, etc. If you are not an expert on any of these tasks then outsource them. Remember that just like anything else, you will get what you pay for from a contractor. If their prices are super low then likely so will be the quality of their work.

Promotion

Give away free copies of your book but not too many. There is somewhat of a debate on this topic. One argument states that people don’t appreciate free books and will not take them seriously or even read them. The other side argues that free giveaways are a great way to get your name out there and generate free press through word of mouth. The best tactic is a compromise by giving away a very limited number. A maximum of 1000 copies spread out geographically and from various sources. Don’t give away all 1000 copies on Amazon for example. Definitely give copies to industry professionals and the press such as notable bloggers.

Pricing

Price your book correctly. Too low and it may not be taken seriously; too high and the price will inhibit sales for an unknown author. Many new authors go the low route at around $2.99 or less and believe this will lead to more sales but this is not necessarily true. Most of the afore mentioned garbage on Amazon is in this price range and you don’t want your work associated with those unscrupulous authors. The optimal price for an unknown author has been found to be between $5.99 and $9.99 for an eBook. Print books will depend heavily on your cost but $9.99 to $14.99 is generally acceptable.

Branding

Build your brand. Nobody knows who you are and that is fine but act like you’re a well-known author. Create a website not just for your book but for yourself as well. Write articles on subject matter related to your book or writing in general and start to build a reputation. This includes guest articles on more prominent sites and blogs. Offer to do public events or lectures for cheap or even free. Volunteer your time to help with issues dear to you or related to your expertise. Real celebrities and big corporations do this all the time. Without developing a god complex, try to start thinking of yourself as somewhat important in your field. There is no shame in shameless self-promotion.

Marketing

Become a marketing expert. With a limited budget this is something you will likely have to perform yourself. Create a website for the book with ecommerce capabilities, post the book to every online marketplace available, do a series of press releases, try some search engine advertising, etc. The process for promoting a self-published book on a shoestring budget has been well documented with information abound on the internet.

With a good book, a vision and some tenacity, becoming a successful self-published author is possible. Unlike what most of us were told as children, all of us won’t be successful and can’t be whatever we want to be. Sad but true. That does not mean, however, that we should not follow our dreams. This is because if you don’t try then you definitely won’t succeed. I’m not sure who said it first but I get inspiration from the quote, “It is better to know and be disappointed than not know and regret”. Hang in there.

James A. Rose is a staff writer for InstantPublisher.com, a full-service self-publishing company with 100% of all work performed in-house. We have been helping authors realize their dreams for the past 14 years. Whether you’re printing a novel, how-to book, manual, brochure or any type of book you can imagine, our step-by-step instructions make publishing your own book simple and easy.

Guest Post: Mind games — how a fiction writer accepts his inner voice

Note from D_Sidd: Excited to bring you a great post today from author Marcus Wearmouth. Marcus, along with his brother Darren, have taken the indie world by storm and have seen huge success. It’s reassuring (and a little daunting) to realize that the battle with your inner voice goes on, no matter what level of acclaim one reaches.

I spend too much time thinking.  Staring into space and wondering about the universe or trivial things such as how to make Battenberg cake, or how many plastic coke bottles would it take to float a raft.  Someone once called it a ‘busy mind’ after I explained why I was staring at the sky and thinking ‘could the moon actually be a spaceship’.

This internal thought process is shaped by dialogue with my inner voice/self/sub conscious/soul.  We’re like Michael Knight and Kitt from Knight Rider, or for those younger than thirty; Lyra and Pantalaimon from His Dark Materials trilogy.  The slight difference is that my partner can sometimes be rude, sarcastic and ‘I told you so’.  Imagine Michael Knight making a decision that went wrong, then Kitt reminding him of it again and again.

As driver and car, all humans navigate through life with a ubiquitous companion.  On the front cover of my new book instead of Marcus Wearmouth, it should read Marcus & Marcus Wearmouth.  A novel completed by a complex shifting partnership of mutual admiration and antagonism.

I’ve read pseudo science methods to overcome the voice inside.  ‘Ignore it’ or ‘tell the voice you’re not listening anymore.’  Methods that parallel the example King Canute demonstrated when commanding the sea to recede.  The only short term disconnection available is through alcohol, though not one I’m advocating on a regular basis.  But trying to fight your inner voice is ultimately a pointless exercise.  It is your true self, the sum of experiences coalesced into a guiding spirit.  Any attempt to change your true self is self defeating.

Therefore coming to terms with an inner voice is the fundamental secret to contented life.  The ability to embrace all those thoughts and feelings, accept who I am, what I have achieved and what I have.  A conclusion that appears simple enough, but no matter how much I try, doesn’t seem to be possible

With a few relatively popular books published and Eximus in editing, I should be happy.  But thanks to internal doubts, I struggle to believe anything I do is of meaning or interest.  That’s not to say I’m depressed or anxious, it’s a wonderfully rewarding experience to read your imagination in print or vocalised through an audiobook.  I have a lack of self belief.  Even when outwardly calm and self-assured there are nerves behind the mask of confidence.

The main problem with my inner voice is its ability to shame and embarrass me with the reaction to a thought.  This emotion is heightened when producing creative work.  It’s enough to close the laptop lid and think about giving up.  Especially when researching new ideas or plots.  I feel a crushing realisation of inadequacy as Google lists how many people have already thought and written about them.  There’s so much information available to us all now that new ideas seem out of reach.  Is it possible for me to be truly original.  My inner voice doesn’t think it is, so why put myself out there to be attacked in reviews as hackneyed.

When I read a first content edit of my work, I needed a dictionary to understand the side notes.  Pluperfect, non sequitur, deus ex machine, denouement and nomenclature.  My inner voice confidently reminded me that as no expert in the English language, I should leave literature to the experts. Perhaps the voice tries to prevent failure based on previous experience.  A self preservation mechanism.

Paradoxically though, this inner voice is the reason I write.  My stories come from within as allegory through action and apocalypse.   Constant musings on humanity, social and philosophical challenges of the present world coalesce into characters, scenes and plots.  Assessing, accepting and rejecting elements as they appear in the mind’s eye, walking together through a mental maze.

I continuously change my mind on characters and plot while reviewing and editing.  Then when I’ve thought and written myself into a corner, or need to make multiple changes to fit the plot, I’ll want to give up.  This is when my inner voice begins to champion me into keeping going or an idea will pop into my head.  It changes from critical and challenging to positive and nurturing.

It’s a war of attrition to maintain momentum and the joint control that’s required to type one hundred thousand words.  The relationship is never constant, it’s sometimes fleeting or overpowering.  It falls silent when I’m waiting for inspiration to plough through a linking chapter.  Ideas are formed when I look at things like tree bark or fire, teasing out thoughts.  Not sat in front of my laptop and rocking in a chair.

Without the voice I couldn’t write, life would be mechanical and without meaning.  With the voice I’m scared and nervous, but also capable and motivated.  Its ethereal nature prevents full control but sometimes I feel the meaning of life is tantalisingly within reach.  At those moments I’m attuned to another dimension where I can be original and create my own inspirational writing.

Go pitch yourself: a case for indie author public relations

Note: for an in-depth discussion on public relations and indie authors, please check out Episode 100 of the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast.

Public Relations gets a bad rap in the indie publishing community and it’s definitely not unwarranted. Along with many other service providers, so-called “PR agents” (read: snake oil salesmen) lifted thousands of dollars from clueless authors who thought having a press release written for their book would land them on the Today Show. To a full-service PR agency, these poor authors were (and unfortunately in some cases still are) low-hanging dollar bills on the money tree. With little to show for all the money they shoveled into PR, the general consensus among indie authors is that public relations is an awful drain on  your already lean budget. There’s a difference, however, between the usefulness of hiring a public relations consultant and implementing a public relations strategy for  yourself.

While hiring a PR agency is most likely one of the worst decisions you can make as an everyday or mid-list author (heck, probably as an author at any level) taking the time to learn the basics of PR can open doors you never thought possible.

Much like publishing, the public relations industry is going through a dramatic shift. Our job used to be relatively straightforward: write a press release, hold a press conference and wait for the cameras and journalists to start rolling in. You could get your message out to everyone you wanted to talk to with an appearance on the five o’clock news and the morning paper. But those days are long gone.

Today, we operate in world where traditional media are all vying for a piece of the dwindling viewership pie. Everyone and their dog (read: hardly anyone) watches the evening news or read the paper — online or not — anymore. Traditional print, radio and television media operate in a pay-to-play world where content goes to whoever wants to write the check. Audiences are fragmented worse than survivors in a post-apocalyptic world, they congregate in small tribes and niche markets and ignore messaging from everywhere else. The good news? This fragmented tribal world is one we as indie authors are already old hands at living in.

To survive in the indie landscape, one must harness a wide array of skills, ranging from email marketing to copy writing and digital advertising, to name a few. Simple public relations, done right, can be an equally powerful arrow in this quiver.

Bear with me here. Don’t get scared off. For starters, it all boils down to one thing: learning to pitch.

What is a pitch, you ask? The shortest way to put it is what you tell people to convince them to give you the time of day. It’s the why-should-I-give-a-damn-about-this-shmoe factor. In email form, it’s the evolved, vertically-challenged relative of that archaic thing we used to call press releases.

As an author, you’re pitching people every day, even if you don’t realize it. Your author bio, your book synopsis, those are pitches. Those are the why-should-I-give-a-damn-about-this-shmoe-isms. However, you’re also pitching whenever you ask a reviewer to read your book, ask a podcaster if you can come on their show or email a fellow author to suggest guest posting on their blog.

Although authors may not technically be competing against one another for readers, we are competing against one another for the things I mentioned above. We’re competing to stand out in a massive crowd of fellow authors shouting BUY MY BOOK to the world. Don’t you want to be the author whose voice gets heard?

We’ll get into how to pitch with Part 2 in this series, but for right now, consider this: learning how to be your own PR agent could be the tool in your author toolbox that sets you apart from the crowd.

What has your experience been with public relations in the past? Was it good or bad?

wpid-imag0065_1-e1410915663557-960x913Derek 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: Anthony Ryan

author-anthony-ryanAnthony Ryan is the New York Times best selling author of the Raven’s Shadow epic fantasy novels as well as the Slab City Blues science fiction series. He was born in Scotland in 1970 but spent much of his adult life living and working in London. After a long career in the British Civil Service he took up writing full time after the success of his first novel Blood Song, Book One of the Raven’s Shadow trilogy. He has a degree in history, and his interests include art, science and the unending quest for the perfect pint of real ale. for news and general writing about stuff he likes, check out Anthony’s blog at: anthonystuff.wordpress.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.

I’m Anthony Ryan and I write mostly fantasy with some occasional forays into science fiction. I can’t really recall a time when I didn’t want to be an author, it’s been my principal ambition ever since I fell in love with reading at an early age. I got my break when I self-published Blood Song, the first novel in the Raven’s Shadow epic fantasy trilogy, which led to a three book deal with Ace. Tower Lord, the second book in the series, was published last July and the third, Queen of Fire, comes out in the US and UK in July 2015.

What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job? What’s still the hardest thing to balance with everyday life?

Simply put: time. You never have enough of it. I wrote Blood Song over a period of six and a half years, but after signing with Ace I had less than a year to write Tower Lord. I must admit I struggled for the first couple of months until I took a hard look at my daily schedule and made some changes. I realized most of my ‘lost time’ came from my daily commute into London, so I bought an IPad and started writing on the train in the mornings and evenings. It’s a source of continual surprise to me that I actually managed to turn the book in on time. These days the hardest part is starting a new project after a period of downtime between books, it takes a while to get back into the daily rhythm of it all.

Tell us about schedule and habits from the early times (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

I try to aim for 2000 words a day, but don’t always get there. I tend to write in sessions of thirty to forty five minutes throughout the day as I find I’m incapable of sitting still for hours on end. The main change to my writing habits is that I’m much more detailed in the way I track my progress, my word-count spreadsheet has grown over the years into a multi-columned monster.

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 think I’m somewhat unusual in self-publishing because the success I had was based on one book rather than a series. for the first six months I published Blood Song only on Smashwords during which time I sold all of five copies. It was only after publishing on KDP in January 2012 that things started to happen. I sold twenty books in the first month and sales doubled each month until May when I sold over 2000 copies, by which time Ace had gotten in touch. Paradoxically, the bulk of my self-published sales took place after I’d signed the contract with Ace because they allowed me to keep selling Blood Song before their own version came out. All in all I sold 45,000 copies as a self-publisher and the series as a whole has sold over 200,000 copies since being traditionally published.

At what 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?

Logically, the decision was pretty straightforward when I took a look at my income and realized my tax bill would be greater than the take home pay from my day job. That being said, it was still a big decision to make. I’d worked in the UK Civil Service for over twenty years and here I was deciding to quit after less than a year as a published author, so I won’t pretend it didn’t involve some frayed nerves. Luckily, it all worked out and I have no regrets…yet.

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’ve published a series of SF-Noir novellas called Slab City Blues which doesn’t sell in anything like the numbers the Raven’s Shadow series does, so I always wonder how many people actually know the books are available. Outside of writing I spend a lot of time reading and am a committed Netflix and Amazon Prime binge-watcher. I’m also not averse to the occasional beer festival.

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

Keep writing and concentrate on finishing. When you look at the advice available to self-publishers the bulk of it relates to marketing when the most important thing should be producing work that’s actually worth marketing. No amount of hours spent promoting on social media will turn [a] bad book into a good one.

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

I have a Raven’s Shadow novella, the Lord Collector, in the recently released Blackguards Anthology from Ragnarok Publications, if people want to check that out. I also recently finished the first volume in an entirely new fantasy series and hope to announce some important news about it soon.

A Feast for the Eyes

A Feast for the Eyes satisfies the parts of you that neither food nor drink can reach. Just as aroma enhances taste, visual stimulation heightens pleasure and illuminates the hidden. This is true whether from viewing the mundane things of life, or the vision of nature’s beauty, the vastness of the universe, or the universe of the microscopic.

The eyes have been described as the “windows of the soul” and I believe that. In modern terms, this is true both on the download and the upload. One can see the horror, sorrow, and inhumanity of war in Picasso’s “Guernica” yet, at the next moment, be able to beam love to your dearest through those same eyes.

A good story is like that. It can take you from the Heavens to the depths of Hell, in a word. A wordsmith can help you know a fictional character in a sentence; or imagine yourself in a paragraph. He could convince you to find peace at home, or drive you to wander the world on a page. You could lose or find God in his written work. It will depend on the feast of words that he has prepared for you and also how hungry you are for the fare.

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”  Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Great chefs create a visual feast as well as the culinary, because they know that you “eat with the eyes, as well as the mouth”. Authors prepare a visual feast that stimulates the imagination into creating the sights, sounds and smells of their world. They agonize over words, the correctness, meaning, spelling and their placement in the sentence. They read, re-read and revise their work over and over again, until it looks and reads to their particular satisfaction. Then they serve it up to you, the reader, for your pleasure and delight.

As an author, can you relate to this? Do you know the frustration of writing and re-writing until you find that exact word combination that illustrates your thoughts? Do your inner voices go silent some days and leave you hanging out there to rely on your own skill and craft? I ask these questions because I know that likely they are ones you have asked yourself. You can write and write until your fingers cramp and still not find the correct recipe of words that come together. How many pages have you crumpled, how many times have you filled the trash file on your computer and emptied the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of words into the ether?

This is true whether from viewing the mundane things of life, or the vision of nature’s beauty, the vastness of the universe, or the universe of the microscopic.

The world in a drop of water

Are you that perfectionist that scrubs every line, every paragraph four or five times before you hand your work over to the editor? I find myself doing that as I write this. After two weeks of false starts, mixed metaphors, and deleted paragraphs I have come to this point because in the beginning, I had a vision of an article that would inspire and inform our readers of the effort it takes to write something worth reading. I wanted to provoke our authors into evaluating their writing life. Michael 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.

Creating a feast means work—hard, long, sweaty, sometimes dirty work. Whether it be of food, paint, or words; the creator must pay his dues in order to lay out the feast for others to enjoy. Writing a book is more than typing words into a file. There are many other considerations such as, font type and size, editing, cover design, and if you are printing paper copies you will have to decide on book size, paper color and quality, back page copy. This list is not all-inclusive. For ebook and hard copy publication, you must consider distribution plans, publicity, reviews and marketing plans, pricing, etc. The feast comprises the whole package—preparation, production, and presentation, as well.

Authors can take heart that someone will like what they serve up. Not everyone will love your hard won story. Not everyone will reject it either. The trick, if there is one, is to work at pleasing more readers with every book that you publish. Because you are going to publish more than one—aren’t you? Most established authors will tell you that the best marketing plan is to publish your next book, and the book after that. And so on.

Develop your own voice, readers that like what they hear (read) will flock to you. There is a reason that Richard Paul Evans is so successful. He found his voice and writing rhythm early and he stuck with it. Fans liked it so much that they wait months and years between some books. His recent series “The Walk” was just one example of this. Four books spaced one year apart, and each one short enough that he could have written one long novel and published it all at once. He decided to break it up and space it out. Sometimes a feast is better for the waiting.

“Tell me what you read, and I will show you what you can become”  Michael D. LeFevre

Whatever your taste, author or reader, pursue that which satisfies you. Readers, find those authors who care about how they prepare the stories that they serve up to you. Authors, put your all into your work, construct a story/book that will fill the spirit and delight the mind. A veritable Feast for the Eyes.

Michael 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.

© 2017 The Everyday Author

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑