The Everyday Author

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

Month: June 2015

Discouraged authors: you’re not alone

This past week, I almost threw in the towel.

I’m not the quitting type, either. But between life, my day job and a general discouragement for writing and self-publishing in general, I was more tempted than ever. So tempted that a large part of me didn’t even want to bother writing this post. I don’t consider myself a ranter — at least not a public ranter. But then, it hit me. This might be exactly what someone else is going through right now. And I want you to know you’re not the only one.

After finishing my latest book and taking a relaxing, unplugged vacation, I thought I’d be read to jump right back into things when I got home. I spent the next two weeks outlining a novella. The going was slow as this is the first project I’ve ever attempted to do an extensive outline for. Nevertheless, I finished on schedule and was ready to dive into the rough draft. My goal is to work up to 2,000 words/day, far enough out of reach I’ll have to stretch the old writing muscles, but close enough I can hit it, if I focus and just write.

The first day, I hit around 750 words. At the same time, I also hit a wall. Not just hit it, but smacked into it full force like Wily Coyote barreling toward a painted-on tunnel entrance. Upon impact, my give-a-damn busted into a thousand different pieces. I struggled to get up early enough to write before work. I stopped devouring my favorite writing and publishing podcasts and I also found all the emails I was receiving about Facebook ads, Scrivener tips, list building and marketing webinars really bugged me. In short, I was pretty fed up with this author business.

Steinbeck quote
This quote by Steinbeck found me just when I needed it (thanks Blake Atwood). It made me realize something: I’d lost hold of the illusion. Self-publishing is a not a grandiose dream, no matter how much hoopla we pile on it. It’s a slogging-along-through-muddy-trenches type of dream. Bereft of the sugar coating and rose-colored glasses, it can seem pretty bleak at times.

Worse still, it seems like EVERYONE ELSE is making it. Everyone’s sales are increasing, their email lists are skyrocketing and life is all puppy dogs and daisy chains. I’m here to tell you it’s not. I’m here to tell you that the vast majority if us aren’t striking it rich. The vast majority of us aren’t supporting ourselves, aren’t even covering half our monthly expenses. As far as I can tell, the oft-touted rarely seen midlist self-published authors is as small as the upper echelon of millionaire authors. And that’s not even factoring in what genre you write.

“Who’s got it better than us?” Jim Harbaugh, ex-NFL and now college football coach, asks his players when they’re at practice. The idea is that, no matter how miserable they are, they’re still out on the field, living their dreams. And if you thought WE have it bad, read this.

No matter how impossible it all looks, you’ve got to realize that there are hundreds of thousands of dead wanna-be authors who never had the opportunity to get their work out there. Even if the chances are slim for us, there’s still a chance. Sometimes, that’s all you can hope for.

Working to be a successful author, whether self or traditionally published is a really crappy endeavor sometimes. There will be times when we want to call it quits, when we think we’re never going to make it. And if we ever do make it, it might be much later than we were planning on. It’s okay to get down. It’s okay if we say “screw it, I don’t have time to market this week! I don’t have time to rewrite my blurb. I don’t have the cash to pay to redesign my cover.” It’s okay if we get fed up with the self-publishing courses, webinars and all the ra-ra-ra and just disconnect. There will be days like that. There will be weeks like that. There may even be months like that.

None of that matters as long as you can lay your head down at the end of the day and tell yourself two things:

  1. That you wrote something, even if it was so bad that your local dump would refuse to dispose of it.
  2. That there are THOUSANDS of people in the exact same situation as you, fighting the same battles every day.

Sometimes you have to forget about those people with seemingly perfect writing schedules. You have to forget about the people making thousands, hundreds or even tens of dollars each week from their books. Instead, take some small, twisted comfort in the fact that you’re not alone in your struggles. We’re all slogging through the trenches together.
Who’s got it better than us? Looking up the ladder, lots of authors do. But considering the hundreds of thousands of authors whose work never saw the light of day back in the “old days”, it’s not so bad. We have a chance.

Self-publishing is in the midst of another transformation. It’s going to get harder and harder for new authors to break in and grab a piece of the pie. When the smoke clears and the dust settles, there’s only going to be two groups left: those who found success and established a readership early on and those who are still slaving and trudging away with little or nothing to show for it…yet. Maybe one day we’ll hop the fence to the other side of things, but in the meantime, if we get discouraged and despair, we might as well do it together. After all, who’s got it better than us?

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.

3 reasons you suck at selling ebooks outside of Amazon

Note: Some of the information from the post was inspired by Self Publishing Podcast Episodes 158 and 159. There’s also been lots of great information about this topic on The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast and The Creative Penn, so check them out as well!

With its recent Kindle Unlimited announcement, Amazon is attempting to sweeten the pot once more, hoping to entice indie authors into throw all of their chips in the Kindle basket. In my mind, the reason is simple: more and more authors are realizing that going all in with the Amazon machine might not be best for their long term careers. Here at the Everyday Author, we’re all about the long-term perspective, but the problem is many authors (including myself) are struggling as they attempt to diversify the distribution of their catalogs.
While keeping in mind that you can’t build a platform overnight, here are a few simple tips that may be preventing you from growing your readership with other vendors such as Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, etc.

1. People can’t find buy links to other booksellers on your website

This might sound like a no-brainer, but out of the interviews listed above, this was the number one thing that everyone mentioned. If you want people to know you’re on other platforms, people need to be able to SEE you’re on other platforms. Including buy buttons to other platforms not only shows your readers that they can find you in a variety of places, but it lets the booksellers themselves know that they’re not some dirty little secret you’re trying to hide in the closet. One WordPress plugin I use for this is called MyBookTable. You can learn more and grab the free version (what I use) here.

2. You don’t promote other online retailers

This one is similar to tip #1, but just as important. How will people know where your books are available if you never talk about it? When you send out an email or a social media post (don’t forget to keep this in moderation) hawking your book, include links to other stores besides Amazon. Also, a small hat tip along these lines for Twitter: use hashtags specifics for the platform you’re linking to (#nook, #kobo and so forth).
Another thing you might want to consider are platform-specific promotions. If possible, offer special discounts or other deals just for your Nook and Kobo readers. You might also want to consider doing an early release on a specific platform. Although it might take some extra time to produce, you could also offer exclusive bonus material (short stories or character sketches, for example) only available when purchasing your book on certain platforms.

3. Your back matter is a dead end.

When you distribute your book through a handful of different online bookstores, it can be a pain to change the backmatter in each ebook file to match the platform you’ll be on. Even so, you still need to do it for a number of reasons — the most important being readers who liked your book know where they can go to leave you a review.
Positive reviews are vital if you want to sell more books and they don’t come easy when you’re working on building up a readership on a new platform. (The creative minds at Everyday Author and Undaunted Publishing are working on a solution to this, but that’s a conversation for another day). You need to make it as easy (and as tantalizing) as possible for readers to leave reviews. One tactic I’ve adopted for this is to create a landing page on my website for all of my call to action material in the back of my book. Sure I’ve added an extra step in the process, but it saves me from creating separate back matter for each platform and allows me to track the number of people who actually make it to that page via a shortlink. Best of all, readers who make it there are one step closer to signing up for my newsletter, if they haven’t yet. I do these for each book I publish. You can check out an example here.

To close

Starting up a following on a new platform can be rough. Keep the long game in mind and be patient. If you want attention outside of Amazon, you need to reciprocate it. And remember, a bigger catalog is always easier to find, so keep on writing!

What are some of the things you’ve done to grow your readership on other ebook platforms other than Amazon? Have any of the above tips been helpful to you in the past? Let me know in the comments!

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: Michael Fletcher

Michael FletcherMichael R. Fletcher is a science fiction and fantasy author. His novel, Beyond Redemption, a work of dark fantasy and rampant delusion, is being published by HARPER Voyager and is slated for release June 16th, 2015.

His début novel, 88, a cyberpunk tale about harvesting children for their brains, was released by Five Rivers Publishing in 2013. 88 is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and elsewhere. The next two Manifest Delusions novels, THE ALL CONSUMING, and WHEN FAR-GONE DEAD RETURN are currently in various stages of editing while Michael tries to be the best husband and dad he can be.

Michael is represented by Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. He occasionally blogs at www.michaelrfletcher.com and is building a wiki at www.michaelrfletcher.com/beyondwiki for the world of Manifest Delusions.

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 Michael R. Fletcher, a fantasy and science fiction author. I tried to get George’s second R but he was unwilling to part with it. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but finishing a book is hard work and I always thought it seemed like a ridiculous dream. I figured I’d be better off focussing on having a job that paid the bills and kept me in Jameson’s so I got a job in rock and roll.

Back in 2008, while working as an audio-engineer doing FOH sound in a variety of shitty clubs in Toronto, I decided I wanted to write a book. Unwilling to let ignorance and wisdom get in my way, I threw myself at writing.

My first novel, 88, was published in 2013 by a Canadian micro-press called Five Rivers. It gave me a taste of success, but more importantly I learned an insane amount about the craft of writing (and editing) during the publishing process. I took everything I learned and put it into Beyond Redemption which sold to HARPER Voyager in 2014. The moment the deal was signed I knew this was my chance. In the last year I’ve written two more novels, both of which I’m currently editing.

Where am I in my career? Ask me next year. Beyond Redemption is due to hit the shelves on June 16th, 2015. If HARPER Voyager buy my next two novels, I will be able to maintain my writerly delusions. If they don’t, I might get a job at HomeDepot. I need light bulbs.

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

I had this pretty easy while writing my first two books. I worked nights in rock clubs doing sound for bands. This left my days free for writing.

Currently we’re living off my wife’s income and my advance and I write full time. I don’t have a real life. There are days where I don’t see anyone other than my wife and daughter and I’m okay with that. It’s possible I might be slightly introverted.

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

My weekdays have become fairly regimented:
06:00 – Drink two cups of black coffee and read whatever novel I’m into. Right now it’s Anthony Ryan’s amazing Queen of Fire.
07:00 – My four year old daughter rises from bed and I make her breakfast and get her off to school.
08:15 – Go for a run. If you’re going to spend your days with your ass in a chair, you’d better get some exercise.
09:30 – Start writing.
11:30 – More coffee! I usually bring the carafe to my office and drink while I work. If you aren’t suffering minor hallucinations in your peripheral vision, you need stronger coffee.
16:30 – My wife gets home and we sit together to talk about our day over a beer or a glass of wine. Or two. Sometimes three.

My goal is to write 2,500 words a day at least five days a week. Weekends are for family. Most weeks I hit that and a little more. My current work-in-progress (120,000 words) was written in ten weeks. I’m a firm believer in getting the first draft finished fast and then editing it later.

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?

The moment the Beyond Redemption deal was signed I decided I was going to put all my eggs in one basket and go dancing through the mine-field.

As I see it you have two choices: You can make the smart decision—the wise decision—or you can chase the dream. I’m lucky to be in a situation where chasing the dream is an option.

What are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?

I have a pile of studio gear (including high-end speakers and sub-woofers) left over from my audio-engineering days and listen to skull-crunching death metal while I write. The chaos and savagery does something to disconnect my brain from everything else. It distances me from reality and cocoons me in a warm cuddly blanket of rage. Editing however I do in complete silence.

Hobbies? I remember those. I sacrificed them on the alter to the dark gods of publishing so that I might have more writing time.

Between the years of 1997 and 2010 I was the guitar player in a goth metal band called Sex Without Souls. We lit things on fire and played fetish clubs. One of every four gigs would be called a Train-Wreck Show and the singer and I would crack a 26er of Wild Turkey before the first song and finish it before the last. We usually played 45 minute sets. Once, in mid-guitar solo, the singer tried to feed me bourbon and accidentally poured it in my eyes. That stuff stings.

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?

Rather than give advice, I’ll share what seems to be working for me.

I realized that writing didn’t just happen on its own. I wasn’t going to accidentally write a book in my spare time. I had to make a real a decision and then follow through with it. I carved out time each day—even if it was only an hour—to write. I made that writing time sacrosanct. My first book took two years to write and about the same to edit, but I got it done.
Fear distractions! When the Beyond Redemption deal was signed I decided I wanted to finish two books in one year. I gave away my gaming console, cancelled my cable TV, and hid my guitars in the basement.

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