The Everyday Author

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

Category: Guest Post (page 2 of 2)

Guest Post: There and Back Again — Michael Fletcher

It’s the oldest story in the world, boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy gets a book published with a Big-5 publisher, publisher decides to pass on the sequel, girl tells boy maybe it’s time he got a job.

Maybe I should back up.

Back in 2014 Harper Voyager bought my dark fantasy novel, Beyond Redemption . It came with a fairly sweet advance (at least for an unknown author) and the book went on to sell translation rights to German, Polish, and Russian publishers. While I certainly wasn’t rolling in money, the book made enough that I could afford to work part-time and focus on my writing. As Beyond Redemption was bringing in amazing reviews (starred and boxed review from Publishers Weekly, rave reviews from BookList, the Library Journal, and a host of indie book reviewers) I decided to gamble and write the sequel.

In a twelve month period I wrote and edited two novels totalling over 270,000 words. The first was a direct sequel to Beyond Redemption, the second an unrelated story taking place in the same world. With all the amazing reviews I was confident the publisher would pick up both novels and I looked forward to another year of part-time work and more writing. In fact, if the advances on these two novels were the same as the first and both sold translation rights, it was entirely possible I wouldn’t need a day job at all. Things were tight but I had a plan and my amazing wife supported me chasing my dreams.

And then in late October I heard from the publisher that sales of Beyond Redemption were far lower than expected and at that time they were unwilling to make an offer on the next books.

F@*!

Let’s talk numbers. The book was published June 16th, 2015. Between then and late October the book sold ~750 copies. The publisher wanted to see sales closer to 2,500 copies. Clearly I was well short of that. Harper Voyager suggested we reconvene in the new year and see how sales were then. At that point I went on a mad publicity drive doing guest posts, interviews, and Q&As anywhere that would have me. I’ve talked about this elsewhere so I’ll cut it short. When we talked again in January the sales were sitting around 1,700. While my publicity push had definitely helped, the sales were still well below what HV wanted. They passed on the two books I’d spent the last year writing, wished me the best of luck, and said they would be very interested in seeing more work from me (unrelated to Beyond Redemption) in the future.

It was a kick in the gut. All of a sudden I was sitting there with two written books and no income beyond a part-time job that wasn’t making nearly enough to live off.

The first thing I did was get extremely drunk. For about a week. Maybe longer. I just know that there was an empty 40 oz Jameson bottle in the recycling box every week for a while alongside all the usual wine and beer empties. Ok. It might have been a month.

I might be ‘new’ at this, but what that means is that I’ve only been writing for seven years. And in seven years any serious writer amasses a truly staggering amount of rejection. I collected over one hundred rejection letters before I sold my first short story. It was two years of chasing agents and publishers before I landed a small Canadian publisher for my first novel, 88. Was I really going to let this stop me? Hell, I’d sold a book to a big-5 publisher! Beyond Redemption wound up on fifteen best-of-2015 lists! Apparently I could write at a professional level!

Putting away the whiskey I had a chat with my agent. She said that while the other big-5 publishers would pass on my novels for the same reason Harper Voyager passed, there were a number of excellent mid-level publishers who might be interested in a sequel to book that had by this point sold over 2,000 copies. We spent a two months writing and tweaking proposals, and now we’re shopping both books to a list of about a dozen publishers. It’s early days (it’s only been two weeks) so it’s too early to know if there will be interest. In the meantime I’ve begun work on another fantasy novel that has nothing to do with Beyond Redemption.

Things didn’t go the way I wanted, but no one ever said this was going to be easy. If you’re going to fold the first time shit goes sideways, you’re in the wrong biz. If the mid-level publishers don’t bite, I’ll self-publish which will be a whole new adventure, one I must say both terrifies and excites me.

If I may be so bold as to offer one piece of advice: Don’t write your sequel until there’s demand.

If you’re curious to hear the next chapter, I can check back in a few months with an update.

Cheers, folks!

Guest Post: How Scrivener Changed My Writing Process

Note from D_Sidd: First of all, apologies for the awful (but still awesome) Scrivener meme above. When Matt told me he was writing a book about how to use Scrivener, the first thing I asked him was what I could to do help promote it. Scrivener has been an instrumental part of my growth and early success and as an author, much like it has with Matt. If Scrivener (and Matt’s book, Scrivener Superpowers) weren’t amazing tools to help you achieve your author goals, we wouldn’t waste your time talking about them. Now, here’s Matt!

We each experience a few moments in our lives where the precise details—the place and time, the physical sensations—are indelibly imprinted on our memories.

I’ve only had a a couple of those in my life as a writer. One was the moment I decided that I was going to become a writer (college, early morning, alone and cold in the big house on Broadway).

The other was when I discovered Scrivener.

The Moment Everything Changed

I was sitting on a leather couch in my studio apartment on the east side of Austin, TX. It was an unusually warm winter night in January, so I had the door propped open. With my Macbook Air in my lap, I agreed to a thirty-day free trial and launched Scrivener for the first time.

I remember that I was irritated because the material covering the couch cushions had begun to peel off. Little pieces of black pleather stuck to my skin. I also recall that my irritation vanished when the I opened the novel template that comes with Scrivener and saw how they broke a story out in the Binder so that each scene had its own document.

My heart began to race. I copy pasted in the short story I had been tinkering with, and separated each scene into its own document in the Manuscript folder. Then I did a simple task that changed how I approached writing forever: I added the missing scenes to the Binder.

From that moment forward, nothing was the same.

The Benefits of Scrivener

I finished that story then several more. The I wrote a novel.

I know there’s a lot more to good writing than using a piece of software. There’s also an understanding of craft, hard work, and relentless focus. But Scrivener changed my process so radically in such a short period of time that I still count is as a determining factor in my journey from wannabe writer to published author.

There’s a lot that’s great about the program. Here are the key advantages:

 

  • It’s versatile. Scrivener’s interface is so customizable that it works for writers all over the world with wildly different processes. No matter how you write — fast or slow, from start to finish or out of order, plotter or pantser—Scrivener has a set of features that will help you get your work done.
  • It helps you stay organized. Keep all your files, research, drafts, and notes in one place. I love the corkboard, which provides a digital storyboarding space. And the hierarchical Binder allows you to organize your documents into subfolders within a single Project.
  • It helps you structure. This is the part that made such a huge difference for me. Scrivener taught me how to structure a story by scene. And when I need to restructure a story, it’s as easy as drag and drop.
  • It compiles to digital formats. When you’re done writing, you can compile your manuscript to Microsoft Word, PDF (for print versions), or publishable ebooks with just a few clicks. For self-publishers, this alone is a game changer.

 

Scrivener Superpowers

Not everyone experiences a light bulb moment like I did. Some people come to Scrivener slowly, or with much resistance. Learning a new piece of software and changing your process can be hard.

That’s why I wrote Scrivener Superpowers, a guide to using Scrivener to take a manuscript from concept to completion. Not only do I show you the important features of the software using screenshots and simple instructions, but I’ll show you how to integrate those features into your creative writing process—whatever yours looks like.

The book also includes exclusive interviews with successful authors like Joanna Penn, Garrett Robinson, and Rachel Aaron, my own novel template, and a slew of other resources.

Head over to ScrivenerSuperpowers.com to learn more.

matt-baba-square-round-transparentMatthew Gilbert (MG) Herron writes nonfiction about the intersection of technology and creativity. He also writes science fiction thrillers. His first novel, The Auriga Project, was published in 2015. Matt has earned his bread as a river guide, pita roller, and digital project manager. These days, he makes a living as a content strategist consulting with tech startups and creative agencies across the United States. When he’s not bending words to his will, Matt organizes Indie Publishing Austin, a local Meetup for writers and authors. He also likes to climb mountains, throw a frisbee for his Boxer mutt, Elsa, and travel to expand his mind. He graduated from McMaster University in 2009 with a Bachelor of the Arts in English Literature. Now he lives in Austin, TX.

Website: mgherron.com
Twitter: @mgherron
Facebook: facebook.com/mgherronauthor
Email: matt@mgherron.com

Guest Post: The Sweet Spot

Note from D_Sidd: Marcus Wearmouth is back with a great guest post to wrap up 2015 on the Everyday Author. Just like last year, we’ll be taking the month of December off to regroup for 2016, watch Star Wars repeatedly and spend time with family over the holidays (read: catch up on all the revising and editing we’ve got to do on our books before the end of the year). We wish you all a safe and happy holidays. From us, that means Merry Christmas! Now, here’s Marcus. Enjoy!

It’s slightly easier than many people think to write a breakout novel and become an author.  Merry Christmas and keep that simple notion with you when writing in the New Year!

Although the definition of a breakout novel is an economy of scale, to most it would be thousands of sales and high ranking on Amazon charts.  You have to be realistic.  The very peak of sales for breakout books is reserved for celebrities and the 0.001% rest of us.  Even so, there is a catalogue of authors who struck gold with their first book/s then made the jump to a full time writing career.   It takes hard work, ideas, a basic understanding of language and dogged persistence.

On a first book, pent up feelings and thoughts on the world gush out on the page/screen.  A lifetime of interactions, whimsy and storytelling coalesce into a magnum opus.  Like mining on a rich seam that you’ve kept hidden for years waiting for the right time to pull it all out into the sun.  On a first book, characters are raw and the plot feels unique.  It’s an inspirational experience to publish, market, sell and hopefully (fingers crossed etc.) receive an offer from a publisher (the warm feeling).  I perhaps missed out beta reading, content and copy editing that corrects English and tweaks the plot but essentially we all have a book inside us.

That’s all there is to it.  Years of ideas compressed into a jam-packed breakout novel that catches on and before you know it, a critic is praising your satisfying denouement (sic).  A lot can be forgiven in reviewing the work of a first time author.  If the narrative is strong then reviews sometimes overlook minor mistakes or weak characterisation.  There’s a difference between writing a story and being a wordsmith.  X Factor to Beethoven.  McDonalds to Michelin star. Can the first come close to the second with enough talent and effort?

The next book

So you begin to write your next book and discover the definition of writers block.  The seam is nearing empty but the writing needs to be stronger.  Writing the tricky second book is when problems begin to beset your brainwaves.  Carrying a story around in your head for years practically writes a novel.  The full plot has been imagined.  Every scene visualised.  When you start again with another new story, even if the idea was vaguely formed, it’s a bigger challenge.  It’s easier to rework the original story with a few tweaks and different setting.   That’s why a strong lead character series is a brilliant but insipid fallback position.

Changing genre dilutes your audience and diluting an audience is the single most perilous risk of a second novel.
As a spunky newbie, your rough edges are smoothed in the editing process but essentially it’s your original vision that is unique.  With the second novel you try to be all things to all people.  Maintain your momentum and so on.  Even in the same genre, writing a different story is challenging.  Remember that you can’t change genre.  It’s a rule of lower level writers that changing genre dilutes your audience and diluting an audience is the single most perilous risk of a second novel.

You hesitate over colourful language, erratic behaviour and anything contentious.  Desperately trying to appeal to a mass market and maintain your faux popularity.  It’s easier to say nothing than something controversial.  Not only are your ideas running out, but your creativity is watered down by the need to be popular.  The result is a slightly better written but ultimately uninspiring book that waters down your world view.

The challenge is to be both fresh and exciting but recognised and familiar.
The challenge is to be both fresh and exciting but recognised and familiar.  If writing is art then we should strive to elucidate our understanding of the world through narrative.  If writing is predominantly for sales then it is ultimately unfulfilling for the writer or reader.  At some point unless you are established, the ideas will dry up and your output will become hackneyed.

Never be a full time writer

As a fulltime author you can lose your connection with the world that you interacted in to stimulate your ideas.  So keep juggling your current responsibilities.  Feel pressure to write in bursts and store your thoughts while you’re busy with a day job.  Use interactions with people and situations to fuel your creativity.  Embrace those feelings of frustration and humility.  Continue to mine your mind.  Let your subconscious do the work with internal wanderings that trigger moments of inspiration.  When you can feel a truth at the very edge of your consciousness or turning over an idea until that eureka moment pops into your head.  Write it down and save it for later. Writing is an act of passion not a trick of grammar.

My advice is to never be a full time writer.  Maintain your creative control by being independent of writing revenues.  Eliminate the need to gratify a mass market with rehashed versions of the same story and characters.  Be bold.

If your writing can strike the perfect balance of inspiration, humility and skill then you can hit the sweet spot.
If your writing can strike the perfect balance of inspiration, humility and skill then you can hit the sweet spot.  You can force open a gap in the market that not only describes a story but lives the story.  A book that is onomatopoeic.  One that hits the mark so perfectly that it transcends your first novel and all others you have read.

Of course you then have to think about the next book and that’s a whole other story!

Guest Post: How to keep creating when you need a day job

Chances are you’re reading this blog because you have a day job, and some part of you wants to make it as a writer. You’re spending your days in a job you really don’t care about, dreaming about getting home and putting fingers to keyboard. Over time it can seem like the soul is being sucked right out of you because no matter what, you aren’t spending as much time writing as you feel you should. How do you persevere?

A little about me – I’m an independent creative. I write. I make movies and I’m moving into animation as I write this. People often ask me “How do you do it all?”

It’s really simple – if something is important to you, you’ll make time for it. I make time for creativity. What follows is some of my advice for staying motivated:

Make the Writing the Reward

If something is important to you, you’ll make time for it.

I do a lot of stuff in addition to my day job, and most of it revolves around writing. A lot of people ask me how I accomplish so much. The answer is simple and a bit profound, and when you think about it, really powerful.

I make writing my reward. I work in I.T., a field where long hours are supposed to be the norm. Sure, I occasionally have to work late to meet a deadline, but overall I spend more time with my nose to the grindstone so I can leave on time. I can leave the office, hit the gym, and then go spend some time writing.

You would be amazed at how productive you can be when something outside the job motivates you to work efficiently.

Do Not Fear Technology

I know many writers that are downright technophobic. The thought of learning new software sends chills down their spines, and they just want to spin yarns on a word processor. Many of these same people run around with a smartphone in their pocket, blasting Meghan Trainor or playing the zombie app of the month.

That phone in your pocket can become one of your greatest allies on your writing journey. Most people treat their phone like a toy – a flashy, fun toy that that use to stream movies, play music, or make the occasional phone call with.

Tons of Information is Available – Most of It’s Free

There is a wealth of information for independent creatives (heck, anyone else as well), and most of it is free. You want to write, but can’t afford a class? Sign up for Critters.org. It’s a free site to join, and you read and provide feedback for other writers. You read a number of stories, then your work gets into the queue. I went to grad school, and found some of the writers on there are as serious and dedicated as the grad students were.

That phone also gives you access to podcasts. Most of these are also free. Yes, you can listen to conservative talk shows, or the celebrity buzz podcast, or you can feed your brain and listen to writing podcasts. There are lots of them out there and the bulk of them are free.

The good thing about a podcast is you can be doing something else – writing, slinging code, or washing dishes – and you can learn about writing. And I don’t just mean grammar and punctuation – I mean storytelling. Marketing. Editing. These are things that will help you as an independent author.

I’m kind of lucky – my day job allows me to spend chunks of time working alone, with headphones plugged in so I can listen to a podcast. Some of you may not be as fortunate, but you could still benefit. Listen to a podcast while cooking dinner, washing dishes, riding the bus, or writing. You’ll be glad you did.

Some of my favorite podcasts: (all free on iTunes)

Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list, but these should get you started.

I Should Be Writing
Mur Lafferty hosts a podcast that’s supposedly focused for aspiring writers, but I find her advice and guests can benefit writers of all levels, Mur focuses on scifi and fantasy, but most shows have advice that transcends genre.

On the Page
Pilar Alessandra’s posdcast targets screenwriters. She interviews screenwriters – period. If you’re remotely interested in writing movies, this should be on your must-listen list. And since movies are so driven by structure, any writer can benefit from the writing advice Pilar and her guests impart.

The Creative Penn
Joanna Penn writes genre, but also works in nonfiction as well. She offers a well-rounded podcast that offers lots of business advice and marketing tips as well as solid writing tips. It’s a great podcast for writers at any level.

Odyssey Workshop
If you haven’t heard of it, the Odyssey Workshop is an intensive summer workshop for writers of horror, scifi and fantasy. Only 15 people are admitted every year, and the experience can be so intense some people stop writing. The episodes in this series are short – most clock in at under a half hour, many are less than 15 minutes – but they contain some of the best writing advice on the web. In my eyes, at least. A must listen for any writer.

Sometimes the Stories Will Need to Wait

Life is life – there will be ups, there will be downs. There will be times when you can write a lot and there will be times when it feels like no words will ever come again.

As I wrap up this post, I know some of you have gone through spurts. I know I did. I went to college, got away from writing for a while, thought I was going to give it up (and those were undoubtedly the worst two years of my life, but that’s another story), then got back to it.

Over the course of my life I’ve gotten married, raised two children, survived three layoffs, the 9/11 attacks, the deaths of my parents and my kids heading off to college. And yes, there’s a LOT more but I don’t have the space to fit it all in. It seems like the one thing that’s stayed constant is I still need to write and create.

Life is life – there will be ups, there will be downs. There will be times when you can write a lot and there will be times when it feels like no words will ever come again.

When I was an undergrad, one of my mentors gave me awesome advice that I often share with aspiring writers to this day. The art will always be there. If you’ve got the spark it will never leave you. In those dark hours when you just can’t create, remember that. At some point the clouds will life – they always do – and you’ll be able to write again.

Tim MorganTim Morgan is a New Hampshire based independent writer and filmmaker. He is the author of the zombie novel The Trip, and producer of numerous short films. You can find out more about Tim, what he’s done, and what he’s working on at his web site: http://www.timmorgan.us  You can also follow Tim on Twitter @tmorgan_2100

Guest Post: Authors, this is why you need community

Community, as it relates to authors, is a word so loaded with meaning that it runs the danger of being misunderstood entirely. To make things more difficult, the role of community in any particular author’s story is often misunderstood, hidden behind a veil of uncertainty, or ignored altogether.

As a result, authors often decide that this whole community thing isn’t for them, or—perhaps worse—engage in an ineffective way.

I’m here to make a case for community: Why it matters, how to find the pulse of your local community, and how this discovery can bring your author journey to life.

Take a chance

I won’t lie to you. Community is no panacea. It’s not a healing potion or a magic elixir. It won’t necessarily make you sit down and put words on the page, although healthy competition has a tendency inspire and motivate.

That said, finding a community has the potential to make you a better, more knowledgeable writer. I’ve seen it first hand. For instance, I’ve watched authors find editors and beta readers and collaborative projects. I’ve witnessed them discover critique groups and meet business partners. Most importantly, I’ve seen the joy in people’s faces when they learned or were inspired with a group of like-minded individuals. I’ve learned and been inspired myself!

I have the privilege of witnessing this process of growth twice a month at Indie Publishing Austin, a Meetup group I started because I couldn’t find one like it. I’m not bragging, I simply offer the group and others on Meetup.com llike it as evidence that local communities of authors do exist, and they are effective.

In the absence of a sizable community organized around indie publishing in my hometown, I saw potential. Whether you find an existing group and join them or start your own thing, you can experience and benefit from this potential too—if you’re willing to take a chance.

Search for a good fit

How do you find a group of community that’s a good fit for you? Start by reading Brook McIntyre’s detailed article on the possibilities of found communities, from critique groups to Meetups to NaNoWriMo to groups like Indie Pub Austin.

You don’t necessarily have to go local, though if you have the opportunity to join a vibrant group of writers in your area, I highly suggest it. Meeting in person, whether you’re actively involved or a quiet, passive listener, can impart by osmosis more than you might find online with effort. The Internet is a great tool, but introverted writers can make the mistake of thinking that interaction on the interweb is on-par with genuine connection in person.

They’re wrong. There is no substitute for humanity.

We’re all human, and as such we’re also all different. Don’t settle for a group if it doesn’t feel valuable, or if it’s the only show in town. Try several groups. Search online and in person. As a last resort, form your own community. You might be surprised, as I was, at the sheer enthusiasm and interest from those in your area who are looking for the same thing you want.

Make the most of community

I can’t stress this enough: you get out of a community what you put in. Just like your book won’t write itself, community is engaging in proportion to how much you engage with the people in it.

Don’t be a passive lump. Introduce yourself. Ask questions. Get involved.

This isn’t rocket science. Community is made up of people, and people want to be treated with respect, as equals. Look them in the eye, be interested in them, and they’ll be interested in return. Shoving business cards and book covers in people’s faces is a surefire way to fail at the process of engaging—this goes for social media as well as in person interactions.

For shy writers who think making friends is a challenge, I suggest starting by asking questions about common interests. With other authors, it’s easy: Ask about their books, about what genres they like, about their favorite authors. The conversation will trail naturally from there.

Once you’ve established relationships with people, you can start digging a little deeper. Questions like “Who do you use for your editor/cover designer/beta readers?” are cards people keep close to their chest, so save the prying questions for down the road. Once they see that you’re a genuine person who is genuinely interested in them, they’ll be more than willing to offer their help in return.

Give back to your community

Giving back is the factor that most people discount. Often, a person finds a community, becomes interested for a little while, and then stops attending or falls out of touch. They mistakenly think, they’ve got all they can out of it, and that there’s no reason to go back.

It’s one thing if the group is a bad fit, and you’re on the hunt for something better. But more often than not, a person hits a wall and just gives up, instead of delving deeper.

So what’s the most effective way to get more out of your community? Contribute to its richness by finding a way to add value. This doesn’t have to be anything big. I’m not proposing you give a moving speech or anything so intimidating. You don’t even have to offer anything unique—but you do have to be willing to get involved.

A good place for writers to start is by offering to read another writer’s work-in-progress. A simple gesture like going out of your way to read something they’ve published, leaving an unsolicited review, or commenting on a blog post also works wonders. Even small generosities can make people smile.

This is what’s so hard to understand about community, and why so many go wrong. Community is a process, a give and take, a two-way street. Finding a way to give back will get other people noticing you at the same time. It will make you an active part of the community instead of a passive bystander.

At the end of the day, becoming a part of an author community is no different than becoming a part of any other community. Fortunately, community is part of being human, so it comes naturally to all of us—as long as you’re willing to put in the effort.

Resources and Roadmaps

If you’re interested in the topic of community, you should know that I’m far from the first to discuss it. Jane Friedman and Betty Kelly Sargent have both written informatively on the subject as well.

Mark Coker from Smashwords wrote at Huffington Post about how libraries can serve as the local publishing portal. If you’re starting your own thing, the presentations Coker gave are also made available online, and you can use that content to help you in your early community-building efforts.

If you happen to be in Austin, TX, drop by Indie Publishing Austin sometime. It’s free and open to all. You might also like the notes from past Indie Publishing Austin events, all of which are collected on my blog—you can find a ton of valuable indie author information there, from platform building to audiobooks to how indie authors get reviews to a breakdown of publicity for authors.

Above all, I ask that you keep an open mind. Community is filled with potential, and those with open minds are most likely to see it. Once you find the pulse of an author community, it can work wonders to get your blood flowing, too.

matt-baba-square-round-transparentM. G. Herron (@mgherron) is speculative fiction author. After earning an English Lit degree from McMaster University, he spent two years traveling abroad while he honed his craft. Since he relocated to Austin in 2012, he has been earning a living as a writer in various capacities. He lives there still, with his girlfriend and his dog. Check out his latest novel, a scifi thriller called The Auriga Project or learn more about him at mgherron.com.

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.

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

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