The Everyday Author

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

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 3)

Amazon: Cut the crap in the Kindle Store

Thanks to Amazon, the chain-link gate around the playground that is publishing has been knocked to the ground. Anyone can come play! Unfortunately, some people are pooping in the sandbox. As a result, the Amazon Kindle Store is dealing with an ebook health crisis and honest, hard-working authors are paying the price.

By sandy fecal matter, I’m talking about the tens of thousands of garbage books out there, stinking up the Kindle store. Scammers are making the headlines yes, but lazy, half-assed authors are the culprits as well. Something needs to be done before our playground is a landfill. Amazon needs to clean out the crap.

Granted, the whole Scamazon issue has caused them to start chuck books, but that should only be the tip of the iceberg (if you want to get an excellent rundown of this issue, check out this post from David Gaughran). Even if Amazon could somehow stamp out every scam, there’s still a metric ton of honest to goodness (let’s call it what it is) shit out there.

The solution is simple: more books in the Kindle Store need to be de-listed.

By incorporating the following system, I believe Amazon could make the Kindle Store better for both readers and authors (many of whom are writing great books that struggle to be seen through the trash). If a book meets all three of the following criteria, it shouldn’t be cluttering up the Amazon store. It should be chucked.

Here’s what I’m proposing: books without an average of one sale per month after two years will be flagged and put on a watch list. If they meet either of the following requirements by year three, they’re gone.

  • Books that have less than one review for every year they’ve been out will be removed. (As I mentioned above, only books that have been published on Kindle for three years or longer will be eligible)
  • There is one exception: if a book has been out 3+ years and has less than a two-star review average, the first rule doesn’t apply. Throw it out!

Obviously, there’s much more that could be done, but this is a start. Before you accuse me of being elitist, this is coming from someone whose first book has been out almost two and a half years with only 12 total reviews. I’m very much (for the time-being, at least) a struggling indie, not some bestseller trying to crap on everyone below me.

The point of this system isn’t to punish good authors who are trying, but to weed out those who are looking to make a quick buck or are simply publishing garbage that no one is reading anyway. Come on Amazon, do your authors a solid here. Cut the crap.

Is traditional publishing the new vanity publishing?

Let’s get one thing straight: I don’t intend to crap on traditional publishing or further beat the dead horse of traditional vs. self-publishing. The purpose of this article is to discuss a trend I’ve witnessed firsthand among aspiring authors. There are good and bad reasons for pursuing any type of publishing. It sucks being at the bottom of either ladder. How you choose to publish isn’t wrong, but why you pick a particular route definitely can be. That said, let’s begin.

The publishing industry is changing — not exactly breaking news. The institutional gatekeepers of yesteryear are fading and the pie has been cut into millions of tiny slices. Many of us are scrambling just to get some crumbs from the crust. But one thing remains the same: the blissful ignorance and vain imaginations of many aspiring authors.

Through interactions via email, social media and various conferences, I’ve been surprised by how little these acolytes understand about how the publishing business really works. Sure, they’ll be the first to point out the uphill battle they face but the next words out of their mouths are usually some variation of “I won’t get discouraged, though, because [insert name of filthy rich author superstar] got rejected X amount of times before [insert name of filthy rich author superstar’s bestselling book/series] got a publishing deal.”

I’m a pretty optimistic guy with dreams of my own I don’t want crapped on, so at this point in the conversation, I usually smile and ask them how long they’ve been pitching their book. Responses vary, but I usually follow that up with “have you ever though about self-publishing?”

Most of the time, the answer is no. Here’s a sampling of the responses I get when I ask why:

  • “I want to be a real author.”
  • “I don’t want to sell just ebooks, I want paperback and hardcover copies as well.”
  • “I don’t want to do anything other than write.”

You get the idea.

What many of them don’t realize is that the scenario they’re imagining is vastly different than the reality they’ll face as a debut author. The dream they’re imagining is exactly the same thing vanity publishers have painted for gullible author-hopefuls for years. The irony is that these acolytes will still turn up their noses and sneer at vanity-published authors without realizing they’re pretty much getting the same raw deal.

With the list above in mind, let’s look at the facts behind traditional…er, I mean vanity publishing for new authors:

  • Authors are validated by “real” books that are in print, not those fake digital things.
  • Publishers take a large percentage of royalties and do little, if any promotion for the author and his/her book.
  • No advances are given.
  • A lot of hoopla is made at the time of publication and then…nothing.
  • Distribution to bookstores is limited.
  • Contracts are structured in favor of the publisher, not the author.
  • Books (especially those fake ebooks) are often extremely overpriced.
  • Authors are dropped as soon as their books stop selling. (Although in no way do I consider Michael Fletcher part of the vanity trend, this recently happened to him: read about his experience and the aftermath.)
  • Even after choosing to to pick up the option for the next book, rights to the first work often remain with the publisher.

To be fair, I don’t think any traditional publisher charges authors at any level to publish their book with them (at least to my knowledge) like vanity publishers are infamous for. [UPDATE: since we published, Churck Wendig wrote THIS awesome article about how much writers should pay to be published. Check it out] I would make the argument your contract is likely costing you money, though, — especially if you’re “one and done” when your books doesn’t sell like planned. If you don’t believe me, sit down and make a list of what a publisher really does for their 80+ percent of the royalty haul. It’s not as much as you think.

Things get worse when you realize hallowed, prestigious bestseller lists like the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and New York Times are often gamed by wealthy “authors” buying (or arranging to have bought) vast quantities of their book to push them up the charts.  The so-called honor of being a NYT Bestseller equates in many cases to who wrote the biggest check. The system is biased and flawed internally, designed to play up to the VANITY of people who pay to have their ghostwritten books hit the chart. (To be clear, I’m not discounting the mighty feat achieved by those who got their books on one of these lists the honest way.)

The bottom line:

Know what you’re really getting and what it’s going to cost you to get it. Both sides of publishing have unique offerings and challenges. Signing your life away to legitimize and stroke your writing ego is a mistake. Going the traditional route just because it’ll validate you as a “real” author with a “real” book is an awful career move. Check out the Authors Earning Report here for evidence of that. Still not convinced?

You’re so vain.

How to get book reviews: Book Review 22

It’s a conundrum that’s frustrated authors since books were first sold on the Internet: you can’t sell books without reviews and you can’t get reviews without selling books. The question of how to get book reviews is more vexing than the old chicken and egg scenario. What are we supposed to do then?

If you’re like me, you’ve scraped together a handful of reviews through a variety of tactics: dancing naked beneath the quarter moon in March, begging your mailing list and offering up a second book free in exchange for a review of another. There’s only one catch with the aforementioned moves (aside from the moon dance, that is): you’ve got to have an audience already in place to gain a lot of traction. Now we’re back where we started — how am I supposed to get an audience if no one will read my books because they don’t have any reviews? To be or not to be? That’s not the question for authors. We want to know  how to get book reviews. In just a second I’ll tell you the solution I found.

There’s one or two other things you may have tried, such as scouring the web for book reviewers that have reviewed books similar to yours. (Check out another great post we did about this: Go Pitch Yourself: A case for indie author public relations). Maybe you hired a “publicist” or “Book PR company” to do this for you. Either way, an email was sent about your book and now you’re in a line of to-be-read titles longer than Disneyland during spring break. Worse still, you probably spent countless hours combing through blogs, gathering email addresses and filling out contact forms for bloggers (or paid a so-called publicist or maybe an author assistant to handle this chore). This is precious time spent away from WRITING, which is what you’d rather be doing anyway.

Trust me, I’ve been in this boat — long enough they’re starting to call me the captain.

As an author living in this amazing era of publishing, it astounded me that there wasn’t a better solution out there. As a public relations professional by day, it made me sick to my stomach that “publicists” were charging authors an arm and a leg to write a worthless press release and blast it out to bloggers. (Here’s a little secret: bloggers could care less about press releases.)

On the flip side, I saw how many bloggers were being flooded with books. Not just great books or even good books, either. I started doing my homework and found out bloggers were getting review requests in droves. Many of the books inquiring authors wanted them to review were one of the following:

  • NOT in the genre the reviewer read
  • NOT professionally edited or even proofread
  • NOT finished

In short, bloggers everywhere are pulling their hair out because their inboxes are flooded with crappy books they don’t want to read. This makes it really hard for YOUR book to stand a chance.

Until now, that is.

Book Review 22 Logo FINAL

The results of my research led me to combine my two passions and careers (publishing and public relations) into a new company called Book Review 22. Book Review 22 makes the book review process awesome — for both authors and reviewers. It’s how you get book reviews made simple.

Instead of wasting HOURS of time researching, digging through search results for book blogs, authors fill out a short form with us and we get their books into the hands of reviewers who actually give a rat’s rear end  about reading and reviewing their book. We pitch your book for you to our extensive database of book reviewers and bloggers, leaving you time to do important stuff, like write (you can continue the moon dance if you REALLY want to, I guess). Check out how here.

On the flip side, we work with reviewers to condense all those emails they’re getting into one simple list every few weeks. We help weed out the garbage and make it easy for them to 1. Scan the book cover and synopsis (if a book wasn’t ready to be published, you can often tell from these two things) 2. By partnering with Bookfunnel, we’ve also made it a breeze to download a copy of the book. Reviewers only get pitched for books they actually want to read. What a novel concept! Here’s how it works.

I would have KILLED for a service like this when I started publishing two years ago. After a year of development I’m still just as excited about it: a simple way for authors and reviewers to work together in a win-win relationship.

We’re off the ground and pitching books right now. In the coming months, we’ve got a whole slate of ideas to make this service even better for authors and reviewers. For now, why don’t you give us a test run? Let Book Review 22 pitch your book and you can get back to the stuff that you really care about: writing books.

Authors: it’s okay that no one gives a $@#!

Sometimes the hardest thing about being an everyday author is putting in the work when you realize hardly anyone is going to read or appreciate your finished book. While this can make it hard to keep on keeping on, writing book after book for what seems like nothing, it’s probably for your own good. There’s a reason you need to do your practice reps in relative confinement. Here’s why:

1. Because you suck.

Most writers spend their budding years lauded with praise from teachers, professors, classmates, friends and family. Getting out into the big wide world, however, we soon learn we’re not so special after all. Just like with any other talent, out in the real world there are plenty of people just as good (and better) than us. What we once thought was great writing might be mediocre at best. There’s a good chance your skill isn’t ready for the big leagues for a few years.

2. Because you’re not ready to succeed.

Although everyone has their own unique writing process, most writers take years to hone in on what works best for them. Starting out, you’ve probably got some bad habits to work through. It takes experimentation to figure out how you write best — lots of trial and error. There’s always the slim chance you write a hit straight out of the gates, but if you don’t understand how story works — how you did it — how are you going to replicate or sustain that success?

3. Because you can do whatever you want.

I’m going to hand the mic over to Austin Kleon in Steal Like an Artist to answer this one:

“… you want attention only after you’re doing really good work. There’s no pressure when you’re unknown. You can do whatever you want. Experiment. Do things just for the fun of it. When you’re unknown, there’s nothing to distract you from getting better. No public image to manage. No huge paycheck on the line. No stockholders. No e-mails from your agent. No hangers-on. You’ll never get that freedom back again once people start paying you attention, and especially not once they start paying you money. Enjoy your obscurity while it lasts. Use it.

So what do we do in the meantime?

Think back to high school, college and other times in your life that seemed to drag on. You probably thought they’d never end either. But lo and behold, they came and went, probably faster than you thought. And no matter how the experience was, you probably miss some aspects of those times. I’m willing to bet one day you’ll miss this period in your career as well.

“Be where you are when you are.” I cant remember where I came across this advice, but it’s stuck with me ever since. The future is coming fast enough on its own. For now, work to enjoy the writing for the writing’s sake, and the rest will come.  Write your heart out. Write anything and everything. Write like no one’s reading. They’re probably not and what an opportunity that is.

The Everyday Author guide to podcasts for authors, round two

In the world of self-publishing, things can change overnight. Since we wrote our first Everyday Author’s guide to self publishing podcasts, a whole new slate of shows have popped up, offering a TON of value you won’t want to miss out on. Here’s a few of our favorite podcasts for authors we’ve added to our listening lineup:

sffm podcastScience Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast
Tune in here
Hosted by fantasy/sci-fi self-publishing veteran Lindsay Buroker, Joseph Lallo and Jeffrey Poole, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing podcast (SFFM for short), covers the unique aspects of writing, publishing and — you guessed it — marketing Science Fiction and Fantasy. If you write in either of these genres, this podcast is a must read. Many aspects of fantasy and/or sci-fi make these books more difficult to market than other genres and require different strategies. Lindsay, Joe and Jeff, along with their lineup of guests, make this podcast a can’t-miss for any author in the science fiction and fantasy realms. Episodes are released once a week and run anywhere from 50-70 minutes.

cwc-podcast-logo_v3Creative Writing Career Podcast
Tune in here
Brand new and just out of the gates, this podcast, hosted by Justin Sloan, Kevin Tumlinson and Stephan Bugaj provides tips and advice from the hosts and a wide array of creative writers in many different industries. Unlike the other podcasts we’ve listed, Creative Writing Career covers not just author careers but video game writing, screenwriting and other tracks as well.  Creative Writing Career’s interviews and unique perspectives provide insights found nowhere else. Episodes are weekly and run 30 minutes long.

 

RM-Podcast-Cover-12-350x350Rough Draft
Tune in here
Originally five minute episodes released daily, Rough Draft switched to a longer format in October to tackle meatier topics. The host is Demian Farnworth, Chief Content Writer at the one and only Copyblogger. He offers “essential web writing advice” designed to put a keen edge to the blade that is your writing skill. Although the podcast is tailored for copywriters, Demian’s advice will help your writing, no matter what you’re writing. Episodes are now weekly average around 60 minutes in length.

 

story grid podcast logoThe Story Grid Podcast
Tune in here
Another great new podcast  based on The Story Grid book by renowned editor Shawn Coyne. Together with book marketing master Tim Grahl, Shawn Coyne breaks down the nuts and bolts you never knew about storytelling. Shawn’s vast knowledge on the subject combined with Tim’s insightful, genuine questions make for some intriguing episodes. If you want to write fiction, you need to be listening to this podcast, no ifs ands or buts. Episodes are weekly and are around 60 minutes long.

What are some of your favorite podcasts for authors? Tell us in the comments!

Lessons learned two years into self-publishing

Deuces. Last Wednesday (November 11) marked two years since I self-published my first book, Out of Exile. Looking back, it’s amusing how little I understood about this business back when I dove in head first. I’m still not close to making a living (or even an part-time living) yet, but I’m still encouraged by how far I’ve come. While there’s been plenty of frustration to go with the celebration, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had and the relationships I’ve built chasing this passion for anything in the world.

In that spirit, here’s a sampling of the lessons I’ve learned over the past two years. Some might be obvious for the rest of you, but hopefully you’ll be able to find a few takeaways that help you on your own journey.

Lesson #1: Forget about overnight success.

When I hit the publish button on Out of Exile and saw it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I literally expected to be making a couple hundred bucks a month off my books, without doing anything but watch my bank account get fat. Overnight success does exist, but you’ve probably got better chances of being eaten by a grizzly bear than finding it. Stop daydreaming about catching that big break and get to work. You can’t count on catching lightning in a bottle, but you can make it easier to find you.

Lesson #2: Be patient and always keep improving.

It’s easy to get frustrated when other authors around you find success and you’re still struggling at the back of the pack. Instead of letting comparisonitis plague you, focus on the things in your control. The only person you’re trying to beat is the author you see in the mirror each day. Make each book better than your last, build connections with your readers and figure out what types of marketing strategies work for you.

Lesson #3: You can’t do it all yourself (plus you don’t need to).

You can’t publish an awesome book without help from others. And you shouldn’t attempt to. Authors can’t edit their own work and my guess would be 99.9% of them aren’t qualified to design their own covers, either. Building up a team around you helps you make your book look and read as legit as possible. These teammates will likely be some of your biggest supporters as well.

On the flip side of this, if you try every outlining, revising and marketing strategy out there, you’ll probably go bonkers. Don’t be overwhelmed and spread yourself too thin trying to make Wattpad, social media, blogging, voodoo rituals, etc. all happen at the same time. Rather than failing at everything, try picking out a few new things that appeal to you and focus on testing them.

Lesson #4: Don’t be a tight wad.

Hiring professionals to do professional things costs money. Don’t cheat a manuscript by skimping on a quality editor and slapping a cheap cover on it. In the long run, you’ll be costing yourself, money, not saving it. It takes money to make money. If you’re treating your writing like a business, you need to invest. But at the same time…

Lesson #5: Be smart about where you put your money.

There are hundreds and hundreds of people out there looking to make a quick buck off of unsuspecting indie authors. While you need to invest money in your writing career (see above), make sure you do your homework before writing out the check. Don’t fall for gimmicks and empty promises. Remember, the people who struck it rich during the gold rush were the ones selling picks.

Lesson #6: Celebrate the small victories.

This quote from Neil Gaiman says it all: “Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.” Testify! If you hit your word count for the day, give yourself a pat on the back. Everything else is a bonus. Enjoy the mile marks you pass along the journey — they can be just as rewarding as the destination.

Lesson #7: Small and simple things lead to big results.

All those small victories we just talked about add up. One day, you’re going to look back and realize you’ve wrote a whole crapload of books. Careers are made out of doing the little things repeatedly. Book are written one word at a time and a living made one sale at a time.

Lesson #8: Avoid burnout.

Being an indie author is hard. Not so much physically, but it can be a humongous mental drain. You write day in an day out, sometimes with nothing but a bunch of (what you probably think are sub-par) words and strange looks from your relatives to show for it. Know when you need a day (or even a week or more) off. That being said, there’s a fine line between slacking and overdoing it. No one else but you knows where that is.

Lesson #9: You’re not alone.

Here at the Everyday Author and all across the big wide land of internets, there are authors just like us on the same journey. We’ve either gone through it or are still going through whatever you’re currently struggling with. One of the best things you can do is make other writer friends online and support one another. Only you can write your words, but that doesn’t mean you have to always be in solitary confinement.

Lesson #10: There is life beyond your writing desk.

Even though most of us probably don’t have the luxury of allowing our writing to overtake our lives, we should still be aware neglecting other responsibilities in the pursuit of this dream. Don’t let all your free time become consumed with writing. You have loved ones who want to spend time with you. Get out sometimes, fellow writer-hermits. There’s a big wide world you’re missing out on. Take a walk, do some pushups, LIVE A LITTLE!

I’m playing the long game and, with any luck, I’ll be able to write a ten, twenty and fifty year post just like this someday. But until then, I’ll keep on writing. Deuces.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned so far in your author career? Share with us 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.

So how do you make money as an author these days?

It’s time we all faced a certain, somewhat deflating fact: no matter how you slice it, making a full-time living from writing books isn’t an easy thing to do these days. In fact, for most of us, it may be close to impossible.

Kameron Hurley wrote a great post that delivered some cold hard truth on the matter. Although you should read it in full, I’ll give you the CliffNotes version to help move things along:

  • Whether you’re traditionally or self-published, the average book doesn’t sell all that well in its lifetime
  • Your book has to be in the right place at the right time to gain traction (I’ll add in that some of these variables you can control, but luck is still a factor.)
  • No matter how bad things suck, keep working on the things in your control. “Level up your craft.”
  • Don’t quit your day job. (For more on this, I highly, highly recommend this Austin Kleon post.)

In a well-crafted response to Hurley’s post, Chuck Wendig gives some honest insights and helpful advice to combat this grim reality. Essentially, you’ve got to spread the wealth. There will be good times and there will be bad. During the good times, prepare to weather the bad.

Depending on who you ask, it’s the best of times and the worst of times right now. One day, indie authors are outselling traditionals on Amazon . The next, ebook sales are falling. Blah blah blah. No one’s sure if the sky is falling or raining dollar bills. As far as I can tell, success differs from author to author.

One thing for sure is this: more people are publishing books than ever before. We’re all fighting like rabid alley rats for a piece of the pie. The semi good news is we’re all getting some, albeit most are getting crumbs and crust. More people than ever are making money selling books but the majority aren’t making enough to march into the office and tell their boss to take this job and shove it.

Unfortunately, it’s a long, slow build for most of us. But the good news is, it is possible, especially if you’re willing to think outside the box and be smart about your income streams.

So how do you make money as an author these days?

Thing is, ebooks don’t really have a shelf life. And, as far as I care to look into the foreseeable future, they aren’t going anywhere, even if their popularity ebbs and flows. When I read that a digital-only book will sell less than 250 copies in its lifetime, I can’t help but scoff a little. How can you predict the lifetime sales of something that lasts forever? Sure, the grid might go down, but in that case, you’re going to be more worried about collecting canned corn and fighting off zombies than selling books.

In the meantime take some sick, twisted comfort knowing we’re all in the same boat and keep your eyes open for other opportunities. You never know where a gold mine might be hiding.

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.

You Can’t See The Forest For The Trees

Dark spooky forest at night in shades of blue
STORY CRAFTING

Picture yourself in the middle of a primeval forest of tall, thickly growing trees with a canopy that excludes most light and any sign of the daily path of the sun. The ground is relatively uncluttered with underbrush, but the few trails that are there, wind around the many tree trunks and crisscross each other, offering no clear way out. Everywhere that you look, trees sprout from the earth as thick as the hair on a dog’s back. Try as you might, you cannot find your way to open country.

As a writer, you can easily get yourself stranded in the middle of a primeval novel with multiple storylines, characters, conflicts with no clear path to open country. There are five essential elements to a story: Character, Setting, Plot, Conflict-Tension-Drama, and Resolution. I have found that although they are all important, they may not all play equally into your story. In some way, you should include enough of each to make your story interesting, inspiring, and enticing. It should be just long enough to keep you engaged but not so long as to make it a chore to finish.

You are blocked, unable to see where you are going and not seeing the path to your goal you sit on the ground amid the trees. You try to craft a plan to get out of this mess. Ideas flicker through your brain, you test everyone one to determine the right way to move. Then you leap to your feet, you have seen the right way to go. You look up—the path is clear. You must find your way to the top of the trees in able to clear the view. You climb a likely tree, you struggle your way up through the foliage, grunting with the effort, scratching your arms on the thick branches. Suddenly you burst through the canopy into the bright sunshine and look across acres and acres of trees. On the horizon you see the verge of the forest, beyond it is a rolling meadow. The goal.The beauty of Farmland

A good tale follows a pattern of “chasing a man up a tree, then finding a way to get him down”. In other words, you begin a story, you create tension, then resolve it somehow. It doesn’t have to be in that order, but the elements should be in there. Your reader should be able to follow along, even if the flow of the story isn’t logically crafted. If your story follows the beginning, middle, end template the reader can follow the story but may become bored because it is too simple and predictable. Conversely, if the story elements are too chaotic you will lose readers because it is too complicated.
So where is the balance? Your story should be just long enough to keep you engaged but not so long as to make it a chore to finish. Haiku poetry can tell an amazing story in just three lines of text. An Icelandic Saga may roll on for days. Each form is appropriate in its own time and place.

 Over the wintry
Forest, winds howl in rage
With no leaves to blow.      Natsume Soseki.

So, as a writer, what is next? The characters, setting, plot, conflict and resolution, all the elements of a story, are the tree trunks of your story/forest. I wish that I could tell you that the climb out of that primeval novel is as simple as finding the right tree with enough branches to lead you to the light. That you will find the view of the whole forest before you, that you might see beyond the forest and not just the blocking view of tree trunks. You could look at my hard drive and see the stories lined up for their time in the sun and know that it isn’t as simple as all that.

How do you craft that story so that you as the writer and me as the reader are not lost amid the dark, thick trees with no hope of seeing of seeing the complete forest? You as the writer must not blind yourself with the minutiae of setting and multiple plot lines, characters, and conflicts. Stephen King, well known for his many horror stories, has written a memoir/how-to book On Writing that includes 7 great tips/insights into the process. You can see a synopsis of these tips at the Positivity Blog.

Remember, it isn’t easy to see the forest when all you focus on are the trees. Forests are much more complex than a field full of trees. A forest is a multi-layered ecosystem of flora and fauna that rely on each other to thrive. Your stories should model that ecosystem. You can craft that kind of story; your readers will be able to see it from a bird’s eye view that encompasses the whole picture not just the limited view of the trees.

DSCN0042_2_3Michael, “Mike” to his friends, is a writer, striving to be an Author. He has been a spinner of tales since elementary school and garnered a slew of rejections from even that early age. Mike graduated from a small high school on the edge of Utah’s West Desert with more than a passing knowledge of how to read and write. Mike has an undergraduate degree from the University of Hard Knocks also sports a collection of writing and literature classes from traditional institutions. From the Dictionary to Louis L’Amour, religion and philosophy, political science, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Mike boasts an extensive and diverse reading repertoire. The journey has been and continues to be enlightening to say the least. Author of Ghost of the Black Bull found at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Mike has been married for 40 years and is the parent to one daughter and “poppa” to three grandsons. You can see more of his writing here at Everyday Author.com and at http://skullvalleytales.wordpress.com/

Authors: Balance is best in the long run

It seems that the romantic notion of the writer toiling away at his desk in spurts of inspiration for years only to emerge from the cocoon of his desk with a literary masterpiece has been traded out with another, more macabre. With the myth of the troubled artist busted, we’ve rallied around another golden calf in recent years: the insane workaholic, self-published author who writes 10,000 words in an hour and publishes a book every other day like a manic half-human, half-typewriter mutant/android.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a little. But still. This new author image is just as bad as the first.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire and respect a person who is dedicated and focused enough to write fast. Writing faster has made me a better, more productive author. This isn’t a post about quality vs. quantity. This is a post about *checks teleprompter*  not killing ourselves writing so, you know, we can be around to do more of it and reap the forthcoming rewards for our efforts. Balance is more important than engaging in a Scrivener death march.

A few months ago, I remember listening to a podcast interview with a writer who’d been publishing left and right, producing at a breakneck speed. During this interview, the host asked how he’d done it and one of the first things he mentioned was he’d sacrificed regular exercise to finish a certain book because he “had to get it out.” Most people aren’t bragging about this, and this guy wasn’t. But others in the writing community walk around like that hulk in the gym, muscles bulging from pre-workout and steroids, asking everyone “Do you even write, bro?

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In my opinion, this is a rather short-sighted way to carve out a career, like driving a case of Red Bull instead of getting a good night’s sleep. Sure, you got that next book (or books) out, but how long can you maintain that pace before your brain fries and you spend your time hiding in the pantry wearing a tinfoil hat, all the while waiting for the Big 5 agents to come steal your muse? When does it all come crashing down around your head?

I’m not knocking on passionate, hard-working authors. I consider myself one of you. I’m not totes jelly you can write 5,000 words per hour. But when you tell me you’ve forsaken your health, social/family life and who knows what else for a book, well, I guess I just don’t get it. It seems to me you’re perpetuating that poor, starving troubled artist stereotype all over again.

As Austin Kleon says in Steal Like an Artist: It’s best to assume that you’ll be alive for awhile. Eat breakfast. Do some push-ups. Go for long walks. Get plenty of sleep.

In the long run, which of the following do you think will get you further over the course of five years? What kind of person would you be at the end of each scenario?

A. Go to work, eat, sleep and write 5,000 words/day

OR

B. Wake up, write for 15-30 minutes (let’s say 250-750 words), go to work, come home, spend time with family or friends, exercise for 30 minutes, write or market for another 15-30 minutes (same word count as before, so between 500-1500 per day) and then the night reading a book watching your favorite TV show, etc.

Obviously in the first scenario, you’re producing roughly 5x more words each day. That might be well and good for a few weeks or even months, but what kind of life is that? I’d count the second scenario more productive and fulfilling every time. To me, balance show greater discipline and success. Writing like a madman just so you can tell everyone you busted out 10k words in a day isn’t sustainable over the course of a career (at least for the majority of us).  Your fingers may move but there’s only so much creative juice in the tank each day. You can’t write on fumes.

There’s only so much creative juice in the tank each day. You can’t write on fumes.

Some might call me lazy, or assume I don’t have the “drive” or “commitment” they do. I can assure you, you’re wrong. I want to be a full-time author, bad. But what I want even more is to not be some flash-in-the-pan author who writes one series and fades away. I want to be enduring. I want to be both efficient and effective. I want this to be a lifelong career. Given the choice, I’ll choose to be the tortoise every time, no matter how much in the moment I wish I was that damned, showboating hare.

This isn’t a death march, people. It’s the long haul. Sure, sometimes your sprint and sometimes you walk while you’re trying to figure out your ideal pace, but just remember: you may be able to sleep in a casket, but you can’t write in one.

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.

To Beat the Devil

Note from D_Sidd: In an effort to keep the Everyday Author fresh, you may see an occasional post that’s out of the box from what we normally publish. I’m kicking things off this week with the lyrics to a Kris Kristofferson song I recently heard. Although it was written for singers, it definitely applies to writers as well. I hope it resounds with you like it did for me. Keep on creating, everyone.

To Beat the Devil – Kris Kristofferson

It was winter time in Nashville, down on music city row.
And I was lookin’ for a place to get myself out of the cold.
To warm the frozen feelin’ that was eatin’ at my soul.
Keep the chilly wind off my guitar.

My thirsty wanted whisky; my hungry needed beans,
But it’d been of month of paydays since I’d heard that eagle scream.
So with a stomach full of empty and a pocket full of dreams,
I left my pride and stepped inside a bar.

Actually, I guess you’d could call it a Tavern:
Cigarette smoke to the ceiling and sawdust on the floor;
Friendly shadows.

I saw that there was just one old man sittin’ at the bar.
And in the mirror I could see him checkin’ me and my guitar.
An’ he turned and said: “Come up here boy, and show us what you are.”
I said: “I’m dry.” He bought me a beer.

He nodded at my guitar and said: “It’s a tough life, ain’t it?”
I just looked at him. He said: “You ain’t makin’ any money, are you?”
I said: “You’ve been readin’ my mail.”
He just smiled and said: “Let me see that guitar.
“I’ve got something you oughta hear.”
Then he laid it on me:

“If you waste your time a-talkin’ to the people who don’t listen,
“To the things that you are sayin’, who do you think’s gonna hear.
“And if you should die explainin’ how the things that they complain about,
“Are things they could be changin’, who do you think’s gonna care?”

There were other lonely singers in a world turned deaf and blind,
Who were crucified for what they tried to show.
And their voices have been scattered by the swirling winds of time.
‘Cos the truth remains that no-one wants to know.

Well, the old man was a stranger, but I’d heard his song before,
Back when failure had me locked out on the wrong side of the door.
When no-one stood behind me but my shadow on the floor,
And lonesome was more than a state of mind.

You see, the devil haunts a hungry man,
If you don’t wanna join him, you got to beat him.
I ain’t sayin’ I beat the devil, but I drank his beer for nothing.
Then I stole his song.

And you still can hear me singin’ to the people who don’t listen,
To the things that I am sayin’, prayin’ someone’s gonna hear.
And I guess I’ll die explaining how the things that they complain about,
Are things they could be changin’, hopin’ someone’s gonna care.

I was born a lonely singer, and I’m bound to die the same,
But I’ve got to feed the hunger in my soul.
And if I never have a nickel, I won’t ever die ashamed.
‘Cos I don’t believe that no-one wants to know.

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