The Everyday Author

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

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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.

Author Origins: Brian Rathbone

author origins brian rathboneBrian Rathbone is a bit odd. Fitting in has never really been his thing. He tried it once — it didn’t work out; neither did high school. After getting his GED and leaving the life of a professional horse trainer, Brian went to work at a nuclear plant, and then a convenience store, a gas station, a pizzeria and eventually in the mailroom of a commodities trade company. After discovering computers in the early 1990’s and doing consulting work for companies like Lockheed Martin, Dale Earnhardt Inc., and Joe Gibbs Racing, Brian moved up to Voice President of Research and Development for a medium-sized Internet company. Later in his technology career, Rathbone helped expand broadband Internet access into rural areas as part of a stimulus funded broadband planning grant awarded to the North Carolina State Broadband Initiative.

During much of this entire adventure, Brian was an avid reader of fantasy fiction. For years he’d known he would eventually write his own stories — he even told his wife he would someday write fantasy novels on their first date. It took many years of thinking about writing novels before he got the opportunity to act on it. After a couple false starts, he found himself at a career crossroad. While sitting in the Atlanta airport on a 2-hour layover, Brian finally committed himself to writing. He wrote the first chapter of Call of the Herald that day and has been at it ever since.

The first trilogy in the Godsland fantasy series is The Dawning of Power. The ebook is just $0.99 on Amazon Kindle, and with the purchase of the ebook the audiobook is just $1.99!

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.

Hi, everybody! I’m Brian Rathbone, a successful self-published writer with a good chance of soon becoming a hybrid author, who is both self-published and traditionally published. I’ve always had a deep love of fantasy fiction and decided as a teenager that I would someday write my own books. When I worked in technology and programming, I would have difficulty shutting my mind off at night and would debug code in my sleep. Sometimes I fixed real problems this way, but it was exhausting. I began thinking about my stories I would someday write. When I finally got the chance to write, I had fifteen years of thinking into it. I couldn’t type fast enough — still can’t.

It took me a decade to succeed as a self-published writer, but now I am able to write full-time. It’s not always easy, but I am living my dream.

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

Time and money. When I had a day job, I had plenty of money to provide a robust marketing budget but not enough time to make effective use of that money. Now that I am full-time writer, I have the time but fewer financial resources than I did. I anticipated two years to make the career change, and a year and a half into it, it’s working out about right.

All the nights, weekends, vacation days and sick days I spent writing have finally paid off.

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

I’m currently busier than I’ve ever been before, but it’s all good stuff. I recently finished writing my eleventh novel, which is the first I’ve intended for traditional publishing in eight years. I queried an agent I met at a convention and am waiting patiently for a response. In the meantime, I am outlining the fourth and final trilogy in the Godsland fantasy series. I’ve also been working on some collaborative novels, two of which are in the final stages of editing. I’ve been planning a Kickstarter fundraiser for these books for a couple years, and it’s all coming together. My voice artist has six novels in his que and I’ve been proofing those as they come in.

Just in case I was getting bored, I recently had a non-fiction writing project offered to me. It’s broadband related, which allows me to tap my passion for technology and utilize my writing skills in a way that will actually help people.

I also occasionally tell a bad dragon joke on Twitter.

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

My sales started out heartbreakingly slow. It was 2007, and eBooks weren’t what they are today. I had finished my first trilogy but failed to attract an agent or publisher. I decided to run an offset print run myself, which was a huge mistake. I did lots of things wrong and risked $7,500, but I believed in myself. It took me three years to make my money back.

Eventually I discovered Mobipocket, which was the dominant ebook retailer at the time. The Dawning of Power became the best selling epic fantasy on Mobipocket for the better part of two years. I was hooked. Once the Kindle changed the world and absorbed Mobipocket, I continued to make a solid part-time income from my writing. Releasing the second trilogy and the audiobooks solidified my sales, and the release of the third trilogy made it possible for me to go full-time.

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?

I wanted to write full-time for years before I got to do it. It was very difficult managing my time and family life against my writing and publishing work, which was a full-time venture in itself. My wife and I decided we needed certain savings and safeguards in place before I made the leap. When the federal grant I was working on ended as scheduled, I had the opportunity to make a clean break. I couldn’t resist. It hasn’t always been easy, but I don’t regret a thing.

Do you support yourself completely from writing books or through a variety of work? If so, what else do you do to pay the bills?

I can live off my fiction royalties alone, but I also write non-fiction and computer code when the opportunity arises. For example, I wrote software for the furniture manufacturing industry back in 2005-2008, and it has been running eight or nine factories ever since. There is a good chance if you bought a sofa, recliner, ottoman, or ‘lift chair’ in the US in the last decade, my software was used when cutting the wooden parts. Every once in a while those factories need something tweaked or added and I put my programmer hat on. It’s fun as long as I don’t have to do it all the time.

What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? What are some of your interests outside of writing?

People told me to give up writing for years — even people who love me or are dear friends. I almost gave up a hundred times, but I just couldn’t give up. I knew it was something I was supposed to do. I persisted even though it made people think I was nuts and put pressure on a number of my relationships. There were a lot of sacrifices, but it has finally paid off. It’s a good thing, or I would be in the dog house for years!

I love racing. If it moves, chances are I tried to race it at least once, but mostly I raced horses, motorcycles, and cars. I never went pro as a harness driver, but I did win a number of amateur horse races in my younger years. Later in life I adopted online stock car racing, which is a good bit safer. I won an online racing championship in 2007 after four years of trying. People laugh, but it was among the hardest things I ever pulled off and something I’m very proud of.

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?

Don’t give up. Building up a residual income through royalties takes time, but it is by it’s very nature residual, which means I now get paid even if I don’t work. Granted I earn more when I release new work and when I put effort into marketing, but I still get paid even when I don’t do those things. It’s been almost a year since I’ve released a book or have done any work that contributed directly to the bottom line and I’m not homeless.

Focus on producing lots of quality content and building your audience. Content is king and visibility is queen. I give away series starters as eBooks and audiobooks and use bad dragon jokes on Twitter to drive traffic to them.

I wrote a book about how I built my audience for anyone interested. It’s also free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

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

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.

Author Insights: T.L. Parker

TL_ParkerMichael We’re happy to bring award winning author, T.L. Parker to the Everyday Author! We think that she will bring a unique success story to our pages. She has two novels out and a third in the works.  So without any more blather from me, here we go…

Ms. Parker please 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 am T.L. Parker, author of The Devil’s Graveyards and Superstitions. I have four wonderful children and an awesome husband who is my constant source of inspiration and support.

My writing career began a few years ago when I began losing sleep due to initial ideas for my first novel, The Devil’s Graveyards. After learning of the Earth’s Grid and the sixty-two equally spaced areas around the globe that hold extraordinary mysteries, I was passionate about turning my thoughts into words. My travels to Europe, Montreal, and Grenada gave me inspiration for some unique settings. Soon, fiction and truth combined to create this adventure thriller. In 2014, I released The Devil’s Graveyards as an eBook on Amazon.  My research for Superstitions was extremely interesting and shocking.  This thriller was released soon after my first.

Currently, I am working on my third novel! I am not divulging any information on this new book quite yet, but I am very excited to release it next November.

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

Sometimes life happens! About a year ago, the world put some unexpected road blocks in my path.  Times have been extremely tough, and I had to put my writing career on hold for most of 2015 due to these unforeseen circumstances. Now I’m standing back up, prepared to fight back. I’m ready to show the world that when authors have ideas and a passion for writing, there’s nothing that can hold us back!

What is the one thing about your author career that not many people know about? 

Some people might not realize the amount of research I put into my books.  I feel this is the key to an interesting book! While researching my latest book, Superstitions, I was instantly intrigued by the numerous disappearances in the Superstition Mountains. Hikers are killed or simply vanish without a trace when they venture in these Arizona mountains, searching for the legendary Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. I traveled to the Superstitions and visited with the locals who personally knew “Dutch Hunters” that had mysteriously vanished.  I parked my car at the trailhead where many of these victims parked without ever returning.  I followed their footsteps down the trail toward Weaver’s Needle. I wanted to experience what they experienced, but I knew better than to venture too far.  In fact, it spooked me to be there. My research into the secrets hidden in the mountains led me to a surprising location…the Smithsonian. I called the Smithsonian to discuss these findings, and you would be shocked by what they wouldn’t tell me!

superstition_sign

Sign at the First Water Trailhead in the Superstition Mountains.

In the author bios that accompany your books and on your Amazon author page, there is mention that you are an award-winning author. Can you share what awards you have won? And did it make a difference in how you felt about writing?

Years before I started writing novels, I won an award for a short story competition hosted by the local university. Although it was not a prestigious award, it inspired me! It was the first ember on the fire.

Why did you choose to self-publish and will you continue to do so?

Publishing independently is working for me and I am enjoying it.  I don’t know what I will ultimately decide to do in the future.  The most important thing for me is being able to share my stories with others who will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Why did you choose to write in the genre that your stories are in?

I…[sic] continue to research earth’s greatest mysteries, bringing reality to these unbelievable facts, and making readers question everything they think they know.

Is the novel that you are currently working on in this same genre or are you planning on another direction?

I will continue to write thrillers even though they may all have different sub-genres (conspiracy theories or a touch of science fiction for instance).

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

Keep writing! Never give up.  Sometimes, the road to writing success can be long and rough, but it will be the authors who keep trying in the face of opposition who will succeed.

Thanks Tara for agreeing to this interview. You can find more information about T. L. Parker and her novels at the following links:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/BooksByTLParker

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/booksbytlparker

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00NKWCIQO

State of the Author: My 2015 review

Time flies when you’re bleeding out through your fingertips with every stroke of the keyboard —
*Pauses to Google “Time flies expression”*
Eh-hem. Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?

Welcome to the second annual Everyday Author State of the Author review. Just like last year, I’m kicking it back and taking the first virgin days of 2016 to reflect on how a year’s worth of everyday authoring went. Although this post will be specific to my goals and work, I’d encouraging everyone to do a yearly review for themselves. You just might be surprised at how much you accomplished. It also has a way of showing where you need to step it up. If you want to see what plans I’ve got in store for this year, head on over to my author blog.

To be honest, I felt like I spent 2015 spinning my tires in the mud. But looking back, I accomplished quite a bit — even if the end results weren’t as flashy as I might have liked.  Here’s a few numbers I’ve calculated. (Note: these are fiction words only, and don’t include any blog posts I wrote here or on derekalansiddoway.com)

  • Rough draft words written: 65,000+
  • Words revised: 185,000+
  • Words published: 145,000+

Before we get into the meat of things, one other sidenote: I’ve included links to a number of products, books and services that I found especially helpful last year and plan to continue using/implementing in 2016. Please not that none of these are affiliate links and I am not receiving any form compensation from these companies. They were a huge help and I hope some of them will work out for you as well.

A recap of my 2015 author plans and resolutions:

Write faster: I tell you what, I blew this one out of the water! When I wrote Out of Exile and Return to Shadow, I had to give myself word count goals for each day to stay on pace and make sure I didn’t procrastinate. The second half of this year, I started using Chris Fox’s 5000 Word per Hour app and fell absolutely in love with it. I went from someone who wrote about 1000 wph (words per hour) to busting out 3000+ on some of my better days. As a competitive person and former track athlete, the allure of racing the clock to try and write faster kept me coming back to my rough drafts almost as much as the desire to finish the stories did. I haven’t read Chris’ accompanying book and have no plans to incorporate voice dictation (call me a purist I guess), but I would definitely recommend checking the app out. Right now, it’s only for iPhone, but the basic version is free.

Edit slower: This one was excruciating for me, because editing either makes me feel like I’m a storytelling genius or (most often) like I’m pulling my own teeth with rusty pliers. On top of that, nobody wants to pull teeth slow, you want to yank those bad boys out and get it over with. I’m still struggling with treating editing as something more than a deplorable task to be complete before a book can be published and I’m not sure what the solution is. Whenever I try to slow the process down, it just leads to me procrastinating. On the plus side, now I’m writing rough drafts faster, I have extra time to waste! I’ve also developed a pretty good production formula: after the second draft, I send the manuscript to beta readers and a continuity/developmental editor then incorporate their input into a third/fourth draft. I then send that to my copy editor. It worked really well with Return to Shadow and I anticipate using this model with all of my future work.

Have fun writing: Let me preface this by saying I spent the first five months of 2015 revising almost 150k words…and you know now how much I hate revising. That being said, the second half of the year, I got back to the glee of outlining and writing rough drafts. This year, I’ve got a variety of fresh projects and, as funny as it sounds, I’m looking forward to falling even more in love with writing in 2016.

What went well

I read a lot more than in 2014: Although I know now I’ll never get back to my pre-author book consumption levels, I balanced things out much better than I have in the past, keeping my creative tank fueled in the process. Some of my favorite non-fiction books included Creativity for Sale, The Rise of Superman, Gotta Read It, Finding Success in Failure, The Art of Work and Zombie Loyalists. I also placed my copy of The War of Art next to my desk and read a passage every morning before I started writing to give me a little extra motivation.

My websites: Last year, I lamented the amount of money spent on web design and ended up getting new themes for both Undaunted and derekalansiddoway.com. I’m happy to say I learned my mistake and have much cleaner, cheaper and engaging site designs now. I also found a fantastic newsletter signup plugin called Thrive Leads that looks really great on my fiction site, if I do say so myself.

I expanded my learning outside of the writing and self-publishing spheres: Not only what I read, but what podcasts I listen to as well. In addition to the staples I’ve discussed before here and here, I’ve also found a ton of great listens on the rainmaker.fm. In the publishing world today, being an indie author also means being an online marketer, entrepreneur, copywriter and more. I’ve found tons of gems from shows like Rough Draft, Unemployable with Brian Clark, Hack the Entrepreneur and more.

Facebook ads: Although I only began dabbling with them the last few months of 2015, using Facebook ads (with the help of Mark Dawson’s training course) helped me grow my author email list faster than breeding harem of rabbits.

Outlining: I’ve dabbled in this off and on after reading Anatomy of Story a few years ago, but I took it to a whole new level after ready The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. This is a book I use as a reference every time I’m starting a new outline. Regardless of whether your write fiction or non-fiction, check out the website. There’s a HUGE amount of free resources that I guarantee will up your writing game.

I got back to a regular workout regimen: Although sometimes it felt like the last thing I wanted to do, I know that staying in shape helped me keep my sanity by giving me an outlet to blow off steam. Not to mention that your brain works better when the rest of you isn’t coated in a layer of fat. P90x3 was fantastic, but if you’re just getting starting, you’ll probably want to work up to it. Those workouts are killer. I also love the 7 Minute Workout app, which is great in a pinch and requires no equipment for its workouts. There are lots of different ones out there, but this is the one I use.

What didn’t go well

My plate was still WAY to full: In addition to Everyday Author and my indie fiction writing, I also started another new company (more on that later this month) in addition to holding down a full time job during the day, plus hundreds of volunteer hours with my county’s Search and Rescue. The result was a series of waves: I’d hit rock bottom, do nothing for a few days and be completely tuned out, then ramp back up and fire on all cylinders for a few weeks before crashing again. I got through it, but I really, really need to hone things down a bit more.

Keeping a schedule: As you can guess from above, I really struggled setting and sticking to a routine. This is going to be a big focus for me in 2016. A consistent bedtime will help me wake up early enough in the morning to get some personal work done before I have to switch focus to the day job. Hopping back and forth between the two over the course of a day has proved to be a recipe for getting nothing done at all.

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.

Now it’s your turn, everyday authors! Leave a comment below and tell me what went well for you last year (or what didn’t).  Feel free to brag about your word counts, sales or any other 2015 resolutions you achieved.

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!

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.

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

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