On of the members of the writer’s group I belong to, and a person I follow on Google+, recently released her first eBook. I offered my congratulations and she mentioned that anyone can put up an eBook, “…from Stephen King to steaming pile of crap.”
And truthfully she is right. Anyone can do it. They can go on Smashwords, KDP, or even PubIt and throw together an eBook and sell it in about ten minutes. I just got done setting up Dissolution of Peace for eBook sales on KDP and was surprised just how quick it was. I was set up and done in about an hour. And I spent some time debating the price and royalties options. On the other hand, the print version has taken almost a week now to get set up and it still isn’t done. But even that is only because they review the file for “print-ability” but not for content.
So one might wonder how they separate themselves from the crap. The simple answer is not to be crap.
If you wrote a book in a week, and published it the next week. Chances are your story is going to be garbage. You simply miss way to much when you spend so little time on a project. I’ve talked a lot about the steps you have to take to get your work ready for publication. If you start cutting corners, it will show. All told, I will have spent nine years (or more) working on Dissolution of Peace. From the original manuscript written in 2003-2004 to the final product you will all see October 16th.
Do I recommend taking nine years? No, not necessarily. From the time I made up my mind to finish, and see published, Dissolution of Peace it took almost exactly one year. In that year, I spent most of that time editing.
The rewrite of the manuscript cut out 30,000 words of pure crap. Words I might have missed if I didn’t reread the original manuscript. Next, I read it again. I corrected the mistakes I found, and read it again. Then I sent it off to a few beta readers. They made their comments. I fixed some things, and read it again. Then it went to a professional editor. He sent me back a boat load of suggestions. I fixed those, rewrote some passages, corrected the plot holes and confusing information. Then, you guessed it, I read it again. I fixed a few things and put it in format for publication. Then I ordered a proof.
ALWAYS ORDER A PROOF. I know many people who skip this step. They figure they have caught everything by this point. They look at the digital proof for format errors and then approve it. They never hold a proof copy in their hands. Well I ordered a proof. And I read it cover to cover. There were exactly ZERO formatting error. However, there were twenty-two other errors. Missing words, typo words, and other things. Things four beta readers, an editor, and five of my own readings missed. All of which were just things your eyes miss. When you see a word in its context you might not notice that “closest friend” was typed “closet friend” in the book. The fact remains that as I read it in book format, these things came out because it was the first time I had read it as an actual book. In print. Not on a computer screen. I saw my novel in a new way.
And now, as I get ready to approve the final draft I am confident it is ready to be read. Will I miss something? I will almost bet money I did. But even the professionals miss something. It is one of the ways book experts can detect what edition many books are. They know of certain misprints, typos, ect in each edition. The point to this is not to spend forever making the novel absolutely perfect. The point is to spend enough time with it to make it the best you can possible put out.
I read my story six times in this last year. If you are not reading your book multiple times to prepare it for publishing, how can you expect buyers to read it once? If you wrote it and you find it boring to read more than once, it may not belong in the steaming pile, but you should figure out what needs to be fixed to make it readable.
I will also say this. Grammar and punctuation do not make a book readable but they can may a book unreadable. If your book is overly riddled with grammar mistakes, they can distract a reader. However, you can have a grammatical masterpiece, not one grammatical error in the entire manuscript, and still have a steaming pile on your hands.
You need a plot. A story that starts where the real story starts. You need a conflict of some type. You need a resolution to the conflict. And you need a satisfying ending. You have to be able to tell a story. A story readers want to read. A story with characters people love (or hate for the right reasons). You need a world for this to all take place in. Once you master that, you can go back and fix the grammar.
The point is you need to take time with you works. He who publishes the most books, does not win.
You need to put together a quality novel before you submit it for publication. If you do that, your work will stand out for the steaming piles of crap that come out. But also remember that some people will simply not like your novel for their own reasons. While others may love it. You can’t please everyone. We’ve all bought a book we thought would be good only to be disappointed. But if you take your time to put your best work forward, you will find a following of readers who will love your story.
October 7, 2012 | Categories: Authors, Editing, Publishing, Reading, Writing, Writing tips | Tags: cutting corners, editing, KDP, publishing, Publishing Tips, Reading, writeing tips, Writing | Leave A Comment »
As Dissolution of Peace gets closer and closer to being released, I find myself with an odd mixture of pride, fear, and anticipation. But all the hard work is worth something in the end. As I see the finished project coming along, I can’t help but be happy to see so much work coming together for this project.
I wrote my acknowledgements section the other day. It is certainly an optional part of a novel. I’ve read plenty of novels that don’t have one. But with this being by first novel, I had to write one. I always enjoy reading other authors’ acknowledgements, and it only felt right that I put one in. It came from my heart, so hopefully it doesn’t come across as too much. Either way, I am happy to thank those people that helped me get this book together.
I dedicated the book to my three boys. They are a huge part of why I followed this dream all the way to the end. I already know who I’ll be dedicating my second novel to.
The Official Book Trailer is getting a lot more views than I expected, considering how little I have shared it. So I assume that must mean a few of you have shared it. Thank you. So far those who have talked to me about it, like it. Please make sure to hit that thumbs up button and leave a comment if you enjoyed it.
The good news is that you don’t have to wait until October 16th to order your copy of Dissolution of Peace. You can pre-order online right now. Best of all you will save 25-50% off the list price. But, this will only last during the pre-sale period. I’ll also be signing all pre-order copies of my book. You will see I have added a “Buy” tab to this site. This will be a place to buy copies of my book. If you don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you should. I’ll be sharing discount codes with my followers there through out the pre-sale period. You can order here: LINK
First, if you visit my Facebook Page, and click on the giveaway icon (see the picture right). You can enter into a raffle giving away one signed copy of my book. The number of raffle entries you have is based on the tasks you chose to complete. If you complete them all, you can be entered twenty times. That raffle ends on November 1st (12:01am Eastern), so hurry to get your entries in now. If a lot of people enter this raffle, I’m sure to do another one. Oh, and you’ll want this giveaway code: Carlson. It is worth one entry into the raffle. Enter the Raffle here: LINK
The second giveaway is on Goodreads. This one runs until November 30th. As of writing this post, it is still awaiting approval from Goodreads administrative staff. So if the link doesn’t work, please try again. Enter the Goodreads Giveaway here: LINK
ATTENTION BOOK REVIEWERS
If you write book reviews on your blog/website or magazine, or know someone who does, get in touch with me. This is another great way to get a free copy of the Kindle version of my book. I will not pay for a review. So if you charge for your reviews, I’ll pass. You can go to the contact me section to contact me about a book review. Just let me know a little about your site, and send me a link.
INTERVIEWS AND EVENTS
If you would like to interview me about my book, and other topics, you can contact me. I’ll be happy to schedule something with you. I’m open for newspapers, blogs, journals, magazines, Television, Radio, Podcasts, and I’m sure many other types of interviews.
If you own a Bookstore, you can contact me for a book signing. I am already working on scheduling a couple of them to be announced soon.
I want to thank everyone who is helping, and I am sure about to help, plug my book. I really appreciate the word of mouth advertising. I’ll keep everyone updated as the book releases.
October 1, 2012 | Categories: Advertising, Authors, Book Releases, Book Reviews, Marketing, Novels, Published, Publishing, Science Fiction, Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: book trailer, Books, contest, Dissolution of Peace, giveaways, Novel, pre-order, raffle, Updates, winner, Writing | 1 Comment »
Marketing for Writers
Over this last week, Plasma Frequency announced a 50% off sale on all advertising. For as little as $9.50, anyone could have advertised in a magazine with a worldwide audience. Exactly zero people took the offer. An offer that was presented to many self published and traditional published authors. It was also presented to several independent publishers. I was truly stunned by it. I couldn’t believe that not one person took this offer. But, as I thought about it. I am not so sure it is really that shocking of a thing.
Many authors think that they can put their novel on Amazon.com, and it will simply fly right off the shelves. Maybe a few hundred Twitter and Facebook posts, and BAM! Instant success. Who knows maybe that has even worked for a few authors. But if it has, I’ve not heard of it. I’m down playing the value of Social Media in your marketing strategy. It is an important part of it. But it is just a part of it. And the only plan many authors have, is to continue to shout out on Facebook, “Buy my book! Buy it!” But I speak from experience when I say that soon you will be wondering, Is anybody out there? Is anyone paying attention to these posts.
Marketing strategy is the key words of the paragraph above. You need to lay out a plan to get your book noticed. It should be a detailed plan starting with “pre-promotion”, moving next to “release promotion”, and moving along with “continued promotion.” You need a balance of promotional strategies in order to make your book successful.
Many of you may be stopping here. You might be thinking that you don’t need to market your book because you plan to go through a traditional publisher. You expect that they will handle all the promotional problems for you. You’d be wrong. Most of these places have a limited marketing budget. They will use that money on promoting the books most likely to bring them the most money. And even if they will be promoting your book, that should only be another part of your own promotional strategy. You should be doing some marketing of your own.
Marketing Plan, some easy tips.
First, you should start making a marketing plan as soon as you are sure you are ready to see this book published. For me, as a self publisher, that was as soon as I sent the manuscript to my editor. Notice I didn’t wait until I had a release date in mind to start planning. Some may even start thinking of marketing strategies right after they write “The End.” If you are going the more traditional publishing route, you may wait until you get accepted. Or you may wait until you know the marketing and promotional ideas of the publisher. Either way, find a time that is right for you and start planning. You can always modify the plan, change it, and work to start it later.
I’ll start with the first thing. It is also the most over looked in my opinion. That is “pre-promotion.” This is your plan to promote your book before it is released, to create a “buzz” so to speak. This is likely one of the best ways to get a title to stick in potential readers heads. You want to get people thinking about, talking about, and perhaps even to preorder (see below). Here are some things you might put on your Pre-promotion plan:
Mention your book whenever you can. You may have noticed that I mention, and use as an example, my novel Dissolution of Peace when needed around this blog. See, I just did it again there. Most of the time I don’t even realize I did it. Of course you can over do it. I like to think that I only mention it when it is applicable to the situation. I’ve seen some that simply drop the name everywhere all the time, or every blog post they write is about the book in some way. It just doesn’t work for me. I tend to stop reading those blogs that are solely devoted to ramming a particular product down my throat. But I certainly don’t mind, or even notice in most cases, a little self promotion when I am reading a post that has meaning to me. So if, like me, you blog about writing tips, daily muses, and other topics of interest to people, don’t be afraid to mention it where it applies.
Get some marketing materials together and share them with your followers. I’ve noticed many of my blog, Twitter, and Facebook followers enjoy a little sneak peak before something goes live. Marketing materials include cover art, after all that is how readers will recognize you book, it is the brand of your book. But there are other marketing materials that can come in handy. For example, my Facebook page has a new cover photo. That photo pops up every time someone hovers their over my name. You may make a few different photos to use around the different media platforms. Another great thing is a book trailer. There are also book plates, bookmarks, and other items you can get at a low cost and hand out free.
Many of you may be thinking: I’m not good at graphic design or video editing. You may have already dropped a pretty penny on the cover art. Book trailers can cost a lot of money. One self publishing company charges over $1,000 minimum just for a thirty second book trailer. Bookmarks, post card ads, ect all will cost. But I challenge you to look around. First, you might have a friend that will do it for you. Plasma Spyglass Press’s logo was designed by a friend of mine. I love it, and it cost me nothing. Even if you don’t have a friends that can do it, they may know someone who can give you a deal. A friend of mine recommended my cover artist, and I only paid $35 for it. I got lucky with the other art, I did it myself. I even did the book trailer myself. But, if all else fails you can shop around for businesses that can help you. Plasma Spyglass Press is thinking of revamping our business plan to include services for the self published author. One last tip, don’t spend a lot of money on promotional materials or over do it. Order just what you need.
Book reviews are great. There are some places that you can pay to have a book review written. I won’t waste my time or money on those. You can if you wish, but I won’t. There are a lot of free review sites out there. Sites that will only ask for a free copy of your book. In return they will provide you with an honest review. Sure, you take the risk of a bad review. And you may get some even if you don’t ask for reviews. I put this under pre-marketing because you often have to start setting these things up in advance. Whether it be through a blog, or a magazine, or through another outlet. Most are very cooperative and will agree to wait a reasonable amount of time if your release date is coming soon. ALWAYS send a finished product for review.
Offer a preorder special. Unfortunately Createspace still won’t allow you the chance to pick a future release date, thus creating a preorder page on Amazon. There are ways around this though. First, have people preorder through you. They can go to your website and preorder. Offer a better price than the list price. Perhaps even offer signed copies if you preorder through you. Then when you release your book you can order that number of copies and ship them out to your new readers. If you already have an Amazon Partner Store site (or whatever it is called), I understand that there is a way to do a preorder with that. I am not familiar with it.
Don’t take out advertising before your book has been released. Unless of course you have preorder information. Many people will see an ad and click to buy at that moment, making an impulse purchase. So paying for a advertisement on Facebook, in a magazine, or on any other platform is wasted money unless people can buy. But, keep in mind a magazine’s production time. That ad may not be live until after your book is released. So you may have advertising paid for and drawn up, but it won’t be seen until after your novel is released.
Release day has come. Your book is now available to purchase. The common practice here is to kick it into overdrive. Either blowing a lot of time and money into marketing the book for a week, or by trying to schedule events around the clock. I think this comes from the common practice in the typical business world. Grand Opening sales, Hurry while supplies last, and so on down the line. Even most traditional publishers will kick in to high gear for a big release and then when that is over, they will kick into high gear for the next author’s release.
I say slow down a second. First, have a plan in place before release day. Once again, ramming your book down everyone’s throats will not increase sales. Does that mean you shouldn’t come out of the gate hard and fast? No, you still want to have a “grand opening” celebration. Tell the world your book is out now. Spend the whole day telling them if wish. But what will you do once you have posted to Facebook, Twitter, and your blog only to find you sold four copies? This is where you need to expand your marketing plan. Release Promotion should last several months or more.
Continue to try to find those book review outlets. Talk to fellow writers and check out the magazines for your genre. Contact them and still arrange for reviews. The more you get the more potential readers you reach.
Look around for those local book stores. They often love to have local writers come out and have a book signing. They may even wish to carry your book on their shelves. Some may want a small portion of sales. Others may buy a bulk amount of your books for a near wholesale price and just keep whatever they sell them for. Others may just like the idea of bringing customers into their store and won’t care that you sell your books there. But either way, you need to work that out with them. Believe it or not the local book store isn’t dead. And these type of events are what keeps them going strong.
Book signings don’t have to just take place at book stores either. Maybe you get a table at the local street fair. Or maybe your local library would be interested. Be creative, readers attend a lot of different events. If you do think about renting tables at a fair or event, consider sharing the table with other local writers and splitting the cost. For one, a fan of one local writer may see your book on the same table and check it out. It will allow you to draw a bigger crowd while reducing your cost. Plus you fill a table with different books, rather than a big table with just a stack of your one book.
Write a press release. Local newspapers, magazines, and even local blogs love a story about a local resident doing well. You can even tie a press release with a book signing event you are having. Writing an engaging press release is a whole different ball game than writing a novel. So I strongly suggest you read up on how to write a good release. There are a lot of sites that will help you with a simple Google search. Once you have a good press release, send it out to every newspaper, magazine, and blog in or about your local area. Of course if you are in a smaller town you stand a better chance of being in that paper rather than the paper of a large metropolitan area. But it doesn’t hurt to try.
Make yourself available for interviews and other engagements. But also don’t be afraid to ask people either. If your local library is having a local writers event, don’t be afraid to ask somebody if you can join. You never know when the newspaper, local TV stations, or magazines might call and ask you if you would mind discussing your new book. But rather than just waiting for them to call, be proactive and find them. Press releases is one way. But there are plenty of other ways to reach out. Don’t be afraid to ask friends of friends to help.
Advertising. It doesn’t have to cost as much as you think. As I mentioned above, my magazine charges very little. We even offer a discount for multiple issues and a discount for self published authors. We design the ad at no extra charge too. You will find that this is common with many markets. Of course if you want to put an advertisement in Fantasy & Science Fiction, expect to pay a good price. But there are a lot of markets out there that survive solely on advertising and don’t expect a lot for it. You can even use social media ads to help you out. These are effective at targeting an audience suited for your book. The price is often adjustable based on your monthly budget. Talk to your friends too. See if they will put an advertisement on their website or blog.
The key with advertising is knowing your target audience. An ad for my novel in Better Homes and Gardens probably won’t bring me a lot of sales. But an advertisement in a science fiction publication will likely attract readers. But, I might not want to put an ad in a hard science fiction magazine because that is not my target audience either. The best thing you can do is find out the publication’s (or website’s) target audience. If it matches yours then go for it.
Promotional offers. Have special offers where you can. You may have a discount or you may put two of your novels together for a package price. I understand there are limits to this. Clearly you want to make money of the sale, to some degree. But everyone likes to feel like they got a deal too.
Your book has been out now for a little while now. You may have had a huge influx of sales, or you may have had a steady stream of sales. But after the first few months, we authors have a habit of moving on to our next project. After all we didn’t stop writing because our latest novel was released. But you can’t stop promotions now. You may have scaled back, but don’t stop.
You may have ran a number of ads for your novel on release, but now you may want to scale it back to one ad. But remember to figure out what ad worked the best for you. Maybe change up the artwork to get a fresh look. But keep something running to get peoples attention. Unless everyone has bought your book, there are still potential readers out there that may not have heard of your book yet.
Still schedule those book signings. Maybe even spend one day on your next vacation (assuming you get vacations) signing books at the local bookstore of your vacation destination. You may not do an event every weekend but still keep the options open.
Cross promotion is excellent. When you are out promoting the next newest book, don’t forget to bring some copies of your other works. I’m surprised how often I see writers with six novels out, but they only have the one novel with them when they buy that table at the fair. Tell people about all your books when you are out promoting the newest one. Don’t forget to mention your other books in your newest book. You see this all the time in novels: Other works by..
If you are selling your books you are in business, your business is writing and selling your books. You will not make money by approving the proof and then sitting on you butt and waiting for the cash to roll in. You have to get out there and let people know about your book. You don’t have to spend a lot. But expect to spend something. Even a free book review will cost you a copy of your book. The more you spend advertising won’t necessarily bring you more sales. But spending your money wisely will get you more readers. You can spend $50 a month wisely and get 20 times more readers than the person that throws away $1,000.
The point is simple. You need a plan in place. Every good business has a marketing plan and budget. Your book needs to have the same thing. The plan is fluid and you change it as you find out what works and what doesn’t. But you must have a road map. Hopefully I’ve provided you with some powerful tips. Now go make your plan and get that book sold.
September 10, 2012 | Categories: Advertising, Authors, Book Releases, Book Reviews, Marketing, Novels, Writing | Tags: book sales, Books, Marketing, marketing books, Writing, Writing Money | 7 Comments »
I present to you, the cover for Dissolution of Peace.
As many of you know, I have been waiting on a lot of things before I officially make any announcements about Dissolution of Peace. Some of you may have even been following along as I took each step.
This journey to publishing a novel really started with my first acceptance letter, in August 2011. Followed by my second. After selling two short stories, I decided to open up my original manuscript for the then untitled novel. Perhaps I felt validated as a writer, or perhaps I simply the timing was right. Either way the much needed rewrites began.
My New Years Resolution was to write more. I rewrote the entire manuscript from scratch. And by February I was finished. I sent it out to several beta readers, made changes. And then let it rest for a bit.
I struggled long and hard for a tittle. The original title was going to be: Serenity. This was back when I wrote the first manuscript. But, this certain movie came out a short time later, and of course I had to change it. After some time, and using multiple different random title generators. I came up with Dissolution of Peace. After a good night sleep, I fell in love with the new title. And I feel it describes the novel well.
In May I hired Robert S. Wilson to do my editing after giving it a look over for some time. I followed that by hiring Neil Jackson to do the cover art. And after waiting (rather impatiently I might add) I got both a marked up manuscript and a cover art sample.
I was ready to announce a release date that day. But when I began to work on my edits, I was overwhelmed by it. I was afraid and I had no idea how long it would take.
I got the final cover art. I whittled down those edits. And while there are still edits to be done, I can confidently announce a release date:
October 16th, 2012.
Of course that bars anything else crazy going on. But it will be out and ready before the end of October. After all, you will want to give this as a Christmas present.
Now many of you expected to see my cover art and a release date. But I have another surprise for my blog followers. I have attached the Official Trailer!
Dissolution of Peace will be available on Amazon.com for Kindle and in Print. And I will be announcing a Pre-order sale soon. You will be able to order a signed print copy right from my blog. Details will come on that soon.
When Earth Navy Captain Christina Serenity is brutally attacked by a traitor, her life is saved by Security Forces Corporal Michael Carlson. On the heels of her recovery, her ship is attacked by terrorists, and she is thrown into a difficult assignment. She must chase after the only clue they have, a Martian ship called the Phobos, and find out what secrets it hides. To make matters worse, someone still wants her dead.
Her ship, E.S.S. Australia embarks on a mission that leads Serenity on journey of discovery, friendship, betrayal, and revenge. She quickly learns the only thing harder to prevent than war, is love.
Now Serenity must trust her protection crew to keep her alive long enough to solve this puzzle while trying to prevent an interplanetary war.
The line has been drawn… Who will cross first?
So with out further ramblings from me, I present the trailer for Dissolution of Peace:
September 2, 2012 | Categories: Advertising, Authors, Book Releases, Marketing, Novels, Published, Publishing, Science Fiction, Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: Book Release, book trailer, cover art, Dissolution of Peace, New Release, Novel, official, Reading, Richard Flores IV, Writing | 3 Comments »
I briefly touched on this in an early blog post. Writing is really about more than making money. If you are a short fiction writer you’d have to do a lot of work to make a good salary.
Where you live will depend on how much you need to survive. But lets assume you’d be happy with $35,000 a year. Out in California that is a small amount of money and barely scraping by. But, if I was doing it as a writer, I’d be happy to scrape by. If you stuck to short fiction, you would need to sell 700,000 words a year at pro rates (5 cents a word). That is a lot of words. And that is words to sell, not write. You’d have to write roughly 1,900 words a day that are publishable, with no days off.
Most of us don’t put something on paper and it is instantly publishable. We need to spend time editing. We need to send it out to and listen to our Beta Readers. Now back to editing. And there is always the time it sits on submissions. But, lets assume you work part time at it. Say three hours a day, five days a week, for a year. Or 780 hours a year. And you manage to get an average of 5,000 words a month published at pro rates. You’d make roughly $3.85 an hour. Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
You might argue that if you really did spent 15 hours a week on writing, they could put out more that just 5,000 words published each month. But the truth is you won’t make a lot of money publishing short stories. You will get paid in a different way. You will get paid with recognition, reader enjoyment, positive feedback, and much more. This is why I fail to understand writers who believe anything less than 5 cents a word is beneath them.
They are measuring the payment of writing in dollars and it really needs to be measured in other ways. And, in many ways the payments you gets from writing can’t be measured. Reader enjoyment is hands down my favorite method of payment. Each time a reader comments on my story, enjoys a plot point, or loves a character I feel like I have been paid again for that story. Each time some one clicks the like button for this blog, I feel like I got another payment. And when someone says they have heard of me and my writing, I feel like I hit the lotto.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a pay check too. But I don’t write for the money, I write for the enjoyment. So I wonder how can we make some money in writing. The trick is that it is a process. Just like most jobs, you start at the bottom and work your way up.
I still strongly urge anyone who writes to start with short stories. Even if you have a novel in the works, starting with short stories really puts a feather in your cap. It gets your name out there to a community of readers both before your novel hits the shelf, and after.
Now, lets talk about novels. When I release Dissolution of Peace, I have no intentions of making millions in the first release. Let us say that I sell my novel for $2.99 on Kindle. And, I doubt I would start there. But lets say that I do. I get 70% of most sales. So I would need 16,750 downloads in a year to hit that $35,000. That may not sound like a lot, 17,000 downloads, but when you are trying to market that book by yourself, it really is a lofty goal. And lets not forget that you might be more inclined to start your novel off at $0.99 or $1.99 because you may be lesser known.
But, lets consider something a bit more realistic here. Lets say you really buckle down and dedicate yourself. I don’t believe it is impossible to turn out two novels in a year and six short stories sold. I work full time, run a magazine, and volunteer a bunch of hours to Youth Soccer, but that is my goal. A goal I won’t achieve in 2012, but only because I just made it this month.
Let me assume that I sell $300 in short stories (5,000 word average at 1 cent a word for six stories). And, in those sales I get to make a quick blurb about my novels and this website. I think realistically I could expect 3,000 downloads a year per novel at $0.99 price point. So I’d get $4,200 there. For a total of $4,500 a year not counting other expenses such as marketing. So, I may not be making millions as a writer. But I think that is a good goal for 2013. And $4,500 a year to do something I love isn’t bad considering the other things I love to do, watching hockey and playing video games, don’t make me a cent.
And, if you keep building from there, soon you have more sales and more works in circulation. It is a slow process, but I do believe that eventually it can be possible to make a decent amount of money as a writer. The process takes time, you have to build a readership. But remember all the other rewards you get for your writing. The ones that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.
Now some might say that I sound like I am trying to dissuade you from writing. This is not true. Don’t be discouraged by this post. If you sole goal in writing was to make money, you might want to try your hand at different types of writing. But if you have bigger dreams than money, carry on with the craft. I firmly believe that if you write for the love of story telling, the rewards (and even the money) will follow.
July 30, 2012 | Categories: Authors, Marketing, Novels, Published, Publishing, Self Publishing, Short Stories, Writing, Writing for Money, Writing tips | Tags: joys of writing, money, Writing, Writing Money, Writing tips | 3 Comments »
July has been another busy month for me and I got a lot of things going on that needs updating. Today I think I’ll start with the personal stuff.
I’ve decided to make my second run for Vacaville City Council. I ran in 2010. Though I didn’t win, I felt like I put a good run together. Now, before you all un-follow my blog, understand I won’t be talking much about that on here. This is my writing page. If you care to know more about my campaign you can visit www.electflores4.com or flow my twitter account @electflores4. I may make mention of it again but my focus on this blog is my writing.
On the topic of writing, I am happy to say the Issue 1 of Plasma Frequency Magazine is out now. You can download a free copy or purchase the print version by visiting the website. We have stories from O’Neil De Noux, Michael Andre-Driussi, Nyki Blatchley, Gary Cuba, John H. Dromey, Michael Hodges, Spencer Koelle, Greg Leunig, and James Valvis. We also have art from Tais Teng, Richard H. Fay, and Laura Givens. In this issue we reviewed To Die a Stranger by Jilly Paddock. We also have some great advertisers. My advertisers are what pay for the magazine. They are how I am able to pay these authors and artists for their work. Our Issue Sponsor was our parent company Plasma Spyglass Press. We also had Author Robert S. Wilson advertising his excellent book Shining in Crimson. Author Martin Vavpotic advertised his Steampunk novella Clockworks Warrior. Nightscape Press had their newest release Worlds Collider: A Shared World Anthology advertised in our magazine. I might add that Worlds Collider is rapidly climbing the US Amazon Rankings. Last but not least, Artkitty.net and Senior Beauty Consultant Alica Howell advertised in Issue 1.
Everyone from the authors, the artists, and the advertisers deserve a huge thank you. Plasma Frequency Issue 1 is racking up the downloads. I am even more pleased to say that people are purchasing the print copy almost as fast. It is really great to see that people still appreciate the print edition. I don’t make any money off the sales of the print issue, the cost covers the cost of the printing service. A big thanks go to my fellow editors. My wife Amy Flores and my friend Lara G. Carroll have been great at helping me get this off the ground.
If you go check out Issue 1, I highly recommend you get a print copy. But if you can’t afford the print issue or just want a sample of it. Download the PDF. The PDF copy is the closest representation of the print edition. The Kindle and ePub versions had to be dramatically modified to work of those devices. But they are handy if you’d like to take the issue along on your eReader. Since it is free, I suggest you download both and eReader and a PDF version.
We’ve already accepted the stories for Issue 2. We are working on Artists and have already began reading for Issue 3. It is a never ending cycle.
My own writings:
I have good news. My editor has told me that he will have the edits to me for Dissolution of Peace. He has told me no later than Friday (though I hope he has them to me today as planned). I have to admit I am starting to feel nervous about what he has to say. This novel, these characters, and the story they have to say is very important to me. Every character I create holds a special place in my heart, but these characters are the first I have put together. My hope is my readers will love them as much as I do. But, that may be a standard that is set to high. There is a sequel planned, should my readers like it.
Yesterday I took a little breather from my writing and played around with my picture editor. I still don’t have cover art so, I put together a little teaser for you guys in the form of part of the uniform my main characters wear. It isn’t top notch, but it was just a little something fun for you to see something from the novel.
Two of the Main Character are Officers with the Earth Security Forces. When the world united under one government, the Earth Security Forces was put in place as the world’s sole law enforcement agency. They police cities, military bases, protect dignitaries, and keep the world in order. Corporal Micheal Carlson and Officer Janice Kanter are two of those Security Forces Officers.
My other writings are also going well. My next novel is well on its way, nearly half finished now. My short stories are still making their way around. And everything else is going well on that front. My time is always limited with all these projects. But I enjoy the work I do.
I hope your own projects are moving along nicely. Until next time.
We writers often talk about writer’s block. I even had a blog post on the topic. But sometimes we just have dry spells. They can be caused by different factors, including writer’s block, lack of time, and lack of motivation. For me it has been the motivation mostly. The ideas have been flowing free in my mind. Both for a sequel to Dissolution of Peace and the current novel I am working on have been very active in my mind. But I just don’t sit down and write. So for today’s blog I thought I would talk about how to ride out these dry spells and even do a little rain dance to get things going again.
The first step is recognizing the dry spell. That may seem easy enough, and for some it is. But for me it wasn’t so easy. I only just started thinking about how little I have written. And when I look at my work in progress, I see the file hasn’t been modified since May 10th. That is nearly two months ago, and I wasn’t aware of it. This is by far the longest dry spell I have had in some time. The only saving grace is that I have still been writing in this blog on a weekly basis.
In fact it was this blog that made me recognize I was in a dry spell, and at the same time it was what made me not realize it for so long. Each week I sit down and put together a blog post for you. I’m writing, and perhaps writing these blogs kept my ‘writing sense’ working. Blogs are great ways to keep people aware of your existence, and to break down writing blocks and walls. But, in this case it tricked me into thinking it hadn’t been so long since I wrote. But, when I only wrote a short ‘Happy Independence Day’ blog last week, it clicked to me how little I have written.
You may not blog, so you may see you haven’t written in a matter of weeks. Or, it could take you some time to recognize it for other reasons. The point is you have to realize you’re in a slump before you can move on to the next step.
The next step is identifying the cause of the dry spell. Again this may seem easy, but that is not always true. Writer’s Block is often the first thing to blame. But, if your ideas are still percolating in your head, as mine were, writer’s block is likely not your cause. You have things to write about in your head, you’re just not sitting at the keyboard and doing it. If you think it is writer’s block, dig deeper. If you find no other causes, then revert to the steps to break down writer’s block.
The next most common thing to blame is time. That is what I blamed. I told myself I haven’t had time because I have been running a magazine. I’ve been trying to get the first issue ready for print. But that wasn’t fair. Sure, running the magazine has taken up a lot of my time, but so does work, and my family. All valid things to be working on rather than writing, but I’ve worked around all of them before. But if you work through all this and find that time really is the issue, then you need to revert to the steps to find a time to work on your writing.
You might find it is depression, lack of motivation, or you have something new in your life that you’d rather be doing. You may even find out that writing isn’t what you want to do. But chances are that if you’ve realized you’re not writing, and are looking for ways to start again, you genuinely miss writing. Once you find the cause, you need to dig deeper and find the true cause.
For me, I found it was a lack of motivation. The ideas were there, but I wasn’t writing. I dug deeper to find the cause of my lack of motivation. That was a series of bad news in my writing. I have received five rejection letters in those two months. Three of those were for a story I have really felt confident in. It has been stacking up the rejections and it has started to take a toll on my confidence. In fact I have two short stories that are not selling despite approaching a year in circulation. I’ve reminded myself that my first stories sold remarkably fast. I’ve also reminded myself that I have not turned out a short story in almost eight months. That is not a bad thing though. I’ve been focusing on putting out novels. When the right idea hits me, I’ll write another short.
There have been other delays in my novel as well. I still don’t have cover art. The edits may be delayed. That coupled with the lack of sales of my son’s children’s book, has me worrying about my ability. I get frustrated when people are not as excited about something as I am. I feel as though they don’t approve of it, or even thing it not as worthy of their time. I am a pessimist by nature, so I see all these things for the worst rather than the possible truth. I see cover art delays as an artist who is disinterested in my story. I see edit delays as an editor who thinks my work is so bad it needs more time. And I see lack of sales on my son’s book as validation of my worst fears (that I can’t do this).
Long story short the reason for my dry spell is a lack of motivation because I am suffering from the “I can’t do this” and “I’m not good enough to do this” mentality. We all hit this. Everyone, in anything they pursue, hits a point where they think they can’t continue. But if you stop, you are only proving yourself (and your critics) right. It is the people that continue and refuse failure, that make it to their goals.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” – Henry Ford
Next, you need to break past your road block. You have figured out what the cause of your dry spell is, but now you need to break on through and keep working. For writer’s block, it may be as simple as sitting down and typing until you get something going. For a lack of time, you can schedule in writing time. If it is more complicated, break it down into simple ways to motivate yourself.
For me, I inflated my ego a bit. I went to the reviews of my short works that are previously published and saw what they had to say. Reminded myself that people do enjoy what I write, and that eventually an editor will. I also recognized that not everyone is able, or willing, to fall into finite deadlines. I either need to live with it, or only work with people who will follow deadlines (likely a mixture of both). Last, I think I am good with marketing. But I had to recognize that when it comes to books, I am new at it. And when it comes to Children’s Books, I am unsure where to start. So I’ve started asking around for help on that.
The point is whatever is holding you back needs to be addressed. You need to either make peace with it, or solve it. Either way you have to get those things out of the way before you can start writing again.
Last, perform a rain dance. You will never get past a dry spell if you don’t start getting things going. If you have a work in progress, open it up and get working. You’ve worked past all your issues, but your desire to write won’t magically spark up. You need to start writing. You might find that you will jump right back in. Or, especially in the case of writer’s block, you will struggle to start up again. But after a little time at the keyboard you will find the rains will fall again. And hopefully once you get going again your next dry spell will be a long way off.
Some people hit dry spells and give up. For some people they simply don’t feel the need to write anymore. But, chances are they would not be interested in finding a way to start writing again. If you have the desire to keep writing, but you just can’t seem to do it, you are a writer in a dry spell. Don’t give up on it. Clearly writing is something you enjoy doing, or you wouldn’t seek out advice on how to end your dry spell. Now get to work on fixing it, and get those words on paper.
July 9, 2012 | Categories: Authors, Ideas, Muse, Novels, Publishing, Resolutions, Self Publishing, Writer's Block, Writing | Tags: Authors, dry spells, get writing, goals, publishing, Write Tips, Writer's Block, Writing, Writing Ideas, Writing tips | Leave A Comment »
Over the last few hours, news has come out that author Ray Bradbury died sometime last night. I had to say a little something about Mr. Bradbury. He was one of the greatest writers of Science Fiction. Aside from that, he ranks among one of the most talented authors across all the genres.
There are not many authors, or even readers, that were not touched by at least one of Ray Bradbury’s many stories. I’m no exception. I want to take a moment to reflect on how Ray Bradbury’s work’s influence on my life.
As high school came along for me, I’d really come to hate reading. At this time, my reading influence came from whatever novel the English Teachers issued out and made us read. Some of them I forced myself to struggle through and read. Others, I simply sat at the back of the class and hoped I wasn’t called on for discussion.
One day, we were reading through our English Text book. It often had a number of dull and boring (in my opinion) short stories that we had to read. We’d then pick the author’s brain to pieces. On one particular day, we came across “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury. A story and author I had never heard of. After reading that story, I was in shock about how much I enjoyed it. I went back, reread it again at home, and then again the next day (and over the years I have read it many times over). To this date, it is the only short story that I remember so clearly.
I’d be lying if I said that I was hooked on reading ever since. I went right back into my ‘sitting at the back of the class’ mentality. Then a year later, our class was assigned Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. It is my understanding not many classes at my High School read that book. I guess I was just lucking. I read every assigned reading, and I even read ahead. I was done with the book before the fourth chapter was assigned to us. For the first time, I was at the front of the class, active in every discussion. I wasn’t even afraid to tell the teacher that I thought her interpretation of the text was wrong. I had to go back and read at the assigned speed to I could stay on top of our discussions, and I didn’t even mind doing it.
From that moment on my interest in reading was sparked. I found a genre I enjoyed and I was trying to read it all. But, I also go a better appreciation of novels outside my favorite genre. I enjoyed reading (though I still didn’t enjoy Teacher’s opinions on symbolism). Of course, my reading guided me to my desire to write. Really if it hadn’t been for Mr. Bradbury, I don’t know what I’d be doing today. Perhaps I’d be a teacher (cringe).
I understand that Mr. Bradbury wrote up until his death. I hope that I have the will to do the same. Ray Bradbury is a literary icon and the world should take a moment to reflect on the art he has given us. I hope his family can take comfort in the fact that so many people, like me, are inspired by him. Rest in Peace Ray Bradbury, I hope you found your own paradise to relax in.
Some of my favorite Ray Bradbury Quotes:
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t “try” to do things. You simply “must” do things.”
“There’s no use going to school unless your final destination is the library.”
“If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn” From Fahrenheit 451
“There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.”
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
“If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go in business because we’d be cynical: “It’s gonna go wrong.” Or “She’s going to hurt me.” Or,”I’ve had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . .” Well, that’s nonsense. You’re going to miss life. You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.”
AND MOST FITTING:
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” From Fahrenheit 451
I’ll give you a moment to recover from that fact that I just quoted Shakespeare.
Better, now? Okay, let’s continue with the topic at hand – Names. As a writer I struggle with names all the time. Character names, city names, world names, alien race names, ship names…. even what to name my story. But, why is it so important?
Well despite what Shakespeare says, we identify with names. Names give a real definition of just about everything. If I handed you a rose, and said “Smell this Grazulla.” You would stare at me like I was a mad man. The reason is simple. You see a rose, you identify it as a rose, and when I say “rose” you see the flower (or you see Betty White on the set of Golden Girls). Grazulla means nothing to you, it is just the rambling of a Speculative Fiction blogger.
Why do you thing so many readers struggle with nameless characters? Don’t get me wrong, it can work, but it certainly is a hard sell. We associate people with names in our society. Everyone has a name (well almost everyone). Even people we see that don’t know their names, we ofter think up a name for them. People often say, “She looks like a Jan.” Heck, a lot of people have called me Robert over the years. To some, I must look like a Robert.
I had a heck of a time naming my three boys, well my oldest was easy being that he named after me, but the younger two were a struggle. My wife hated the fact that I rejected almost every name she gave me. They were either to generic, or I knew someone named that, or they were just hard for me to say. For the rest of my life I’ll be calling these kids by whatever name I chose. What a scary idea. What if I chose wrong?
Well, lets face it. When we dream up a character we are giving them life. And with any luck your character will long outlive anyone you know. As an early writer I worried that I might choose wrong.
So now you need to think of a name. If they are human characters you might pick names that fit the ethnicity of a character. Because, lets face it people often associate names with ethnicity. I still get a lot of Spanish language advertising in my mail box. It is an assumption that since my name is Flores, I must surely be Hispanic. But that also brings up a very good point, no matter how you describe a character in text, people will get a vision of them solely on their name.
When it comes to first and middle names, I use Behind the Name. It is a website I found when I was trying to name my children. It is great for naming characters. Say you want to find a name that means brave, you can search it. Or, say you just need a random name. They have a random name generator. You can filter out by country, ethnicity, and more. When it comes to last name, I really haven’t found something as in depth and versatile as Behind the Name. But I did find a random last name generator that I use sometimes.
But names extend past characters. We name a lot of things. In my upcoming novel there are two alien races. I had to completely make up their names. Not just the characters, but the names of their worlds and the name of the species themselves. When it comes to alien names, lets remember to not go over the top. People will be trying to read you story, in English. So the name “asdhfaeuiohfsdjkfnh” will not do much to help readers enjoy your story. Especially if asdhfaeuiohfsdjkfnh is a critical character in your story.
What else do we name is stories? In my novel, I had a lot of Naval ships to name. That took time. But, for that I found a theme to use. For example, the naval fleet had seven warships so I named them after the continents. The carriers I picked a different landmark theme, and so on. It worked, and gave me a large selection of names to choose from.
Names are important, that is for sure. You might start off with nameless items in your story, just to get the writing done. I can’t. When I start a story my characters need a name, it helps me to bring them to life. Choose a name you can live with, after all the whole world may be calling your character that for a long time.
Here we are pushing the halfway point of the year. I’m having trouble believing this fact, but unless the calendar has adapted a mind of its own, June is almost here. What is even crazier is how much has happened since my last set of updates.
I finally crawled out from under my rock and picked up a copy of The Hunger Games. I don’t know why I stalled on it for so long. I think it has to do with the fact that I typically don’t read books that have suddenly jumped into popularity solely for the fact that everyone else is reading them. I have not read one Twilight or Harry Potter book. I was over at Costco and saw a copy of it sitting on their book display. I decided to give it a read. I won’t go into a review of it here, there are plenty of those around, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll likely pick up Catching Fire soon. I’ve added a “What I am Reading” box to the side bar on my website, thanks to another Goodreads plug in.
There are some other books I have on my to read list: Horror for Good: A Charitable Anthology is one of those books. I’m not a huge fan of Horror, that has to be said. But, I am a huge fan of what this anthology is about: giving back. There are some big names in the Horror community that have shared their talents with the Editors for the purpose of doing good. Put out by Cutting Block Press, they are taking net profits and donating them to The Foundation for AIDS Research. In my opinion $5 for the Kindle version is money well spent. I’ll be likely to order the print edition, as most of you know, but either way I can’t help but support this. Pick up your copy here: LINK.
I also plan to read Exit Reality by Robert S. Wilson once that is released. I don’t think an official release date has been announced yet. Some other titles I hope to read soon: Fading in Darkness by Robert S. Wilson and Death on Zanath by Lee Gimenez. Of course this is all money and time permitting.
Besides reading and blogging you may have heard that I am a writer. You may have also heard some rumors about a Novel I have coming soon. Since I will be virtually self publishing Dissolution of Peace, I hired an editor to review it. So right now it is over at Wilson Book Service awaiting editor mark ups. I think this is an important step serious self publishers should consider. A professional editor is something that is lost when you self publish. No matter how good you are, self editing is always bound to miss something. In any case, I’m expected to get his mark ups by mid-July. I will certainly be diving right into fixing what needs to be fixed and getting that out to you.
I have also hired the talents of Neil Jackson at Pig and Cow Design to create the cover art for Dissolution of Peace. I’d hoped to have some cover art to show you for this post, but good art takes time (It has only been a week or so). I most certainly will have it up for your on Facebook and Twitter when it comes out.
I do have something to share with you. A little update and tease to novel. Below is the blurb for Dissolution of Peace:
“The people of Earth have enjoyed centuries of peace under one global government. They’ve made great strides in space travel and planet colonization. The colonies on Mars wanted independence and Earth granted without a fight to preserve the peace.
When Earth Navy Captain Christina Serenity is brutally attacked by a traitor, her life is saved by Security Forces Corporal Michael Carlson. On the heels of her recovery, her ship is attacked by terrorists, and she is thrown into a difficult assignment. She must chase after the only clue they have, a Martian ship called the Phobos, to find out what secrets it hides. To make matters worse, someone still wants her dead.
Now Serenity must trust her protection crew to keep her alive long enough to solve this puzzle while trying to prevent an interplanetary war.”
On the topic of things taking time, I realize that for… well hell almost a year now, I have been telling you that Daddy is Tired will be coming out soon. So far I’ve been embarrassed with every false promise I have made in hopes this would be coming out soon. As you know this is a children’s picture book my son and I wrote together, that has been at the illustrator for a really long time. Sadly, it is now well below his reading level. So my hopes of he and I reading it together have been smashed. I am utterly disappointed and have tried very hard to be understanding of every delay. I did warn her that I would like to see it done before she had a baby because life would get hectic after that. She assured me that wouldn’t change things. Unfortunately it has been one life event after another. That being said, she is doing this for free. But, I am learning, somethings are worth the price you pay. And the Artwork will be great once it is done, so don’t get me wrong when I speak of worth, it is the delays that are maddening. I’ll hold off on announcing a release date until I have the illustrations in hand. While my wife and I will be happy to see it published, my six year old son probably doesn’t even remember writing it.
In other news, I’ve become involved in a project I am really excited about. I am the Editor-in-Chief for a new Speculative Fiction magazine called, Plasma Frequency. I am excited about this project for several reasons. One, it is a paying market. We are seeing a ton of new markets pop up, but rarely do they pay. Eventually, depending on the readers and the advertisers, we plan to grow to a pro-rate market. We offer both print and electronic forms. We also provide something different to the writer. We provide editor feedback. There are two things that always frustrate me with a rejection letter. One, I never know how far they read in my manuscript. Two, I never know why they reject my manuscript. Plasma Frequency‘s editors changed that. They are sending out letters telling authors they don’t accept just how far they got in the process and at least one line as to why the editor did not send it on. When I agreed to this project, I built the process to be transparent. Writers have a right to know just a little bit about what happens to their manuscript when they click submit.
Another great thing about this project is that they plan to review books that are published by Independent Presses and Self Publishers. For now I will likely be the one to review them, but I think this is great news. These two groups need a bit of the spotlight. Surprisingly though, we’ve only received one book review submission. We have received a steady stream (10-20 a day) of fiction submissions. Artists and Books to review are just starting to trickle in. So if you have one of those, now is the time to submit. Our fiction submissions are open continuously. If you don’t make the flagship issue (currently set for Sep 2012), we will be publishing bi-monthly.
If you are a self published Author, we give you 15% off our advertising rates. Right now these rates are already really low compared to other magazines. But, as our readership goes up, so will those rates. Of course, anyone can advertise (within our standards) in our magazine. Our electronic issue is free, so we expect a lot of downloads.
For submission details, advertising details and subscriptions, visit: plasmafrequencymagazine.com
So what else is coming down the pipeline? I have a new novel in the works, maybe I will have some announcements on that in the June or July updates. The sequel to Dissolution of Peace is also in the talks. I have two new short stories out making their rounds at the various markets. And, of course, I will have my weekly blog posts for you. I don’t have any new topic lined up, but subscribe to my blog to get alerts for my new posts.
May 23, 2012 | Categories: Art, Authors, Book Releases, Children, Marketing, Published, Publishing, Science Fiction, Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: Dissolution of Peace, Fantasy, Magazine, new magazine, Plasma Frequency, science fiction, Updates, Writing | 3 Comments »
Every time I blurb, my wife gets mad and opens a window. All joking aside, blurbs are an important part of selling a book. But, I find it rarely discussed in writing groups. This is because in a traditional market, blurbs are often left to the Editor to write. So, with my recent post on book covers, it seemed important that we discuss the back of the book.
Blurb Versus Synopsis
A synopsis is a very important part of pitching your book to traditional publishers and markets, but it is not a blurb. If you want to sell your manuscript to a publisher you need a synopsis. A synopsis is a summary of your story including key plot points and the ending. You provide this to editors and agents in an attempt to get them to read your manuscript (and hopefully sign it). It is not something you would use for marketing your book.
A blurb is that teaser you find on the back of the book. Think movie trailer in written form. It is a quick teaser. It provides just enough plot, character, and scene to entice someone to read your book. It is a tool for marketing your book quickly and effectively.
A self published author will find themselves writing more Blurbs. Where as traditional publishers will usually write the blurb for the Author. This goes back to what I have talked about in my post on self publishing, marketing is left in the hands of the author. But really blurbs are not that hard. In my opinion they are a bit easier, and certainly more fun, then a synopsis.
How to Write a Blurb
I mentioned this already, but you need to think movie trailer in a written form. You need to construct your blurb in a form to sell your book. Entice an audience. Get them to take your book home (virtually or physically).
The blur should be short, somewhere in the 250 to 300 character range. After all it has to fit on the back of the book but it also needs to be a quick “PICK ME” type of a sale. A short quick description will hold the reader’s attention long enough for you to finish. After all you want them to make a decision based on your whole sales pitch, not half of it.
Blurbs have three parts. You can divide these parts up as paragraphs if you are looking for a simple formula for an effective blurb. Obviously these would short paragraphs just giving a quick taste of what they can expect to read about. Or, you can use the parts in your own way to make a blurb that fits your style and book. Either way, you need these three elements to have an effective blurb.
Part 1 is typically a quick introduction to the setting and the characters. The “In a world” line we’ve heard so many movie trailers start with. The first line needs to hook them. Some blurb writers suggest starting with controversy or even asking a question. But a hook is more then a punch in the face. Sure a punch in the face gets your attention, but it would also piss you off. Think of it more as a tap on the shoulder. Get their attention, while giving them something to look forward to. Don’t give away too much plot and certainly not any twists. A question may work. Think about every time some one has sold you something. Most of the time they start with a question. Questions call for an answer. There is no formula for the perfect hook. Establish setting and character in a way the interests the readers.
Part 2 is typically where you introduce the conflict, the major one at least. Remember you are not highlighting plot points. This is where you want to introduce the same conflict that got your story going in the first place. Do NOT reveal the resolution to the conflict. Why read if you already know how it ends? Have you ever watched a movie trailer, thought it was great and went to see the movie? Only when you saw the movie you realized all the best stuff was in the trailer. You felt a bit disappointed with the movie, didn’t you? Use some good stuff, but save the best stuff for the book.
Part 3 is the hardest of the part. You need to lead the reader to the resolution with out giving it away. Leave the reader wondering: Will he escape? Does she defeat the empire? Is is possible they could fail? In fact many blurbs end with a question. Because once again our brains are wired to want an answer to a question. The only way to get the answer is to read the book.
- Read a lot of blurbs. Get some of your favorite books and read the back of them. Go to the book store and read the blurbs on books you’ve never read before. Take note of the blurbs that make you want to read the book. What was it about that blurb that hooked you? Identify it and learn from it.
- Make the reader care. Give them characters they can relate to and a plot they want to read. Provide an element most people can relate to. A tough work assignment, a romantic crush, a victim of something out of their control, an injustice, or anything else a reader can relate to.
- Use riveting words but use them the right way. Victim, hate, Peace, conflict, war, hopeless, are all words that bring a certain emotional impact. Find strong words that invoke the emotional impact you want your story to have.
- Suggest all the possible outcomes. You don’t want to give away the ending. The key word here is “suggest”. You don’t need to say: “Will she win the war? Will she die trying? Will she lose everything for this one cause? Or, will she triumph over all in everlasting glory?” First, saying all that is a mouth full. I got lost several times just writing it. But, you can hint that all these possibilities could happen.
- Shout lines. This is a term used to describe bold text or other text that is distinguished from the other text. It could be a short line that lets the reader know the type of book they are reading. Personally, I haven’t seen much need for something like that. But, if you are going to highlight a part of our blurb, make sure it is a strong part. A defining line.
- Look at your manuscript. Is there a great line in there that you think sums up the book well. The blurb I am putting together came from the lines I had written. Give you manuscript another read before you put together the blurb.
- Give your blurb the same love and care as the rest of your manuscript. Edit it, read it over. Give it to trial readers, and then edit it again. It is okay to start with more that 250 words. You can cut out what you don’t need. But look over your blurb carefully. Make a bad impression here and your book will sit. Remember you can have gold written on the inside pages, but if no one ever opens the book they will never know.
The cover of a book is important. The back cover may be even more so. The blurb is your chance to tell a reader why your book is worth their time and money. Sell them on your book with an effective, well thought out, attention grabbing blurb.
May 2, 2012 | Categories: Advertising, Authors, Marketing, Marketing, Novels, Publishing, Science Fiction, Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: Blurb, Blurb Tips, Blurbs, Books, how to write a blurb. writing tips, marketing books, Write Tips, Writing | 5 Comments »
I have spent so much time writing helpful posts, I had nearly forgotten to get my monthly updates out to all of you. Luckily April isn’t over just yet, and I have some great updates to share. So without holding things up too long, lets get started.
When it comes to short stories, I haven’t had really any new updates. Both short stories are out to markets and only time will tell if either of them will get picked up. According to Duotrope one story I could hear back on any day now. The other, it will still be 25-75 days before I could hear back. You can always watch my Twitter Feed or Facebook Timeline, I am sure to post something there the moment I get an acceptance letter.
Looking at my site traffic and link clicks. It appears many of you are still checking out my story “Death Watch” in Liquid Imagination Online. I love that this story has some staying power in all of your minds. If you haven’t checked it out, you can here. It took Second Place in the Preditors and Editors 2011 readers poll.
I have two new novel ideas in the works. One brings back Samantha Baxter, the GPA Agent in “Dream Job”. (read it here) It is still very early in the planning, in fact I haven’t written a word of it yet. I’ve got another story to tell first.
Which brings me to my current work in progress: Volition Agent. This story is a Science Fiction story that will likely be my second novel. I will be making great strides in this novel over my weekend (tomorrow and Thursday). I had trouble starting it, because my first novel was stuck on my mind. I couldn’t think of a dang title for it.
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know I was having some trouble with a title for my nearly complete novel. It was on my mind so bad that I couldn’t think of much else. When I wrote this Novel in it’s first draft (and very rough form), I have planned to call it Serenity after one of the the Main Characters. Of course, all of us Science Fiction nuts know why that would likely not work now. Firefly and the Movie Serenity have saturated the market with that name. Since my book has nothing to do with the Firefly franchise, I thought it best to change the name. When I underwent the significant rewrites I had hoped a title would jump out and bite me. It didn’t even take a nibble.
Now that trial readers are looking at it, I felt I really needed to get a title. So much so that my mind was stuck on it. So stuck on it that I couldn’t write. I clicked on the random title generator about 300 times. And it sparked 25 titles that I liked but didn’t really work. Then finally one hit me. Looking over all those titles and playing with the words gave me the title. After sleeping on it last night, I’ve finally got a name for it: Dissolution of Peace.
I have set a tentative release for early August. The trial readers are almost done. I will then be sending it out to for final thoughts and proofreading. Once that is complete, I will make the final tweaks and it will be ready for publication. I will announce an official release date once I know when it will be done. However, you can expect to see me begin marketing it very soon. I’ll be working on cover art next. I have an idea of what I want to see, but I’m not an artist. If you know a good cover artist, let me know. As always, for up to the minute updates on my book (including release dates, giveaways, and more) follow my Twitter or Facebook.
The last thing I’ll address is my son’s and my collaborative children’s book, Daddy is Tired. For my new followers, Daddy is Tired is a book my son and I worked on when he was in Kindergarten. I was writing during “quite time” and my son said he wanted to write too. So together we came up with a story that he wrote down on scratch paper with a crayon. After a few months, I took it and edited into what we will see published soon. I tried not to make to many changes (it was pretty good), and sent it out for drawings.
I know the original release date was the first part of 2012, but we are now a third of the way through the year and the artist isn’t done yet. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but sometimes one delay follows another. At this point I have no updated release date. The artist underwent surgery and the timeline is now up to her body’s healing process. You can’t always put a timeline on that.
It had been my hope that it would be released while it was still at my son’s reading level. But, it has already passed that. He doesn’t know it is getting published (in fact by now I think he forgot he wrote it). I only hope he is excited about it by the time it comes out and hasn’t lost all interest in writing by then. I doubt that will happen since he loves to practice his words and his imagination is very strong. Perhaps we can come up with a few more children’s books to share.
So, with two book released hopefully coming in 2012 I’ve got a lot going on. Personally I am glad because my family hit quite the financial speed bump when my wife lost her job. She was the sole provider for our family and my income doesn’t even pay rent. Some happy news will be welcome this year. While she tries so hard to find work in this slow economy, I’m trying to relieve stress the only way I really know how: Write.
So that is the updates for April 2012. Can’t wait to share more news with you in May! I’ll see you next week for my next blog post.
April 24, 2012 | Categories: Art, Authors, Book Releases, Children, Kids, Marketing, New, Novels, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing | Tags: Book Release, Facebook, Twitter, Updates, wite, Writing | Leave A Comment »
I had never really given it much thought. I’ve written a number of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I’ve even written a couple of them on here. But, I never gave much thought if I was doing a good thing or a bad thing. I just did it to help out fellow Authors and to help out readers. So I spent yesterday at work thinking things over on this topic.
We all know that when you get your book ready to sell, you hope to get some reviews. Whether that be on Amazon, Goodreads, or a blog post. Generating buzz around your book (positive buzz) will only help you sell more books. But, what is the benefit in reviewing other author’s books? Here are some of them:
- You can hope that the favor is returned. Perhaps you review their book and they will do the same for you. If not them directly, then you can hope that your generosity will be rewarded through Karma, fate, good vibes, or whatever you want to call it.
- Since almost every way you can do a review, you can create a profile that has a link to your site. You might generate traffic to your website. If you are reviewing the books on your website or blog, they will find your website when they search for that book.
- Perhaps your Blog audience enjoys your reviews. That will certainly help you get more visitors, and get your name out there when you are selling your books. Chances are if your reviews entertained them, they might take chance on your book.
- The Author may publicly recognize your review and post it to Twitter, Facebook, or to their own site. Hopefully that helps you.
- If you review enough books, name recognition is certainly possible.
The reason I do it is simple: I enjoyed the book enough that I thought my blog audience would enjoy it as well. After all a review is my opinion, and for the most part I think my blog audience enjoys my opinion. I write all these blog posts for my blog audience, not so much for myself. So, I never gave much thought to all the above benefits as well. The reason I write reviews on Goodreads and Amazon is to help out fellow authors by increasing their reviews and for the benefit of the buyer who is trying to decide if this book is right for them.
But, Peter asks an important question: Are negative reviews a good idea? Well, that was a very tough one for me the first time I had to face a book I didn’t much care for. When it comes to my blog I only share books I enjoyed. The reason for that is simple, I want to help my blog audience find the next book they will enjoy. For me, writing a negative review on my blog serves no purpose to my blog audience, and since my blog is not book review blog anyway, I just don’t do it.
But, when it comes to Amazon or Goodreads, I review books that I don’t like too. Simply because those are public resources that people come to looking for their next purchase.
But back to the topic: My moral tough spot. I had read a book, or rather a collection, that started off horribly. I even debated putting it down and not reading it anymore. The problem was, I was given this book for the sole reason of writing an Amazon review. The even bigger problem was I know the author. He is a good Author and person. I talked to my friend and fellow writer about my issue. He made a good suggestion: Write the Author and tell them you don’t like it. Tell them that if you wrote an honest review it would be a bad one. And explain to them why you don’t like it. If he insists you still review it, then do so. If he says well thank you, then you don’t have to review it.
I reviewed it, because it also got a lot better. I gave it an honest rating and an honest review. But what if it hadn’t gotten better. Well, the way I see it that is up to you. If you are only writing reviews for the benefit of you audience finding books that they will like, then only review books you think are good. If you run a book review website, you are in a tough spot. If you are given, and agree to, review a book for your blog. Then you have to review it. You could contact the Author and warn them. Or you could just write the review.
If you are just doing reviews on Goodreads or Amazon you have another option. If I don’t enjoy a book, I simply rate it. I don’t write a full review. I just give it a star rating at leave it at that.
Frankly, unless you are a critic, I don’t think writing a full on bad review does anyone any good. You won’t change the book, it is already published. And if you are trying to aspire to be a good Author, then you want to build a positive network of authors. So, I suggest you follow the “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” rule. Remember a review is way different then the test reading process. This book has already been published.
Will writing bad reviews end your career? I don’t think so. But it won’t boost it either. However, if you plan to start a blog that reviews books, plan to be an honest book critic (the Siskel & Ebert of books) then you need to take a different approach. And, I’m not really qualified to give you some guidance on that.
You will notice that I have never once said you should give a false review to a book. Friend or not, the moment you start writing false reviews you destroy your credibility as an Author and a Reviewer. Boosting egos won’t work. If it is a friend, tell them the book is not your style. If you are not comfortable writing a bad review, don’t do it. Once of the best things about reviewing is you get to choose what you review.
In summary: I do recommend that Authors review books. I don’t think you need to write bad reviews. And, writing reviews will help you connect with other authors, and with a audience all your own.
In a Disney’s Phineas and Ferb episode, “The Chronicles of Meap”, there comes a very funny scene (at least to me the author). In which Candace is with her Mom (Linda):
Phineas: Yeah, it looked way outside, but then it was right in the zone. There’s a lesson, baseball fans: never judge a book by its cover.
(scene flips to Candace, looking at a row of books)
Candace: Boring, dull, stupid, lame— heavy-handed and derivative.
Linda: Oh, thank you for those insightful reviews of books you haven’t read.
Candace: Mom, that’s why books have covers: to judge them. I mean, why did you choose these books from the library?
Linda: They looked interesting.
Linda: Point taken.
Every time I see that scene (and I watch a lot of Phineas and Ferb) it makes me smile. Because it is so true. Books have covers to entice us to buy them. When I am in the book store (yes they still have those,) I browse the rows of books until I see a cover that jumps out at me. I pick it up, look it over (including the back) and I decide if I am going to buy it based solely on the cover.
This is why cover art is so important. Once you get them to pick up the book, you need to get them to turn it over and read that all important “sales pitch” printed on the back. Only after you get past that will you be able to get them to buy the book. Even if the person thumbs through the first few pages, they have to pick it up off the shelf first.
That is why covers are important in the store, but what about online. Do people still browse the virtual aisles of Amazon.com? I think they might. Even if they know exactly what they are looking for, they may browse more. For example, go to Amazon.com and search Richard Flores IV… no wait that sounds vain, search Robert S. Wilson instead. If you were specifically looking for his book Shining in Crimson because you saw my post about it (vanity again). How would you recognize it instantly in the scrolling list of results. THE COVER.
Now, if you click on the link to his novel. You will see Amazon puts that “People who viewed this also viewed:” on the bottom. Now all you see there is the cover, the title, and the author. Now, you may not ever use that (I have), but people do that. Otherwise, Amazon wouldn’t use it. Again, they will make the choice to click on the novel, based on the cover.
So the cover is important in store or online. If you go with a big publisher, chances are they will have someone take care of the cover art for you. But, if you decide to self publish you will need to deal with cover art on your own. Perhaps you hire somebody, or you can do it yourself if you choose. But be prepared to spend some time on it.
A good cover needs:
- To have the title on it. That seems obvious enough, but the title should be the dominate text on the cover. I have seen books where you could easily mistake the Authors name as the Title. Or even a tag line. You don’t need to place the Title on top, but you do need to make it the most eye catching thing on there. Use easy to read, but stand out fonts. Make sure the title contrasts with the rest of the cover art, you don’t want it getting lost in the artwork.
- To have the Author’s name on it. Believe it or not, I have seen covers with no Author’s name on it. If I want to find a book by Robert S. Wilson, Lee Gimenez, or even a blockbuster like Orson Scott Card; you need to have the name on it. I am not going to spend time looking to see who the book is written by. You may not think you are worth looking for, but if you are marketing your book, someone is looking. Even me, the twice published author of two short stories, gets a hit to this site based on a search for my name, an average of once a week. Again, stand out font that contrasts with the artwork.
- The artwork itself. Many would argue this should have been number 1 on this list. Sure the art may be what catches the eye first, but title is what always hooks me in to reading more. So as far as importance goes, you decide. There are several ways to get artwork for your cover. There are plenty of stock photo/artwork sites. You can buy the artwork per piece or you can pay a monthly fee and get all the artwork you want. Some are even free. Always check the terms and conditions carefully. You may not be able to use the stock art commercially. The other down side to stock is that your image could be used by some one else not giving you exclusive rights to the art. If that is the case, you may want to commission an artist to do your cover art. It will likely cost you (unless you are connected) and it will likely be more than the stock art sites.
- Relevant artwork. Artwork is important enough to get two bullet points (that I didn’t want to turn off my bullet point format). Make sure however you get artwork it is relevant to the story in some way. It should be eye catching as well. The artwork should not be overwhelming either. It is not an art gallery exhibit. Just enough to entice the readers to pick it up off the shelf.
- The sales-pitch. Typically this is on the back cover. Not seen right away. But you got the book off the shelf (or they clicked on the link). Now you need to get them to buy it. If you buy paper books like I do, the first thing I do after looking at the front cover, is turn the book over. This is where the author now has a chance to tell me why I should buy the story. Online they have a section for the Book description or synopsis. There could be whole blogs on how to write that. The main issue is you want to have a quick sales pitch about what your story is going to offer. And then, if you have them, some quotes for fairly well known (or just known) reviewers. This is your chance to get them to check out with your book. A poorly written sales-pitch will result in them putting the book down. Of course, they may also put the book down because the story isn’t what they like to read. That’s okay though. You’d rather have them not buy it then get it thinking it was something else and hate it (and possible tell a lot of people they hate it).
Lets take a look at the cover of Shining in Crimson and The Nanotech Muders.
On SIC we see a large red eye. That certainly will get you a second look. The eye is not just some red circle. It is very detailed eye that almost starts to tell the story itself. The title is a unique font, but very readable and stands out. The author name stands out from the cover art, while not taking over the cover. The book description from Amazon provides a brief sales pitch and some praise:
Set in a dystopian, religiously-demented American Empire, the city of Las Vegas is no longer a city of sin. Now called Necropolis, it is a city that eats sin. The vampires of Necropolis wait patiently for the Empire’s weekly drop off of guilty Penitents; sinners and criminals full of fresh blood.
Hank Evans is one of those Penitents and he would gladly let the vampires take every drop of his blood if it weren’t for one detail: Toby. Toby is Hank’s only son. Now, Hank must do whatever it takes to escape the city of the dead and save his son from an Empire as bloodthirsty as the vampires it uses to keep its people in line.
Praise for Shining in Crimson:
“A big-scale vampire thriller that changes the rules.”–Scott Nicholson, author of Liquid Fear, The Red Church, and They Hunger
“One of the best surprises I’ve had in a long while. Writing with a smart, self-assured ease, Robert S. Wilson has given us a gift with Shining in Crimson. Part Underworld, part Escape From New York, Shining in Crimson is genuinely frightening, genuinely thrilling, but above all, first-rate storytelling. I’m a Robert S. Wilson fan from now on!”–Joe McKinney, author of Flesh Eaters and Apocalypse of the Dead
“Robert S. Wilson shows a lot of promise here with this debut novel. Now it’s time to see where that promise will take him.”–Ray Wallace, The Chiaroscuro
“You’ll not find some glistening torsos and smouldering eyes in this book. What you will find is a brilliantly thought out society of Vampires.”–Jim Mcleod, Ginger Nuts of Horror
“The Mesh of Religious symbolism and political commentary tucked neatly between pure horror and suspense is superb.”–Lisa Lane, The Cerebral Writer
On The Nanotech Murders we have a beautiful woman standing in front of a detailed back drop, holding a gun. Let’s be honest here, it catches your eye for several reasons. One you have an attractive woman, two you have interesting shading, that almost implies she might not be all human, and last you have that gun. The cover certainly catches the eye. The font on the title is unique while readable and the authors name is prominent but not overwhelming. The book description from Amazon offers a brief sales pitch:
The year is 2071 and there’s a serial killer loose in Atlanta. Lieutenant Jak Decker, a homicide cop, is on the case but is getting nowhere. As the body count mounts, his boss assigns him a partner, the smart and beautiful Detective Cassandra Smith. Decker, a tough, wise-cracking loner, doesn’t want a partner, especially when he finds out she’s an android.
While I am no expert in Book Covers, I do understand that we judge books by their covers. If you want to sell some books cover art helps a lot (and it certainly doesn’t harm anything). We must also remember that your cover art will become that books brand. And we all know how powerful branding is. Just think about golden arches. So consider your cover art carefully. I can’t wait to get some cover art for my first novel. Please comment below with your cover art tips and tricks to help others learn from your own experience.
One of the most important parts of the writing process is the critiques. I am talking about the step where you get trial readers to look over your work in progress so that they might catch things you missed. You get a lot of valuable information from good critiques, but bad critiques can be useless.
Let me clarify that. When I say good critiques I don’t mean positive feedback or five star reviews, I mean a critique that provides the author with feedback that useful (though not always positive). And a bad critique provides the author with little help in their quest to polish the work in progress into a final draft.
I have had my share of bad critiques. Some have just had useless comments that give me no help. While others were just downright mean and hurtful. I realized there are a few guides out there on how to properly critique another author’s work so that they get the most value from your reading. After that, I will talk about how to accept the critique with an open mind.
How to be a better sample reader:
I prefer the term “sample reader” over critic, simply because it provides a more accurate description of what the real job is. Your job is to provide your fellow author with the perspective of a reader. For some reason, we authors tend to keep our author hats on when we read a draft copy of a manuscript. We want to point out ways we would have written it differently, sometimes pointing out matters of style rather than structure. Or worse, we want to provide our own rewrites. Instead we need to put on our reader caps and try (as hard as it can be) to look over the manuscript as a reader. We need to look it over as a reader would and find things that make a reader stumble. Of course, we have advice to offer as an author and you can add it is correctly (I’ll get to that) but think like a reader first.
Well, shall we get started? You have a draft manuscript one of the writers in your group has shared with you. So where do you start? First, read the Turkey City Lexicon. I have read it at least ten times, and I continue to look it over as feel the need. Not only does it help you learn what to avoid in your writing, it also helps you look out for these things when reading to help other authors. Remember this: Just because it is listed in the Turkey City Lexicon, doesn’t mean is necessarily always wrong. I have read some really great stories that had one or two of these “no-nos” in them, but overall it worked for the story. The author was right to keep them in there.
Start with the opening lines. We call this “the hook” in my writers group. This is the first thirteen lines of a manuscript (that is formatted at 12 point courier font with one inch margins all around). On a short story that is usually what is seen on the first page of the manuscript. Therefore, it has to be strong enough to get the editor to turn the page. The bottom line here is, when you read these thirteen lines, are you ready to read on. Is turning the page a must for you? Is the pacing strong, does it establish a setting and a voice?
For longer works you will want to break the next steps into sections. For novels, I suggest going a chapter at a time. For short stories, I tend to be able to do it all at once. Perhaps with Novellas you may want to break it down by significant scenes. It is easier to manage your comments in smaller chunks rather than trying to comment on a whole novel in the end.
I use the comment feature on Word to make comments line by line as needed. I don’t comment on every sentence, that would be tedious and useless to the other writer. I only highlight areas I think are exceptionally strong, I had trouble understanding, or otherwise catch my attention.
Here are some things to add in your line by line comments:
- Areas where you tripped up on reading. This might be a confusing sentence, a long piece of exposition that loses you, or an area that just doesn’t seem right. It is okay to simply put “This line tripped me up and I had to reread it, but I don’t know why it tripped me up.” This at least lets the Author know you had a problem with it. Other readers may have seen it to and can better put it into words. But you would be doing a disservice if you didn’t mark a line because you didn’t know why it bothered you.
- Areas that don’t seem to belong. Perhaps you read a sentence and it just doesn’t seem to be part of the story. A random mention of a character’s memory that seems to have no bearing on the story (in your opinion). Or it could be something that seems to belong in another part of the story.
- Pacing issues. All stories have a pace and that pace changes as the story goes through. But if you are reading a fight scene and the author stops to tell you about the scenery, that should be marked. Or if you are reading an action scene and suddenly a sentence or two seems to be too long and disrupts the pace. The reverse can also happen, a slow dramatic scene that is suddenly interrupted with bursts of short sentences. The fact is, you will notice when the pacing of a story suddenly changes, and it will jar you from the reading.
- Thrown into the real world. Anytime you are reading a good story or book you will get wrapped up into it. It is all you’re thinking about as you read it. Your mind is pulled into the story and you are in its world. Anything you read that jars you into the real world should be marked. Did your mind wander at a particular section? Did you suddenly become aware that you were reading? Again, it is okay to tell an author that you don’t know why you were brought back to reality.
- Inconsistencies. The main character has blonde hair all story long, and suddenly there is a reference to his dark hair. Or, the story seems to take place in one area and you read something that doesn’t fit the scene. Anything you read that doesn’t seem consistent with the rest of the story should be pointed out.
- Unrealistic. This is a tough one in the Science Fiction world. We like to write things that are just a tad bit unrealistic. But, there are things that simply make you shout “OH COME ON!” There are certainly unrealistic elements in the worlds we create. So remember to look for things that are unrealistic it the world the story is told.
- Don’t forget the good. Did one particular line stand out as a real strong one? Do you really identify with a character’s situation? Was there a scene you found especially moving? Mark those and let the author know. Anything you think is really good; let them know you appreciate those points too.
You may have noticed I made no mention of punctuation in the list above. All too often people confuse critiquing with proofreading. The point of a good critique is to offer the author a perspective of a reader. So, unless an author specifically asks for punctuation, I only point out the punctuation that confuses me as a reader. Proofreading is best left for later.
After the line by line comments are put in, I always write an overall critique of the story as a whole (or of the chapter for novels). This is my overall thoughts of the characters, the scene, and the tale. This is where I put any thoughts that don’t fit in the line by line critiques. Again, put the positive in there too.
Be polite and be nice. All too often I have got critiques that were simply uncalled for. Things like “this is terrible” and “you don’t know what you are doing.” will not help anyone get better. It fact, it is just downright hateful. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest, but if you are not going to be constructive, leave it off. There is no room for hate, or just being mean in the writing world. Be constructive and be fair. The overall goal of any critique is to make the writer’s work better. Keep that is mind.
So many authors cannot seem to accept critiques. Perhaps it is our natural defense against being hurt, or perhaps it is the feeling that we know our own work best. So here are some tips on accepting critiques from your fellow writers:
- This is not an attack. The goal of the critiques is to make your work the best it can be. Not to attack you or your writing.
- You want readers, right? Remember you want people to enjoy your stories. You didn’t write them just for you? If you did you wouldn’t be looking into publishing them. So remember these are readers too, open your mind to their ideas. After all, if they are having trouble with something, chances are other readers will too.
- Be receptive. I have heard this a lot from writers. “They want to change my style.” or “That is just my style of writing.” And most of the time I have heard that, they were not talking about style at all. Style is the way you right, the type of narrative you use, ect. The goal of any critique is not to change your writing style, but to strengthen it. If your “style” is confusing it needs to be refined. Most of the time “style” is used as a way of closing off to other people’s thoughts. Be receptive to their ideas. Chances are if people are pointing it out it needs changing (see below).
- Don’t respond to a person’s critiques. There is a need for us to defend ourselves. When someone points out a flaw in our writing we want to tell them how wrong they are. The problem is they are a reader expressing their opinion. It can’t be wrong because it is what they thought. And, chances are they are right… you just aren’t ready to see it. And if you don’t want to change it, don’t. But you don’t need to argue with them.
- You are the Author. This means you get final say in what you change and what you keep. Just keep this in mind. If the majority of your readers had trouble with something, it is likely something that needs a second look. If even just one person has an issue with something, it needs a second look. In fact, I can only think of two times I did not change something sample readers had an issue with. Otherwise, I have addressed every concern as best I could.
- Move on. I haven’t ever gotten more sample readers on a piece after the first round. It is my preference. I move on to proofreading. You may want to make the changes and have a second set of readers look at it. If you do that, move on to a new set of readers. Don’t use the same readers for the same work more than once. The effectiveness is gone.
More tips for Authors:
If you want to get the most from your sample readers, ask them questions you want answered too. Don’t just let them do all the work. Do you wonder if a character is likeable? Do you wonder if someone understands a particular concept? When you send out your manuscript to the sample readers, give them a list of questions.
Some of you may know, I really took interest in the craft of writing after reading Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (among others). It that book he talks about teaching your sample readers (I paraphrase but you get the point). After reading that, I used some questions of his and added some of mine to create a list of questions I wanted answered by my readers. Feel free to use some of these if you wish:
Questions about the story (or chapter). Please answer these after your first reading of the draft. Please put your first thoughts on these questions.
- Were you ever bored? Did you ever find your mind wandering? If so, can you tell me where it was you lost interest?
- Without looking back at the story, name some Characters from this story. What do you think of them? Did you like them, hate them, and why? Did you confuse any characters or forget any?
- Is there anything a character did that seemed out of place for that character, against his/her nature?
- Did any dialogue seem excessive or not realistic for the situation or character?
- Is there any section you didn’t understand? An area you had to reread? Did anything confuse you?
- Was there any time something happened you didn’t believe? What was it? Any time you thought “oh come on!”? If so what was it?
- What do you think will happen next? Is there anything you are still wondering about?
- What name might you give this story (or chapter)?
- Are there any other comments that can help?
If you want to be a great writer, you will need sample readers to look over your works before you get them sent out to the editors. But, you will also need to be a good sample reader. I have learned more from the critiques I have given then the ones I have received. That is why it is important the writer knows how to accept the critiques of his peers while also knowing how to effectively writing critiques of his own.
April 3, 2012 | Categories: Authors, Critiques, Novels, Published, Publishing, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Writing | Tags: criticism, Critiques, Fiction, science fiction, Writing, writing criticism, writing critiques, Writing Groups | 6 Comments »
I need to start with an apology to my subscribers and regular blog readers. You may have noticed I have broken my own rule on successful blogging. Blog on regular schedule. While I am sure none of you have been waiting to make life altering choices because of my lack of posts, I feel as though I have some how neglected my responsibilities here. It’s not just here, I have not been very active on Twitter or Facebook either.
Frankly I hate this month. I have seen a lot of commercials for Buffalo Wild Wings about “What month would you give up for more March?” It makes me cringe just thinking about have to do March twice a year. It seams I have terrible luck in this month. Last year, I lost my job in March. Years before that have been even worse. Well, this year my own personal March madness continued (see even my puns are bad in March).
It started off well enough. As some of you know from my previous posts, I started a new job. It doesn’t make much but it gets me off unemployment. Of course I started this job in February along with a move back to my hometown in Vacaville. All great ways to end February and start off March. Of course, they all led to me neglecting my blog.
In the middle of March, my wife’s employer decided to make a sudden drastic schedule change. This caused me to have to beg and plead with my boss for a schedule change. My employer was very understanding, unlike my wife’s, and they made the change. Only three hours later, my wife tells me they changed the schedule again. My wife asked to remain at the same schedule, but she’s the forth most senior dispatcher there and they wanted a senior person on each shift (four shifts). Never mind the fact that the person she was switched with, didn’t want to switch (and is more senior than my wife). Well we got through that. My employer was understanding and made some more changes.
Things got better, because immediately following that I got to attend the wedding of a friend of mine. They will be a great couple and the wedding was outstanding. It was a lot of fun and I was very happy to share this event in their lives. I extend my congratulations to Logan and Tessa Bryce. I hope you enjoy life together. There is no greater journey in life then marriage.
Right after that I attended my first San Jose Sharks regular season game. I am a huge hockey fan, and an even bigger SanJose Sharks fan. After so many years of wishing I could go, it was great to finally be able to go. The arena is great and while we had great seats, there probably are not many bad seats at HP Pavilion. I got to meet Randy Hahn and Brodie Brazil from Comcast Sportsnet. I have been listening to Randy Hahn call Sharks games for as long as I can remember and to meet him was great. Brodie Brazil is new to the CSN team, but he provides great rink side commentary and he is very interactive on Twitter. So meeting them both was a great start to the game. Everything about attending the game was great, accept the final score.
Two days later my wife started her new schedule after her days off. The unnamed local ambulance company she works for did not schedule enough ambulances to adequately cover the area. As a result an ambulance was late to a call. And my wife was fired the next day. She has not had an issue there for over nine months, but they were quick to terminate. I can’t believe a company that puts “Family Values” on their letter head, would fire the main provider of a family of five on an issue that is ultimately their own fault. This company has little regard for their employees and has created a hostile environment, in which most all mistakes result in suspension and/or termination.
In any case, her income was three quarters of our family income. I don’t even make enough to pay the rent. Fortunately quick thinking will likely help me keep a roof over our heads for the next few months. But, we pray that either her union comes through for her (though that is not likely) or that unemployment kicks in quickly. God willing, she will find work before this really matters.
As a result I have been trying to pick up extra hours at work. I’ve also been burying myself in my office so that I can try to get this novel out for all of you. And, hopefully if you folks like it, I can sell a few copies. I also had a great idea for another story, with potential for novel length. So with any luck you may see a few novels from me this year. Of course, I prefer quality over quantity so we will see what other tricks life has in store for my timelines.
So, March is my least favorite month. And despite my wife and my Irish heritage, we can can’t see to find the luck of the Irish. They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But I am so sick of drinking lemonade (This cliche brought to you by Country Time Lemonade, which I am drinking as I write this).
But, while March is typically a rough month. I have many blessings in my life. I have a lovely wife, who loves me for richer or poorer. I have three great boys, who could care less about bills and just want to play with their Daddy. I have great family and friends who have put my family in their thoughts and prayers. I have a job, the start up of a successful writing career, and I volunteer free time to my community. So while March has got me down, I have 11 other great months to enjoy.
So, you can take my face off the milk cartons of the blogging world. Though I was missing in March, April is just around the corner.
So many of you made a point of letting me know that I forgot my weekly blog post this past Sunday. I didn’t forget, in fact I let my Facebook and Twitter followers know exactly why I didn’t post. I was finishing my novel.
Of course, by finish I mean putting ### (The End) on the first draft of my novel manuscript. It is in no way finished. But it sure felt nice to say it was finished. I let myself bask in the fact that I had completed my novel for a few days. And now, reality has struck. “The End” on paper doesn’t really mean the end.
Many of us can write. Most of us can write enough to create a short story. A few less can write enough to create a novel. But far fewer can keep following though on all the steps after “The End” to really finish a novel (or even a short story). I’d like to see a few more people reach the real finish line.
When it comes to writing works for publication (even self publication) there are steps you have to take to reach the finish. I’m going to clue you in on some steps so that you know what to expect after you type “The End” on your manuscript. I’m new to the Novel steps, but they are the same as those for a short story, just longer (and maybe harder).
Let it Rest
You have to let the story rest in your head for awhile. That is, you have to forget about it a little. If you finish the first draft and then start edits the next day, you’re bound to miss things because the ideas and words you typed are still fresh in your head.
How long is enough time? Well that is really up to you. I know fellow writers who wait months to touch a short story and years for a novel. I know others who can wait a week on a short story and two weeks on a novel. There is no right answer when it comes to time.
For my short stories, I post the first 13 lines (or the hook) in my writer’s group. I give them a week to ten days to share their thoughts and offer to read the story. After that I move to my second step. With this novel, I plan to wait until March to start the next step. I think it will be enough time for me. If not, I’ll give myself more time after the next novel.
You don’t need to forget the story as a whole. If you are like me that could be impossible. It’s just enough time to allow you to forget enough of the gritty details that you will see things like inconsistencies, grammar errors, missing words, POV errors, and other things.
Next, you will need to read your entire manuscript and self edit. Check for errors that don’t fit the story line. Maybe you typed a chapter thinking you’d go one direction and now it no longer belongs in the story. Perhaps another area needs more development to increase the story. Go though and edit all these things. If you find grammar errors, punctuation mistakes and typos fix those too, but that isn’t the main focus here. They point here is to begin to smooth out the story. Cutting out unneeded areas, and beefing up areas that need it. Once you are done with that, you’ve got a second draft.
Once you are done with that second draft you need some trial readers. You need someone who will give you HONEST thoughts on your story. This isn’t likely to be a family member or even a close friend. No one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings, especially not those of a friend. Friends and Family are best left to read the final product, not your drafts.
This is where a writers group is very handy. You can get honest thoughts and critiques on your work from other trusted readers who also know a bit about the business. I’ve planned a blog post for later this month on critiques. Watch for it.
Now, you are likely to get responses at different times. One reader might be done in a week, the other might take two. Since you definitely need to have more then one trial reader, here in my suggestion: Don’t read any critiques or change anything until you get a response from all your trial readers. Otherwise you may change something one reader hated, but the other four readers loved. So save yourself the extra work and go through each critique after you have them all.
Self Edit: Part 2
Look at all these suggestions your trial readers gave you. Some of them you will find completely useless and you should ignore those. However, if all the readers point out the same trip up, you might want to fix it (even if you think it is fine the way it is). But remember, this your work not theirs. And only you know what is best.
You may really like a scene, but your readers have trouble with it. Rewrite it then, or cut it. That is up to you. But again, this isn’t about grammar and punctuation. You will be polishing this into a even better story. Soon, you will have something resembling a third draft.
Unless you made major story changes, it is time to move on to the final draft. I am a firm believer in four drafts and done (the done being the fourth). It keeps you out of the endless rewrite circle. I have a friend who is on their twelfth draft of a novel. As I have told that friend, that novel will not be published. They have become obsessed with making it perfect. It won’t happen.
Now, with my short stories my proofreader is my wife. She catches most, if not all, my typos, grammar mistakes, and punctuation screw ups. And for a short story that is enough.
There are proofreading services out there. I haven’t use any, but I may use one when it come to my novel. I miss things, and a professional shouldn’t. Now, some people don’t feel comfortable with that. It is entirely a choice that is up to you. I see no reason to do it for short stories. But, my novel is 67,000 words. So after my wife reads it she may miss some things. If the rate is reasonable I will use one. Otherwise, I am an author that has no money. I won’t spend a lot on it.
However, no matter how you do your proof reading this is the time to go grammar cop. Fix all those little mistakes. Look for those rather then anything to do with the story. Fix them. Once they are fixed you have your forth draft and your completed manuscript.
You are done with your novel, right? Well not exactly. You want to see it published. That involves a lot more work. It is really a blog topic in itself. But you have already accomplished much more then the average person who sets out to write. You have a completed manuscript. Pat yourself on the back. Go get a snack, and then start working to get it published.
February 8, 2012 | Categories: Authors, Book Releases, Grammar, Novels, Published, Publishing, Punctuation, Science Fiction, Self Publishing, Short Stories, Spelling, Subscribe, Writing, Writing Groups | Tags: drafts, manuscripts, Novel, Short Story, the end, Writing, Writing tips | 4 Comments »
From the Back Cover:
The year is 2071 and there’s a serial killer loose in Atlanta. Lieutenant Jak Decker, a homicide cop, is on the case but is getting nowhere. As the body count mounts, his boss assigns him a partner, the smart and beautiful Detective Cassandra Smith. Decker, a tough, wisecracking loner, doesn’t want a partner, especially when he finds out she’s an android.
The Nanotech Murders by Lee Gimenez (Double Dragon Publishing) was added to my ‘to read’ list because the topic of future police work appeals to me. I felt it promised to show me another author’s take on the future of police work.
I spent a lot of my college years studying Law Enforcement. It had been an eventual career goal for me at one point. So when I read or watch fiction involving police work, I tend to be extra critical. I tend to notice unbelievable situations, reactions, and characters.
Unlike others I have know, I am able to recognize that police fiction has to be dramatized because in general the job has a lot of very boring moments. No one would read a book about a cop who pulls over traffic violator for eight hours, maybe handles a domestic quarrel or two, then goes home and goes to bed.
Trust me, I am not down playing the daily duties of our police, they regularly put their lives on the line. They often have to go from boring to complete terror in seconds. If fact, that is exactly whey we love Police fiction. It takes that terror and puts it into a believable scenario so we can watch police officers become the heroes we know them to truly be.
It is 2071 in Atlanta, and the police are dealing with a serial killer. They have almost nothing to go on and the number of victims are rising. To make matters worse the Captain is putting a lot of pressure on Detective Jak Decker to solve the case before the media gets wind of it.
Jak’s boss feels he needs a partner and forces Cassandra on him. As you read this story Jak and Cassandra find themselves neck deep in a case that may be more then they can handle. Every time they pull a small thread, their word unravels even more. They must struggle to solve this case before it destroys everything they have worked for.
Jak is you stereo-typical detective: A drunk with a troubled marriage, who doesn’t play by the rules and often goes rogue from his orders. It’s pretty much all thrown at you in the opening scene, and it was a bit troublesome for me to take. But, Gimenez quickly breaths life in Jak and despite the stereo-types, I quickly found myself drawn in by Jak’s character. I really wanted to see him succeed.
The character I most identified with was Cassandra Smith, the CS android unit that represents the best android technology has to offer. Every scene and chapter in her point of view was enjoyable to read. She is struggling to understand police work beyond the programing she has. The relationship that Cass and Jak develop through the novel was one of the very enjoyable plot threads of the novel.
Gimenez writes a thoughtful thriller that applies subtle twists and turns to the plot. It is a fresh take on the thriller with multiple entertaining plot threads that work well to complete an overall story that was fun to read. I don’t think there was one point in the novel where I thought, I saw that coming.
The action scenes are written well. They provide you with an intense feeling as if you are actually involved in these scenes yourself. There are plenty of gun fights in the novel, but they don’t ever become boring or predictable. Each time a character was involved in something life threatening you got the real sense that they could lose everything trying to solve this crime.
As I mentioned above, I am very quick to spot the mistakes in Police stories, the unrealistic descriptions of events. This story has some of those. None of this was distracting to the story. I never felt like yelling: Oh come on! That’s impossible!
So overall this is a great future cop thriller, that is believable and an entertaining read. Gimenez does everything right with this one. He takes believable cops, and shows them to be the heroes we all know them to be. The Nanotech Murders is a must read for anyone who enjoys Science Fiction, Thrillers, and/or Police fiction. Gimenez does a great job telling a blockbuster tale here. One that is fun to read, has believable characters, a strong plot, and is just plain entertaining. It is easily a four out of five. I strongly recommend you pick up a copy. I know I will be adding some other Gimenez titles to my ‘to read’ list.
January 29, 2012 | Categories: Authors, Book Releases, Book Reviews, Novels, Published, Reading, Science Fiction, Subscribe | Tags: book reviews, good books, goodreads, Lee Gimenez, Novel, Reading, science fiction, The Nanotech Murders | 1 Comment »
Working on multiple at one time is something I am very accustomed too. Having worked as a manager and business owner for many years, I am well aware of the difficulties involved in multitasking. However, until this month, I wasn’t aware of how hard it would be to do that with my writing. You see, before this month, I had only one work in progress at a time.
I think more of my problems come because I am typically not an outline writer. I don’t create and outline to work from, I just type. Well, that also makes the ideas stored in my mind a bit harder to track. There where a few things I was already doing that helped dramatically and there are some things I learned recently.
Being an writer, and doing it a lot, is like juggling chain saws on a unicycle while up on the tight-rope. If you don’t know what you are doing someone is bound to get hurt, and it will likely be you.
You may be planning to only work on one project at a time. That you will complete one manuscript and move on to the next. While, I don’t think you should do that, I can respect that. But, there are still some other things to consider. Lets look at what I juggle right now (and this is just writing related).
- Novel A
- Ideas for Novel B
- Ideas for Novel C
- Short Story A
- Ideas for Short Story B, C, D, E, F, and G
- Critiques and edits for Short Story A
- Copy editing for Children’s Book
- Keeping track of illustrator’s progress on Children’s Book
- Researching best publishers for Children’s Book
- Writer’s Group meetings
- Critiques and edits for the works of writers in my writing group
- Self Publishing research
- Weekly Blog Updates
- Webpage Management
- Twitter Updates (to promote myself)
- Facebook Page Updates (to promote myself)
- Self Promotion
- Planing to see if I can attend OSC’s Boot camp
- Submission tracking
- Short Story Market research
I am sure I have already forgotten a few things. But, that is a lot. Most of it has little to do with writing multiple projects at once. The funny thing is, it didn’t become overwhelming until I tried writing my short story while working on the Novel. The fact of the matter is that I refuse to trim back on any of this (and I still have personal obligations as well). Each of these things is enriching and rewarding to my craft and my future in the craft.
So, let me share with you what it is that I have learned.
Organization is absolutely key to surviving the onslaught of things I need to do.
Schedule. I use my Google calendar like crazy. It links with my android phone and my wife’s Google Calendar. Aside from the list above, it keeps track of my kids’ appointments, my wife’s appointments, my personal appointments, my volunteer appointments, and my writing appointments.
Story notes. I know I said that I don’t outline. But often while I am writing one scene an idea comes up for a future scene in the same work. So I have a file on my computer called “Story Notes” and on it I keep track of my daily word count, ideas for future scenes, characters (and their quirks), and much more. It helps me to refresh my memory when I open my novel, especially after working on another project.
Ideas notebook. Every good writer needs an ideas notebook of some type. Maybe its a file on your phone. Maybe it is a little notepad. Whatever it is, you need to be able to carry it with you everywhere. Ideas hit me at the weirdest times, from the middle of the night to the drive to the kids’ schools. This gives me the ability to write them down. Many of them don’t work out to a story right away, but recently two separate ideas merged when I was flipping through that notebook. That became Short Story A that I mentioned above.
Submission Tracking. If you are not tracking your submissions, you will be in big trouble. I currently have two short stories out at different markets, and one more that will be going out soon. The worst thing that could happen to those would be for me to forget about them or to even confuse them. You might forget you sent one to a market already and resubmit it to them (wasting your time and theirs) or you might skip a market thinking you already sent it there. I use Duotrope, it’s free and it works well.
Folders. Organize your computer’s writing folders in one spot. This keeps your works together while also making back up easier. I have one folder called “writings” (original I know). In that folder, I have a folder for novels, short stories, contracts, and the miscellaneous files. I can drag and drop the ‘writings’ folder onto my Passport hard drive for simple back up. Also, when I decide I want to write on a particular piece, I find it quickly.
Project Tracking. It might be a cork board in your office. It could be a program on your computer. But you need to keep track of what projects are where and when was the last time you worked on them. Set up three categories for your works in progress: Writing, Editing, and Submitting. Each project should be under one of those categories. And, keep a date attached to it. Otherwise, you may keep writing the newest thing while your other piece sits and collects virtual dust waiting for the edits.
Time management is important. You can’t expect to get everything done in every day. There are only so many hours in a day. I don’t plan out every hour of every day. Life with three little boys doesn’t work like that. Instead, I only plan for a few activities each day. If I can get more done then great.
Check the Calendar. Don’t tell yourself you will write for three hours today, when the Calendar says you have to be at the Doctor’s at noon, take the car in for an oil change at three, and you have a volunteer meeting at six. With everything else you have to do, three hours of writing is not practical on that day. But, perhaps you can fit in some smaller activities in between.
Know what fits. I can’t write for one hour. It’s just not how I work. I have to write out a whole chapter and once I get going, there will be no stopping me. So I know that I can’t sit down and write during the hour between when my two older kids get out of school. I’m setting myself up for failure if I do that. I do know, that I can read during that time. So, I often sit in the car and read.
The point is, the first step to failing at multiple projects is assigning the wrong projects for the wrong times. For example, my wife has the kids today. She handles getting them to school and home. That means I can focus on my writing today. You won’t see much from me on Facebook or Twitter. But, Wednesday through Friday you will see a lot more for me on the social networks because I can easily squeeze in a quick tweet or post while I am making lunch or entertaining the kids. Every day you should work on your craft, but that doesn’t mean that everyday you have to type in a manuscript. Take your weekly writing to-do list and plug it in around your life.
The best-laid plans of mice and men. Plan on forgetting something. Listen, you are human. I know that may come as a surprise to you, but you will forget something you wanted to do. Yesterday I forgot to write this blog post. Even with all the plans in the world, something will be forgotten. If it was a crucial line in your manuscript you can go back and add it. If it was to even write, there is always a chance to make up for it tomorrow. When I first pledged to write 1,000 words a day no matter what, I knew I would miss a day or two. So, I have revised that plan to be an average of 1,000 words a day. Much easier to manage.
Just know that you can’t do it all in one day, or even in a week.
Priorities. Get your priorities down now. And writing shouldn’t be number one. Your life should be first. Once you know what is important to you, you can better plan what needs to go where in your schedule. Writing is very important to me, but my family is always first. My own sanity is next. So on a busy day, I may not plan to write in the hour I have to myself. I may plan for a game or to zone out on the TV. I won’t be writing anytime my kids deserve my attention. I won’t be writing anytime the San Jose Sharks are playing.
Writing can’t be number one in out lives. Recognize that, and place it where it really falls. Then plan around that. Your priorities change daily depending on what else needs to be done that day. Once you get into a rhythm of your own priorities and schedule you will quickly realize there are certain days you won’t be writing in that manuscript but you may have time for reading, editing, promotions, and of course ideas come at their own times. But, you will also see when you can maximize the writing time you do have with minimal distractions and without letting it consume your life.
Know your own limits
If you can’t juggle two tennis balls on the ground, I don’t recommend the tight-rope stunt above. I know that I am just getting started in this multiple writing projects realm. So, even though I have an idea for the next novel, I won’t start writing it until this current one is at least into editing. I did put together a short story while I was writing this novel. It is still waiting for it’s first round of edits.
I knew that one novel at a time is my current limit. I also knew that I needed to push myself just a bit and try writing a short story while I was still working on another project. It’s okay to push those limits just a bit from time to time. But over doing it will result in burn-out and the possibility of dropping the craft all together. That is something to be avoided.
In the end, I can’t tell you what will work for you. You may not like my ideas, but I can hopefully point you in the right direction. If you organize yourself, manage your time, and know your own limits; you can juggle all that life has to offer and still get your writing done.
As always share your ideas in the comments section below. Let the readers know what works for you, and I am always willing to learn something new myself.
Should I Self Publish?
I get at least one email a week asking me about self publishing. Some are frustrated with the submit and reject cycle. Others feel it might bring them more money. And others think it may bring in more readers. Most of all everyone wants to know if they will be successful if they self publish.
I don’t know much about self publishing because I have never done it. So I have asked other writers to completed a survey on the matter. I think a survey offers the best advise on whether or not you will be successful. Success is a self defined quality. You can look at these survey results and view them with your own view on success. For example if selling 10 copies is successful to you, then look at the percentage of people who have sold more then 10 copes. Hopefully this helps.
My friend and talented Author, Robert S. Wilson (@EmpireOfBloodRW) will be helping me as I write this. Robert has self published a number of works, and was already kind enough to point out a forgotten company in this survey (more on that later). I feel he has been successful in his endeavors to self publish, and he certainly has worked hard to get the success he has had.
In this blog, I will give you the results on the survey. The survey results are separated into several categories. At the end, I will provide my thoughts on the results. I will give you my insights as an author who hasn’t self published, but is considering the idea. Then, Robert will give you his thoughts. He can give you some insights as an author who has self published.
Two hundred and fifty nine (259) people completed this survey. This does not count all the people who started the survey, but where unable to qualify based on their answers. I posted links on my Google+, the Hatrack Writers Group, My Twitter, and My Facebook. From there it was circulated by fellow authors. Here is some information about the people who responded to the survey:
94% write fiction, the other 6% did not. Those 6% did not finish the rest of the survey, as my concern was with fiction Authors.
51% where Male and 49% were female
78% where from the US, 6% Canada, 9% UK, and 7% where from someplace else. Those places include: New Zealand, Australia, The Netherlands, Slovenia, and Bosnia
One person was under 13 years old and did not continue in the survey. The rest breakdown in the following age groups: 2% were 18-20, 18% 21-29, 24% 30-39, 25% 40-49, 25% 50-59, and 6% where over 60.
89% write in English, 4% in Spanish, 2% French, 1% German
100% write primarily in English
84% spoke English, 4% Spanish 2% French, 3%German, 1% Japanese
94% spoke primarily in English
About the Writers:
Please note this was not exclusive to Self Published but rather information for both self published and “traditional” published authors.
The Genres broke down as followed (survey takers could select multiple selections):
Science Fiction – 18%
Thrillers – 11%
Fantasy – 21%
Children’s Picture Books – 3%
Young Adult – 10%
Literary Fiction – 5%
Westerns – 1%
Other – 8%
68% had works published, 26% have not, and 6% were accepted but waiting publication
10% had 1 work published, 25% had2-3 published, 11% had 4-5, 4% had 6-7, 2% had 8-9 and 14% had 10+
10% had flash works published, 31% had short works published, 13% had Novella works published, 4% novelette length, and 24% Novels
How were your works published:
Short stories, including Novelette, Novella, Short, and Flash broke down as follows:
26% None published
7% Pro Rate Markets (6+ cents per word)
11% Semi Pro Rate (1-5 cents per word)
12% Token Markets (less then 1 cent per word)
23% Non Paying Markets (no monetary payement)
20% Self Published
Novels broke down as follows:
55% None published
5% Professional Publishing Houses (Random House, Orbit Books, and other big publishers)
11% Independent Publishing Houses (Regional or “small” publishers)
30% Self Published
I was surprised at how high the Self Publishing number where. This was publicized as a “Survey on Self Publishing” but I think it still shows a trend that moves towards self publishing. Only those who marked self published in either of the last two questions continued with the survey. Roughly 48% of the people who started this survey were Self Published (126 people). That’s nearly half, which is surprising.
I’m not at all surprised by the percentage of people who have self-published. More and more people are self-publishing all the time. Writers are finding that they can find an audience by self-publishing whereas before they were spending so much time submitting their stories/novels and getting rejected and not reaching an audience at all. Now, whether this is a good or bad thing depends on many factors. I will be posting a blog post of my own for a more indepth look at that.
Self Publishing Results
Now I am sure you want to know what people had to say about Self Publishing. There were a 126 people who continued to this section of the survey. Here are the survey results:
How many works have you self Published:
26% – 1, 10% -2, 23% – 3, 6% – 4, 3%- 5, 6% – 6, 10% – 7, 6% – 8, 3%- 9, and 6%- 10 or more
Novelette or Shorter Break down.
26% had not self published any short works
29% said 1, 16% 2, 6%-3, 13% – 4, 3% – 6, and 3% said 10 or more. 5, 8, and 9 had 0%
Novel Break Down:
29% said they had not self published any novels
39% said one, 13% said 2, 6% said 3, 10% said 7, and 3% said 10 or more. The others had 0% (4, 5, 6, 8, 9)
How they self published:
Paperback and/or Hardcover 3%
E-Reader Formats (all types) 26%
Both Paperback and/or Hardcover 38%
Multiple formats listed above: 23%
And which of these resulted in the most readers?
10% only used one format
Clearly e-Readers have opened the door to new Authors and the ability for them to self publish their works. From what I have seen, getting your works out in an e-reader format is easy, fast, and relatively cheap. This means you can list your work for a better price and attract more readers that way (more on that later). Perhaps I am the only one who doesn’t own an e-reader.
I agree with you on this one, Richard. Not to mention this data is completely consistent with what I’ve already seen with my own work and with other self-published authors I know. I have sold very little paper copies of my books. Even with setting them at low prices for print books. It really comes down to the fact that you really can price really low with ebooks and readers are much more likely to take a chance on an unknown if they don’t have to pay much for their work.
But how many works are selling when you self publish?
On Combined Total copies (or downloads) for all works was:
6% said under 10
6% said 11-50
13% said 50-99
6% said 100-199
3% said 200-299
3% said 300-399
6% said 400-499
3% said 500-749
6% said 750-999
3% said 2000 - 2999
0% said 3000-3999
0% said 4000-4999
13% said 5000-9999
16% said 10000+
The work that gave them the most copies sold (downloads or prints):
6% said under 10
10% said 11-50
13% said 50-99
10% said 100-199
10% said 200-299
6% said 300-399
3% said 400-499
0% said 500-749
6% said 750-999
13% said 1000-1999
0% said 2000 - 2999
3% said 3000-3999
0% said 4000-4999
6% said 5000-9999
13% said 10000+
Well really it means that the range is vast. There is no clear dominate number of copies you can expect when you self publish. It could very depending on how the work was promoted (more on that later). I don’t think this is a far cry from Traditional Publishing. They don’t really know how many copies they will sell of your book. This is why they can be so touchy about what they publish. You might get an advance if you go with traditional publishing, that would be the big difference. Of course, that is if you even get accepted.
This data really does come 100% down to good promotion. But don’t let that statement fool you. Good promotion isn’t just getting the word out to readers who will like your work. Having a good product is a large part of promotion in and of itself. If you have a story that no one likes that can be the worst promotion you could ever have. The more the right market(s) for your work finds it, the more likely that work is to sell. Simple as that. The cover, description, title, story, and how you present all these things to your market are all factors that can make or break a self-published work just the same as a traditionally published work. Difference is, you’re SELF-publishing. You have to learn and execute the promotion yourSELF!
Self Publishing Companies
I forgot to to list Kindle Direct Publishing, however my survey responders didn’t forget. They listed it in Other so many times. I blame ignorance, I thought Createspace and KDP were the same thing. Oops, consider me educated.
Kindle Direct Publishing (write in) 20%
Pubit (Write in) 1%
Other write ins 1%
Which Company did they like best:
23% said Createspace
3% said Lulu
22% said Smashwords
22% said Kindle Direct Publishing (Write in)
2% said Pubit (Write in)
9% listed other companies (write in)
Clearly I am living under a rock to have not heard of KDP for one. But, it seems Smashwords is very popular with 40% of survey takers using it. I think the results would have shown a higher KDP rating had it been included, especially with how well Amazon does in the company ratings (see Rating Below). I suppose that it is because it offers a diverse set of formats, but Createspace and KDP are also very popular among the survey takers. When it comes to a favorite choice all three are nearly equal in popularity. You may want to take a look at the company rating before choosing one. Of course, it will also depend on you needs too.
Honestly, Richard, when I took the survey, I didn’t know that you had made it. I thought you were just passing it along. If I had known, I would have contacted you asap and said, “Woah, you’re forgetting the biggest chunk of the market!” Because in my experience KDP really does have the self-publishing ereader market cornered. More authors may be using Smashwords, though I highly doubt those results would be the same if you were to manage to get a larger study pool, but more books are sold to a staggering degree through KDP than on Smashwords. Every self-published author I’ve spoken with and my own results both reflect that. We’re talking something like a 96/4 or higher ratio. That’s a significant difference. It’s as simple as this: MORE READERS BUY FROM AMAZON.
Yea, that’s right. One of the biggest differences I see between using a Publishing House and Self Publishing is promotion. You are in charge of getting your work out to the people. Here are some of what the Survey Takers used:
1% had other works published traditionally
8% low pricing (pricing the book low permanently)
3% said making the book free (permanently)
11% said they promoted on their Facebook Site
4% said they promoted on their Google+
10% said they promoted on their Twitter
10% said they promoted on their website
12% provided free copies for reviewers (6% for professional reviews and 6% for amateur reviews)
6% provided free copies to try and generate word of mouth
8% posted on sites designed to promote independent authors
5% did giveaways or contests
3% did paid advertising on Social Meda
0% (1 taker) did paid advertising in literary magazines
1% uses other online advertising (paid)
3% did book signing events
1% did booths at fairs or events
3% created a book trailer
3% used Youtube videos
2% listed other means
What way worked the best for them?
3% had other works published traditionally
3% used promotional pricing (temporary discount prices)
3% low pricing (pricing the book low permanently)
0% said making the book free (permanently)
13% said they promoted on their Facebook Site
6% said they promoted on their Twitter
6% said they promoted on their website
6% posted on sites designed to promote independent authors
6% said book signing events
6% listed other means
I removed the answers that got no votes.
How much did you pay for advertising?
45% said $0
48% said $1-$100
6% said up to $500
No 0ne said more.
Will paying more get you more?
3% said yes
35% said no
61% said they were not sure.
Will promoting one work get more readers for all your works?
13% said Yes and they wouldn’t have to promote the other works
58% said Yes but they should still promote the other works too.
3% said No
26% said they were not sure.
First of all, KEEP TRACK OF WHAT WORKS! If you are not keeping track of what advertising worked, you are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. This can mean wasted money and wasted time. I was really surprised how little use social media had. It is 100% free and takes little or no time. The same goes for your website. Sure, websites can take some time, but they are worth the effort. I get anywhere from 10-100 new visitors to this site a day. That’s new visitors that have not ever been here before. That’s a lot of people I can promote my new writings with.
I think Authors forget that writing is a business too (I know I do). And, for better and worse, when you self publish you take the whole business aspect on alone. Business is tough work, I owned one. Keep track of what is working. Use different codes for certain coupons so you can track what worked. Offer 10% off if they mention a certain ad. For example you might post exclusively on Facebook a coupon code that gives 10% off to Facebook Followers. Then a little later cancel that coupon and post another one for 10% off to Twitter Followers. Perhaps you make signed copies only available direct from your site. Perhaps all your Giveaway contestants get a code for a discount. This way you can track who heard about you from where. If the Giveaway didn’t work, you won’t waste the time next time. But if the Facebook ad was a huge success you may want to run one once a month.
Advertising is hard work. I had a hell of a time with it in my business. I learned a lot. Perhaps when I get done with my first novel, I will blog about what advertising I used and how well it is working.
Unfortunately, Richard, it’s just not that simple. You can’t give away coupons on Amazon. The only site you can really do that with is Smashwords and unfortunately, MOST READERS DON’T BUY FROM SMASHWORDS. Now, I wish that weren’t true. Smashwords is a great company for authors and publishers. But it just doesn’t get the commercial traffic that Amazon does. And any little thing you do can make a difference in sales. Things other people or things that the different distributors like Amazon, Lulu, Smashwords do can make a difference and you won’t even know it. There’s no real clear way to find out for sure as far as I know. It’s like blind voodoo. So, your best bet is to just do everything you can. If you’re doing something and sales go up, keep it up. If after a while of doing that sales go back down try something new. It’s a crazy game of cat and mouse, but if you want to sell more books, it’s what you have to do.
One thing that does work tried and true is to have an online presence and be in touch with possible readers. They will respond to you and you will meet new friends and everyone wins all around. They find new books to read, meet a new friend, you sell books, and also meet some great people as well. You don’t have to be terribly charismatic, just be yourself. Treat your readers as your friends because frankly. The people who like your work are more likely to be the kind of people you can be real friends with.
It is unfortunate that there is not better tracking for these self publishing solutions. But what Robert describes is still tracking of some sort. It is certainly better then guessing. When I launch my first advertising campaign for my son’s Children’s Book (which will be self published this year). I will post a blog on how I tracked what was working and what wasn’t. Advertising and publicity is something I have worked with for some time, so I am a bit excited to see how I can apply it to this industry.
How much is your writing worth? Well, I would say mine is worth a lot more then I would probably realistically sell it for. Here is what the Survey takers had to say:
What prices have you priced your e-books at?
2% didn’t have any ebooks
19% said Free
27% said $1 or less
37% said $1.01-$2.99
14% said $3.00-$4.99
2% said $5.99-$9.99
What they thought was the best price of an e-book:
0% said Free
10% said $1 or less
68% said $1.01-$2.99
19% said $3.00-$4.99
3% said $5.99-$9.99
What prices have you priced your Paper Copy Books?
28% didn’t have any paper copies
3% said $3-$4.99
23% said $5-9.99
28% said $10-$14.99
10% said $15-$19.99
10% said $20+
What did they think the best price was for paper copy books?
28% didn’t have any paper copies
3% said $3-$4.99
46% said $5-9.99
23% said $10-$14.99
0% said $15-$19.99
0% said $20+
How important is pricing to the self published Author?
Very Important – 71%
Somewhat Important – 28%
Neutral – 3%
Both Unimportant Categories received no votes.
I have to say I agree with what I see here. I have a huge problem with Kindle e-book pricing even from the big name Authors. I will save that for another time. The prices Self Published Authors are setting seems to be reasonable. I don’t agree with making your book free to all forever. A limited discount maybe, but give yourself some credit. Surely your work is worth more then $0. Don’t go crazy either, you are a new author and a self published author. Consider how much you would be willing to pay for a work put out by an author you don’t know? For me, I like taking a chance on new authors both self published and published by the Publishing Houses. I have rarely been disappointed. But I put little value on an e-book, therefore I am not likely to spend more then $3 on an author I haven’t hear of. That’s me.
Most self-publishers and independent publishers are competitive enough to price reasonably if not all out low. Most of the ebooks you find online for outrageous prices are the big publishers trying to push people into buying paper copies. You see they win either way: People want to read the authors they’ve come to know and love and now they either have to continue reading paper copies and not move on to an ereader or they have to start paying more for ecopies. That’s what these larger publishers are trying to do. So, either way, they win as long as people are willing to pay these outrageous prices. The best way to stop it is to NOT PAY SUCH RIDICULOUS PRICES. And one free work can be a great promotion for your other works. It’s all in how you do it. If you have a series, I could be great to have the first work free and then when the readers are done and want to read more in the series they are likely to buy your second and third and so on in your series. Of course there’s also a nice simple short story that just shows your skills. It may seem like a big loss to give one of your best works away for free, but when someone reads one of your best works and is impressed by it, they’re more likely to buy other works by you.
Companies to Use:
The last part of the survey was designed to give people an idea what companies work well with self published Authors. Not just for publishing but for the all around needs of the author. I have ranked them based on the survey responses. For each vote in a certain catagory I assigned them points. Then I divided the points by total survey takers, and I ranked them Highest to Lowest:
Companies in terms of Ease of Use (out of 4):
2. Facebook (3.39)
3. Amazon (3.22)
4. Blogspot (3.14)
5. WordPress (2.94)
6. Smashwords (2.88)
7. Google+ (2.87)
8. Barnes and Noble (2.7)
9. Lulu (2.67)
10. Createspace (2.63)
11. Goodreads (2.35)
12. Live Journal (2.29)
Companies rated on their ability to promote Self Published Authors (out of 4):
1. Twitter (3.17)
3. Goodreads (2.7)
4. Amazon (2.65)
5. Google+ (2.57)
6. Createspace (2.54)
7. Blogspot (2.5)
8. Smashwords (2.44)
9. WordPress (2.38)
10. Barnes and Noble (2.05)
11. Live Journal (1.76)
12. Lulu (1.71)
Companies Rates on Ability to Generate readers (out of 4)
2. Amazon (2.89)
3. Twitter (2.88)
4. Goodreads (2.55)
5. Google+ (2.5)
7. Blogspot (2.43)
8. Tied Smashwords and WordPress (2.29 each)
10. Barnes and Noble (2.19)
11. Live Journal (1.71)
12. Lulu (1.14)
How likely are you to recommend these companies to other Self Publishers (out of 5)
2. Facebook (4.26)
3. Tied Smashwords and Twitter (4.19 each)
5. Goodreads (3.82)
6. Barnes and Noble (3.37)
7. Createspace (3.22)
8. Google+ (2.96)
9. WordPress (2.74)
10. Blogspot (2.26)
11. Lulu (2.15)
12. Live Journal (2)
Companies rated based on ability in the e-reader market (out of 3)
1. Amazon (2.85)
2. Smashwords (2.28)
3. Barnes and Noble (2.27)
4. Tied Createspace and Lulu (1 each)
Companies rated based on ability in the paper market (out of 3)
2. Amazon (2.31)
3. Barnes and Noble (2.1)
4. Lulu (1.88)
5. Smashwords (0.57)
These are people’s opinions on these companies from the perspective of being a self published Author. Take it as that. You may find you like one of these companies that was low rated here. But, this might give you a starting point if you are not sure where to check out first. I was surprised, as I expected Createspace and/or Lulu to dominate these numbers. Clearly I was mistaken. If print is what you want you might consider Createspace, but when it comes to the e-reader market Amazon and Smashwords seem to rate the highest.
When it comes to social media, Twitter seems to be the preference. I can’t say I am surprised. I have a lot more followers on Twitter then any where else. I have seen a lot of writers say how much they like Google+, though I will be the first to admit I think it is useless. Facebook is popular seems to rank well too.
If you like to blog, clearly Live Journal is not a good choice. However WordPress and Blogspot seem to be equally popular. It seems to be true of the Authors I know. I would guess that about 50% of them use either site. I picked WordPress. It works for what I need and I find it really easy to use. It allows the custom content I want, and in the future I can import/merge this blog with my own website.
In the end, the company you use depends on what you need and want. Read all the Terms of Service/Use. I hope this information will at least shorten your trial and error routine. Check them all out. Otherwise you might miss Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
I self-published my first work in July of 2011. In the not even six months since then, I’ve gathered a great deal of my own sales data. And I’m here to tell you Ereaders are the future of books. Especially for self-published books. There are thousands if not millions of readers out there looking for their next favorite indie author.
I do find myself surprised on the social media front. I’ve found Facebook to be much more helpful for me. Or it could be that I’m still new to Twitter and haven’t put enough into using it to my advantage.
I use blogspot myself and have enjoyed that it is already connected with my Google account and is very easy to use and maintain. And with being free and having almost all the options you would have with a standard website, it works great for most everything I need in a website. Now, if only I could get it to make blog posts for me as I seem to neglect it all too often.
Overall as Richard has said already, your mileage may vary. It’s best to cover all the avenues you can. Clearly, you’re not likely to have multiple blogs but if you’re planning on self-publishing definitely cover all your distribution options and all the social media and free promotional options you can make time for. Because in the end what works best for one person may differ proportionately to another. So, in order to reach the most possible readers you should highly consider putting your work out at in all possible venues and in all possible formats and of course have an online presence in all the different social media sites. These thing can only add to your chance of becoming a successful self-published author.
What does this all mean?
Well it’s the results of a survey on self publishing, with the thoughts of two authors. I hope you find this a helpful insight if you are planning to start, or even continue, in self publishing. It has certainly shined some light on my own ideas in self publishing. It is a viable means, and slowly the negative perception of self published works has dissolved away.
I am a paper book lover, but you can’t deny that e-readers have opened the door to the self published author. The ability to reach readers worldwide, at a low cost, has allowed talented authors to emerge. These are talented authors who have made the choice to control the process of their writing from creation to sale. Perhaps that is more difficult when compared to waiting for an editor at a publishing house. At the least I would say it is equally challenging.
If you found this helpful feel free to share it, re-blog it, or post it on your social media site of choice. Thank you to all the survey takers and thank you to Robert Wilson for sharing his insights.
About the Authors:
Richard is an author of Speculative Fiction who lives in California. He fits his writing time around being a father of three young boys and a husband to his beautiful wife. He has been published in Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction and Liquid Imagination. He has a Children’s Picture Book, that he wrote with his oldest son, set to be released in early 2012. For more information on Richard Flores IV, you can find him online at http://floresfactor.wordpress.com/. You can also find him on Twitter @Richard_Flores4
Robert S. Wilson is the author of the Kindle bestseller The Quiet: A Novella and the critically acclaimed Shining in Crimson: Empire of Blood Book One as well as co-editor for Horror For Good: A Charitable Anthology, an anthology which includes stories by international bestselling authors and horror legends. All proceeds from Horror For Good will go toward amfAR, an international AIDS research foundation. For more information on Robert S. Wilson, you can find him online at http://shiningincrimson.blogspot.com/. You can also find him on Twitter @EmpireOfBloodRW
Robert lives in Smyrna, Tennessee with his wife and two children while he attempts to make time for everything and utterly fails constantly.
January 2, 2012 | Categories: Advertising, Authors, Marketing, Marketing, Novels, Published, Publishing, Science Fiction, Self Publishing, Short Stories, Social Media, Uncategorized, Welcome, Writing, Writing for Money | Tags: Authors, Createspace, Facebook, Google+, help, how to, KDP, Kindle, Kindle Direct Publishing, lulu, Marketing, Nook, Publish, Published, publishing, Richard Flores IV, Robert S. Wilson, self publish, Self Publishing, should i self publish, Smashwords, survey, Twitter, writers, Writing | 20 Comments »
I recently finished reading The Black Prism by Brent Weeks. A great novel that is full of characters you can relate to and a plot that is imaginative and engaging to the reader. It has a well thought out world that has depth and dynamic. The magic is believable and based a bit on real life. In other words, you should go by this novel if you have any love for Fantasy novels. You can wait until you finish reading my post, but as soon as you are done, go buy it.
Like every great story I finish, I find myself sad it is over. But, I also find myself inspired to write a great novel of my own. I also find myself looking at my latest novel and wondering why I have not done much to advance it. When I undertook writing with a serious intention of being published this past March, I told myself I would complete one short story a month and a novel by the end of the year.
That means I should have written nine short stories and one novel. Currently I have completed four short stories and about 2,500 words into the second draft of my novel (the first draft was written years ago, so really this is a rewrite first draft). I also completed a Children’s picture book my son and I wrote together. A far cry from being where I wanted to be.
There are some pluses. First, two of those four stories were published this year. The other two are currently out to markets. The children’s book is currently waiting on the illustrator to complete the drawings. It has a scheduled release for the early part of 2012. Both of which I think are good accomplishments for a writer in his first serious year of writing.
But, why I have fallen so short of my goals? When I finished The Black Prism, I really began to quiz myself of the true cause of my short comings. The answer was simple: Distractions.
I have a long list of distractions. Many of those distractions are worth it and they have to to come first. Those include: My kids, my wife, my health, my chores, my job (when I had one), and searching for a job. But there are some I could trim out. Such as: Television, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Battlefield 3, and the internet.
Of course, the real trouble is actually making those cuts. Every time I power up this laptop the first sight I go to is Facebook. I can’t help it. Then I have to check Twitter now (a site I used to hate and now for some reason I can’t avoid it). Then I go look for work, then I go check out all the sites related to Battlefield 3, then I check my writers forum, then check the site stats for this blog, then I go back to Facebook, and then I check Google+. By then I am tired of the internet, so I shut off my lap top and turn on the TV. Through all of this my children need my attention. I cook dinner, put the kids to bed, my wife comes home from work, we watch TV, and then off to bed. And I always say, “Tomorrow I will have to get some writing done.”
Perhaps I am not taking writing serious enough. I don’t think so. I like doing it and I enjoy seeing the positive reviews of the things people have read of mine. The truth is, and I have mentioned this before, I just have to make the time. Most of the time there is nothing on TV, but I watch it anyway. Most of the time there is nothing new on Facebook, but I check it anyway. I am finding Google+ useless but I still check it. And I don’t know why I am so addicted to Twitter now.
Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are great for me to get in touch with my fans and fellow writers. I won’t cut them out completely. I certainly won’t be able to cut out Battlefield 3 for a while. I enjoy the game. But, I can limit them. I intend to limit them and focus on my novel.
One thousand words a day would reach novel length in just forty days. Of course my novel may be longer and I almost never just write 1000 words in a writing session, but that certainly seems like a reasonable goal. However goals are not worth much if you don’t try. I will try to hold to that goal, and you can always follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see how I do.
So I know have two 2012 resolutions: 1) Exercise and lose weight, 2) Write more.
Of course I have more, but I will save that for another post.
December 19, 2011 | Categories: Authors, Children, Humor, Muse, New, Publishing, Reading, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Social Media, Video Games, Writing | Tags: Distractions, goals, Reading, resolutions, Writing | 3 Comments »
Recently there was a post in my writer’s forum on Robert A. Heinlein’s Rules for Writing Speculative Fiction (Appeared in his essay On Writing Speculative Fiction in 1947). The poster argued that the rule; “You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.” was no longer a valid business practice in today’s market. His argument is sound, and I have already blogged on my thoughts on the rewriting circle several times (mentioned here), so I don’t plan to do into it.
But it did involve lengthy discussion about the need to constantly rewrite and ensure you put out high quality work. The argument was that, in the 1950s, there were so many pro rate markets that there was far more demand then supply. Therefore established authors (and new ones) could quickly turn out a high amounts of manuscripts and be able to sell them. So I thought I would elaborate on the quality versus quantity debate
If you throw darts at a target, one at a time, you might hit the bulls-eye but it may take a while. But, if you throw 1,000 darts at the target, surely one of them will hit the bull-eye and quickly.
Obviously, simple statistics would show that the more works, you put out the more likely you should be to get published faster. And the slower you put out works the longer is should take. But, if there is one thing I have learned, math has little place is art.
But the truth is you have to submit works to ever get them published. And very few people are ever satisfied with one published work.
If you take time learning how to throw a dart. You study how darts fly, how to aim, and the correct throwing techniques. Then you take that one dart, and throw it at the target, you are more likely to hit the bulls-eye.
There are a lot fewer pro rate markets out there. It would be a good idea to understand the craft, and write well, before you cast your dart. However, when is a manuscript ever perfect? I’ve never written one.
But the truth is you have to write well, and edit them well, to ever get published.
So do you throw 1000 darts or cast that one best shot? I think it is a bit more complex then that. After all, you could throw 1000 darts and they all miss the bulls-eye. Or you could spend years studying darts, only to miss that one best shot.
There is really a fine balance between the two. If you throw one dart a year, you won’t hit the target much (maybe with blind luck) but you also won’t get better. But if you throw darts regularly, slowly you will get closer to your bulls-eye. You need to submit often and you need to do a few rewrites. How many? Well that depends on your target.
I think the first thing you have to do is define your bulls-eye. If it is just getting published, then there are a ton of markets. If you want some type of payment, there are still a lot. And, if you want a pro-rate payment there are only a few.
This is why I use the Darts analogy. Because I think you should have a target, with a bulls-eye in the middle. That bulls-eye is you best case scenario, the big deal for you. Mine looks something like this:
So, make your target. After all you need to know what you are aiming for. Always aim for your bulls-eye. You may not hit it, but keep throwing those darts. Throw your darts often enough that you learn each time, but not so fast that you sacrifice accuracy for the odds.
My story “Dream Job” in Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction, which you can read for free here, was the first short story I had written since High School. And, the first thing I ever wrote with the intentions of having it published. So now that it is out for the public to read, I felt I needed to say a bit about it. After all, there is a lot to be said for it.
I talk a lot about ideas, you can read my post about them. I had made up my mind I wanted to be a published writer, and I though it would be best to start with a short story. The real problem was, I couldn’t come up with a good idea. Well, scratch that, I had ideas but I was having trouble developing them into anything. Finally, the idea hit me in a nightmare.
If you have read the story, you know this line (if not please go read it):
“An icy cold began to rush over her body, slowly flooding around her arm and across her body. She
began to gasp for air in panic as she realized the cold-flowing blood was reaching her heart.”
That was my dream. One line. Thirty-seven words out of about 4,600 words. I had a dream that someone was in the room, I was injected, and a cool oozing feeling flowed towards my chest. And, like Samantha, I woke up feeling the cold. It scared the shit out of me. So much so, that I thought about it for the whole night (I worked graveyard shift at the time).
I started to wonder what might cause that feeling, which had long since passed. I wondered how I remembered it so clearly and how would something from the dream world transfer so easily to the waking world. Then, but the end of my day, I wondered how I could make this into a story.
The first draft of Dream Job was a disaster. Though when I wrote it, I thought I was a master of the craft. I posted it for my writer’s group, Hatrack River, which I had just joined. And, they very nicely told me that my intro was cliche. They even referred me to The Turkey City Lexicon, a must read of new writers (which I re-read all the time). I had used the “White Room Syndrome” opening… ouch.
I realized I needed a complete rewrite of the opening lines (also known as the hook). When I did that, it took the story in a different direction (although it was was along the same plot points), and thus my second draft was a total rewrite.
I posted the new Opening for my group to read. They told me it was still missing something. There was not much for readers to grab on to. I was frustrated because I thought I was was writing gold, and they were not getting it. Of course, they were right. After I looked things over again. I went for a third rewrite of the opening lines.
Now, this third one was troublesome to come up with. I spent a week mulling over different openings. And then it hit me. My dream was so emotional to me because it happened in my own bed. My own house. This was my house, my bed, and my room and it was invaded by this nightmare.
So I put Samantha at her home, and hat it invaded. Government Agents had always been a part of the plot, so naturally they were the invaders. The story took a third complete rewrite, very different from the first and second drafts. Then I posted it again on my writers forum. I don’t know if my forum LOVED IT, but they certainly liked it.
From there it was just a few minor tweeks for Grammar (ugh… grammar cops), a bit of tightening up based on suggestions from fellow writers, and then it was out for submission. Shortly after submitting it, I got the idea for “Death Watch” and started this process all over again. “Death Watch” was accepted first (12 days before its big brother).
From the time I started writing until “Dream Job” went for its first submission was almost exactly two months (59 days). From first submission to acceptance was just over five months. I am proud of it, and to see it in print is a great thing.
The title may seem obvious to you after reading it (sorry no spoilers here, just go read it). But, for me it was also a bit of an inside story too. After all, writing is one of my dream jobs. This being the first thing I wrote, it only seemed fitting.
So please, head over to Smashwords and download your free copy of Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction. Read it and review it on Goodreads. And on the topic of Goodreads, check out my Author page and become a fan.
As always your comments are welcome.
October 24, 2011 | Categories: Authors, Book Releases, Ideas, Muse, New, Published, Publishing, Reading, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Writing | Tags: Dream Job, dreams, ideas, muse, Richard Flores IV, Writing | Leave A Comment »
First, this is the first short story I have written since my choice to be a published writer. I did write a short story in High School that people seemed to like, but its long gone. So really, I consider this my first short story. I am blessed that it was published. I know many very talented authors whose firsts are still awaiting the acceptance letter.
Second, it was chosen to be in the first issue of a new publication. This may not seem like a big deal, but when a magazine starts up, there is a lot of pressure to be good (if not great). Editors have to choose the stories they publish in their first issues carefully, as they set the bar for the entire publication. That doesn’t mean publications don’t grow and become better. It just means that you want to make a good first impression when you start up. So I feel privileged that “Dream Job” was chosen to be among those stories that represent the start of Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction.
The Editors have also chosen to provide the electronic copy of their first issue free on Smashwords (Kindle, Nook, PDF and more). It is also available on the Amazon Kindle Store for 99 cents, but I am sure you would prefer free. So please, click here and check out “Dream Job” as well as the other works published in Issue One of Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction.
Then come back here and let me know what you thought of the story and the Characters. I would love to hear from you.
October 19, 2011 | Categories: Authors, Book Releases, New, Published, Publishing, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Writing | Tags: Cygnus, Fiction, Magazine, New, Published, Science, science fiction, Story, Writing | 2 Comments »