Spreading the Word

So I have been trying to sell copies of Dissolution of Peace now for almost two weeks.  And I am discovering a few things that I didn’t expect to discover along the way.  I know I have touched on some of this before when I wrote “Is Anybody Out There?” but that was more about making a plan for marketing.  This is more about what I am learning that may surprise some of you.

I’ll go ahead and start with common questions about marketing books and give you my answer two weeks in.

Do giveaways work?

The short answer is that I don’t know yet.  I’ve done a giveaway on Goodreads for Daddy is Tired.  I did it at the recommendation of another who told me it really worked for him.  So far, I’ve not seen any boost in sales.  In fact I think I’ve sold one copy total since that give away ended at the end of September.  So I am not sure how it “works” but it didn’t for a children’s picture book.

I’m running two giveaways for Dissolution of Peace.  One ends at the end of October, the other ends at the end of November.  Surprisingly the one on Goodreads seems to be getting a lot less reaction than the one on my Facebook page.  There is one advantage to the Facebook Page give away.  Both my Twitter and Facebook followers have gone up significantly.  Though that hasn’t translated into sales.  We will see what happens come the end of the giveaways.

I did two other giveaways.  I gave away fifteen free copies of Dissolution of Peace for Kindle on Twitter, of which only one was ever claimed.  I did the same on Facebook, giving away ten copies.  Two were claimed.  Not exactly a very strong presence there.  My hope was to get twenty-five copies of my book out there and hopefully get ten reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads.  I’ve not had any reviews (from the giveaway) on either one.

Based on these numbers, you might think that giveaways don’t work.  To be honest no one has ever really told me how they work to get sales.  They just tell me it works.  So Perhaps by the end of the year I will see an increase in sales.  The giveaways don’t cost me anything.  The eBooks are free.  And the signed paperbacks will cost me less than $20 when I factor in the shipping charges.  So when you consider how little it costs, it is worth a shot.  But if you try something, like my eBook social media give away, and it doesn’t work.  Don’t repeat failure.  Even if it cost you nothing monetarily, it will cost you your time.

The good thing about Raffle Copter (which I am using to give away one signed paperback) and Goodreads giveaways, is that it doesn’t cost you but a few minutes of time.  And, like I said, I am getting new followers as result.  That may be of significant value later.

Does Posting to Facebook or Twitter work?

I suppose this is the new form of word of mouth.  Word of mouth advertising does work.  But only if it is done correctly.  But I will clue you in on some surprises I learned.

First, don’t count on people to share it.  All the people I thought were certain to share it, some who were even instrumental in helping create it, have not shared it once.  Many of these people are fellow authors, whom I have promoted heavily myself.  Of course, I didn’t promote them expecting them to do the same.  Though I did kind of hope they might.  Most of them I promoted well before my novel came out.  There are some I have even promoted their business (they are not authors) and they haven’t shared my book either.

But, there is an upside to this.  I have had complete strangers share my book, mostly on Twitter.  These are people who recently jumped on and followed me.  In fact, one person who follows me retweeted it and then five or six people who don’t follow me also retweeted it.  Facebook on the other hand has been all shares from family or friends.  I appreciate everyone who shares it, and I try to help them out when I can.  But remember, just because you help someone else out, don’t expect it in return.  The deal here is that you should share what you want and other will share what they want.  Even though it is disappointing when family and friends don’t.

Facebook groups are another way of spreading the word.  Two things to remember.  First, don’t break the groups rules.  Your post will just get deleted.  Two, don’t expect much from it.  I belong to several writing Facebook groups.  The problem is, all of them are so flooded with self promotional posts, that mine rarely stay within a readable number of posts for more than an hour.  Also, I’m not sure how many people are actually reading what others post there, versus just posting themselves.  Some even seem to post every hour or so.  Which is bullshit if you ask me.  They are spamming the feeds just to keep their book on top.  I’ll get more on spamming later.

Okay, I’ll talk about spamming now.  If all you post on Twitter or Facebook is your novel.  You won’t get anywhere.  It doesn’t take long before people tune you out and/or unfollow you.  Personally I only post about my book a few times a day.  And lately it has been cut back to just once.  I post about other topics: Jokes only I think are funny, blog posts that helped me, Plasma Frequency, the NHL lockout, and more.  I also comment on other people’s posts, try to answer comments on mine, reply to tweets, and retweet things that I liked.  All of these things make me a human being.  Not a constantly tweeting about my book robot.  I think that is equally important as getting the word out about your books.  After all, if you lose followers, what is the point of tweeting to an empty room.

Think of it this way.  If every time one of your coworkers, friends, or even family members saw you, all you said was “Buy my book.  It is on Amazon.com and it is great.”  How long before you wouldn’t see them again?  Of course you will tell your friends about your book, but I am sure you talk about other things.  The same should be the case on Facebook or Twitter.  Be a real person and you might wind up with more results and more help for your followers.

What to you thing about Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising?

First of all, PPC advertising works on a the principle that a site puts up an advertisement and when someone clicks on it you pay a per click fee.  Many places let you bid on the per click rate.  Lower bids mean you are not shown as often as larger bids.  You can usually choose who you target and even set up limits per month.

Right now I am using Goodreads.  From all the research I have done, Goodreads is supposed to be better at targeting readers than Facebook or Google PPC ads.  I have three ads.  One for the Paperback targeting US readers of Science Fiction 16 or older.  One for the Kindle Version targeting US readers of eBooks and Science Fiction 16 or older.  Last, I have a Paperback/Kindle ad targeting UK readers of science fiction 16 or older.  All three ads are in one campaign.  I pay 20 cents a click  for one, the other two I pay 10 cents per click.  I started the ad on the 16th in the evening.  So in about four days I have had 3,500 views.  Views just mean it came up on the page, it doesn’t mean anyone actually saw it.  Of all those views I have had two (2) clicks, both in the UK.  And both UK clicks resulted in zero new UK sales.

The good news is you can change your ads any way you want until you find one that gets you more clicks.  I recommend you send the clicks to Amazon or Barnes and Noble for sales.  This is because it eliminates extra steps to get your book sold.  The real trick if making an ad that really catches readers attentions.  Though part of this falls on Goodreads.  Frankly they put the ads in a terrible spot.  That even on my large screen, I have to scroll down to see them.

The bad news is, I dumped $90 into this PPC campaign based on recommendations from others that Goodreads PPC ads really jump started their book sales for the first 30 days.  At this rate, it will take me a long time to burn up $90.  So learn from my mistake and start with a smaller number.  Then once you find an ad that gets you a lot of clicks, you can increase.  Another tip:  Keep in mind how much you make in profit on each sale.  If you make $0.30 per eBook sale and you bid $0.30 cents per click.  Someone would have to buy on every click just to break even.  $0.10 is the lowest you can bid on good reads.  So if you book is less than $1.99 you’re expecting a lot for the ad.

Here is the thing, I think PPC can work.  But you have to stay on top of it.  You have to find an ad that works, and that means watching the numbers and changing the ad until you get clicks.  And then hopefully clicks will turn into sales.

What about website advertising?

I don’t know.  I haven’t tried it yet.  I contacted one site that had a really good deal with a few questions.  That was a week ago and they never answered me.  So I’ll continue to look around.  The think on website advertising is you want to find a site that attracts readers of your genre.

What about print/magazine advertising?

Although I have not tried it.  I know this works.  If you put your book in a fiction magazine for your genre you will get the word out there about your book.  The readership numbers matter.  This is why if you want to advertise in some of the bigger science fiction magazines, you will pay a lot for it.  Smaller presses charge less, but you get less readers.

Book Reviews / Author Interviews?

I’m in the process of getting a few book reviews.  But finding sites to do it is a lot harder than I ever thought.  Many have “closed” because of overload.  Many more have lengthy lead times.  One who has accepted my book has already told me it could be 8-12 weeks.  Another is reading it now, and two more have put me on “the list”.  But these book review sites have readers.  I don’t agree with paying for a review.  The most I am willing to do is provide a free book.

Author Interviews.  I have not done any of these yet.  And it seems that the only places I have found that do them, charge for them.  So I don’t know.

It the end, blog reviews and author interviews are another form of word of mouth.  Word of mouth works, it is proven in multiple industries.

Amazon or Goodreads reviews.  The thing with these is to be prepared to have to beg for them.  Just getting people to like the book or add it to a shelf has been nearly impossible.  Then asking people to do the Tags thing on Amazon has been impossible.  Over all it has been a nightmare.  But the truth is, people don’t buy things on Amazon that haven’t been reviewed.  And the more reviews you can get the better people will feel about paying for your book.  But it takes time.  People have to read your book.  And after they read the book they have to feel the need to go back to Amazon (or Goodreads) and rate it.  Many readers aren’t that motivated to do all that.  If they are active on Goodreads, that site does a good job of integrating at least a star rating into the experience of the reading progress.  But there is nothing to encourage someone to go to Amazon.com and review your item.  The encouragement could be that the book was so good they have to say something or it could be it was so bad they had to say something.  More often they have to be encouraged by someone to do it.  That someone being you.

So does marketing work?

Many authors will tell you that they have seen no benefit in marketing.  This is because, like me, they have a preconceived notion that buying an ad automatically equals sales.  Or that all their friends and family will share their book.  Or that giving a few books away will mean that everyone who didn’t win will go buy it.  The truth is far less.  Advertising takes a tone of work and it takes a lot of time before it really takes off.  The truth is most of us are not marketing geniuses and advertising becomes a trial and error.  And since books vary as much as their authors, it is also possible that what you try won’t work for you but will work for me.

The best thing to do is to keep at it.  Spend just a little money until you know what works.  Invest your money wisely.  As I learn more about what works for me, I’ll share it with you all.

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Is Anybody Out There?

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.

Pre-premotion

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 Promotion

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.

Continued Promotion

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..

Selling your books is the same as a business

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.

Dissolution of Peace — Announcements

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.

Description:

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:

Making SOME Money in Writing

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.

Updates: June 2012

Book Release Announcement

I am pleased to announce that I finally have a release date for Daddy is Tired, the children’s book my son and I wrote over a year ago.  On June 28th, Daddy is Tired will be officially released for sale on Amazon.com.  But, I got good news for you all.  You can order now on Createspace and get a special discount (see below).  Everything the book makes goes directly to Cinco and I really hope to encourage him to continue his pursuits of writing and the arts.  So take a moment to share the links below and share this wonderful book.  It is a great, fun early reader that I feel parents and children can relate to.  Now, a little about the book:

Daddy is Tired

Authored by Richard “Cinco” Flores V, Illustrated by Lorikitty, Authored with Richard Flores IV

List Price: $7.50
5.5″ x 8.5″ (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
Full Color on White paper
26 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0615659145
ISBN-10: 0615659144
BISAC: Juvenile Fiction / Readers / Beginner

Daddy is Tired is a children’s picture book about a dad who wants to rest while his son would rather play. Dad hopes for a little nap, but his son just wants to play.
This book was written by Cinco, at five years old, in one of his own quiet time sessions. Of course his dad didn’t get to rest either, he had to help.

Purchase Links:

CreateSpace eStore:

Use discount code: 78VZNJ65 to get 10% off.  This code will only be good until the book is released officially on June 28th, 2012.  Feel free to share the link (https://www.createspace.com/3671972) and discount code with everyone you know.

Amazon:

Click here for the Amazon Listing.

Other updates:

In other news, I have been hard at work getting the Print Edition of Plasma Frequency Magazine Issue 1 ready for it’s release.  I am working on advertising spots now, and there are still a few spots available for this issue.  We have been hard at work on the layout.  And, once the print edition is final, we will begin work on the Kindle Edition.  One great thing in the subscriptions are coming in all over the world.  We have subscribers in the US, Singapore, the UK, Denmark, Canada, and elsewhere.  So I am excited about the release of Issue 1.  Here is the cover art by Tais Teng and it is inspired by “Frequencies” by Michael Hodges.

Of course, we are hard at work on reading for Issue 2 now.  And this has left me little time for much else.  I suppose the if I wish to get more of my own writing done, I will need to seek more volunteers to help me with the reading, artwork, layout, and advertising.  All of which take a lot of work.

I still don’t have cover art to show you for Dissolution of Peace.  But, I suspect it will be released in Late August.  I plan to have an official release date in the July updates.

My novel in progress has ground to a halt.  Mostly because of all my other life commitment.  The Magazine, my volunteer activities, and my job keep me pretty busy most of the time.

No new short story acceptances to report either.

So that is the June Updates.  See next week for my next blog post, not sure what Topic I will choose though.

Updates: May 2012

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.

 

The Different Publishers

It is funny that most people ask me the question:  Should I self publish or should I try the traditional publisher?  There are other options for publishing your book that just those two options.  We’ll explore some of those with this post.  I’ll give you my thoughts on each of these, and you can give me your thoughts in the comments.

The Conglomerate Publisher

We like to say “Traditional Publisher” but truthfully traditions are changing and the term doesn’t really fit anymore.  And, truth be told, traditional publishing can be divided up.  So we’ll talk about the conglomerate publisher.  These are the big guys in publishing.  Orbit Books, Tor, Del Rey, Bantam, Baen, and Scholastic are just a few examples.  And, if you look most of those up you will find a parent corporation they are under.  The parent corporation often has a number of press names they use depending on the genre.  They employe a ton of editors, copywriters, printers, and basically just a lot of employees that work to publish books.

Advantage: Well they are the big guys.  Land a deal with them and you are likely to get exposure in a wide market area.  They will handle most of your book’s marketing.  They have the ability to print out mass copies.  They may offer you a higher advance and royalties too (maybe).

Disadvantage:  Getting accepted is hard.  Many talented authors spend a lot of time just to get rejected from these guys.  Nearly everybody submits to them.  You often have to sell off a lot more copies to pay off your advance (they have a higher overhead then any other option).  Even if you do get published you tend to find that it takes a long time to get anything going.  And, I see a lot of people published by these conglomerates that are still marketing the heck out of their own works.  The other HUGE disadvantage is that authors often think getting published by these guys guarantee a hit novel, it doesn’t.  Plain and simple these guys can do little to make you any better of a writer and story teller.

The Mid-level Publisher

A lot of sites go straight from Conglomerate to Independent when they talk about types of publishers.  But there are a few mid-level publishing companies.  These companies may be only big in one genre, or maybe are big in one country.  The main difference here is that they tend to publish more books then the independent publisher, but not as many as the conglomerates.

Advantage: They handle the major marketing.  They can produce a moderate amount of books at one time.  They offer you a good advance and royalties.  They tend to have a smaller overhead which means more profit margin and hopefully more money in your pocket.

Disadvantage: Acceptance is still hard.  Exposure is not as big, but in the days of the internet and Amazon it is getting much better.  There can still be lengthy delays from acceptance to publish date.

The Independent Press

This is often confused with someone who sits in their basement printing books.  That is not the case.  These are simply smaller companies working to publish books.  They tend to specialize is a genre or two.  They often only have one or two editors (sometimes more).  They often don’t work to make huge profits.  Sometimes they are Sole Proprietorships (one owner) or Partnerships.  But many are now LLC, LLP, or even incorporating.

Advantages:  Acceptance times are often faster.  They are far more approachable.  They will market your book as well.  And, with the internet as big as it is.  They are often on the virtual shelves of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and their own private stores.  They often pay lower advances but higher royalties (though not always).  It often takes less sales to “burn off” the advance and start earning royalties.  They are in the business of getting good writers out to the readers that other presses are simply over looking.  But, you will find more and more authors are going with smaller presses to get their voice heard.  First, you still have to market your book no matter what way you go about this.  Here you get a little help.  Plus, even if your Novel is rejected.  The smaller presses are far more likely to tell you why.  Giving you a chance to fix the mistake and try again.

Disadvantage: They simply aren’t the big guys.  Most don’t stock book shelves of brick and mortar book stores.  But, some do.  But with how many books are purchased on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.  It is starting to be irrelevant.  Last, many authors worry about using a Independent press simply due to brand recognition factors.  But, I frankly never looked at who published a book until I started writing.  Most readers don’t care who published it, only how the story is written.

Vanity Press

A vanity press is often confused with a Independent Press.  But they are vastly different.  A vanity press publishes almost every thing they are sent, provided you cut them a check.  That’s right.  You pay them to publish your book.  They offer many of the services other presses offer, editors, marketing, ect.  But you have to pay for it.  They slap a publishers name on it and sell it.  They came is to play when self publishing was hard, and carried a much more negative image then it does today.

Advantages:  Frankly it is hard for me to think of any.  Money should always flow in the direction of the author.  I suppose if you wanted to self publish, but didn’t want to let people know you did it.  This is the way.  But why?

Disadvantages:  It’s a rip off.  Frankly they over charge for just about everything.  You may as well hire a good independent editor, and publish it yourself.  Or better yet, give a few of these Independent Publishers a shot and not have to pay a dime.

Self Publishing

This is just as it sounds you self publish your works.  You pay for the cover art (or make it yourself), you solely market, you format it on Createspace, KDP, or where ever.  You are the publisher of your own book.

Advantages:  No middleman to work with.  You get final say on everything.  You do it all.  You are guaranteed to get published.

Disadvantages:  You do it all.  Self publishing is the most underestimated form of publishing.  It is by far the most work.  You have to pay for an editor (and you really need to do that if you plan to self publish and maybe even if you plan to use a different method).  Sure you could just take your story, look it over and then throw it together on KDP and tell you friends to go buy it.  But, is that really getting published?  Or just perpetuating the stereo type that nothing good is ever self published?  Of everything I mentioned here, self publishing is the hardest.

 

You can see there are a lot of options, you can choose what works for you.  I strongly recommend that you look at them all.  I think Independent Presses give you the best balance between self publishing and “traditional” publishing.  That is just my opinion though.  Perhaps in another post I’ll highlight a few independent presses that specialize in certain genres.  If you know of one, visit the contact page and let me know.

Blurbs

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.

Blurb Tips

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Updates: April 2012

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.

Self Publishing

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.

The Respondents:

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):

Horror – 16%

Science Fiction – 18%

Thrillers – 11%

Fantasy – 21%

Romance -8%

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

My Thoughts:

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.

Robert’s Thoughts:

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:

On a website, PDF or other electronic means 6%

Paperback and/or Hardcover 3%

Anthologies 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

13% Paperback

3% Hardcover

74% E-Reader

My Thoughts:

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.

Robert’s Thoughts:

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

13% said 1000-1999

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+

My Thoughts:

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.

Robert’s Thoughts:

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.

Published themselves (on their own website or printer) 11%

Createspace 21%

lulu 6%

Smashwords 40%

Kindle Direct Publishing (write in) 20%

Pubit (Write in) 1%

Other write ins 1%

Which Company did they like best:

19% said doing it themselves

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)

My Thoughts

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.

Robert’s Thoughts

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.

Promotions:

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

9% used promotional pricing (temporary discount prices)

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?

32% didn’t keep track

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.

My Thoughts:

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.

Robert’s Thoughts

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.

My Reply:

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.

Pricing:

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:

2% didn’t have any ebooks

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.

My Thoughts

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.

Robert’s Thoughts

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):

1. Twitter (3.46)

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)

2. Facebook (3.08)

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)

1. Facebook (2.92)

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)

1. Amazon (4.63)

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)

1. Createspace (2.64)

2. Amazon (2.31)

3. Barnes and Noble (2.1)

4. Lulu (1.88)

5. Smashwords (0.57)

My Thoughts

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.

Robert’s Thoughts

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 Flores IV

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 https://floresfactor.wordpress.com/.  You can also find him on Twitter @Richard_Flores4

Robert S. Wilson

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.