Welcome 2018

I started off this blog with the idea that I’d do a post on how to improve your odds of getting accepted to Factor Four Magazine.  But then I got to thinking, that’s no way to start of 2018.  Instead I thought I’d get a short post going about things to expect in 2018.  The positives this year is going to bring.  And hopefully not curse myself along way.

First off is the elephant in the room.  Today I finished selecting the stories for Issue 1 of Factor Four Magazine.  I read nearly 600 stories to get to the point of accepting just 16.  There was a lot of good fiction in that reading queue.  I must admit I was overwhelmed by the task at first.  It took only 6 weeks to hit 600 submissions and the speed only seems to be picking up.  To top that off, I really had trouble getting down to just a few stories to select.  Even the short list was hard to whittle down to these final 16.  Once contracts are signed, the Factor Four Magazine Twitter account will be announcing the authors selected.  April 2018 is the release of Issue 1.  The next task in contracts, and cover art selection.

I have two short fiction stories of my own coming out this year.  I haven’t got a date yet on either.  The first will be released in Mind Candy Vol. 1, this was my first pro-rate sale.  The other will be read on The Centropic Oracle.  I can’t wait to hear a story of mine read aloud.  I have a couple other short fiction pieces that I haven’t sold yet.  I’ll be looking for a home for those this year also.

The urge to write is strong, the time to write is not there.  Work has be crazy. But I am also the only reader for Factor Four Magazine.  All that being said, I am making a goal to get Book 3 of The Serenity Saga out this year.  I am also still toying around with another Volition Agent novel and possible sequel to Broken Trust.  I have a fourth novel idea that will likely work on a stand alone basis.  But the first priority is to continue Christina Serenity’s story.

2018 is the year of conventions for me.  I am looking to speak at a few again.  My longtime followers know that I loved speaking at DetCon1. I’ve applied to speak at SpoCon and plan to apply at OryCon.  I may even apply to talk at VCon in Vancouver.  I plan to attend WorldCon in San Jose and Norwescon in Seattle as well, but I was too late to apply to talk at either of those.  I’ve created an “appearances” page on my website.  If you are going to any of these conventions, I’d love to say hello.  I’d also like to say how great it is to have so many Science Fiction Conventions locally.

Many of you may know that I really love the Washington State Parks system.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to many of the state parks in 2017.  This year I hope to spend some weekends out exploring nature again.  The exercise is great, but the calm and peacefulness of nature is a great clearing of the mind.

I’d also like to take a vacation of some type again this year.  I took my family to Disneyland last year, it was the first time for my kids.  My wife and I hadn’t been since 2004.  I love that place.  I didn’t want to leave. I don’t think I’ll get to Disneyland in 2018, but I’d like to take the kids on another memorable vacation.  Life is worth more to me than just working.  That’s why I made it a point to start publishing again, and I also want to make it a priority to enjoy the time with my family while the kids are young.

The last one is that I’ve made it a point to get back to being financially stable.  It did pretty well until the end of the year.  So this year I am making more of a point of creating a savings account.  It seems counterproductive to launch a magazine and plan a lot of trips.  But I have a financial road-map that I’ve made and it seems to be working out well.

So that is my plan for 2018.  We shall see how it all plays out.  But it sounds like I have a busy year ahead of me.

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Factor Four Magazine is Moving Right Along!

I always tend to find myself so busy in the month of November that I never get to participate in Novel Writing Month.  2017 is still the same, but for good reason.

The main thing that is taking up my time is the planning of Factor Four Magazine.  Authors will be pleased to know that the submissions are expected to open on time on December 1.  Readers will be excited to hear that subscriptions are coming along great.

In fact, we opened for subscriptions today.  We are going to publish our stories on our website, in an eBook, and in print form.  I’m excited to say we have a subscription option for all of these, including one that is only $4 per year (stay tuned, you may be able to  get it cheaper).

First, all our subscription options come with free online access to all past issues.  Now, I know we don’t have past issues right now.  But in the future we will.  And how nice will it be to pay just $4 and not only get the next four issues but all our past ones too.

We also have the option for auto renew and one time, so the preference and option choices are totally up to you.

Now our print issue is available to both US/Canada residents and International.  You can get 25 % off if you subscribe before the year ends.

Now for the hook up.  I have this handy little discount code that will get you an online or eReader subscription for just $1.  Yep, just $1 for the year.  Just use: RF4FFMSOCIAL as the discount code.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE

Now only the first 50 people to use that will get it and, of course, I’ll be sharing it on Twitter and Facebook.  But don’t worry, if you follow Factor Four Magazine of Twitter or Facebook, they each have a code valid for 50 uses as well.

Advertising options are up as well as most of the other pages.  I was hoping to get volunteers up by Thanksgiving, but that may not happen.  I am currently looking for people to join me on my editorial staff.  I just have to get that together.

Now to figure out the Submissions engine.  Happy reading!

Thoughts on Magazine Publishing

I recently had a story accepted by SciFan Magazine and though they have yet to release my story in one of their issues, I did start reading their magazine.  One of the things I came across this post of theirs.

It got me thinking about my time publishing Plasma Frequency and the struggle it was to come up with funding from time to time. Magazine publishing is a hard market to stand out in, and I’d like to think that Plasma Frequency stood out in a positive way.

I said it all the time, but I really did have a great team of volunteers behind the magazine and, though I funded it, I was only a small part of the process.

The point of all this:  I miss publishing.

I miss reading awesome stories from talented authors.  I miss losing sleep over whose story I’d have to reject.  I miss the awesome editors I worked with to put out the magazine.  I miss the way we tackled author feedback.  I miss post shares of the favorites and the author shares of their work.  And I miss collecting each issue.

It is hard to publish a magazine.  It is not easy.

First, there are a shitload of magazines out there.  And for each shitload there is a fuckton of good ones.  So many of them already have established reader bases and your only hope to find readers is to advertise to them.

Marketing a magazine isn’t easy at all.  First, most magazines don’t make a whole lot of money if any.  They rely on either the editor’s income, donations, or in magazine advertising.  Selling issues is hard enough as it is because so many good magazine publish their content 100% free online.   Then you have to find target an audience and get readers.

Now before anyone gets excited, I am not bringing back Plasma Frequency.  Even if I do return to publishing, it will be a different magazine all together.  Or maybe anthologies??  I’m not hinting at anything… honestly.

I think the point I am trying to make is to take time for your genre’s magazines too.  Read them, share them, donate if you want, but take the time to read magazines too.  We need new markets to join and we need them to mature.

From the Editor’s Desk: New Things on the Horizon for Plasma Frequency

2013top10fictionzineIt is funny how much time I spend blogging on writing, publishing, marketing, and even just random things going on in my life. Yet somehow I don’t seem to do much blogging with my editor’s cap on.  I have touched on it here and there, but most of the time that I mention Plasma Frequency, it is about how it has kept me from writing.  It would seem that something that is taking up so much of my time deserves a bit more attention. I assume my blog followers, being writers, might enjoy hearing what is going on in the short fiction publishing world.

For those that don’t know, Plasma Frequency, in my bi-monthly speculative fiction magazine. We mostly publish science fiction and fantasy, but some horror too. We publish from just a few hundred words up to 7,000 words. And we have been doing this now for two years.  Issue 13 comes out this Friday and it makes the start of our third publishing year.  That is a big deal for someone like me for several reasons: first we got this far, second we continue to grow, and third we seem to be making a difference in the industry.

In a future blog I intend to provide some tips on how to start your own magazine, but for now I want to talk about Plasma Frequency‘s future.

Our First Issue, with Award winning cover art by Tais Teng
Our First Issue, with Award winning cover art by Tais Teng

This is a magazine that I started in 2012 because I wanted to give authors another place to showcase their work.  And not just showcase it, but receive compensation for it.  Writing is a lot of hard work, and while doing it for money isn’t the best reason to get into writing, there should still be some compensation for it.

I wanted to start Plasma Frequency at 3 cents per word, but the funding for Plasma Frequency comes out of my pocket. So we started, and remain at, 1 cent per word.  The main question for me has always been how do we get this pay rate increased. The first year, I tried in-magazine advertising, and that didn’t work out well.  The second year I tried selling the magazine and some crowd funding.  Neither has worked out well.  Selling the issues covers about 10% of the costs per issue. The other 90% comes from my pocket. When you add in web hosting, submission services, and other operational costs (shipping, printing, postage, and much more), about 98% of the magazine’s funding comes from my own pocket.

Since my pocket book has no more room in it to add to the magazine, I spend a lot of time going over some ideas for our third year. We will still be selling the print copy and the eReader copies. That will not change, because readers have told us they enjoy those issues.  But we will be bringing the stories to our website, allowing those who want to read for free the ability to do so.  Now at first that might seem counter productive to making money, but we are hoping that increased reader exposure will also increase donations.

Asking for donations is always hard. People work hard for their money and they aren’t sure they want to donate it to a magazine. But, we hope that by reading our stories free online you will see this is a magazine worth a few bucks. And this year we are started a Patreon page.

Issue 8. The first issue with the new Masthead and the first issue sold via Amazon. Award winning art by Laura Givens
Issue 8. The first issue with the new Masthead and the first issue sold via Amazon. Award winning art by Laura Givens

What is Patreon?  Well Patreon is a way to donate a small amount monthly to us. It can be as little as one dollar, to as much as you see fit. That is a great way to put just a little bit into the bank and it all helps.  I’ve set some goals on there for us to reach. Reaching those goals will help us to raise the pay rates.  Maybe even get to 7 cents a word for authors in our magazine. That means we can attract more writers and bring in a wide range of story styles.  That is a lofty goal, but the good thing about Patreon is that it doesn’t expire. There is no deadline to reach any of these goals.  It is just the road map to our success.

Tying in to the Patreon page, we are also establishing donor levels. You can reach these through Patreon or through one time donations.  All people who reach one of our donor levels (to be officially announced September 5th) will be listed in all issues of our magazine (print and eReader) for the rest of time.  Onetime donations are always accepted, but Patreon is a good way to reach those donor goals without spending too much.  We have started out with some basic rewards, but as we grow so will the rewards.  The editors and I have even talked about some exclusive special editions that only donors will have access too.  We’re also considering early releases to donors and other such fun perks for becoming a donor.

Do you have a book, magazine, product, or service that would appeal to the audience of my magazine?  Oh, lord that sounds like such a horrible sales pitch. We are bringing back limited space advertising.  Official rates will be announced September 5th. But there are only four spaces for sale each month.  And if you buy a space for October, you get the rest of September free!  Your ad will be on every Plasma Frequency webpage, even the home page, for the entire month.  The ad prices are affordable and you will catch people’s attention.  If we consistently sell out the advertising, we could raise the rate of pay to as much as 4 cents per word.

Now you may be a lot like me and not have a lot of money to spare. I get that.  Money is not the only way to support us. You can also share your favorite stories. You can share the Patreon page. And you can follow Plasma Frequency on Facebook and Twitter.  There are sites to review our magazine too.

But aside from trying to raise money we have some other new and exciting things for our third year.  First off we are publishing Steve Coate’s “The Great Exodus”, a six part serial fiction piece.  The first part releases with Issue 13, and it will run for six issues.  This is a great way for us to publish longer fiction that would otherwise fail to fit within our pages.

We are also setting up a more consistent issue style.  In the past I would accept stories as they came in. And when the word count limit was reached, that was that.  Well sometimes we’d have twelve or thirteen stories in an issue, and other times we’d have just six.  I now am accepting stories for the whole year.  We accept just a few longer fiction pieces (typically two per issues) and the rest will be shorter or flash.  The result will be a consistent 10 stories per issue (11 counting Coate’s serial), while also giving a good mixture of fiction length.  The readers should better know what to expect from us.

I touched on this a little bit, but aside from our six issues, we are looking into publishing special editions. Perhaps even with guest

Issue 13: Out September 5th 2014. Art by Tais Teng
Issue 13: Out September 5th 2014. Art by Tais Teng

editors.  We are still talking this over.  I am also thinking of handing one issue over to one of my other editors and letting them have a go in the driver seat.  I am looking forward to working those out.

Of course the Year Two Anthology is also in the works.  The editors and I are choosing our picks, and just like last year our readers are making their picks too.  Voting ends on September 15th.  Then I have to contact the winners and set up the contracts for the issue.  I hope to have it out by late October so that you can have it on your Christmas list.

We will also be archiving our old issues online.  This will take a long time as there are 12 issues worth of stories to code on to a website. We don’t use a WordPress site for Plasma Frequency.  I code it all myself. And, I am learning coding as I go.

Speaking of the website, on September 5th our new website releases. It won’t be hugely different than our site now.  But I have put the stories as the main feature on the first (home) page.  And there are other tweaks along the way.

So that is just a taste of what we have in store for the next year. If you are already a reader, I hope you enjoy it.  If you are not yet reading us, I hope you will join in.

Novel Announcement: Volition Agent

If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve undoubtedly seen a few teasing posts about my next novel project.  I’ve teased with a few hints, surprises, and more.  Well the teasing can come to an end, I have decided to finally let the cat out of the bag.

My next novel, titled Volition Agent, is a fast paced SciFi Thriller set in the near future.  The highly secretive Agency has a Volition program.  They take everyday people who are physically fit and recruit them as Volition Agents.  They are implanted with a control chip so that a highly trained “handler” can control their every action.  If a Agent is captured the loss to the Agency in minimal.  Agents are sent on missions from intelligence gatherings to assassinations.  Volition Agent followed Lexia, one of the agents.

Here is a tentative blurb:

Lexia Santarelli is part of a top secret group of Volition Agents.  These untrained, unremarkable, everyday people are recruited by the agency to be literally controlled by their “handler” through a device implanted in their necks.  It is an exciting life, and despite some of the annoyances, Lexia enjoys it.

That is until the Agency decides to let Lexia take the fall for a mission gone wrong.  Her link with her handler, Lance is severed.  Suddenly Lexia finds herself alone, unprepared, and hunted by the very people she trusted.

With few clues, minimal training, and an unlikely ally Lexia sets out to discover what really happened on that botched assignment.  Determined to set right the wrong she created, nothing can stand in her way.  Not even the Agency itself.

I have some great cover art for this novel, and I can’t wait to share it with you all.  So here it is:

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons Photography

KIPThe cover art is shot and designed by Kristin Irons (website).  I’ve worked with Kristin before, she designed the logo for Plasma Spyglass Press. Kristin is a very talented photographer and when I explained what I was looking for she said she had an idea.  The next week was a bit of a whirlwind.  Kristin found a model, the very beautiful and talented Joy Anna, to play Lexia in a photo shoot.  She then teased me relentlessly with images from that photo shoot before showing me the image she had in mind for the cover art.  I am a very picky and hard to work with person when it comes to cover art, but she kept taking my ideas and reworking them until we came up with the cover above.  And I couldn’t be more thrilled by it.

Let me tell you why this cover is so special to me.  This is the first time I’ve had anyone “play” one of my character in any way.  Joy Anna, whose modeling pictures I had only seen briefly before this, jumped into this project head first.  I understand they captured a ton of images and I’ve only seen a few of them. As a writer, I was excited to see what might come from this.  I’ve never met, or even talked to Joy Anna but I thank her for her time because the results are absolutely amazing.

A big heartfelt thanks to Joy Anna, Kristin, and her assistant William Harris.  So many folks use stock art, or stock photos to make custom cover art.  But I have a real custom cover for this novel.  Please take a moment to check out the people that helped with this cover, give them a like, follow, or whatever else to show them some support.  Kristin Irons: Facebook, Twitter, Website  Joy Anna: Facebook William Harris: Flickr

This is the first story I have written where it had a title before I ever wrote it.  The whole idea came from hearing the word volition and it’s meaning; the ability to make a choice or decision.  So Volition Agent was an easy enough title for me to come up with.  I think it works well given the themes in this novel.

So when is the release date for Volition Agent?  One hasn’t been set just yet.  But I have a deadline of the first week of June 2013.  So expect to see it no later than this.  I hope to have it out a little sooner, but you can’t rush these things.  I’ll be sending it out for Beta Readers in the first two weeks of April.  Then my editor will get this.  I’ll be working with a new editor this time, since Robert is booked up for the foreseeable future.  As always, watch this blog, my Twitter and Facebook for updates.

I’ll leave you with a few other images from the photo shoot:

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons
Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Distinguishing Yourself from the “Steaming Piles of Crap”

On of the members of the writer’s group I belong to, and a person I follow on Google+, recently released her first eBook.  I offered my congratulations and she mentioned that anyone can put up an eBook, “…from Stephen King to steaming pile of crap.”

And truthfully she is right.  Anyone can do it.  They can go on Smashwords, KDP, or even PubIt and throw together an eBook and sell it in about ten minutes.  I just got done setting up Dissolution of Peace for eBook sales on KDP and was surprised just how quick it was.  I was set up and done in about an hour.  And I spent some time debating the price and royalties options.  On the other hand, the print version has taken almost a week now to get set up and it still isn’t done.  But even that is only because they review the file for “print-ability” but not for content.

So one might wonder how they separate themselves from the crap.  The simple answer is not to be crap.

If you wrote a book in a week, and published it the next week.  Chances are your story is going to be garbage.  You simply miss way to much when you spend so little time on a project.  I’ve talked a lot about the steps you have to take to get your work ready for publication.  If you start cutting corners, it will show.  All told, I will have spent nine years (or more) working on Dissolution of Peace.  From the original manuscript written in 2003-2004 to the final product you will all see October 16th.

Do I recommend taking nine years?  No, not necessarily.  From the time I made up my mind to finish, and see published, Dissolution of Peace  it took almost exactly one year.  In that year, I spent most of that time editing.

The rewrite of the manuscript cut out 30,000 words of pure crap.  Words I might have missed if I didn’t reread the original manuscript.  Next, I read it again.  I corrected the mistakes I found, and read it again.  Then I sent it off to a few beta readers.  They made their comments.  I fixed some things, and read it again.  Then it went to a professional editor.  He sent me back a boat load of suggestions.  I fixed those, rewrote some passages, corrected the plot holes and confusing information.  Then, you guessed it, I read it again.  I fixed a few things and put it in format for publication.  Then I ordered a proof.

ALWAYS ORDER A PROOF.  I know many people who skip this step.  They figure they have caught everything by this point.  They look at the digital proof for format errors and then approve it.  They never hold a proof copy in their hands.  Well I ordered a proof.  And I read it cover to cover.  There were exactly ZERO formatting error.  However, there were twenty-two other errors.  Missing words, typo words, and other things.  Things four beta readers, an editor, and five of my own readings missed.  All of which were just things your eyes miss.  When you see a word in its context you might not notice that “closest friend” was typed “closet friend” in the book.  The fact remains that as I read it in book format, these things came out because it was the first time I had read it as an actual book.  In print.  Not on a computer screen.  I saw my novel in a new way.

And now, as I get ready to approve the final draft I am confident it is ready to be read.  Will I miss something?  I will almost bet money I did.  But even the professionals miss something.  It is one of the ways book experts can detect what edition many books are.  They know of certain misprints, typos, ect in each edition.  The point to this is not to spend forever making the novel absolutely perfect.  The point is to spend enough time with it to make it the best you can possible put out.

I read my story six times in this last year.  If you are not reading your book multiple times to prepare it for publishing, how can you expect buyers to read it once?  If you wrote it and you find it boring to read more than once, it may not belong in the steaming pile, but you should figure out what needs to be fixed to make it readable.

I will also say this.  Grammar and punctuation do not make a book readable but they can may a book unreadable.  If your book is overly riddled with grammar mistakes, they can distract a reader.  However, you can have a grammatical masterpiece, not one grammatical error in the entire manuscript, and still have a steaming pile on your hands.

You need a plot.  A story that starts where the real story starts.  You need a conflict of some type.  You need a resolution to the conflict.  And you need a satisfying ending.  You have to be able to tell a story.  A story readers want to read.  A story with characters people love (or hate for the right reasons).  You need a world for this to all take place in.  Once you master that, you can go back and fix the grammar.

The point is you need to take time with you works.  He who publishes the most books, does not win.

You need to put together a quality novel before you submit it for publication.  If you do that, your work will stand out for the steaming piles of crap that come out.  But also remember that some people will simply not like your novel for their own reasons.  While others may love it.  You can’t please everyone.  We’ve all bought a book we thought would be good only to be disappointed.  But if you take your time to put your best work forward, you will find a following of readers who will love your story.

Editing (and why you need an Editor)

I am blogging a lot later tonight because I spend my day time editing Dissolution of Peace.  Though I finally went through all my editors notes, I am not finished.  My editors made nearly 3,000 line by line comments on my manuscript and also provided me with four full pages of comments and suggestions.  I still have 70 to correct, but I made the decision to fix what was easiest first.  The points of story and character, I’ll go back and review.  It was a lot of work just to correct those other 2930 comments, but many of those were punctuation mistakes, grammar mistakes, and typos.

Grammar is a touchy issue with me.  It is also a pit fall of mine.  I’m not afraid to mention that.  But I do become incredibly grouchy when grammar mistakes are pointed out to me, especially in social settings.  And while a few simple mistakes may not ruin a story for a reader, major slip ups will.  And a pile of minor slip ups can make a mountain that becomes distracting.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, and for that reason I dreaded reading these comments.

But if grammar bothered me, I was more worried that the editor would have listed a huge amount of plot problems.  Or tell me he hated the story line all together.  Thankfully I didn’t get that.  There were even some plot points I was worried about that my editor made no comments on.

But in the end my editor caught 3,000 mistakes (in his opinion) that my three beta readers missed.  That is 3000 things that were not brought to my attention before I hired an editor.  And this is exactly why you need to hire an editor, especially for your longer projects.  I don’t hire an editor for my short stories, it doesn’t make financial sense to me.  But I will hire an editor for all of my novellas and novels.

Beta readers help you find those plot mistakes, story flow problems, and gauge overall reader enjoyment.  Editors break out the find tooth comb and check for all the little mistakes (and even some big ones).  Think of Beta readers as sand paper, they smooth out the story.  And Editors are polish, they make the story shine.

There are some things you have to look for when you hire an editor:

First, do they have any editing experience.  Don’t be afraid to ask them what they have edited.  Don’t be afraid to ask other writers for recommendations.  And do a search for information about that editor.  Check out their website and other people’s posts about them.  Ask for references.  Remember you are hiring them.

See if you can get a sample.  Many editors will provide a small sample of their work.  Some won’t but I’d suggest they do.  Even if it is just a few pages.  If not, but you know they are a good editor.  Find out what you get for the money you are paying.  Some editors charge a lot of money just to give you a summary of thoughts.  While others will offer line by line edits.  Always ask if it includes proofreading.  Some editors don’t consider proofreading part of editing.  It is semantics if you ask me, but that is why you should always check.

Find out a deadline.  Make sure the editor gives you a timeline.  Don’t dump hundreds of dollars on an editor that plans to take an excessive amount of time on your manuscript.  You may have to pay more if you want a rush on your edits, and you may pay less if you allow the editor some extra time.  Again, establish that up front.

Last find out if your editor will continue to help you if you fail to understand his notes.  Some editors charge for the markups and a separate fee if you want further opinion later.  Others are willing to help you through the whole process up to publication for no extra charge.

Tips for handling editor markups:

Just like when you get feedback from Beta Readers, the feedback from an editor does not mean you have to change something.  There were a number of suggestions my editor made, that I won’t be changing.  Most of these are a simple matter of opinion.  But, remember you are hiring an editor to provide you a professional opinion.  So if you are not sure you agree with an editor remark, look it up for yourself.  For example, my editor marked that “sickbay” should be “sick bay”.  I won’t be changing that because my research shows that many naval traditions refer to it as one word, sickbay.  So I will keep it that way.  My editor is not wrong for marking that, I just prefer it the one way.  The plus side is that by him pointing it out, I realized that in some parts of my manuscript I had it as two words.  So for consistency I fixed that.

That being said, never ignore an editor’s comments.  They marked it for a reason.  Good editors will also explain why they marked it that way.  Mine did.  I was also able to research it myself.  I learned from it and now I know a lot more than I did in the beginning.  There were a few times I thought I had done something right, but when I went and looked it up I was wrong.  Don’t ignore a comment, learn from it even if you don’t change it.

Next, bit of advice is not to be overwhelmed.  It is pretty scary when you see all those red markups on your manuscript.  At first I didn’t really want to move forward on the edits.  I was intimidated by the volume of notes.  But I told me self I’d start working my way down.  Anything that required extra thought I would skip.  I would fix all the typos, punctuation, and grammar errors and other simple fixes.  That got the ball rolling.  And soon you realize that you repeat a lot of mistakes.  For me, punctuation at the end of dialogue was a pit fall for me.  That was probably the number one punctuation fix for me.  A few spelling errors.

And a lot of repeated words.  When I started to find out my editor was marking repeated words, I was a bit mad.  I didn’t see the importance in it.  I thought it was something trivial and a matter of opinion.  But when I got back my manuscript I found that my characters “smile” a lot.  They “stated” everything.  And they “look” all over the place.  And a lot of the time I used all three of those words as a filler.  Something a simple “said” would work for.  Or sometimes the sentence could be removed with no effect on  the story.

My last tip for handling big project edits is not to read while you edit.  If I had reread my entire novel while working on the edits it would have taking far longer.  I simply went from comment to comment and corrected what was wrong.  I only read the area of the comment to get the context.  It helped me power through those thousands of comments leaving the real meat of the edit there.  I will now read through the novel and as I hit the comments left behind I can decide how to best correct those.

I don’t need an editor.

If you are writing a novel (or even a novella) you are wrong.  You may plan to publish the traditional way, or you may plan to self publish.  Either way you need an editor.

If I was submitting my manuscript to an editor at a publishing house, I’d have just submitted them a manuscript with 3,000 errors on it.  That is 3000 things the publisher will notice.  I think my current manuscript would have a better chance of being picked up simply because I correct so many errors.

If I self published my manuscript, it would have went to readers with 3,000 mistakes on it.  That could very well add up to low sales.  And the number one way a self published author gets (or loses) sales is word of mouth.  There is rarely a large marketing budget for the self published author.  So hiring an editor is the best way to invest what little money you have available to improve your work.

Every writer needs an editor.  At least one.

Who did I use?

I am sure you wonder who I used for my editor.  I used Robert Wilson, editor for Nightscape Press.  Robert is a self published author of multiple top rated novels and novellas, including the only Vampire novel I have truly enjoyed: Shining in Crimson. Robert was also an editor for Horror for Good: A Charitable Anthology and is a freelance editor.  His rates are reasonable (you can contact him about that).  His work is very in-depth.  He even took time to look up facts about how military ranks are capitalized, since this was his first story that dealt with so many ranks.  I think that speaks volumes right there.  He took the time to make sure he has it right.  He provided me broad notes and line by line edits/proofreading.  As I mentioned he took the time to point out repeated words.  He did this by highlighting them a different color than the comments, and that was really helpful.  It made them stand out and I really saw how much I was using some words.  Overall, I highly recommend him.  And I will use him again (provided he can stand working with such a needy writer again).

Overwhelmed

I have broken one of my most important rules: To blog every week.  In fact, I haven’t even posted a blog post in August and it is a third of the way through now.  The reason for this is simple: I’m overwhelmed.

August marks a lot of positive milestones for me.  It marks one year of this blog.  I’ve posted 57 blog posts.  So I suppose I averaged out to one a week.  But I’ll work to keep this updated.  I have a lot of news to share in the coming weeks and months.  Lately there has been a lot going on in my life and I have had to give my attention in a lot of directions.

Another milestone for me is that August marks one year since I was first published.  My short story “Death Watch” in Liquid Imagination Online and “Dream Job” in Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction were released this time last year.  I find it hard to believe it has been a year already.  I’ve been focusing so much on my novel length projects, that I have only written two short stories in this year.  One, “Miles from the Future” is slated to be published on Infective Ink this month.  Of course, I’ll have a link up as soon as it goes live.  My other story has been with one publication for a while, so I can only hope I get good news soon.

The lack of short stories is not a reflection that I’ve given up on short works.  The ideas I have right now are just turning out to be novel length.  When a short story idea hits me again, rest assured I will be back at it.  But frankly the world of my soon to be released novel Dissolution of Peace and my current novel in progress have consumed me.

On the topic of Dissolution of Peace, I got my editor mark ups.  That alone has been very overwhelming.  So much so that I haven’t started any corrections yet.  I don’t know where to start, and frankly it was a bit of a “I don’t think I am cut out for this” moment.  It has only been a few days since I got them.  And I have every intention of breaking it down to small chunks.  I think I will start with the simplest corrections.  The grammar, punctuation, and other errors..  I will then tackle the more demanding issues.  I’ll get it done, and hopefully in time for a September release.  But, the official release date will be announced when I share the cover art with all of you.

The first issue of Plasma Frequency has gone up.  You can get your copy here.  Of course you would think that would be less overwhelming, but there is still Issue 2 and Issue 3 in the works.  Issue 2 is about ready to go to layout and will be out October 5th.  Issue 3 is still in the early readings and we have not yet accepted any stories.  I really love publishing great stories for everyone to read.  I love sending the acceptance letters, seeing the new art work, and getting great books to read for reviews.  But it is an overwhelming task to publish a bimonthly magazine.  And the real issue is that I have been doing most all of it myself.  There are plans to look for people to assist me with this publication.  Those details will be put up on our website and Twitter.  The other big task is finding advertisers.  I need advertisers to pay my artists and writers.  Only getting advertisers is a full time job itself.  And the task is very overwhelming.

All that being said, have no worry.  Plasma Frequency will push forward and I have faith that it will become easier with time.  Once a system is in place, things will run smooth.  But like any business, starting up is always the hardest and most overwhelming part.  The support from the writers and the readers is excellent and I can’t thank everyone who submits to us enough.

My work and personal life has been no different.  My job is a a dynamic one, and it can go from absolute boredom to “crazy-nuts” is a matter of minutes.  But, I need the day job.  My wife is still struggling to find any work.  The people that are hiring don’t wish to hire her.  They seem to feel she is over qualified to work in retail or fast food.  Over qualified is something I’ve never understood.  But as it stands, I am still working to to just barely cover rent.  It is very overwhelming to try to balance a budget with so little left over after rent.  I’m forced to pick and choose which bills I pay each month.  That is a tough way to live.

I’ll admit my life holds many blessings.  I know there are many who share my financial woes, or are even in a worse spot than I am.  But I am still overwhelmed by it and it keeps me very stressed out.  My health (and my weight) have been effected by the stress.  But I push forward because I have to for myself and my family.

Of course, since I didn’t have enough going on already, I agreed to coach my middle son’s soccer team.  I don’t regret that choice.  For the most part it has been a great escape from some of the other stress factors.  But, I already serve on the Soccer League’s Board of Directors, and it is one more thing on the pile of stuff to do.  But, these kids are great and they all have a passion to learn the game and have fun with it.  They are a source of motivation and stress relief in my packed tight life.  We start our games on Saturday, and that promises to be even more fun.

So overall, I have a lot going on.  It is overwhelming and I find it hard at times.  Hopefully I can get some time back for myself.  Time will only tell.

Dry Spells

We writers often talk about writer’s block.  I even had a blog post on the topic.  But sometimes we just have dry spells.  They can be caused by different factors, including writer’s block, lack of time, and lack of motivation.  For me it has been the motivation mostly.  The ideas have been flowing free in my mind.  Both for a sequel to Dissolution of Peace and the current novel I am working on have been very active in my mind.  But I just don’t sit down and write.  So for today’s blog I thought I would talk about how to ride out these dry spells and even do a little rain dance to get things going again.

The first step is recognizing the dry spell.  That may seem easy enough, and for some it is.  But for me it wasn’t so easy.  I only just started thinking about how little I have written.  And when I look at my work in progress, I see the file hasn’t been modified since May 10th.  That is nearly two months ago, and I wasn’t aware of it.  This is by far the longest dry spell I have had in some time.  The only saving grace is that I have still been writing in this blog on a weekly basis.

In fact it was this blog that made me recognize I was in a dry spell, and at the same time it was what made me not realize it for so long.  Each week I sit down and put together a blog post for you.  I’m writing, and perhaps writing these blogs kept my ‘writing sense’ working.  Blogs are great ways to keep people aware of your existence, and to break down writing blocks and walls.  But, in this case it tricked me into thinking it hadn’t been so long since I wrote.  But, when I only wrote a short ‘Happy Independence Day’ blog last week, it clicked to me how little I have written.

You may not blog, so you may see you haven’t written in a matter of weeks.  Or, it could take you some time to recognize it for other reasons.  The point is you have to realize you’re in a slump before you can move on to the next step.

The next step is identifying the cause of the dry spell.  Again this may seem easy, but that is not always true.  Writer’s Block is often the first thing to blame.  But, if your ideas are still percolating in your head, as mine were, writer’s block is likely not your cause.  You have things to write about in your head, you’re just not sitting at the keyboard and doing it.  If you think it is writer’s block, dig deeper.  If you find no other causes, then revert to the steps to break down writer’s block.

The next most common thing to blame is time.  That is what I blamed.  I told myself I haven’t had time because I have been running a magazine.  I’ve been trying to get the first issue ready for print.  But that wasn’t fair.  Sure, running the magazine has taken up a lot of my time, but so does work, and my family.  All valid things to be working on rather than writing, but I’ve worked around all of them before.  But if you work through all this and find that time really is the issue, then you need to revert to the steps to find a time to work on your writing.

You might find it is depression, lack of motivation, or you have something new in your life that you’d rather be doing.  You may even find out that writing isn’t what you want to do.  But chances are that if you’ve realized you’re not writing, and are looking for ways to start again, you genuinely miss writing.  Once you find the cause, you need to dig deeper and find the true cause.

For me, I found it was a lack of motivation.  The ideas were there, but I wasn’t writing.  I dug deeper to find the cause of my lack of motivation.  That was a series of bad news in my writing.  I have received five rejection letters in those two months.  Three of those were for a story I have really felt confident in.  It has been stacking up the rejections and it has started to take a toll on my confidence.  In fact I have two short stories that are not selling despite approaching a year in circulation.  I’ve reminded myself that my first stories sold remarkably fast.  I’ve also reminded myself that I have not turned out a short story in almost eight months.  That is not a bad thing though.  I’ve been focusing on putting out novels.  When the right idea hits me, I’ll write another short.

There have been other delays in my novel as well.  I still don’t have cover art.  The edits may be delayed.  That coupled with the lack of sales of my son’s children’s book, has me worrying about my ability.  I get frustrated when people are not as excited about something as I am.  I feel as though they don’t approve of it, or even thing it not as worthy of their time.  I am a pessimist by nature, so I see all these things for the worst rather than the possible truth.  I see cover art delays as an artist who is disinterested in my story.  I see edit delays as an editor who thinks my work is so bad it needs more time.  And I see lack of sales on my son’s book as validation of my worst fears (that I can’t do this).

Long story short the reason for my dry spell is a lack of motivation because I am suffering from the “I can’t do this” and “I’m not good enough to do this” mentality.  We all hit this.  Everyone, in anything they pursue, hits a point where they think they can’t continue.  But if you stop, you are only proving yourself (and your critics) right.  It is the people that continue and refuse failure, that make it to their goals.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” – Henry Ford

Next, you need to break past your road block.  You have figured out what the cause of your dry spell is, but now you need to break on through and keep working.  For writer’s block, it may be as simple as sitting down and typing until you get something going.  For a lack of time, you can schedule in writing time.  If it is more complicated, break it down into simple ways to motivate yourself.

For me, I inflated my ego a bit.  I went to the reviews of my short works that are previously published and saw what they had to say.  Reminded myself that people do enjoy what I write, and that eventually an editor will.  I also recognized that not everyone is able, or willing, to fall into finite deadlines.  I either need to live with it, or only work with people who will follow deadlines (likely a mixture of both).  Last, I think I am good with marketing.  But I had to recognize that when it comes to books, I am new at it.  And when it comes to Children’s Books, I am unsure where to start.  So I’ve started asking around for help on that.

The point is whatever is holding you back needs to be addressed.  You need to either make peace with it, or solve it.  Either way you have to get those things out of the way before you can start writing again.

Last, perform a rain dance.  You will never get past a dry spell if you don’t start getting things going.  If you have a work in progress, open it up and get working.  You’ve worked past all your issues, but your desire to write won’t magically spark up.  You need to start writing.  You might find that you will jump right back in.  Or, especially in the case of writer’s block, you will struggle to start up again.  But after a little time at the keyboard you will find the rains will fall again.  And hopefully once you get going again your next dry spell will be a long way off.

Some people hit dry spells and give up.  For some people they simply don’t feel the need to write anymore.  But, chances are they would not be interested in finding a way to start writing again.  If you have the desire to keep writing, but you just can’t seem to do it, you are a writer in a dry spell.  Don’t give up on it.  Clearly writing is something you enjoy doing, or you wouldn’t seek out advice on how to end your dry spell.  Now get to work on fixing it, and get those words on paper.

 

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.