Why would you WANT to have a “normal” publishing deal?

writing-quotesTrade publishing.  Traditional publishing.  The big five (or however you want to count them).  This is how most people measure an author’s level of success but is it accurate?  As I mentioned in the previous post, I did a whole lot of research before choosing my publication method.  It was shocking!  Just like the music industry underwent a revolution because of Napster in the early ’00s, I think literature is verging on that same renaissance.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I did a whole lot of research before choosing my publication method.  It was shocking!  Just like the music industry underwent a revolution because of Napster in the early ’00s, I think literature is verging on that same sort of renaissance. The consumers are getting more options, making their own choices, and authors are the true winners of this change – if they can learn to adapt.

Well, let me assure you, I love adaptations.  No, wait… not the same thing.

At any rate, I did research.  I’m well aware that all of the information available is very biased.  People tend to comment loudly when they feel strongly.  This means that the two extremes (self or traditional publishing) get the most attention.  Regardless, a few commonalities stood out.

  1. Publishers are spending less money pushing out books, unless they are convinced there will be a return. (So more marketing is left to the author)
  2. Indie authors are more likely to pay their own way, even if they get less name recognition.

Yeah, I was already starting to lean toward “self” publishing by that point, and basically, that tipped me over the edge.  I’ve always been rather rabid about how little artists are paid.  Unless someone reaches celebrity status, the creation of things is considered to not be valuable.  Makes no sense to me.

Rant aside, none of those things were what convinced me to move to independent publishing.  Instead, it was the time frame.

a-professional-writer-is-an-amateur-who-didnt-quitYou see, with traditional publishing, they expect a return on their investment – and quickly.  The company needs to bring in money to make more books.  As an indie, I’m not in as big of a rush.  I put in my own investment, and I can leave the book to sell at its own rate for as long as I want.  For a trade published book, if the initial sales aren’t huge, it’s bumped down, the author gets dinged for not being hot right out of the debut box, and their eventual checks probably will never pay out their advance.

Never mind the lottery factor.  What’s that, you ask… well, lemme tell ya.  The chances of becoming a successful trade published author are similar to that of winning the lottery.  First, you should try to land an agent.  Most of them are inundated with others trying to do the same, so they only pick work that they feel strongly about.  Nothing wrong with this at all, until you run the numbers.  In order to play in the field, you have to get damned lucky, or write such an amazing query/synopsis/intro chapter (all together) that the agent is left dooling in shock.  As a newbie, who has no idea what to do?  Yeah… good luck.

THEN, you get to play the lottery again.  The agent must try to sell your book to someone who will give the author money for it.  Hello circle, we’re back for some more.  Yeah.  Here, it all depends on whether the “guy” (or girl) in charge of that department on that day is the kind of person who reads your stuff.  Maybe they like their vampires to be evil bats and not sparkling teenagers.  See what I mean?

AND THEN, you still have to make it into print, and hope the readers not only can find you (or know that your book exists) but also to hit them hard enough with your story that your book flies off the shelves…. or amazon’s digital services.

if-you-only-read-the-books-that-everyone-else-is-reading-book-quoteHey… wait…. what do you mean most book buyers are shopping online?  Yeah.  Interesting little tidbit with all that, eh?  Most buyers are shopping in the EXACT same place that indies are pumping their wares.  The gatekeepers have been thwarted.  The big boys are competing with millions of little ones, and charging a lot more for the same basic experience.  Hmm.  How long is it going to take before people figure this out?  From the look of the statistics, not that long.  Ebooks outsell print in general and are coming close for the most popular titles.

So the only real reason to go with a trade publishing contract over managing your own deals is the business aspect.  Maybe you suck at marketing?  Maybe you don’t have the time, and aren’t looking to become a full-time author?  Maybe you need someone to hold your hand and help with the hard choices?  This is why the old school style of getting a book out will never disappear.

The rest?  From bookstores to libraries, I think all of that will change.  I think that books will once again go back to being made by the people who care enough to sit down and pour their hearts onto the page – and the readers will pick the best and discard the rest.  Yes, there’s a mountain of crap out there.  There’s also an entire mountain ridge of gold, if you just take a chance on an indie author.  All the rules can now be broken.  Sometimes, that’s even a good thing.

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The things “Real” authors do

computer-1185637_1280A long, long time ago – ok, almost 3 years ago, now – I sat down at my computer with this idea in my head.  Before that, I had never thought of writing a book.  Oh sure, I had ideas on how to make stories better, but I wasn’t “born” to be an author.  I didn’t have some inner desire to “do this” when I “grew up”.  Instead, this story just popped into my head and forced me to let it out.  Five novels later, I was able to take a breath.

It also kinda sucked.

No, wait.  The STORY was amazing.  The writing, however, wasn’t the best.  Granted, the story was almost (but not quite) enough to make up for the massive amount of newbie mistakes I made.  An editor made them better.  A few dozen beta readers made it good, and then an editor made it into something to be proud of.

But by that point, I was well on my way to being an “author”.  Now, if you’ve ever written anything, you’ll understand that there’s a very wide, grey line all the way around that word.  If we write, we’re writers, but when are we authors?  Is that better or worse than being a writer?  The same thing?  It’s all so confusing.  But I had this book.  People liked this book.  So maybe I should think about letting them have the chance to read it.

And so I dove head first into research.  As I mentioned before, I ended up choosing to publish my work myself.  So far, it’s been a great decision.  I’ve probably made more money (albeit not that much) than I would have with a traditional deal.  Keep in mind, I published my first book about six months ago.  But, in order to make those dollars, I had to treat this like a job, not a hobby.  Thankfully, I came prepared.  Thank you, Google.

tumblr_n0qucd56B61sjoq1co1_500I read, read, read, and then read some more.  I saw that successful authors had certain traits, and tried to emulate them.  First, it was the process of getting the book ready.  I didn’t skimp on making sure that REAL people (besides me) saw it.  I also didn’t go for friends who would pamper my feelings.  I chose the meanest, nastiest, smartest people I could talk into reading this beast of a novel.

Then, I looked at cover art.  Ok, some of my stories were nearly impossible to design the cover for.  Looking back, I realize that a few hundred dollars would have been money well spent.  Instead, I decided to my own professional art skills.  I thought it would be a great way to save money.  I was wrong.  In the end, I spent about the same to get what I needed (software, assets, etc) and added time on top of it.

And when all of that was done, I started thinking about marketing.  Oops!  Talk about putting the cart before the horse, right?  I mean, if you build it, they will come?  Won’t they?  Yeah, not if they have no idea it even exists.  Marketing comes first, and social media is a great way to start.  For me, twitter was the obvious choice.  It doesn’t matter WHICH you choose, just so long as you can commit to putting something out there every day.  It doesn’t need to be related to your book, either.

You see, it takes TIME to make friends in our little virtual worlds.  People aren’t looking to find the next greatest author.  They are looking for intelligent people who have something entertaining to say.  Trust me, no one is going to follow you because you WROTE A BOOK.  There’s a zillion people who have done that, and most of them suck at it.  They will follow you because you entertain them – even if that’s just posting bad spider jokes or cat pictures.

And now, I look at my growing fan base and have to pause.  All those things I researched, all that advice I found… I’m doing it.  When I first held my book (er flash drive) in my hand, it was overwhelming.  I wanted it all RIGHT NOW!  But, not even a year later, it’s coming together nicely.  I have books.  I have fans.  I have followers, friends, and whatever you call the people who read this blog.  The best part?  I also have sales.  Sure, I’d like more.  I mean, I want EVERYone out there to read my books.  I’d love to be able to quit my day job and focus solely on creating the next best escape from reality.  Until then, I’ll celebrate the little victories…. like 1000 people following me on twitter.  =)

 

 

 

There are always characters that don’t cooperate

LieutenantI pick up these pictures from all over the place as inspiration for characters.  This one is the Lieutenant from BloodLust.  It just looks like I thought an officer should.

So, I was going through my inspiration folder, saw this, and started thinking about that book.  Probably the hardest part was writing a character – who got POV chapters – who could see into the future.  Oh, it’s a fickle talent and not one that can be relied upon.  His visions come when they want and aren’t always about what he THINKS he needs to know.

But how do I keep the secrets?  How do I prevent spoiling the entire plot of the book… hell, the series?  Well, I peppered the novel with hints.  Some won’t come into play until book 5.  Some apply to the next chapter.  The thing with Blaec’s knowledge is that sometimes telling another will twist the potential outcomes just enough that bad things will happen.  It’s not a friendly skill.  It’s not the kind of thing you’d wish on your worst enemy, but he’s always had it.

Zep (2)I had to fight to keep him on track.  Oddly, though, he wasn’t the character that went rogue on me.  No, that was Zep.  My beta readers had to listen to countless hours of me whining about keeping that man on track.  Granted, he’s also become one of my favorite characters to ever write.  (The gorgeous photo to the right was my inspiration for him).

Zep was supposed to be the friendly antagonist.  He didn’t agree.  By chapter three of the first book, he’d already scrapped the original plot, re-written it into something better, and dared me to fulfill his every expectation.  When I tried to play it safe, he proceeded to say something that carried be off track (back to where he wanted me to go).

I always see these memes about the imaginary friends writers have, and well, I think the characters from Rise of the Iliri are mine.  At least they are my first group of book buddies – and that gives them a special place in my heart.

And unlike my other books, the Rise of the Iliri series is MEANT to be read again.  The first time through, you might miss a few things.  Oh, the story is just as good, and you’ll be sucked right in, but I’m hoping that the second time will be even better.  The third?  Who knows.  I’ve personally read it more times than I can count, but that’s a little different.  Oddly, I’m not sick of it.

Now, I’m trying to capture that magic in every novel I put out.  I’m not sure I’ll succeed, but I’m going to keep trying.  But at least I know, when the characters are real enough to change things on their own, the book should end up great.

One more off my list

Sal RunningCover, editing, series, move to the next.  THIS is the problem when you write about a novel a month for almost two years.  The entire process gets all bottle-necked.  Let me assure you, it’s an amazing problem to have.

You see, at first, I wanted to have my books published by one of those big places.  You know the ones I mean.  The problem is that I don’t write the stories they want.  Vampires?  Nah, that’s been done.  I make genetically modified humanoids subjugated by population.  Feudalistic Europe?  I’m more of a Germanic/Rome kinda fan.  Humans vs. monsters?  I prefer monsters vs. humans.  Over and over my fans keep saying two things consistently.  1.  Characters that feel real.  2. Unique plot.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict the sales of a “unique plot”.  That means companies who are forced to watch their bottom line get a bit nervous.  A series about gamers, written in a style like romance serials but with an action/adventure style plot?  They can’t figure out how to market it.  Then again, I can’t either, so I just tell my fans on twitter and facebook and hope that word of mouth really works.

But, the rambling point I’m coming around to, is that while waiting to see who would be interested in my first, second, or whatever book, I kept writing – and researching.  The deeper in I got, the more I realized that trade publishing may not be the answer I’m looking for.  There’s no way the big publishing houses can keep up with my writing.  They wouldn’t give half my books the time of day because there’s no profit/loss research on that subject.  And….

Truth be told, I’m a fan of the indie control.  I don’t have access to $5000 cover artists, but I do have people with skills.  Maybe it takes my artist longer.  Maybe my editor has a day job.  Maybe my beta readers are literary fanatics sick of reading the same ol’ thing.  Everyone involved in getting these books out to the fans are readers, the kind who like to curl up with a book and escape for a while.  And now that I have decided to throw all of my eggs in one basket (indie publishing) they are right behind me making this happen.

Which means two new series for my readers.  And yeah, all of these books are “done” (but waiting for editing and the finishing touches).  I just don’t want to scare away my fans, making them think their favorite series will be forgotten.  Most of these books are complete, sitting on my hard drive, waiting for a little polish to make them worthy of being seen.  Most of the work needed to get these books to the readers are things out of my control, so while I get excited about a new cover, or being able to announce yet another release date, know that I’m at home, frantically typing away on the rainbow colored list of corrections that need to be made so you all can get the one after that.

And this is why I love being an indie author.  Because I can tell you all the truth.  I am not gagged by an agent or publisher, urged to hold my tongue so that expectations aren’t crushed with the print is running late or the release date is pushed back.  I love being in control, even if that means accepting that I’m going to make mistakes.  I love knowing that the book I created will be the book you see – and hopefully love enough to tell all your friends about.

 

The road to success is paved with books

Road KnowledgeEvery author wants to know how to make enough writing books to give up their day job.  I’m no different.  So, I’ve been tracking what works and what doesn’t.

First, let me assure you that the chances of you making it big with just one book is VERY slim.  Oh sure, some do, but some people also win the lottery.  If you wouldn’t bet your financial future on those kinds of odds, then you shouldn’t put it all on a single book.  There are just too many factors to the market for that to be a safe bet.

And if you research it, you will get information that runs the gamut.  Some say it’s all about many short stories.  Others say it’s about putting your book on every single twitter list and blog you can find.  There are places who recommend you do press releases, send books to your local library, and so much more.  I can’t tell you if those work for everyone.  I CAN tell you what is working for me.

I started off working full time at two jobs.  As one died down and fizzled out, I needed to increase my income.  Here I was, sitting on a back list that made jaws drop (which is how I’m pumping out so many books so fast, they’ve been written for a while).  So, before I dove in, I did my research. What sells, what doesn’t, and how do I make the most of my obscure status.

The first thing I saw was that romance is hot.  Hey, I had a cute and sweet romance novel.  Sure, it jerks out a few tears, but it’s definitely romance, and also romantic instead of just erotic.  I wasn’t ever expecting it to get a publishing deal, so I decided that One More Day would be my first foray into the world of self-publishing with Kindle.

It did well.  Now, it wasn’t a best seller, and it sure didn’t buy me a new car, but since I’d been researching, I was told to expect about $50 USD from my first book in the first month.  I made almost $250 without doing more than sending out a few tweets.  Hey, that means I don’t suck!  Ok, so it was time to learn from this.  I chose a series that is almost finished (Wolf of Oberhame) to check the fantasy market.  The plot line is relatively simple, the writing flows, there’s plenty of action, and it’s a bit more PG-13 to start.

08-05bUCzIBut when I tossed that out to the world, it fell into an echo chamber.  No one really cared.  I got a few reads from my previous fans, but that was about it.  The ratings were high, the page reads and sales weren’t.  Hmm.  Well, I owed it to my fans to finish the series, so I got to work on improving WWWK and send When We Were Dancing to the editor.  The corrections that came back meant a few months of work, but on February 12th, When We Were Dancing went live.  Sales skyrocketed.

Now, I cheated a bit.  I gave away When We Were Kings (book 1) during the initial release of book 2.  I offered preorder buyers a nice discount ($0.99 if bought before release, $2.99 after) and I paid a bit of money (less than $20 bucks) to get book 1 some attention on social media.  The result was dumbfounding.

My income during release weekend eclipsed that of both my previous books’ first month combined.  This was my third book, and second in the series.  My marketing was minimal, trusting my fans to honestly want to know how the story ends, and it seems to be working.  To me, this says, “Write the best books you can, and people will buy them, if you prove you can deliver.”

And now, I’m offering two more series.  The Eternal Combat Series follows a group of gamers as they deal with the unexpected repercussions of sexism in their hobby.  Rise of the Iliri is straight science fantasy about the rebellion of a subjugated species of humanoids.  VERY different books, both series are mostly done (editing and cover art are the holdups).  And I’m finishing the last of When We Were Crowned (because the changes my editor demanded means about 50,000 words need to be changed and re-written).

While I’m on this mad dash, I’m tracking numbers.  So far, the best advertising I can get is from Rochelle’s Reviews.  One one side they review romance and erotica novels.  On the other, they have just opened a branch of Science Fiction, Paranormal, and Fantasy.  Both offer readers a place to easily buy the books and to shop for more.  It’s like a portal to the riches of literature.

A measly splurge of $14.99 with Book Tweep hit a larger segment of the reading market than I expected.  I will most likely do this for the first month of each book’s release.  Studies show that buyers need to see something a few times before they trust it, and the daily tweets appear to be working.  It’s not enough to annoy my followers on twitter, but it does seem to bring sales.

But most of all, the best way to gain success seems to be just writing more books.  Each one advertises the rest.  That link on Amazon to my author page, where all my books are easily found is doing half my work for me.  And, of course, the links I place in each novel so my readers can find what they are looking for.

Next month, we’ll see if things are still looking up, but right now?  Yeah, I’ve already gone to part-time and am trying to decide what I need to make to quit altogether.  I have a good feeling that it’s really going to happen.  Hopefully, this time next year, I’ll be a full-time author, traveling on a road paved with all my books.

The glory of Kindle Unlimited

044e1aa7a1cf59d98f84009292d7b307There are two significant downsides to deciding to go it alone as an independent author.  First, is getting discovered.  Second, is getting someone who knows you exist to spend their money on your basically unknown book.

Now, let’s be honest here.  The vast majority of people are lazy.  The problem is that we always assume that means THEM and not US.  But, before you pushed the button to publish your book, how much effort did you really put into it?

Did you spend money on a cover?  More than $50?  Did you have an editor look at it?  I’m not even talking about someone who charges $0.25 per word.  Even those low-cost student editors are better than nothing.  What about beta readers?  Critique groups?  Writing forums?  And when they ripped it apart (because they always do, if they are helping at all) did you ignore what they said?  What draft is your book in?  Did you write “the end” and toss it up for sale?  Did you go through it once or twice?  Have you edited that thing until you can’t stand looking at another gladiator – er, uh, sorry.  Was that out loud?

Most of us will answer no to at least ONE of those questions, and there’s so many more I could add to it.  For me, I don’t DO critique groups.  That means people, and I’m freaked out enough by people.  I’m a very happy hermit, thank you very much!  I can get away with it, because I have a beta group made up of enough professionals that they WILL catch everything, and they understand that the meaner they are with the book, the more I adore them.  Tell me “it’s great!” and I will never EVER send you another copy.

And so, of the “Published by Amazon Digital Services” books out there, so very many are, well, CRAP!  Head hopping, verbs that can’t seem to agree on a tense, detail swaps throughout the story and more.  From formatting issues to crappy covers, the entire package matters.  There’s never one thing that a reader will “just forgive”.  With that said, there’s always going to be at least one typo that makes it to print.  Always.  Even with traditionally published works.

So, as a reader, kindle-381242I’m a bit skeptical about paying real, hard-earned money for a book.  Yeah, maybe it’s two bucks, but so is a damned good coffee.  Often, the coffee will give me more enjoyment, since I quit after the tenth mistake.  If that’s the second paragraph?  Well, I’m pissed at the author, and you just lost a potential fan.

Now, that’s where Kindle Unlimited comes in.  It’s a flat fee.  You can have up to 10 “borrowed” books on your devices at any one time.  Because Kindle syncs between reader applications (like phone, tablet, desktop, kindle reader, etc) you never lose your place.  For just ten bucks per month, you can take as many risks as you want.  Book lovers are much more likely to press the “read for free” button as a KU subscriber than they are to press the “buy with one click” button to bill their credit card.

And thus, we as authors get a free chance to make their must read list.  We get a low-risk method to build our fan base.  With most books priced at $2.99, it takes just four books to make it a better deal than buying outright.  As an author, I get paid almost the same amount – more if you consider the comfort level of the buyers.

Oh, I heard the whining when KU changed from a flat rate to only paying for actual pages read, but is this really bad?  If you’re writing short stories, then it takes LESS time than it does for a thicker book.  It also encourages authors to write more complex novels.  It drives the art of literature from both sides.  What shocks me the most, is that someone is actually taking a chance (Amazon) and bringing more people to ebooks.

And before anyone starts sending me hate mail about how the previous version was better… Sorry, I simply do not agree.  The crap that authors were almost forced to pump out, just to make a living wage was pathetic.  Short, crappy, underdeveloped works that left a bad taste in my mouth and turned me to cinema over literature – and I HATE movies.  Plus, if your readers are stopping about a quarter through the book, it kinda means YOU, the author, screwed it up and need to either fix it, unpublish the book, or learn to write before trying again.  There’s no harm in failing, if and only if you can improve on your mistakes.

And so, I proudly have all of my books available on Kindle Unlimited.  The only time one won’t be, is if I list it for perma-free (which I’m debating at the moment).  I want to make it easy for people to find my stories, to enjoy them, and to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.  We all work hard for what we get, and I certainly do not expect my readers to throw those few bucks away haphazardly.

Where am I going to fit that other book?

Leyli Tristan poses 3So, I have books scheduled to release in March, April, June, August, October, December, and February.  I’m still filling in the months in between, but if I want to keep it nice and consistent, that means When We Were Crowned should come out in July or September.  Now, there’s a gap there in May… can I get my people moving and hit that?  Hmm.

Next week, I get back to working on the Gladiators.  One thing I can tell ya about When We Were Crowned is that there will be a whole lot more ladies weaving through the storyline. I also know that this one is going to mix the combat from WWWK with the politics of WWWD, for a story that I sincerely hope my fans will approve of.

But first, I have to introduce all of you to a few more worlds.  From contemporary drama to outlandish Science Fantasy, I think you all will love the next two series, and I’m working hard to get the all out to you as soon as possible.