Refreshing doesn’t make it faster

wonderful_life_by_erinbird-d61oylyContrary to popular belief, hitting F5 doesn’t really help anything.  I know, I’ve been doing it all day.  Some is watching the internal hype for the release of Challenge Accepted later tonight.  Some is watching the ads that I mentioned yesterday.  Mostly…I’m in between writing assignments, and don’t have the spare time to get sucked into Tristan and Leyli until tomorrow night.

So, I’m plotting.  I have a few hiccups in a few books that I need to work out.  I also have a raging headache that is begging me to lay down and pass out…..but it’s almost RELEASE TIME!  And so I hit F5 again.

It’s still not helping.  I think I’m going to go read a good book that someone else made. Immortal and Sane, by Benedict Martin sounds like a good candidate.  Vampire/cyborg love affair!  And if you’ve never read any of his work, I highly recommend it.  Imagine Alice in Wonderland, with a whole lot of dark humor.  Definitely worth the price of admission (or purchase, as the case may be).  I’ve been waiting on this book for a while, and still haven’t managed to finish!

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.

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.  =)

 

 

 

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 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.

Growth as an Author

Salryc TeethIn 2013, I began writing.  I was stressed out, flustered, and just needed to escape.  What came out was a very dark story that somehow managed to portray hope.  The plot has enough tropes to make the reader feel comfortable, yet enough novelty to keep  interest.  The world?  Think Game of Thrones meets Star Wars.

Even now, I think the story is good.  Keyword there is STORY.  The writing?

Oh. My. God.

It wasn’t bad, or anything, but it certainly wasn’t good.  The word choice, stylistic options, and overuse of common “ticks” (a bit, though, etc) was just very amateur.  This is why BloodLust was NOT the first novel I released.  While the story is one of my favorites, it needed to have a little cosmetic surgery, and I’ve done a doozy on it.

Now, the introduction to the iliri has flare, substance, and rhythm.  It reads like a novel should, not some stuttering babble coming from a self-absorbed bimbo.  The story is a gripping coming of age novel from the perspective of a domesticated humanoid in a world where metal is rarely available in pure form.  Iliri are used as cheap labor, considered to be inferior to humans and little more than animals.  Imagine if dogs evolved to walk on two legs and talk.  Now imagine how they’d feel about their collars and being owned.

And the story had a life of its own.  Book 1 quickly turned into a four book series.  The story took hold, grew, and became something epic.  To this day, I’m not positive if it will culminate in 8 or 9 books, but I can tell you that I know exactly where it’s going.  Sadly, I keep finding that what I THOUGHT was a single book ends up being two.  I had to re-write book 5 twice, because 350k words might be a bit much for ONE book, but the plot needs to END when the pages do.  Evidently separating them by location was NOT a good idea if too much happens in one place.

So, I got to learn about pretty much everything while living in the fantasy world.  One of my biggest problems is describing the iliri in a way that makes it clear they are NOT vampires.  They’re predators who are complete carnivores.  There’s a few other hints I drop throughout the series, foreshadowing the “big reveal”, but I also know that 95% of people won’t even notice, but it’s all to keep the reader from associating my beasties with something they have probably read a lot more about.

And yet, now that I’m well into editing the second book (which will release in June) of the series, I can’t help but see how much I have learned by writing so many novels.  At book 6, I dropped half of my personal ticks.  At book 15, I finally figured out a good method of deep third POV.  Around book 20, my dialogue tags began to feel seamless and invisible (see One More Day).  Now, nearing book 40, I look back and just cringe at my novice mistakes – then fix them!  It means that book 2 will probably have more than 60% re-written.  It will also be so much better because of it.  The world will have a chance to come alive because I, as an author, can finally get the hell out of its way.

And none of this could have been possible without the skills of a damned good – and very patient – editor.  Her remarks come back with laughter and cheesy jokes.  When she discovers a new “bad habit” I have (such as mistaking whether to use a period or comma around the quotes) she trains me, making her job easier in the future.  Often, this results in some pretty intense discussions, a lot of ranting, and a few tantrums, but in the end, I’m so much better because she stands her ground and MAKES me fix it.  Yes, the choice is mine, but bad grammar is just bad.

And today, rolling my eyes at myself, I’ve realized that even a good novice author is still just that.  Experience really does pay off, so I’ll keep on writing the books, and hopefully my fans will keep on enjoying them.

What an amazing release weekend!

Leyli Promo poses 1First, I have to tell everyone who read When We Were Kings and/or When We Were Dancing THANK YOU!  I mean it.  Thank you so much for taking a chance on an author you probably had never heard of before.  Thank you for buying the book, or borrowing.  Most of all, thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a review.

I know that this isn’t exactly a “hot” subject in fantasy right now.  Monarchies are over done.  Princesses saving the world?  Oh, that’s “old hat”.  So much about this series begs to be cliche – but it’s NOT.  Leyli refused to be just another princess turned warrior.  Tristan?  Yeah, he had a few of his own opinions.

And they aren’t done yet.  Granted, I’m a little burned out on gladiators right now (this always happens for a week or so after intensive editing of my books, then I’m addicted all over again).  And  it’s already starting.  So far, I’ve been locked out of WWWD for 10 days because of the publishing process.  In that time, little details about book 3 (When We Were Crowned) have become just a little more clear.  Never mind the addendum book that’s begging me to release it.

You see, it isn’t just Tristan and Leyli that are the heroes of this saga.  Haven’t any of you wondered about that birthmark on the Lyone family?  Now I wonder where something like that could have come from.  And while that’s the most obvious hint I’ve left hanging out there, it’s not the only one.  I’m waiting for someone to figure it out.  (Yes, that’s a dare).

But the release has gone so much better than I could have dreamed.  Being a pragmatist, I’m well aware that gladiators, princesses, and obscure indie authors aren’t exactly begging to become the next “megahit” of the year.  I was hoping for a solid release from my dedicated fans.  Instead….

I got so much more.  When We Were Kings hit #31 in free fantasy books, right alongside novels I’d bought myself.  When We Were Dancing reached 29k in the overall kindle store (which has like 4 million books in it)!  These numbers aren’t best seller status or anything, but it’s jaw dropping for me.

Keep in mind, I released my first book, One More Day, in September of 2015.  Less than a year later, I’m seeing sales to be proud of.  WWWK still has a perfect 5 star rating!  Reviews are ticking up, sales have been stable all weekend, and me?

I feel like an author.  Saturday evening, I had to sit down and just let it sink in.  My dream of writing a book had not only been achieved but I really, truly, honestly FEEL like an AUTHOR.  I write books that people actually read.  Not just crap to fill up the kindle listings, but books with good reviews, solid sales, and a fan base that is growing.  I have an audience to keep feeding my stories.  I have a reason to do this.  I have achieved a dream…

And I wish that I could tell each of you how much I appreciate it.  For you, my readers, it may have been a book you picked up on a whim.  For me, the author, this has been a dream come true.

And I’m not at all ready to stop.  I have two more series to release this year, and the Wolf of Oberhame…. yes, there’s still more of her story to tell.  It’s going to be a wild ride.