Tuesday Takeover: The Truth of Work/Life Balance through Life’s Storms by Kate Corcino

Point A: We’ve all heard them—those pithy sayings meant to get us through the rough patches. “When it rains, it pours” and the like.

Point B: As writers, we’ve all heard the impossible counterpoints, too. “Write every day. EVERY. DAY.”

What happens when Point A wipes out Point B? I’m not talking about feeling swamped. I’m talking about a tidal wave of life events that crashes over you and those you love with a destructive force that leaves you sobbing as you pick over the detritus. Whether it is one huge event, or a series of smaller events that just keep coming, you are utterly overwhelmed.

How do you manage work/life balance when that happens?

You don’t.

And that’s okay.

But how can I be a writer if I’m not writing?

Because you’re learning.

Neither life nor writing happen in a vacuum. The things that you are learning when you’re in coping mode enrich both your person and your writing. I have so many writing friends forcing themselves to work through upheaval simply because they think that’s what writers do. They push themselves into exhaustion and beyond. They agonize over every moment spent away from their manuscript.

The bear of it is, sometimes you can’t help it.

In 2005, at seven months pregnant, I tripped while unloading groceries (they don’t call me “Grace” for nothin’). The impact caused a placental abruption. Our son was born at 27 weeks. The next three months were a blur of hospital corridors, medical forms, two-steps-forward-three-steps-back terror, and gratitude. Later, when I had time to reflect and not simply ride the daily waves, I recognized all of the lessons learned during that time that inform my writing and my life as a writer. Foremost among them was perspective. No matter how terrifying my tiny son’s odyssey was, the spectre of loss that left me breathless with fear was very real to other parents in the NICU. My son survived, then thrived. He came home. Other precious lives were lived in their entirety in that unit.

In 2008, when I was barely five months pregnant, my water broke early. The team at the hospital informed me that they had no choice but to deliver my still “unviable” daughter. We refused. They quoted a 90% fetal mortality rate in ruptures before 22 weeks, but we were steadfast. We were dismissed, sent home with antibiotics to keep infection at bay, instructions for total bed rest, and informed that I should drink at least 120 ounces of water per day. IF we made it to 24 weeks, they’d hospitalize us then, when there was a chance of saving her. When we went back three weeks later for the ultrasound, an eternity of tears and fears having passed in those weeks, my membranes had resealed. Our daughter wasn’t just viable, she was perfect. Lessons learned? Belief in myself, in my instincts, in my right to say no to experts determined to tell me they know better.

In 2011, my husband suffered a heart attack in the middle of the night. A day and half later, he underwent a quintuple bypass. Four and half days post-surgery, as I sat by his bedside, I received a series of calls that makes my heart ache to this day—our 15-year-old son had been in a horse riding accident. He was taken to a different hospital because he required the highest level of trauma care. Two days and a full craniotomy later, I stood by my son’s bedside at midnight as he came out of his anesthesia, disoriented, terrified, and in pain. He begged me with slurring words to hold his hand, to sing him his baby song, to stay with him. I stood leaning into the metal bars of his bed in the PICU until dawn, holding his hand and singing “You Are My Sunshine” until my voice failed and all I could do was hum. At dawn, he finally fell asleep. My day, to be spent managing my loves in two hospitals and at home, was just beginning.

Lesson learned? I am mighty. There is nothing that cannot be handled, so long as you keep your focus on the moment you are in right then. Do not look up. Do not allow yourself to be overtaken by what-ifs and possibilities. All that matters is one moment. If you can do that, you can do anything.

2015 was meant to be a great year. I had that work/life thing on cruise control. My first book, Spark Rising, and its related collection of stories had been released at the end of 2014 and the response to the novel exceeded my expectations by miles and miles. It won awards while I was deep in writing its follow-up. At the same time, I balanced managing the household, homeschooling my two youngest children, cheering on my oldest (who’d recently flown the nest to begin his adult life across the country), and nurturing a handful of animals. But I didn’t merely balance. I didn’t manage. I excelled.

And then our household crashed, again. My chronic health condition (also nicely managed) decided it was done cooperating. I was hospitalized for a week that summer. And then again. And then again. Even as teams of doctors surrounded my bedside and told us gravely that we were done managing and I risked death if they didn’t intervene surgically, I still managed.

I finished two sets of revisions on the manuscript and scheduled both edits and my surgery for early Fall. I co-wrote a short story. I made arrangements for the kids, the animals, the household. And then I was hospitalized again, and the surgeon moved up my surgery. It couldn’t wait.

Unfortunately, it would have to.

A week before I was supposed to return for elective resectioning of my innards, an inattentive driver swerved in front my husband on his way to work. His motorcycle went down, and it took all my careful management skills with it. We began an odyssey that would span gross malpractice, finding another doctor, another hospital, and two surgeries to repair him. The morning of my birthday, I kissed my husband and went to wait in a waiting room while they replaced his shoulder. Five weeks later, he leaned over to kiss me and wait while they wheeled me in for my own surgery.

During our recoveries, I did not write. I did not think of my once-looming deadline, now postponed. I did not work in spare, stolen moments. I allowed myself to heal, for him, for our children, for me.

Because sometimes work/life balance means putting everything you have on one end of the scale because that is the side that matters most.

The miracle of it is that when you turn back to the scale, somehow both sides are still hovering, somehow still balancing. How can that be?

That’s the most important lesson I’ve learned. As writers, we are so much more than butt in chair, fingers on keyboard output. We watch, we synthesize, we learn, and we dream, even through the nightmare times. And every experience, every moment away from our manuscripts and our internal worlds, returns again to us two-fold in wisdom, and depth of character, and fullness of experience that allows our writing to grow.

Work/life balance? I’m here to tell you, my friend, that if you’re alive, you’re balanced. When the storms stop thundering and the water recedes, when you have time to rebuild and breathe again, the words will be there. And they will be so much richer because of where you’ve been.


myra

Kate Corcino is a reformed shy girl who found her voice (and uses it…a lot). She believes in magic, coffee, Starburst candies, genre fiction, and descriptive profanity. A former legal videographer, teacher, and law student, she believes in chasing dreams and the transformative power of screwing up and second chances.
She is currently preparing for the imminent release of Spark Awakening, the second book in the Progenitor Saga, a futuristic fantasy series with romance, science, magic, and plenty of action.

She lives in her beloved desert in the southwestern United States with her husband, several children, three dogs, and two cats.

You can find her first book, Spark Rising, at Amazon.

 Website/Blog ~ Facebook  ~ Twitter  ~ Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 13, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tuesday Takeover: The Truth of Work/Life Balance through Life’s Storms by Kate Corcino

Tuesday Takeover: Chasing the Dream! by Vikki Becker

Enchanted - Vikki

For many years, I let fear rule my life. I was afraid of failing, at everything, so I just didn’t try. I just existed. I pushed my hopes and dreams of being a writer and an editor to the back of my mind. Raising a family with six children, it was easy to let my dreams lie dormant. Moms are supposed to focus on their kids, right?

I had forgotten that I even wanted to be a writer. I let the thought of it slip away. Then the pain began. Debilitating, depression inducing, horrific pain. Then more fear. Fear of not being able to complete tasks, of judgement, of failing as a wife and mother. I basically gave up. The pain ruled my life. There was little to nothing in my life that inspired or excited me, beyond my kids and grandkids. I had let the dark cloud of chronic illness permeate every aspect of my being and my life. I was completely without hope.

Then, during a chat, a friend suggested journaling, to get my feelings out, thinking it might be therapeutic. At first I just sat staring at the blank pages, wondering what in the world to write. I hadn’t written anything in so long, I just couldn’t imagine where to start. Starting at the beginning, my childhood, I wrote the story as if telling it to a stranger. Then the ideas starting flowing! Out of nowhere, all of these characters, scenarios, and locations were coming to mind. So I decided to run with it. Turning the page, I started over, giving voice to the stories and characters in my head. And I just couldn’t stop! It was so freeing. My mind felt alive, on fire. I began to feel like I did before the health issues took over, like I had something interesting to say and finally knew how to say it. Starting with a family friend, who is a publisher, writer, and all around creative genius, I began letting people read what I was writing. It was nerve-wracking, waiting on constructive criticism. But feedback was good. Yes, I had some learning to do, some things to work on. But, according to people that I trusted to be honest, the ability was there. It would just take time to hone it. I just had to keep writing.

Fear of the pain and the unknown had paralyzed me. But the possibilities of the future, once I recognized and nurtured my gifts and talents, were immeasurable. Hiding in fear is no longer my first instinct. This has not been an overnight process. It’s been off and on again. Early on in this journey I had lost myself. I was behaving as if I were only my diagnosis, not myself at all anymore. Now my heart and mind are open to new things, new ideas, new experiences, and I see new things on the horizon.

The physical limitations have opened up a world of possibility for me. Through loss of some physical abilities, many other abilities have been realized. Just because my body doesn’t work how I want it to doesn’t mean that my mind will do the same. Keeping my mind active gives me hope. Hope for change, for growth! So, as odd as it sounds, I am thankful for my health issues. Because without them I wouldn’t have rediscovered my love for writing, my passion for editing, and my desire to create. My horizons have broadened since becoming chronically ill. We all have so much more available to us if we would only look inside ourselves and believe!

Your issue may not be chronic health problems. Your gift may not be writing. But this applies to so many of us in so many areas of our lives. We must not let fear rule our decisions. There are goals to be achieved, dreams to be followed, for all of us. How will we ever know if we don’t try? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be lying on my deathbed, wondering what if!

My writing may never be popular, best-seller material. I may never make a living at it. Or maybe I will! Jumping in with both feet is the only way I’ll ever know. At least I can say I tried.

I’ve found that this industry, although there are exceptions, is filled with kind, encouraging, creative people. The level of support, the tons of advice, and the friendships I’ve formed since entering this world have been overwhelming. Along the way I also discovered that editing is something that I am quite good at and enjoy. Whether or not the writing takes off, I now have a fulfilling job. A job that allows me to work from home. IN MY PAJAMAS! How awesome is that? 😉

What I have are “chronic” conditions. They currently have no cure. No treatment or med will “fix” me. However, as long as I continue to fight, keep putting words to paper, chasing my dreams, and I do NOT give upthere is hope. Hope that I can achieve my goals. Hope that the four walls of my bedroom never again have to become the center of my world. Hope that I can be someone better than I was yesterday.

I allow myself the down days, the times I need to recover, rest, and just be. And the days where I can do more, I do. But I try to remain thankful for small accomplishments. Being able to do the dishes, cook a meal for my family, write a chapter or two. These things are all important. Things that most people take for granted mean the world to me. Living with chronic illness can give you a grateful heart. If you let it.

And you, whatever your dreams are, chase them. Chase them with all of your heart. Be a fighter! Whether that means fighting from behind a laptop, banging out words on the keyboard, running a marathon, going back to school, or being the most loving person you can be! Do it! Don’t let anyone or anything, especially your own self doubt, steal from you the life you were meant to live! Books are still magical and your life is not over when you receive a chronic illness diagnosis. I am proof of that.


Vikki

Vikki lives in Northern Alabama with her hunky husband, the youngest of their six children, three dogs, and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. She’s recently started writing again, after setting it aside to raise and homeschool her kids. She’s been editing for several years now, with rave reviews from clients, and is thrilled to be able to work from home at a job that she adores. When not curled up in the recliner with the laptop and her ShihTzu, Rebel, you’ll find her camping in the woods, drifting on the four wheeler, slinging mud.

You can find Vikki here: www.enchantedediting.com ~  vikkibecker@gmail.com ~ www.facebook.com/enchantedediting ~ @EnchantedEdit

Aug 30, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tuesday Takeover: Chasing the Dream! by Vikki Becker

Tuesday Takeover: Writing a book is just like having a baby by Sarah Negovetich

I’ve just released my third book, and I have to tell you, every release is a bit different, but the first one is the doozy that will make you or break you. I was ruminating back on that first release when I realized just how much it had in common with having my first baby. Here’s what I’m talking about.

Information Overload

New Baby: You read every book in the library and spent countless hours combing internet articles that are one half comforting and the other half terrifying. When you manage to pull yourself away from the computer, you gorge yourself on episode of A Baby Story on TLC.

New Book: In preparation for your new bundle of joy, you read everything you can about the craft. Do you want to publish your book with a trusted professional or are you the more DIY, hands on kind of author? There are dream stories about people who sell their first book for millions and then there are those who labor for years before they birth words into the world. You take it all in: books, podcasts, conferences, webinars. And in the end you still have no idea what’s going on.

Unsolicited Advice

New Baby: Everyone who has ever had a baby, knows someone who has a baby, or has thought about having a baby will provide you with all the random advice you never wanted to know. Perfect strangers will begin talking about the most intimate parts of your body as if you were a side-show at a discount carnival.

New Book: Be prepared for Aunt Elanor who hasn’t read a book released in the last three decades to tell you exactly how to write a good book. You will graciously ignore that her last birthday card contained no less than five grammar errors. Even though you didn’t know a single author before you started writing, now that you’re doing it, everyone you know is going to write a novel…some day…you know, when they have the time.

New Obsession

New Baby: This little angel will consume all your waking and sleeping thoughts. Before hand you’ll wax poetic to the lady at the super market about the little flutter kicks tickling your belly and share baby name thoughts with your waiter. People will avoid riding in elevators with you, so they don’t have to hear about your nursery colors one more time. Only other expecting moms will share your joy obsession.

New Book: Your project is all you ever want to talk about. It finds a way into every conversation you have. Your spouse knows more about the intimate details in your head than is advisable. Other writers will gladly join you in your obsession. Plus, there are plenty of online chatrooms and Twitter #wordsprints to keep you happily engaged. Non-writer friends don’t fully understand what you’re doing. You may find that some can’t take it and slowly drift away. Your best friends still don’t get it, but will quietly listen to you talk about your writer’s block for the fifth time this week.

Loss of Sleep

New Baby: Even before the baby gets here, you’ll lose sleep thinking, dreaming and worrying about your precious arrival. Not to mention the frequent trips to the bathroom . After the baby arrives, forget it. You’re up every few hours for diapers and feedings. And if your angel is sleeping, you’re probably up starting at him to make sure he’s still breathing.

New Book:  As a new writer, time is precious. If inspiration hits at 4am, who are you to deny the muse. The deeper you go and the closer you come to publication, the worse it gets. You spend most of your daytime hours wondering around in a plot hole induced faze muttering about second act reversals and character motivation. Personal hygiene will become less important the longer your first draft takes to write. Some people close to you may stage an intervention by taking away your computer and insisting you shower and go outside.

Resource Drain

New Baby: First there’s the doctor’s bill which hits you on the side of the head when you’re least expecting it. And that’s before the baby is even born. Then you have all the gear you’ll need like a crib, car seat, five-in-one super magic sleep, bounce, rocker (it had great reviews). After the baby comes you’ll have more doctor bills and it will be time to get all the supplies you really need, like industrial strength rubber gloves and a giant bottle of Dreft. Your time also seems to disappear, and close friends will assume you have fallen down a hole lined with burp clothes and pacifiers.

New Book: In addition to all the time you’ll dedicate to the perfection of the world’s best manuscript (you have the stained t-shirt to prove it), you may find that writing a book puts a strain on other valuable resources. Conferences aren’t free and a writer can never own too many leather bound journals that you’ll never actually use because they are way too nice for notes. Cute products proclaiming your new “writer” status will quickly replace food in your basic needs list (though to be clear, chocolate and coffee are non-negotiable). You may also find that other relationships may suffer, but don’t let that get you down. You’ll always have your characters to love you.

Can you handle it?

At the end of the day, writing a novel  is not for the weak at heart or the lover of sleep. But once you hold your book in your hand for the first time and gaze onto its shiny bound cover, you’ll quickly forget all the pain and torture. You’ll watch your little book grow into the marketplace and maybe shed a tear for your first review. When that happens, you know you’re ready for book two.

SarahN

Sarah’s Bio:

Sarah Negovetich knows you don’t know how to pronounce her name and she’s okay with that.

Her first love is Young Adult novels, because at seventeen the world is your oyster. Only oysters are slimy and more than a little salty; it’s accurate if not exactly motivational. We should come up with a better cliché.

Sarah divides her time between writing YA books that her husband won’t read and working with amazing authors as an agent at Corvisiero Literary Agency. Her life’s goal is to be only a mildly embarrassing mom when her kids hit their teens.

You can learn more about Sarah and her books at www.SarahNegovetich.com or follow her antics on Twitter @SarahNego.

Rite of Redemption Blurb:

Rebecca escaped the PIT, found a family among the Freemen…and watched too many loved ones die. All she wants is the Cardinal to leave her in peace, but he’s made it clear that’s never going to happen.

When the Cardinal attacks other Freemen villages, she finally understands that no one is safe from his wrath. As the only one who’s stood up to the evil that is the Cardinal, it’s up to her to convince the others that they can’t hide forever. It’s time to fight.

The Machine predicted Rebecca would become the Cardinal’s enemy. It may have gotten that one right.

In the conclusion to the Acceptance series, enemies become allies and old friends emerge, but in the end, sacrifice may be the price of freedom.

Book Links:

Rite of Redemption Amazon order link: https://www.amazon.com/Rite-Redemption-Acceptance-Book-3-ebook/dp/B01F50EZ3C

Rite of Redemption Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30166592-rite-of-redemption

Rite of Rejection link (free from Jun 2nd to 6th): https://www.amazon.com/Rite-Rejection-Acceptance-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00P26DB08

Rafflecopter: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/NDJiNzM3Y2E1YzRlMDgzY2E2ZDg0Y2E3YWFjOTM4OjY=/?

Rafflecopter HTML:

<a class=”rcptr” href=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/42b737ca6/” rel=”nofollow” data-raflid=”42b737ca6″ data-theme=”classic” data-template=”” id=”rcwidget_7gceje4r”>a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>

<script src=”https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js”></script>

My social media links:

Website: www.SarahNegovetich.com

Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/sarahnegovetich

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SarahDNegovetich/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/SarahNego

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sarahnego/

Jun 28, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tuesday Takeover: Writing a book is just like having a baby by Sarah Negovetich

Tuesday Takeover: To Genre Hop or to Not Genre Hop, that is the Question by M. A. Phipps

I’ve wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember. I think that’s the case with most writers—it’s something we feel we were born to do and stories have been rushing through our heads pretty much from the day we entered this world. Throughout my twenty-eight years on this planet, I’ve had more story ideas in my brain that I can even keep track of, all in a variety of different genres. Once again, I’d say that’s probably the case with most fiction writers. Hence why so many of us carry journals wherever we go!

With that said, you can imagine my surprise when I learned that some publishers don’t actually like when authors stray from one particular genre. Granted, I’ve recently heard this is beginning to change, and as a side note, there is nothing wrong with writers who do stick to one particular genre. You’ve found your niche, and that’s great! I just personally think I’d feel stifled sticking with only one genre my entire life.

So, why is it that the publishing industry feels that way? I’ve researched the topic a fair bit, and it seems like the argument for niche writing boil down to two major points:

  1. Branding & marketing: it’s much easier to build a brand (and stick with it) if you aren’t jumping from genre to genre. The branding for a science fiction novel would be completely different than the branding for a contemporary romance. If you tried to market them the same way, one or both would probably flop.
  2. Building an audience: although there are many readers out there who will happily follow their favorite author’s career and read whatever they publish regardless of what it is, most readers have specific genres they prefer. If you capture an audience with a YA dystopian novel and then decide to write a steamy erotica, chances are you will not attract the same audience, and the followers you have gained will not pick up that book. You’d have to start over from scratch and build up from the bottom all over again.

Learning this was particularly jarring for me. My debut series is YA dystopian, and the thought of only ever writing in that one genre makes me break out in hives. Now don’t get me wrong, I love dystopian. I LOVE dystopian (obviously, I wrote a trilogy of it!) but my creativity would be seriously dampened, and realistically, I don’t think I could come up with a lifetime’s worth of original ideas for it. On the other hand, considering how hard it is to build up any sort of following as an indie author, the thought of starting over from scratch or having to create a pen name just to write something different also gives me severe anxiety. So, what is a girl to do?

Well, do not despair fellow writers. For although you may be in for a much harder and longer road, there are also advantages to genre hopping. Not only are you following your creativity and inspiration (and let’s be honest, your best work always comes when you’re most inspired), but you are showing your versatility to not only the world but to yourself. You will learn more, and above all, over time, you will reach out to a wider audience. Now I know that seems to contradict what I said before, but hear me out. The audience for a YA dystopian may not pick up your sexy erotica, but you now have TWO audiences who potentially love your books! They might not all be rushing out to buy both, but you do have double the people who are listening to what you say and who may in turn become fans of your future works. As they say, there is always a silver lining.

Okay, so sure—being a genre hopper will require a bit more time and dedication, but in the long run, it could also be so much more rewarding. Follow your inspiration. Treat each new genre you tackle as a sort of palette cleanser and learn what you can from it. Widen your horizons, and in turn, you just may end up doing the same for your readers.


M.A.Phipps

Author Bio

M. A. PHIPPS is an American author who currently resides in the picturesque English West Country with her husband, daughter, and their Jack Russell, Milo. A lover of the written word, it has always been her dream to become a published author, and it is her hope to expand into multiple genres of fiction. When she isn’t writing, you can find her counting down the days until the new season of Game of Thrones.

Social Media

Jun 21, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tuesday Takeover: To Genre Hop or to Not Genre Hop, that is the Question by M. A. Phipps

Tuesday Takeover: Mark Coker Interview by Amos Cassidy

Hello, Folks!

Hope you’re all good. Well, after a week of gorgeous weather here in the UK, the rain is now back to do its thing. Oh, well. But never mind the weather…

Today we welcome Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, to the blog. Mark has kindly popped over here to answer some questions from us and from other indie authors. So grab a coffee, or a tea, or even a beer if you fancy one, and join us for this interview…

Over to you, Mark…

One of the questions many authors planning on going wide are asking is ‘Smashwords or another aggregator? What would you say to those authors? What sets Smashwords apart from the dozens of other aggregators?

There are several competent distributors out there, and I would hope that if an author doesn’t work with us they work with another.  Distributors such as Smashwords provide authors a lot of advantages they can’t get simply by uploading direct to each retailer.  The primary advantages are time-savings, simplicity and control.  We allow authors to reach multiple global retailers with a single upload, and then we provide centralized control via the Smashwords Dashboard that helps expedite price updates, metatadata changes and sales reporting.  And, of course, we help authors reach retailers and libraries than can’t be reached without a distributor.

Although authors have many choices, some of which charge fees and others of which are free such as Smahwords, I think authors who work with us will enjoy more tools and broader reach.  With tools and broader reach come more sales opportunities.  And authors who are chose to work with any distributor should also still work with us because we’ll enhance their reach.

I’m happy to share a few features and benefits of Smashwords, several of which are unique to Smashwords when comparing us against the many different distribution options out there.

  1. We’re the original ebook publishing platform for indie authors, and the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks.  We’re currently publishing over 375,000 books from over 100,000 indie authors and small independent presses.  We were among the first to open up mainstream retailers to indie ebooks, and we’ve negotiated great terms for our authors across our distribution partners.  We’re constantly innovating new tools designed to give our authors advantages in the marketplace.
  2. We make ebook publishing incredibly quick and easy. Authors can upload a Word .doc or a professionally designed epub.  Our Smashwords Style Guide teaches authors how to create professionally formatted and styled ebooks using a word processor.
  3. Rapid distribution to retailers.  For most of our retailers, we’re delivering new titles and metadata updates around the clock.  It’s not unusual for an author to upload a new book or a preorder and see that book appear at iBooks a couple hours later (or sooner).  All of our author retailers have also significantly improved the speed of their listings.  Most of our delivering are processed and up at our retailers within a couple business days.
  4. Broadest distribution network across retailers and libraries, including iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive (serves over 20,000 public libraries), Baker & Taylor Axis 360 (serves hundreds of libraries), Inktera (formerly PageFoundry, powers about a dozen small ebook app stores), Oyster and Scribd.  We even distribute a small number of titles to Amazon for a small subset of our better selling authors who request it.  More retailers and library partners are on the way.
  5. We operate our own store atwww.smashwords.com offering exclusive sales and merchandising tools.  For readers, a single purchase at the Smashwords Store enables them to enjoy your book in multiple formats, assuming the author uploaded their manuscript as a Word .doc which is what most authors do.  For authors, even if an author is using another distributor, they should still list their book in our store.  Some of the exclusive tools we offer include Smashwords Coupons (custom coupon codes for percentage-off, dollars/cents off, and free copies for fans and reviewers), free author pages, Smashwords Interviews (self-serve interviews –https://www.smashwords.com/interviews), enhanced series discovery with custom series pages, customizable widgets for off-site marketing and more.  Our store pays the highest royalty rates, up to 80% list depending on the price of the book or the size of the customer’s shopping cart (Books at $.99 often earn 80% list if they’re in a shopping cart with a checkout total over about $8.00).
  6. Preorders – we do regular preorders and “assetless” (meta-only preorders).  We and our authors pioneered many of the best practices associated with ebook preorders, and we share these tips and tricks with our authors.  Learn more athttp://blog.smashwords.com/2015/06/smashwords-introduces-assetless.htmlandhttp://smashwords.com/preorder where you’ll find links to several strategy articles
  7. We provide the industry’s best indie author training materials, and all these resources are free.  Our mission is to help teach indie authors how publish with pride, professionalism and success, and these resources are useful to every author even if they don’t utilize our services.  My three ebooks on ebook publishing best practices have been downloaded almost 750,000 times –The Smashwords Style Guide (how to format and publish an ebook), The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (how to market any book for free) and The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (over 30 best practices of the bestselling indie ebook authors).  Also check out my training videos athttp://youtube.com/user/smashwords or my recently uploaded 6-hour presentation deck at http://blog.smashwords.com/2015/07/how-to-publish-ebooks-ebook-publishing.html
  8. Our Daily Sales report provides attractive same-day and next day aggregated sales charts from iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, OverDrive and the Smashwords Store.  Provides instant feedback on how books are performing across multiple retailers, with tools to drill down by books, channels and more. Charts go back 180 days. Learn more athttp://blog.smashwords.com/2014/06/smashwords-adds-daily-sales-reporting.html .  We of course also provide complete historical sales data than can be viewed online or downloaded as a spreadsheet.
  9. Learn more athttps://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_on_smashwords

Selling on platforms such as iBooks and Nook through Smashwords can limit merchandising opportunities, is that true? If so, is there a way around it? Can Smashwords help authors snag those merchandising opportunities with iBooks and Nook?

Definitely not true.  Thousands of our authors have achieved special merchandising and promotion opportunities by distributing with Smashwords.  In fact, I’d argue that Smashwords authors gain tremendous merchandising advantage by distributing with Smashwords.  Each week we’re in direct communication with the merchandising teams at all three retailers, highlighting for them our best performing and most promising titles.  The retailers know our recommendations are based on merit, and merit is based on the author’s actual sales performance across the Smashwords distribution network.  If the author isn’t distributing with us, we can’t count their sales and can’t recommend them for merchandising.  In the interest of full disclosure, authors should understand that we can’t promise merchandising love.  But we will coach our authors on how to maximize their chances.  The retailers make the final decisions.  But they do know that our recommendations are based on actual sales results.

We hear you have recently launched something called Assetless pre-orders. I’m not sure that many authors are aware of this feature, or whether other aggregators are offering it yet. Can you tell us a little about Assetless pre-orders and how they can benefit an author?

We’ve been distributing ebook preorders for nearly three years.  We’ve assembled strong data proving without a doubt that books born as preorders sell more copies than books that are simply uploaded the day of release.

An ebook preorder makes it possible for an author to start capturing orders weeks or months in advance of the book’s onsale date.  For example, many authors are on Facebook or Twitter, telling their fans about the next book they’re writing, and generating demand for that book.  A preorder allows the author to capture the reader’s order at the moment they have the reader’s greatest attention and interest.  Preorders can also improve the book’s chancing of hitting both retailer and national bestseller lists.  Up until recently, we required authors to upload a completed manuscript to establish a preorder listing.  The downside of this restriction was that it meant authors were unable to get their preorders up until just a few days or weeks before their release date.

In June 2015 we announced support for assetless preorders, also known as “metadata-only” preorders.  An assetless preorder allows the author to establish their preorder listing up to 12 months in advance, even if they haven’t started writing the book yet.  No manuscript or cover image is required (this can be added later).  This longer preorder runway allows authors to better exploit the full benefits of a preorder.

Preorders are probably the single most important new book marketing tool to come along for indies in the last five years.  Most indies don’t yet know how to leverage preorders (they can check out my preorder strategy posts to learn how!), which means that the indies who do release with preorders have a significant sales and discovery advantage.

You can learn more about this incredible new tool in the announcement at our blog post titled,Smashwords Introduces Assetless (“metadata only”) Preorders.

Any tips on getting those sales up on the actual Smashwords site? Are there any paid promotion sites that focus particularly on Smashwords as a vendor? If not, do you think we can set something up?

The Smashwords Store doesn’t provide any paid advertising opportunities.  The merchandising on the store is completely automated, and it’s designed to leverage our knowledge of what readers are buying, what they’re considering buying as well as the contextual relationships between what they’re looking at and what they and others have purchased.

To take full advantage of what our store has to offer, here are some quick tips:

Upload your manuscript as a Word .doc file, because this allows us to convert your book into multiple ebook formats so you book is readable by readers on any device. We convert to epub, mobi, PDF, plain text and others.

On your blog and in social media, promote direct hyperlinks to your book pages at Smashwords. If you simply say “find my book on Smashwords,” there’s a good chance the reader will get distracted by all the other great books. A direct hyperlink puts the reader one click away from adding your book to their shopping cart.  At the Smashwords store you’ll earn the industry’s highest royalty rates (up to 80% list), so definitely make sure you’ve got links to your books on your blog, website and in social media.  If enough customers purchase your book, your book will get caught up in our automated merchandising systems where you can appear on our store-wide bestsellers lists, genre bestsellers lists, and even bestseller lists by filtered by genre and word count!  Your book can also start appearing in our new “Also

recommended” merchandising which appears on each book page.  It’s like “Also boughts,” but with additional intelligence that goes far beyond just purchase data.

Write a compelling description. A lot of authors make the mistake of not providing a compelling description.  “This is my fourth book of poetry,” for example, is a horrible description yet we see that a lot!

Don’t skimp on the cover image. Readers judge books by the cover.  A great cover makes an aspirational promise to the target reader.  Most home made cover images look just like that – home made.  Rather than creating your own ebook cover image, hire a professional.  There are hundreds of high-quality cover designers who will create covers for under $300.  Carefully study their online porfolios before you select an artist.  We also have  a list of low-cost cover designers and formatters you can use athttp://smashwords.com/list  These freelancers work for you, not us, and we don’t take a commission if you hire them (this helps them keep their costs to lower).

Take advantage of our new Smashwords widgets. Below the shopping cart on every Smashwords book page you’ll find a link to create a widget.  You and your fans can use this tool to create attractive widgets that will dynamically update over time when you change your price or book details.  Encourage your fans to install these widgets on their blogs and web sites!  Here’s an example of the Widget page for my free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.

Create a Smashwords Interview. This is a fun self-interviewing tool that allows you to publish an interview of yourself directly onto your Smashwords author profile page.  We’ll present you with a series of questions, and you have the ability to modify the questions or create your own questions.  It’s a great chance for you to let your readers learn the story behind the author.  Here’s a link to my Smashwords interview: https://www.smashwords.com/interview/mc

Create a compelling author profile page. The author profile page allows you to upload a headshot, publish your bio, and provide direct hyperlinks to your social media pages at Facebook, Twitter, Wattpad, your blog and your website.  You can even add a link to your Amazon author page where readers can purchase your print books (assuming you have print books up at Amazon).  Here’s a link to my profile page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/mc

If you write series, connect your series books with our cool Series Manager tool. Series Manager increases the discoverability of your series books at Smashwords (and at our retailers too!).  You can even upload a custom image to represent your series, along with a special series description.  Also if you write series, be sure to price your series starter at FREE.  We’ve found that series with free series starters earn more sales than series without free series starters.  Here’s a sample link to the series page for my Smashwords Guides:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/1

Watch my YouTube videos at http://youtube.com/user where you’ll find best practices information for all skill levels from novice to expert.

Last but not least, write a super-awesome book! This should go without saying but it needs to be said:  There’s a glut of low-cost high-quality books out there.  Most of the major retailers are offering over 2 million ebooks.  In the Smashwords Store, we have nearly 400,000 books (not as bad as 2 million, but still a lot of books!).  Books sell based on word of mouth, and word of mouth is manifested via online reviews, recommendations over social media, and in actual real-world recommendations you might make to friends and family.  To turn a reader into an evangelist, your book needs to take them to an emotionally satisfying extreme.  You need to make the reader go, “WOW!”  As every writer can appreciate, it’s not easy to write a WOW book.  Encourage your Smashwords Store customers to leave you an honest review in our store.  If you want them to leave a review but they purchased the book elsewhere, offer them a free Smashwords Coupon code because once they redeem the code, they can leave a review.

Questions from other indie authors:

I have four eBooks on Smashwords, none of which sell, even though the same eBooks are selling on Amazon. My books have been on Smashwords for over two years. My promotions always result in sales from Amazon, but never Smashwords. Is it my fault?

It’s not your fault, even assuming you’re providing direct links to your books at Smashwords.  Keep in mind that Amazon is the world’s largest ebook retailer and the Smashwords Store is a much much smaller store.  Consider the sales you get at Smashwords as icing on your cake.  Your sales at our larger retailers –iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, for example – will almost always be higher than what you earn in our store.  That said, from time to time I’ll hear about authors who sell more at Smashwords than at other stores.  I think that’s more of a rare exception than a rule, but possibly these authors are promoting their titles at the Smashwords store more aggressively, or they’ve been with us enough years to develop a large and loyal following.

Do you have any tips on getting iBooks features?

Yes.  First, remember their decisions are merit based.  They’re looking for titles that have either already been endorsed by their customers (as measured by sales, ratings and reviews) or endorsed by readers elsewhere (as measured by your aggregates Smashwords sales across our retailer network).  I created a video about 18 months ago that talks about iBooks merchandising tips.  The tips I share there are also applicable to the merchandising decisions of most other retailers.  Merit merit merit.  View the video athttp://www.youtube.com/user/Smashwords  You’ll also find a more updated and downloadable presentation on iBooks merchandising strategies here in my post, How to Publish Ebooks – An Ebook Publishing Intensive.

Will you distribute to German online-shops any time soon (or any other international online shop)?

Yes, you will see us do more in internationally in the months ahead.

I’m super-disappointed about the loss of FlipKart in India as it’s a mega emerging English-speaking market. I realize you pulled the plug on FlipKart because they were slow to get books in and out and do price changes for authors who like to flit in and out of Kindle Unlimited like the wind, but what about writers like ME who’ve gone wide since the beginning? Why are we being penalized for the actions of a flaky few?

I’m disappointed too.  I wrote a lengthy blog post about the issue athttp://blog.smashwords.com/2015/08/smashwords-and-flipkart-to-end.html and there was also a great discussion in the comments.  We didn’t pull the plug on FlipKart, though it is true we threatened to do so if they didn’t improve their ability to honor the copyrights and takedown wishes of our authors.  We couldn’t allow the situation to persist because too many author were being punished by Amazon.  I completely agree it totally sucks that all our authors got thrown out with the bath water, but as it worked out, FlipKart decided to exit the ebook business according to recent media reports.  I can only speculate, but my guess is that the likelihood of eventual lawsuits from indie authors probably helped them decide it’s not a game worth playing for them.

Flipkart continued. And ditto for a lot of the other smaller distributors who can’t shift with the wind, but might net us all a few local sales. I’d just begun experimenting with an advertising campaign in India of direct-downloads-for-email with great effect when you pulled the plug on one of my primary non-Amazon distributors. I still have GooglePlay and Pothi, but nobody ever BUYS ebooks on Pothi (sadly), just downloads the free ones. The worst thing is, I’ve gathered some raving fans from these experiments; people hungry for new books and eager to tell their friends.  Couldn’t Smashwords create a special opt-in category for these lesser distributors with a big fat warning like ‘warning, B-tier distributors only update their data monthly’ or something? I mean, you say that authors who cater to d’zon are killing all these tiny g-local contenders in their cradle, but then didn’t you just feed the machine by being inflexible?  I mean, if you can do that for some of the obscure library-lending programs, why not for tiny g-local distributors?

If a retailer is unable to respect our authors’ rights, we’re unwilling to work with them.  Our authors trust us to work with quality, capable retailers so we tend to say no to more retailers than we say yes to.  Every major retailer has, at times, struggled with the enormous scale of our catalogue.  We’re publishing nearly 400,000 titles, and these titles are constantly changing with new pricing, updated descriptions, updated books, takedowns, republishings and more.  We’ve build incredibly robust and reliable distribution systems to bring order to this chaos, but we rely on our retailer partners to build robust systems on their end.  FlipKart decided they weren’t able to keep up.

In the age of Amazon and its predatory practices which place indies in the crosshairs if a small retailer like FlipKart can’t keep up, it’s all the more reason we owe it to our authors to carefully choose our partners.  In the case of Amazon they were threatening to disrupt the worldwide sales of these authors simply because a small little retailer – one that probably hadn’t ever sold a copy of the book – was having difficulty removing the book quickly from their shelves.

The good news is that we’ll continue to add retail partners that are capable and that will continue to expand the reach and availability of our books.

Authors who want to directly support our continued efforts to open up new worldwide markets can help by distributing their books with Smashwords, and by opting in to all our distribution channels.  We work for our authors and appreciate your support!

MARK COKER BIO:

Mark Coker founded Smashwords in 2008 to make it fast, free and easy for writers to self-publish an ebook.  Today, Smashwords has grown to become the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks.  100,000 authors and small independent presses around the world publish and distribute nearly 400,000 books with Smashwords.  Smashwords provides authors and publishers a robust suite of professional publishing tools that improve the discoverability and sales of their titles.  Smashwords distributes globally to Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, OverDrive, Kobo, Scribd, Oyster, Baker & Taylor Axis 360 and others.  Follow Mark on Twitter@markcoker.  Mark blogs at http://blog.smashwords.com

Thanks for stopping by, Mark!


Amos Cassidy Bio:
Amos Cassidy is the pen name for Richard Amos and Debbie Cassidy. Amos is a 31 year old Diva and Cassidy a 39 year old mother of three; well, four if you include the husband. A common love of all things Joss Whedon, Urban Fantasy, and a tug of war over Jensen Ackles, brought them together, and one cold February afternoon, over nibbles and coffee, their partnership was born.

You can find Cassidy hard at work in her fortress of solitude which has eaten up the majority of her garden, and Amos…well he’s still trying to get the invisibility gizmo he got off a friendly alien in exchange for a pair of earphones to work. Funnily enough he hasn’t been seen around much lately…Frequent doses of Sugary snacks, coupled with regular injections of caffeine aid in their production of a unique brand of cross genre tales. They are always writing, but are happy to take a break to chat to their wonderful readers, so drop them a line at amoscassidy@yahoo.co.uk, or just pop over to see what they’re working on at amoscassidyauthor.com and they’ll bust out the biscuit tin.

***Website ~ Facebook ~ Newsletter ~ Twitter***

Amos

 

 

Jun 7, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Tuesday Takeover: 10 Lessons Writing Zombie Books Taught Me by Kate L. Mary

I’ve written seven zombie books, one book of short stories to go along with it, and a post-apocalyptic book that deals with the aftermath of an alien invasion, and through it all I’ve learned several valuable lessons. Not just about the world we live in, but about myself and people in general. I think, on some small scale, it will actually give me a little bit of an edge when the inevitable zombie apocalypse hits. And since I’m a nice person, I wanted to share those lessons with everyone else.

1. Electricity Won’t Last As Long As You Think
Did you know that power plants need constant monitoring? I didn’t. Sure, I knew someone was probably always there to keep an eye on things, just in case, but I didn’t realize how vital it was to have a living, human being there at all times. Which means that when a killer zombie virus sweeps the country and takes out most of the population, it won’t be long before the power will go out. In some cases, it could take as little as 2-4 hours. Yes, there are scenarios where the power won’t shut off quite as fast, but the apocalyptic novels we read that have survivors using electricity for weeks after the human race has disappeared are totally far-fetched. So be prepared and stock up on batteries, flashlights, lanterns, and matches!

2. Fuel Expires
I know what you’re thinking: What?! No!!!!
I mean, it makes total sense now that I think about it, but it wasn’t something I ever really sat down and thought about. Gas isn’t food, so why would it go bad? It does, though. The shelf life depends on how it’s stored and the kind of fuel it is, but it won’t last forever. So when the zombies pop up, be sure to use your gas while it’s still good! Saving it for a rainy day may end up being a waste.

3. People Are Bad
Sounds obvious, and a little cynical, but let me explain what I mean using my kids as an example. When I tell my son he can’t have a cookie, the only thing stopping him from getting one anyway is the threat of getting caught and having to sit in time out. Adults are no different, really. Many people have desires they keep hidden because they know it will get them sent to prison, or ostracized by family and friends, but during the apocalypse there won’t be anyone to slap them on the hand as they reach into the cookie jar. The world will be their cookie jar, which means they’ll do whatever they want.
Of course I’ve always known this about mankind, but until I wrote a book that left men to their own devices, I hadn’t really allowed myself to think about just how dark things could get. Now I have, and I realize that when the end comes, there are very few people you are really going to be able to trust.

4. Cell Phones Won’t Work
That goes for the Internet and email too.
This I also knew, but the affect of it hit hard as I was researching and trying to move my characters into a place where they’d adjusted to a world with no technology. I know that sometimes in zombie novels characters will email or text each other from across the country, but this just isn’t a realistic scenario. With most of the population gone there will be no one left to keep tabs on the cellular stations, and no electricity to keep those stations going on their own. Meaning your phone will be useless.

5. Aerosol Cans And Propane Tanks Can Save Your Life
We all know aerosol cans are pressurized and usually hold flammable liquid, and propane tanks have big warning labels on them telling us the same thing. But it never occurred to me how useful these common, household items might come in handy if you’re in a pinch.
Pretend someone you love is stuck somewhere, surrounded by zombies, and the only way you’ll be able to save them is by drawing the dead away? Well, why not grab a few aerosol cans and a propane tank, and start a fire in a house down the street. When they explode, it could be just enough to draw the zombies away, giving your group a chance to escape.

6. Alcohol Has A Million Uses
When you’re loading up on supplies during the apocalypse, don’t forget to grab plenty of alcohol, 70 proof or higher. Not only can it alleviate boredom—although getting drunk can be risky when you never know what’s lurking in the shadows—it can be used to sterilize, sooth itching from bug bites and poison ivy, start fires, and dozens of more uses.

7. Car Alarms Are Perfect For Distracting Zombies
The best way to distract zombies is to create noise somewhere else, right? How about banging into the sides of a few cars so you can set off an alarm? The annoyingly shrill whine of a car alarm is guaranteed to keep the rotting monsters distracted, giving you the chance to escape.

8. Always Carry A Pack Of Gum And Some Batteries
Did you know you could start a fire with a gum wrapper—the foil kind—and a battery? Look it up on YouTube, because it’s real! Plus that gum will help keep your breath fresh when you’re on the run. Who knows how often you’ll be able to brush and floss during the apocalypse?

9. People Under Thirty Are Screwed
It sounds mean, but it’s true. They’re the generation who don’t know how to use an atlas or find a book in the library. Everything they’ve ever needed has fit in the palm of their hands, and any question they ever have is answered with a Google search. For them, the disappearance of technology will be even more devastating than the virus that wiped it all out.

10. The United States Will Cope Better Than The Rest of The World
We love our processed food, don’t we? It’s made us obese, shortened our lifespan, and threatened the lives of our children. But it will save us when the apocalypse hits. When all the fresh food in other countries has gone bad, we will literally have warehouses full of boxed, canned, processed, and dehydrated food to keep us going!

So, what do you think? Am I ready to survive the apocalypse? Are you?

———————————————————————————–

Kate L. Mary is an award-winning author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, ranging from Post-apocalyptic tales of the undead to Speculative Fiction and Contemporary Romance. Her YA book, When We Were Human, was the 2015 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Silver Medalist for Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fiction and her Broken World series has been an Amazon best-seller since the release of book one in 2014.
Mary Kate
May 3, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tuesday Takeover: 10 Lessons Writing Zombie Books Taught Me by Kate L. Mary

Tuesday Takeover: How authors choose their characters by Kyle Perkins

First of all, I would like to start off by saying that I am no expert on the matter and this is not so much a guide to creating characters, as it is my own personal experiences.

A little bit of backstory on me, I never actually aspired to be an author. I was more into gaming my entire life, and I joined a text based role playing group centered around some of my favorite games. From there, I learned everything you SHOULDN’T do with a character, as well as things people really respond well to. When you filter through dozens of characters a day, and read their stories, and actively participate with them, you learn who is universally hated and who is loved. That being said…

Never make your characters invincible. They need to be roughed up a bit. This is what is known as “God Modding” in the community and it is hated more than anything else. No one is interested in characters that can pull abilities out of thin air to get past an obstacle. We look at that as cheating, and so do readers. Instead, use what you have at your disposal in your character’s history. Make it fun, unexpected and exciting to read.

What I like to do is make a character sheet for all of my characters. It’s a basic bio full of their stats and history. So, if I need to know how tall my guy/girl is, I have it. If I need to know what special abilities he/she possesses, I have it. It details their personal story for me, so that if I ever need to get out of a situation I put myself in, I can refer back to the character sheet to decide how I could get it done, based on the character.

People want characters that are down to Earth and relatable. Think back to any TV show, book, or movie you really enjoyed. Chances are, the reason you enjoyed it was due to a character or two you really liked. The reason you like them is because you can relate. You see aspects of yourself in them. How many times when you were little did you say “I’m Leonardo!” or “I’m Optimus Prime,” Chances are a ton. You liked those characters and emulated them because you liked their personalities. Even as an adult I am sure people have said, “This character soooo reminds me of you,” and you liked them based on that alone without even seeing the character. That is what makes a character well rounded. All of your favorite characters are relatable and have flaws, because in real life, we all do too.

Another thing to watch out for is making your character too “edgy.” Which is defined as “Taking coolness to its extreme and generally beyond the realm of actual possibility, while at the same time seemingly unaware of how ridiculous it is.” Your character of course can be cool and funny, but when it imposes on reality and becomes farfetched, again, you have a problem with your reader finding them relatable. For instance, if your guy speaks in cool one liners, dresses in all black all the time, has armor on and carries around a samurai sword in Manhattan, chances are he is a bit too edgy.

When a reader reads your story, the most important thing you can do for them, is make it as easy as possible for them to put themselves in your character’s shoes. Otherwise, they lose interest. Making a character relatable will actually keep a reader reading in a genre they wouldn’t normally seek out, just BECUASE they can relate to it. Let’s face it, we all want to be the star of our own movies in our mind.

Now, I am not above any of this. When I started out roleplaying, I had the edgiest characters around, because it’s a game and you typically go out of your way to win games. When people stopped wanting to play with me, I sought out answers as to why. That’s when I learned it was more about a mutual story than winning, and when you make a great, relatable story, everyone wins.

So, in closing, make your characters relatable, down to Earth, flawed and realistic. If you follow those four things, it won’t matter what genre you write in, because people will keep coming back for more.

Kyel

It was only recently that Kyle Perkins discovered his love of putting his imaginative daydreams in writing for others to enjoy. He founded and managed some of the largest text-based roleplaying groups on Facebook, which sparked his passion for storytelling and helped him sharpen his skills as an author. Since the January 2016 release of his debut dystopian novel, Reddened Wasteland, Kyle has published three other works with plans to release several more in the upcoming months, including the second installment of the Reddened Wasteland series. He’s a dog person, an Aquarius, and he lives in Florida, though he’ll tell you he lives on the internet.

Facebook ~ Amazon

Apr 26, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Tuesday Takeover: Become an Indie Author and Get Rich Quick! By David Estes (Proud to be an Indie!)

The statement above is a lie, I have to admit. I only used it to get your attention. By rich I really mean relatively poor. And by quick I mean in ten to twenty years if you’re lucky, talented and a hard worker. So why am I being so negative? I’m not really, just being realistic and trying to set the many aspiring Indie writers’ expectations appropriately. Why? Because more and more people are telling me that they wrote a book and self-published in hopes of making some quick cash, becoming a bestseller, and quitting their day job. I’m not here to shatter those dreams, but I do want to put things into perspective. I’m also here to shed a little light on the question: Why is it so hard to get people to buy self-published books? And along with that, hopefully give a few tips on what I’ve done to overcome that challenge. Keep in mind, although my success has been moderate as an Indie author, everyone has a different style and what works for me may not work for you. You have to find your own niche.

Did I have big dreams when I first starting writing and publishing? You betcha! I had “bestseller” bouncing around in my head, dreams of being well known across the industry, of finding a publisher with my first novel, of quitting my job and becoming a career author! Well, three years later I’m a fulltime author, but none of the other dreams have yet to come to pass. But I’m not giving up, because I’ve gained a lot of perspective and really had time to think about why I write in the first place. It’s not for the possibility of riches or of a publishing contract or of book signings or fame or glory…no, it’s simply because I love it! I’d encourage anyone else who’s thinking about writing a book, already writing one, or having already published one, to ask yourself the same question. If your answer is anything other than you love writing, maybe you’re on the wrong track.

So you’ve written and published a book, woohoo! Success! Right? My answer is a resounding YES! You should be extremely happy, writing a novel is challenging and doing so should be considered a HUGE victory. Even if you don’t sell a single copy, you should be proud. If I sell 10 of my books and you only sell 5 of yours, does that mean mine’s better? Maybe, but not necessarily. It simply means I’ve had more success overcoming the stigma that Indie novels have. Namely, that they’re poorly edited crap that isn’t worth the $0.99 or $2.99 or whatever you pay for it. On that note, why is getting people to buy self-published novels so difficult? Here are my thoughts and solutions.

1. Problem: Editing! Everyone finds typos in novels, even big published ones. Some people roll their eyes, some people laugh and joke, others barely notice or ignore it and move on. But most published novels have few, less than a handful in a 300-400 page book. Indie novels, on the other hand, yikes! I’ve read a few that have had in the 50-100 range, sometimes more! That can be excruciatingly painful for a reader. So anytime someone picks up a self-published book somehow, somewhere, begins reading it, and finds tons of typos, there’s a good chance it’ll hurt every Indie author. Because that person’s going to say “Hmm, self-published books are poorly edited. I don’t know if I’ll read anymore.” We all suffer even though you had nothing to do with that book!

Solution: Firstly, edit edit edit…and then edit some more. Have friends read your books and give prizes for finding the most typos. Have friends of friends read them. Hire a professional copyeditor if you can afford it. Read it ten times yourself. Find every last bugger. Do us all a favor and help erase the stigma. Because when someone reads a typo-free self-published novel, they’ll say, “Wow, this had less typos than that big bestselling published book I just read!” And they’ll realize, there’s more out there than just books from the big publishing houses, so much more.

Am I just talking about typos here? Although that’s a huge part, no! There’s so much more to editing. Cleaning up dialogue, reading it out loud, thinking “would someone really say that?” Killing excessive use of adverbs, sentence structure, pacing, the list goes on and on. Edit your book to death until no one can tell it’s a self-published novel. When people start reading your book, they’ll respect you, they’ll appreciate your effort, and they’ll be much more likely to tell other people about it as well as buy your next one.

Secondly, giveaway free copies of your book! I know, I know, you’ve worked so hard and you deserve to be compensated. You just have to bite the bullet on this one. The only way to ensure people will read your book and appreciate all your hard work and your talent and the painstaking time you took to edit your novel, is to force them to read it. And if you offer it for free, it will greatly increase your chances that they will. If you giveaway ebooks it won’t cost you a thing. Maybe they’ll write you a stellar review, maybe they’ll tell a friend, maybe they’ll buy the next one. Every book you giveaway has the potential to result in real sales later on.

2. Problem: The plots of Indie novels don’t make sense! This can definitely be true sometimes. Hell, my first drafts usually have all kinds of problems! Unfortunately, many times the bugs don’t get worked out, because, well, us Indies don’t have a team of eagle-eyed editors to point out the flaws in our stories. But that’s no excuse, because it’s killing our ability to be taken seriously in the industry.

Solution: Use beta readers. Not just anyone, good ones! People you don’t know, or don’t know well. Honest people. People who would rather make you cry than let you publish something that’s not as good as it can be. People who care about your books being awesome. You can have family and friends beta read for you, but they can’t be your only beta readers, because it’s much less likely they’ll be completely honest with you. I recommend having at least ten people, but even five can make a huge difference if they’re very critical and brutally honest. I say ten because I’ve had an instance when my first nine betas had already checked in, I’d rewritten and addressed their comments, and I was just waiting on that tenth reader as a formality. To check the box and say “Yep, I got all your comments covered because the other nine said the same thing!” Guess what? That tenth person saw something that the other nine didn’t see. Something big. Something HUGE. Something that improved the story and set the plot on a path that I never would have planned, that made the series a million, zillion times better! Everyone sees different things, so take every opinion seriously.

3. Problem: There are too many Indies out there! How do I stand out? With the creation of ereaders and ebooks, self-publishing has never been easier. In less than an hour, I could create a book that contains just my name spelled backwards and forwards over and over again, publish it in print and ebook, and make it available worldwide. I swear half the people I see joining the YA book groups I’m a member of on Goodreads are new or aspiring Indie authors. I think it’s fantastic! But at the same time, it makes it hard to get noticed. This is a real problem for serious Indies looking to make a career out of writing.

Solution: Don’t be just another Indie author hawking their wares on the street. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that NO ONE is impressed by Indie authors spamming message boards with rubbish about their books. Become a valuable part of the book community as a READER, not a writer. Show people you care about books, writing yeah, reading more, but NOT SELLING. People will notice and they will respect you, and they might give your books a shot. But if not, who cares? You might make a new lifelong friend in the process.

Don’t compare your books to other bestsellers! Your book might be a cross between The Hunger Games and Lord of the Rings, but don’t say that, please! It’s arrogant and annoying and the few people that fall for it and read your book will hate you for it if they disagree with your bold statement. Just be you! Unique.

The advice from the first point stands here too. If you write well-edited books and giveaway lots of free copies, you’ll start to get noticed, even amongst the crowds.

Be patient! Those who are trying to make quick money will realize how hard and competitive the publishing industry really is and they’ll give up, but if you’re serious and you keep working at it, publishing more and more books, growing your readership slowly over time, you’ll outlast the others. I’m not talking days or months here, I’m talking years. You have to be in it for the long run, looking at success ten years down the road. Every step you take today is a step in the right direction.

4. Problem: Indies can’t handle bad reviews! This is an important and often overlooked stigma. Even I worry about reading Indie novels given to me by the authors, because what if I don’t like it? Can I give my honest feedback? Will I hurt their feelings? Will they get pissed off and write me nasty messages? Sometimes it’s easier just to read the bestsellers because the authors don’t give a crap whether I like their book—there are a million other people who do!

Solution: Don’t react or respond to reviews in a negative fashion whatsoever. Many Indies have gotten themselves into a lot of hot water that way, and once you get a reputation for “reviewer bashing” you’ll never recover. If a review is mean or you think it’s unfair, write it off as bad luck that the wrong person got ahold of your book. Never lash out. If you get a review that’s well-written, balanced, and constructive, read that review ten times over, learn from it, improve from it. Your readers will appreciate that more than you throwing a tantrum.

Wow, I fear I’ve run off the virtual page. If you’ve made it this far, I hope you found my thoughts on the challenges of being a self-published author, and some of my proposed solutions, helpful or at least interesting. I wish you all the best in your writing and publishing endeavors, and remember, never give up!

Happy Reading (and Writing)!

David Estes

David Estes

David Estes is the author of more than 20 science fiction and fantasy novels that have received hundreds of thousands of downloads worldwide, including The Moon Dwellers, Fire Country, Slip, Brew, and his new SciFi Pinocchio retelling, Strings. He lives in Hawaii with his inspiring Aussie wife, Adele, rambunctious son, Beau, and naughty cat, Bailey. When he’s not writing, you’ll likely find him at the beach swimming, snorkeling, or reading under an umbrella. You can get FOUR FREE books by signing up for his mailing list on his website: http://davidestesbooks.blogspot.com

Apr 12, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tuesday Takeover: Become an Indie Author and Get Rich Quick! By David Estes (Proud to be an Indie!)

Tuesday Takeover: You’re Afraid of What? by Casey Hays

Hays blog photo

Have you ever taken a good look at the list of phobias? It’s extensive to say the least. You can find a phobia for just about anything if you search hard enough. We’re all familiar with the most common ones. Claustrophobia, the fear of tight spaces. Arachnaphobia, the fear of spiders. Or how about this one: arachibutyrophobia, the fear of peanut butter. Imagine that!

If I had a phobia, and I’m neither admitting nor denying it, but if I did, I would have to concede to this one: enosiophobia – the fear of criticism.

Okay… I admit it. I cringe just a little, teeny, tiny bit under the weight of that big word.

I am anal enough to also admit that I did google the different types of criticisms. Guess what? The list is just about as long as the phobias’ list.

Reasonably speaking, I know that all criticism isn’t negative. There is the constructive type, and when given in kindness and taken pragmatically, it’s great. And yet, even with this fact planted firmly in my brain, my heart thumps one beat too fast when a critique, good or bad, is directed toward me.

My initial reaction, many times, is to become defensive. Not necessarily externally . . . but inside. And then, I begin to reason with myself before approaching the “antagonizer.” I’m a great debater, you see. I’ll reason myself all the way around a critique or into a corner, whichever comes first, hoping to convince the critic to go easier on me.

But never did this fear of criticism strike me more strongly than when I became a writer.

Is there a fear of edits? Revisophobia, perhaps?

Now, I know my editors are on my side. Like me, they want my story to be the best it can possibly be, and this is the only reason for the harsh “appraisal.” Everything in me knows it. I know it when I’m asked to cut my favorite scene because “it doesn’t really add anything to the plot.” I get it when I’m told “it might be wise to write two extra chapters for consistency’s sake,” thus pushing our deadline back a week or more. When I’m gently prompted to use a different word even though I love the one staring back at me from the page, I still know it. And I still tremble and pout and really, really want to say, “What? Now you don’t like my word choices either?”

I can’t be the only author who suffers from this sickness, haha! Just kidding. Really, I’m not phobic. I’m just an author; I exaggerate for creative ambience. *wink, wink* But seriously, I think all of us can agree that when we write, every single word drips onto the paper straight from our hearts. And when we surface brandishing that beautifully woven tale tightly clenched in our fists and prepare to pass it under the scrutinizing eye of inquiring minds for the very first time, it’s a scary feeling. Gut-wrenching, even. In fact, I don’t believe I’ll ever get used to that lightning streak of unease that crackles through me and encourages a sudden dose of Xanax.

It takes me a good couple of days to work up the nerve to open up an email from my editor when I know it contains a myriad of critiques and cuts and suggestions. My hands get sweaty, my heart races, and I have no doubt, at least in that one single moment that I must indeed suffer from enosiophobia. The same thing happens when I notice a new review for one of my books. The moment of truth . . . and my anxiety level soars.

Because I don’t suffer, however, from scriptophobia (the fear of writing), I continue to subject myself to the scrutiny of editors and reviewers alike.

But if I’m being honest, there’s a bigger part of me that actually loves the fear. I’m pretty sure this oddity in me comes from the same place that makes me keep watching horror flicks despite the fact that I’m jumpy for days afterwards. It’s the terrifying thrill that I must have. Fear lingering over the shoulder of the writer in me eventually gives me the adrenaline rush I need to finally open that blinking message from my editor. It’s what drives me to work harder, to write better, to make those editors continue to say, “Wow, you’ve really come a long way since we first met.”

I like to think that with every book I write . . . handling the criticism becomes easier. To a degree, this statement is true fact. And I’m convinced that one day, taking criticism will be easier than swallowing swords.

Uh, yeah. Note my slight hint of sarcasm.

————————

Hays

Casey Hays lives in New Mexico with her husband and two children. She is a former high school English teacher turned author. She loves Young Adult Fiction as well as supernatural, fantasy sci-fi, and dystopian–all with a twist of romance. She is the author of four works: “The Cadence” a YA supernatural romance, and Arrow’s Flight, a YA Christian dystopian sci-fi series: Breeder, The Archer, and Master, which released on January 15, 2016. Her short story “Edge of a Promise” is featured in the collaborative anthology PREP FOR DOOM, published June 18, 2015. Currently, she is working on a series of novellas for Arrow’s Flight, as well as a YA supernatural romance based on the legend of the Phoenix.  http://www.whisperingpages.com/

Facebook

Amazon

Twitter handler: @CaseyHays7

Mar 22, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tuesday Takeover: You’re Afraid of What? by Casey Hays

Tuesday Takeover: Play for the Win by EE Isherwood

When I first considered penning a book I was in my mid-40’s, had a full-time job, and supported a young family. In 2014 my grandmother passed away. For some reason, that event inspired me to write a short story set in a zombie universe. The little old woman in my story had to survive an encounter with her live-in nurse—who had become infected with the zombie virus. When I finished the 6000-word story, I loved it so much I wanted to keep going. I wrote a book about what she did next. Then I wrote two more books, with at least one more in the works.

Over the next year I lost my job and had months of free time to work on my writing. It slowly dawned on me they formed a coherent story that maybe…just maybe…someone would want to read. So I got to the hard work of editing, designing covers, and formatting for Kindle. I also spent a lot of my days doing research into self publishing. I wanted to do it all myself the first time, just so I could learn what goes into it.

The number one lesson I took away from all my research up until that point was to always respect your readers. Anyone who takes a chance on your book is going to spend several hours inside your world. Is it ready for them? Did you invest in a professional editor? If not, why? Does your cover look like it belongs on a shelf in Barnes and Noble? If not, why?

When I hit publish in December of 2015, I truly believed I was publishing for a few friends and my mom. I thought I was doing right by them. I edited the book myself several times. I put probably a month of man hours into editing those 90,000 words. I released with a simplified cover I felt was competent, though I had no illusions it was top notch. Being unemployed, it didn’t make any sense to invest money into something I had no idea was going to make a nickel for me in the short term.

In short, I wasn’t playing to win.

When you publish your book, think about why you are doing it. Is it to make money? Is it to wow readers? Is it to prove to your naysayers that you can publish it? Is it because you want to share something brilliant with the world? Is it because you think you are super awesome? Maybe you just want to prove to yourself you can do it.

If any of those are true, and you release without professional editing or a professional cover, you aren’t playing for the win. Think about any grand opening you’ve ever attended. If the business had dirt and debris on their parking lot, broken shelves and misplaced product on the inside, and clogged toilets, what are your chances of ever going back—even if whatever they were selling was brilliant?

Being an author is a strange place for an introvert such as myself. It simultaneously begs for humility and braggadocio. But promoting something that isn’t an absolute best effort is a formula for failure. So how do you stay grounded while playing for the win? Easy. Eliminate points of failure.

  • Book cover. If your cover doesn’t belong on a shelf at Barnes and Noble, are you sure you want to tell a reader it’s still good enough for their shelf? I thought my original cover was respectable, but my new professional cover makes my original look juvenile. Cost to cross this problem off your list: less than $150.
  • Editing. I rate myself as a decent writer and a decent editor. Not great, but decent. I read my manuscript end-to-end four times on printed paper before release. I had my wife read it. A trusted friend read it. Then I paid a professional editor to read it. She found an extra word in a sentence on page 3! If I had sent that book out for review, imagine my chances of getting favorables. Cost to cross this problem off your list: $200 at a minimum for basic proofreading services. Double that (or more) if there are deeper problems.
  • Story. OK, here’s where the rubber meets the road. People love your cover. They read the sample and find the editing is good. Now, is your story something people actually want to read? No, your Mom doesn’t count. No one you know personally can answer this question for you. Find a community of readers in your genre. Ask for beta readers. Listen to them. We all want to believe we are special snowflakes. Here’s the big secret: we aren’t. You are going into a marketplace that gets 6000 books a day—your competition! And that’s just Amazon. If your story doesn’t impress non-partial beta readers, you can’t possibly hope to get lots of glowing reviews, which are your book’s lifeblood out there. Cost: nothing.

Here’s the good news. Playing to win is actually not that expensive. If you’re writing for anyone besides yourself, you can’t go wrong paying the $500 to edit and sheath your book. Sure, that may be a lot of money for a roll of the dice, but your book is your intellectual property that can sit in a variety of electronic bookstores FOREVER. You’ve created something that will generate revenue for you until the day you die, plus 70 years. Think about that, then adjust your math.When you hit publish you are either dumping a second-rate product into a bottomless pit with 6000 other books, or you’ve invested in yourself and your property to ensure you have the best chance of recouping your investment rather quickly. In my case, it took about 20 days with revenue from KDP Select, and I’m a nobody.Play for the win, believe and invest in your product, and give yourself a chance to succeed. Your readers will love you for it.

isherwood-250-promo

About:

EE Isherwood is a lifelong reader of post-apocalyptic fiction. In 2015, life gave him the opportunity to try his hand at writing and he began with a short story about a 104-year-old great-grandmother. Then he tossed her into the zombie apocalypse in his debut novel Since the Sirens. He wrote two more books about her as part of the Sirens of the Zombie Apocalypse series. A fourth volume is coming. Every day he goes to bed amazed he’s kept her alive for one more day.

http://amazon.com/author/eeisherwood

http://www.zombiebooks.net

Mar 15, 2016 | Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tuesday Takeover: Play for the Win by EE Isherwood