Oh yes. I’m feeling a bit ranty this week, which would explain the frequent blogging, I suppose. I’ve penned similar posts in the past. Hell, you have probably blogged about this too. I think nearly every self-published author has. Well, it’s time to say it again:
I am self-published and I am a REAL author.
There are some folks out there who will tell us self-publishing isn’t legit because we bypassed the gatekeepers (agents and big publishers), but I didn’t write my books for agents and publishers – I wrote them for readers. While agents and publishers might not respond to a query letter, leaving you to wonder if they hated the idea of your book, or if they just never got your email, the readers are not shy about telling you what they think when they review your book. In the end, readers are the real gatekeepers.
There are also some people who say we’re not real authors until we can make a living from selling books. But I know a lot of people who work “real” jobs as accountants or nurses or car salesmen who still struggle to make ends meet. I’m pretty sure their financial issues don’t make them any less “real” as employees. Whether my book sells a million copies or just a few, it’s still a real book. If a reader – a complete stranger who I’ve never met online or in person – selects my book, reads it, and leaves an honest review, it doesn’t get more real than that.
Oh, and then we have the people who say, “With self-publishing, anyone can publish a book. There are no standards.” Okay, maybe anyone CAN publish a book, but how many people actually do it? Yes, there are lots of published books out there, and with self-publishing, there are some that slip through the cracks in a fairly unedited state. So what? That has nothing to do with your book. If your book is the best book you can write, that’s all you have to answer for. You are only responsible for yourself and your own books. An author with Harper Collins doesn’t have to answer for every book ever published with that company. So why are all self-published authors judged negatively because of a few poorly written books?
If you are a self-published author, please don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t a real author. For too long, I allowed the negative notions of others to influence me. I had a hard time truly accepting myself as a legitimate writer. As a writer, I never felt quite good enough. I always felt hesitant or embarrassed to talk about my books. While I can’t say I’m completely over this roadblock to success, I can say it is getting better. At this point, I don’t really care what anyone else thinks. I don’t have to answer to anyone. And neither do you.
If you write, you are a REAL writer. If you have published anything, you are a REAL published author. That is something to be proud of!
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a book on Kindle that promised authors they could make a million dollars selling books on Amazon. A quick search yielded dozens of titles promising writers they can easily become best-selling authors, or promising to teach them how to write a best-selling book in 30 days. There are even books that tell people that publishing a book is “easy money” and good way to generate “passive income” because their published book will continue to bring in a steady income month after month without the author having to do anything at all!
I can already hear the grumbling and grinding of teeth from those of you who know how difficult it can be to write a book, much less publish and promote it. I’ve read many well-written, engaging books (self-published and traditionally published) that were simply phenomenal, but never reached best-seller status. The authors who wrote these books are still toiling away at 9-to-5 day jobs, waiting for their “million dollars” to roll in. They aren’t holding their breath.
I don’t know why I’m still fixated on these self-publishing books that fill writers’ heads with dubious promises and bad advice. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Anyone who falls for those get-rich-quick promises deserves what they get.” It’s hard to feel sorry for someone who is only writing because they’ve been told it’s an easy money-making scheme. I do, however, feel very sorry for those writers who believe these books are going to help them achieve their life-long dreams. Most of these books that make flashy promises in the title are full of questionable advice, confusing ramblings about algorithms, and outright lies.
One of the things these books will promise you is that you can be a best-seller. Some specifically tell you how to hit the NYT list, while others will tell you what keywords to use so you can reach an obscure best-seller list on Amazon.
How do you become a NYT best-selling author? Well, according to some of these books, all you have to do is write a bunch of books and then release them strategically, utilizing your newsletter (with massive mailing list, of course) and free promotions to push your book right to the top! Easy, right? Not for me. Not for a lot of us. This method of becoming a best-seller only works (IF it works) for certain writers. For example, if you’re a novelist who writes standalone literary fiction, I don’t think this method will work for you. It’s not going to work for writers of historical fiction who spend hours upon hours meticulously researching. It won’t work for writers who have day jobs, children, or who value sleep because in order to write “a bunch of books” in a short period of time, you aren’t going to be able to do anything else but write! The advice in these books does not take into consideration those writers who take years to write one book. It doesn’t take into consideration feedback from beta readers, editing, or any of the other steps I would recommend before sending a book out into the world. Nope. This is strictly an assembly-line type of writing and publishing for short novellas that are part of a series. Sort of limiting, isn’t it?
The assembly-line publishing method isn’t going to work if you don’t have an audience. Most of these book-selling guides assume you already have a massive mailing list or blog following. They don’t tell you how difficult and time-consuming it can be to gain a huge following on your blog, or to grow your mailing list. You don’t make connections in the writing world overnight. All of this takes time. And even then, there is no guarantee that your book (or series of books) will reach best-seller status.
So, let’s tackle the subject of keywords. With the careful use keywords, it is possible to hit a best-seller list by only selling a few books. But how does that help you find new readers? Or generate enough income to quit your day job? While I would love to get the best-seller ribbon on Amazon (I would love it so much!), an even bigger dream of mine is to sell enough books that I can make a reasonable, steady income writing full time. Hitting a best-seller list from the sales of just a few books isn’t going to do that.
Another thing that really upsets me about these “how to be a best-selling author” books is the complete disregard for the craft of writing. Good writing takes time. While there are natural born storytellers out there who ooze talent, they still have to learn the craft. They still have to work hard. Writing is an art and a skill. In fact, it’s a complex, tangled collection of skills we learn and practice. For some of us, this takes years. We learn to write by reading often. Some of us learn by taking classes. Others learn by reading books about craft. We all hone our skills by practicing. I wrote millions of words before any of them were publishable.
Many of these books that talk about passive income and generating a steady stream of revenue are written by people who have never written a book prior to their how-to guide. How do they know their methods are going to work if they’ve never done it before? Besides, writing a how-to book is different from writing fiction. How can these people predict how long it should take a writer to complete a book or an entire series of books? To me, this is just a clear indication that these peddlers of poor advice don’t know the first thing about the craft of writing. And you know what else? They don’t care.
If I ever discover the magic formula to becoming an overnight-millionaire-author-sensation, I will be sure to let you know. Some self-published authors have reached the level of success we all dream of, though I’m sure they would tell you it wasn’t overnight. The fact is, it takes time to build a writing career. The best thing we can do is keep learning and keep writing. You never know – your next book might be the one that catapults you from struggling author to best-selling millionaire. People who don’t know you will say you’re an overnight sensation, but you’ll know the truth – that everything you achieved was through hard work, perseverance, and dedication to the craft. But you’ll never know where that next book will take you unless you write it. So, let’s get writing!
Today, I did something I’ve been planning to do for a long time. I uploaded Better than Perfect to Smashwords. For the past several months, that novel was my only book (out of 8) to be exclusive on Amazon. In fact, since it’s publication in 2014, it has never been listed in e-book format on any other site. While this might not be groundbreaking news, I wanted to share this here and hopefully open up a discussion about Amazon exclusivity and the various sales channels that are out there.
My decision to remove Better than Perfect from Kindle Unlimited and Amazon exclusivity was based on a number of factors. One reason has to do with lackluster results during special promos such as freebies or Kindle countdowns. I don’t think it’s any secret that freebies no longer have the impact they once had. Back in 2014, I ran a five day freebie on Better than Perfect. I did not invest in any paid advertising, but still managed to give away over 7000 books. When the freebie ended, the momentum didn’t stop. The book ended up in the top 100 paid sales in the Women’s Humor category, which was very exciting. I earned over 30 new Amazon reviews.
Subsequent freebies with Better than Perfect and with other books have not been nearly as successful. I suppose you could say they haven’t been successful at all. Very few downloads. Little to no reviews. Freebies and special promos on Amazon just don’t pack the punch they used to. Many Kindle shoppers have come to expect free books and even if they enjoyed reading book one for free, they refuse to pay full price for other books in the series. For a standalone, like Better than Perfect, freebies almost never lead to additional sales at all.
Another reason I decided to end my exclusive relationship with Amazon is because I’ve become a little nervous about Kindle Unlimited. Revenues from borrows aren’t what they used to be. I’ve definitely seen a drop, and since an author makes significantly less from a borrowed book in comparison to a purchased book, it just doesn’t seem like a great deal to me. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not delusional enough to expect a massive stream of income from the other sales channels, but I do have some loyal readers of my Spellbringers series that rely on iTunes or B&N. Though most readers buy from Amazon, not all do. It’s nice to be able to offer my books to anyone who might want to read them.
Additionally, I’ve also read some alarming articles about KU (like this one). People have scammed the system, and consequently, authors have suffered. I’ve read about indie authors who noticed a huge jump in borrows and were later accused by Amazon of operating a scam. Amazon has threatened to remove their books from the site, and in some cases, they have done so. I’m sure these incidents are not common, but I don’t want to take my chances.
I love Amazon and I appreciate the opportunities they have offered self-published authors. (I also spend way too much money on Amazon on books and other products, but that’s a subject for another post.) Amazon is great!
But I also like Smashwords and some of the innovative things they are doing for indie authors. I like their distribution method and how easy they make it to get my books into B&N, iTunes, and other places without me having to do all that formatting. I like being able to give away free books at my discretion, without having to be exclusive. I can give away one book to a specific reader, or I can issue a coupon code for a whole month and share it with everyone. The choice is mine. They have attractive widgets I can use on my site so readers can be directed to Smashwords with one click. And I also like the fact that I can choose how much of a sample (if any) is offered to potential readers.
So, I wanted to ask all the authors out there: How do you feel about Kindle Unlimited and being exclusive with Amazon? If you haven’t put all your eggs in one basket, how have your sales been on other sites? Freebies – are they a useful marketing tool or a waste of time? I’d love to read your thoughts on this.
This post is all about procrastination. In fact, my purpose for writing this post is so I can avoid working on my poem-in-progress and/or editing the first draft of my completed novel.
Procrastination is an art. Well, it is if you work at it enough. All the things I ordinarily don’t want to do suddenly seem very important and quite urgent when I’m faced with writing. Housecleaning, laundry, organizing my closet – these otherwise loathsome tasks suddenly seem appealing when I’m face-to-face with an open Word document. The only time I really feel like writing, when the ideas are flowing freely, is when I’m at work at the day job. *sigh*
Last year, I decided that in order to devote time to my writing, I needed a dedicated space – an office or at least a desk in a quiet area. My husband, being the amazing man he is, bought me a desk for Christmas. He even bought me some office supplies to make my area more efficient and organized. He set up my desk in an upstairs nook away from the foot traffic and noise. I added some ornamental touches for inspiration, a few pens, post-it notes, and other essentials. And so my “office” was complete.
Still, no writing. My nephew came to visit the day after Christmas. And then my parents came to visit on New Year’s Eve. Rather than ignore them, I abandoned my unused desk to spend time with the family. The house cleared out over a week ago, the day before my youngest son’s birthday (which, of course, we had to celebrate), and then I got the flu. All very valid (but kind of flimsy) excuses for not writing.
Today, after having procrastinated as much as any human being can possibly do, I am sitting at my desk FOR THE FIRST TIME in complete solitude. I have two Word docs open – the unfinished poem and the train wreck of a manuscript. Instead of working on them, I am writing this blog post. At least it’s writing, right?
To anyone who is reading this post, thank you for participating in my procrastination. It might very well be that by reading this post, you too are avoiding your own writing. Well, enough! Get off the internet RIGHT NOW and write. Open up that abandoned WIP and write a new chapter. Revisit that sloppy first draft and start polishing it until it shines. Finish your poem, or your short story, or whatever you’re working on. Just write.
Now it’s time to take my own advice. I bid you all farewell (for now) and wish you success in your writing endeavors. Time for me to get back to work. I’m going to write.
If someone asked me, I’d tell them I haven’t written anything in three months, but that isn’t entirely true. I haven’t written as much as I would like. I haven’t worked on the projects I feel I should be working on. But I’ve written. (A little.)
To tell you the truth, I’ve been down on myself lately. Between chronic pain, exhaustion, and other life challenges, I barely write at all. I spend more time sleeping than on my laptop, and when I am on my laptop, I’m usually scrolling through Facebook instead of writing.
Months ago, I set a goal to finish the fourth book (Nightbound) in the Spellbringers series. I wanted to finish the book by the end of 2016. It didn’t happen. I’m still only about halfway through. Every time I sell a copy of Unbound (Book Three), I feel guilty because I haven’t worked on Nightbound since early December. I’ve missed several writing goals and I’ve been very disappointed in myself. Unfortunately, I just don’t feel like writing it. I’m stuck on the plot and I’m having a hard time immersing myself in the world I’ve created.
Some writers would say I should push through my writers block and write every day no matter what. Indeed, a big part of me has been berating myself for not taking that advice. With each day that passes, I feel increasingly guilty about not working on Nightbound.
A couple of weeks ago, I worked on edits on an unnamed novelette I wrote a year ago. I even submitted the story to my local critique group and received some very helpful feedback. But if you’d asked me, I would have told you I hadn’t been writing. Because it wasn’t Nightbound, so it didn’t really count.
Last week, I drafted and began writing a children’s book that I’m pretty excited about. But, that doesn’t count as writing either. Because it isn’t Nightbound, right?
Today I began a new project. I’ve written about 1000 words today. But that doesn’t count either. (Okay, so you know where I’m going with this…)
On one hand, I’m a little panicked to have so many unfinished projects hanging out in my laptop. But part of me is also happy to be writing. There’s no shame in not finishing a project. And there’s no shame in not writing.
Some people might disagree with me, but I don’t think you have to write every day to be a writer. I don’t think it’s necessary to finish or publish every story you write. It’s okay to experiment. It’s okay to scrap a project that isn’t working out. It’s okay to write just for the fun of it. And it’s okay to take breaks.
As writers, we’re often our harshest critiques. That is certainly the case for me. I’m much harder on myself than I would ever be on someone else. For now, I’m going to take it one day at a time. I’m going to work on being kinder to myself. And I’m going to try to enjoy the process of writing instead of being so focused on the end result.
Happy writing, everyone!
I’ve blogged about the topic of new and inexperienced publishers in the past, and for those of you who are regular followers of my blog (and probably sick of reading my lectures about using caution when seeking a publisher), I apologize. For those of you who are new here and might be new to writing, I hope I can help you make an informed choice when it comes to making decisions about publishing your book.
I recently read a post by a Facebook acquaintance who is setting up her own publishing company. She’s a very nice lady. From what I can tell, she seems very honest and dedicated. She’s written several books, has organized book signings, and even has her own online radio show. She has many admirable qualities. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t trust her with my books. Not in a million years.
This nice, dedicated, determined lady has almost no grasp of grammar or punctuation. Her Facebook posts are littered with grammatical errors and her “edited” books aren’t really any better. Her assurance that she has secured the services of an editor for her business doesn’t make me eager to check out her publishing company. If the editor for her business is the same person who edited her published books, I fear her new company is not going to be producing quality reading material.
Like I said, this lady seems very nice. It gives me no joy to make such dire predictions about the future of her new venture. I truly hope her publishing company is successful and I hope the authors who sign on are happy with their publishing experience. I hope no one involved ends up disappointed or disillusioned if things don’t work out the way they expect.
If you’re a new writer who is seeking publication for the first time, you have a wide variety of choices. It can be difficult to choose between a traditional publisher, an indie publisher, or self-publishing. You might be overwhelmed by the decision-making process. Or maybe you’ve already queried numerous agents and/or publishers and have received a batch of rejection slips. You might feel tempted to settle, to take the easy route, to answer the call of the brand new publisher who is enthusiastic, but not very experienced. After all, what do you have to lose?
A lot, actually. Handing over your book to a new or substandard publisher can damage your career and possibly ruin your reputation as an author. You could lose time, money, and maybe even your will to write.
Most people assume that someone who runs a publishing company knows something about publishing, but that’s not necessarily true. Anyone can claim to be a publisher. Anyone can set up a website. A publisher who has the best of intentions can ruin your book’s chances at success just as thoroughly as a publisher who is out to scam you.
Don’t be in a rush to sign with the first publisher who shows interest in your book. Don’t settle. Picking a publisher is a huge decision and not one to be rushed.
Today I completed 50,000 words, thus making me a #NaNoWriMo2015 winner. Winning NaNo was a goal I’d set for myself a few weeks ago, and I am definitely feeling a sense of accomplishment for having achieved this goal. I’m pleased that I now have 50K words toward my first draft, but the greatest takeaway from having completed NaNo is what I’ve learned during the process.
I've been doing some serious thinking about my life as a writer and as a person. Or, more specifically, I've been doing a lot of thinking about how I’ve abandoned my own writing in order to make everyone and everything else a priority.
If you’re a follower of this blog, you’ve probably read my previous posts about balance and prioritizing writing. As I’ve said before, balance is always going to be an issue. Not just for me, but for everyone. We’ve all got families, day jobs, animals, and other responsibilities that take up a great deal of time. There’s always an illness or a crisis or something to derail our plans or offset our goals. For me, major depression often steals my motivation and robs me of the ability to prioritize anything at all. Getting out of bed and taking care of the bare essentials is all I have the strength to do, and so writing is often shoved to the back burner. Depression is the reason I’m constantly having to reset my goals and re-prioritize, but it’s not the only thing standing in the way of achieving my dreams.
I think for most of us, the roadblocks to writing success are numerous. For me, there’s a fear of failure that keeps me from plunging full-force ahead into my writing career. There’s the sneaking suspicion I’m not really that great of a writer and that all my good ideas have already been spent. And when it comes to actually marketing and selling my book, there’s the fear that I’ll annoy my lovely Facebook friends and family by posting book links. Is it bragging to post about my new release? Is it annoying? Do I look silly and delusional when I’m plugging my self-published book? I mean, is it really a ‘real’ book if I published it myself?
With my last book release, I posted a buying link to my blog and to my Facebook Author page. I shot out a couple of Tweets. And thanks to a couple of good author friends, I appeared on a few blogs. That was it. That was my book launch. It took me over four years to get this book published, but I gave it zero priority. I didn’t post a single link on my personal Facebook account. You know, because I didn’t want to bother anyone or make anyone thing I was trying to sell them something. I’m quite certain I spent more time commenting on pictures of what my Facebook friends had for dinner than I spent in promoting my own book.
I’ve liked and shared and commented on my friends’ posts. Wouldn’t they want to do the same for me? I suppose they would if they knew about the book in the first place. But since I didn’t treat myself and my writing as a priority, my friends didn’t realize it is one. It’s likely that some of my friends think I’ve stop writing altogether. Or that they’ve forgotten it was ever part of my life.
At my day job, people don’t know about my writing. I’ve chosen not to share that aspect of my life. I suppose if they decided to cyber-stalk me, they’d discover my ‘secret,’ but up until now, I’ve chosen to keep my writing life separate from my ‘real’ life. And I think this deliberate attempt to keep my writing separate, and to classify it as less than my ‘real’ life is a huge part of the problem. Hiding my writing has become a habit. When a new acquaintance asks what I do for a living, I tell them about the day job. It’s rare that I mention my writing and after all this time, it feels awkward to talk about it with ‘real’ people in my ‘real’ life.
I don’t remember making a conscious decision to put my writing into the hobby category. In fact, I’m sure I never made a deliberate decision to do so. But when I stopped treating my writing like a career or a priority, guess what? It became a hobby, something I indulge in when I’m being selfish or frivolous with my time. Any money I’ve made has been integrated into the family budget instead of reinvested in my career. To this day, I don’t own a paperback copy of my most recent book, even though it is available in that format. In fact, I don’t own paperback copies of many of my books (though I plan to rectify that as soon as I’m finished with this post). On Facebook, I’ve seen post after post from authors buying entire cases of their new releases. And I didn’t buy a single copy to put on my own shelf.
And that is so very sad.
It’s sad that I’ve pushed my writing to the side and that I treat my dream like it’s something annoying or shameful. It’s sad that I only allow myself to write AFTER I’ve done everything else for everyone else, and that by the time I have an opportunity to write, I’m too tired to do so. It’s sad that I downplay my own accomplishments because I’m a self-published author and that I often feel inferior because of it. And it’s sad that I’m a full grown adult who still cares so much about what other people might think and feel about what I do with my own time.
But do you know what is really, really sad? That there are other people like me out there who are experiencing the same thing. Not just writers. Anyone who has a dream. Anyone who wants to leave their 9-to-5 job to pursue their passions. Anyone who is feeling unfulfilled in life but doesn’t believe they are entitled to wanting more. It’s so incredibly sad. Sure, we all have to do things we don’t want to do. It’s part of life and being an adult. But the fact that there are people out there who don’t give themselves permission to dream? Well, that just breaks my heart.
So, today I am claiming it. I am claiming my title as an Author. I am claiming my desire to make writing a career. I’m claiming my books and I’m claiming my writing time as sacred. I’m setting goals and making my writing a priority instead of an afterthought. And I’m claiming my right to celebrate my accomplishments too. I’m ready to take risks and make personal investments in my future.
Experts. They’re everywhere. Self-publishing experts, social media experts, writing experts… the list goes on and on.
How can you tell if someone is an expert in their field? Anyone can claim to be an expert. Not everyone who claims to be an expert is an expert. They lack credentials, experience, and sometimes integrity. They sell services to unsuspecting authors and pad their own pockets by destroying a writer’s dreams.
I know an author who paid a “professional” to edit and format her book. When she tried to upload the book, it looked a mess on Kindle. It wouldn’t pass Createspace’s review. Her “formatted” file was useless. When she asked for help in a writer’s group we both belong to, I offered to look at her file. Wow. Not only was the formatting horrible, the editing was a mess too. When I skimmed the document in an attempt to clean up the formatting, I found dozens of errors. I don’t know if the author was able to get any of her money back, but I hope so. Whatever she paid was too much.
Fake experts can come in the form of cover artists who don’t secure the necessary licensing requirements before using a stock photo to make your book cover.
Fake experts can come in the form of editors who don’t understand the basics of grammar and sentence structure. They charge authors hundreds, or even thousands of dollars and leave the author with a poorly edited manuscript.
Fake experts can also come in the form of formatters. Book promoters. Public relations professionals. Writing coaches. They’re everywhere!
Beware the experts. Not only those who are selling services, but those who are selling “how to” books or classes. Don’t part with your money until you’ve checked references and consulted helpful sites such as Absolute Write and P&E. Who has the editor worked with? Checked out the books they claim to have worked on. Does the author mention the editor in their acknowledgments or somewhere else in their book? Do customer reviews mention editing issues? Ask the cover artist where they get the stock photos they use. Ask to see the licensing agreement on any images used on your cover. Research, research, research.
Beware the experts who offer free advice too. Their advice might work for some authors, but will it work for you? Their expert advice might be based on their experiences as a bestselling romance author, but some of their advice might not apply to your epic fantasy series or your non-fiction work. Different authors are going to use different strategies to market their unique books. And just because something works for one author doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Learn to pick and choose which advice suits your needs. Writer’s blogs (even this one!) are full of advice, but not all of it will be useful to you. Some of it contradicts. That doesn’t mean one author is wrong and the other is right – it just means they have had different experiences.
Always trust your instincts as a writer. You are the expert when it comes to doing what is best for you.
Most authors worry about how their book will be received by others. What if people hate it? What if they leave a scathing review? Well, writing a book everyone will like is easy! Anyone can do it, right? Wrong!
If you want to write a book everyone will hate (including you), here’s how to do it:
Write the book YOU like. Create the best book YOU can write and be proud of your work. Just write!