Showing posts with label publishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label publishing. Show all posts

Sunday, November 6

How To Tell If Your Book Is Ready To Publish

How To Tell If Your Book Is Ready To Publish

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” 
—Frank Herbert, Dune.

Fear is an emotional response to a perceived threat. If the threat is real and your fear makes you act in adaptive ways then the system is working. Often, though, we’re afraid of things that never happen or that, in the big picture, just aren’t important.

Today I want to look at one fear that holds writers back from publishing their work: fear of receiving a one-star review.

If you publish enough books for long enough, you likely will get a one-star review. But let’s look at what that actually means.

1. Your reader found the book irritating to read.

If your story is poorly edited or if the formatting is off, your book could very well get a one-star review.

But these are easy problems to fix. These days it’s easier than ever to find a line editor for every budget. As for formatting your ebook, you can do this yourself using Scrivener or Vellum. If money isn’t an issue, and you have better things to do (like writing your next book!), my advice would be to pay someone to take care of this for you.

Remember: Never give someone a royalty for editing or formatting your work!

2. Mismatch between the kind of book readers thought they were buying and the kind of book they actually bought.

I think this is, hands-down, the most common reason for one-star reviews. Your story could be the best romance story in the long and colorful history of romance stories but if someone bought it thinking it was a science fiction yarn, they’re going to hate it with a passion!

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help accurately communicate what kind of book you’ve written:

a) The Cover

One of the things your cover should communicate is the genre.

Look at the covers of best selling books in your genre and subcategories. What themes do they display? Get specific. If you’re writing a cosy, look up cosy mysteries on Amazon. Look at the subcategories. Which subcategories are selling well? What kind of covers do these books have? How does the cover communicate the theme of the book? What sorts of objects are on the cover? And so on.

b) The Blurb

Take a look at 10 of the best selling books in your genre. If you have the money and time to buy these books and read them, I encourage you to! But at least read the blurb. Is the blurb consistent with the genre? Since they’re best sellers it’s a good bet it is. Now look at your blurb and your cover. Are the themes mentioned in the blurb consistent with the cover? With the genre?

c) The Title

Same thing. Take a look at your list of 10 books. Look at the titles. Is it clear from each what the genre of the story is?

Friends from your social networks can help you out here. Ask them, When you see this cover, or this blurb, or this title, what genre do you think of?

3. The reader hates (say) murder mysteries but decided to give your book a try because it was free.

There’s nothing you can do about this. It happens most often when you offer your book for free, but even if you don’t, eventually someone who intensely dislikes the kind of book you wrote will read it, become upset and give you a one-star review. When that happens reach out to writers who have received their own fair share of one-star reviews. Then get back to writing! :-)

5 questions to ask yourself before you act:

1. If you do this, what is the WORST possible outcome? What would you lose?

2. How likely is the worst possible outcome?

3. If you do this, what is the BEST possible outcome? What would you gain?

4. How likely is the best possible outcome?

5. Is there anything you can do to lessen the likelihood of the worst possible outcome and increase the likelihood of the best possible outcome?

If the best outcome doesn’t get you all that much and the worst outcome could completely obliterate your business then perhaps embrace the saying, “Caution is the better part of valor”! But do examine if there is, perhaps, a way to mitigate the damage that the worst possible scenario represents.

On the other hand, if the worst possible outcome wouldn’t damage your business and the best outcome is tempting, why not go for it?!

Every post I pick a book or audiobook I love and recommend it to my readers. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post. :-)

Today I’d like to recommend Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell. From the blurb: “Filled with plot examples from popular novels, comprehensive checklists, and practical hands-on guidance, Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure gives you the skills you need to approach plot and structure like an experienced pro.”

That’s it for today! I’ll talk to you again tomorrow about another key scene. In the meantime, good writing!

Word count so far: 9,008 words
Word count today: 977 words
Word count so far: 9,985 words

Monday, August 4

How To Get Over A Fear Of Failure

How To Get Over A Fear Of Failure

Last time I talked about fear of failure. I believe that fear is the number one thing holding most people back, writers especially.

Yes, to be a writer one must write and one must read, but one must do something else as well: one must offer one’s work up to others to be read. (Not everything, to be sure. Sometimes we write a story just for ourselves, or for a friend, or for our family. But I agree with Lee Child that a reader is an essential component of every story. I feel that an unread story is, in some ways, an unfinished story.[1]) 

Today there are more ways than ever to get our work in front of readers. We can send it to book publishers or we can publish it ourselves on places like Amazon and Smashwords and Kobo and iBooks. Those are just a few of the many markets that have sprung up in the past few years. Writers can also--as I’m doing right now--publish a blog post, or serialize their stories through sites like Wattpad.

Many writers are taking advantage of these publishing opportunities. To those of you who are: great! You are doing the work, facing the fear of failure, of rejection, then getting over it, and putting your work out there. When setbacks come--and of course they will; they come to everyone--you brush yourself off, get up, and keep going. Kudos.

A lot of people aren’t like that. It’s not that they aren’t brave, it’s that the sting of past failures, still clear in their minds, paralyzes them; it prevents them from acting and risking failure. And that’s a big problem because to succeed at anything one must risk failure.

The power of writing.

Why do we write? Why do we sequester ourselves from our friends, our families--from the outdoors! From fresh air and family picnics and Saturday night movies and drinks after work with friends. Why do we live like moles in underground warrens--writer’s caves--bathed in artificial light?

Why do you write?

There are going to be all sorts of different reasons but I think that most writers write because they want to create stories that have the power to entertain, that have the power to reach out and connect with the hearts and minds of their audience and make them feel something.

It is a kind of magic. Consider this sentence:

“I’m thinking of a white rabbit.”

And now so are you!

In reading those words, words I wrote, I influenced your thoughts.

People who are both skilled and clever at writing can transform lives and change the course of history.

That sounds like an exaggeration but think how different the world would be without the Torah, the Christian Bible and the Koran. I’m not saying anything about how the world would be better or worse--that’s an entirely different post--but it would certainly be different.

When my father first told me that the pen was mightier than the sword, I scoffed. But swords are wielded by people, and people have ideas and thoughts and beliefs and desires, all of which can be changed by what they read; all of which can be changed by the stories that live inside them.

The stories that live in us, the stories that we tell ourselves, are what shape our lives, are what shape what is possible for us. These stories determine what we will attempt, what we will risk, what we will try.

My point is that, as writers, as creators of stories, we have a lot of power.

To be a storyteller is a heady goal.

And, perhaps for that reason, perhaps because the end result is so potentially powerful, there is a bar to entry: the fear of failure.

The boogyman.

We all fear something (though probably not the same thing!). Many writers, though, have two fears in common:

Writers often fear that not only will their work, their stories, be cruelly rejected but that, as a result, they will be rejected as well. 

The fear is that our friends will laugh at us behind our backs, that our families will be disappointed in us. The fear is that, because of our story’s failure, we will amount to less.

For many of us, this fear has its root in having been bullied. This is the fear of someone tearing us down, ridiculing us, perhaps even beating us up, all because doing so makes them feel good. It is all because diminishing us makes them feel bigger, better.

But let’s examine this fear, let’s shine a light on it. Let’s take an objective look at what failure could mean for a writer.

The upside of failure.

Failure, like death, is inevitable. We will fail at something. Probably many somethings.

Failure can be devastating: 

If brakes fail to work properly, people can die.

If a surgeon fails to hold his scalpel steady, his patient can die.

If a parent fails to care for their children adequately, they can die.

If a writer fails to sell a book--if the book fails--then ... what?

Well, no one is going to die.

(Note: In what follows it may seem as though I’m saying it’s okay to be sloppy, it’s okay to publish a book that hasn’t been proofread, it’s okay to offer a book for sale before the author has solicited feedback from beta readers. I’m not saying any of those things. Every book published should be the best the author can possibly make it.) 

Ask yourself:

What is the worst thing that can happen if you publish your story or send it off to a traditional publisher? 

One thing that could happen is for a reviewer to leave a scathing one star review that goes beyond criticizing the story--which is fair--to criticizing the author--which isn’t fair--and doing so in a way that is intentionally destructive. 

I know a lot of people experienced bullying when they were kids and, unfortunately, even as adults. A person does something someone else finds weird or strange, something that--to them--is objectionable, and instead of limiting their criticism to what you did they criticize you.

Perhaps you’re worried that if you publish a book that sucks that your friends and family--and even complete strangers--will tell you you’re hopeless, you’re a joke, you’re a terrible person. Perhaps you’re scared that you’re going to lose all your friends. No one will like you or respect you or listen to you anymore. 

The fear of being abandoned by those we care about most, the fear of losing all you hold most dear, is often what lies at the heart of the fear of failure. And the fear doesn’t have to be rational. I once watched an interview with a billionaire in which he confessed that he was still terrified of losing all his money and being homeless. As he said this there were tears in his eyes. Is that likely to ever happen? No! But it doesn’t matter. That’s the fear that drives him.

Our fears are often wildly unrealistic. 

For the sake of argument, let’s say you publish--or send to a publisher--a book that sucks. Let’s say you wrote the worst story ever. Yes, you checked the manuscript for grammatical errors but you missed them. To make matters worse, you describe your story as an action/adventure when it’s really a confused romance, and the story question--whether the protagonists will become a couple--is never answered. Or maybe it’s just terribly boring, better than warm milk at putting readers to sleep.

What is the worst that could happen? 

A. Readers download the book, perhaps it was free and they didn’t bother looking at the first few pages. They begin to read, realize it’s a horrible story badly written and either leave a disgruntled review or just close the book and never look at it again.

B. Readers are so upset that they waisted time on the book that they leave scathing one star reviews that skewer not only the work but the author of the work. Not satisfied with this, they stalk the author and leave one star reviews for all her books without even reading them.

If either (A) or (B) happens, so what? (Again, I’m not advising people to publish sloppy work, I’m just looking at a worst case scenario.) 

Chances are no one is going to remember your name (and, if you’re really worried, you can publish under a pen name). I have trouble remembering the names of authors whose books I DO want to read, I don’t have any brain-space left over for authors who I don’t want to read, nor do most people.

(B) is probably not going to happen. I would say you have a better chance of being struck by lightening or winning the lottery. Yes, there are some authors who some people love to hate but these authors are usually successful. I’m writing this post for people who want to share their work with a larger public but who haven’t yet because they are afraid of what the price might be, not those who are experiencing some of the drawbacks of success.

What is the best thing that could happen?

This isn’t at all likely, but look at what happened to Hugh Howey. That sort of success didn’t happen right away, he published many books before he made it big with Wool, a story he thought wasn’t going to sell well. Because of Wool he was able to quit his day job and become a successful full-time writer.

What is most likely to happen?

If this is your first publication and you have no presence on the web then even if you publish an awesome story chances are it won’t sell and you won’t receive any reviews.

If you do have a presence on the web, even a modest one, or if you do some promotion, then you likely will get some downloads and, if it’s a terrible book, you may get a few reviews like (A) above. The good news, though, is that there are many ways to ensure your book is not terrible:

- If you have the money, send your book to a content editor, one you’ve researched thoroughly and who is highly recommended. If you don’t have the money, work out an exchange with other authors who write the same kind of books you do. In addition, you can run your story through online critique groups such as

- Run your story through a grammar checker. I use MS Word. If you have the money, also send your book to a copy editor, someone who can check for grammatical errors and logical inconsistencies.

- Put the story away for as long as you can stand, weeks or months, and then take it out and read it. You should be able to see it with new eyes and decide for yourself whether it is something you want to share with the world.

Note: There’s a big difference between a story being terrible and it simply not being someone’s cup of tea. For example, I could write the best romance story ever written but if a reader hates romance stories they aren’t going to like it.[2]

It’s easy to do something unskilled that almost everyone loves. That’s porn. It’s difficult to do something that takes skill where the possibility of self-immolating disaster lurks, ever-present, in the wings. Writers are those people who find it in themselves to rise from their own ashes and continue writing.


1. The other day I went through a few of my trunk stories. Many of them had been written so long ago I only dimly remembered writing them. I think that when we write a story then put it away for days or weeks or months, or even years, and then come back to it and re-read it we can be almost objective. We come back to the text as a reader not as its creator. Because of this, I think that a writer can be their own reader, their own audience, if they have sufficient distance from the work.

2. There is a reader for every book. Whatever kind of story you write, if you love the story then there are other people who will love it too. The trick is to find them. Further, what determines whether a person can make a living from their writing is how many readers love the kinds of stories you write. I believe that most one star reviews come from people outside a book’s target audience; they come from people who, instead of loving that kind of story, hate it. It is not the fault of the storyteller or the story; the book just wasn’t for them. Given this, if a person (say) makes their work free on Amazon and thousands of people download it, it’s quite likely it will get a few negative reviews--as well as quite a few positive ones. (It’s interesting how writers have the capacity to remember that first cutting one star review till the end of time while completely ignoring all the five star reviews!)

Further reading:

Seth Godin – Full Stop Failure over at Turnaround Magazine.

Photo credit: "First Kitten, First Home" by Laura D'Alessandro by Creative Commons Copyright 2.0.

Friday, August 1

Seth Godin: You must fail to succeed

Lately I’ve been thinking about failure and the fear of failure, so naturally I turned to Seth Godin and read--or reread--some of what he had to say on the subject.

1. Seek out projects you can afford to fail at.

“If you under-reach a little, nail it, succeed, declare victory and repeat, you’re probably better off.”[1]

We don’t have to go for broke, it doesn’t have be all or nothing. Start small and work up.

2. Be brave.

“[...] I’m talking about the guts to take responsibility for your art. [...] the guts to open the door yourself.”[1]

No risk, no reward. Creating art is scary because it makes us vulnerable. 

“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” 

In order to connect with others, in order to reach our readers’ emotions, we have to fuel our writing with our own deep losses, our own tragedies, our own vulnerabilities. That’s scary.

3. Take the 10,000 hour rule to heart.

“The 10,000 hour rule is legit. If you spend enough time working through really difficult challenges, you’re just going to get better at it.”[1]

The more you publish, the more often you publish, the better you’re going to get at it--provided you learn from your mistakes.

4. Don’t make it personal.

“If you let the lizard brain run amok, if you turn problems into referenda about you, about your goodness as a human being, it’s not going to end well. A key to discernment is to figure out the truth of what you’re looking at and act on it, not let it act on you.”

Yes, sometimes reviews can review the author and not just the author’s work, but writers need to find a way to separate themselves from what they’ve written and not take criticisms about the work as criticisms about themselves as writers or as people. Something which can be difficult to do if you took rule number three to heart and bled all over the page.

5. Failure is the key to success.


“The single best way to overrule your fears is to call their bluff by making the fear come true.

“Do something you know will fail.

“And then fail again.

“Once you fail at what the lizard brain is so petrified of, it will lose its power over you.”[1]

Obviously Seth Godin is talking about non-fatal failures. And he’s not talking about intentionally failing at work or failing as a husband (or wife) or failing as a parent or failing as a human being. He’s talking about taking risks, perhaps relatively small risks. 

If a person wants to climb Mount Everest they don’t start by climbing Mount Everest, they start by climbing a steep hill. They start by taking lessons. They start by trying, and probably failing, to achieve smaller goals. 

I cannot guarantee that as long as you keep trying that, eventually, you will succeed.

I can guarantee that if you let a fear of failure keep you from trying that you will never succeed.

*  *  *

I’ve been working on a longer article about the fear of failure, but I wanted to share Seth Godin’s words with you. I believe what Seth Godin says: once we lose our fear of failure it will lose its power over us. Or, as Frank Herbert put it: fear is the mind-killer.

That quotation is one of my favorites:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Fail. Fail again. Kill the fear. It’s the only way to truly succeed.


1. Seth Godin – Full Stop Failure over at Turnaround Magazine.
Photo credit: "streetmusic" by *Light Painting* under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, August 12

Amazon Sales Ranking Explained

Amazon Sales Ranking Explained

Theresa Ragan has written the most useful article I've read concerning what Amazon's sales ranking means: Sales Ranking Chart.

Theresa's entire article is well worth the read, but here is an excerpt:
Amazon Bestsellers Rank is the number you find beneath the Product Description. Every book on Amazon has an Amazon Bestsellers Rank. Click on any title and then scroll down until you see it.

March 2013 update: rankings have changed substantially in the past few months and I am making changes to reflect rankings and book sales as information is given to me.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 50,000 to 100,000 - selling close to 1 book a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 10,000 to 50,000 - selling 3 to 15 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 5,500 to 10,000 - selling 15 to 30 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 3,000 to 5,500 - selling 30 to 50 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 500 to 3,000 - selling 50 to 200 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 350 to 500 - selling 200 to 300 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 100 to 350 - selling 300 to 500 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 35 to 100 - selling 500 to 1,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 10 to 35 - selling 1,000 to 2,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank of 5 to 10 - selling 2,000 to 4,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank of 1 to 5 - selling 4,000+ books a day.
Once again, Theresa Ragan's article is: Sales Ranking Chart.

I came across Theresa's blog  because I've started reading The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing, a book she contributed to. So far it's been informative.

Photo credit: "verfremdeter lavendel" by fRandi-Shooters under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, July 5

How To Publish 52 Short Stories And 10 Collections Per Year

How To Publish 52 Short Stories And 10 Collections Per Year

This is another terrific article by Dean Wesley Smith, this time on how to make your stories visible: The New World of Publishing: Helping Readers Find Your Work.

The Plan:

1. Pick a genre.

2. Write one short story a week.

3. Each short story should be around 5,000 words.

4. Brand each book.

5. Publish each short story as an ebook and charge $2.99.

6. Every 5 weeks bundle 5 stories together into a collection. Sell this collection as both an ebook and a POD book. Sell the ebook for $6.99 and the POD book for $12.99.

If you take DWS's advice at the end of the year you'll have 52 short stories and 10 collections.

Not bad!

How To Make A Living Writing Short Stories

Dean Wesley Smith writes that the key to selling books is threefold: Produce a professional looking book, brand each book and have many titles available for purchase.

Produce a professional looking book

There are hundreds of articles out there on what it means to produce a professional looking book and how you can do that so I won't cover it again here. (If you're looking for some help, here's an article on where to find cover artists.)

Make sure each book looks professional, has a good description, has appropriate keywords and has been slotted in the right category. 

Brand each book

A brand is the "name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's product distinct from those of other sellers" (Wikipedia).

I'm not going to talk much about branding because there are oodles of great articles out there (for instance, Why Content Marketing is the New Branding).

Especially in this case, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Look at Dean Wesley Smith's Books. (Note: You might have to scroll down the page.) Notice how his name is laid out in the same way on each book; the same styling, the same font.

DWS writes that you want all your books, especially the ones in a series, to look similar. Also, make sure that the cover conveys a sense of the genre you're writing in. Think of the cover of your average romance book and contrast that with horror.

Have many titles available for purchase

That is, have many titles under the same name (/pen name) and genre available for purchase. If you write everything from romance to horror under the same name (/pen name) make sure that the books within each genre are branded distinctively.

How many books should one have for sale? DWS says: It depends. Between 10 and 50, give or take. (grin)

And remember, that's 10 to 50 books within the same genre written by the same author (/pen name).

#  #  #

The above represents only a portion of his article, I recommend heading on over to DWS's blog and reading the whole thing.


Photo credit: "Happy Fourth of July 2013!" by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, May 28

7 Interesting Links For Writers

7 Interesting Links For Writers

I've been busy with other things these last few days, and have gotten behind on my blog reading.

For months I've wanted to do a kind of 'dogs breakfast' post where I talk briefly about a bunch of articles that have wonderful information for writers. Since I have such an embarrassment of riches at the moment I thought, no time like the present! Here we go:

7 interesting links for writers:

1. Amazon's New Subcategories

Amazon has a few new subcategories--character categories and theme categories--for books. India Drummond over at The Writer's Guide to E-Publishing tells you how to get your books listed in these new categories. To read more about this see her article:  Amazon’s New SciFi, Fantasy, and Romance Subcategories. Thanks to Passive Guy for the link.

2. Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Psychic Powers

This week the theme is psychic powers: write a story of around 1,000 words where a character has one of the 20 psychic powers listed in this blog post: Flash Fiction Challenge: Must Contain Psychic Powers. I've found writing flash fiction has helped me enormously, it's a fabulous way to stretch one's writing muscles.

3. What It Means To Be A Writer

Amanda Palmer gave a talk entitled, Connecting The Dots. Good stuff. Again, thanks to Passive Guy for the link.

4. Dean Wesley Smith Does An Encore

I loved it when Dean Wesley Smith blogged about writing a 70,000 word novel in 10 days. Well, he's doing it again! This time Dean won't be writing a novel, instead he'll write 5 shorts stories and he's starting June 10th. Read more here: “Ghost Novel” Writing So You Can See.

5. Storytelling Techniques

My goal is to write stories other folks love to read. How one does that, time after time, is the 64,000 dollar question. Fortunately, this is the sort of craft question the folks over at The Write Practice love to write about.

Joe Bunting asks: Does your story promise to reveal a secret? A solution to a problem? Is it about the demise of a savior figure? Those aren't the only ways of adding interest to a story, but they are great ideas to have in your writer's toolkit.

6. Hugh Howey: Does Barnes & Noble Manipulate Its Rankings?

It looks like erotic stories aren't allowed to rank above 126 over at Barnes & Noble, no matter how well they sell. Read more here.

7. Short Is The New Long

Recently I've talked a bit about whether novellas or novels sell better. Here's an article encouraging writers to spend more time writing short stories: Short is the New Long: 10 Reasons Why Short Stories are Hot.

Have you come across a great article about writing? Tell us about it! 

Photo credit: "Oerlikon" by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, May 23

Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords, Shares Survey Results: 5 Ways To Sell More eBooks

Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords, Shares Survey Results: 5 Ways To Sell More Books

I predict that within three years, over 50% of the New York Times bestselling ebooks will be self-published ebooks. It's possible I'm being too conservative.
-- Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords
I've been meaning to discuss Mark Coker's analysis of the results from his latest eBook survey but other projects kept intruding.  Finally, I just dove in and did it.

What follows is my condensed version of Mark Coker's post, New Smashwords Survey Helps Authors Sell More eBooks.

5 Ways To Sell More eBooks

1. Longer eBooks Sell Better

I was surprised by this, but successful indie author Russell Blake would agree: novels sell better than novellas. MC writes:
The top 100 bestselling Smashwords books averaged 115,000 words.  When we examined the word counts of books in other sales rank bands, we found the lower the word count, the lower the sales.

2. Shorter book titles have a slight sales advantage

I chuckled when I read this because it's one of the points I included in my blog post about how to choose the perfect title. I have a bias toward books with shorter titles, but this could just be because shorter titles are easier to remember. Mark Coker writes:
The top 100 bestselling Smashwords books averaged 4.2 words in their book title.

For titles ranked #1,000-#2,000, the average word count was 5.7, or about 36% more words than the top 100.

Books ranked #100,000-#101,000 (not a sales rank any author wants!), the book title word count was 6.0 words.

3. Lower priced books sell more copies

That's not at all surprising. Mark Coker writes:
[B]ooks priced between $1.00 and $1.99 significantly underperform books priced at $2.99 and $3.99. 
It was surprising that books priced at $1.99 sell the most poorly. Mark Coker's advice: Whatever price you put on your book, don't sell it for $1.99.

Free books, of course, are downloaded most often. Basically for every 92 free books downloaded one is sold. Mark Coker writes:
FREE books, on average, earned 92 times more downloads than books at any price. If you've written several books, consider pricing at least one of the books at free. If you write series, consider pricing the series starter at FREE. Nothing attracts reader interest like FREE. But remember, it's one thing to get the reader to download your book. It's an entirely different challenge to get them to read it, finish it and love it.

4. $3.99 is the new sweet spot

Significantly more books were sold at $3.99 than for any other price. Mark Coker writes:
One surprising finding is that, on average, $3.99 books sold more units than $2.99 books, and more units than any other price except FREE.  I didn't expect this.  Although the general pattern holds that lower priced books tend to sell more units than higher priced books, $3.99 was the rule-breaker.  According to our Yield Graph, $3.99 earned authors total income that was 55% above the average compared to all price points.

The finding runs counter to the meme that ebook prices will only drop lower.  I think it offers encouraging news for authors and publishers alike. It also tells me that some authors who are pricing between $.99 and $2.99 might actually be underpricing. [Emphasis mine]

5. Go indie!

Mark Coker writes:
An indie ebook author earns about $2.00 from the sale of a $2.99 book. That book, on average, will sell four times as many units as a book priced over $10.00. In order for a traditionally published author to earn $2.00 on an ebook sale, the book must be priced at $11.42 (if the publisher has agency terms, as Smashwords does) or $16.00 (if it's a wholesale publisher).
. . . .
If a reader has the choice to purchase one of two books of equal quality, and one is priced at $2.99 and the other is priced at $12.99, which will they choose?
. . . .
I predict that within three years, over 50% of the New York Times bestselling ebooks will be self-published ebooks. It's possible I'm being too conservative.

Indie ebook authors can publish faster and less expensively, publish globally, enjoy greater creative freedom, earn higher royalties, and have greater flexibility and control. It's not as difficult to successfully self-publish as some people think. The bestselling traditionally published authors already know how to write a super-awesome book. That's the most difficult task of publishing because the best books market themselves on reader word-of-mouth.
I didn't talk about everything Mark Coker wrote, his article is well worth reading.

The upshot: This is a great time to be an indie author!

Photo credit: "hamburger hafengeburtstag (fisheye) wasserschutzpolizei" by fRedi under Creative Commmons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0.

Thursday, May 16

Indie Writers Can Now Get Their Books Into Bookstores

Indie Writers Can Now Get Their Books Into Bookstores

Dean Wesley Smith has been spoiling his readers lately. First he blogs each day that he writes a novel in 10 days, showing us newbies that, yes, it can be done and, actually, it's not such a big deal.

Now he's spreading the word about how indie authors can get their books into bookstores. Yep, that's right, bookstores.

Bookstores Are Ordering Indie Published Books

If some of you are wondering why this is a big deal, not being able to sell one's work in bookstores was the single biggest difference between an indie author and a traditionally published one. (It's not entirely true that indie authors couldn't sell their work in bookstores, but it was a lot harder for indies to do than for traditional authors.) Dean writes:
[I]f you buy the $10 ISBN that puts your company name on the book in CreateSpace and put it into the extended distribution program, it will appear on the listings of Ingrams, B&T, and other distributors right beside a Simon & Schuster book or a Bantam book.
 Dean promises that ...
Over some near-future posts (and in workshops both online and here at the coast this next year) Kris and I will start working to train writers how to get books effectively to the attention of bookstores so they can order them.
Read more at Dean Wesley Smith's blog: The New World of Publishing: Books into Stores.

Kris Rusch talks about this same shift, this sea change, in her most recent blog post: The Business Rusch: Shifting Sands. She writes:
What has changed is this: Bookstores now have access to all published print books, whether they come from Createspace or from a big traditional publisher. Bookstores didn’t have access to all published print books before.

There are some caveats, of course. The first caveat is this: The indie writer must put her book into Createspace’s extended distribution program. (Lightning Source has something similar, but I’m not as familiar with it.) The second caveat is this: the bookstore must have a preferred account through its primary distributor.

If both of those things are in place—the writer has her print-on-demand book in an extended distribution program through the POD company, and the bookstore has a good relationship with its primary distributor, then any bookstore can find that book with no help from the writer at all.

Got that? The writer has to do nothing, and still her book will end up in the bookstore’s system.
What follows is a fascinating discussion about why the book industry allows returns and how returns stigmatized indie writers. It's a wonderful read, highly recommended.

Since we're talking about visibility, if you haven't already, check out David Gaughran's new book, Let's Get Visible: How to get noticed and sell more books.

The world of publishing is changing quickly, but not for the worse, not if a writer is willing to explore all the options. 

Other articles you might like: 

- What Do Aaron Sorkin, Stealing, And Advice About Writing Have In Common?
- 4 Ways Outlining Can Give A Writer Confidence
- 4 Things To Keep In Mind When Choosing A Title For Your Book

Photo credit: "London Calling #10" by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sunday, May 12

Beware Damnation Books

Beware Damnation Books

Tim Marquitz is a writer who published through Damnation Books and who wants to warn other writers away from the company. He writes:
After filing a justice court suit against Damnation Books on November 15, 2012 for multiple counts of breach of contract, I won a small financial judgment against the publisher on April 26, 2013. The judge, however, did not feel it was within his power to rescind the disputed contracts despite finding in my favor, referring me to a higher court. (Damnation Books On Notice!)
If you are thinking about signing with Damnation Books, read what Tim has to say about their business practices. 

I heard about Tim's plight through Passive Guy's blog post on the subject: Beware Damnation Books. There's a lot of good advice in that post about how to avoid shady publishers. For instance:

1. Google the publisher's name with words like "warning" and "beware"

2. See what the folks over at Absolute Write have to say.

Absolute Write contains a wealth of information on publishers and agents. If you have a question about a publisher, agent, editor, then head on over and search their extensive database and, if you don't find anything, post your question.

I found this over at Absolute Write in a post asking about Damnation Publishing:
Overall my experience with Damnation was quite pleasant, until we disagreed on the design of the cover. They were unwilling to negotiate, so I asked to be released from my contract. At this time, they sent me a letter charging me a $800+ “termination agreement.” This letter included an itemized list of expenses—and as a publisher myself I know how exorbitant and ridiculous these charges are.

Further, there was no mention of a termination fee in the contract I originally signed. . . . When I refused to pay the fee, Kim Gilchrist told me that unless I paid it they would go on and publish the book without my support. (Show Me)

3. Search the archives of Writer Beware to see if Victoria Strauss has blogged about the company.

Writer Beware contains a wealth of information. In fact the person who left the comment I quoted above talked to Victoria Strauss about Damnation Books and their practice of charging kill fees. She pointed him to this article: Publishers' Kill Fees, and Why They're Bad For Everyone.

Good stuff.

Have you had a bad experience with a publisher? What do you look at when deciding whether to sign with someone?

Other articles you might like:

- Where To Find Cover Artists
- 10 Tips For Proofreading Your Manuscript
- Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Smashing Sub-Genres

Photo credit: "London Calling #2" by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, May 11

Where To Find Cover Artists

Where To Find Cover Artists

It's difficult to overestimate the importance of a great cover.

Striking professional looking covers help sell books.

The cover is the first impression a reader will have of your work, and humans place a lot of importance on first impressions.

We want readers to fall in love with our book on first sight.

Think of it this way, you dress up to go about your day-to-day activities. You put on nicer clothes, you fix your hair, and so on.

Why? Because we know that how we look matters to other people. Even if you couldn't care less how others look you know that folks treat you differently depending on the clothes you wear, the way you arrange your hair, the perfume/cologne you choose.

Now think: What if you weren't just going to a business meeting, or a PTA get-together, or a  baseball mixer. What if you were going to the Academy Awards or some other gala affair?

My female friends would spend most of the morning and all of the afternoon getting their hair, nails and face done. And I cringe to think how much they'd spend on clothes.

What about your book?

It's going out into the world to be judged. It's like a child in the sense that it's an extension of you, something you created. And, unlike children who have their own ideas about what sort of clothes to wear, what color of hair to have, and so on, you control every single facet of your book's launch, including the cover. (That is, if you self publish. If you traditionally publish you probably won't have any say over the cover.)

Granted, most of us can't design the cover, we don't have those skills, but a talented artist can work with you to give you a look you want.

Which brings me, circuitously, to the topic of today's post: How to find the right cover artist for your book.

How To Find A Cover Artist For Your Book

A couple of days ago Passive Guy posted the following:
Passive Guy received a simple question from Amey:
Where does an indie author find cover illustrators online?
She knows about DeviantArt, but finds it too complicated and believes there aren’t a lot of real artists there.
So, what’s the answer to Amey’s question? 
A lot of wonderful folks wrote in with wonderful answers, but I found myself getting overwhelmed by the information as I scrolled through the replies. That's when I got the idea for this post.

In the following I've taken the information given and provided links when I could track them down. I've also provided links to the original replies so you can read those for yourself.

By including a name in the following I'm not recommending that person. Similarly, if I haven't included a name in the following I don't mean to imply they wouldn't be a great choice.

List Of Book Cover Artists

In some cases, the link is in the name.

Extended Imagery

This is the designer Joe Konrath uses for his books. Carl sells predesigned book covers for about $200.

DD Graphix

Robin Nuttall, freelance graphic designer with 20+ years experience. US based, responsive, quick turn-around. I listen to my clients and help them achieve success. Very reasonable prices as I begin to build my digital publishing portfolio.

Digital and print book cover design, interior design/formatting.

Cover Bistro

Custom covers starting as low as $35, Premades starting at $15, and Book Jacket/Ebook cover combos starting at $50.  3d Boxed sets starting at $25 if created from an existing book cover, and $45 if a new cover is required.

Indie-Spired Design

Your cover is your I.D. Be inspired.

Specializing in YA and Fantasy premade book covers, I offer premade covers as well as custom designs, ereader renders and custom advertisements.

Littera Designs

Name: Rachel Cole

Beautiful, eye-catching, professional-looking book cover design.

Pre-made covers start at $30
Custom ebook covers start at $65
Custom print covers start at $100

Carolyn McCray writes: lets you receive up to 99 spec designs. The designers only get paid if you pick them. A great resource to get a lot of different professional (okay, some are a little grade school but usually you get several pros per project) covers to choose from. It is where I got my cover artist.

Kit Foster

I read Joel Friedlander’s e-Book Cover Design Awards every month, and through that, I found Kit Foster. If you see a designer whose work you like, you’ll have to google the name to find their website. (Russell Phillips)

Steward Williams, Rebecca Swift, Peter Ratcliffe

These artists were recommended by Rob Siders.

Here are the artists my shop recommends most frequently (aside for Jeroen ten Berge, who is closed to new clients until after June):

Stewart Williams at
Rebecca Swift at
Peter Ratcliffe at

Streetlight Graphics

Nicholas Taylor writes:
DA [Deviant Art] has a lot of very talented artists, but if you are looking for a service that does a great job and specializes in publishing, I would recommend Streetlight Graphics. They did the art on my last book and are wonderful. They also do amazing work on eBook and print interior layouts. To get your cover, print layout, ebook layout and another graphic (like a business card or bookmark) it will run you $460. Their site is and you can’t go wrong with them.


India Drummond writes:
Dreamup is run by deviant art, I do believe, but it’s a curated list: For custom artwork and illustrations, this is where I would start.
India also recommended An Authors Art.

Firefly Covers

Christine Leov Lealand writes:
I found my cover artist when I met a traveling young German man whose hobby was graphic design. He went home after making a few covers for us – learning the basics from us and what we and Createspace/KDP needed and set up

 Nils is great at communication and good at cover design and has a network of other artists who will put together a cover for you of altered photographs or drawn art or a combo of both.

Jared Rackler Designs

Kat Sheridan writes:
I’ll toss in Jared Rackler. He’s done workj for friends. Fast, inexpensive (generally under $100), good looking:

Tibbs Design

Sue Quint writes:
I found my graphic designer/cover artist through my epublisher, and love her covers. She works with stock art photo, so is much more reasonably priced than many other cover designers. She also works freelance, so she’s available for other projects at

Jeroen ten Berge

R.E. McDermott writes:
There are a lot of very talented cover artists out there, but when I first started to self publish, I looked around and chose Jeroen ten Berge. He’s definitely not the cheapest, but I don’t think he really wants to be. What he is, is reasonably priced, very approachable, and a consummate professional. Choosing Jeroen was one of my better business decisions and I recommend him without reservation. His website is:

Robin Ludwig

Vicki writes:
May I recommend my awesome artist – Robin Ludwig. She has a real gift.
This list only scratches the service of the skilled artists available to help with your covers, I didn't include all the information given--that would have taken way too long!--so do look at the responses for yourself. That link again is: Where do you find cover artists?

Tip For Finding A Cover Artist

Maria Zannini writes:
I’m a professional cover artist and most of my work has come from referrals.

The very best way to find a cover artist is to collect the cover art you find most appealing, then email the author or the publisher and asked who designed that cover.

Take into consideration not only price, but turnaround, and a detailed account of what you’re getting for the fee.

If your questions aren’t answered to your satisfaction in writing, go somewhere else.
If you'd like to recommend a cover artist please post their information below. (If you include a URL use the aristname (dot) website (dot) com formatting otherwise blogger might see it as spam.)

Other resources:

- Kindle Boards yellowpages for authors
- Goodreads: Book cover artists and illustrators

Other articles you might like:

- 10 Tips For Proofreading Your Manuscript
- Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Smashing Sub-Genres
- How To Write A Terrific Review

Photo credit: "Spring Nights" by martinak15 under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, May 9

4 Tips On How To Find A Genre To Write In

4 Tips On How To Find A Genre To Write In

Writing a story is great.

Writing a story that sells is even better.

The quality of a book obviously influences how well it will sell. Is it riddled with grammatical errors? Does it have narrative drive? Are the characters three dimensional? Do they have goals? Do they have something to win or lose? Are they likable or at least possible to identify with?

But the quality of a book isn't the ultimate arbiter of sales. Though I read and enjoyed Dan Brown's, The Da Vinci Code, no one would suggest it was a better book than, say, Ernest Hemingway's, For Whom The Bell Tolls, and yet it sold more copies by orders of magnitude.

Part of the task of a writer--a writer who seeks to earn their living from their scribbles--is to write a great story, the other, equally important part, is to sell the story.

Finding An Audience

As soon as one mentions selling it brings up the question of audience. Who do we want to sell our story to? Who would be interested?

In her article What I Learned from Thomas Edison and Steven Soderbergh and How it Applies to Novelists, Julianna Baggott recounts the story of Thomas Edison's first invention, a vote calculator, and how it failed because there was no demand for it. It was a wonderful piece of machinery that did exactly what Edison expected of it, but no one wanted it so it was a commercial failure.

I think writers have it a bit easier.

We have all heard this advice countless times before: write it, make your story as good (within reason) as you can, and as long as you love the story, it will sell. To someone. At some point.

But it would seem to make sense to at least have a certain audience in mind before one sets pen to paper. As Russell Blake holds (point #11), know your audience before you write your book:

Read a fair amount of the genre, look at the reviews of your competitors, of the bestsellers in your genre. Figure out your audience before you start writing. (Russell Blake's 26 Tips On How To Sell A Lot Of Books, My Paraphrase)

How To Pick A Genre To Write In

1. Write what you love

I'm probably the worst person to give this advice, I love reading murder mysteries but haven't written a single one. And I love experimenting and often write in quirky genres. But (as I remind myself constantly) there's nothing wrong with writing for the market.  One just has to find a popular genre that holds one's interest.

Don't misunderstand, I think stretching oneself as a writer is both good and necessary; if we aren't growing we're devolving, atrophying. BUT the rent must get paid and there's nothing wrong with picking a popular genre to write a book in.

Recently I've done a number of posts on how many authors write as much as 3,000 (or more!) words a day and maintain this frenetic pace. I think that a big part of the key to success as a midlist writer is to find one, two or (possibly) three genres you like to read, genres you understand, and then familiarize yourself with what is expected.

2. Understand the conventions of the genres you write in

Deny your readers what they expect (that the crime will get solved, that the lovers will live together in bliss for the rest of their natural, or unnatural, lives, and so on) and no matter the technical merits of your book there'll be hell to pay.

I'm not talking about a formula, not exactly, but (for instance) a romance writer isn't going to get far unless she understands that sometimes readers insist on a "happy ever after" (HEA) ending.

3. Short is good

One of the keys to indie success is to produce new work quickly and regularly. Judging from what Nathan Lowell and Russell Blake have said, novels do better than novellas, but in the interest of producing a lot of work quickly you might not want to choose a genre, such as high fantasy, where readers are used to 120,000 word tomes!

Also, I've found that it takes me much more time to revise a 80k manuscript than it does a 60k one. The longer work requires a more complex story and with a more complex story more things can go wrong.

4. Make a long term commitment

This is related to point 1, pick a genre you love. Another point that Nathan Lowell and Russell Blake agree on is that writing books in series helps to build an audience. Russell Blake went so far as to say that books in a series sold four times better than his standalone books.

That means that whatever genre you write your book in it should be something you could envision making a long-term commitment to.

This is why I think it's a mistake to ever write in a particular genre solely for the money. Can you imagine being tied to a series that stretches to 20 or so books and absolutely hating it? This has happened to several well-known authors (Agatha Christie with Hercule Poirot and Sir Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes).

What genre(s) do you read? What genre(s) do you write in?

Other articles you might like:

- Russell Blake's 26 Tips On How To Sell A Lot Of Books
- Is There Such A Thing As An Aspiring Writer?
- Writing Exercise: Flexing Your Verbs

Photo credit: "HPIM0567" by enigmachck1 under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, May 8

Russell Blake's 26 Tips On How To Sell A Lot Of Books

Russell Blake's 26 Tips On How To Sell A Lot Of Books

Who Is Russell Blake? 

This advice comes from Russell Blake. So, before we roll up our sleeves and get into the nitty-gritty of advice giving and, perhaps, taking, let's see who this guy is. Russell writes:
By way of background, I write conspiracy-based action/adventure novels. I published my first novel on Amazon June, 2011. I published my 20th novel in April, 2013. My first month I sold about 7 books. In 2013, from the start of the year to today, May 7, I have sold just shy of 100K books, and look good to exceed 200K for the year by a decent margin. I do not sell books at .99, or $2.99, or $3.99. The vast majority of my titles are $5-$6. I lay this out there not to crow, but to establish why it might be worth considering my approach.
That means Russell has published 20 novels in 23 months. Wow. Just wow.

But, how much money has he made? Russell has sold 100k books at, say, $5 each. Let's say he gets 70% of that, so that's about $3.50 a book. $3.50 times 100k is $350,000. Divide that by 23 months and we get an average income of just over 15k a month. Nice!

Looks like Russell Blake knows what he's talking about, so let's check out what he has to say. How'd he sell 15k worth of books a month?

Russell Blake On How To Sell A LOT Of Books

1. Pick a genre you know and stick with it.

If you want to write different genres, use a pseudonym, and if you like, let your readers know that moniker is you. But stick to one name, one genre, because you're building your brand, and brand building is a function of clarity - clearly communicating what you do, and what your product is.

2. Write a series

Why? Because readers like series, and you want to give readers what they like. Or you won't sell as much. You can try stand-alone - I have - but my series outsell my stand-alone books 4 to 1. Once you have at least three books in the series, make the first one free. Make your money on the rest, but give readers a whole novel to decide whether they like you or not.
Also see: How to use the power of permanently free books to increase sales.

3. Write at least 3 novels a year: Momentum breeds success

Don't bother with short stories or novellas (40K or under) if you're writing fiction (non-fiction might do better) unless it's erotica or your name is Hugh. If fiction, write 60-90K installments in your series, and release them AT MINIMUM every four months. Every three months would be better. Every two, better still. Momentum breeds success, and readers have short memories. The current market is a hungry animal, and you need to feed it, or risk being forgotten by the time your next one releases.
That goes against what I had thought, that writing novels in series would be the most profitable because you would sell each book in the series and you'd get the revenue from bundling the books and selling them as a whole. Also, you can write a novella faster than a novel.

But, hey, there's no arguing with success, and Russell Blake has been very successful.

4. Read. A lot.

To write well, you need to read things that are well-written, and that serve to inspire you to greater heights or provide insight on how to improve your work in some way. You are what you eat. If you aren't reading a decent amount, start, because otherwise you're unlikely to write nearly as well as if you do.
I've never read a successful author talk about writing who didn't say this.

5. Write at least 1000 words a day

Allocate time every day to write, and be disciplined. I suggest minimum one hour per day, or 1000 words. I actually ignore that and shoot for 5000-7000 a day when writing a novel, but that's just my approach, and it's not for everyone. My point is that you must be disciplined about your writing and develop that muscle. If you don't make it a habit, you won't write enough to put out one novel every four months, and you'll already be way behind the curve.

6. Write 75%, Market 25%

I recommend a 75%/25% writing to marketing mix. So spend an hour writing every day, and fifteen-twenty minutes marketing (social media, blogging, interviews, message boards ...). Two hours writing, half hour to forty minutes marketing. And so on.
That's a sane approach. And if you want to market more you can, just write more.

7. Stay off the internet when you write

Set aside the writing time, and do only that. Leave placeholders for stuff you need to research later (XXX city is Y distance from ZZZ city, etc.). Stopping your writing to research breaks your momentum. Don't do it. Checking your e-mail, checking in with your facebook group, reading a tweet - none of these are going to write your book for you, so stop it already.

8. Get professional help to publish your books

Do pro covers. It's the first thing your potential readers will see. ... Get pro editing. You are asking people to pay for your product. They won't, and shouldn't, if you haven't ensured it is a pro product, which means it must be edited and proofread. If you're too cheap or too broke to pay an editor, barter something of value to get someone qualified to do it ...

9. Have a great product description

After your cover, the product description has to sell the book. Don't give too much info, don't spell out the plot like it's a test. Give the high points that will interest a reader in knowing more.
Trying to summarize your story in one sentence can help with this.

10. Make the first five pages amazing

You've got five pages to hook the reader, make those the best five pages you've ever written.

11. Know your audience before you write your book

Do a bit of market research and get to know your audience. Russell writes:
You do that by reading a fair amount in the genre, and by looking at the reviews of your competitors/the bestsellers in your genre. If you're writing for a genre that's 90% cat ladies, you need to know that going in. If mostly older males, know that too. Teen girls, ditto. Whatever your audience, figure it out before you start writing. Do a little research. It will pay dividends later.

12. Dream big

Turn your name into a brand. Russell writes:
As an example, Dan Brown is synonymous with a genre Umberto Eco pioneered with Foucault's Pendulum - the theology-based conspiracy treasure hunt. Nowadays, when readers try to articulate that, they say "it's a Dan Brown kind of book." You should live so long, but make that your goal.

13. Price competitively

Look at your genre. Where are most books priced? Are you undervaluing/underpricing your work? Price to sell, but don't go cheap, no matter what Locke or Hocking did years ago. Use low prices occasionally to move product, as promotional pricing. But price your product consistently with the rest of your peers. Over time, you can increase prices, if your product warrants it and your readership is willing to pay it. My advice here is don't price too low, or too high.

14. Always strive to improve. Always be learning.

15. As you get better, rewrite and republish your old work.

16. Keep in mind that each of your books could be a reader's first impression of you, so make each book your best.

17. When you write think like a writer but when you sell your books think like a business person

In the book selling business, saccharine bromides of "just go for it" and "follow your dream" are about as useful as a bowling ball to a fish. Writing is art and self-expression, something beautiful and intensely personal. Book selling is a commercial enterprise. Confuse the two, and you hurt any chances you have of success, if success to you means selling a bunch of books.

19. If you want to excel you have to do more and you can't give up

Look at what the average person does in their first year, and their second. That's average. It ain't pretty. If you want to be different than average in a good way, you need to do something better/different, and you need to make your own luck. Don't get bummed because you haven't been an overnight sensation. I sold $300 of novels in November, 2011, after six months of 15 hour days and seven releases. In December, 2011, I released five novels I'd been working on for months, to create a massive Xmas surge. I leaped to $1450. With a dozen books out. That's not exactly a ton for the big Xmas season. But I continued writing as though my work was in hot demand. And I kept investing in my product, losing money, until it turned the corner and I started making real money in Jan of 2012.

20. You have to promote your books

Book selling is a retail business, and retail businesses are promotions intense. You're only going to be as good as your last, and next, promotion. Promotions are a necessary fact of life in retail. You have to generate noise - the product won't do it by itself. There are millions of books out there. Yours are just more books. Figure out how to get some visibility. I won't advise you on how - there are plenty of 'experts' that will charge you $5 for a book on what worked two years ago. Simply put, it's constantly changing, so you need to experiment and push the envelope, share information with others and stay ahead of the curve. But if you aren't promoting, you're stalling. In business you're either shrinking, or growing. If you aren't promoting, chances are you aren't growing.
I think it's pretty uncontroversial that after you have 10 or so books out on the market it's a good idea to invest in some sort of promotion. Joe Konrath recommends and

21. Have a business plan

[E]valuate what it will likely take to get where you want to go, and then calculate what it will cost - in time, effort, money. If you can't afford whatever that is, then you either need to scale back your goal, or you need to increase what you're willing to invest of yourself and your resources. 

22. Be yourself

Your readers will spot insincerity and be turned off. Be yourself. There are billions of people in the world. No matter who you are or what you're like, there are going to be a few thousand like you; all you have to do is find them.

23. Keep records

Keep track of what worked and what didn't.

26. Write the next book

Having said all this, your best chance of making it is always writing your next book. You should always be working on the next one, and the next, and the next. Nobody ever succeeded by quitting. So if you're going to do this, do it, stop whining, suck it up, and get to work.
Excellent advice!

The material I've quoted comes from Russell Blake's post on the Kindle boards, How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach. FYI, Russell also has a similar post up on his website: How To Sell Loads Of Books.

Thanks to The Passive Voice Blog for talking about Russell Blake's post.

Other articles you might like:

- Is There Such A Thing As An Aspiring Writer?
- Creating The Perfect Sleuth
- Penelope Trunk Discusses Time Management

Photo credit: "Cheek" by daita under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, May 6

How To Get Over A Destructive Critique

How To Get Over A Destructive Critique

Have you ever quit writing for a period of time? Perhaps for years?

I did.

I was a teenager and had written a story I was particularly proud of. I'm not sure why, after all these years the memory is vague, but I remember being pleased.

Then I made a mistake. As it turns out, a huge mistake.

I gave it to the wrong person to read and then I asked them for feedback.

It's not just that the feedback stung. It's not just that this person's list of things wrong with that story was as long as my arm, it's not just that they clearly felt resentful that I'd wasted their time. No, it was that my own judgement had been so far off, that I'd been proud of a story that was so clearly crap.

I hope you folks see the flaw in my thinking. I'd asked one person.

Yes, sure, that person had read most of what I wrote, but I failed to ask myself whether they could have had a bad day, whether they were going through something in their private life which might have made them a tad grumpy and irrational. Which, as it happens, they were.

But let's imagine that my critiquer had been having a great day and wasn't the least grumpy and gave the same devastating critique. In retrospect, what should I have done?

Ignore it.

Here's what I think: if anyone gives you a critique so scathing that, were you to take it seriously, you'd never want to put pen to paper again then ignore the critique! Do NOT take it seriously.

Even if you gave the story to 10 people and they all thought it was fit for nothing but lining bird cages that doesn't say anything bad about you as a writer. You liked the story, that's what counts. And, sure, there's probably something about the story that's personal to you that makes you love it, but that's not a bad thing. Save the story, cherish it. That one's for you.

Now move on and write the next story. Do it NOW! Right away.

I've only ridden a horse once, so I don't know from personal experience if it's true that after being thrown you have to get right back on, but I think if a person has a horrible experience with a story they have to write another one right away. But, please, be sure to give your new story to someone who isn't having a bad day and who seems genuinely happy to give you feedback.

Also, it can help to be clear about the kind of feedback you'd like as well as what you consider constructive as opposed to destructive criticism.

As long as you're writing you're getting better. Not writing never helped anyone become a better writer.

What to do if your story is given a devastating critique

1. Talk about it

Having friends is great, having friends who are writers is a must.

Embarking on a career as a writer without having a network of writing friends and acquaintances is like going on a deep sea voyage during hurricane season without lifeboats or a personal flotation devise.

2. Write about it

I think this is a great way to turn a bad experience around. Especially if you can sell your story. Turn your horrible experience into creative non-fiction and then send the piece out or indie publish it.

You might want to write a first draft and then let some time pass--weeks or even months--before you read it again. Make sure it's not a rant. (grin) Or, if it is, make sure it's a rant that would be entertaining to others.

Making money from the experience may not be the best revenge (Joe Konrath had a few tongue-in-cheek suggestions a while back) but it's still darn satisfying.

3. Learn from it

As I mentioned, often destructive criticism has nothing to do with the merits or demerits of your story and everything to do either with an agenda the poster has (some reviewers enjoy dumping on anything they perceive as indie), or the kind of day they're having.

Since you've read the critique the damage has been done so try to determine if there's anything you can learn from what the poster said.

Were they irritated because you'd used a mirror to describe a character? Were they perturbed that you didn't tell anyone your protagonist's name until well into the story? You don't have to change something just because a reader or three was upset about it, but sometimes the information can be useful.

Sometimes it makes one feel better to know why a critiquer had the negative reaction they did. "This story is a pile of crap" isn't helpful, "This story is a pile of crap because X" helps put the review in perspective.

4. Do NOT respond

Whatever you do, don't respond to the negative critique.

I once had a crank caller who I suspect was my ex-boyfriend. This person would call at all hours of the night, wake me up, then make gibbering noises into the phone.

At first I politely asked the caller to stop. Then I shouted. Then I used a loud whistle.

Nothing worked.

Then I stopped responding in any way and just hung up the phone and disconnected it from the wall for the rest of the night while I slept.

The calls stopped.

Responding to negative reviews just wastes your time--time that could be spent writing--and it can  make one look unprofessional.

5. Don't look

Don't look at your reviews.

(This point only applies to reviews on social media sites and retailers like

I know, I know, this is much easier said than done. We want to know what other folks thought of our work.

Actually, that's not true. We want to know that readers loved our books. Chances are most will but it's inevitable you'll get a bad review if you keep writing for any significant amount of time.

And you can't do anything about it. You can't respond to the reviewer (see point 4, above) so what's the point of looking?

If we write hoping for the approval of others we set readers up as our judges, which isn't how it should be. Yes, we want to share our stories with others--that's a big part of why I write--but I write primarily for myself.

If I think I've written a great story, if I had fun writing it, that's all I can ask. Of course I give it to my first reader, and I usually do another draft after that in response to their feedback (they seem to always catch something I missed) but, fundamentally, I write for myself.

6. Eat Chocolate

Chocolate is good. (grin)

Question: How do you get over a destructive critique?

Other articles you might like:

- Writer Beware: Penguin And Author Solutions
- Creating The Perfect Murderer
- How To Design A Great Looking Book Cover

Photo credit: "Galapagos Sea Lion's Baby Portrait" by A.Davey under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.