I’ve donated the first three Nocturne Falls novels to a charity auction that benefits the Navy Seal Foundation. And I’ll be signing the books to the highest bidder!
Check out the auction here:
I’ve donated the first three Nocturne Falls novels to a charity auction that benefits the Navy Seal Foundation. And I’ll be signing the books to the highest bidder!
Check out the auction here:
I’m a member of several indie publishing groups and on occasion, I also frequent the Kindle Boards. A common, recurring issue for many authors is that of sales, or rather the lack of.
My observation is that for many indie authors the sales they do make are in spite of their work, rather than because of it. And while they bemoan poor sales, they don’t want to invest in professional covers or editors, they use lackluster blurbs, they refuse to pin a genre on their books, and they haven’t educated themselves on things like keywords, categories and meta data.
If I run a pizza joint, but the sign over my shop says FOOD I’m probably not going to get a lot of pizza customers. If I get any. (Now imagine that FOOD is written in crayon and there’s a picture of one of my cats plastered in the middle of the window. Confusing, huh? That’s kind of how some authors are presenting their books to the world.)
When you become an indie author, you’re essentially becoming your own publisher. That means you have to understand and educate yourself on every aspect of the business. It’s not nearly as daunting as it sounds. And you should want to do this. After all, this is your business, your career, your future. You should be eating and sleeping and breathing this stuff until it clicks. Talk to those who are where you want to be and take their advice.
But really, here are the basics:
1. Make sure your cover is the best it can be. And for the LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY, stop designing them yourself unless you went to school for it. Seriously. Your mom might love it but everyone else is lying to you because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
2. Get help with your blurb. At the very least have several friends proofread it. Ask them if it would make them want to buy the book. Tweak it until it does. Not sure what it should sound like? Read some of the blurbs for the best selling books in your genre and figure out why they work so well.
3. Hire a content editor AND a proofreader. Don’t argue, just do it. Let’s get real, okay? No one’s going to pay for your book if the Read Inside sample has a typo and a tense shift in the first paragraph.
4. PICK A GENRE. Don’t tell me your book is a young girl’s metaphysical journey into womanhood during which she meets a boy who’s actually her guardian angel and you just can’t pigeonhole it but you also can’t figure out why it’s not selling. Try calling it paranormal YA and get back to me in week. (Make sure you get that right in the categories too.)
5. Keywords and metadata and all that other stuff. Google is your friend. There are tons of articles out there to help you understand this stuff. Read them. This is about discoverability and you want your book to be discoverable, don’t you?
Comments, questions, suggestions? Leave ‘em in the comments.
Happy writing, y’all!
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Doubt is a fact of life for everyone, not just writers, but for anyone involved in creative pursuits, doubt often feels more like a constant presence than an occasional thing. Most of us refer to this pestering voice as our inner editor. It nags us, tells us we’re not good enough and sometimes, keeps us from working at all.
But you can get past it. Here are some tips:
1. Take a hard look at your expectations.
If you expect to write a perfect scene the first time, you don’t understand how writing works. No one gets a scene 100% correct on the first go round. Instead of worrying about how bad it is, focus on getting the bones down while you remember that nothing is set in stone. Not only that, but it will be changed. That ugly scene will become beautiful after layering, polishing, revisions and edits.
On average, each of my books has been gone through six times before they reach my readers. Six times. This is why I don’t worry about what a scene looks like on the first pass. It’s almost just a placeholder for the awesome scene that will eventually take its place.
You may also be thinking that you’re never going to do justice to the grand idea you’ve had. That can be very debilitating. The same advice applies. Get the bones down and pretty it up later.
Often, the true essence of a scene doesn’t manifest until it’s sketched out. It’s like we need to make room in our brains for the rest of it to take shape.
Have the courage to write ugly.
2. Take a hard look at your goals.
If you’ve decided you should be writing 2000 words a day when all you’ve ever done so far is 500 a day, it’s no wonder you feel bad about yourself.
The same goes for setting unreachable deadlines. Stop doing that to yourself.
Who cares if author A writes 5000 words a day? All that matters is what you can do. I’m not saying don’t push yourself, but be realistic. And stop measuring yourself against others. Their journey is not your journey.
And on that note, speed does not always equal quality. It’s far better to put out two great books a year than four mediocre ones.
Time is not your enemy, even if it sometimes feels that way.
3. Isolate the negativity.
What specifically are you worried about? That your characters are weak? That your plot is full of holes? That your worldbuilding is thin? Figure out what areas of craft give you the most trouble. Then…
If you’re published, go read through your five star reviews. Generally, I think reviews should never be read, but in this case, they can work for you. Look through those reviews and pick out the comments pertaining to the areas you worry about the most. Copy the sections that contradict that negative voice in your head and paste them all into a document you can print out and keep handy. Refer to it next time the voice tries to get you down.
Not published? Then shut the voice up by taking a class in the areas you feel deficient in. Learn how to create stronger characters, juicier plots and bigger worldbuilding. Those classes will give you the ammunition necessary to defeat that inner editor and you’ll be pushing yourself to become a better writer.
4. Learn to listen to the voice. Sometimes.
There are times when I get a feeling about a scene that something is off. It’s a different kind of voice than the nagging editor and it’s take years to fully understand the difference. It’s an instinct that develops with time and experience and I wish there was some magic pill you could take it make it kick in, but you can’t.
What you can do is talk to other author friends about how they know when a scene has gone wrong. You can also develop that instinct by taking a hard look at a scene that feels off and asking yourself some tough questions. Things like does the scene move the action forward? What’s the goal of the scene and is it accomplished? If I took the scene out of the book, would anything change?
Over time, you’ll start to hear a more helpful voice than the hindering one. Promise.
5. Stop worrying about “the rules”.
If you write something, then immediate wonder if it “can be done” in the genre you’ve chosen, your work is going to suffer. Sure, there are things that are generally acceptable or not in different genres (like the expectation of a Happily Ever After in romance), but ultimately your only concern while writing should be to entertain the reader.
And to entertain yourself. (This is why it’s so important to write what you love.) If you’re entertained, there’s a good chance the reader will be too. Focus on that and not the constricts of the genre. If you really veer off course, it can all be fixed later.
6. Stop beating yourself up!
This is a hard business. There are plenty of other people out there willing to take on the job of making you feel bad. Please don’t do it to yourself. Think about all the people who talk about writing a book – you’re actually doing it! Give yourself some credit!
I know it’s easier said than done, but give yourself a break. Especially if you’re on your fist book and you think it’s crap. It probably is. 99.998% of first books are. Who cares? It’s a learning experience. And your next one will be better.
Have you successfully dealt with your inner editor? What worked for you? Share in the comments! Or ask questions. Or post cat pics. Whatever.
There is a sense of urgency among writers that I’ve never seen in any of the other industries I’ve worked in (which have been numerous). We are constantly in a state of deadline. We push ourselves to write more, write faster, write better. We need bigger ideas, more series, more marketing, more social media, more conferences, more book signings, more more more. How many books can we write in a year? Can we squeeze in a novella? How about a short story? An “extra” scene that we can use as a teaser or a freebie? Is there a box set we could be in? An anthology? What else should we be doing? Because we’ll do it!
It’s exhausting. And we do it to ourselves. I’ve kind of done it. I did it last year to some extent when I decided to write three books back to back to back in my Nocturne Falls series so that I could launch that series in a big way. It meant saying no to a lot of things, but I was okay with that because I had a plan. That’s not entirely what I’m talking about here.
What I’m really getting at is that sense that we’re not doing//producing enough. It’s always been there, even before the rise of self publishing. But now it’s gotten worse.
Self publishing means the timeline of traditional publishing no longer applies. There’s no eighteen month delta between a book being finished and release day. Indie pubs finish a book, get it up for sale and start right in on the next book. In some cases that unwritten book is already up for pre-order.
And why do we do it? A few reasons. 1. To keep ourselves and our books visible. “Discoverability” is a huge buzz word in publishing. Your books need to be discoverable for readers to find them and how do you do that? By releasing tons of them! We’ve got to stay in those Amazon algorithms, right? 2. To build our backlist. If you’re new to indie and you don’t have many books out there, putting as many up for sale as you can will give readers some place to go when they finish your first book. I get that. But I also think readers aren’t going to forget you just because you’re not putting out a book a week. 3. Now here’s the one that doesn’t get talked about much – because every other writer we know is publishing as fast as they can.
Competition drives us. Which is fine, but if you’re killing yourself to put books out so that your readers don’t abandon you for another author, you don’t understand how readers work. Ever heard the phrase a rising tide lifts all ships? What happens in the world of readers is they find a genre or a theme they like and then they read all the books like that they can find. This is how Amazon’s “Also Bought” lists are created.
Did Twilight hurt the sales of other vampire books? No! It helped them! Vampires got hot again. Fifty Shades had the same effect on erotica. Readers may have auto-buys among authors, but they’re also always looking for new ones. Authors who can give them more of the same experience, more of the same feelings, more of the same entertainment.
As writers, we’re not in competition with each other. We really aren’t. My readers are your readers and your readers are mine. Do you really think someone who can read a book a day is only going to read one book a month?
So take a deep breath and give yourself a day off. Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no point in burning yourself out on the first mile.
Comments, questions, suggestions? Have at it. And happy writing! But you know, maybe not today…
1. Authors should never pay for reviews.
2. This business is hard. There are dues to be paid. There are no shortcuts.
3. Storytelling trumps all else.
4. I’d rather make my readers happy than my editor.
5. Writing what you love is more important than writing what’s hot.
6. Publishers lie.
7. You can’t expect your writing to stay fresh if you stop reading.
8. Having a group of friends you can trust is everything.
9. Running out of chocolate (and for some, wine) is a recipe for disaster.
10. Your next book is your best marketing tool.
Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that. You may want to self publish simply to call yourself published. Or maybe you just want to put out a collection of family recipes so that they’re preserved for future generations. (And those are both okay!) But if you’re talking about self publishing as a career move, I can give you a few things to consider as you’re making that decision – some questions I asked myself before I decided that traditional publishing was no longer meeting my career needs.
1. Do I know the basics of grammar, storytelling, craft and revision?
With two books pubbed with a digital first press and nine books pubbed with a traditional publisher, I had no problem answering this with a big ole yes. In fact, I’d say my grasp of these things is beyond basic. I’ve been in the trenches a while now and that has a way of pounding the basics into you. Plus, my background as an English major and teacher helped me, but so did my years of writing book after book toward publication and my years of being edited by four different editors. (Working with editors is the best way I know of learning how to revise.)
If you’re not sure about the answer to this question, then there’s a chance the answer could be no. What kinds of reactions do people give you to your work? Enthusiastic? Or do they smile kindly and say it was nice? Be honest with yourself here because you can be sure reviewers will call out any perceived deficits in these areas.
2. Do I have the funds to put out a professional product?
I’ve seen some posts about how self publishing costs thousands and thousands of dollars. To those people I want to say “You’re doing it wrong!” Yes, indie publishing costs money, but it’s not the kind of thing you need to mortgage your house for.
My Nocturne Falls books cost me around $1500 a piece to produce. It varies somewhat depending on the length of the book, but that’s the average. That price includes a print and digital cover, content editing, copy editing, proofreading (sometimes two rounds) and formatting for print and digital.
If you’re not sure what your book will cost, start talking to editors, proofers, cover designers and formatters and get estimates! (You need to line those folks up anyway, so make appointments with them as soon as you can.)
3. Do I have the patience to learn new things?
My answer is…not always. I’m not a patient person as my husband will gladly tell you. But I’ve been indie publishing for about five years, so I already knew the basics. (In those early years, I did my own formatting too!) But if you’re new to this, there is a learning curve.
But I approached the process of learning indie publishing with the mindset of it being a business – MY business. That really enabled me to find some patience and dig in. Truthfully, I like learning new things and the more I understand and master in this business, the more empowered I feel. Indie publishing can be very empowering.
4. Is control important to me?
A thousand times yes. Traditional publishing is in many ways for the author about giving up control. I don’t consider my books my babies or anything like that, but they represent enormous amounts of my time and talents and handing them over to be presented to the world by someone else got old.
I’ve been blessed to have some amazing covers (see my House of Comarre and Crescent City series) so covers weren’t my issue. But there were many times were the edits felt like they were just about change for the sake of change – different but not better – and that wore on me. I don’t like a lot of cooks in the kitchen.
The traditional publishing time line can be frustrating too. When I signed my first trad contract, my publisher decided they wanted to put the first three books out back to back to back. I was good with that – it was a chance to launch in a big way. But only the first book was written. That meant the first book in a contract signed in 2009 didn’t see publication until 2011.
Now when I finish a book, it’s available for sale within a month or two. It’s infinitely more satisfying.
5. Am I willing to take risks?
As I’ve talked about before, there are no financial guarantees in self publishing. You might make a million dollars. You might make ten. You have to be willing to fail.
I was. But I was also so disillusioned with traditional publishing that failing was okay. What I found out pretty quickly was that self publishing gave me the joy of writing back. Once that happiness returned, the prospect of failing mattered less and less.
In fact, I was so willing to fail that I walked away from a traditional offer for the first three Nocturne Falls books. (The offer would have cost me all my rights – world & audio – for a sum I ended up making back in about forty days.)
6. Do I have a support system?
I’m not saying you can’t self publish if you have no friends, no mentors, or no writing community. I’m saying having a support system makes it infinitely easier. Being able to talk to other indie authors about recommendations for editors and cover designers is huge. They can help you find the quality team necessary to put out a great book and have a great experience doing it.
They can also give you feedback when questions arise. Help you make decisions. Help you avoid mistakes. But best of all, they give you someone to share your victories and your failures with. This is a solitary business and having a support system helps immensely. (If you don’t have a support system, seek out online groups or forums. RomanceDivas.com is a great place for those of you writing romance.)
7. Do I have clear goals?
Saying you want to be successful is great, but what does that mean? Goals help us measure success so without them, you may not feel like you’re achieving anything. Make it specific. Determine what success will mean for you on a measurable basis. Whether it’s two hundred dollars a month in sales or two thousand dollars a month, figure it out. Use that as your benchmark.
It may not happen the first month or the second or even the third, but once it does, set a new goal. Keep striving. Stay hungry. Indie publishing is exciting and difficult and at times, labor intensive, but it is also incredibly rewarding.
It’s also not for everyone, but for me, it means I can write what I love and make a living. (I exceeded my monthly financial goal in about 10 days.) Self publishing is definitely for me. Is it for you? Only you know for sure.
Comments, questions or suggestions? Have at it. And happy writing!
Self publishing seems to be the subject of every other question that newbies ask. I totally understand why, too. There are lots of stories of indie authors who’ve made it big. Like, phenomenally big. The indie path often seems paved with glitter. And for some, it is. For many, it’s not. So if you choose that path, you need to do it right.
How exactly do you do self publishing right? I’ll give you some advice on that gleaned from my five years of self publishing but first…
What does glitter mean? Success has a personal definition for everyone and it’s the first thing a writer should figure out when considering self publishing. What does success mean to you? Is it as simple as publishing your book and seeing it for sale on Amazon? If so, you’re probably a hobbyist, because the hard truth that some authors don’t like to talk about is most of us are doing this for the money. Does that sound crass? I really don’t care because all of the authors I know (ALL OF THEM) have bills to pay.
If you don’t have bills to pay and you just want the right to say “You can buy my book on Amazon” this post is not for you. This post is for people who want to earn a living from their writing, who want to quit their wretched day jobs, who want the ability to provide comfort and stability for their family, who want to put their kids through college, and yes, it’s also for those of you out there who really just want to improve your shoe wardrobe. I don’t judge. Your reasons for making money are yours.
I’d also like to say that this post is also for people who have a decently firm grasp on the craft of writing, storytelling, grammar and punctuation. If you don’t know what an adverb is or what the point of conflict in a story is, this post is not for you until you’ve done some more work on the basics. Cool? Cool.
So how do you do self publishing right in such a way that your books make money? I’m sorry to tell you there’s no one answer and no guarantee, but there are some things I’ve seen work. Let’s talk about those, shall we? (And bear in mind that when it comes to traditional publishing, the answer about making money is pretty much the same but with far crappier odds of succeeding. For realz.)
1. Write to market.
What that means is studying the bestseller genre lists on Amazon and figuring out what’s selling, then deciding if any of those genres speak to you. Let’s say Amish dinosaur shifter romances are blowing up right now and the idea makes you giddy with excitement. Great! Go write T-Rex Yoder and his tale (tail?) of love! If you can write fast enough and get the book out there before the wave subsides, chances are good you’ll make some money.
But maybe those types of books seem as unwritable to you as historical romances seem to me. (Love to read them, can’t imagine doing all that research to actually write one!) That’s okay too. What you can then do is figure out how to turn what’s popular into something you can write. Maybe it’s a different kind of shifter. Maybe it’s a sweeter version of the current trend in contemporary romance. Maybe it’s a hotter version of a sweeter series that’s climbing the charts.
Whatever it is, it needs to resonate with you as a writer. It needs to be something you want to write, feel comfortable writing and seriously, are capable of writing. Because…
2. You need to write a series.
If you’ve never written connected books in your life and aren’t interested in writing connected books, you’re going to have a hard row to hoe in self publishing. Standalone books are great – I’m not dissing them – but we’re talking about how to be successful here. And series is where it’s at. (I have proof of this in my own work.)
When readers find a book they like, they want more of the same. Series provide that. Standalone books, while perhaps still all written in your voice, don’t always translate into more of the same for the reader. You know how some families vacation at the same spot every year? It’s the same for readers. When they fall in love with a place and characters you’ve written, they want to go back there. Again and again and again.
3. Write fast. Or at least look like you do.
I can already hear the moans and see the hand-wringing. Calm down. Notice I said “or at least look like you do.” What I mean by that is get the first three books in your new series written before you even think about publication.What? That means months of work with no income? Oh, you poor thing. You didn’t know there was going to be actual work involved? Well, there is. Lots of work. Deal with it or find a different line of employment.
Once you get these books written, what do you do with them? How do you publish them in a way that’s going to make the most impact? I’m glad you asked.
Take those three books in your new series that you just wrote and get them edited, proofed, formatted, have the covers made and THEN release them either A. all at once or B. in a measured, timely fashion like one a month for three months.
For those of you still reading, you probably want to know the reasoning behind this. There are a few. For one, it’s a great way to build your backlist fast and backlist is how you make money. (See the second paragraph on point 2.) Secondly, it’s a great way to launch a new series (or a new pen name or a previously unpubbed author) because it builds momentum and creates buzz. Thirdly, it will give you some longevity in the Amazon algorithms that will help with sales, which is really a whole ‘nother post. And fourthly, these books will now provide income while you write the next book in the series. Which you’d better be doing.
The other major benefit to getting three books out like this is you can finally…
4. Stop worrying about marketing.
By marketing, I’m talking about all the stuff that gets thrown into the mix of “things you have to do when self publishing”. I mean things like price pulsing and ads and putting the first book free and so on.
The best way to sell your books is to write more books. So do that. There’s no point in worrying about which site to advertise on when you only have one or two books out. Frankly, you’re wasting your money. Build that backlist, build that series. Get four or five or six books out. THEN your advertising dollars will be selling all of those books, not just one.
A few more suggestions:
1. Don’t design your cover yourself unless you went to school for that sort of thing. Seriously. Don’t. If you can’t afford a designer, find a friend who has the skills and then barter with them. Trade them proofreading if they’re a writer too or babysitting or whatever you need to, but in the name of all things holy, please don’t put a homemade cover on your book. It will be ugly (yes, it will be) and your book won’t sell.
2. Hire an editor. Not sure how to find one? Talk to other self published authors. Read the acknowledgements in self published books you’ve enjoyed. This isn’t a step you can skip unless you’re writing short stuff and you’ve been at this a long time. Personally, I think anything over 30K needs an editor. Please don’t skip this step.
3. Get as many proofreaders as you can. Friends, family, beta readers, paid professionals – one of each would be great. Put out as clean a book as you can.
4. Have fun. If you don’t love what you’re doing, it will show in the work. This is why you need to write something you enjoy. I love what I do. It’s incredibly hard and there are days when the story seems impossible, but I still love it.
Clearly, this is just scratching the surface of the topic of self publishing, but I hope it helps. As always, questions, comments and suggestions are welcome. Have at it!
Let me start out by saying I only know what I know, however, my knowledge isn’t based on my experiences alone. I know many writers (and behind closed doors, in “safe” environments, writers talk) and have been at this writing thing for about 13 years now, so my decision making is based on what’s happened to me personally but also what I’ve witnessed my friends going through. Like hell. And high water.
Lately, it feels like there’s been an unusually large influx of new writers into the romance writing community. Another surge brought about by the gold rush of self publishing? I don’t know. But being involved in RWA and running an online writers community like Romance Divas means I notice this stuff.
These new writers seem to have a lot of the same concerns. Namely, how do I do this right? Questions about social media (which one? how soon? how often?), questions about agents and editors, about publishing houses, about self pub vs traditional, about genre, about taglines and websites and business cards and branding and…you get the picture.
And I understand all the questions, because I’m pretty sure I asked all of them too, way back when I was using my phone to get calls not check my Amazon numbers.
So here are some answers:
You do this right by writing the book. And finishing the book. And then writing the next one. A website and a twitter account won’t get you to The End. You have to do that. And honestly, you’re just wasting your time with that piddling stuff when it’s all going to change anyway once your first book is out.
Yes, it’s hard. You can also learn almost everything you need to know about the business by befriending other authors and then sitting beside them and listening. Here’s a little networking tip, too. Don’t go with your hand out, go with your ears open. Authors are bombarded with requests. Ask your favorites what you can do for them instead. (Read their books! Leave them reviews!)
Yes, commas are important but story telling comes first.
In the history of taglines, no matter how clever, I don’t think they’ve ever been responsible for selling a book. Neither have author photos, FB covers, premium foil-embossed 100 lb weight stock business cards or websites with moving parts. Some of those things might actually turn readers off.
And now, some advice:
Read. Read. Read. In the genre you want to write and in all the genres you don’t. Great books are the best teachers. Crappy books aren’t bad teachers either. Find books that speak to you then figure out why. Don’t feel guilty about the time spent reading either. Once you get published, a lot of that reading time goes away. Sadly.
Contest your work. RWA offers tons of chapter-run contest. Enter them. Look for patterns in the feedback. If you don’t understand something, ask your writer friends.
Speaking of writer friends, find a community and cultivate friendships. An RWA chapter, a group that meets at the library, an online community…just find some people who are doing the same thing you’re doing and around the same level.
If you think you don’t need an editor, you’re not ready to publish. Read that until it sinks in.
It’s great your mom likes your book, but she liked that popsicle-stick picture frame you made in third grade too. Liking your creative efforts is her job. Find someone with no skin in the game and ask them what they think. If you’ve been following along, one of those authors you befriended might even ask to see a chapter of what you’re working on. ONLY GIVE THEM THAT ONE CHAPTER. Not the whole book. You want to stay friends, right?
Lastly, don’t pay anyone to doctor your book before you submit it. Many of those people are going to leave you poorer in both book and wallet. I’m not talking about hiring an editor before you self publish, I’m talking about Joe Book Doctor who claims his course can turn you into the next bestseller for just four easy payments of $299. He can’t or he’d be writing best sellers too.
Writing is a glorious, awful profession. If you think differently, you might not be doing it right…
Questions? Comments? Additional advice? Have at it.
Welcome to Nocturne Falls, the town that celebrates Halloween 365 days a year. The tourists think it’s all a show: the vampires, the werewolves, the witches, the occasional gargoyle flying through the sky. But the supernaturals populating the town know better.
Living in Nocturne Falls means being yourself. Fangs, fur, and all.
Willa Iscove, fae jeweler, has her first stalker. Really, he’s just one of her lovesick customers. The ring she crafted to help him find new love has backfired, making Willa the object of his affections. In a bid to rid herself of her amorous client, Willa makes a wish in the Nocturne Falls fountain using the piece of opal in her pocket and in doing so, unknowingly conscripts as her guardian the sexy gargoyle on duty.
Former Army Ranger and gargoyle Nick Hardwin has some serious suspicions about the pretty fae who just invoked the ancient pact for protection. Her kind have been at odds with his kind for ages. Now she wants his help? He’s determined to figure out what she’s up to. Which won’t be a hardship considering how much fun she is to be around. And kiss.
But then her stalker turns out to be the tip of the iceberg and things go really wrong, really fast. When they’re both kidnapped, Willa is forced to make a hard decision. The life of her family or the freedom of the man she’s fallen for?
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