A Sense of Childish Wonder

Some of my all time favorite books are the ones I read in late Elementary and Middle School.  There was this sense of genuine ridiculousness and wild imagination that was so natural at the time.

A book about a kid with a magical cupboard that brings his figurines to life?  Or the castle in the attic?  What about the kids who realize their teacher is an alien?  Or the one where the back of the wardrobe is a doorway into another world?  Or the horror stories where a kid gets turned into a bee and has to figure out how to get back?  Calvin and Hobbes?

Fantastic!

That’s what’s so wonderful about those early stories, that anything, anything was possible.  The more ridiculous the better.  Some were truly ridiculous but at the same time they were so genuine.  They were somehow real and yet unpredictable.  There were no rules except to inspire wonder.

When I decided to start writing stories I knew at least some of them would be for my daughter and I really wanted to emulate the feelings that I got from books at her age.  However, I also wanted to bring some of that into the other stories I was doing too, which isn’t easy.

It’s more difficult with adults because stories need to have enough grounding, adults have a lot more established beliefs and opinions.  There can be an element of wonder, of the unexpected, but too much and they don’t like it.  We know what we like and we tend to pick out books that fit within comfortable niche.  They don’t have to follow all the stereotypes but neither can they stray too far.

Family and friends that I’ve shown my work to, people that know me, have been very pleased and accepting but I have to say that I get some strange looks from everyone else when I describe my stories.  Sometimes, I’m not sure how to describe them or even what genre they are.

Geeks, Greens and Guns… A normally stoic enforcer for the mob in Las Vegas gets sucked into a light hearted UFO story outside Area 51.  It’s kind of funny, nobody dies and there’s a happy ended.  I suppose it counts as Sci-Fi?

The Apocalypse Gazette: After an epic apocalypse a guy is all alone in his small town, goes crazy with nerves and loneliness, and decides to write a newspaper documenting it all.  I did a whole post before about how I’m not sure what genre this story should be.  It’s funny, it’s light hearted, it’s weird and it’s got a talking cat.  Apocalyptic humor?

Still Life, with Zombie:  I can’t remember if I’ve written about this one here, it’s a story about a retired doctor living in a remote area and the zombie apocalypse.  It’s dark humor, a little scary, but has what I consider the most heart warming ending of all my stories.  It needs a lot of work, I’ve been editing it for a while, but where does it fit in with readers?  It’s nowhere near the usual zombie story, very little action.  Horror, I suppose?  But that doesn’t really seem to fit.

front draft 2

I’ve written some stories for my kid that she’s really enjoyed and I’ve written some others that are more “normal”, but that ones that really stick with me are the weird ones.  While I might struggle with them, or even what to call them, I’m imminently pleased with how they’ve been turning out.  They represent some of that childish wonder but in unexpected places.  They’re fun to write and they’re the kinds of stories that I want to read, they don’t fit into neat categories.  They open the doors to all the impossible possibilities.

Free to Pirate

I had a thought today while reading through some posts.  One writer mentioned how he was playing with advertising his ebooks on various places and how the most success he had was when he broadcast the days his books were free.  That day he had a lot of new downloads from other countries, including a large number to India.

Hmmm…  That got me thinking.

Piracy has been a problem for a long time but it’s only recently, with the advent of the ebook, that authors have had to really worry about it.  It’s becoming a bigger and bigger issue, almost every week I read about how a writer googled their own work and found it on a pirate site.

Free books are a useful tool for gaining new readers, it gives them a chance to check out your work before paying anything.  Cool, right?  But I wonder whether those free days are giving pirates a chance to easily steal writers’ work.

Think about it like this, if you were going to pirate a hundred books… are you going to pay for them first?  A hundred books at $3 a pop?  Uh uh.  I wouldn’t, I’d go to amazon every day and download all the free books.  Every day.  Then convert them and put them up on my site.

So, are those five free days offered by KDP select (or other deals) making it easier for pirates?  They grab our work on one of those days without paying for it, then turn around and sell it.  It’s what I’d do if I were morally bankrupt and looking for easy money.  (It’s possible that Kindle Unlimited could also be a contributor, but I imagine anyone in the Unlimited program that downloaded too many books a day would get flagged really fast.  I don’t know though.)

That thought right there makes me hesitant to ever discount my books too much.  The only way I can see to avoid having our work vulnerable would be to never put it out for free, that way at least the pirates would have to pay for the first copy (which I doubt they’d do unless you’re top in your genre or something).

But what about getting your work out to readers before they have to pay for it?  Sample chapters would be one way.  But the best option I can think of is to put a single book perma-free, accept that it’ll probably be pirated (but it’s free already, so you’re not really losing anything), then keep all your other books at regular price.

Just a thought for the day.

The Future of Publishing

I read a fascinating post today about the difficulties all of us indie, or self published authors face.  If you just take the basic facts, how many books are being put out, how few copies sell well, how few authors are making a decent income, it looks really depressing.

However, and this was the comment I left on the post, it’s also a really exciting time.  We’re seeing the old system fail to evolve fast enough, unable to find a way to make money in this new landscape and struggle to maintain the status quo.  But all of us looking at them can see the writing on the wall, if they don’t adapt fast they’re going to lose all relevancy.

Right now, publishing is going through a massive shift.  Anyone who has ever wanted to write a book can do so and put it out.  Thousands of books are being published every single day, many of questionable quality, which means that while we’re able to put out books easily the supply far outweighs the demand and it’s only getting worse.

In some ways that’s scary, but in other ways this is the growing pains of all of us trying to figure out a new system.  That means there’s a lot of opportunity right now for all of us to try new things and the ideas that are successful will shape the future of publishing.

What I think is going to happen:

1. Traditional publishers will shrink.  Period.  Even those that can adapt, they’ll never be what they were before.  The self publishing age has come.

2. Working with a different model, new publishing companies will be very successful.  Enterprising, talented people will get together and form new publishing companies that operate in new ways.  They’ll take networking to a new level.  They’ll take lessons from what the traditional publishing companies used to do well, services that indie authors still require, like editing and promotion, and base themselves on providing those services.

3. Talented indies will band together.  Maybe they form a company like in #2, or maybe they just come up with a guild, whatever, but they’ll come together.  Mutual marketing, mutual promotion, advice and networking.  They’ll build a huge platform together out of their combined bases.  Instead of a million authors clamoring for a limited audience, those that band together will have a louder voice and as long as their work is solid the readers will follow them.

4. People complain about the lack of quality in some self published books.  Those authors will either join one of the guilds and improve their work, or they’ll be a solitary voice competing with the groups/guilds of solid writers.  Their books will not succeed in comparison.  The cream will rise to the top.

So, while traditional publishing will never be the same, there is tremendous opportunity right now.  Try new things, get together with other writers, we’re all in this together.  And personally, I’m excited to see how things evolve.

Author Interview Posts: Quick Advice

In my WordPress reader it’s extremely common to see at least half a dozen author interviews a day.  Every day.  It’s also extremely common for me to scroll right past them and onto something else.  With so many interviews it takes something special to stand out and make me click the link.

And you know what the biggest factor is for me?  The photo of the author.

That might sound superficial but that’s the world we live in these days.  There are thousands of new books published each day, thousands of new authors and every one of them is fighting for the same number of eyes.  That’s a lot of noise.  With so much selection your work and you have to stand out.

As much as many of us don’t like it, if we’re going to market our work we also have to market ourselves.   If your images don’t catch a reader’s eye, you’re going to have a very hard time gaining any interest.  We have to have the complete package: a professional cover, photos, and website.  You have to have it all, if you miss one of those aspects it could be a weak link that leads to lost sales.

What blows me away is how many authors shell out money from their meager budget for a good cover illustrator and then post unprofessional photos of themselves.

author pic 1

(I’m an author, you should read my interview and buy my book.)

If you represent yourself in an unprofessional manner I assume that will be reflected in your writing.

These authors take the time, energy, and effort to put themselves out there by doing author interviews and blog tours yet are hampering themselves by not having an impressive, eye catching photo.  It’s not about whether you look attractive or not (though attractive helps, unfortunately), it’s about quality.  Every day I see photos that are too small, too big, too candid, blurry, low resolution, a selfie, taken with a webcam, wearing jeans and t-shirts… the list of mistakes is almost endless and I see them over and over again.  Every single day.  You don’t have to shell out big bucks for professional or studio photos, they just need to look professional.

I probably skip 9 out of 10 author interviews specifically because of the photo.

Don’t make that mistake, have the complete package.  Stand out from the crowd in the right ways.

Why I’ll probably never be an indie success

If you’ve been following for a while you’ve probably realized how infrequently I post.  There’s a reason for that and it’s the same reason that I’ll probably never be a “successful” indie author:

If writing feels like work I don’t do it.

It’s just that simple, if writing feels like a chore than I stop.  I’m sure there are some very talented, smart people rolling their eyes at that but give me a chance to explain.

I’ve loved writing for almost as long as I can remember.  I loved it because it was such an amazing way to escape the daily grind, to explore new worlds in new ways.  But the biggest reason that I loved to write was because it was FUN.  Creating characters, coming up with back stories, coming up with a creative twist is just so much fun.

Over the last year that I’ve been seriously writing, putting time and energy into finishing projects, there are so many things that I’ve learned.  One of the biggest lessons is that you can’t fake it.  And really, you shouldn’t even try.  If you’re writing to make money or fans, or if you’re not into the project or scene, it shows.  I could force myself to write a blog post every week but then it would be work, it wouldn’t be fun, the posts would be uninspired, and I don’t delude myself into thinking that readers aren’t smart enough to realize that.

What this also tells me is that I’m probably never going to be an indie success story.  I don’t like social media, I don’t like marketing, I don’t like putting myself out there, branding myself sounds painful, and half of the tips for success would be a lot of work.  I could do all of that, I could do all the “right” things, I could form myself into the shape of the box, but that would turn this thing that I love into a job.  I already have a job, I write because I love it.  And I’m certain that even if I did those things the writing wouldn’t be the same, the lack of fun would come across in anything I published.  I want more than that and readers certainly deserve better.

So, I’m not going to fight it, I’m going to write what I want, when I want, and continue to enjoy myself.  And if I end up making any money, or gather millions of fans, that’ll just be a bonus.  If enjoying what I do means that I’ll never be a big “success”, well, I suppose that really depends on your definition of the word.

A Few Thoughts on “Marketing”

One of the reasons that I started this blog was to interact with other authors and learn a bit about writing, publishing, and marketing a self published book.  I’ve only been on this site for a few weeks now, but I’ve been reading and researching everything I can find.  And now, I have a couple thoughts on some of the things I’ve seen and read.  Of course, take it all with a grain of salt since I haven’t published anything yet.

One of the reasons I decided to write this post is that I realized today that I have never, not once, bought a book because of something I’d seen on social media.  Maybe that’s just me, maybe I’m in the minority, but none of the “techniques” I’ve seen so far made me click the link to check out someone’s book.  Sure, I’ve only been on here a short while, but as soon as I signed up I was following every site I could find that might have anything to do with indie authors and self publishing.  I’ve seen countless interviews, reviews, blog tours, etc.  There have only been a few times I was tempted and that was because the author caught my interest, not the book, and I was curious to see what they had written. Continue reading “A Few Thoughts on “Marketing””

Amazon’s Unlimited program

I just read the newest post on the Smashwords blog, Is Kindle Unlimited Bad for Authors?  As it mentions in the title, the post is all about Amazon’s new program and potential effects on indie authors.  In case you’ve been under a rock for the last week and haven’t heard, Amazon has just started “Kindle Unlimited”.  It’s a subscription program where readers pay a flat rate and read as much as they want for the month.

The catch for authors is that if you want your book to be in the lending pool you have to be part of Kindle Select.  Kindle Select is fairly controversial in writing circles because to be in the program, and have access to the benefits, that book has to be exclusive to Amazon, you can’t put the book up anywhere else.  If you’re in the program you get access to promotional tools and benefits, and will be included in the lending library and the new Kindle Unlimited.  One of the most powerful promotional tools included is 5 “free” days every 90 days, where you can give away ebooks to draw in new readers.  Being included in the Unlimited program would be beneficial too, giving readers a chance to access your works without paying anything (yet the author will still be compensated for it). Continue reading “Amazon’s Unlimited program”