Friday, November 27, 2015

A Writer's Strongest Enemy

With a title like that, I could put a lot in here. There are so many enemies of writers today that it's getting hard to keep track. And the list will differ depending on who you talk to. Some people might say that the industry is the strongest enemy to writers today, while others would swear self-publishing is the writer's worst adversary. Some might go as far as to claim the Oxford comma is the strongest enemy of the writer. But, in truth, there are many possible answers to this question. In my mind, the writer's strongest enemy isn't something external. It's themselves, or at least it should be.

A writer's greatest, strongest enemy is themselves. There's many different reasons behind this. It's the writer's job to keep themselves active and motivated to write, to avoid distractions and procrastination, and actually do good work when they get down to it. That's a lot of responsibility put on a single pair of shoulders, and many continue to fight against distractions and lack of motivation. If you can't get over those writing blocks in life, then your output and work overall will suffer. 

Still, beyond even the motivational barriers in life, the writer is their own worst enemy for one simple fact: you should best your work every time. A great writer knows that they're always learning, always developing their skills and changing. And writers destined to grow a fan base know that your writing should always be going up. In publishing, especially independent publishing, you can't afford to bore your fan base, much less new readers, with a book that is sub-par compared to the last. Or maybe it's even part of a string of humdrum books. It can happen, but it shouldn't have to. Always be changing, growing, and developing your skills and your writing and your dedication will show in the finished work. If you don't, then it won't, and your readers will notice.

In short, the writer is their own worst enemy because they're the competition. A writer should always be pushing the boundaries of their skill and of their craft, allowing their style and work to grow. With every book a writer puts out, they should be letting out a small sigh and saying "damn, now I've gotta beat that." Past you grows stronger with every great story you add to their back list, but you've always got to stay ahead of them. Grow your writing enough, and your audience will grow with it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I Don't Care About Your "Bestseller"

If you an indie author today, or a regular author, or anyone who has eyes, you've probably seen every author who can claim their book is a bestseller announcing it. But what does the word 'bestseller' mean, really? Well, to answer that first you need to know the difference between the kinds of bestsellers. So I've gone making lists again, this time a list of bestseller titles, from worst to best:

  • Bestseller: This is a rather vague, broad statement, especially in this new digital age. In terms of how hard it is to become one of these basic, entry-level bestselling authors, I could type the alphabet 50,000 times and publish it, and I could market myself as a "Bestselling Author". How is that possible? Because Amazon. Amazon has a lot, and I mean A LOT, of bestseller lists. Dozens, possibly over a hundred. With their recent changes, Amazon will also track books even after they fall off every bestseller list (to do that, depending on genre, you'd have to not sell a copy for probably two weeks). That way, even though your book is #14511 on Amazon's Christian Midwestern Terrorist Crime Thriller sub-list, you're a bestseller (technically speaking). This fact is the main reason I don't give even the smallest shit about your "Bestselling Series!!!!!". 
  • Amazon Bestseller: This is pretty much like the above version, only it's a bit more narrow. But, like I said above, with Amazon's numerous lists and changes to ranking, it's just as easy to list yourself as one of these as it is to call yourself a regular bestseller. The only real difference is that alphabet book would have to be listed on Amazon. That's it, that simple.
  • Amazon 100 Bestseller: This is where we begin to reach into the realm of real bestseller territory. Some authors out there will list themselves as Amazon 100 Bestsellers because their book got onto ONE OF Amazon's bestseller sub-lists, all of which cap at 100. These people (liars) are exceptions to the rule. The Amazon 100 Bestsellers are usually people who have legitimately, one way or another, landed on Amazon's main bestseller list. It's impressive that your books pushes volumes like that. Do I care? Hell no. Why don't I? One word: Bookbub. Bookbub, and other sites like it, are Amazon 100 Bestseller factories. If you can land on their sites, they pretty much guarantee getting you up with the big boys for a few hours, but relish that time if you're a writer. Once their promo is over, you're down in the nosebleeds with the rest of us. Welcome back! Hopefully your ego doesn't get too big after that, otherwise I'll enjoy bursting your little bubble. It's great you landed on the Amazon 100, but my next question would be: For how long? That's when most Amazon 100 Bestselling authors dip their eyes and avoid the question Why? Because the answer is almost never something like "17 weeks!" it's probably "...Six hours". 
  • National Bestseller: This category is a bit difficult to rank, to be honest. I almost put it beneath Amazon Bestseller, because just like the lower tiers, it's extremely broad. My rule for this is, and trust me I hate saying this, only trust it on a traditionally published book. Any self-published author can stick a National Bestseller stamp on themselves and their books if they want, once again thanks to Amazon. In trad pub, these will be books that for some reason or another don't land on the New York Times list. They might be niche market books, like those bakery-style mysteries with the recipes in the back. Or the publisher would prefer to use National Bestseller over USA Today Bestseller for some reason or another. 
  • International Bestseller: What this says to me is this: "My book sells better in other countries than it does in the US!" But that's just me being me, this is a strong rank to have (if you actually have the rank, looking at you liars). You'll see this on all those Scandinavian thrillers people today are so fond of. That's because they probably do sell a lot better in Europe than in the US, simply because that's where they are based and that's where the author is. An International Bestseller is usually a way for publishers to tell you the author is from another country. Sometimes, they do actually list these books because they sell better abroad. That's fine, that means you landed on a legitimate bestseller list somewhere. Go you! But, it still can be misleading language.
  • USA Today Bestseller: USA Today Bestseller, this is about as narrow as the lists can get. If you see a book or author listing this, chances are they really did land there somehow. Granted, there are plenty of self-pubbed and trad pubbed authors who only landed on the USA Today list in a story compilation with authors like Lee Child or Nora Roberts or someone like that. Those writers aside, if you can land on the USA Today list with a book, you have every right to be happy. It may be 10 times bigger than the New York Times list, but even if you only land at 150 you've still got the 150th bestselling book that week. Go you again! And this time I mean that a little more.
  • New York Times Bestseller: Here it is, the big leagues. This one should make you feel good as both a reader and a writer. It's really hard to fake. People do it, but NYT has a fix against that. On their lists, New York Times has an indicator letting readers know if bulk orders of a book had been made, so all you people figuring you can buy 20,000 copies of your own and be free and clear, back to the drawing board with you. Being a New York Times Bestseller is amazing. Do I care? Actually yeah a little bit, that's some impressive work whether you're on your own or you've got the Big Five behind you. Golf claps all around for you! That being said, it's not as special as it used to be. Although not as bad as Amazon, New York Times has a good few sub-lists you can land on with less copies sold than normal, and yet you'll still be a New York Times Bestseller. Either way, landing on any of those lists is hard, and the stuff of writers' dreams.
  • #1 New York Times Bestseller: The platinum award. Either you've got a good marketing team behind you or six figures to blow on buying up your own book. This is James Patterson, David Baldacci, Dan Brown level. I don't have to say much about this, because you all probably know it already. On any one of the New York Times lists, that book was number one, the absolute bestseller that week in that category. Stuff of legend. Slightly louder golf claps abound!
The list above should keep you well-versed in the different bestsellers out there. There are others not listed, like "Wall Street Journal Bestseller" and "LA Times Bestseller" that are seen a lot less or are regional lists. If I wanted to list EVERY bestseller and rank them, this blog post would be about as long as one of those "bestseller" books your just picked up.

So why don't I care? If that list didn't make it clear, anyone (and I mean ANYONE) can be a bestseller today. I can catch a pigeon off the street, set it on a keyboard, and it can tap out a bestseller. Welcome to the digital age. So many bestseller lists exist today, that being a bestseller means about as much as being wet in the ocean. Your book just became a bestseller? Shut up and join the club. It might feel like you won the lottery the first time, but so did everyone else. Your lotto payout is 33 cents, $2.06 if your book is $2.99. If you're traditionally published, may whatever deity you pray to help you on that one. Your lottery ticket might turn into a bill to the publisher sooner or later.

If I taught you anything with this post, I hope that it's that whenever you see a book or author marked as a bestseller of any kind, chances are they're just manipulating your mind to make themselves and their books look more appealing. EL James is a bestseller for God's sake. I'M A BESTSELLER AND YOU'VE NEVER EVEN HEARD OF ME. It's all marketing, smoke and mirrors. For every crappy erotic book that sells a million copies, there's a piece of flawless storytelling that sells ten copies maybe. In the end, it comes down to one simple fact: it doesn't matter how many copies of a book sold, but how those sold copies made the readers feel.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pros and Cons of Smashwords

Although Amazon is still on top, Smashwords has broken out in the last few years as a highly popular platform for ebook publication and distribution. Despite this, many indie authors continue to be a part of KDP Select and remain strictly on Amazon. But how much good does that do? Is it more worth it to go on to Smashwords too or remain only on Amazon? In my experience, the former is best, although there are pros and cons involved. Smashwords is a great distribution and publication tool, but it does come with its own problems. Below I've organized a list of my Smashwords pros and cons. If you're on the fence about going to Smashwords, maybe this will help your decision, and if you're already on it maybe you can discover some new things.


  • Publishing Speed: Even though expanding to their full distribution takes a lot longer, publishing right to Smashwords can be done much faster than with Amazon or KDP. An ebook uploaded to Smashwords will go live on the website after just a matter of minutes. The difference in publishing terms of waiting a few minutes or a few hours like with Amazon might not sound like that big of a deal after spending weeks/months writing and editing a book for publication, but when you come down to a deadline it can mean a lot. With one of my books, I was coming close on a deadline for a marketing promotion on it, but it had to be on more than just Amazon. Smashwords' quick publication speed saved me time and stress, and made it possible for me to get that promotion running fast.

  • Ease of Use: I don't know about you guys, but I like to think I'm pretty technologically savvy. I've been around computers my whole life, as well as the Internet, I'm well versed in all the nonsense. That being said, I still appreciate some easy to follow websites and publication/production steps. Even though KDP is fairly easy to use throughout, I have to say that Smashwords steals the ease of use crown. They lay out guidelines right at the top of their publication page and give you a handy free ebook to help you along with their guidelines of publication. More often than not, KDP leaves you guessing or leaves stricter guidelines in the fine print.

  • Perma-free: Perma-free, the aspect of indie publishing Amazon has been grappling against for years. Their Select free days are great, but trust me, perma-free is better. For someone like me, an indie author without much of a promo budget to work with, perma-free does wonders. You won't push units like you would with a well paid for KDP Select free period, but over time units continue to be downloaded across all channels. Some of my books are perma-free on Amazon thanks to Smashwords distribution, but in terms of downloads Amazon takes a backseat to Smashwords. Perma-free is also very simple on Smashwords. If you want perma-free on Amazon you need to put it on a website they see as valid then email them and email them and email them until it happens. It's unpredictable and overly convoluted. With Smashwords, it's as easy as a click. Then bam, you've got yourself a perma-free book.

  • Wide Distribution: Smashwords sends your ebook out to so many different providers it would be a massive space waste to list them all, but here are a few: Barnes & Noble, Kobo, PDF readers, iBooks, Overdrive. But what do all these extra platforms mean? Well, extra sales of course. Currently, Barnes & Noble is my best distributor in terms of downloads and sales. They blow Amazon and everyone else away, doing nearly more than every other distribution channel combined. I wouldn't be a part of Barnes & Noble's distribution if not for Smashwords. Along with that, I'm no longer getting fan emails asking when my books will be available for them. With KDP Select, you're cutting out a whole market share of readers. People with Nooks were always asking me when they could get my books for their devices. Now I'm reaching them with my work, along with Apple readers, Kobo readers, and everyone who doesn't have any ereader device with Smashwords' PDF ability. Anyone who has a computer who wants to read my books can do it without having the pay extra for a paperback.

  • Waiting for Full Distribution: Not a big problem by any means, but Smashwords' waiting period for full distribution can be unfortunate sometimes. Although they publish to their site quickly, it can take several days or longer in some cases for review of a book to be complete for their full distribution. It's understandable, they have guidelines people don't like to follow and the reach a lot of distributors who have their own guidelines and requirements. Still, the excitement of publishing a book can turn to annoyance when all you see is "Under Review" for nearly a week. And don't get me started on restarting the process over again if you accidentally forgot to do something up to requirement. That's an extra two days of review at least.

  • Odd Payment Schedule: I'm sure there's a written rule about this on Smashwords somewhere, but I can't seem to find it nor am I able to decipher what exactly it is based on the payments I have received from them. I do know that they still go on the outdated Amazon-like system of meeting a certain point before payment. You have to have at least $10 USD in your Smashwords account before any payments get sent to you. That's not a problem for me, but for many new or low-list authors, it could mean extra weeks or months before they see their royalties. Even when your balance is over $10, Smashwords seems to want to pay you when it's ready to. I've looked at some balances for over 2 months before they were finally sent out of the Smashwords balance to me, while others got to me in only a few weeks. Like I said, I'm sure Smashwords has a rule about this somewhere, but it's hard to find and not very apparent from sent payments alone.

  •  Available Promotions: Unlike KDP Select authors, Smashwords publishers aren't able to access promotions like countdown deals, free book days (although see Perma-free above), or paid website promotion. The main things that Smashwords has for sales/promotion on the author's end is a coupon producer. This produces a code you can send via Facebook feeds or a mailing list to give your readers a discounted price on your books. Of course, that means if you want success with it you need a wide Facebook or social media reach or a big mailing list to send out to (and many on your mailing list might have already bought the book in question). In terms of on-site promotional opportunities, Smashwords is unfortunately lacking.

There you have it! My pros and cons of using Smashwords. Some of you may be on it already and love it, or hate it. To those who haven't used it yet, hopefully this list can give you some guidance in the right direction of publication for you.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Consequences of the 'Write Everyday!' Mentality

We've all heard the advice: write everyday. It's a basic pointer even new writers have heard multiple times. For many people, it's an achievable goal. It doesn't tell you to write 1,000 words or 2,000 words, it just tells you to write something everyday. By itself, the advice of writing everyday isn't all that problematic, but overtime a certain mentality blooms, one seen in a majority of writers today: the mentality of self-failure.

A sense of failure is something that writers deal with constantly, some deal with fighting off that feeling daily. We have ways of getting through it (motivational posters, "YOU ONLY FAIL IF YOU QUIT!" kinda things) but no one really takes a look at the possible reasons that this mentality exists and why it's so widespread in modern writers. Maybe the fault lies in the social media-based society, where you can hop on the internet and see how successful all your other writer friends are as they post about their new USA Today bestseller, signing some cool contract, or writing x words day after day. Or maybe it can bud from a constant stream of rejection letters one might get in the pursuit of a traditional publishing contract. In truth, both of these seem like probable causes for this failure and shame-filled mentality (and I may blog about them later) but right now I'm focusing on something off from the usual suspects: the advice of writing everyday.

As of right now, I don't write everyday. I'm in college and I work, it just can't be done. Would I like to be able to do it? Of course! But, what happens when I go two or three days without writing anything? That's when the shame and failure mentality sets in, and this isn't something relegated to my mind. Every writer I've spoken to has these issues. Sometimes, they feel bad for not writing in a week, other people feel bad after a single day of not writing. And this isn't just feeling generally down for not achieving your daily goals, for many it is a sense of losing sight of writing and a greater life goal. How many other life goals require daily work and input rather than say, input monthly, weekly, or bi-weekly? Not many.

Even if a writer manages only a few hundred words a day, if they write everyday and miss a day for any reason, they'll feel bad about it. What does this mean for the creative process though? Working on something everyday is fine, but once you begin to write everyday simply because you know that you NEED to write otherwise you'll feel bad, then you're forcing out something that require finesse. In the end, that'll produce sub-par work that the writer knows is sub-par, which will lead right back to the failure and shame mentality.

Although the above scenario seems like some kind of worst case, I've heard writers talk about it before quite often. We live in a vicious cycle leading to the outcome of feeling bad about our writing and our work ethic for not following the write everyday advice perfectly. Writers are perfectionists, it's in our nature, it's why we can look at our 19th draft and still see a million things wrong with it. Why should we add yet another aspect of writing to do perfectly?

If you want to write everyday, that's awesome, do it. But, if you miss a day, should you feel bad or ashamed for it? No, this is a creative process, and you can't force yourself to do it. If you don't have time or the right mentality to do it one day, don't beat yourself down for that. That'll only lead to a worse, less motivated mentality in the end. If you want to write a few times a week (like me), do it, but don't beat yourself up because you haven't written in two days, find more constructive ways of dealing with it. 

The advice of writing everyday didn't create the writer's self-loathing mentality, but it certainly adds a lot to it. In the end, it should be about writing when it comes naturally to you or at least not feeling bad when motivation doesn't hit you one day or a few days in a row. Find a way to make yourself happy than focus on the missed writing time. Didn't write yesterday? Don't focus on that damn "Write Everyday!" idea, go fly a kite or drink tea or something. Writers are bombarded with self-doubt everyday, why contribute to that problem with all these rules about when we should write. Write when you're motivated, and if you're not motivated, find things that motivate you and make you happy. In the end, it's just that simple.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"I've got a book idea to run by you!"

A sentence many writers have heard, and many look at with contempt. That's where the majority of writers and I differ. While most scribes loathe having people tell them what to write or let them know their great idea, I choose a different route. I embrace the suggestions, no matter how absurd or out of my wheelhouse they are. Will I write them? Probably not. Will all these ideas conglomerate in my mind to produce a story I actually consider writing? Perhaps.

The sentence alone is enough to set a writer off or send chills of disgust up their spines. For those unaware, it goes a little something like this:

"I've got an idea for the next bestseller!" 

"You should really write this/that/the other thing!"

"Do you wanna write a book for me??!!??!"

Some people are capable of writing pretty much anything people tell them. Those people sometimes have very nice careers as ghostwriters. Although I don't think I could manage ghostwriting, I do consider myself to be a part of the group that can put almost any idea into book form. Will it be the best thing I've ever written? Hell no. Will it even be good at all? I don't know...maybe...? The point is, I consider myself part of a group many writers aren't a part of. Many authors out there struggle to get a great idea in their head, and struggle even harder to turn that idea into words on a page. Thus brings up the conflict with telling writers what they should write.

I do not by any means speak for all authors or even the majority when I say I welcome people's book suggestions. Please, if you're thinking of telling your writer friend what they should be writing, either smack yourself in the face or send that idea my way, whichever is preferable to you (please, don't everyone smack themselves at once). A lot of people struggle for a long time to be able to write their story, much less put it out there to either agents/publishers or to the reading public. To many, it's akin to telling an accountant what numbers they should punch into their calculator or telling a banker you've got a million dollars in the bank when you've really got closer to $12. In short, IT'S ANNOYING.

Despite everything I've just said, if you've got that idea in you that you're so sure is going to be the next Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc. then by all means give me an ear full about it. I've gotten ideas from people, be them friends or strangers, so often that my responses have come down to a science. The most likely outcome is that i'll either say "interesting" and log the idea away in the far reaches of my brain, or i'll poke so many holes in the plot that the whole thing falls apart. That being said, every once and a while I come across someone who gives me an idea that lights up my imaginary brain bulb.

What do I do with the stories that actually manage to click something on in my mind? Thus far, I have published exactly zero of them, and only ever written one. But Mitch, why let an idea you like brew in your mind? Why not let it out??? Well, several reasons. For one, I don't feel all that comfortable taking someone else's idea, writing it, and selling it. In most worlds, that's called plagiarism. Secondly, if I publish that book and it becomes a bestseller, guess who's probably gonna come a'knockin with empty pockets and a sad, puppy-dog face. Exactly. Writing someone else's idea for them, then selling it as yours is quite an issue. That's not to say those good ideas will go to waste.

Over time, the good ideas people have fed me have come together in my mind and melded into one big, confused blob labeled "OMG, YOU SHOULD WRITE THIS BOOK!" As time goes on, the ideas blend further together and eventually an plot comes out so widely different than when it went in. Romance stories become paranormal thrillers, crime novels become YA fantasy, self-help books become bloody historical war fiction (don't ask). The idea blob is the whole reason I'm able to write pretty much anything, because I can meld it with past ideas (of which I've had thousands) I've had and turn a so-so idea I got at 3 AM into my next passion project. 

So far, only one manuscript based on a good suggestion has ever come out of the idea blob. It went in as a romance about two gray aliens and came out as an LGBT new adult novel based in a world where nobody sees color. It may end up seeing the world someday. After all, a close friend was the one who made the suggestion, and I'm far more willing to write ideas given to me by friends/family than by strangers, and my cover designer made me an awesome ebook cover for it already.

In short, many writers will cringe and hiss at you like a cornered cat if you tell them what they should write or that million-dollar idea you've got. You can vent those ideas to me and i'll take them in with open ears. There's about a 99.99% chance it won't ever even get written by me, but I'll hear it out. Whether the plot falls apart, it sparks inspiration for a totally different project, or lands in the idea blob, i'll at least listen. Although, your great idea for the next famous spy series will most likely end up as a heartfelt story about a boy and his dog if it falls under my pen. 

If you've got that idea brewing inside you, dying to get out, it'd just be easier to write it yourself. It may come out like complete crap, but at least it's out. From there, rewrite if you don't like it, put it in your own idea blob and let it come out as something new, rewrite again. That's what happened when I let my first novel out in my freshman year of high school. Now I've got 17 published novels and more on the way, with the quality going up with every word I put down.

To the writers out there, my suggestion would be to listen to the people like I do. Feel free to disregard all the ideas afterwards, but you never know what could happen. Don't go out plagiarizing, even if the person claims they want to give the idea to you, but at the same time don't blow them off either. You never know what could happen when you open your ears to the people and let things into your (hopefully existent) idea blob. Will the super spy become the boy and his dog? Will the love-hungry heiress become London's best assassin? If you don't listen, you'll never find out what your mind can do.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

5 Writing/Publishing Tips You Don't Hear

I've been part of the publishing world for quite a while now, and in that time I've read a lot of articles and blog posts with titles like "10 Tips for Great Writing" or "5 Things You NEED To Know To Be A Successful Writer". Something else I have learned, is that almost all of these list articles/posts simply vomit up the same stuff the last article did. I'm not a fan of word vomit. So, to begin, I've compiled what I call the "Duh List". This is a list of things every other list post will tell you about being a successful writer.

The Duh List

  • Write (Duh)
  • Read (Duh)
  • Show, don't tell (Duh)
  • Be original (Duh) (Also something all these lists need to keep in mind)
  • Know your market (Duh)

Now comes my list. The five things I wish someone would have told me before I decided to publish my work and write with the intention of being read.

  • The Industry is Punks: This statement is up to some interpretation, but the meat of it is this: the publishing industry is exactly that, an industry. Publishing is a business, writing is an art. You can't make the mistake of thinking just because a publishing house sells books that it cares about yours. It probably doesn't. Granted, there are plenty of companies, big and small, who will cherish you and your work, but that's not the probable outcome. No, what happens most is the publishers take what they think well sell (if that's you, congrats I guess) and then put it on shelves. They used to sell it themselves, but these days a lot of publishers leave that to you, the writer. You better hope that high school business class you took taught you the right stuff. In short, you may care deeply about your work, but the industry couldn't care less unless your name happens to be James Patterson. They'll rip your work to shreds, put it back together if they like it enough, toy with it, twist it around, then take almost all the money while spending surprisingly little.

  • The Readers are Ruthless: Even though the publishing industry might not care all that much about you or your work, that's no guarantee the reading public will either. If Fitzgerald were alive and just beginning his writing career today in indie publishing, there's no way to know for sure if Gatsby would make it through it all and become popular. In truth, it would most likely never see more than a thousand readers. With publishing as full as it is now, there are thousands of writers all clamoring for the same tired eyes to glance their direction, and if those eyes don't like what they see, they'll tell you. It doesn't matter if the book they read is The Great Gatsby or if its one of those Dinosaur Erotica short stories (yeah, they exist), if they don't like for any reason they'll most likely let you know, most often via the hated 1-star review. To an indie, all it takes is one bad review to sink a book's potential. If I saw a book called The Great Gatsby on Amazon right now, with only a few reviews, most of them low, I'd skip over it and never think about it again. That's how the world is now. If it isn't attractive at first glance, people won't pick it up, and if they pick it up, read it, and found that you've wasted their time with a story they don't like, they get pissed. Once the unhappy readers get through with you, you'll beg for the rejection from agents again. All that being said, readers are the only reason books exist, and they are the writer's greatest asset. If they love your book they'll be the best thing that's ever happened to you. Readers will leave glowing 5-star reviews, talk about that great book they read the other day, and maybe even post about it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, whatever. Readers are ruthless and passionate about books. If you don't make them happy, they'll make you hate you life. If you give them a book they love, they'll promote it any time they can to any ears that bother to listen. It's a scale that you have to try and tip in your favor.

  • There's no Golden Ticket to Anything: Are you reader to hear THE THING that will make you the next bestseller? WELL HERE IT IS: Simmer down, cool your jets, take a breath, and realize that this isn't a chocolate factory. You're not here thanks to some golden slip you found in your favorite candy bar. There is no piece of paper you find one day that says "You're now a beloved bestselling author! Yay you!" That's not a thing, nor will it ever be. Maybe someday you'll get an awesome agent who lands you a nice, multi-book contract with a fat advance on the first go around (yeah right, but we're all allowed to dream), but even that's not the end. Like I said above, getting that contract is just the tip of the ice berg. You'd do well by yourself to take every penny of that advance you got and sink it into marketing that book, or however many you've got on the contract. If you only want to sit at home and get paid to write novels, you're dreaming of something that can never happen. No publisher is your golden ticket to fame, or even a stable life all on its own. No matter what, you've got work to put in, and lots of it, and not just typing away at your next book. Just like you can't expect to hit "publish" on a self-publishing website and sell a thousand copies by the next day, you can't expect to ink a piece of paper then live life on easy street. Even bestsellers have to work a little bit to stay bestsellers. Authors go on book tours, do signings, go to conventions, and build great social media fan bases just to keep themselves relevant to the readers and to keep their name fresh on people's minds and their books at the front of the stores and libraries. There is no ticket to success. Once you're on the train there you've got to put your work in, or they'll boot you off at the next station and chug along without you.

  • Don't Love Your Work, but Don't Hate it Either: This one is tough even for me after all this time writing and publishing my work. I don't like what I write very much at all, but readers seem to, and that's all that matters. I don't hate my writing, if I did I wouldn't let it out to the world, but I don't love it either. Not loving it is a good things. The second you can't find anything wrong with something you've written is the day you take a huge losing hit in the publishing battle. You don't want to be the person who loves their work so much they want to be buried in a coffin made of its pages. Nobody likes that person, but more importantly, those people are the ones who land in the news for going on tirades when people don't like their work. You should enjoy what you write, but don't wrap yourself up in it so much that your skin becomes thin. This is the wrong business to be in if you can't handle critics. On the flip side, the person who hates their work often never realized their own potential. If you write everyday for all of your life and only ever shelf your work because you hate it, you'll never know what other eyes think of it. Like I said, I don't like my own writing all that much, but other people do. If you spend your life only hearing your own opinions on your writing, you'll never know if it's good or bad. Be kind to yourself, but don't stroke your ego when it isn't necessary. Your work should be cherished by you, even if you know a million ways it could be improved.

  • Only You Know You: The final point I'm going to make here is a simple one, but important: Nobody can tell you what works for you, except you. I've spent this time making this list in hopes of helping someone out there understand what it takes to write and publish in this crazy world. For some, it might work, but others will look at it and call bullshit on it all. People will tell you all sorts of things, but free-thought is the best thing you can do. I once had someone tell me they didn't like my work because it was too fast-paced, while someone else told me that they didn't like it because it was a little too slow for them. That's life, especially in the publishing world. Contradictions are everywhere, people are pulling you in some directions while simultaneously pushing you in others. The most important thing is that you know what works for you. If you're an awkward public speaker, maybe giving a book talk isn't the best idea. If you're better with one-on-one talk with readers, perhaps a convention booth would do better. People can command you to do things all they want, but feel free to disregard what you know won't work for you. If you know what you do best in writing, publishing, and marketing, then you're ten steps ahead of all the people telling you what to do.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My Experience With KU

It's been almost two years since my last post on this blog, but I figure now is as good a time as any to get back to it!

I know I'm pretty late to the game when it comes to this, but KU seems like the perfect subject to restart the blog to. KDP's Kindle Unlimited changes have caused a crazy amount of stir in the indie community for the last few months, and for good reason. With payments as low as .006 cents per page paid by Amazon to the author of a KU book, writers have reason to be upset.

Going off of the .006 cent idea, how much can one expect to get paid for...

A 100 page novella? .006 * 100 = 60 cents

A 250 page novel? .006 * 250 = $1.50

A 300 page novel? .006 * 300 = $1.80

You get the idea. If we compare this to the average indie take from a book, $2.99 or above, from Amazon, we can see just how clear the gap is. With Amazon's 70% royalty rate, any book listed for $2.99 will give the author around $2.06, regardless of length (although I'd be happier getting 300 pages for 3 dollars than I would 100 pages). So, to the indie writers who love sending 400-500 page epics out into the world, KU might not me much, it might actually be positive to them. To the writers of short stories, novellas, and shorter novels, however, there is a different story unfolding.

I'm not the kind of writer that blasts out a couple of dictionary-length novels a year, most of my work lands in the 200-250 page range, with a few novellas and short stories being far less than 100 pages. That's why I got out while I still could. Before KU was even in place, I was a user of the permafree feature to Amazon's site. Permafree allows me to put some of my books, usually first books in a series, up for free forever on Amazon, but I also have to be opted out of KDP Select. A good 1/4 of my books at the time were out of KDP Select for either Permafree sale or because I wanted them available to Nook and Smashwords readers. When KU finally came about with the by-page payment method, I decided to let KDP Select and KU go for good.

The process is long, but it's rather easy. I only have a select few books left in KDP Select as of right now, and throughout all this time I haven't had a single KU purchase or download...up until this last week. Finally, at long last, the blue KU line on Amazon's sales graph moved from the middle. Someone read 15 pages from one of the last KU books I've got. To me, those fifteen pages means a whopping .09 cents. Meanwhile, people who focus on short stories of around that length can ask .99 cents or more across multiple sales channels and get, at the very least, 33 cents back for every sale.

So where am I now? I'd love to tell you that I became an unstoppable bestseller simply by opting out of KU and KDP Select and taking part of my business to B&N and Smashwords, but that would be so far from the truth. In reality, my additional downloads from B&N and Smashwords are mainly free ebooks, but I've gotten thousands of those downloads, and those sometimes translate into purchases of the other books in the series' or of stand-alone books. While I'm not a runaway bestseller (yet) without KU in my life, I can say I'm making more off of my books than I would with it, and I love having my work available to Nook readers and to all the .pdf and .epub readers on Smashwords, and they like it too. The days of having my inbox crowded with readers asking why more of my books aren't available on their Nook are over, and so far no one has emailed me as to why my work isn't in KU anymore.