Hashing out my stories

Posts tagged “self publishing

Tips and Hints for Indie Authors

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I’d like to advise those who read this that I’m probably in the same position – struggling to make my way through a vast, crowded ocean full of vessels and bobbing heads who all have the same thing in common. We all want to make our mark and get our work noticed, make sales and increase our status – while we scramble to reach higher ground.

I am by no no means an expert and definitely not a high profile author. I am also still learning and making mistakes, so you might well ask, “Why does she think she could help me?” My answer is – I can only help those who are currently in the same position I was in two years ago – when the world of self-publishing was a huge, looming giant in the center of a maze that was continuously morphing and adding new levels every day.

Of course, we are all at different stages in our writing careers. When we share what we’ve learned, we fill in the gaps and strengthen our positions. Some might find what I share here incredibly useful, while others might yawn and say, “Been there; done that!” Therefore, this post is meant for the former – while the latter can surely think of other tidbits to share via comments – if they so desire.

When navigating the maze of never-ending information and hints and tips for authors who decide to go the route of self-publishing – it’s inevitable that you will run into some – if not all of the following:

  • Dead ends or leads that go nowhere – leading you on a wild goose chase
  • Scams and fraudulent claims about services offering the earth
  • Monthly charges for bogus programs who do little or nothing for your work
  • Websites and services that are all fluff with no substance
  • Confusing terms, buzz-words or language that only rehash prior info
  • Fads and trends that distract you without adding any value

There’s probably more that I could’ve added to this list – but for me – the above has been the most prominent during my own promoting and marketing journey, not to mention the actual art of writing!

I’m attacking this subject from the position of an author who either can’t or won’t spend a lot of money. What I find interesting about “high profile” authors, meaning those who we see all over social media and getting many reviews on Amazon, etc. – is that, while they seem to be doing extremely well – obviously spending quite a substantial amount of money for sleek or flashy advertising and so on, they still seem to be struggling like the rest of us.

I say that without a shred of jealousy or bitchiness. Sure, the majority of those authors are strangers to me – most of them are not well-known and some of them are still working a full time day job. I have often ventured into the world of expensive services and programs, only to discover that the bottom line was me all along. Throwing money into a bottomless pit with scant return bit me on the butt most of the time – and hurt my bank account.

So, without further ado – here’s the skinny (or my skinny!) – broken into two parts: The Writing Life and The Marketing/Promoting Life.

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The Writing Life

There’s a glut of writing advice out there – in the form of daily prompts, newsletters, courses, websites and webinars. Many websites have their own links to information such as “100 Best websites for writers” and the like. The majority of them are great and you should seek them out. Here’s what helped me (and continues to help me) in random order:

Websites:

http://thewritelife.com/ (Great advice)

http://www.writersdigest.com/ (Wonderful)

http://www.grammarbook.com/ (Grammar and Punctuation)

http://www.writersmarket.com/ (Especially good for freelancing)

http://fundsforwriters.com/ (Tips and Tools – great site!)

https://writeon.amazon.com (Get feedback as you write!)

http://theditors.com/ (First 3,000 words critiqued for free)

goodinaroom.com – How to develop a pitch for TV

http://www.creative-writing-now.com/ (Great basic advice and free stuff!)

https://criticl.me/ (A great place to post truthful or even “dangerous” writing)

https://www.thekindlebookreview.net/author-resources/ (Great links!)

http://selfpublishersshowcase.com/author-resources/ (Great site for Indies)

Okay – I could go on and on – but these are great for a start.

I find the best advice encompasses the basics – as you’ll discover what works for you along the way. It all depends on the genre you write in and what you expect to get out of it. Some only write for pleasure and are happy to share their writing with those closest to them. Others write for a cause and want to change the world, while many of us write to escape – or at least – to create worlds full of adventure and other things we may feel are lacking in our lives. (Notwithstanding those of us who simply adore great literature and who are “addicted” to the pleasure of the actual process of creation.)

You’ll find basic rules of thumb everywhere – but here’s what I’ve found to be the most useful – in terms of the creative process of writing:

No matter what – just write

Save the editing and revision until the end – if you can stand it

Outline and plan your book – before you start writing

Create a chapter by chapter synopsis to use as a guide (it will change as you go)

Always use spellcheck and a thesaurus

Research everything you are not 100% sure about

Keep your finger on the pulse – but don’t be swayed by useless fads and trends

Be true to yourself – yet open to constructive criticism

Don’t take a bad review personally

Use beta readers and proper editing (when you can afford it)

Read the work of others

Share what you know and support other writers

Start a blog and post regularly

Hone your skills, take a class and/or join a writing group

Don’t ever give up!

I’ve mentioned before how I write every chance I get. When I was working my 9-5 job, I was writing in my breaks and lunchtimes – then after work and sometimes even before work (when I could get up in time!) and on the weekends. In between – I’d be scribbling notes on anything I could get my hands on – as well as emails to myself.

The Marketing/Promoting Life

Now that I’m a full time author and freelancer – I’ve structured my days to ensure that I get to spend time writing – outside of promoting and marketing or creating my own ads and blog posts.

There are great, cheap or free services out there – which I will share further on – but I found it rewarding to use programs such as paint, Corel and an old Microsoft program (which is easier than Photoshop) – called Microsoft Photo Premium 10. I’m no expert and I’m sure that those experienced Graphic Designers would scoff and cringe at my ads, book trailers, banners etc. For me – it’s all about saving money – while at the same time having a lot of fun! Here’s a few examples of what I’ve done on my own (using free images – websites to be shared further on.)

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Fram 10 - WLG

(Book cover created by Jessica on Fiverr – the rest of the ad was me!)

Okay – on with cheap and freebie services (for creating ads etc):

https://www.fiverr.com/ (Anything you can think of – incl. Book Covers – for $5 and up)

https://pixabay.com/ (Completely free images and video footage!)

http://www.freeimages.com/ (Free images)

http://www.freeepy.com/ (Free images)

https://foodiesfeed.com/ (Free food images)

https://unsplash.com/ (Free images)

http://cupcake.nilssonlee.se/ (Free images)

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page (Free images)

https://videos.pexels.com/ (Free video footage)

http://www.videezy.com/ (Free video footage)

http://www.lifeofvids.com/ (Free video footage)

http://freegifmaker.me/ (Make your own gifs)

https://www.canva.com/ (Free banners, wallpapers, book covers and lots more)

http://www.bookbuzzr.com/ (Cheap book “flipper” to display excerpts)

http://tineye.com/ (Find out where images on the web came from!)

This list is by no means exhaustive – but it’s a good start!

Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with forking out a little cash for professional services. For me – I’m on the fence – as it depends on your goals and how much you’re willing to spend. I agree with the adage that “you get what you pay for” – but it’s heartening to see many people out there willing to offer their products and services for free or on the cheap. That being said – I know that more discerning authors (and readers) might consider a “home-made” ad, book cover etc to be less valuable or worthy than one with a sleek design.

It’s sad that poorly marketed books can fall by the wayside – especially when their stories are well-written and worth the read. I’ve also seen many well-marketed books with great exposure for stories that are at best – run-of-the-mill or poorly written. This is the quandary that indie authors often find themselves battling with.

Here are some great sites for Promoting and Marketing:

https://www.fiverr.com/ (Anything you can think of – incl. Book Covers – for $5 and up)

http://www.ebooksoda.com/authors/ (Cheap ebook promotion)

http://booktweeters.com/ (Reasonable pricing with good conversion)

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/ (Great info on promoting, marketing etc)

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/advertise/for-authors/ (Free promos etc.)

http://www.bookdaily.com/ (Emails sample chapters to readers)

https://www.librarything.com/ (Ebook giveaways, etc)

https://www.rafflecopter.com/ (Advertise your Giveaway on your blog or site)

Awesome tools for Authors! (119 tips and resources!)

One important thing I’d like to point out is that self publishing is daunting on it’s own – before you even start to think about promoting and marketing. Whether you decide to use Amazon (user friendly – well, I think so!) and Createspace, Kobo or some other platform – publishing your book is one of many steps in the life of your writing.

When it comes to social media, setting up profiles on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are just the tip of the iceberg – and some would say not worth the time and effort. Others say that email marketing – using newsletters (and services such as Aweber or Mailchimp) are the way to go – however, in order to build your mailing lists, you need to be able to drive people to your site to opt in. Using social media is one way to do this.

Having a blog has the same issues: driving people to the blog in order to read it and click through to buy your books. Here’s a small list of steps to think about – from “go to whoa” – and beyond!

Read and get inspired

Research and plan your book

Write your book with necessary revisions

Get beta readers to review and offer feedback

Edit the book – either yourself or with a reliable editor

Write the blurb and create an excerpt

Find out your target audience and where they hang out

Create a cover, ads and a book trailer

Create or update your author website

Update social media and blog

Publish it

Create a buzz through giveaways etc

Promote via different platforms

Come up with different ways to sell your book

Consider the following:

Create an audiobook

Create profiles on Goodreads and Amazon

Guest posting on other blogs

Blog tours

Create a Podcast

Post videos on Youtube

Conduct readings at local libraries and bookstores

Get involved in Book Fairs

Radio and print interviews

Marketing material, such as bookmarks etc

Create an ebook as a giveaway

Email marketing

More links that might be useful:

http://www.artistfirst.com/authorswanted.htm (Radio interviews)

http://www.thebingbing.com/ (Like Ebay, Twitter and Facebook all in one!)

http://www.weebly.com/ (Great free websites – easy to use)

http://speculativeliterature.org/grants/ (Grants for quality literature, etc)

http://thewritelife.com/writing-residencies/ (Author residencies)

http://www.indiebound.org/ (Find out where your book is available)

http://bookfairs.com/ (Find a local Book Fair)

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ (Get interviewed)

http://www.authorgraph.com/ (Offer signed ebooks!)

http://www.outbrain.com/ (Promote your content)

Create econtracts

You’re probably drowning in all these bits and pieces – yet there’s millions more to discover and as I said – I’m still navigating my way through and trying to figure it all out. I just wanted to share what I have discovered so far and will drop by to comment every now and then – when I’ve found something new or need to offer an update.

Good luck and by all means – if you know of anything else that might be useful – leave a comment!

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Tentative Tempests: Lessons Learned in Self Publishing

Storming Books

2015 was a big year for me, in terms of finally becoming a published author – notwithstanding the fact that I am self-published. I have three of the four planned books from my Storming Archives available on Amazon (Kindle Editions and paperback), with the fourth currently being written, as well as a novel planned for release in early 2016.

I have a total of ten writing projects slated for 2016, including fiction, non-fiction, short stories, poetry and other stuff and nonsense! I’m lucky to be in a position where I can finally say that I’m a full time author – with 1/4/16 being my last day in a traditional job. I am very grateful to have a wonderfully supportive husband, who has afforded me this awesome opportunity to live the life I’ve always dreamed of.

Now, I want to advise that I do not intend to sound like I’m doing the dying swan routine, but 2015 was very much a case of trial and error in regards to navigating the world of the self-published author. As I was impatient to get my books out, I ventured into the realm of self-publishing after sending only five query letters out. (They were all very gracious in their rejection letters – stating that, whilst they enjoyed reading my synopsis and sample chapter, they felt that it wasn’t what they were looking for.)

I knew early on that my Storming Archives would present a challenge to anyone (including me) in terms of promoting and marketing, as the genre and style is a hybrid of various elements. I market the series as a fantasy, with a twist of horror, but it’s also very surreal and in the realm of consciousness.

There are many reasons for this. Firstly, the protagonist is a thirty year old woman who (like me) “suffers” from a series of mental afflictions – namely sleep paralysis, hallucinations, astral projection and vivid dreams. In “Delwyn of the Realms” (Book 1), we follow Delwyn through a mirror portal to the realm of dreams (known as Onesol). There, she has to face her Shadow in order to properly integrate – in preparation for becoming a “Portal Stormer” (Book 2).

In the second book, Delwyn escapes into the “Realms” – where she meets her fellow Portal Stormers and discovers that she has to face her Last Sorrow in the hellish realm of Nidar. After being initiated as a fully fledged Portal Stormer, she and her troops have to learn how to shapeshift, in “Totem Shift” (Book 3). This is where Delwyn and the Portal Stormers go on their ultimate mission, to secretly infiltrate the realm of animal spirits (known as Erankorun), so that they can persuade the Ural to join with the other realms. A united front is needed to face the Founders – who are coming to destroy the realms (our galaxy – known as Kendanerum).

In most cases, fantasy and science fiction stories are set in physical realms, whether past, present or future. They can also be alternate or parallel worlds, on other planets as well as earth. They are sometimes slotted into fantasy genres such as slipstream, portal, epic and so on. The bottom line is that they are actual/physical places, or at least – if they are “imaginary” or unreal – it’s an aberration and the resolution is usually dealing with hallucinations, dreams  and alternate realities.

I found it difficult to define the fact that my stories were set in the “inner” realms, which are usually mental or spiritual places considered non-physical. Sure, there have been many stories set in the dream world or imaginary places – such as hell, heaven, etc. The difference with the Storming Archives is that – on the one hand – the realms/worlds involved are usually considered imaginary, but on the other hand, they can be visited by a chosen few, in physical form.

This might not be a stretch for some people. To give you an idea, here’s my “map” of Kendanerum:

Kendanerum

Here’s a legend or key to the realms in Kendanerum:

  • Onesol is the dream world – the realm of the Collective Unconscious
  • Alusol is the realm of hallucinations – where visions and inspiration come from
  • Meditar is the realm of meditation – a place for contemplation and revelation
  • Akasha is the realm of Karma – the Hall of records and hub for transit to the Seven Heavens
  • Nidar is the Underworld – once the source of Dark Matter; now a hellish realm of retribution
  • The Seven Heavens is just that – where good souls cycle through on their way to Nirvana
  • Erankorun is the realm of animal spirits – a safe haven (heaven) for animals
  • Aletheia (Earth) is the material realm – where Aletheians (humans) reside

Only those, like Delwyn – who have the ability to traverse all realms (given her mental “afflictions”) – are allowed to visit these worlds in physical form.

I’ve drawn on my own experiences, as well as inspiration from surrealism (literature, art, music). What I’ve found quite annoying, is that the majority of novels being produced (traditional or self-published) rely heavily on the aspect of romance and/or sex when it comes to selling their stories.

Of course, we all know that sex sells, but I consider myself very altruistic when it comes to telling (and reading) a good story. What I mean by this is, I don’t feel that every bloody story has to have a romantic vein running through it. I’m probably setting myself up for ridicule – but there’s more to life than finding your soulmate or electrifying sex! I understand completely that the majority of humans are drawn to sex and romance. It’s not like I didn’t include a romantic interest – and sex – in the Storming Archives. It’s just not the main focus.

Not wanting to boast, as a side note – I have my soulmate and good sex – so I don’t have a burning desire to live out a fantasy in order to make up for something I don’t lack. Having said that, I totally enjoy good erotica and a story that involves romance, blah blah blah. It’s just frustrating to feel the need to promote my work along those lines.

I will say – that hasn’t been my only problem with getting more sales. I am a complete novice when it comes to promoting and marketing. I hate Facebook, so there’s that – but I do my best on platforms such as Twitter, Google+ and here on WordPress, to name a few.

I purchased a Snowball microphone, for the purpose of recording an audiobook. I’ve been practicing, so we’ll see how that goes. I’ve also entered a short story (unrelated to the Storming Archives) – in the Neoverse Short Story competition. Winners will be announced on 1/15/16. (Fingers crossed!)

I loathe the idea of “buying” followers, so I have that against me too. I am still learning about other formats and procedures – which I will be incorporating in my promoting and marketing plans for 2016. (Such as book blog tours, readings, more radio interviews, Youtube videos and slideshows, better advertising, etc.)

I utilize Hootsuite and Crowdfire, as well as giveaways and campaigns on Goodreads and Amazon. I also have profiles on Shelfari, Bookbuzzr, Mythic Scribes and many others I’ve probably neglected or forgotten about. It’s just so daunting, time-consuming and frustrating – to say the least. (Especially if you’re working full time and running a household, on top of that.)

I don’t mean to piss and moan. I understand that, even if traditionally published – I’d still have to do a lot of the legwork myself. The thing I’ve discovered is, it doesn’t matter if you’re using services you have to pay for (who promise the earth!) or whether they’re free. You have to find the nerve and strike while the iron’s hot.

The daunting thing (whether self-published or not) is that there are millions of other authors scrambling just like I am. It feels like being a tiny, insignificant drop in a ferocious tempest – inside an endless teapot. When I’m “spruiking” on Twitter etc – I get the image of myself clamoring over a sea of bodies. Most of us are drowning – occasionally reaching out and waving frantically – only to be absorbed by the teeming throng. (Melodramatic piss-ant that I am!)

The things I know I have to do better with include:

  • Finding and targeting my audience (who and where in the hell are they? I’m not asking – I know now – and it’s great to finally have the time to focus on this.)
  • Flowing on from the above – engaging my readers and keeping them engaged (*sigh*)
  • Creating meaningful giveaways and prizes to “lure” my audience.
  • Swallowing my pride and side-stepping my altruistic tendencies (to a degree. I don’t want to have to “sell my soul”.)
  • Doing away with frittering away resources and money where it is not doing me or my books any good.
  • Being more intuitive in regards to trends.
  • Getting more reviews!!!!!
  • Dealing with my shyness and learning how to believe in myself and my work (Lordy, I’m trying!)
  • Being more open about constructive criticism – but at the same time – knowing how to sort the wheat from the chaff (as I have received some hair-brained feedback and even personal attacks!)
  • Entering more writing competitions
  • Figuring out what else I have to do to – working smarter AND harder!

Having the time to organize and execute a solid marketing plan is key. After 1/4/16 I’ll have no excuse! Even though I’m doing some freelance work to make my own money (as I’m not one of those women who like to ask their husbands for a handout) – I have structured my “routine” to include time every day for my own writing.

Robert (my husband) said something totally sweet the other night, after I advised my plans re: housework, cooking and errands (just to reiterate that I would keep it all together).

He said, “I do not want you to turn your back on your creative urges just to do the dishes or laundry. If you feel the flow – let it out and focus on your writing. I’m working less hours for more money now and I’m quite happy to pick up the slack, if it means that you get to produce solid work. Do not allow the mundane to thwart your creativity!”

How’s that for romance?!