writers

The self publishing tornado

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Am I the only one who finds the whole self publishing thing  a bit of a hassle?

No, I can’t be the only one. I refuse to believe no one else feels this way. There has to be more people out there like me.

I’ve only been self publishing since 2011 so I’m a relative noob to this whole thing, but even in the time I’ve been doing it, I’ve noticed the whole thing become less of a joy and more of a chore. I’m talking about publishing here, not writing. That’s a whole different thing.

When I published my first novel, Redemption, back in October 2011, it was exciting to go through the whole process and come out the other end feeling like I was finally a ‘Writer.’ Now though, it feels like I’m walking into a black cloud that will eat me up, throw me around a bit and chuck me out miles from where I started and nowhere near where I wanted to be.

Advertising is a constant source of anguish. The hassle of actually finding effective advertising/promo space that doesn’t cost a fortune aside, the sheer volume of other authors all screaming their heads off about their books is enough to make anyone feel as though you’re trying to swim upstream. What readers must feel when trying to find a book to buy, I dread to think. There are those who react to this feeling of being overwhelmed by resorting to nasty practices to try and give themselves a leg up and although we all know it goes on, no one seems to be tackling it effectively. Is it even possible to tackle it effectively? Has anyone tried just telling them that it’s not a competition? There really is room for everyone’s book out there.

There are many who, when faced with yet another day of trying to get our name out there, look at the enormity of the task and think, “oh fuck, I’m wasting my time here.” Many days dawn finding me amongst them. On such days I go and do something else, hoping that with some time spent doing other things, the spark for the fight will return to me. I’m still waiting.

The lack of any feeling of ‘community’ among the author crowd doesn’t help either. Although they always declare themselves to be willing to help out and encourage other authors, try finding a comment by one of them on your blog or facebook author page. Try finding them among attendees at your giveaway event. Try finding them having bought your book. Try finding them having reviewed it. Yes of course there will be one or two lovely folks who genuinely care and try to help and we all give thanks for them, but there really are only one or two.

Self publishing today is something of an all-in wrestling match without a referee. It’s a dog eat dog world when you’re a self publisher, and you must be always on your guard or you’ll find someone chewing on your ankles. The lack of any real legislation is partly to blame, in my humble opinion, as is Amazon’s well known and continuing dirty tricks campaign, (that itself is a blog for another day). We all know that to get ahead, we must fight our way to the sunlight like creepers in the jungle, and just like them, the most successful are the strangler vines.

If like me you’re not the confrontational type, you will struggle as I struggle. I do not have the energy or drive to fight with other authors who are all convinced that it is imperative Merita King be kept out of the limelight as much as possible in order for the Earth to continue to revolve. Dramatic perhaps but you get my meaning here? Everyone is fighting everyone else and I’m not a fighter. Not because I don’t care about my work, I do, but because I’m not that desperate. It would be lovely to make money from writing, but that is not why I write. I think that is the difference between those who screech the loudest and those who don’t screech at all. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you which is which.

I’m like that seed that stays underground for years waiting for sunlight to hit the ground. When it does, the seed sprouts quickly and reaches for the sky. I’m just hoping that while I’m underground, writing and quietly self publishing, the sunlight hits my bit of earth before I shuffle off this mortal coil, never to return. I’ll be happy to bet my life savings that I’m one of those authors who will be extremely famous – fifty years after they’re dead!

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Good business practice for those connected with writers and writing

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The writing world does not consist solely of writers.  There are many peripheral trades connected with writing, such as editing, covert art, promotion, marketing etc, and this means that if you are either a writer, or someone in one of these peripheral trades, you will at some point be working with someone else in the business in some capacity.  If you’re a writer/author, you might want to hire an editor, a cover artist, a marketing consultant or some other expert to help you.  Similarly, if you’re in one of these peripheral trades, you will be trying to sell yourself to writers/authors in the hope that they will hire you.

Once you get to the point of working with another person, whether for money or some other form of remuneration (experience or portfolio etc), you really should be putting certain good business practices into effect.  Many don’t, and as far as I’m concerned, it is unacceptable and inexcusable.  There are so many people out there all trying to sell their service, it’s no hardship to turn you down and look elsewhere if you don’t come up to par with basic good business practices.

If you’re working for an author, even if it’s to increase your experience, expand your portfolio, for a review, rather than money, you owe them a certain standard of behaviour.  Here are two of the most often overlooked things.

Remember you’re working for them, not the other way around.

If you’re an editor, marketing consultant, cover artist, proof reader etc, the writer/author is your customer and you should be grateful they have decided to ask you for a service thousands of others also offer.  Never act as if you’re doing them a favour by agreeing to work for/with them, there are many others doing what you do.

Keep in touch with them often or lose their business.

This is a big bugbear of mine.  If you agree to work for an author, then you owe them regular updates.  It simply is not good enough to agree to the work, and then not get in touch for weeks on end.  They won’t know if you’re actively working on their project, whether you’ve forgotten, gone on holiday, decided you don’t want to do it after all, or what the hell is going on, so you should tell them.  Even if you have no update to give, keep in touch just to let them know you’re still working on their project at the very least, twice a week.

I’ve had people agree to work for me, then I heard nothing for weeks, and when I finally emailed to ask what was going on, I got “oh I’m sorry, I’m too busy to do it after all.”  ARGH..!  Remember, if you behave like this, we will be only too happy to let others know of our experience working with you.

I’ve been party to many conversations with authors where the subject has been the bad business practice of one or more of these peripheral tradespeople, and it angers me to have been a victim myself.  It simply is not good enough, and despite the ethos of anonymity the internet offers us, good manners go a long way.

Write for Readers – Don’t Write for Writers

Readers and writers are two very different animals.  I know, I’ve been both, and am now just a writer.

What I mean is, as an author, you need to constantly remind yourself who you are writing for.  Hopefully, unless you’re writing ‘how to write’ books, you are writing primarily for people who love to read.  Yes, I know writers also read books, but this blog is about the difference in perception from those who write but also read, from those who read but don’t write.

The vast majority of those who read books, don’t write them, and the way they will engage with, and react to your work, is very different from the way another writer will engage with and react to it.  Your job as an author is to please those who read, not those who write.  Remember that.

Give a writer and a non writer a copy of the same book and ask them to review it.  You will get two totally different approaches.

The writer will comment on your grammar, spelling, the depth (or lack thereof) of your characters, your narrative being too wordy (or not wordy enough), plot holes and continuity errors, lack of attention to detail etc etc etc.  Whilst all this is useful to know so that you can improve your writing in the future, it’s not the be all and end all.

Those who read but don’t write will give you different feedback.  They will say how much they enjoyed it (or didn’t), whether they liked the characters or not, whether the story engaged them or bored them.  They might say how keen they are to read your next book, and they might also point out a few spelling/grammar errors if they’re obvious ones.

See the difference?

An important point to remember is that another writer will always have their editing head on, and will always notice the errors first.  As far as most authors are concerned, simply liking the story or characters is not important.  They are the ones who will say spelling and grammatical errors are deal breakers when it comes to buying a book.  Those who just read and don’t write, tend not to regard the odd spelling mistake or grammar faux pas as the end of the world, enjoying the story is paramount for them.

Another thing worth remembering is that other authors will always regard you as a rival for their customers, and many will enjoy pointing out every little mistake you made, in order to make their own work appear superior to yours, and their knowledge all the greater.  Of course I know not all are so calculating, but many are.  I see so many authors wanting the approval of other writers before they feel worthy of self publishing, and seldom do they realise or remember that it is readers they’re after, and most readers don’t write books.

Of course you should make sure your work is as free from errors as possible, that goes without saying, (or it should), but it’s not more important than creating a story and characters that people will enjoy.  Your first concern is what readers want and stuff other authors’ opinions.

I also see authors spending a lot of time networking on social media with other authors, and I must admit that the vast majority of my twitter followers are other authors.  I fail to understand why they think networking with me is going to help them sell their books, as I’ve no intention of buying 99.9% of them, but still they add me in droves every day.  It is getting difficult to find ordinary readers on social media now, and all of my attempts to find them on twitter have failed.  I have to assume that those who read but don’t write, aren’t on twitter.

It is not important that other authors like you or your work, other than the exchanging of information that does sometimes take place between writers.  Tips on formatting, marketing strategies, the best software for making video trailers and other nuts and bolts stuff is useful, but don’t waste time trying to impress them with your work.  They will never will impressed until you are famous for your writing and they are still trying to make it.  Then they’ll be all over you like a cheap suit.

I’m not trying to put authors against each other, but I am trying to explain perspective.  So many  authors (myself included) have become despondent because other authors don’t seem too impressed with their work, but it is not other authors who will buy it.  Authors will happily review your work, if you give them a free copy, but they don’t often buy it.  Again, I know there are a few who do, so no hate mail please.

99.9% of the population don’t write books and never will, and it is those people whose opinions matter most, those people you should aim to please and those whose affections you should be courting – if you can find them.

But that’s a whole other problem.

New guest blog post

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I was honoured to be asked to do a guest blog post by Steven Ramirez on his blog, The Glass Highway.  I chose to write about world building for space opera writers, a huge subject but great fun.

Click here to read my guest blog post – World Building for Space Opera Writers.

I hope you enjoy the blog.

 

Facebook Fan Pages – heralding the imminent exodus

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed something troubling going on over at facebook.  I have my own personal page there (doesn’t everyone?) but also a fan page for my books and I’ve taken the trouble to trawl for fans and managed to achieve a none too shabby 447 fans.  Like a lot of people I felt it would be a more professional way to present my books and writing without the personal stuff that goes on at my personal page.

Several weeks ago those of us with facebook fan pages noticed an innocuous little thing at the bottom of everything we posted which at first we ignored until the truth of its function made us sit up and scream WTF..?  At the bottom of each post it says “seen by” and then a number.

This tells you how many of your fans actually saw this post, and it’s never anywhere near the number of fans you actually have.  As I say above, I have 447 fans on my facebook fan page, but my posts usually get “seen by” no more than 30 or 40.  In order to ensure your post is seen by all of your fans you have to – yeah you’ve guessed it – pay..!  Facebook charges $10 to ensure your post is seen by up to 3000 fans and that cost is PER POST, not a once in a lifetime thing.

There is a way around it and it’s very simple to do.  All you have to do is hover your mouse over the ‘Like’ button and wait for the drop down box.  Then click on ‘add to interests lists’ and voila, all of that page’s posts will be visible to you.  I’ve been posting this information for ages now, and so have a lot of other fan page owners but the problem is that no one can be bothered to take the 5 seconds to actually do it.  This is what fucks me off more than anything, more than facebook expecting us to pay.  The simple truth that people are too selfish and lazy to take 5 seconds to ensure they can see your posts, dismays and troubles me but doesn’t surprise me.    People are selfish and book people are notorious in their lack of desire to help out other authors.  They’re violently competitive, which I find, well frankly rather uncouth.

This makes the recent trend for facebook ‘like parties’ rather redundant now.  What’s the use of having thousands of fans if only 50 of them see your posts?  This also makes fan pages themselves almost redundant because there’s no way people are going to be persuaded to actually give those 5 seconds to click on the add to interests button unless you pay them.  With this rather sad realisation comes a decision – I’m giving up my facebook fan page.

I simply cannot see the point in maintaining the page when only 20 to 30 people will see my effort and rest just can’t be fucked.

Yes I’m annoyed.  I’m constantly amazed and annoyed at people’s capacity to be unhelpful, insincere, greedy, snooty and selfish.  So I’ve decided that since people don’t have the intelligence to be led by my example of helpfulness and giving, I’m going to do exactly what they do.

I spent over an hour last night ‘unliking’ every single writer’s fan page I’d taken the time and trouble to like and ‘add to interest lists’ and I shall never ‘like’ a writer’s fan page ever again.

I love writing my books and I’m good at it, better than many others I’ve seen and read and I will always write.  I love writing, it’s writers I hate..!