More Challenges Faced by Indie Authors

ChallengesThis is the second in a series of posts centered on the challenges faced by indie authors as we try to compete in the vast ocean of competitors/cohorts that is filled with sharks and other predators. Here are more that I’ve come up with to get you thinking and to foster a discussion:

bad reputation speedometer illustration designThe Stigma of Self-Publishing

I refrain from calling what we do self-publishing. I am an independent author. My publisher is Amazon. Instead of having services provided to me by a traditional publisher, I outsource them to providers that fit within my budget and style.

I recall trying to join a local author group and being refused because I was “one of those self-publishers”. Truth be told, I had essentially published more books than the total of all of the authors in the group. Many of them were waiting for some big publisher to say yes. Of those that had been “fortunate” enough to land a publishing deal, my sales were much higher then any of them. The reviews I’ve received for my books were also very positive.

Yet, despite my “writing resume”, I was snobbishly turned away for being an indie.

So, what is the root cause of this stigma? Books published by indie authors range in quality from poorly constructed pamphlets and short books to masterpieces that stand together with any traditionally published author. The differentiation, besides stories that appeal to the masses, is often the quality of the work.

You’ve seen me repeatedly post on the benefit of having an editor, quality book cover, good formatting and other items that improve the overall professionalism of indie author books. These things are not free. If your book is traditionally published, you might think these services are fee, but they are not. They are deducted from the profit you might otherwise realize on your book. The results of these services are also usually beyond the total control of the author. In the indie publishing world, you control everything. This is one of the best and worst aspects of being an indie.

Cheap Vs Expensive See Saw Balance Comparing Prices CostsIt’s Cheaper, Right? Right?

If you landed on self-publishing thinking you can save money by editing yourself, creating your own book cover, and recording your own audiobook, well, you can.

You just might not sell many books (see the previous section on the stigma). You could be an English major with an impeccable understanding of every nuance of grammar and punctuation. You’ll probably make a great editor…of someone else’s books. There is scientific proof that when you read through something that you wrote, your brain will subconsciously skip over errors that are blatantly obvious to someone else looking it over.

A second set of eyes (and maybe a third, fourth and fifth) is an essential part of producing an independent work. Don’t trust yourself to edit. You will miss something.

If you insist, however, (I can see some of you rolling your eyes) put the manuscript aside for a couple of months without looking at it. When you read it, it will seem fresh to you and you may (emphasis on may) find the majority of your mistakes.

As for your cover, unless you are adept with programs like Adobe Photoshop and/or Illustrator, I would leave this to an outsourced expert. You can find experts in graphic design lining up to create an excellent cover for you on services like fiverr.com, experteer.com and freelancer.com. I’ve had good luck with these services. I’m especially proud of the latest cover for my book, Extra Innings. The cover designer hit my vision dead on.

If you create your cover on your own using the KDP tool from Amazon or your own software, be prepared to have your book skipped over. I’ve been able to have a great quality cover designed for under $50 for my books.

Am I Good Enough Question Speech Bubbles AdequacyAm I good enough to be published?

My initial answer to this is, who cares. Are people reading your books? Are you getting reviews and useful feedback? Do you feel good about what you produce?

If you can answer ‘Yes’ to these questions, then I invite you to say ‘who cares’. The myth that only published authors are successful depends on how you measure success. If you made more than you spent, you are ahead of the game. Sure, traditionally published authors get advances (sometimes). Those advances, however, are not very large for most authors and aren’t earned until enough books sell to cover them. After the advance is covered, authors typically make 10-15% of the book’s cover price in royalties. If you sell a $20 book, you make $2-3. I’m no genius, but if I sell a $20 book on Amazon as an indie publisher, I make $14.

You might counter with, “I’m not going to sell that many books on Amazon as an indie published author.” Well, with that attitude, your not. Is there a magic formula for selling a million books. Not really, but it has happened for indie published authors.

Have you ever heard of Hugh Howie, Andy Weir or Mark Dawson. They are just three example of indie authors that have hit it big, really big. They are also some of the most generous in terms of passing along tactics that worked in their own success. Mark even has a podcast designed to help indie authors and a series of courses on marketing that are intricate and extremely useful.

The chance of success is out there for indie authors. You have to be in the right situation at the right time with the right book…pretty much like traditional publishing…except the potential rewards are much higher.

I hope this post generates some discussion. Share what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for you. If any of you have done both the traditional and indie routes, I’d love to hear your stories.

 

 

The Top Myths Of Self Publishing – From The Uncensored Writer Blog

While I’ve been writing about publishing a lot lately, I feel like there is still one last thing that needs to be addressed before I wrap up my thoughts on the whole thing.

When you say the words “indie author” or “Self-Published author” to someone, you can almost see the judgemental preconceived notions flash across their eyes. It isn’t their fault though. We’re all human, and we all have our own set of beliefs that informs the way we view the world. It’s not as much our own fault as it is the circumstances that shaped us as people.

The only things we can do to combat these negative judgements are to give the facts and to point out the myths. I feel like I’ve adequately done the former, but what about the latter?

Today’s post will focus on all the myths around Self-Publishing and just how ridiculous some of them are.

Let’s jump straight in!

via The Top Myths Of Self Publishing

Book Review – The Experimental Notebook of C.S. Boyack

 

csb1

Goodreads Blurb:

A speculative fiction selection of micro-fiction and short stories. These were designed to be short reads for your commute, coffee break, and other times when readers are pressed for time. This book contains a bit of science fiction, some fantasy, and paranormal stories.

My Review:

I am a huge fan of short stories, both creating and reading them. The problem is, not many writers do them well. Stephen King has published several collections and even his stories are sometimes hit and miss.

This is not the case with C.S. Boyack. In his Experimental Notebook he scores with one great story after another. Many of them have a pattern of reeling the reader in and then leaving you breathless with a surprise ending. From the very first story, Jack O’ Lantern, to gems like The 50 Gallon Drum, Boyack sets up the reader and then delivers some surprise that leaves you smiling.

For anyone who enjoys short stories, this book is a must. One bit of false advertising appears in the Goodreads blurb. The author states that the book was designed to provide short reads. I stayed awake in my hotel room telling myself, “just one more” until I had finished the book and then downloaded the second one.

I highly recommend this book and will be reading more by this author. He shows a depth and breadth to his writing seldom found in the indie author community. Please give his stories a try and spread the word like wildfire.

 

Indie authors, do you read work by other indie authors?

Over the past two years, I have done book reviews sporadically on my blog. Mostly the reviews were for detective/mystery novels by well-known authors. As an indie author, I avoided reading work by other indie authors. I made some exceptions early on reading books by Nicholas Rossis and my good high school friend Nick Davis. Both of those reading experiences were positive.

Lately, I read works by John Howell, an author and blogger well known to many of you. I enjoyed reading his work and I believe the reviews I posted resulted in some positive exposure for John.

This led me to approaching the reading of work by indie authors in a different light. I’m going to continue to read and review work by indie authors as another outlet for helping the community. I am going to lay out some ground rules, however:

  1. I will not have a set schedule for reviewing indie works
  2. I will not accept requests to review books. I want it to be spontaneous and something I continue to enjoy
  3. If a book is not at a a certain level of quality in terms of formatting, story telling, grammar, etc., I will likely not finish it and will not post a review.

I really want to continue to help indie authors and I think posting negative reviews will defeat that purpose.

Anyway, I’m already in the process of reading an indie author’s book and will be posting a review sometime this week. Hopefully some of you who do not generally post reviews will emulate this process and pick up one of my books or another indie author that needs some exposure.

If you have thoughts on this, please let me know.

Indie Author/Publishing News

Independent Publishing Awards for New Telos Press

http://www.telospress.com/independent-publishing-awards-for-new-telos-press-books-by-ernst-junger-and-carl-schmitt/

Book Deal For What? How To Self Publish Your Book

http://www.essence.com/2016/04/07/book-deal-what-how-self-publish-your-book

A Trip Through Self-Publishing Hell

http://www.chicagonow.com/raising-hell-or-raise-them-well/2016/04/self-publishing-hell/

Published Author of Good Books for Teens Dispels Self-Publishing Myths

http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=202729

 

Hugh Howey – Hero of the Indie Author

hugh howeyIf you are an independent author and you don’t know who Hugh Howey is, you should. He recently gave an interview to Digital Book World and he doesn’t back down on his opinions about independent publishing. I hope you enjoy this interview:

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2016/dbw-interview-with-hugh-howey-author/

 

What Steps Do You Follow Leading Up To A Book Launch? – Part 1

I’m about to launch my eighth book in a month or so. As I start laying the ground work to get to that goal, I’ve been looking back on the steps that I’ve taken with each one. I want to look at what’s been successful and what hasn’t. Trial and error has been my method and I’ve tried to hang on to the things that work and that fit in to my schedule.  I’ve tried to look at where to spend some money and where I can do things on my own.

In laying these steps out for you, I’m going to separate things into what worked, what didn’t, what you should pay for, what you shouldn’t, and what order you should do these things in.

Disclaimer: These steps assume that you are an independent author (I prefer this term to self published since we are not physically printing and binding books). If you are a traditionally published author, congratulations to you. I was too old when I jumped into the writing pool and I’ve already had enough rejection to last me a lifetime, so indie-publishing was the ticket for me.

The First Draft

What do you do first? This question may not be as easily answered as you think. You’re probably thinking write the book. That may indeed be the first step. For my first book, it definitely was. I started writing it and soon began to question my sanity. Why was I spending my free time while on glamorous (not) business trips writing a book while all of my co-workers were out having fun. There were many reasons, but above all, it felt like something I should do.

The first draft was written completely longhand in notebooks. Although I would not do that again (my writing is hard to read), it was like taking a first draft and editing it when I typed it in. In this first effort, to my editor’s horror, I punctuated every bit of dialog incorrectly. I could have sworn that the period went outside of the quote.

At any rate, I turned this first manuscript over to my wife first. After 30 years of marriage, I knew she wouldn’t spare my feelings if the book sucked. To my delight, she loved it. This gave me the courage to turn the book over to a generous friend of mine who is a talented editor. She agreed to edit this first book for free (with the promise of later riches).

I highly recommend getting an editor you are comfortable with. My editor’s process is to read the manuscript as a book first and give me her impressions of things that do and don’t work. She then goes through it in iterations for punctuation, grammar and usage. These latter things have gotten better on the first pass with each book. Luckily, I have not run into any insurmountable story elements that have required a massive rewrite.

Cover Design

Traditionally, when I turn that first draft over to my editor, it’s time to get the cover design nailed down. For my first book, I designed my own cover and it looked like garbage. Check it out below: FS Book Cover

For one thing, I am not a big fan of the color yellow, and for another it doesn’t say anything about the story. When I published on Amazon with this cover, the sales didn’t exactly jump through the roof.

I decided to try out one of the freelance sites. I used Fiverr.com. This site offers all kinds of services. Of particular interest to indie authors are the book cover design, editing, and book trailer services. I was particularly lucky that I picked a cover designer for the Frank Rozzani series that really nailed it. For $50 he provided a fully editable, multi-layer .PSD cover for the print book and a front cover for the eBook.

The book is about a young girl that is kidnapped. Behind the scenes, the main character, Detective Frank Rozzani, has mob figures from his past haunting him. From this brief description, I ended up with this cover instead:

Newcover - Small

I was very pleased with it and have used this designer on every cover up until my most recent two books. He was from Pakistan and has disappeared from Fiverr. I was fairly happy with the cover of my last book, which was not one in the Frank Rozzani series. My upcoming book is, however, and I had a great deal of back and forth getting it finalized with the designer.

That’s enough for this post. In my next post on this topic, I’ll be talking about getting a book trailer completed along with getting your social media platforms ready for a new book.

Upcoming posts will talk about press releases and tricks for getting newspaper and television interviews.

Reviews Are The Lifeblood of Authors

online-reviewers

As many authors will attest, reviews are one of the most important gifts that readers can bestow upon us. Yes, buying our books is a great thing, but giving us feedback about the books that you’ve read is much more important.

When I buy products on Amazon, because I can’t see or feel the product beforehand, I relay on reviews from other people that have purchased the product to guide me in my purchase. This is true of books.

Reviews also help authors get recognition from Amazon and other venues. They help with ranking and placement in ads.

Your reviews don’t have to be essay’s. You can simply select the number of stars as a rating and leave one or two words. Of course, the more constructive feedback you give, the better it is for the author. We always want to improve our product for future readers.

Recently, I did a sale on my new book, Blood OrangeThe response was great. I’m asking now, if you took advantage of the sale and you were one of the many people that downloaded it, please leave an honest review when you’re done. I have the same plea for my other work.

Your feedback is welcome and greatly appreciated.

Writing Your First Book – Where Do You Start?

Every time I attend an author event, there is always the attempt to separate authors into the two camps of those who meticulously outline and those that write completely by the seat-of-the-pants, affectionately known as ‘pantsers’.

I sat and listened to the virtues of these two camps and decided that I am firmly planted in a third camp. I don’t outline every chapter, but I do like a road map. I consider my method more visual and less rigid than outlining, but, to continue the road map analogy, I don’t like to just get in the car and go in whatever direction the road takes me.

I do let my characters and their personalities drive within the conscripts of my loose road map, but I don’t confine them to one road. If they want to take the scenic route, I’m open to that.

So, how does this process work, I’ll try to lay it out for you the best that I can. I’m gearing this toward the writing of fiction. Non-fiction, in my opinion, works a bit differently.

Step 1 – Come Up With an Idea

Sounds easy, right. It’s not really. A good story has to have a great beginning. In this world of instant gratification and short attention spans, you’ve got to grab your reader from the beginning. I think we’d all agree that you need a good ending. Nothing is more of a letdown than investing your time in a book only to have an ending that disappoints. (Have you read The Firm).

The thing that writers struggle with the most is the middle (often called ‘the muddle’). If your book meanders off into dark corners and doesn’t recover well, you’ll lose your readers.

Make sure your idea is strong and has a strong second act.

Step 2 – The Mind Map

The mind map is a technique I’ve used in my consulting career to storyboard presentations, but it translates well to writing. It is a visual representation of your book that starts with the book title in a cloud in the middle of the picture and connected rectangles surrounding it. Each rectangle represents an idea which could be a chapter. I use one or two sentences in each rectangle to represent the main idea of the chapter. Here is a mind map that I used for my second book, Let Me Be Frank.

Mind Map - Frank 2

When I created this mind map, I left the chapter numbers off so that I would have the latitude to re-order them if needed. This mind map allows me to move into the next phase of building the novel seamlessly.

Step 3 – Set Up Your Tool of Choice

My tool of choice for writing is Scrivener. It’s an industry-standard tool and has some built in utilities that are very useful. The thing I like about it is that it emulates the old corkboard and index card method of writing about as closely as an electronic word processing tool can.

When I open up a new project in Scivener, I go right to the corkboard view and lay out my chapters just as they are in my mind map. Here is what it looks like from the same book.

cork

You’ll notice that none of my chapters have numbers. Scrivener will automatically number them based on the order that I put them in on the cork board. In this view, you can drag and drop to your hear’s content.

I usually set up my entire book before I write. Then I can drill down into the next step.

Step 4 – Set Up Scenes Within Uour Chapters

Just like the chapter view, Scrivener gives me a scene view. As I write each chapter, I set up scenes within it. The scenes usually correspond with a change in the setting. They can be long or short. A chapter can contain a single scene or many. In my view, each chapter is a self contained story, or episode, within the book. A corkboard view for a single chapter is shown below.

cork2

I don’t want this post to be a commercial for Scrivener, but it’s the tool I use and if you’re wanting something that organizes your writing better than just a straight word processor, it’s worth checking out. Like the full book view, you can rearrange the cards on the corkboard to change the order of scenes.

Step 5 – Other Visualization Methods

As I complete each chapter in the book, I like to use other tools to see if I’m on track. One tool that I have talked about in the past that is a popular social media trending tool is generating a word cloud. Word clouds count how many times a word is used in a certain context and generates a graphic with the most used words in a larger size, more prominent color, or both. I did this with one of my detective books and was pleased with the result shown below:

Frank 2 - Chapter 2

In another example, I wrote a short story about a boy named Desmond that sells his soul to an evil character named Lou to become a great jazz pianist. The result is below:

Des Cloud

There are several free Internet tools that will do this.

As for the steps that are left, they include things like:

  • Finish writing your book
  • Enlist the help of an editor
  • Fix the things the editor finds
  • Design a cover
  • Market it
  • Sell it
  • Spend your riches

Of course, I will expand on many of these in future posts. Also, I have a book with many of these tips spelled out in more detail that is available on Amazon that you can get by clicking the cover below.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00054]

I look forward to hearing from fellow authors on the steps you use. Please comment as you see fit.

Author Talk – Stormie G. Steele Ph. D.

StormToday’s interview is with Stormie G. Steele Ph. D., author of the self-help and spirituality series Life Through The Storm. 

I posed some questions to Stormie so that we could learn more about her and her books. Here is what she had to share:


DM: What are the titles and genre of the books you want to tell us about?

SS: The title of my book series is Life Through The Storm ~The Healing Journey and The Journey of Forgiveness, both are in the self-help, and spirituality genre.I will mostly speak about The Healing Journey.

DM: Can you summarize your book in one short sentence?

SS: Life Through The Storm ~The Healing Journey challenges the seeker to modify old beliefs and adapt to new found revelations that encourage the development of mind, body & soul integration – Divine entitlement!

DM: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

SS: My intended audience are those who are being challenged with the impact of abuse (any form), and how such impact misinforms personal identity and potential for living. Life Through The Storm ~The Healing Journey is a practical guide for inner healing. It was not written for one’s personal entertainment, but as a gift of counsel, for the reader, to put into practice not only as a template for healing, but also as a part of daily living – for life.

DM: How did you come up with the title?

SS: The title of my series was derived from a portion of my life’s experiences. The unexpected personal storms have truly caused a constant flow of life, thus – Life Through The Storm was born.

DM: Tell me about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?

SS: The cover art of my book was initially designed by myself and a professional using images from my sister (professional photographer). The concept, that of renewal being birthed out of turmoil seemed to work. However, I later re-worked the cover using some of the same images, along with tools from CreateSpace.

DM: What are your biggest writing influences? 

SS: Thomas Merton is absolutely one of my biggest writing influences. His writings, especially New Seeds of Contemplation inspired this private soul to open and share needed insights with others. Additionally, I admire and respect Cecil Murphey – our stories are similar. Cecil shares his personal challenges (courageously) as an incest survivor. Also, Murphey’s Unleash The Writer Within, The Essential Writer’s Companion resonated with me.

DM: How do you hope to connect with the reader of your book and why?

SS: I want the  reader  to exercise the principals that aids in inner-healing. Why? Because they too become bearers of the fruit, and vessels of light for healing.

 

DM: If you could change ONE thing about your book, what would it be?

SS: I am yet pondering that question.

DM: Can you give us a fun fact or a few about your book or series?

SS: A couple of fun facts about Life Through The Storm series, each presents a 21 day challenge/adventure towards personal empowerment. Additionally, the reader, the potential doer of the work, gets an opportunity to see themselves unfold in increments of healing that can literally redefine their lives. To me, that speaks volumes.

DM: What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike?

SS: Although there are numerous authors – Thomas Moore, Gary Zukov, Gary Chapman, etc, who write about, or touch on healing/forgiveness – I’ve not personally read other books similar to mine.

DM: Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

SS: My talents/hobbies include being a vocalist, Djembeist, drum circle facilitator, voice-over talent, and artist/photographer.

DM: What can we expect from you in the future?

SS: I am currently working on my 3rd in the series, really excited about this one, my husband (also a writer) will add an extra touch.

DM: What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?

SS: To help make Life Through The Storm series successful, readers can continue their personal healing journey, as well as, encourage family, friends, etc, especially whose experiences are similar…that healing is possible.

DM: Do you have any advice for other writers trying to get published?

SS: My advice for writers who wish to publish: Accept your personal experiences as a map that can lead to wonderful disclosures, trust what you have to offer. Never compare your works to others. While it can be quite useful acknowledging the advice and knowledge from established authors, it is essential to trust your own voice/rhythm for success. Lastly, take the time to write, and re-write as often as needed – yet, without judgement. Know the difference between critiquing and judging.

DM: Can you give us an excerpt from your book to intrigue and tantalize us?

SS: Here’s an excerpt from ~Life Through The Storm ~The Healing Journey :

The practice of forgiveness is a ritual of healthy monitoring, that of emotional, mental and spiritual influences. It is making sure that debris – via thoughts, daily living, memory, beliefs and perceptions are in alignment with insightful principals and conscious living.

Anyone of us who can attest to living a life of balance and well-being – do so with an allegiance to healthy monitoring…it is a practice. The nuances, idiosyncrasies or minor offenses from others become almost invisible when the practice of forgiveness becomes the norm.” ~Stormie Steele

About Stormie G. Steele

Stormie G. Steele is the founder of Life Through The Storm, a ministry encouraging spiritual & personal development into more than 100 countries around the world. She holds a doctorate in holistic life counseling, and recognizes The Holy Spirit as The Supreme Voice of Counsel. Stormie enjoys facilitating drum circles, and teaching. Her professional career is a tapestry of music, art, television & radio.

Website

http://www.stormiesteele.com/

Follow Stormie on Twitter

htttp://www.twitter.com/stormiegsteele

How to Find Stormie’s Wonderful Books:

Life Through The Storm Book Series

Healing Journey ecopy

The Healing Journey (print), (ebook)
 

 

 

 

 

Journey of Forgiveness ecopyThe Journey of Forgiveness (print), (ebook)

 

 

 

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