Let the NaNoWriMo Madness Begin!

Shield-Nano-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiRes

When I was a boy… Ok, I’m kidding. But, when I started writing this post, it occurred to me that it was that kind of story. Anyway, back when I first heard about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated) in 2006, it was still in its fledgling state (launched in 1999, it was still fairly small back then). I heard about it and jumped on board with a ton of enthusiasm, as most do at first. Then I realized just how hard the task is. 1666 words a day for 30 days during the month of November. Yeah. It’s no small task. I won once… and that was working at breakneck speed to crank out 20,000 words in the last week alone.

Nowadays, NaNo has grown in notoriety. This year, according to the website, more than 400,000 writers will participate. And, with the enthusiasm comes the naysayers.

“You shouldn’t be trying to write a novel that quickly.”

“What good can it be in that short a time?”

“It’s a gimmick and real writers would never participate.”

I disagree for the most part with all of the naysayers. Anything that gets people to write is a good thing in my book (pun intended). Is this a pace you should keep up? Sure! If you can! I’d love to be able to crank out 1666 a day! Especially at the first-draft stage, which is what NaNo is really all about. You’re goal isn’t to write a polished/finished novel in a month. You’re cranking out 50,000 words of a first draft. You’re putting words to paper with the expectation that what you’re creating will need significant revisions… in December… and January… and February. First drafts are supposed to be crap! But, how great will it be to have a completed (or near completed) first draft at the end of the month!?

So, if you’re taking part, good luck. Have fun. Bond with your fellow WriMos. Learn as much as you can about your writing and the writing process. Crank out the best crappy first draft you possibly can. Keep your expectations low. Put words on the page and don’t worry about revising. There’ll be plenty of time for that.

Not taking part? Do your writer friends who are participating a favor. Don’t mock their intentions. Cheer them on! Let their milestones fuel your own writing endeavors. Be happy that they are writing! Will their NaNoWriMo book become a novel? Who knows? In today’s age of self-publishing, I’d never dare to say no. With the right editing, anyone can publish their work. Don’t rain on anyone’s parade.

As a last point, rushing to write a novel may be fun, but it shouldn’t make you think that you can rush the important parts. Revision, editing, proofing, beta reading, more revision, etc. Use NaNo to get the foundation, but don’t slap up paper walls and call it a house. 😉

Have you done NaNoWriMo in the past? What’s you best advice for finishing? Let us know in the comments section and thanks for stopping by.

Even My 8-year-old Suffers From Writer’s Block

WritersBlock

I got an email the other day from my son’s teacher. My initial reaction was “Uh-oh.” He’s a generally sweet boy and he’s super smart, so it’s rare that I get notes home. But, being a smart kid means that when he does get in “trouble,” it can be a doozie. So, it was a bit surprising and strangely relieving that this was in response to an academic issue. He, along with the rest of the class, had been given a writing prompt and asked to write for 30 minutes about a favorite memory. After 30 minutes, my son had written absolutely nothing.

While my son is like me in many ways, writing has never been one of his strong suits, especially under pressure. He’s got a fair imagination and can tell a pretty good story when he wants to, but putting words on the page has been an issue we’ve had to deal with in the past. The teacher was mainly concerned because this was a pre-test for the real thing, which was being administered for the state. So, yeah… kinda important. When I picked him up that evening, I asked him about it, which caused instant anxiety (another one of his father’s traits he, unfortunately, inherited). I tried to calm him by letting him know that I wasn’t angry. In fact, I knew exactly what he was going through. But, the fact remained that, next time, he had to show effort.

“You couldn’t think of a favorite memory?”

“I didn’t have enough time!”

“You had as much time as the other kids.”

[whimpers]

“Didn’t we just go to Disney? You couldn’t write about that?”

“I could have, but I just didn’t know how to start!”

And there it was. My son had just landed on the same problem millions of writers face every day. He didn’t know what words to put on the page, got upset by the fact that he couldn’t put words on the page, which then made it even harder to put words on the page.

“So, what are you going to do next time?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’re going to write down the first thing that comes to your mind. Whatever it is. Just write it down. Then follow that with some more words. Just make an effort, ok? You have to show that you tried.”

And, it is both that easy and that hard, right? We come up with a ton of excuses to not write, but often the solution is just writing down what’s on our mind. What part of the story is teasing you? Write it down! Don’t worry about how you’re going to get there, just write down the part that’s in your head at this very moment. Make that effort every day and the story will eventually come out. You’ll figure out the bits in between. Whether you’re writing 100 or 1000 words a day, at least you’re trying and moving forward.

Have writer’s block? Have a great solution for writer’s block? Let us know in the comments section. Thanks for stopping by!

Why Do Some Books Sell Themselves? 3 Possible Factors

Shut-up-and-take-my-money

Authors dream of readers like you… 🙂

Whenever discussing a marketing plan for self-published books, I make a point of saying, “Books don’t sell themselves.” You have to get it out there in front of readers. You have to be willing to spend money in order to make money. But, some books seem to need little more than a nudge and they’re off to the races. And, why is that? Case in point, my third self-published book (and, technically, first by me). It’s not breaking records by any means, but it’s the first book I’ve put out that manages to sell 1-2 copies a day with little (I ran a small ad back in mid-September) to no marketing on my part. Compare this to my other novels, which are adult suspense/thrillers, and could collect a ton of dust (and have!) if I didn’t promote them on a regular basis. So, what are some factors that might affect this? Let’s take a look at just a few possibilities.

1. Quality of the writing – Truly bad writing won’t sell. I don’t care how much you promote it. I’d like to think that, while my writing is far from perfect, it’s at least good enough to entertain readers. And, to me, that’s one of the most important qualities to have.

2. Genre – Let’s face it. Some genres just sell better than others. I personally know a few people who churn through 5-6 erotica or romance novels a month. And those types of readers are often not picky about who they read next or who published them. They’re just looking for a good, well-written story. Romance sells. Self-published romance sells and competes very well with the top traditionally published authors. In fact, I’d argue that you can’t find the same level of competition in other genres, but that’s just my unscientific opinion. If you write erotica, I envy you. If you write good erotica at a high rate of speed, you can be a money-making machine. Honestly. They’re out there.

3. Topic/Category – So, you’ve got a well-written story in a genre that should be selling, but still no luck? Well, maybe rollerskating detective nuns aren’t everybody’s thing. Seriously, though. Maybe you’re topic is too niche. Or, is your story so mainstream that it looks like everything else in its category? This “factor” could go both ways. If your story is too different, you may find that new readers won’t take a chance on it. But, if your story is too similar to every other book in its category, you may find yourself competing with the big boys (and girls).

So, why does Danny Dirks sell with little to no promotion (in multiples countries, mind you)? Well, I think it gets help from all 3 of these factors. I think it’s well written, it’s a YA fantasy with dragons, and there isn’t a ton of competition in the “Arthurian” category (apparently). Even at a high ranking (see example below), it still graces the top 100 of 3 sub-categories.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,371 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#44 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian
#46 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks > Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths > Collections
#64 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian

What do you think are some other key factors that might make a book “sell itself”? Let us know in the comments and thanks for stopping by!

Kindle Scout

KindleScout

Planning on publishing your Romance, Mystery, Thriller, Science Fiction, or Fantasy novel with Amazon soon? Not in a rush? Well, you might want to consider submitting to Kindle Scout. Amazon’s new crowd-sourced publishing arm has put out a call for work. Check out the home page and eligibility requirements.

Per the site,

If we select your book for publication, you will be entitled to a $1,500 advance and royalties on net revenues at a rate of 50% for eBooks, 25% for audio editions and 20% for translations.

If you do not earn at least $25,000 during any 5-year term, you’ll have six months after the end of that 5-year period in which you can choose to stop publishing with us and request your rights back.

Be sure to read the fine print before you submit. Another way Amazon is trying to become the publisher of choice. They are certainly dangling another carrot here.

UPDATE (11/4/14): The reader portion of Kindle Scout is now active and you may nominate books for selection. Having seen some of the choices, I wonder if Amazon might help authors with their covers prior to publication. Some are pretty awful. :-/

What do you think? Would you/will you submit? Let us know in the comments and thanks for stopping by!

Observations from a Book Fair

 

BelmarBookConBooth

I took this before I had my standing banner up (wind was an issue), but now I think I have to get some book stands… yep. Looks too flat. :-/

I did a book show on Sunday for the first time in what seems like a long time, though it was really just last year. I’ve done several shows since first publishing in 2011 and I was a little bit excited for this one. With doing physical shows, it can help to have a short-term memory. That isn’t to say you should forget what worked and what didn’t, but you should be able to go into it with a fresh attitude. It’s probably why I don’t do more than a couple of shows a year.

I sold 6 books in 6 hours. Three to one person. It’s actually as good as I’ve ever done at this kind of event. Now you see the need for the short term memory. Shows aren’t (typically) money-making events. They’re face-time events.

I considered the day a success, but not just for the sales (which did help me break even for the costs), but the simple fact of getting out and talking to readers and fellow writers. I spoke with many people, gave out a lot of business cards, and chatted with my booth neighbor, horror/sci-fi/paranormal author K. Edwin Fritz. It was a beautiful day and we had some laughs and shared stories about writing and publishing. We each had some sales and chatted about best marketing practices both in person and online. It was refreshing.

As it turned out, the town of Belmar was also having an Octoberfest that day. There was great foot traffic, but the most common thing I heard was, “I didn’t know this was going to be here today!” So, lots of foot traffic, but little in the way of book buying traffic. There were about 25 spaces, but only 20 authors showed, which was fine. They also tried doing panels and readings but, apparently, they didn’t realize there was going to be a live band right in front of the square where we were set up. Hey, it was their first time doing this, so things like that will happen.

I’ve got one more scheduled book-selling event this year, in November. And, while at this show, I was approached to speak at the New Jersey Speculative Fiction Writers monthly meeting next year. Looking forward to that opportunity. I’m also looking forward to doing a few more shows next year. This was my first with more than one paperback. With luck, I might have a fourth this time next year. I’m convinced that having more books helps to sell more books. It helps if they’re good as well.

If you’re doing a show soon, or considering doing a show, I wish you the best of luck. It’s often what you make of the experience that makes the event successful or not.

Author Milestones

As indie authors, we tend to celebrate each milestone, no matter how insignificant it might seem to everyone else. Finishing our first novel. Publishing our first novel. Making our first sale. Making our first sale to a complete stranger. Once you’ve cleared those initial goals, the milestones tend to become a little more personal. Finishing book 2. Reaching X sales. Finishing your first series/trilogy. Some seem more daunting than others. And often, we look at other authors and think, “Jeez! They’re so far ahead of me!” It may be true, but you can only do what you are capable of. And half the trick is to just keep your head down and move forward.

I’ve been self published since 2011. I had one book (Multiples of Six by Andy Rane) for a very long time (June 2011 to December 2013) and even went a solid year where I sold only 36 copies (May of 2012 to May of 2013). Take it from me, having one book out (part of a supposed series no less!) will get you nowhere fast. But, over the years, sales came through various promotions and I crossed the 1000 paid sales mark in June of 2013. When I finally released that book’s sequel last December, I had high hopes of moving more books. Well, it’s been 9 months, a few more releases, and with a little… ok, a lot of help from a BookBub ad, I can say I’ve made some headway.

It’s important to set goals for yourself and celebrate when you reach them. You don’t have to throw a party. Just pat yourself on the back and recognize that you’ve accomplished something, whether it’s a daily writing goal or a yearly sales milestone. Share it among your friends, family, and interested colleagues. It’s not boasting. It’s about sharing the journey. It’s about letting others out there, who might be at the starting line, know that this is a path where even no-name authors (like myself) can find a level of success.

With the help of the recent ad, I crossed the 2750 paid sales mark (over 3 novels and 1 novella and two author names). Yay me! It might be a pittance to some, but I remember when it seemed an unthinkable goal. It’s not. If I can do it, so can you. Am I successful? I haven’t reached that point. The day I can sit back and watch my books sell themselves with little to no marketing necessary, then I’ll consider myself a success. But, I’m certainly pleased with where I now am. I look forward to writing more stories and sharing my continuing journey in this great adventure. I hope you all may find a level of success you can be proud of and celebrate in everything that you do.

Did you reach a milestone lately?! Share it in the comments! 😀

 

Amazon Sweetens the Select Deal

But are they just making the rich, richer?

If you haven’t seen this post from Amazon about the new Select All-Stars program, I suggest you head over and take a look, especially if your books are in KDP Select. Essentially, Amazon needed an additional $2.7 million (on top of the standard $2 million), just to get August’s KU/KOLL borrows payout to $1.54. They had to more than double the pot, and it still came out almost $0.50 below the average for the last two years!

In addition, they’ve installed an All-Star program for the Top 100 books and authors per month who are in the Select program. The numbers look amazing, but when it comes down to it, Amazon is simply rewarding those who are already successful. And, if these top authors are then further thrust into additional spotlight, what chance does it give to anyone else wanting to break into the top? Are they just making it better for those who already have it good?

As always, the folks over at kboards are already heatedly debating the possible issues. 😉

What do you think? Good for the author or bad for the author?

Me? On TV? Sure, why not? Take 4!?

So, if you’ve followed along with my Me? On Tv? Sure, why not? series of posts, you know that I’ve been involved in a local TV show production that’s delving into the various aspects of self publishing. If you haven’t followed along, I’ll give you a few minutes to peruse the older posts (Take 1, Take 2, Take 3). It’s ok, we’ll wait…

Wow, you’re slow! Anyway, just an update to let you know that there’s a website (unfinished), Twitter page, YouTube page, and Facebook page. I think there will be a lot of cool content, whether you’re new to self publishing, or a seasoned vet. While the first episode doesn’t premier until October, you can get a feel for what the first episode will include and get a glimpse of me with a funny, mid-speech, look on my face (or see below). None of the videos are live just yet, so you’ll just have to wait… like the rest of us… to see me in all of my small screen glory… looking awkward and pretending to have a clue about what I’m talking about. 😉

MeOnTV