Weekly Roundup – Blast From The Past 2: A VALENTINE

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I just rediscovered this one mixed in with my early work. It’s a Valentines Day poem I wrote for my mother in 1976 – cheesy, sappy, and poorly executed. I still love to write rhyming verses but clearly poetry is not my strong point! In the next to last line you will see my mom referred to as “Moo”, and, no, it’s not a backhanded insult. While the exact origin remains buried in the mists of yesteryear, it was a term of endearment we all used for my mother. Unfortunately, Moo did leave me back in 2000. I’m still blue.

 

A Valentine

On this Valentine’s Day of ’76,

When hearts and thoughts and lovers mix,

I thought of you, ma, and what you’ve been,

Not just to me but all our kin.

 

We’ve been through a lot over all these years,

Many a problem and a bundle of tears,

But through it all we’ve learned so much,

By your lovely smile and caring touch.

 

I picture you a gentle dove,

My thoughts of you are all of love,

And if you ever leave me, Moo,

You better believe that I’ll be blue.

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I completed at least one very important task last week by gathering and combining all of my notes and ideas for Forbidden Moon. The next step is to assemble them into rough chapter divisions and then start writing – something I wanted to have begun on the 1st but was sidetracked by dragons. Yes, I said dragons. I have a short story (and beyond) idea I can’t shake, so I’ve taken a short detour to see where the concept leads. If anything comes of it, you’ll be the first to know!

Sales of Traitor’s Moon have been steady but slow and I must admit to being disappointed. This book deserves so much more! If you are a fan of Freebooksy, you will see it listed this Sunday. I expect it to do well and hope it generates interest in Expectant Moon at the same time. If you happen to pick up a copy, please be kind enough to leave a review. Many thanks!

Weekly Roundup NEW RELEASE! Traitor’s Moon

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Traitor’s Moon, book 2 in the Gladstone Shifters series, went live on Amazon as of Monday! If you’ve been following my blog, you know how long I struggled to finish the manuscript. With the help of some wonderful beta readers, the book is in great shape and I am very proud of it. It’s a shame I will be unable to market it effectively.

It’s probably safe to assume most indie authors do not enjoy the business side of writing, and marketing is a large part of the angst. It requires computer savvy, money, time, and comes with no guarantee it will work. Will readers buy the book? Will they like it? Will I recoup my expenses? Will I get some great reviews? The only way to find out is put it out there and see what happens. Scary. Risky. Discouraging. Exciting. Uplifting. Rewarding. it’s really a mixed bag.

The hard part for me is not wondering if my book is any good – I truly believe it’s a wonderful story and it represents my best work to date. The difficulty is knowing my marketing efforts will be largely ineffective in reaching my potential readers. Why? Because I lack the know-how, money, and time to do it “right” if I go by all the articles I’ve read. I’m left with doing the best I can with what I have and hope it sort of works out in the end.

So do I continue or throw in the towel? I could give up, but I’m not going to yet! I truly enjoy my writing, and over time I hope to build up enough titles to start bringing in sufficient income so I can hire a marketing professional. What if it never happens? Then I will still have a hobby I love and the pleasure of creating great stories. My dream is not to become rich or famous, simply to earn enough to quit my day job.

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As soon as the promotions for Traitor’s Moon are in place, I can get busy writing again. I wish I could crank out a book every four months, but if the pattern holds true, it will be the fall before the next manuscript is ready. Meanwhile, I have lots of great ideas simmering on the back burner.

I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker this week, after finding out he was an avid reader. I don’t know him very well yet, and I had him pegged as the kind of guy who loves nothing better than to park himself in front of the television and watch sports – preferably with a can of beer handy. It was a pleasure to find out I was wrong, and he thought my assumptions were amusing. I told him he was like an onion and I was just now learning things as the layers are peeled away. I enjoy the instant connection with people who love to read – even virtual strangers!

Just a reminder – both books in the Gladstone Shifters series will be on/off sale over the next several weeks, so check my website or book listing on Amazon if you want a good deal.

Weekly Roundup 12-19-18 Becoming a Full Time Author

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Some months ago I saved a post entitled “What It Takes To Go Full-Time As An Indie Author”. Unfortunately, the post is now “marked private by the owner” so I can’t tell you who wrote it. The writer claims to be making four figures per month through hard work (not luck), and following this must-do list:

  • Study your market. No that isn’t selling out, it’s making sure you understand what your readers want.
  • Get top quality, genre-appropriate covers. They should look like the bestsellers in your genre.
  • Learn how to write a really hooky blurb. Copy writing is a completely different beast to fiction writing.
  • Write books that people want to read. Yes you can write for yourself, but that’s going to make going full-time, far, far, more difficult.
  • Learn how to market. I don’t mean that stuff about getting a big Twitter following, I mean CPC ads and newsletter marketing. There are plenty of books and resources out there to teach you the ropes for both of those.
  • Target your readers and only your readers. Some people go for the spaghetti approach, but that has been shown to drastically screw things up. You need tight also-boughts that are relevant to your book. Don’t waste money marketing your dark UF to humorous UF readers.
  • Publish regularly. You don’t have to publish every month, but 4 books a year is the ideal minimum. You’ll need to run ads between launches to keep eyes on your books though.

Wow! While this formula apparently worked for the author, I will never be able to afford the time or expense to make it happen. Even if I could quit my job today and do nothing but write, I would need professional help with all the aspects of marketing, which involves four of the seven suggestions in the list above. I would guess most indie authors share this same struggle and despair of ever reaching full-time author status.

One additional objection is the whole “write what people want to read” mantra. While I understand the concept, and agree in principle, I dare say most authors want to write what appeals to them, not simply what will sell. Cranking out garbage simply because people will buy it gives all authors a bad name. On the other hand, churning out book after book with no personal appeal seems like a soul-sucking waste of time. Much of my joy and satisfaction as an author comes from writing about what speaks to me, interests me, or what stirs my passion. All of that is very personal and cannot be reduced to “write what people want to read”.

So, am I ever going to go full-time as an author? I’m sure you’ve already guessed the answer. Unless lightning strikes or I can retire with lots of extra cash, I don’t see it happening. Discouraging? Yes. Will it stop me? No. I write because I enjoy it! I have things to say and stories to tell, and readers like my stuff. In the meantime, if anything changes, I’ll be sure to let you know.

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Update on Traitor’s Moon – I’m about two-thirds of the way through the last chapter! Next comes the Epilogue where I tie up loose threads and drop some hints for the next book in the series, but the end is near (in a good way)! I’m still on target for finishing by the end of the year, with a tentative launch in late January. Word count stands at 104,000+.

The final chapter deals mostly with the primary antagonist receiving his comeuppance, and I’ve been editing and re-editing the manuscript to get it just right. This person has been a thorn in everyone’s side since the middle of the first book, and now the time has come to give him what he deserves. I must say, it’s been most satisfying, and I hope my readers will be pleased!

Expectant Moon Gets a Makeover

The importance of a great cover cannot be overstated. It’s crucial to grab a potential reader’s attention while also giving them a general idea of what kind of book they are looking at. Great, now you’re halfway there! The second step is to provide an enticing book description, which, if done correctly, peaks their interest and convinces them to purchase. I’m going to save step two for another post and focus on the cover today.

One of the challenges an indie author faces is the overwhelming body of knowledge needed to successfully publish a book. Assuming you have a great story and the manuscript has been written well and edited properly, you’re still left with all the marketing issues – including the items mentioned above. I was arrogant enough to believe I knew better than my graphic artist what a great book cover should look like. Consequently my choices have been underwhelming, affecting sales and my brand. (Yes, my other books need new covers too, but I can’t afford to change them all right now.)

Well, this old dog really CAN learn new tricks! At times it’s difficult for me to admit I was wrong, swallow my pride, and let the “experts” guide me. Perhaps you share the same struggle and know what I mean. Anyway, with Traitor’s Moon nearing completion, I was determined to find an AWESOME cover for it. The original plan was to model it after Expectant Moon’s with slight changes. Now, I’m very fond of the present artwork and wouldn’t normally spend the money to replace it so soon, but I’d made too many mistakes and it had to go.

After eating a generous portion of humble pie, I contacted my graphic artist with a request to start from scratch and design the whole series, which will include at least three books. This time, I gave her the freedom to do it properly and ignore my input if it got in her way. The difference between the old and new is quite striking and early feedback is convinced I’ve got a winner. Tell me what you think!

New Cover:

ExpectantMoonSmallerWebUse -new

Old Cover:

ExpectantMoonSmallerWebUse

 

Reader Roundup 6-13-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Seems as though everyone and their mother is trying to sell me their book on how to be a successful author. Much of the material I’ve seen is repetitive, common sense stuff with little value. Allow me to share some helpful gems which are worth repeating – and I won’t even charge you for it!

  1. SLEEP. A consistent sleep schedule with 7-8 hours per night is essential to supply your mind and body with the energy and creativity you need. Shortcuts lead to lethargy, sluggish thinking, and a lack of productivity. No more excuses – DO IT!
  2. STOP. Stop writing before you are finished. What?? The best way to jump-start your writing the next day (and avoid writer’s block) is to stop before you complete the section/chapter you are working on. I find it very helpful to leave myself brief notes which include the things I still want to say, giving me grease for the wheels when I come back to it later.
  3. FORGET. Forget about the guilt if you can’t write something every single day! I work full time and often have days of zero writing. There are enough pressures on my time and psyche, so laying a guilt trip on myself is destructive and pointless. Yes, a serious author must remained committed to the task, but there’s no need to beat yourself up in the process.
  4. COLLECT. I’ve mentioned this before, but always be prepared to record ideas when they make themselves known. Just because you are on chapter one doesn’t mean you should ignore a great idea for chapter six or even the end of the book – or subsequent books if you’re doing a series. Write it down, send yourself an email, record it on your phone – whatever works for you. The point is not to let good ideas get away simply because they occur to you at an odd time. Once forgotten, they may remain so!
  5. EDIT. Go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb, and then hand it off to a team of beta readers. Make corrections and then re-read the thing from start to finish to see what else you and the others have missed. Repeat as often as necessary to produce the cleanest possible product. If you cut corners here, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Readers will forgive occasional mistakes but they will not give your book(s) a second chance if it is riddled with errors.
  6. COVER. You must have an attractive cover if you expect people to seriously consider looking at your book. Even if your writing is top-notch and the manuscript has been carefully edited to within an inch of its life, you have one chance to grab their attention. Spending the time and money to do it right will pay for itself many times over. Remember this – many potential readers will initially see your book cover in a thumbnail size, so make certain it’s clear and eye-catching.
  7. BLURB. Writing a book description, or jacket blurb, is one of the hardest things an author must do. It has to be brief, yet catch and hold the attention of a potential reader within seconds. It ain’t easy! You are competing with hundreds of other books, and readers are looking at the cover, blurb and price to determine if they want to purchase. If you lose them right out of the gate, all your hard work on the manuscript will be for nothing. Personally, I use my beta readers to help me determine if the blurb is doing its job. If not, I write as many as necessary until they give me a thumb’s up.

There are probably a zillion other things I could mention, assuming I’m even aware of them myself, but this is a good start. The next step is marketing, which is a minefield each author must learn to navigate for themselves without losing limbs, and I’m not going to pretend I have it figured out. For now, focus on writing a great story and preparing it for publication, since that in itself is a huge milestone and worth celebrating!

Do you have tips and tricks to share? Comments/questions? Just want to say hello? I would love to hear from you! Click HERE.

***Update on my current manuscript, Traitor’s Moon. I finished chapter one today and am ready to move on to chapter two! This may not seem like such a big deal, but it’s an indication of real progress. I’m eager to write about new characters as well as old friends from book one who have an integral part in the story.

Reader Roundup 5-23-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Two things have kept me busy this week: promoting Expectant Moon and thinking deep thoughts about BEAR, DRAGON, and CAT shifters.

As to the first, Expectant Moon has been well received so far and garnered ten five-star reviews. This makes me happy! A recent FREE promotion on FreeBooksy resulted in over 2800 downloads. This also makes me happy! Overall sales are not what I was hoping for. This does NOT make me happy! Until I figure out what I’m still doing wrong, I suppose I will have to be satisfied with whatever I can get. There’s a magic formula of “behind the scenes” tricks for selling on Amazon, and I don’t have it figured out yet. I honestly don’t think it’s the books themselves – it’s the cursed marketing which is giving me fits! Like many authors, managing the business side of writing is a time consuming, confusing, and often frustrating endeavor. I didn’t really sign up for this part, but I’m stuck with it now!

On to more pleasant things…

Now, who doesn’t want to think about shifters?? They are so COOL, and lend themselves to really interesting stories! Some of you are wondering why I am spending time on anything other than book 2 in my Gladstone Shifters series. I have been working on the outline and background material, but have not yet started writing the story because other ideas have been popping up in my brain and I cannot ignore them!

I have found it beneficial to stop and record new ideas whenever they reveal themselves. I always carry a small notebook and pen at work for furious scribbling when no one is looking. Often, I get great ideas while in the shower or on my way somewhere in the car. Even dreams have presented new ideas or helped me solve problems with a current manuscript. Sometimes it’s simply an interesting book title or a general idea I might want to use in the future. Other times, I get the entire story line in a flood and have to hurry up and record it  down before I forget.

The bears are on my mind because I am toying with a bear shifter story for either Christmas or Valentines day (you’re going to love it!). I have dragons on the brain right now because of a series of books I have been reading lately. They too will get their own story in the future – probably a series. Recent articles in the news regarding cougars and lynx got me all excited about cat shifters – particularly because they reside right here in the states.

For those readers who are waiting for more Science Fiction books, never fear! I have some great stories on the back burner, and have been adding new ideas all the time. Imagine vast ocean creatures waiting to get their tentacles on the humans who have invaded their planet. Hey – they just want to talk!

 

My Books Now On KDP Select

Beginning today, I made an executive decision and moved all my books to KDP Select, meaning they are only available from Amazon for the foreseeable future.

I gave D2D a try for a couple months, hoping a wider distribution would result in greater sales – it didn’t. Plus, it prevented me from offering my books for FREE as a promotion option, which is something I really didn’t like.

The loss of Kindle Unlimited income was also a factor in switching back to Select. Right now, sales are slower than I would like and I need the additional KU income to pay for promotions.

I realize some of my readers prefer a different format or don’t like shopping on Amazon – so I offer my apologies for the inconvenience. If I had unlimited time and funds, I would have the freedom to do things differently. I appreciate your understanding, and hope you continue to enjoy my work.

 

Manuscript Editing for Self-published Authors

I am not the only self-published author who has to edit his own manuscripts, but it’s one of those absolutely necessary tasks if I want my work to be taken seriously. It’s time consuming (meaning less time to write) and almost as interesting as watching paint dry. With the correct mind-set, which I will mention later, the task becomes much less onerous

One of the blessings/curses of doing it myself is not incurring the expense of a professional editor. I addition, I never have to spend time explaining or justifying my word choices to a stranger. So, since the buck stops with me, I need to produce the cleanest manuscript possible. How do I do that?

I have learned some tricks in the last few months to make the task a bit easier and take less time:

  • I use MS Word, and turn on the spell check and grammar check. I make corrections as I go while the text is fresh in my mind. I may not agree with all the suggested changes, so I override the ones I wish to keep.
  • After finishing each chapter, I use the “search” function in Word to look for all my crutch words, and eliminate as many of them as possible. For me, this includes the blasted apostrophe – there are many mistakes caused by the misuse of the darn thing!
  • I  remind my beta readers to look for ANY flaws, no matter how minor.
  • When I have made all the beta reader corrections, I set the manuscript aside for a day or two.
  • The last step is a final read-through, from start to finish. It’s amazing how many more errors I find! Thankfully, I also discover better word choices and phrases which improve the readability of the book.

The hard truth is this – it is almost impossible to catch every single spelling or grammatical error. The goal is to release my book with as few as possible, and then continue making corrections as they are brought to my attention. (Yes, I read my reviews, and I recommend every self-published author do the same. They often contain valuable feedback I would not learn any other way.)

After the book is released, I purchase a copy and read the book again on my kindle. Inevitably, I find things which need to be changed. This is a good thing because it gives me the opportunity for continuous improvement (obviously, this works best for eBooks).

I had to learn that I am not simply selling a book, but I am promoting my brand – ME! It’s my job to make sure the product is polished and ready for the public to enjoy. This is where the mind-set I mentioned earlier comes in. I want my readers to have the best experience possible every time they read one of my books. Even if they don’t happen to like the story for some reason, I should never knowingly sell them an inferior product. Another term for this is CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Readers are generally not interested in how many hours of work are involved in producing a great book, but they certainly DO care if they pay for one riddled with errors. Bad reviews are difficult to overcome, so it’s better to prevent them in the first place.

I only have one chance to make a good impression (which of course includes the cover image and description), so I want to avoid disappointing my readers. I cannot force them to enjoy the story, but I can certainly package it correctly. After that, it’s up to the individual reader, and unless you have  working crystal ball, there’s no way to predict how people will respond. Maybe I will talk about that in a future post!

 

On their way

After months of anticipation, my books will arrive at your favorite retailer within the next couple of days. Strange as it may seem, excitement is only one of the things I am feeling right now – the other is a bit of anxiety. Most of that stems from my lack of marketing knowledge and computer ability. Writing the book  is only about 10% of self publishing; the rest is marketing and sales. As I understand it, this is the Achilles heel of most new business ventures and the primary reason they fail.

What this means for me is a commitment to the long term, and continuous learning and growth. Little by little I will get the hang of it and make incremental changes which will help me grow my share of the market. Practically speaking, I am not expecting to see enormous sales figures or wild throngs of fans waiting with bated breath for my next book (might be nice though). For some authors it takes a couple of years for their work to be noticed, and I am expecting the same. Meanwhile, I will keep writing and adding to my collection of great reads. If you are reading this post, and happen to be one of my earliest of fans, I say WELCOME! I am very excited to have you along for the ride, and hope you enjoy my stories as much as I do.