Validation!

I got my first payment from Amazon the other day. It wasn’t much, but it was nice to actually get something for all the work I’ve put into writing.

It made me feel validated that the thing I started is actually panning out. People actually like my writing, and want to read what I have to say. Not just read it, but pay for it.

Maybe it’s because I grew up without much money. Maybe it’s because I have gone without, and worked hard to get what I have. Who knows. Maybe it’s just my own ideals about money that make me feel this way. The idea that other people not only think my writing is good, but worth paying with their own hard earned money to read it… that gives me a big boost in confidence.

I know I don’t want to pay money for things I don’t like. Or even if something is just “eh” to me. But if I really like it, or the people behind it and want to support them because I know it’s a worthwhile cause, then I’ll part with some cash.

So, I’ve been extra productive this week. I will have all of my books out on Kobo by the end of the month, and hopefully three more stories (two shorts for Halloween, and then “Forgotten Ones”). One short is complete, just doing a final revision. “Forgotten Ones” is close. And the third, a YA Halloween short story, is half done.

The best news… I figured out how they beat the bad guy in “Forgotten Ones”. I was having a bit of trouble with that, but once I figured it out everything started flowing together.

So, to recap:
Paying for books is good.
It makes authors feel appreciated, and liked.
It encourages them to be more productive.
And reviews also help LOTS!

So go review or buy a book from your favorite author. They will really appreciate it. (Especially if it’s an indie where every sale/review counts.)

Move over! I’m coming through!

Early a friend tweeted a link to this article, in which Joe Abercrombie (a traditionally published writer) said self publishing is too much work. He doesn’t want to publish, he wants to write.

Yep. He’s right. Self publishing is a LOT of work. There are covers, editors, formating, and months and months of writing with little return.

But it’s worth it!

For centuries art has been funneled through publishers of one sort or another. Book publishers, music producers, game developers, TV executives, art curators… you name it! There was a gate keeper set in front of your goal that you had to get through.

It’s like a lottery. Someone wins, and a whole hell of a lot of people lose.

And publishing, like any lottery, wasn’t dependent solely on talent or content. It was also marketability, how much money they could make off you, and sometimes your ability to stroke their ego.

Guess what? It isn’t a lottery anymore. The gate keepers are starting to notice wholes crashing through the walls, bypassing the gate they so carefully erected.

Indie game designers have produced, sold, and created major hits among gamers. Like Limbo, Journey, Minecraft, and Bastion. Games that skyrocketed past all the game publishers, earning millions.

Indie authors, like Hugh Howie, and Amanda Hocking proved you don’t need a publisher to make it big. They refused to give their rights away for someone else to make money off their talent, and they succeeded.

In film we now see some amazing special effects, animations, dramas, and story telling available right on youtube. For free. Netflix is offering some of them, like the Guild, streaming. Theaters are playing others, like Plurality, as ‘pre movie vignettes’. Others will follow suit. Indie films will get longer, and better, and eventually be available along side everything else.

Musicians, like Maclemore, are hitting the top charts without signing their life and their music over to some producer.

Even physical objects, and hand made goods. You can go to Etsy and by something directly from designers, artists, and makers. Or you can download designs from Thingaverse and print them on your 3D printer.

Publishers… the gate keepers who so carefully erected that wall so they could decided what was published, and who succeed, are starting to see that their wall looks more like swiss cheese then brick.

The status quo use to be that people produced things, and the person who sold it and distributed it, was the one who made the most profit off it.

I see a future where the person who designed, created, wrote, painted, filmed, or made an object…. they will be the one who makes the most profit off their IP. They made it. They should.

Copyright is broken. DMC is bulky, and intrusive. Publishers are more interested in the bottom line then the creators they say they serve. We’ve known this for a while, and now we have ways to combat it.

Move over publishers, I’m coming through.
If all that’s standing in my way is a little hard work, then I’m rolling up my sleeves, and I’m doing it.

What’s in a Sale Price (An open letter to Johnny B Truant)

In today’s Self Publishing Podcast Johnny B Truant said:

“A book is F*ing $3. As an artist I have a little bit of a problem with the idea that people would balk at that.”

I’ve been having a similar discussion with people regarding games. Specifically the idea that game makers, like Sony, want to curtail second hand game sales, like Gamestop, as they feel that used games are lost revenue.

Here the crux of the matter…. Even if you managed to stop every free/sale/used transaction for every single item in the entire world, producers of content still won’t make more money, for one really simple fact: we can’t all afford new.

Yes, you’re an artist. Your product is worth money. I get it, I’m a writer too. I want to earn a living off my writing as well. However, you are looking at it from the perspective of “this is my stuff, you’re getting my stuff, and you should pay me what I think it’s worth.”

Game developers also have the added incite of “this is how much it cost us to make this game, and this is how many we think we can sell this month.” So they slap a tag for $60 on it, and release it. They are absolutely right that the game is worth, from their perspective, $60 dollars.

Now, lets look at it from my perspective.

I’m a single mom of three. I love books and games. I am teaching my three children to also love books and games. I make less then $2k a month, and my bills alone suck up most of that money.

$60 is one bill. Or a car full of groceries  Or two pairs of shoes. Or two tanks of gas to get to work. Or three nice dates with my wonderful boyfriend.

So I wait till games are on sale, (got to love Steam!) or I wait till the price comes down. Two, three years after a AAA title has come out and grossed the company millions of dollars it might be available for $20 from the company. Maybe. If I’m lucky. Or I can hit a used bin and possibly find it for a little less. It still won’t be that cheap, but maybe I can finally play it.

It’s the same with books, only most of the time I have to go to the library. Sometimes, if i really love a book, or an author, I will splurge and buy their book. Maybe give it to a friend, or sell it back to Half Priced Books, more then likely just keep it on my shelf. Keep in mind I read about 50+ books a year. I can’t afford to buy all of those even if they are only $3.

Yes, you as an artist deserve to be paid for your work. I, as an upcoming author, deserve to be paid for my work. But not everyone is in the same place that you are. Not all of us are able to go out and buy every book/game we want.

I currently own over 23 of David Write and Sean Platts books. I got a lot of them for free, and then I started buying them. I joined Seans list and got this nifty little email saying “Thanks for joining, I’d like to give you a free book.” I turned it down because I already had so many of their books. I also own several Johnny B Truant books, and I bought most of them, but I did get several for free.

I try to repay in my way by giving reviews, and sharing the podcast with other writers, and by buying a few now and then when I have some extra money. But I keep a look out for sale prices of my favorite authors.

Steam is actually an incredible example of what sale prices can do. Summer sales, and winter sales on Steam can lower game prices up to as much as 75% off games, sometimes more. And what happened? Well I bought 80+ games this year. I know I’m not the only one. Steam sales more games during these sales, and they make more for the people selling games through them then any other time of the year.

When you lower the price a lot more people see it, and buy it. You make up for lower prices through volume.

Now, Steam has an amazing platform, they have sales specifically a few times a year, and a few games on sale each day. They can afford to do this, and they do it well. While books are a bit different  you shouldn’t discount the power of “free” through KDP.

TL;DR Remember that your buyers are made up of different kinds of people. We can’t all afford things at the higher prices, so giving us intensives (sales and freebies) will get us interested, and may get you future sales, reviews, and rating to drive future business. It’s about making a brand, not just making a buck.

Catching Eyes

When you pick up a book the first thing that catches your eye is the cover art, and the title. If these two things do not apeal to you then it is less likely for you to read the blurb on the back, or take a moment to read the first couple of pages.

The art should reflect, and work well with, the title.

It is incredibly easy to get actual, profesional cover art for your book that there is absolutly no excuse to use a big red box with letters on it, unless your story is about a big red box. I know you drew it yourself, but if it doesn’t give me an idea of what is in the book. I will probably pass it up for something a bit shinier on the outside.

They say “don’t judge a book by its cover” but really, most people do. The cover of your book is the very first impression anyone gets of it.  They look at the cover and say ‘oh, spaceships’ or ‘a river, must be about a camping trip’, or magic, or sex. Really, your cover art sells the theme of your story.

Coverart can be aquired through the many thousands of artists that frequent Deviant Art, freelance forums, or even Reddit. There are even premade, free, covers on Deviant Art already ready for your use. Many artists only want a free e-book for their troubles. Others, the ones who actually make a living from their art, or are trying to just like you are trying to make a living from your writing, will sell you a cover. (Please remember to always contact the artist, read their rules, ask and/or let them know, BEFORE you use their art.)

The second thing people will look at is the title.

Titles are often based on something important to the story.

  • Main Character              (Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Dracula, Frankenstein)
  • A group of people          (Fellowship Of the Ring, Jason and the Argonaughts)
  • Main Theme/quest         (Star Wars, On Writing, Quest for the Holy Grail,)
  • Location                       (Serenity, Bridge to Terabithia, Africa, Matrix)
  • Subject                         (Swamp Thing, Zombie Survival Guide)
  • Or a combination           (Anne of Green Gables, Shawn of the Dead)
  • A Concept                    (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Pride and Predjudice)

Pick out the things that are the most important in your story. People, places, subject. Now brainstorm around those themes. It always helps to have something that is in the same tone as your book. Scary for horror, funny for a comedic piece, futuristic for a sci-fi.

Sometimes the title seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the story, such as “A Clockwork Orange” or “To Kill a Mockingbird”. If the title is off beat enough it may draw someones attention enough to get them to read the preview, like “The Universe Doesn’t Give A Flying Fuck About You” (which is a motivational, surprisingly.)

Covers and titles are almost as important as the first page. If they look at the cover and it doesn’t grab their attention long enough to get them to pick it up and read that first paragraph (or online click the ‘see inside’ button) then it never gets out the door.

When Do You NOT Need an Editor?

As self publishing takes a huge surge it isn’t surprising that books keep appearing that have yet to be edited by anyone other than the author. This has, of course, caused a lot of people to think twice about reading indie authors in favor of traditional publishers. Traditional publishing comes with built in editors (with some limitations) so it is safer to assume their books will be better, at least in that way.

Editing your own work isn’t easy. It is very easy to overlook things because you are so close to the writing, and have been looking at it for so long. That is why many authors suggest you put the first draft away for a month or so before you actually start editing.

Editing can be expensive, and time consuming. (I have been quoted $1.50-2.50 a page, or $5 an article. Most editors have minimums also.) However, it is a necessary process of writing. Many new writers think they can do all the editing themselves. Mainly because: it’s free!

Free is very tempting, but on the other hand if you want your readers to come back for more, and spend real money on what you have to offer, then you need to present the best thing possible. It needs to be legible, and show some amount of professionalism. And while “spell check” is an amazing program, it isn’t foolproof. And no grammar editor has ever been spot on 100% of the time.

If you are trying to get traditionally published you may be able to dispense with editing, if you have a good grasp of grammar. If they accept your work they will, of course, go over it themselves and get anything you missed. In fact, most freelancers who just do articles for traditional publications don’t have professional edits, though they may have a friend or college who looks over it to catch errors. Keep in mind that if you have too many errors a publisher won’t even bother reading past the first paragraph.

In fact, if you paid for every article you wrote to be copy edited you wouldn’t be making much money. Just think about it… for every 10 articles you write you might get half of them published (being optimistic for a beginner). If you paid someone $5 each to edit them, then got paid $50 each for the 5 you publish you would net $200, but if you only sold one, or sell to markets that pay less, you won’t be making much at all. In this case it is really in your best interest to get a college who will trade articles with you to edit, or read everything you can on the editing process.

However, if you are going the indie route you are probably doing something along the lines of a book, or at least a short story. There won’t be publishers, editors, marketers, cover designers or anyone else unless you either pay someone, or ask a friend. This puts the power in your hands, and it also puts a of responsibility on you.

My suggestion is to start with workshops. It is always easier to see edits needed in someone else’s writing then it is to see in your own. Workshops are also a fantastic avenue of (usually constructive) criticism. And if you can’t take criticism then you really should really consider whether or not you want to risk putting your writing out to begin with.

Some things that may help in your editing quest: