Thursday, October 12, 2017

39- How Many Boots Should a Bootstrapper Strap?

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Taking a break from the indie author interview series. This week I discuss the concept of
"bootstrapping" (essentially, publishing when you have no budget.)

This episode was inspired by a forum post in which an author advocated basically doing everything on your own for free. Because I have, at times, mentioned free or cheap publishing options, I wanted to re-examine and clarify my thoughts on the subject.

From the post in question:

You don't need fancy software to write your book. If you're operating on a shoestring budget and you already have a program like Microsoft Word at your disposal, don't spend money on Scrivener or other writing software. At this stage in your career, your limited funds are better spent elsewhere.

Create a free website and learn to manage it.
Mostly agree. Well after I was earning a full-time living as an author, I was still using a Blogger site as my website. Heck, that's what I'm using for Wood on Words. You might also consider a site like Wix. Free sites aren't ideal, mostly because they tend to come with banners, ads, or popups that call attention to the fact that it's free. Typically, readers don't visit your site until they've already read your work and want to know more about you or your catalog, so a slick website is a great thing, but probably not your top priority.

You don't need to pay for formatting.
Agreed, IF you are willing to learn how to do it and do it well. You can format both ebook and paperback in Microsoft Word. It's not difficult to do once you've learned it, but there is a learning curve.

Don't pay someone else to set up your KDP/D2D/Kobo accounts and upload your books.
Agreed. It's not difficult to do this, and if you don't learn how to manage the dashboards, you'll find yourself in a position in which you have to pay someone every time you want to update price, keywords, product description, etc...

Search for free cover art, download it, and use Paint to add text
No. Just no. It's not 2005 anymore, and Paint wasn't a good option even then. And you can't just snag any picture off of Google and legally use it for your cover. If you want to try your hand at cover design, I recommend a free program called GIMP, which is essentially Photoshop. Download watermarked comp images from stock photo sites to practice on, and see if you develop a knack for it. Odds are you'll be better off paying for cover art. Browse premade cover sites in your spare time, look for good covers, watch for special sales. You can find affordable, professional cover art at very reasonable prices. This is something that's worth setting aside money for.

This was not discussed in the post but it's the other biggie. I don't recommend hiring an editor from the top price tier right off the bat, but do set aside money for quality editing. Also line up as many beta readers and volunteer proofreaders as you can. Whatever you do, don't try to do it all on your own.

What if I literally have no money?
Take your time writing and start saving in the meantime. Look for corners to cut. For my "super secret project" I decided not to use money from my other publishing endeavors, but instead to lok for ways to set money aside.

A few things I did:
Save all my loose change.
Save dollar bills when possible.
Skipped the occasional Starbucks coffee or fast food meal and set aside the money I would have spent.
Cut back my cable plan.
Cut back my cell phone plan.
Cancelled a couple of small subscriptions I wasn't making full use of.

These might not all apply to you, but start setting aside what you can. In the meantime, work on your books, work on your craft, practice your webmaster skills, practice formatting. Don't get in such a hurry that you blow your first launch. You only get one chance (per pen name) to make a first impression.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

38- Audo Success and More with Brian D. Anderson

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Today's guest is bestselling fantasy author Brian D. Anderson.

Regarding many failed early attempts to write a book: "I realized I needed more than a clever idea or two. I needed a story."

On wrting style: "I'm a pantser... Every time I've created an outline I get twelve to fifteen pages in, I get a new idea, and the whole outline collapses."

On productivity: "In order to stay relevant in the indie world you've got to keep producing work. That's just the way it is."

On being hybrid and retaining publishing rights: "If I'm in a position where Audible is paying me more for audio rights then Big 5 publishers are offering me for all my rights, why wouldn't I hold on to my rights?"

On making your work known: "A lot of aspiring writers make the mistake of going on forums where there are nothing but other writers and trying to market their work there... You want to go where people discuss reading. Be part of the community."
On quality: "Try to make your book as good as one would expect from any traditionally published author. "Good enough' isn't good enough anymore."

On rushing to publication: "If you're new, you don't have an audience waiting for your book, so you have all the time in the world to get it right."

On choosing the indie path: "Indie is not for everybody... It's the hare to traditional publishing's tortoise... it's grueling... If you're not prepared to write at least 1,000 words a day most days, if not every day, and then find the time to market and take care of other business, indie probably isn't for you."

Brian's Links

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

37 The Art and the Business with Russell Blake to the podcast episode

Today we chat with NYT bestselling thriller and adventure author Russell Blake.

*Sorry for the squeaky chair and telephone interruption.

Highlights of our chat

"You'll make more money creating content if you're creating content for which there's a demand."

"I try to let myself be artistic when I'm creating content and then I take off my creative hat. Now you're in the retail business."

"The one guarantee is nothing is going to stay the same."

"From a production standpoint I find it much faster if I already have an idea of where I'm going and what I'm going to write.""Figure out what you want to be and go be that. If you want to be a bestselling author, that's a full-time job."

"What's the hook? Why would anyone give two shits about your book?"

Russell's Links

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fantastic Fiction and Connecting with Readers with Karpov Kinrade

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Today we chat with the "better half" of the USA Today bestselling author team, Karpov Kinrade. Karpov Kinrade is the pen name for the husband and wife entertainment duo Lux and Dmytry Karpov-Kinrade, aka The KK Duo.

Highlights from our chat:

Do your research. Know what's selling and understand why it sells.

Look for the story hooks that get people excited.

Understand and utilize the themes and tropes readers want, some of which the readers might not even know they are reading for.

Don't limit yourself to the tropes and themes of your genre. Draw inspiration from other genres and look for ways to incorporate them.

The importance of wish fulfillment and escapism.

It's not enough to write well; your work needs to meet a need within the reader.

Considerations when choosing the next project:
-What do we know we can market?
-What is selling well right now?
- What are we going to enjoy writing?

Advice to indies:
-Do your research. Know what makes a bestseller.
-Constantly work to improve your craft.
-Study marketing.
-Be flexible. What works for one author might not work for another. What works today might not work tomorrow.
-Experiment. Learn from your mistakes.

Connect with Karpov Kinrade!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Thrilling Fiction with Toby Neal

Toby Neal is the USA Today bestselling author of The Wired Series, the Lei Crime series, and more.
Today she chats with us about getting started in the indie world, writing thrillers, co-authoring, branching out into new genres, and succeeding as an indie.

A few highlights from our chat

"Readers fuel my creative fire.  Readers wanting my work, encouraging me, and saying, 'Where's the next one?' That's what keeps me going."

"When you're an indie who's doing well, you're doing both [writing and marketing.] You're a business person who's writing."

"We're focusing on building our email list because these are readers who belong to us... If you begin [when publishing your first book] with the plan that you're going to build your email list, you're off to a good start."

"I think of my series as trains. Each book is a car on the train the the leading book is the engine... I add fuel to them with new releases, a Bookbubs, trying out a new ad campaign or something that gives them exposure.."

"Pick something you care about a lot because passion will drive your writing."

Check Out these Links!

Free books by Toby Neal

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Are Contests Worthwhile?

Listen to the companion podcast.

Contests are on my mind this week for a couple of reasons:

-I just entered Primordial in the International Thriller Writers annual awards.
-I received an email from an organization inviting me to pay $75 to enter a book in their indie book contest.

Are these contests worthwhile? Let's take a look at some different types of awards:

Organizational Awards/Awards with a Solid Reputation
-Many writers organizations offer awards: ITW, SFWA, HWA off the top of my head. These awards typically don't cost anything to enter and should you win, they carry some name recognition.

Contests that don't cost anything to enter
-These come in different shapes and sizes. Some have a bit of a name attached to them, others don't. While the odds are that winning won't do anything of consequence for your career, they cost nothing but your time to enter, so there's no harm in entering if it's of interest to you. What's more, you might win or be selected as a finalist. That's a nice boost to the ego. It's a good feeling!

Contests that charge an entry fee
Here's where we need to engage in some critical thinking. There are a few reputable contests that charge an entry fee, but most are contest mills for whom the contests are a source of revenue. Things to consider:

Warning Signs
-How did you hear about the contest? Does it have enough of a reputation that you learned about it by word of mouth or did they spam you?
-Who is sponsoring the contest? Is it a reputable publisher/organization or is it attached to a vanity publisher or contest mill?
-Who is entering the contest? Any successful authors or just hopeful indies?
-How many categories do the awards offer? Most reputable contests are tightly focused. If a contest is offering a lot of categories and is charging to enter, that can be a warning sign.
-How often are the awards held? More than once a year?
-What's the prize? Is it basically a lottery ticket structure?
-Are there more costs later? Some contests charge to enter, and then charge the winners an additional fee to display their "winner medallion/badge."

Business Considerations
Let's suppose we've done our due diligence and concluded a contest is not a scam. Now we need to decide if  it's worth our time and money to enter. Things to think about.

-Consider your own consumer behavior as a buyer of books. When you're looking for an new book to read, how many times in the last year did you google "indie publishing contests," found the title of a winning book in a contest of which you've never heard, and then bought that book? Probably never. If you don't do it, the average book buyer probably doesn't do it either.
-Check the sales ranking of the most recent winner. When I received the invite to enter the $75 contest, I looked up last year's winner. The book's ranking was in the millions, meaning it hasn't sold a copy for months.
-Have you even heard of any of their recent winners? Did winning this contest bring the books/authors to your attention. This is especially true if they're in your genre.
-Readers don't care that you're an "award-winning author" unless it's an award of which they've heard, and probably not even then unless you have an enticing book cover, engaging product description, etc...
-Do you really have the money to spend? If so, would it be better spent on advertising? Should you save it toward publishing expenses for the next book?

-Google might not be your friend. Many of these contest mills publish articles that, on the surface, look like valid defenses of for-pay contests. Be careful. Use your own critical thinking skills and look to sites like Writer Beware, or forums where authors gather, for guidance.
-If you enter your book into an open contest, for the love of all that is holy, don't jump on social media and announce, "My book has been nominated for the XX Award!" At best, it makes you look like an insecure, attention-seeking idiot; at worst it makes you look deceptive and fundamentally dishonest. (If you enter your book in a contest and it's later selected as a finalist, that's different. Feel free to talk that up!"

Winning one of the many run-of-the-mill contests is a good feeling, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's probably not going to help your career at all. If the contest is free, or it's a for-pay contest that isn't a scam and you have the money, go for it. Just don't expect results beyond the good feeling you get from winning.