An Honest Review

There is a battle on Twitter at the moment.

 

I first witnessed it from several readers who were attacked by Indie authors for leaving anything but a five-star review. Authors… attacking readers.

 

What kind of a fucked-up person do you have to be to attack your own consumers? One reader had given four stars, and posted a glowing review, but took it down after the indie author not tracked them down and told the reader remove it, but abused them in the process. I see SO many cases of this happening and its, simply put, bad fucking behaviour.

 

Where have we forgotten that these are the people we are hoping to inspire and entertain?

 

I was flabbergasted.

 

The backlash of such actions has been the tendency for readers to not leave reviews *ESPECIALLY* for indie authors, because of this attitude. I’d like to pretend I was surprised. But I wasn’t.

 

This has been something I’ve witnessed from about five years ago when I started getting into reviews and noticed that one of the key readers for indie authors were other indie authors. Its very hard to get reviews, what better way (there is a better way, you nonce, read it here), than to help each other out? Not swapping reviews, oh no, against Amazon’s T&C’s, but you know, being kind to other authors struggling against apparently insurmountable odds and a slush pile that is the indie ebook market.

 

So, in order to avoid having their book trashed, regardless if it was good or not, indies started making their reviews nice so as not to rock the boat, and have their own books given insincere & low reviews. Harmless at first, many admitting that not getting five stars is okay, its opened the floodgates to authors expecting you to call their work five stars… even if its really not. The growing sense of self entitlement to a perfect review by authors, but predominately self-published and indie authors, (yes, I’m talking about YOU), is honestly, disgusting.

 

Books that have been poorly edited, books that have terrible covers, books with no rhythm or flow, books where, as much as I want to love every single storyteller, reads like a first draft where someone just said; hell I spent so much time on it, that’s ALL I’m going to put into it.

 

(Not only is it critical to have beta readers to give honest and helpful feed back (which I offer), but get your editing together, and if you can’t afford one, look at getting ProWritingAid and seeking assistance out on Twitter for editors who will do discounted cheaper rates for struggling authors. This should be essential for those querying too! If you are self publishing or even indie, don’t forget to have a marketing plan, effective to your books release, and there is an in depth guide here.)

 

NOT doing those things for your beautiful creation, I don’t have to tell you, is fucking lazy and a disgrace to the creation you have made. It dishonours you, your house, your cow… I digress.

 

But here’s where the curve ball comes in.

 

Readers want your diversity, your odd ideas, your fandoms, your creations. They genuinely want them AND… they don’t want to hurt your feelings or make you feel like quitting. A lot of them are writers too, after all…

 

So, in order to leave a good review, readers are going to great efforts to say something other than “1 Star – this was a dumpster fire” and other unhelpful and harmful reviews. These are really hard to hear, so many readers are making the effort to write details as to why they didn’t like it. They don’t want to hurt the author, (well, some do), for the most part if they leave a great review they are trying to do one of two things; help the author improve, tell other potential buyers the issues they have.

 

You know… WHAT A REVIEW IS FUCKING FOR!

 

So they take the time and effort to write something substantial. Helpful. Insightful.

 

I am 100% behind this, as someone who learned through some harsh reader feedback I’ve learned and grown as an author to try and become a better writer.

 

On the other hand doing so takes a lot of time an effort. Recently, an author was unnecessarily harassed for telling people they should be leaving reviews, and that it really doesn’t take that long, and was promptly roasted for her flippancy regarding posting reviews quickly. A gross overreaction that reminded me that with all the authors (traditional/indie/selfpub) out there demanding reviews; readers are getting sick of this shit.

 

They are tired of getting called out on their judgements, on their opinions, on their feelings about your story both good and bad. Wondrous and terrible. Uplifting, emotional, and lovely, falling right back to the terrible, poorly constructed, and glory seekers just copying other authors to make a buck.

 

They spend time to read about stories they want to love!

 

And we are putting them off.

 

What do we do about it? Yes, you, damn it, I am talking to you!

 

I think the Writing Community needs to tackle this as a whole, and it means no more lying. I was actually scared to post this article because of backlash and, obviously enough, made that the key decision to post it because I felt like that. I shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for saying I didn’t like a book, and neither should ANY reader.

 

If you don’t like a book say so. Review on a separate account if you’re worried. There are so many ways to hide your identity so you aren’t attacked, and can separate it from your author profile, but most of all this must stop!

 

There’s hurting an individual author, and then there is the widespread damage this is causing the very people we sought to entertain. People who are being alienated from genuine self & indie writers because of the poor behaviour of more than few. Not a few. Many. I know many writers who behave like this and I say enough.

 

I didn’t give out 1 or 2 star reviews, for those same reasons – I will be doing so from now on. I will stand by my convictions and base each story on its individual merit.

 

But with the way people feel about what is meant of a 1 star review, right up to 5, what am I going to be basing my reviews status on? Jonothan Pickering joins to my blog as we knuckle down and go through what is going to warrant a terrible book to a great book, in our minds.

 

ONE STAR – Very poor

 

EJD: This book needs serious work. It read like a rough draft that was hastily published for the thrill of having a novel. Whether the work has a redeemable story line or characters is immaterial. A work of this caliber could be improved with the judicious application of an editor to help improve the writer, and perhaps recreate this book to better standards. Things that would warrant a one star but aren’t limited to;

  • No editing
  • All tell (no show)
  • No flow
  • Could not read/did not finish
  • Haphazard, disconnected, made no sense, full of plot holes

 

JP: A book that simply isn’t ready for publication. Riddled with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes that could be resolved simply by running a spellchecker. Disjointed plot that reads like a stream of consciousness, which is fine for a first draft that will never see the light of day, but is a far cry from a polished and readable story.

Significant improvements need making, up to and including entire rewrites now that the skeleton of a story is on the page. Major proofreading and editing passes necessary to make the text readable.

One star books are VERY rare for me as I can usually find some redeemable quality in a story that somebody had passion enough to write. However, there are rare instances where a book is so far from being ready that I feel the author has just done themselves a disservice as a writer and I find myself getting frustrated at them for not doing justice to their own creation.

I’m one of those readers who feels compelled to finish every book I start, but these books severely test my patience and inherent resistance to DNFing.

 

TWO STAR – Poor

 

JP: There’s a kernel of something in a two star book that piques my interest, or certain particulars that I think the writer did well, but overall is still lacking. This could be for any number of craft reasons; one dimensional characters; plot holes; unconvincing dialogue or just being plain dull through lack of dramatic conflict and stakes.

The problems are fewer and often more particular to specific craft issues than the shotgun effect of problems that litter a one star book, so there’s often no overarching solution to improving these stories. One book may have skillfully inserted nuggets of lore and worldbuilding while avoiding lengthy exposition but still needs work on upping stakes and fleshing out the characters. The issues may lie entirely elsewhere in a second story.

 

EJD: A book like this has the makings of a good story, but for whatever reason fell short. This could be based on any of the one star ratings issues, but there was a semblance of something in the story I liked. Work like this can easily be revisited by a serious developmental edit, to bring the characters and story to the level where it can be a really great tale. It also means that there should be a series of secondary edits and beta reading done to ensure this is a properly polished story.

 

THREE STAR – Okay

 

EJD: I liked it. I’m not running around the house naked about it, but I did enjoy and finish it. A rating like this to me represents time well spent. If there are aspects or elements for improvement, I’ll mention them in detail when and where I can. If I give an author 3 stars, I think the most important thing that they know is that they tell a good yarn. They are on their way to becoming if not a great, then a good writer, and I think this should be a form of encouragement, but also a notation on where they can hopefully improve.

 

JP: A good, solid book. Well done author, I enjoyed your story. I’d say most books I read are three stars – something enjoyable and well worth reading, but not exceptional. There may be some issues here and there, but nothing major enough to ruin the experience of reading a good story. Honestly, if I give your book three stars, it’s something to be proud of.

 

FOUR STARS – Good

 

JP: An exceptional book. I will rave about this story and recommend it to the world. Some of my favourite works of fiction are four stars and I guess this is the part where my rating system begins to majorly digress from many others. “If they’re your favourites” I hear you say, “why not give them five stars?” I’ll get to that in the next section.

A four star book for me is a book that pulls me into its world, where the characters truly come alive on the page, where I feel emotionally invested in their lives and goals, a reminder of Carl Sagan’s assertion that books are “proof that humans can work magic.”

 

EJD: A seriously good book. The author tells a tale that keeps you flowing with the story, solid believable characters who the reader someone they can lose themselves in. If there are any issues, they are usually minor, based on preference, and should only ever be considered my opinions and thoughts alone. Not every story is perfect, nor does it have to be. For me, a four-star review represents a tough element at play, because I swing from just liking to absolutely loving. Whatever the reason I give for not making it 5 has usually bugged me enough I felt compelled to say something.

 

FIVE STARS – Excellent

 

EJD: This book picked me up from the first line and carried me along until I got lost and my legs fell asleep on the toilet. Graphic I know, but I want to enforce the idea that books are portals to worlds the reader falls down, like Alice, chasing a plot bunny to the ends of the book with a host of wonderful characters who enrapture the reader into obsession. These are true storytellers. Whether innate talent or years of crafting their writing style, whatever it is that they have inside their books is pure magic. Even if I call umbridge at any perceived flaws, it doesn’t matter in the face of my delight with the work. I’m highly likely to reread this book, and others by the same author.

 

JP: This book is a gamechanger, possibly borderline genius and represents a turning point in the cultural zeitgeist of a genre. Again, these books are incredibly rare and represent literary gold dust. For me there needs to be a distinction between a very well-written, four star story and something truly extraordinary that will go down in history as leaving an indelible impression on, or even entirely changing the way we view literature, culture and society as a whole.

 

E. J. Dawson .COM

 

Being a writer isn’t just about editing or getting beta readers or a good marketing plan.

 

It’s learning to capture the audience and entertain them. If that means taking a few bad reviews to learn where you need to improve from impartial strangers who aren’t going to lie to you about your book, then do it. Learn, grow, create again. There is no limitations on one story, one ending, one finite piece of you, if you truly are a storyteller. And there is nothing like having another idea, writing it down, and have your peers tell you that you are improving, you’re getting better. You aren’t just making magic anymore… you are flourishing.

 

Its by far the best compliment a reader has ever given me, and I highly recommend it.

 

So now I’m asking you, will you be honest about the books you are reading?

 

Will you let someone tell you that your book isn’t that great so you can improve?

 

Because the story that you are telling isn’t just about you, its about the life you lead as a storyteller, and just like the characters in those stories, you need to learn to grow and improve.

Beyond Beginners Marketing

I was recently speaking to a friend about what else she could do beyond the basics of getting her marketing plan ready, and what it was to actually have one. There were things I knew, information I’d learned over the years that I’d kept to myself.

Another Twitter user asked for some pointers, completely separate, and I thought about sharing my secretes with them too, before I asked myself why the hell was I keeping this to myself? If your book is good, and you do all the right things, starting with this helpful beginners list to self-publishing, then you will find your audience. It takes time, but this is a great way to start. You should also look at reviews, and your idea of what success should be.

There is a secondary stage to that list, that I wanted to talk about today here.

Marketing companies are very expensive because marketing takes a lot of work. More so sometimes than editing or even writing the damn book to begin with. So today I’m going to cover tools to make it easier, and what I use to help.

Ultimately, you should be using these tools and the ones within the above links in tandem to create a detailed and set out marketing plan that follows the correct trends. Whether or not you use all of these or only some, is up to you, and what you are comfortable with, but my recommendation is to spread yourself across all of them for the best impact.

 

  1. Social Media Tools

Making posters and social media content is intimidating, and I’ll be honest, you are going to stuff it up. Imagine asking someone who creatively writes to create an attention grabbing poster. Not everyone can attune themselves to that sort of imagery and this is where there are some tools that are helpful to use in your social media platforms. Some of these have small fees, and its worth paying them to get some better images and access.

Canva: IS GREAT! Free to use, browser based, you can pay for a higher membership which gets access to better and more importantly commercially free pictures. Don’t just go to any photo/image site and copy or download images. If you are using them for marketing always check what the rights are, and buy them if you don’t have them and it’s the perfect image.

Canva comes with a host of premade social media images that allows you to just change the text and images until you get comfortable with how you are marketing yourself. Don’t forget to check out what other people are doing, and get feedback on how they look.

Book Brush: This is an excellent if somewhat more advanced tool, the same as Canva, browser based and has a fee for higher level of use. What the real appeal here is that they are specific to books, and have a range of templates as well as 3D images you can put the cover of your book on. There is even one for a cover reveal as well, which is  great tool to use to help drum up interest in the book.

 

  1. Timing

You are ready! The book is edited! You have a great cover! You’ve done everything you need to! Its all a go!

So when should you really publish?

Timing is everything, they say don’t release a book in the last quarter of the year, unless you’re a horror/thriller (for Halloween), and of course Christmas themed books. There can also be a slew of health and non-fiction diet books to get rolling in time for the new year.

The timing for all genre’s is different, but some are obvious; romance on Valentines.

Others aren’t so much, and its a good idea to find when certain books throughout the year are released for your genre.

January to June tends to have much of the heavier reading of the year, preparing for the summer season. Then there is the summer reading itself, good for lighter books/holiday reading.

Pick your time, observe the trend, and spend your time working towards that goal.

 

  1. Book Tours/Blog Tours

You can find many services willing to offer book and blog tours to help promote your book.

I can’t list a single service here because not only are there hundreds of them, if not thousands, you have to pick what’s right for you.

Google them, find the ones that fit your genre, make sure they are on Alli’s safe list (or at least not a scam) and check their prices out.

You can also contact a slew of authors on twitter who do this gratis for other indie authors, such as myself.

Its good to remember too, not only should smaller platforms like mine not be overlooked, but spending more money doesn’t equate to more exposure. Don’t sink all your funds into one avenue, use multiple ones, and record how well they do for next time.

 

  1. E-newsletters

The above goes for e-newsletters as well. You an spend hundreds of dollars advertising your science fiction drama… to a very small audience who are actually only interested in epic fantasy.

Make sure you look at the content of these services, because when you google them there are hundreds of them all promising sales and it can be overwhelming. Don’t fall for every one, look at what they are advertising, and if it isn’t a good fit for your book, discard it.

The trick to note here as well, is that many of them are booked out for months because books are released very far ahead of schedule. It takes a lot of planning. Which is why you need to plan the books release well in advance in order to make sure you can actually get your book listed with these services at roughly the same time.

Take the time to use both book/blog tours, and e-newsletters, to time their release together to get as much exposure as possible. The more your book trends, and is bought, the higher up the ladders it will climb, gaining it more attention.

 

  1. Pod/Youtube Casts

There are heaps of these around the indie market by indie authors for indie authors. You can ask around, many will do interviews, but also see which ones are just to talk writing rather than just interviews. You are there to promote your book, but not everyone wants to hear just about that.

Its still a good way to gear up attention for your book, especially if the listeners/watchers like what you have to say, which will then give you the opportunity to pitch it, normally referred to a “plug” at the end of the cast, where you can talk about your book and when it’s out.

The advantage of these is that not only are you self promoting, and getting your work out there, you’re also networking, a useful tool that gives you a lot of visibility.

 

  1. Advertising on Amazon & Goodreads

My impression of this is that its better to do these things again close to your release date but they can be very expensive. If you have your plan down pat and can afford to do it, it can be quite lucrative, but not always.

I’m hesitant to advocate it, given it doesn’t work for everyone and I’ve had reports of both abysmal and successful runs with these advertising platforms.

The same can be said of many of the book promo sites out there. You can pour as much (or little) money as you like into those sorts of avenues, but without all the groundwork, and a good book, you aren’t going to get anywhere.

 

 

These can all seem super intimidating, and they are, but its important if you are an indie author that you do you and your book a favour, and make a marketing plan.

This does however take time.

You need to plan for months in advance and if you are impatient, and don’t think some of these through, you’re liable to have your book reach a quick peak, and then fall rather flat.

Incorporating all of these methods into your book, will help get it the attention and love that you want, and find it some forever homes in the hearts of readers.

With so many indie books available on Amazon, a veritable ocean, your single drop needs to have a ripple, and your marketing plan is that ripple.

 

The Story & I

The St

Sixteen weeks ago I was curled against the wall sobbing that there was no point being a writer anymore. I had to stop working on the Last Prophecy series and I wasn’t sure I could keep doing this. I wasn’t just tired, I was well and truly beyond weary. Exhausted.

Five years ago I met with a doctor who’d taken a series of blood tests. The original tests were supposed to have been done with my regular doctor, but the doctor suddenly wasn’t at the clinic anymore. So a stranger told me that I probably wouldn’t have children without IVF aid. Even that wasn’t a sure thing.

My life stopped.

I’d never had an overwhelming desire to have children, but when the option died, a part of me did too. I was torn apart, and I spent years being vaguely misplaced, only regaining what I’d lost inch at a time.

My husband was understanding, adoption had been something we’d discussed before.

But I felt useless. As though the complications of my womb were a manifestation of my personal failing. I didn’t have a job or career I loved, I became purposeless. My life lost all its meaning.

If my mother taught me any rule that was of value, it was this: what do I DO about it?

What I’d always wanted; to be an author.

The answer was the easiest one I’d ever made. I was yet to know how much harder it would to be do.

I’d never done much about my writing, I’d written two or three novels, each of them I knew wasn’t worth publishing. Writing had only ever been something I did when I was bored and had the itch to pen story to paper.

Now it became a necessity. If I wanted to have a purpose in life that wasn’t a family, I needed to do something about it now.

One afternoon I went online, and to a random website for a story prompt idea. I was going to write something new, fresh, different.

I ended up after half an hour of random generators with a story about airships and desert chases. I started writing a tale about a navigator in a fantasy world, with corrupt government officials, conspiracies and a haunting darkness. I was 30k words into it when I started to realise it wasn’t a standalone story.

Cut to a month later and I’d outlined a 21 book/novella series. All based on a poem I wrote. I knew immediately to start research into self-publishing, I didn’t even consider traditional. No publishing company wanted this monster of a project. But I wanted to write it, because it gave me the purpose that had been taken away.

I wrote the first novella, asked around a few friends for an editor and found Scott. He was open to editing my manuscript at a rate I could afford, and so I gave it to him.

Thus began a learning curve of writing and editing I wouldn’t forget. Scott was kind, helpful, and deeply intuitive about my work and how to phrase to a novice writer where to improve. Sometimes it was hard, things didn’t work, needed to be rewritten, but we worked at it together.

After a while I published The Hidden Monastery through Pronoun. I’d written the following novella, The Last Prophecy during Nanowrimo, and Pronoun offered winners a chance to self-publish through them.

Pronoun was a platform that took care of the self-publishing process for you, making it easy, simple and a service I happily would have paid for if I’d known they were going to shut down.

I published the other novella with them, the Last Prophecy, and then my first book, The Well of Youth, in October of 2017. It was my birthday, which also happened to be International Independent Author Day. I felt like I was finally making progress.

A month later I got the email stating Pronoun were closing down.

After years of work the world tilted. I wanted to give up. I was in a very bad place emotionally and physically, and I wouldn’t have gotten through it without the support of my husband.

I decided to keep going, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do with myself.

I kept applying myself to the craft of writing, Scott kept raising the bar of what he expected from me in his genteel way. I learned from reviews where my writing was falling down, and where it excelled.

I worked hard at it, isolated from the world by circumstances outside my control, but it was also self-imposed. I didn’t feel good enough around people who were building their careers and family, their very lives, whereas I may as well have been starting from scratch.

Over these years I watched as people became vaguely mocking of my “hobby”, mostly because I was self-published. As though it were merely an exercise in vanity. But it wasn’t a hobby to me, it was far more than that. I was determined to prove I wasn’t in this for a stint, or for attention. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write full time.

In anger I started a book that originally was to be sold quickly, and all of it went on hold when the plot flowed out of my hands into something greater, that would need more time and consideration. I couldn’t even let myself write a romance just to make money. It was selfish and vain, and I hated myself for it.

And so Queen of Spades went into the time consuming process of writing the entire trilogy, and even now is going through rewrites so it can be better. Just be a good story. That was what I wanted. To write good stories.

There were knocks to my goals, setbacks and delays, the worst of which was earlier this year, the whole drive I’d had to make myself an author went cold. I couldn’t afford to pay Scott while we were trying to buy a house. It wasn’t fair to keep Scott waiting, and I knew that the Last Prophecy was going to be put indefinitely on hold.

In a fit of freedom and rage I started another project.

An idea popped into my head, and I just ran with it. I had no goals, no expectations, it was just the story and me.

Along came a woman, fighting to escape a past she couldn’t control. She was out there to show others what mistakes not to make. She was intriguing and compelling. She was a coward, and I couldn’t stop writing her story.

Twenty-five days later it was done. I was exhausted but pleased with what I’d created. I sent it to my mother, who said it was the first thing I’d written she actually liked. With that cheering thought, I kept at it.

Using ProWritingAid, I went over and over it, eliminating mistakes, smoothing it out, reading it aloud to an empty room to get the tone and sentences right. Every word I fell more in love with it, I felt I’d created something real, something special. But all those years of failings made me hesitate, uncertain.

I gave it to a friend to read. Renee said, you should pitch this on Pitmad. I had two days to get ready for the event, and spent hours pulling together every inch of the savvy I’d built up over the last few years to get my synopsis and query letter ready, and to put together the most important thing; the pitches.

I put the tweets up on a timer, as an Australian its always out of hours for us, and went to bed.

I woke up and two agents liked the tweet.

I submitted the synopsis to both.

One came back with a full request.

I sent it, having been over the script a few more times in preparation for beta readers. I already had Violeta working on the cover, expecting to be rejected from the publishers I’d pitched to, but hoping I could self-publish this if they didn’t like it.

They did more than like it, they offered me a publishing contract within weeks of it being written.

I signed a publishing contract with Literary Wanderlust a few days ago.

This isn’t about my ability to tell stories. This is about my ability to work hard and consistently. To apply myself to the craft of my writing. Fear of failure is not a demon you beat once and move on, you confront it again and again, each time a newer twisted version of the exact same one you handily thrashed last time.

All the while it tells you to give up, and that there is no point.

But it can’t take away those years of work.

Nothing will tarnish the fact that I made it this far.

No one will be able to take away all that I’ve managed to accomplish.

What it took was hard work, the willingness to improve, and to keep going. For as long as it takes, that’s what I’ll do, and if you take away anything from this blog post, then I hope you don’t quit too.

 

Book Marketing

I am going to preface this by stating I don’t have all the answers.

 

There is a lot of information out there that doesn’t tell you certain things, like signing up with certain marketing companies doesn’t work unless you write their genre, or your book isn’t ready, or you write a series. And most of all as an indie author, I made a lot of mistakes I am hoping to show you how to avoid.

 

Here is what I have learned, and I know its worked because I have sold books. Not recently but when I release and follow this plan its worked very well for me, and I’ve done it 3 times now for 2 novellas and one book, that sold a thousand copies in its opening month.

 

Here is what I have learned about marketing my book to get that kind of response, and its simple, and stupid, but I learned a lot of this the hard way.

 

  1. Is your book ready?

 

No really.  Yes its been edited, yes its been gone over a million times by you and your editor, and a few beta readers, but is it *really* ready? I made the mistake all three times of rushing to my publishing goals rather than the book goals. I’ve backed off the last year to get it right, and I’ll still have made mistakes. One book I 100% thought was ready I haven’t published because it needs a rewrite, even though it got good feedback. I can just feel it. This is also the reason why trad published books take so friggin long to come out. They write, edit, rewrite, re-edit, copy edit, beta read, review, polish, re-beta, test, review, edit, polish… on and on until it is flawless.

Look at your book and ask if you’ve given it the same kind of love. You might not be able to do all of that, but you can do a lot of it. I recommend GOOD creative critics and beta readers, and Pro-Writing Aid, even if you do have an editor. We all miss stuff.

 

  1. Covers

 

This irks me a lot. There is nothing worse than looking at a really good book and people with terribly covers saying “But the cover shouldn’t matter! You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!”

 

Why not? You do it. You aren’t going to touch a book with a terrible cover, you aren’t even going to read the blurb. But here is the thing I do get. Finding people to do good covers at a price that don’t look like something out of a high school project is hard. Fiverr covers tend to be very hit and miss, and more miss, or you can spend close to $300US to get a good photoshop one.

 

There are two solutions here: Finding decently priced cover designers who sell predesigned covers at lower rates, & Gimp.

 

The first, I can recommend Violeta’s current page and her Christmas giveaway. She’s a kind person, and her prices are very reasonable. There are others out there, but you have to know who to go for yourself.

 

If you are going to use Gimp I can tell you two things; its frustrating but worth it. I recently ran into very tight financial situation because we are trying to buy a house and just couldn’t afford a cover artist. I have spent a lot of time looking at covers in my genre, and ended up designing my own, which is the last one below.

 

 

 

No, isn’t as good, but it does at least fit with the theme, and it wasn’t too hard after I followed a lot of tutorials. The most important thing about this though, is to be absolutely sure that the images you are using are fine for ebook commercial use. That is NOT a can of worms you want to mess with.

 

  1. Blurb

 

This is the other way you are going to hook your reader after your cover has engaged attention as it’s a LOT harder than it looks. I am happy to help rewrite blurbs but I’ve found these simple rules work:

 

  • Limit of 150 words (180 for fantasy)
  • Hook first and last
  • Read the top 20 blurbs of your genre for flow and feel

 

There really isn’t much more to it than this, but it is important. Also get feedback for posting, say it aloud, review and polish. Its your first impression for your audience.

 

  1. Pick your Price

 

This may sound easy but its getting much harder. You don’t want to make your book too much but you want to be sure its not free. The trouble is that people are assuming the content isn’t very good if its only 99c, but how else to break into reader groups if you don’t make it as affordable as possible?

This is where promos come in handy, and you can get a lot of downloads for a free weekend, but you are better off advertising a more expensive book for a 99c weekend and then running a series of promos.

Check what everyone else is advertising in the top 100, and don’t forget to lower your pre-order price and up it when it goes live to what you  want it to be.

 

  1. Get your platforms in order

 

Website, Facebook, Twitter. You should have all three and while its hard to maintain them all, its worth it for exposure. If you’re struggling for content look at what other people are posting and offering. What are you talking about? How are you helping? There are numerous articles about how to create engaging content, but most of all you’ve got to work out what works for you.

 

KEY POINT: Do a lot of research on what tags to use and when, check trending tags, reach out and grow your circle.

 

 

So now that’s the basics sorted, how to get it actually out there?

  1. Books Go Social

 

I owe an awful lot to what I know about self publishing to Books Go Social Facebook groups. They offer a lot of entry level stuff that is super helpful they have a dedicated and friendly team, all under the wonderful Laurence O’Bryan and his thoughtfulness. There are a lot of media groups out there, but I generally found that just being part of the community they created and engaging some of their services was a great introduction to self publishing on a marketing level. You can also ask questions, get feedback on blurbs and covers, they offer a helpful service to upgrade your cover at a good price, and generally it’s a great learning field.

 

Here is the thing though, not every part of them is for you. Its great for books that are one off’s but not for series, but series are hard to market when the whole thing isn’t out. If you sign up to their Netgalley offers make sure to get a couple of months worth as while it is worth it, you need a couple of months, because people read slowly, take their time, and you need it to still be there for them.

 

They also have reviewing sections which are great for getting (NOT SWAPPING) reviews.

 

  1. Reviews

 

Apparently you are supposed to get a magical unicorn that farts rainbows at 30 reviews. I heard recently that Amazon had upped it to 50, which doesn’t surprise me giving the amount of services that sell reviews (do NOT  do this, ever, or swap, its against T&Cs).

 

giphy

 

So how to get reviews?

 

ARCs, Goodread giveaways, groups like BGS, Netgally, competitions for free copies on your social media sites. You have to work at it, its hard, and don’t expect everyone to give you a review, you quite often wont get one.

 

But you can ask, just don’t be pushy about it.

 

 

  1. Author Support Services

 

 

There are a lot of great services out there, but here are two I have used frequently in the past.

 

Alliance of Independent Authors is a great source of up to date clear information about what’s happening in the market. I am not a member, but will be next year.

 

You will see their members floating around and not only do I love these people I’ve seen them monitor and watch situations where people are buying reviews, faking popularity and other such great services that spoil it for the rest of us.

 

The best thing about them was that they had a complete list of safe websites to get promos from. It was absolutely golden, because it did 2 things. It helped you find good websites to advertise on, and which ones were dodgy as all get out.

 

The other cool one is Authors Unlimited and this very helpful and concise article about getting going.

 

  1. Promotions

 

This is the *HARDEST* sell (puns totally intended) because you have to spend money. After all the work you’ve done spending money seems like a complete pocket suck of the precious money you have for book selling. If you want your book out there though, it doesn’t hurt.

 

You basically need to plan months in advance for a promo weekend, book in with hosts of email services that for small fees will list or discounted (99c) or free book on their weekend newsletter. This is THE way to advertise for romance. It also gives you time to rack up the reviews.

 

There is also the magical BookBub deals, but I won’t go into it, because that isn’t for beginners. You need to have been doing this a while to get one, and they are VERY expensive.

 

 

  1. Books… write a lot of books.

 

A self published author who writes full time recently offered to answer questions. And I asked her how she does it full time, what was the kicker?

 

A book EVERY 3 to 4 months.

 

That is a lot of time, and so we return to point one of polish, review, edit, revise.

One book is never going to be enough all by itself. I know a lot of traditionally published authors turning to self pubbing for the books that their agents or publishers didn’t like the sound of, and they already have the reading base because of their traditionally published books.

 

So no matter how ready you think you are, you might not be. And that’s OK. This is a long game, and if you are here to make a lot of money then you aren’t my kind of writer. If you are telling stories you are doing what you love, even if its just a hobby for now, and if you want to get self published, you need to get to a point where you can release every 3 to 4 months, and you can’t do that if you stop writing.

 

So what are you going to do?

 

A writer's mind is never emptyInside rage demons, devils, and doubts

 

SelfPub at a Writers Expo? Where do I sign?

No, really, its not an rhetorical question.

It shouldn’t be a question.

I’ve been on this journey for three years now, and I’m still asking myself that question.

When I started my self pubbing journey I did it because there was a voice inside me that wasn’t just the woman who occasional wrote a bit, had even finished a couple of novels. I had a story I desperately needed someone to hear, and I could, and would not stop writing. My other novels weren’t so serious, but one summer I had a very serious story, and it grew and grew until it couldn’t be contained. I didn’t need to tell someone – I HAD to tell everyone!

And one of my earliest thoughts was; nobody will publish this story I’m writing.

Quickly on its heels came an immediate fear; then no one would read it.

Image result for self publishing meme

My journey for self publishing has been explained away many times, mostly to myself at night during bouts of sleepless self doubt. I didn’t think a publisher would take it on, it’s an epic story. I could get far better margins for myself if I was self published. I had to get the story out there so people could read it, because that was all that mattered to me.

Except I read an article the other day going off about the #cockygate, (and frankly, many of us did, romance writers or not). The entire affair was offensive, but what I noted about the article was something I myself had feared; the writer tore apart the offending party (we all know who she is), and in the process pointed out something rather critical.

“You self published because you’re scared of rejection.”

That hit home. Hard.

Everyone is scared of rejection, for a very simple reason; it hurts. A lot.

Even if she was doing it during an absolute shitstorm of rage against an author dragging down the very people who would have helped her get there in the first place. Many self published authors are kind, open, and perfectly happy to give advice on how they have gotten that golden opening to write full time on stories they love.

And there are quite a few of us now, and the number is growing every day. Some are just hobbyists, others incredibly serious. And I think somewhere in the middle are a not so small group who, like me… are hopeful. For what I couldn’t say, but its more than a hobby, but not yet a career.

So, when you look at the self pubbing authors, do you think all of them were scared? Oh boy, I hope so. I was scared of having my work rejected, not only as a novice writer but also because my idea (refresher – 10 books and 11 novellas all as one series), seemed so mammoth that it would be turned out on its ear from a traditional publishing house.

There was no way I wasn’t going to write it. For reasons that will become self evident over time. I firmly believed, heart and soul ,and in the darkest of nights, that I had a very specific story to tell. And friends, I didn’t sit for six hours in a torture chair to have the word “Storyteller” tattooed down my spine for nothing.

I can’t even tell you where I began, or how much I learned during this process. I can credit Nanowrimo and the subsequent prize of publishing with Pronoun (who’s departure from the selfpub field I am not over).

There are so many articles, websites, facebook groups, manuals, books, and online tutorials for self publishing that it isn’t funny.

And many of them are self serving, or have obvious intentions of solely making money, or simply put, have their own opinions based on a very narrow field of experience. Where are you from? What genre do you write? Did you have a cover designer? Have you got a social platform? You must have an editor. Let alone how good are your stories – that almost becomes a backdrop against what you have to have as a self published author.

Do you know what there isn’t a lot of? A central place for many striving authors to go and discover if this rather complicated journey is for them. Or if they keep trying to fight an incorporeal judge who, by reputation, has already told them, in no uncertain terms: “No, we don’t take work from unpublished writers.”

Every publishing house ever – even the ones who say they do accept non published authors, still need for you to get a good editor, good synopsis, and a host of other things, for them to even look at it.

I would have given anything to go and talk to someone before I decided to do this. It brings me to tears to think about how many mistakes I made, how I wasn’t sure I was ready or capable for the dedication this requires. If I was prepared for the amount of work involved, that has nothing to do with writing my actual stories.

When so many other countries are embracing what is one of the most rapidly growing markets, why aren’t we making places to do this that aren’t online groups?

Come on, Australia, why not? We are such a country focused on community and the arts and driving our passions, why aren’t we catering to one of the greatest fields out there?

Why aren’t we telling people with very small means, that no matter how insignificant they might feel, will one day change the world, that there is a space for them to simply tell stories.

15 Ways to Write More During Nanowrimo

I’m crying. I’ve been crying all morning.

Pronoun is shutting down and I have no idea what I’m going to do. I just launched the Well of Youth and its getting 4 and 5-star reviews. I just put a lot of money into advertising and reviewing to garner its attention. I took down my novella and made it free before, lost all the great reviews that Amazon wouldn’t put back, and got left with a bunch of mediocre ones.

I’ve cried in bed, in my husband’s arms, over blueberry pancakes and in the shower while I pulled myself together. Now, on my 5th coffee, I will still do the post I was going to do today.

Which is to tell you how I do Nanowrimo.

 

I committed to 150k words for the month of November, to write the next novella in the Last Prophecy Series, and to do the next book in the Queen of Spades series. Its been a rough couple of days but I’m on over 10k words and plan to write another 10 if not 20 today by mostly pouring my heart and soul into it.

How?

So first up (& cheating a little here) I posted last year on 5 ways to get through writer’s block;

https://ejdawson.com/2016/06/28/5-tips-for-writers-block-on-your-project/

I can’t recommend deciding on two separate decisions a character has and rolling to see which is more likely, that gets me through so many hard writer’s blocks.

But now I want to impart 2 other lots of tips; 5 ways to work on your book when you can’t physically sit down, and yet another 5 ways to get through writer’s block with your current work in process!

5 Ways to Work on your Book when you can’t sit and Write.

  1. Think about it all the time!

I do mean this. I think about my story when I’m on the road, when I’m in the shower, and when I’m going to sleep. It doesn’t matter if I forget or can’t write it down, I follow the thread and review where I’m currently up to, and then I sort of play out the rest of the chapter or scene in my head. I pretend it’s a movie I’m directing, and when the characters don’t speak or act I have to prompt them. Sometimes it helps me see objectively how a reaction is wrong, or the story isn’t going in the right direction.

The added benefit of this is that you *know* what you are going to be writing when you finally do sit down so it’s not such an issue.

2. Take a notebook!

I can’t believe I have to say this but take a notebook. Not your phone, not a tablet. A book of blank pages. A writing implement. I carry one everywhere with me to pencil in ideas, write down the names of characters or even just a great name when I hear it.

Don’t make excuses not to carry one. You can fit a palm-sized notebook in your pocket, pens are everywhere – and that’s only if you don’t have a backpack or handbag!

I have nearly lost great ideas because I didn’t have a notebook, and when I don’t have one I scrounge for paper and pens. I’ve written an idea on a napkin with the waiter’s pen.

The added benefit of this is that you actually remember it better when you physically write things down. This has been proven, (don’t ask me where I don’t remember) for exams and tests. So if you write your brilliant scene in dot point formation it will actually be easier to remember when you do get to write it down!

3. Talk to Someone who’s Objective

I’ve said this numerous times, but my husband’s ability to predict movies and books never ceases to amaze me. When we were dating he hadn’t seen the Usual Suspects and within the first 15 minutes knew Keyser Soze was the bad guy.

So when I have a plot problem I throw what my plans are at him, usually on drives and when we’re walking the dogs, to see if it’s too predictable. If you are worried about the direction of a story ask a trusted and honest friend.

Not someone who says “Yeah, that’s great!” and doesn’t offer any critical feedback.

Someone who will listen quietly and give good advice. They are rare people to have, but they might surprise you with their insight.

4. Make time to exercise

I suck at this one. But it helps clear the cobwebs in my head, it gets rid of the stress. Even a walk listening to the soundtrack I’m writing to is really helpful. Alone time with your thoughts is as important as writing time. It’s really that simple.

5. Plan your time

I have a good habit of sitting at my computer and just writing all the time. I do it when I’m waiting for games to load, I do it when I’ve got a spare 20mins, I do it during my lunch break at work. There are little ways you can spend five minutes getting through a scene or bit you don’t like, so that when you return you can work on the good bits. Don’t worry about it being a perfect setting, just make sure you have the capacity to write as much as possible wherever and whenever you are.

What I mean by this, is that I go through my day and pre-plan writing time; I have to exercise this morning so I’ll write at lunch. I will get home late today because of a meeting so I’ll write tomorrow morning. Think about when you are going to write, and make sure you do it, even if it is only a few minutes. It helps to know you are allocating time specifically to writing, even if it’s only a little, and sometimes that time can be very productive!

 

5 More Ways to Work on your WIP!

  1. Are you listening to the right music?

It came up in a FB post what people listen to, and is it odd to listen to soundtracks while you write? I *cannot* write without a soundtrack, I will actually hunt around for the right soundtrack for my story.

And you don’t have to listen to the LOTR soundtrack to write fantasy. The music should evoke a response from you, and you use that response to write the story you wish to work on. You wouldn’t listen to an upbeat song during a funeral scene, so you need to make sure you’re selective. It also has the added benefit of blocking out other sounds and distractions.

It doesn’t have to be soundtracks either, there are numerous artists out there I suggest you check out for evocative music;

Zack Hemsey; I can’t get enough of this guy, both his singing and instrumental. I am listening to Nomad right now, and I love his songs.

Audiomachine & Two Step from Hell; Both these are great for more fantasy/epic music, but I find there is a great balance of other songs in there too, really wonderful to write too.

Celldweller & Glitch Mob; I’ve been listening to heaps of these guys for my sci-fi romance. They have great action songs, upbeat and full throttle, and they can drop to darker/sadder music too.

2. Where are we?

In the story? Are you describing what everyone is wearing/doing? Are you travelling somewhere? What’s out the window?

Sometimes just a paragraph on what can be seen out the window of a car is far more telling, and sometimes it can lead to intimacy or moments between characters you didn’t see coming; touching hands accidently, a moment of solace. Even bringing the tension higher by sticking the protagonist and love interest in the back seat together when at this particular moment they can’t stand the sight of each other. Or better yet, the protagonist and antagonist.

There are the actions scenes that are great, but what comes between those are dialogue and description. Don’t forget those, and if you start with a description sometimes the dialogue happens on its own.

3. Plan your chapters

Presumably you know roughly how long your story is going to be, whats going to happen in the end. Even if you don’t this is a good way to keep things on track.

I usually know whether my work will have roughly 3k or 5k chapters. I then lay out the story based on the estimated word count I expect. My novellas are 50k words, my fantasy books are 130k, and my sci-fi romances are 100k.

I break it down into chapters, and then I start writing out one line about what happens in each. Sometimes (especially for the bigger books), I’ll leave a few lines. I don’t always stick to this plan, but when I don’t have the motivation to write or am not sure I’m happy with what’s going on, it’s a great reminder of where I’m supposed to go.

The stories tend to have their own lives, and there is a constant question of “Panster/Plotter”. For those of you who don’t know a panster is someone who does next to no planning, and a plotter lays it all out.

It’s been compared to planting a seed and letting to grow, to being an architect and building a house.

I like to think of chapter planning as planting a seed, and putting up the frame work of a house, and then letting the plant grow. You can encourage it to climb in any direction, but sometimes it will head off on a tangent you didn’t see, and that might be a great thing. If not, you can always chop it off and refocus on your framework, it at least keeps you on track!

4. Secondary Characters

Without them the story can be lacking, they give it fibre, believability. So what do they think about what’s going on? Do they agree/disagree with the current status of the book? Maybe the main character doesn’t care what they think but that doesn’t mean they aren’t aware. Is it worth telling the reader at this point? Wouldn’t it be better to show them by bringing them up?

It can be a concerned parent or guardian. A bossy sibling. An angry friend. A crying lover.

What is the effect of what you are putting your MC through to everyone else?

Whether it’s dropping out of school or deciding whether the antagonist should die, the decisions your MC makes has an effect, and not just on supporting characters. On the principle of the school, on the general public when they see what happens to those that cross the protagonist.

We give our MC actions to take, that they think are right, but what if someone else thinks they are wrong? Ask yourself this, see if it affects what is happening right now.

5. Leave it alone.

Yeah, OK. This runs in complete contradiction to one of the tips I gave which was to write through it. When I was writing Phantom Presence I was really angry about a lot of things and my normal outlet couldn’t cut it. I had to walk away from the MC because I didn’t have the patience the character possessed to keep writing her story.

Sometimes emotions sneak up on you, and they can influence your writing for the better, making your stories great. Other times they can completely stuff up the attitude of your MC, making them more depressed or angry than they otherwise are.

There is never a perfect time to write, but there are the times when it isn’t happening, and you need to treat your characters and story with the respect they are due, sit back, take a breath.

Venting feelings through writing is a good thing, but sometimes you need to give it a break, maybe watch a movie or something, and then get back into it.

Writing isn’t easy, I don’t need to tell you that. Writing this has been very therapeutic for me in the wake of Pronoun going down. I can admit that now, and keep working on Nanowrimo.

The Well of Youth is LIVE!!

It didn’t dawn on me until I was sitting at the launch, the display out for everyone, that I felt like I could be excited! The local Mayor was coming to give a speech, my Dad flew down from the NSW coast unexpectedly, but I didn’t feel until that moment that I’d really done it.

As people started turning up it started to pass in a blur, but I got so many pictures, and I am pleased to say this is one of the few I took alone (the rest are with the many loved ones standing next to the banner with me – or without me, I’m looking at you David);

There was cake too! – Ok, so it doesn’t look like it, but that big fat book is really a big fat chocolate cake that was delicious, thank you Vaye!

I got to catch up with so many old friends, and people I didn’t expect who made the afternoon wonderful! It felt less about showing off what I’d done, and more being grateful to all the people there.

To Scott who spent so much time helping me with it.

To Nushie, who couldn’t be there, but gave me such beautiful artwork, breathing life into my stories.

To Kate for making me look so pretty.

To Caroline for making me not feel awkward when she took pictures.

To Lorna for being my aid that day, unquestioningly making it go smoothly.

And to Emily who cracked jokes when I was nervous.

To Dee who gave such a… moving speech. It was very hard to do my speech afterward!

All the friends who came from far and wide, and it felt far less like I was talking to a bunch of strangers about my self spoken importance, and more about how far I’d come, and that they’d all had a part of it.

To my husband’s family who was there to support me – it meant so much and they have always made me feel so included in their family, even if I was a little odd.

To my Dad… who didn’t just come, he helped inspire all of this. I still got through the speech but it wasn’t easy!

I spent the evening hanging out with old uni friends who hadn’t seen each other in years and eating pizza while we reminisced. And then I went home and tired as I was I couldn’t sleep!

The next day should have been about follow up but instead I was at the Allcan Events Fundraiser for Breast Cancer, giving a speech, not about my stories or that I was an author, but about my very brave aunt who fought off cancer for nearly twenty years.

A beautiful event hosted by a work collegue and friend, Gigi, I was honoured, not just that she took the time out of a busy prep Saturday for her fundraiser to come to my book launch, but she also asked me to speak at her luncheon.

Its been a few days coming but I am glad to see the books finally online everywhere and now the hard part of marketing.

I couldn’t have done any of it without the love and support of my husband to whom I am truly grateful. He probably won’t read that but its OK, I do tell him, every day. And intend to keep doing so even with all the books that are to come.

Thank you all of you who were there on the day, and those of you who couldn’t make it I still got your wonderful messages of love and support and it gave me a sense of accomplishment. Thank you all!

Birthday Book Launch!

Its coming, its so close and I am so excited to start talking about it!

SIX WEEKS TO GO until The Well of Youth will be officially released and available for purchase! To celebrate this culmination of years of hard work and passionate creativity, I will be hosting a launch event in my home town of Trentham.

I invite you to join me to celebrate not only the release of the first book in the Last Prophecy series, but also, my birthday!

The launch will take place at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in TRENTHAM, VICTORIA (21 High Street, Trentham) on Saturday, 14 October, from 4-7pm (AEST).

I will be speaking on the day – as will some invited guests – and I expect that the local, intimate nature of the event will provide plenty of opportunity for you to grill me about what you can expect as we continue through the Last Prophecy stories!

Now, I am very aware that Trentham is a bit of a hike – even for those of you based in Victoria – so I have decided that the event will also be live recorded on my Facebook page. This will mean that the prizes (yes, there will be prizes) will be on offer to my wonderful supporters and network all over the world. Stay tuned as the event approaches for more details!

So get out your bookmarks and save the date – Saturday 14 October, 4-7pm – and come along and join me in toasting the release of my new book, The Well of Youth.

 

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