Also known as “The writing advice I wish I’d had in 2011.”
I ran into someone on a Facebook group today, asking for help. This person had a bunch of books out, and none of them were selling. I went and analyzed the writer’s work, and recognized a familiar set of problems. The writer was doing a bunch of things wrong – most of them, the same things *I* messed up, early on. Hey, these are easy mistakes to make. There’s no guidebook. (Well, there are, but the advice is often conflicting and confusing.)
After assessing the writer’s work, I wrote a reply. It was a public group, and a lot of people wrote nice replies offering counsel. I wrote a veritable essay. Not shocking for those who know me! I’m a writer – I saw someone in trouble, facing a lot of the problems I had to overcome the hard way. I wanted to help. The writer turned down my advice, which is sad, but some people have to go their own path and learn in their own way. That’s certainly how I managed it.
But a number of other writers suggested I save the essay anyway, as it had a lot of value for other people as well. Here’s the essay, for posterity. If you’re a struggling newer writer in this crazy modern era of publishing, give it a read. You might be facing none of these issues, or all of them. But if there’s even one bit in there which might help you, I’ll be happy. Not ALL of the advice below is going to be correct for EVERY writer, mind you! Read it through the lens of your own experience and situation.
I’ll pitch in a little here. This is going to sound harsh, some of it.
You’re making all of the classic blunders. Welcome to my world. I did the same thing – made most of the SAME mistakes that you are making. As a result, I made virtually nothing from my writing for five straight years of publishing.
I have cleared four figures a month every month since last August. I did so by turning things around. By not making the same mistakes. You can too.
1. Classic Blunder One
You’re ALL OVER THE PLACE in genres. You have mysteries, urban fantasy, and science fiction. Stop that shit now. PICK A GENRE. ANY GENRE. Now write your next 10-12 books in that genre alone. No hopping around. Just do the work.
2. Classic Blunder Two
Your covers suck. With the exception of the mystery covers, which more or less meet the minimum standards for the genre, your covers range from badly targeted (the UF cover looks like a middle-grade novel) to horrible (the SF covers just need to go) to no cover at all (why do half your books have a blank white page?). Study the genre you pick, and make your cover look as close to the bestsellers in that genre AND sub-genre as possible.
3. Classic Blunder Three
Too many series. Stop. Write ONE series until the series is done. Make that series at least three books long. Ideally, make it 6+ books long. Again, you’re all over the place and this is killing any hope of building momentum.
4. Classic Blunder Four
You are overpricing your books. Drop your prices to $2.99. Yes, there is a difference between $2.99 and $3.99. You are a new writer. You want people to take a chance on you. Dropping price early on will help. Raise them later when you’re better known. Once you have the third or fourth book out in a series, drop book one to 99c as a loss leader.
Less Obvious and Less Classic Issues:
– You’re misusing Instafreebie. There are two ways to drive traffic to your IF books. You need to either run Facebook ads targeting your target market which send people to the IF book – OR – you need to join group promotions *which target your genre*. You should be getting about 500-1000 new subscribers a month just from joint promos. If you’re not doing that, join more joint promos until you are. These leads are not the best; you will need to offer them samples of your writing to hook them. But they can be hooked. Again, part of maximizing IF use and even mailing list use in general is STICKING TO ONE GENRE. If your reader signed up for police mysteries, and you send them a SF book, they’re going to unsubscribe.
– Your blurbs need help. Your blurbs are too short. Well written, but not enough meat there. THIS IS WHERE YOU CONVINCE THEM TO BUY. You need to sell the book with the blurb. Really key.
– Edit to add: You’re also not publishing fast enough. Two books a year will result in a VERY slow build even if you follow the guidelines above. Bump up your speed to four+. Write the next book. Nothing matters more than the next book. Write in one genre, in a series, and get the next book done and out to readers. THIS IS A MOMENTUM GAME. You’re either BUILDING momentum, or you are losing it. ALWAYS. Write in a new genre? You’re building momentum there, but not where you were building it, so you’re likely LOSING momentum there unless you’re writing a book a month.
Whew! Not a lot to add about this one. Folks have been waiting on this for about a year now, and the book is finally available. This story finishes the tale of Nicholas Stein and his son Thomas as they fight for independence of Mars from the hegemony of the United Nations of Earth. But there are deeper secrets involved than either of them know, and once again the fate of humanity will rest in their hands.
Grab a copy today! : https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XZPSR6B
It’s a service designed to help people patronize artists, writers, and musicians that they like. For a small fee (the user gets to decide how much they want to spend), the patron gets certain benefits or rewards back, and the artists get a steady income from people who enjoy their work.
In my case – patrons will get first dibs on new books, BEFORE they are available in any store. Different levels will give ebooks, postcards of the cover art, or even print editions. Again, all before people buying from stores actually get to see the books. This is my way of reaching out to you directly and giving special bonuses to fans who love my stories. (more…)
Hi! Big news: I’ve got a book in a big boxed set of urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels. With authors from the USA Today and NYT bestseller lists, this ebook “boxed set” is a the collected work of talented writers from around the world. It’s an honor to have been included.
The set is full of some incredible books. I can’t wait to read them all myself – and yes, I have already pre-ordered a copy so I can start reading the other books as soon as it’s out! (more…)
It’s been a fun journey. I’m on Day 22 now, looking back. It’s been a challenging trip.
The goal: in 21 days, write, edit, and upload a novel.
Mission accomplished. The final book was uploaded to Amazon at about 10:30PM on the 21st day. A lot of other people were inspired to work hard over this 21-day period – HUGE kudos to Chris Fox for getting us all so motivated! A few other people completed first drafts in the challenge days. One other person – Chris, the originator of the challenge – finished his edits too. His book is off at proofreading and will be uploaded soon. We both hit every milestone right on track the whole way.
The editing process was especially odd for this book. I added 5000 words (bringing it up to 60k), which is a VERY big increase for my work – my final drafts are usually much closer to my first. I also changed up the order of the final three chapters, which resulted in heavy re-drafts of all three. It was a good learning experience, and I think the final book is much stronger than the draft form was. I’m still at the point where I am a better writer by the end of each new book than I was when I started it. Learning as I go is a wonderful part of this job – I hope it never stops!
I had to push myself harder and more consistently than I have ever had to before, just to get the work done. I still work full time at a NON-writing job. I have one day a week that is totally dedicated to time with my three small children. Oh, and I moved on Day 20 – so I was packing for a move at the same time all the rest of this was going on.
Working my way through this challenge tested every theory I’d written about in the “Coffee Break Novelist” book – and made me come up with some new ones, too. Maybe it’s time for another book on “writing in the time you have”…! I certainly have more to say at this point.
Do not EVER let yourself believe that you are too busy to write. If writing is what you want to be doing, make the work your priority. MAKE it happen.
Too often life is something that happens TO us. We drift through, going to work, coming home, idling away the few hours we have left until its time to go to sleep. Then we wake up and do it all over again. Unconsciously, most of us simply go with the flow, living our lives the way others tell us we should, rather than looking at what it is we actually want to be doing.
Those big dreams are for bucket lists, not for reality. We don’t have time. We have obligations. We have things we need to get done. And we’re so tired after doing all the things that we are supposed to do – where can we find the energy to write?
This is my standard advice for anyone who is wondering what they should do with their life: “Do what makes your heart sing.”
That thing you get excited about every time you get a chance to do it? That thing that you can’t wait to go do? That thing that brings you intense personal satisfaction after you’ve accomplished some milestone? That. Go do that thing.
Most human beings will never get the chance to do that ‘whatever it is’. Most of us simply live in the channels that life has carved for us, not even realizing it’s a rut, not a path. Make a difference for yourself. Go do the thing.
This book is done. I’ve already begun outlining Book 3, which will launch in April. Because that is what a writer does, the day after finishing a book: we start the next book.
Accord of Honor is on sale right now, at a special price of 99¢ (it’s usually $3.99 and will revert to that price soon).
Accord of Mars is already selling on Amazon. It’s in Select for now – I’m trying that out with some of my books.
Accord of Victory will release in late April 2016.
I’m also working on a special prequel short story… It’s about 1/3 of the way done. It tells the story of the incident where Nicholas Stein ended a world war with one fatal action – and in doing so set the stage for the Lunar Accords, and everything that followed from them in these books. I’ve told this story before (badly) years ago, but this is a complete rewrite with a lot more detail, done in the same first person style as the Accord books. That short will ONLY be available to people who sign up for the Accord series newsletter; it will not be available for sale in any store, but will be free to my readers. I’ll be posting about it here (and elsewhere) when it is finished.