The Writing Advice Not Taken

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.

And….we’re on Patreon now too!

What’s Patreon?

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.

Why Patreon?

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…)

Writing Life: Priorities

bigstock-Alarm-clock-standing-on-stack--52359475I saw an interesting article today, and it inspired a few thoughts of my own.

Kris Rusch wrote a blog article in her Business Musings series. She put those essays out weekly, each a commentary of some sort about the business of writing. This one was called “Whining”. It’s totally worth reading, but here’s the TL;DR version:

Writers often complain that they have “no time to write” in today’s world. They blame the lack of time on having to do promotion, social media, blog tours, work on getting covers, and myriad other things. Kris outlines some really basic math showing that even in the “old days”, writers who wanted to write could find time to write amidst even the most intensive of promotion schedules – book tours, conventions, and the like. Dedicated writers would find a couple of hours of “extra time”, even in the most heated of promotion activities.

And then at the very end of her essay, she hits what I really think is the heart of the issue: she suggests spending that “extra time” on social media and other promotion stuff, and put the primary focus where it belongs – on writing new words. She recommends writers carefully control how much time they spend on promotion exercises, and put the writing first.

Which brings me to my title: priorities. (more…)

One Month, Over 75k Words

writinginpublicJanuary was a good month.

I set the goal at the beginning of the year to produce 500 words of fiction – minimum – every day this year. The idea is to not miss even a single day. I can go over, but not under. At the end of the year, I’d have a minimum of 182,000 new words, which would be more than I’ve ever produced in a year before. It seemed like a solid central goal (I named some other goals, too, but this was the core one), because my main obstacle to success has always been consistency. I’d skip a few days, then a few more, then suddenly two months would go by without accomplishing anything toward my writing career.

So how’s that working for me?

I managed a complete success in January. I never missed even a single day. A few days I did just the goal – there were six days with 500-600 words, and about the same number where I did 601-750. But I never missed. And I think the focus on writing every day was HUGE for me.

January was my most productive writing month. Ever. I finished 75,250 new words.

Other stuff I did: (more…)

King of the Dead: Episode 1 is here!

kingofthedeadDrum-roll. Fanfare. And can I get an “about time”? 🙂

It’s been a long time coming. I want to do this project justice, so the work has taken a while to get right. The first season will be six episodes, each a short novella. When the whole season is done, it’ll be compiled into a full length (and quite long!) novel.

I’m excited about this book. It’s a serious step up for my writing, and it’s a fun, interesting new idea. I’m looking forward to playing around with King Arthur and his zombie foes for at least another two seasons.

Here’s the “back cover copy”:

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Happy New Years! Looking back – and ahead!

kingofthedeadWow, just like that, another year has gone by. Tonight 2014 rolls away, and 2015 comes in shiny and new. I’m REALLY looking forward to this year, on all sorts of levels. Personally, my life finally feels in order and working well. Professionally, I have set some awesome goals for myself.

It’s gonna be a great year! I’ve got tons of stories ready to go, and a bunch more that are burning to be written.

Today though, I want to look at how I did meeting last year’s goals, and then look at setting some fresh targets for 2015.

(more…)