Thursday, December 8, 2011

December Odds and Ends

So, December is shaping up to be an interesting month for a variety of reasons.  Let's get to it!

First, as many of you know, I had published my first short story a couple of months ago.  I did this for a number of reasons, not the least of which was so that I could get the epublishing details worked out ahead of when my first novel would be done.  I chose to go direct with Amazon via their KDP platform, PubIt platform for Barnes &, and Smashwords for everything else (Diesel, Apple, Kobo, etc.).  So, between this and what I do for my day job, I got a good education on how to do it.

Unfortunately, I also learned that I had chosen a completely worthless title for this first short story - I titled it "The Collection".  At the time, I really liked it as a title and thought it was intriguing.  After a while, I discovered that when one does a search for the word "collection", one will get ACTUAL collections of things: collections of short stories, collections of books, collections of DVDs, etc., but no short story with that title would ever come up anywhere near the top of the list.  So rather than continue to beat my proverbial head against the wall, I chose to rename my short story, give it a new cover, and revise the interior of the book with a black and white image of the book cover (like the big boys do!) and add a section at the end about me, the author.

Overall, I like all of these changes, and I'm hopeful that this will make an impact on sales and just plain having people find the darn thing!  Oh, and along with all of these changes, I also dropped the price back down to $.99.  At one point about a month ago I had thought I perhaps had priced it too low, and raised the price to $2.99.  That didn't help a bit, most likely because of the above reasons that I have now addressed.  Plus, it seemed like too high of a price for a short story, so I'm much happier back at the lower price.  What's the new title for the short story?  Glad you asked!  "Pins And Dolls".

Okay, on to more news.  I'm fortunate to work at a company that has many people who are used to using a lot of technology, both for work and personally.  As such, I was able to get a look at a new Kindle Fire that a co-worker had just gotten.  I must say, it's impressive for such a compact device!  It's definitely a slick gadget, and would be great for many applications.  However, I don't think it will become the big-time ereader like the regular Kindles have become because of the backlit screen that it uses.  I'm sure in a few years we'll be inundated with ereaders that have color E-ink screens, but until then this is a good competitor to the Nook Color and the iPad.  Keep in mind that the iPad has a screen that's about twice as big as the Fire or Nook Color.

Also, Black Friday.  From the anecdotal reports that I've heard, Amazon sold "millions" of Kindles over the Thanksgiving weekend.  This is on top of the 5 million plus Fires that were pre-sold and shipped earlier in the Fall.  These items plus the fact that more people will probably purchase new Kindles, Nooks, and other ereaders in the new year with their holiday cash mean a whole slew of new potential readers for indie authors to take advantage of.  I need to get my butt in gear, but my above changes to my short story are the beginning of me doing just that.

Finally, Amazon announced this morning the new feature for people publishing on the KDP platform:  the Kindle Lending Library.  Previously, this had gotten publicity due to the fact that they included many large publishers in the program, some against their desires even though Amazon promised to pay them for each ebook loaned.

Now, though, it's possible to add your ebook to the Lending Library program - IF you agree to publish EXCLUSIVELY with Amazon.  That's right, you will need to not have your ebook available anywhere else in the world, including your own website/blogsite (at least, that's the scuttlebutt).  In return, there is a pool of a HALF-MILLION DOLLARS that will be divided up amongst all Lending Library participants for the month of December.  Wow, what a deal, right?

Well, not so fast.  Let's think about this for a moment.  Is this really a good deal?  Perhaps it is, if you only publish on Amazon and/or the majority of your sales come from Amazon.  But for others who sell a significant portion through other retailers, or those that wish to, it's not a good deal even with the limited 90-day agreement.  Why?  Well, have you been paying attention to what's been going on globally with ebooks?  If not, you best start paying attention, because while Amazon will try to make inroads (i.e., Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, etc.), the fact is that there are plenty of other ebook competitors that are better positioned and funded to reach the European markets and beyond.  Kobo, specifically, has made a series of moves over the past 6-8 months that will help it to become the go-to ereader and ebook store in Europe when things explode there in the next couple of years.  Why would you want to limit yourself just to Amazon when you could become a best-seller in France or other countries?

The basic tenet of "Buyer Beware" holds true here.  Read up on the positives and negatives of the Lending Library before you agree to anything.  Know what you have to do to comply with their terms and conditions.  And think long-term, not just for the next 90 days or so.  Amazon is big now, but Barnes & Noble or another ebook retailer could make the right moves and really attract a following that would give Amazon a run for their money.  Do you want to be locked in to that and not be able to take advantage of things when they shift?  Not me, I want to keep playing things fast and loose!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Spain and Italy!

I'm sure that many of you know this, but some may not:  Amazon has opened Kindle stores in Spain and Italy!  This is just the latest in a string of Kindle ebook stores that Amazon has launched this year alone.

I believe that by my count there are now 6 specific Kindle stores for countries around the world:  United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy.  This should be huge and welcome news for indie published authors, as this allows our ebooks to be purchased in those countries own stores.

Now, granted, these are still in English (assuming you published them that way in the first place), but there are still plenty of people who would be willing to purchase an English-written novel.  But, this also expands the opportunities that we have to translate our works and have it sold in the native countries of these translations.  Very exciting indeed!

With all of these developments this year alone, plus the fact that Kindles are now cheaper than they've ever been, AND that millions more Kindles have gotten or will get into the hands of more people this holiday season...well, it's high time to finish up that novel, clean it up and get it out there.  You never know just how many people will like it until you get it out there.  And you're waiting around why, again?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

How's The Speed of Your Writing?

How many words to you routinely bang out when you're writing?  2,000 words?  4,000?  Over how many hours does this happen?  Ever wanted to be able to produce more, and better, results?

I just was turned onto a great blog post about this very thing.  This author has increased her productivity to routinely to 10,000 words PER DAY!  She averages 1,500 words per hour, sometimes hitting 2,000 per hour when things are really flowing.

I've read through the post, and she's got good, solid ideas.  I urge you to read it and then implement her ideas.  I'm planning to so that I understand better just how I write.  If we can do more in the same amount of time, we can write more and put out more, meaning we make more money.  All great things.  Enjoy the reading!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Speaking Of QRs...

This isn't QR codes, but rather Q.R. Markham, aka Quentin Rowan.  This guy gives a bad name to the profession of "novelist".  I don't have to say any more, just read for yourself.  This story is out there in the States and the U.K., but here is a link that provides solid evidence of the plagiarism he's perpetrated, evidently for years:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

QR Codes For Indie Authors

QR codes are one of those things that we've all seen, but nobody knows what they are called.  They are becoming ubiquitous in our society, and have already become so in Japan where they first gained prominence.  They are in magazines, on billboards, at conferences or other events, printed on mailers, and countless other media that cross our paths on a daily and weekly basis.  So, what do these things look like?

Take a look to your left, and you'll see an example of a QR code.  If you've got a smart phone (any kind, as long as it has a camera), all you need to do is to download a barcode scanning app (they should be free) that supports QR codes (not sure, but I'm betting most do), and then scan the code to the left.  Yes, it's an active code that works - it will take you to the Amazon page for my short story titled "The Collection".

Sure, you're thinking, that's nice and all, but why should I care?  What could this possibly have to do with me being an indie author?  Answer:  plenty!

First, grasp the concept that you can create these three-dimensional barcodes for FREE.  That's right, there are plenty of websites out there that will create these for you for nothing.  Plus, people can download the app for interpreting these barcodes for FREE.  Being free makes it easy for people to spread these far and wide and come up with uses that no one has yet thought of.

The second thing that you need to realize is that you can create QR codes to go to virtually any website that you want.  I made mine in less than a minute, and it goes to my short story on Amazon, but you can have yours go anywhere:  to your blog site, to Amazon/Smashwords/Barnes & Noble/etc. where your books are sold, Goodreads, you name it.  The sky is truly the limit on where you have these QR codes take someone.

Along with this is the fact that you MIGHT want to have one (or more) of these QR codes in your book or short story.  Where would you have them take someone?  Why to your author page on Facebook so that you can gain more fans?  What about sending them to your other book that you wrote so that they can purchase that since they liked the book they have in their hands?  What if you wanted to link to a book trailer on YouTube?  Your website?  Twitter page?  Author central on Amazon?  If you can dream it, you can send them there!

Now here's the really cool part, where things explode exponentially.  QR codes can actually do so much more than just take people to a website.  They could bring people to a Google map location.  They can launch a user's email client and pre-load a "To" address and "Subject" line.  They can even be used to place a call!  Now what could you use them for?  Suddenly, you could make a very interesting, very interactive experience for a reader of your plain ol' ebook or print book!

So start having a little fun with QR codes and your writing.  Maybe you'll decide to exchange "QR Links" with fellow authors so that you are cross-promoting to gain new fans.  Maybe you'll make the first interactive ebook that responds to a user's inputs.  Who knows, but it sure is fun to dream, isn't it?  I'm not sure if I'll use any of these ideas myself, but it would be awesome to see them implemented.  How might YOU use your QR codes?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Ever Changing Publishing Industry...

It seems like every time that you turn around, something else is happening in the publishing industry, either here in the United States or elsewhere abroad.  After many, many decades of stagnation, the pace of change is mind-boggling.

Consider the recent news from Kobo.  They have signed deals with one of the largest book retailers in Britain as well as (I think) the largest book retailer in France.  These retailers will carry Kobo ereaders in all of their retail stores, and Kobo will administer their online ebook stores.  This happened in the past 2 weeks.

Or think about the implications of the latest posting by Blake Crouch on Joe Konrath's blog.  He just returned from China where he was invited to speak at a large convention that had all of the major book publishers in China present.  Over there, authors are putting out new content BY THE DAY!  They are mastering the art of serialization of their content, and making a handsome payday to boot.

Of course, most of you (I'm guessing you are all from the U.S.?) know about Amazon's new offerings of different Kindle devices, plus the fact that they are snapping up authors, both new and established, at quite a pace.  And the fact that ebooks now represent a significant portion of sales across the board for publishers and retailers (well, at least those who sell them).

All of this has happened in just the last month or so.  Imagine what things will be like a year from now.  How many countries will you be able to sell your ebooks in?  Will you become a huge hit in Spain?  Maybe you'll strike a chord with people in Japan or Australia.  What happens when some company comes out with a color e-ink screen?  What happens when you can start incorporating video segments on ereaders for a more immersive experience?  Who will come up with the next innovative idea on how to use ereaders in new ways?

Writers have always been entrepreneurs, they just didn't really know it or were told that they were.  Every time they write something new, it's like building a new business.  Will customers (readers) come?  Will they like it?  Will they tell their friends to check you out?  What if everyone hates it?  Now, writers have a chance to spread their wings and try things that they've always wanted but just couldn't.  Those who have spent their lives in the traditional publishing mode can dip their toes in the new epublishing realm with something new, something different, something that their current publisher/agent had or would turn down in a heartbeat.  And they just might find some success.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  Now is an incredible time to be a writer!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Novel Update

Figured that it was about time that I provide a little bit of an update on my first novel.  Things are going well, but like anything else that you try for the first time, it's going slower than anticipated.

All in all, I can't complain.  I'm getting to try something that I've wanted to do for years.  I highly recommend people try to write a novel, even if they never publish it.  It's just a lot of fun and you can explore things that you otherwise may never get to.

So where am I with my novel?  I hate to say it, but I'm only about half-way through my first draft.  I still have aspirations of getting it done, edited, beta read, and uploaded for sale by the end of the year.  If I get my heiny in gear, I could still make that deadline.  But in the end, for me it's not that I hit the deadline, it's that I actually make my goal of finishing and publishing my novels.

Yes, I said novels, plural.  When I'm done with this first one, I've got more that I'm already planning to write in this same series.  Plus I have a fantasy series that I'm throwing around in my head.  But first things first: finish this first novel.  I'm at what I consider a really fun part of the story.  I just introduced the yin to my 2 other characters yang.  I have a feeling that I'm really going to enjoy writing the rest of the story!

If you want me to let you know when the novel is done and out, just send me an email:  dlk (dot) writer (at) gmail (dot) com.  "Coordinates For Murder" will have a lot of action, drama, technology, and just be a darn fun read.

Okay, I best get back to writing it.  I want to see how I'm going to end it!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

If You Were J.K. Rowling...

...what would you do?  If you haven't been keeping up with the efforts of J.K. Rowling, she had the audacity to want to "go it alone" and offer ebooks of the Harry Potter series herself.  Not through Amazon, not through Apple or Barnes & Noble.  Nope, she wanted all ebook sales to happen through her own special website:  Pottermore.

Now, many months ago when I had first heard about this, I thought it was a potentially brilliant move on her part.  Actually, what was brilliant on her part was years ago keeping control of the ebook version of her books by leaving them out of the publishing contract.  The next step was setting up her own website just for fans of the series where they could, in theory, get all things Potter.  Brilliant.

Now, after many months of development, testing, etc., it is beginning to come to light that things are not going so well in the world of Pottermore.  Delays have become common, communication is barely existent, and people are getting frustrated.  Probably the biggest No-No that happened was the delay in releasing the Harry Potter ebooks until 2012.  Couple that with the recent release of a whole new line of Amazon Kindle readers (including one that is $79), and you've got a disaster in the making.

Exactly how much business will be lost by the delay of the ebooks this holiday season?  It's hard to say, but I'm willing to estimate loses in at least the hundreds of thousands, probably more.  Will it be made up?  Possibly, as long as things rapidly improve with the website.  Otherwise, what she's running the risk of is pirated copies of the Potter ebooks.  Now, I know what you're saying:  haven't I been the one to tell people not to worry about pirating?  Yes, I have, but I believe that this is a special case.  She's a well-known quantity, and there are oodles of fans that would love to have the ebook versions of the books; many of them wouldn't care if it wasn't the "authorized" version.  Will that happen?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  But why make that an option?

In the end, if the ebook versions are ready to go, why not hide most of the other stuff until next year and just offer the ebook versions in time for the holiday season?  What this would gain her would be 1) sales of the ebooks at a time when the ereader revolution is exploding even more, 2) time to debug and refine the extras that she would like to offer fans on the website, and 3) a chance to reverse the ill will that has been generated due to the current issues.  It wouldn't take much to make this happen, in my opinion.

But what about you?  What would you do if you were in Rowling's shoes?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Kindles Are Here!

Amazon once again sets a new bar in the ereader price wars that have been smoldering for the past few years. For the first time ever, there is a mainstream ereader that is way below $100. I am predicting that this will only increase the rapid shift from paper books to ebooks. Paper books will never go away, but what remains to be seen is what types of books will remain mostly in print and which ones will go to ebooks. Fiction has been the easy choice for ebooks, but what about non-fiction?

To be fair, Barnes & Noble also has a really good price on their entry-level ereader, which is now at $89. Both of these price points will mean that people who have thought about giving an ereader as a gift but felt that the price was too high now have almost no excuse for not purchasing one. Unfortunately, Sony has not yet dropped the price of their ereaders, $149 being their price point. And Kobo has their least expensive ereader at $99.

What will this mean for writers? It should mean another explosive growth phase in people finding and purchasing their books, novellas, short stories, etc. over the next year or two. And not just in the United States either. The United Kingdom is getting the cheap Kindle as well for 89 pounds, and there are others around the world that will also benefit from these less-expensive models. This is no longer a fad, it is an established new way to consume books and other publications.

I’ll be celebrating soon with my new Kindle once my first novel comes out. In the mean time, for everyone who desires, I’ve got my first short story that is available on all formats, available for $.99 titled The Collection. It’s a fun, interesting story about dolls…but not in the way you might expect. Links at the right will take you to places to purchase it. If you are a writer, now is possibly the best time ever to connect with readers. If you are a reader, you’ve never had such access to so many good stories and writers. Life is good!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Do You Want To Read Next?

So, I've got a lot of ideas rolling around in my noggin, and it would be great to have some help with the direction that I should take.  I've got 3 different short story ideas that I'm keen on working on, but can't decide which one should come first.  So, my readers, friends, family and fans, which short story should I work on, and publish, first: The one with the girl and the car, the one with the unusual ritual, or the one with the puppets?
Put your answer in the comments on this post.  And I'll decide at the end of this weekend - September 25.  I'll post a follow-up with which one wins the popular vote.
Update:  The verdict is in:  The Girl and the Car is my next short story!  I'll keep you all posted when it's available.  Thanks for voting!

Friday, September 16, 2011

First Publication!

Finally!  I've taken the plunge with one of my short stories and published it.  I had a fun time writing it, and I hope people enjoy reading it as well.  It will soon be available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, and a host of other ereaders the world over.

Wow.  That's mind-boggling to think about.  I could have sales in Canada, England, Germany, Australia, Japan, Italy, Egypt, Norway, Brazil, and any other number of countries.  And just a few short years ago I would have been happy enough to have had my stories available just in the United States!  This truly is an amazing time to be a writer.

Over time, I will be adding more short stories, along with the ultimate publication of my first novel by the end of this year.  For those who have been thinking about doing this self-publishing deal, I'm telling you NOW is the time - don't wait, just do it.  What's the worst that could happen?  Exactly, you might actually enjoy writing and publishing and do well.  So go and do it!  For those who are already doing it, I'm encouraging you to continue and to do even more.  There is so much opportunity out there now, it's crazy not to try some new ideas.

If you like, the link to the Kindle version of my new short story, The Collection, is below.  Keep writing!

The Collection - Kindle short story

Friday, August 26, 2011

John Locke Strikes Deal With Simon & Schuster

Yet another interesting event has taken place in this ever-changing world of publishing.  In the past week, million-plus ebook selling indie author John Locke has signed an agreement with Simon & Schuster to put out the print versions of his Donovan Creed series (and possibly others).  This is the same publisher that also has a partnership with ebook sensation Amanda Hocking.  What's going on over at S&S?

This deal is very interesting, to say the least.  For comparison, a traditional publishing contract would deal with virtually all aspects of a book: the pricing, the versions (hardback, paperback, ebook, etc.), where to distribute (U.S. only, North America, World, etc.), and so on.  Amanda Hocking's deal is mostly similar to this deal, as she is having S&S take over the heavy lifting of a small set of her successful books.  Locke's deal, on the other hand, is really a major departure from the traditional publishing model.

Possibly the biggest part of the deal is the fact that S&S is going to be starting a whole new imprint, John Locke Books, to release the Donovan Creed books under.  Talk about negotiation skills!  This imprint will only release the print versions of his books - the ebook rights Locke himself retained, and will presumably continue to sell.  Pricing of his ebooks may or may not remain where they have been, but that's his call, since he kept those rights.  His books are anticipated to start going on sale in February of 2012.

What seems to be the biggest question, and probably the most important, especially for S&S, is:  what will the print versions be priced at?  Some thoughts out there are that they will need to be as cheap as possible in order to have chance at competing with the ebook versions, which presently sell for $.99 each (U.S. currency).  I'm wondering if S&S hasn't decided that it will treat the print version as a separate entity, wholly different and distinct from the ebook version, and therefore will price them as they usually price paperbacks.  Either way, this is a unique deal that will be watched closely in the coming months, by publishers, traditionally published authors, and indie/self-published authors alike.

I know I'd like to fend off deals like this with a stick, so I best get writing.  And you should too!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Reading Variety

Hey gang!  I wanted to spend just a little time talking about what I see as an important aspect to a writer.  Not only does a writer need to write, but a writer needs to READ as well.  And not just those genres that you enjoy, either.  You need to read a variety of books, from all kinds of genres, both fiction and non-fiction.

Seriously?!  Why would I advocate reading something that you don't enjoy?  Am I nuts?  Well, we can take that up at another time, but think about this for a few minutes.  You already enjoy your particular genre, let's say that's Science Fiction.  You've read a lot in that genre, probably a lot of Asimov, plenty of the Star Trek novels (they just keep coming!), etc., etc.  And you know what these people like - they like SciFi!

But, what about reading a western?  What, you ask, would be the benefit of reading a western?  Well, think about this for a minute.  If you read a few westerns, you might suddenly conjure up a new SciFi story with elements of old westerns.  Maybe there is a unique melding of the 2 disparate ideas that you could form, making a unique world that is all your own.  How cool would that be, to start your own unique series?

What about reading romance?  Do you think that you might be able to learn a few things to make your relationships more believable, more real, more true-to-life?  And what about non-fiction books?  Using my SciFi example, have you kept up with what is actually happening with the space program for the United States?  What about China?  Europe?  Private space companies?  These can spark a lot of new and different ideas that you could incorporate into a new world or your existing world.

Perhaps there is a biography that you've been wanting to read about.  So, read it!  You never know, you might find some character details that are interesting and that you could devise a new character, or a new villian.  Maybe the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of a dictator comes on the scene, but he is now the dictator of a whole planet!

This is what makes writing fiction so much fun!  There are plenty of ideas out there to keep people busy for years; even more so when some of these ideas are put together in new and interesting ways.  And humanity's progress on a variety of different fronts suddenly changes our understanding of how things work and provides new fodder to exploit.  So, read, read, and read some more - in a variety of different genres.  You'll find plenty of new ideas to exploit and make your own.  Cheers!

Friday, August 19, 2011

So Much For My Next Bestseller...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Perfect Novel?

There is no such thing as a perfect book and the more you work to make a book perfect, the more you turn it into a polished stone with no character or voice. Leave your book rough, leave your voice alone, mail the book to an editor or indie publish the book and do another.
There is no perfect book. Never has been, never will be. And you certainly won’t write the first one. Sorry.

The immortal words of Dean Wesley Smith.  I hear from so many corners that one needs to spend an inordinate amount of time on editing, re-editing, checking for continuity, grammar, grammar, grammar, spelling, etc. before your book is ready for publishing.  The interesting (or perhaps funny) thing is:  I can find any "normally" published book that has errors of one sort or another in it.  By normal, I mean traditionally published by a print publisher, not having the author self-publish.

Why is this the case?  Why do people feel the need to harp so much on the supposed need to spend all this time reviewing and editing your novel?  I'm really not sure, but I'm getting more than a little peeved about it.  Look, I'm going to do the best that I can, and that's all I can do.  That's all that you can do.  That's all that anyone can do.  There is no perfect book, but there sure are a lot of popular books.

I've heard plenty of people bemoaning the fact the Stephanie Meyers books are so popular.  Why are they making a big stink about it?  Well, supposedly it's "bad writing".  Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn't (I haven't read them, so I have no opinion).  But if people are happy with it, and are choosing to spend the money to purchase the books, why should anyone care?  From what I can tell, it's because they think that she's somehow "dumbing down" the profession of author.  I get the impression that they somehow try to outdo each other in lifting their noses higher than the next person; a sort of snooty contest, in other words.

People are also picking on John Locke and his success.  I've actually read a chapter or two of one of his more recent titles, and I've got to say, while it might not be my most favorite series, I can easily see where people love it.  It's a great escape, full of larger-than-life characters and situations.  I should be so fortunate to be just a quarter as successful as he is.

Every published writer has to go through the stage of the "first novel".  It won't be perfect, the characters might be a tad two dimensional, the story line might be a little thin or contrived.  But the fact is, they've accomplished something that the vast, vast majority of people in this world will never do:  they've written a full novel.  These first-time novelists will continue to learn and hone the craft, but that doesn't mean that they will never have an error here or there.  Many people find James Patterson (among many others) and his writing pretty bland, but that doesn't stop him from selling tons of copies.  From what I can see, those people who are finding fault with all of these bad novels and stories that are out there probably are jealous.  They are jealous of the fact that someone finished a novel, they are jealous of the fact that someone else thought it was entertaining, they are jealous that they are enjoying some modicum of success, both personally and professionally.

Get over it!  You can't control what others do, so why are you complaining about it?  Are you hoping that someone will do something, that they will stop all of these "non-authors" from putting out their works?  I actually saw someone propose (jokingly, I'm sure, but I bet there's a bit of hope from them that it happens) that there should be a law against people putting out crap.  REALLY?!  Wow...just, wow.

To those that wish the crap would just stop, I say - shut up and work on your own shit!  To those that feel that they need to keep editing and re-editing, I say - do what you can (take pride in what you are doing, and do it right), and then put it out there, imperfections and all, and get working on the next story or novel.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

In The Not Too Distant Future...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Books Still Rule!

The vaunted ereader device....subdued!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why Don't People Get It?

I've been hanging out in various writer/author/publisher/etc. groups on LinkedIn for a while, and there's one persistent issue that still gets me going: why don't more people see what's happening with publishing?

Yes, there are thousands and thousands of authors, agents, and publishers that DO get it.  They are embracing the changes that are happening right now, on nearly a daily basis it seems.  They are adapting to the new world, and doing well because of it.  What I mean is:  they understand the power of the ebook.

Ebooks, regardless of your love or hate for them, are here to stay and are a growing portion of the publishing industry.  The group that has embraced this new technology, with the various ereaders that are out there (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, and many others), are indie publishers.  These people are running like mad to take advantage of what this sea-change in publishing means.

What does it mean?  It means that no longer will an author have to wait months and months (like 12, 18, 20 or more months) to see their work available to the public.  It means that no longer are agents and publishers the ones that will decide what the public will be able to see; now, readers themselves will vet the books, and the ones that are good will be read by many, while those that are poor will be read by few.  It means that authors will finally be able to make some real money, and there will be more authors that will be able to make a living off of their writing.  It means that books can be discovered over the course of years, if not decades, rather than having to make all of their sales in just a few weeks and then disappear.

You know what also fits the above mold?  POD, or print-on-demand, books.  Yes, if you really like a book, you can still get it in paperback.  Even years after it was first published.  And a bookstore doesn't have to physically stock the book, and will only produce one when its sold.  Have you ever heard of the Espresso Book Machine?  It will produce, from blank paper and card stock, a completed book, printed, bound and ready to read, in 10 minutes.  Think about that:  10 MINUTES!  This is a proven concept, and will become more prevalent in time.

The old guard of publishing is going away, sometimes with a fight.  As an author, now is the best time to be an author in at least the last 40 years, and probably more.  As a publisher, think about all of the great books that you couldn't publish because you didn't have the capacity or you weren't sure if they would sell.  Now, you can see what readers want, and you've got a track record from the indie publishers who are selling hundreds, if not thousands of copies of their novel each MONTH.

Wow, what a time we live in!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 235th Anniversary, America

Congratulations, America!  235 years being the home of freedom for the world.  If you haven't read the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, do yourself a favor and take some time to read them.  They are short, but powerful, and will give you a greater appreciation for what was passed down to us from past generations.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Snowflake Method - Step 5

First off, my apologies for having this latest entry on the Snowflake Method be so long in coming.  Life gets in the way, etc., etc.  Anyway, on with the show!

So, we are now to Step 5 of The Snowflake Method.  This is, technically speaking, the half-way point in the 10-Step process.  However, realistically, you are more like a quarter of the way through your efforts to write your great novel.  I don't say this to be a downer or otherwise dissuade you from continuing.  I just want you to realize that there is still a lot of work left for you to do, and each step will get progressively longer to complete than the previous step.  But, like before, each step will help you expand on your story idea, and get you to the finish line - a completed first draft of your novel.

Step 5 builds off of your work from Steps 3 and 4.  Step 5 has you writing a (roughly) one-page story synopsis from the point of view of your main characters.  For you minor characters, you would do just a half-page.  This will be a really fun step to go through, because you will end up learning so much not only about your story, but about your characters as well.  Things will really start to come alive now that you are putting your characters into the story, plus you get to see things from their perspective.

This step will take a while, especially if you have a number of characters already.  But, don't think that these only have purpose to your story.  They can also be used to help weave a highly intriguing story summary that you can use as promotional materials for your book, on the back cover of your print version, in descriptions for your ebooks, and more.  I know that going through this step with my main characters helped them to become more personal to me, more real.  I understood them better, and could really see how they would interact with each other and their surroundings.

As with previous steps, I'll give you a little bit of an example from my current novel-in-progress.  This is a paragraph of the character POV synopsis for one of my characters, John:

The set of coordinates with the key ring bring them to a small, old, run-down church. John tries to convince Sammy that they should stop, but he eagerly unlocks the padlock on the front door and goes in. The inside of the church is no better than the outside, and birds and other animals have started making it their home. The only thing that stands out is the untouched Bible on the rotten pulpit at the front of the church. Sammy starts to look around the pulpit and the Bible, wondering how it got there and why, when a trap door opens where he is standing behind the pulpit and he falls in.

Labels, labels, labels....

I had always planned on gathering my growing list of posts together in various groupings, but I wanted to wait until I actually had a small selection from which to review and assign labels/tags.  Well, today is that day.  So, you can easily find my opinions on writing, some humorous postings, my entries for the Snowflake Method, and others.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

J.K. Rowling - Self Publisher?

I could barely believe what I was reading, but it's true:  J.K. Rowling will be self-publishing the Harry Potter series of books as ebooks through her own website,  Things are expected to kick off this October, 2011.

So, what does this mean?  Well, it's another big name (probably the biggest) to let the world know that she's got the business savvy and desire to put out her own books in the manner that she sees fit.  She was super-smart to retain the ebook rights (among other rights that she retained) when the books were first printed.  Now I wonder what other goodies she might elect to include in the ebooks since she has complete control over them.

The possibilities are endless for her, and it makes me wonder if more authors won't start to build their own ebook libraries on their own websites?  I mean, why not?  You can create your own ebooks now, and they can be read on virtually an ereader (Kindle should be catching up to this now, at least soon), and you can sell them yourself.  The only reason to utilize other places to sell them is for reaching other readers that you don't currently have.

From a marketing perspective, this is also golden for her.  She will soon have legions of new people to market directly to for future stories, etc.  Customer data is king in marketing, and she'll be sitting on a pile of money with that data.

My mind is reeling at the implications of what she is doing, and the opportunities that are coming along because of her very public choices.  Pay close attention, because things will be moving along at an even more rapid pace.  Strap in for the ride!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Novel Writing Update

Wow, where do I begin?  There's been so many different things that I've learned, that have happened and continue to happen, etc.  I had started this blog for a number of reasons, of which I'll try to elaborate on shortly.  First, a heads-up for everyone reading this:  I'm going to ramble on here, and I really don't care if you like it or not.  It is what it is, and that's all that there is.

So, I had a few reasons to start this blog.  One was for the challenge, as I had never had a blog before.  I had thought about doing one, and the concept seemed interesting to me.  I guess I never had much of a doubt that I could find things to write about on a regular basis to people that I had never met in person and who might find my writings interesting.  Wow, when I just typed that, it felt like a bad run-on sentence!  But really, I think I just didn't see the reason why I should have a blog.  Until, that is, I made the decision to go full-bore, head-long into writing and publishing my first novel.  So, I accepted the challenge earlier this year, and for the most part I've held up to my own standard of posting something at least every 7 calendar days.

But why else have a blog?  Well, for one thing, if I was to write a novel, and publish it, I was going to have to reach out beyond those people in my immediate sphere of contact: friends, family, neighbors, community groups, etc.  I needed, and still need, to grow a base of people that I've never met, but yet still enjoy what I have to say, be it fictional, factual, or something else (and please, don't ask me what that something else is, because I REALLY don't know!).  To that end, as of the time of this writing/posting, I now have over 20 followers to this blog - Thank You, Followers!!  I'm still not entirely sure why you have decided to follow this blog, but I thank you none the less, and hope that you get some enjoyment from it.

Okay, so I've got two reasons.  Why else?  Well, I suppose I could say that it helps me write and hone my craft.  But in all honesty, I don't feel that way, at least not yet.  Perhaps it will over time, subtly, and in a few years I can look back at my recent novel and one that I did a few years back and say "Oh yeah, I sucked back then."  So, while flimsy at best, I suppose I could count that as a reason.

Oh, here's another one, which goes along with point #2 above:  I want the followers so that I can get more people to buy my novel when it comes out by the end of 2011.  Selfish, to be sure, but at least I'm honest about it.  I want more people to buy my novel, and hopefully to like it, as well as recommend to their friends, family and neighbors that they also need to buy a copy of it.  Believe it or not, writing is NOT my full-time day job.  No, sad to say, I'm a working stiff who has aspirations of writing full-time.  Believe me when I say that I have oodles of story ideas written down already, plus many, many more that will come to the surface over time.  To give you an idea, I'm writing my first novel, which I already have the story idea for a sequel to, plus I am working on a fantasy series that I would write under a pen name (I'm slowly building the details of this fantasy world), PLUS I have a fictional series idea based on a popular TV show on cable, PLUS I have nearly 4 full pages of story ideas for one-off novels, PLUS I have a couple of pages of story ideas for short stories, PLUS I have a number of short stories that I could polish up and put together for a short story collection.  **SIGH** But I barely have enough time just to live the rest of my life, let alone work on a novel or even contemplate any of the other ideas I have.

So, those are a few reasons why I have this blog.  I think the other one that I tend to forget about, and what I had originally planned as a major reason to have this blog, is to write about what it's like as a first-time novelist trying to actually complete a novel, then to set about publishing it on Kindle, Nook, etc. as well as having a paperback version and an audio version.  And yes, my intention is to have the novel available in all of those formats.  And I think this is where the meat of this blog post is: my experiences thus far with the process.

First, can we say "tedious"?  Because that's what I've experienced over the past few months when it comes to writing my first novel.  I guess I knew it would take time, but I never imagined that it would be so tough to carve out time just to get it done.  Some days aren't that hard, but others are.  Think about trying to get ready for a garage sale - no real time there to write, since you are finding things to sell, pricing them all, setting things up, getting the money situation ready, and all of the other aspects that come with doing a multi-day, multi-family garage sale.  Needless to say, I didn't get any writing done because of that for nearly a week.  Basically, life keeps getting in the way of the writing, and it's a constant battle to say to myself "Self, get up off the couch, stop watching Netflix, and get your butt in the chair and start typing!"

To be fair, it isn't all tough, though.  Sometimes things really click, and I'm having fun because things are coming together in my head, and I'm writing done some really good stuff.  I like those times, and I wish I had more of them.  But, I'll take what I can get, when I can get it.  In the end, if you choose to write and publish a novel, it's hard work.  Don't ever let someone tell you that writing is easy.  "Oh sure it is," they'll say, having never done it themselves.  "You just make up a story and BOOM!, there you go."  Right, because that's always how things work....  Give me a friggin break!

I must say that I've learned a ton as well.  My writer friends have been awesome to meet with (you know who you are if you're reading this, and thanks!), and they've shown me good things, and hopefully I've helped them out some too.  One of them recently published her first book (The Enemy We Know, in case you were wondering.  Go on, buy it, you'll thank me later.), and that's been a cool learning experience for her and the rest of us.  Marketing, as any experienced writer will tell you, probably takes up more time than the writing, but is very important.  So many ways to market your book, and I only know just a tiny fraction of ways to do it; there's always more to learn.

Okay, rather than drag this on any more, let me summarize for you just where I am in the process.  I'm presently on my first draft of my novel.  I've plotted out all of my scenes, characters, etc., and am using this for the first draft.  That took me a few months to get that all down on paper, but I used the Snowflake Method of story building, and I highly recommend it, lots of good ideas in there.  As for what happens next, well first is to finish that first draft.  Once I have that done, then I'll read through it all myself, find the various mistakes I made, and generally clean things up some.  Then I'll have a number of volunteers do a read-through themselves, somewhat for pleasure but also somewhat to give me feedback on various aspects of the story.  Then, I'll take all that they give me, plus read through it again myself, and make all of those changes.  Finally, I'll get a good editor to find as many of the other mistakes that I missed as possible.  At this time, a book cover designer will come into the picture and craft a stunningly awesome book cover.  Then the work will be put out as an ebook and a paper book, and I'll work on the audio book at that time.  In all, I hope to have all versions out and available before the end of the year, fall time if I can have things work out in my favor.

Wow, that's a lot now that I've written that all down - and that's just the brief overview!  I haven't even begun to talk about the marketing aspects that I'm going to be doing.  Makes me tired just thinking about all of it.  But, it's also very exciting!  I'm looking forward to continuing the journey, and I hope that along the way I'll be able to get more people to join me and ultimately to say "Yes, we really like your writing and want to buy your novel."  Like I said earlier, I'm at least honest about my intentions.  :-)

But let me know what you think too.  I love to hear what people are doing, what they like, what they don't like, etc.  Write on, good people, write on!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Where's My Motivation?

For a variety of reasons, I haven't done a thing on my novel in the past couple of weeks.  And last night, when I wanted to get back in the habit....  I think I was lucky to piece together a paragraph.  Oy!

I really don't like it when this happens.  Let this be a lesson to all of you who have the desire to write a novel:  keep writing on it, even a little bit, each day.  Make it a habit.  If you do, you might not be happy that you only wrote a little bit, but you'll be making faster progress than not writing at all.

And back to the keyboard I go....

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Writing Isn't For Wimps

I think there are entirely too many people out there that think that it's just a snap to write a novel and get it published.  Well, how hard could it be anyway?  You just come up with a story, write it down, hand it over to the screaming masses of publishers that are lined up with their hands out, and then rake in the cash.  Isn't that how all of this is supposed to work?

Hmmm, just where should one begin?  Well, for starters, let me say that I was in that camp not too long ago.  I didn't figure that it was really all that hard.  I mean, it's just coming up with a story for crying out loud.  I could make one of those up really easy!  Oh, you wanted more characters?  Okay.  And you actually want the correct police procedures used?  Well, sure, I can see that.  And it helps to know where landmarks are in the various cities that I have my characters in?  Sheesh, alright.  Wait, what?  You don't want all of my characters to talk and act the same?  Geez, you're a nitpicker-  What??  I need to write how many pages?  And what's an agent?  Don't sports professionals need those?

And on and on it goes.  You need to have what it takes to go the distance.  There is plenty of time that should be spent on plotting your novel.  Plus, you should detail out each of our characters: where they grew up, what they like and don't like, what about their parents, do they have any siblings, who are their enemies (and everyone has at least one!), etc.  And research is important as well.  Find out what the city of Chicago is like, get some information on the subways in New York City, and so forth.  Also, in general, take notes!  For goodness sake, you have plenty of ideas, why forget about them?  Write things down to use at a later date, even if it isn't for this particular novel/project.  You never know when an idea will prove useful.

Along with all of this, learn the publishing industry.  What's happening, who are the players, what's the latest news?  Is a particular genre really hot right now?  Why is that?  Do you want to self-publish, go with a smaller publishing house, or go with a larger publishing house?  What about going with one of the Amazon imprints?  Are you planning on ebooks, print books, audio books, something else?  What about your marketing plan for whatever version or versions of your novel come out?

There are so many things to think about, so many things to do, both with the novel itself as well as outside and around the novel.  This business isn't for wimps at all!  Are you a writer, or a wimp?  Me, I'm a writer, soon to be published.  And it's a great ride.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memorial Day, 2011

A heart-felt "Thank You" to all veterans and current military personnel.  You volunteer to do things that others would run away from, screaming at the top of our lungs.  You put up with things that, if told about before hand, no one would put up with.  You go places that no one else would willingly go to.  You see things that no one should have to see.

The greatest military the world has ever known, comprised of men and women from the greatest country the world has ever known.

Thank You

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Reason Number 116 To Self Publish


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Writers - Do You Do It For You Or Others?

From time to time, I encounter someone who says that writers should be writing for the readers.  I'm sure they mean well when they say this, but I'm thinking that they really haven't thought about that comment much, otherwise they may not post it.

Why would I take issue with this?  Why wouldn't you write what readers want?  I mean, if you do that, then you should be making a lot of money and have whatever you wanted.  Right?  Isn't that the way that things are supposed to work?

Well, yes and no.  I can see the argument that you should write what people want to read, otherwise, well, you might as well take your bat and ball and go home to find something else to do.  But really, I think that is more of a promotional problem rather than a writing problem.  We'll save that for another time...

Writers should be writing what they WANT to write, not what they think others will like, or do like, or will like, or the fad of the month, etc.  Could I be writing vampire stories right now?  Sure, but I wouldn't like it as much as what I'm doing currently.  And because I wouldn't like writing about that subject as much, I wouldn't do nearly as good of a job at it as someone who really enjoys writing about it.

Not only that, but there are subjects that I or others just won't write about.  Lets take erotic stories, for example.  This is a subject that a number of people are making good money at, and the enjoy it.  I say, that's great, more power to them.  But it's not a subject that I care to write in, even if I could make some good money.

Last, but not least, is the fact that writers are readers as well.  It seems like this important fact escapes people from time to time.  And if they are readers, and they like to read what they write, then aren't they already writing what people want to read?  Hmm?

Ultimately, this is a call that each writer needs to make themselves.  But I think that, in the end, you would be much more satisfied with yourself if you wrote what you enjoyed writing, and not what someone else thinks you should write, regardless of the reason.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Booky Balboa?

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Snowflake Method - Step 4

Okay, time to address Step 4 in the Snowflake Method!  Have you been keeping up with me so far?  I hope so, because I'm a lazy son-of-a-gun and haven't really been pressing you with anything too huge up to this point.  These should all be relatively easy, fun steps to handle.

First, to review:  Step 1 of the Snowflake Method was to capture the essence of your whole story into one 15-word (or less) sentence.  Step 2 was to take this sentence and expand it into a (roughly) 5-6 sentence paragraph, highlighting the 3 (or so) BIG issues in your story.  Then, in Step 3, you were tasked with fleshing out your main characters a little bit: name, story summary, goals, motivation, etc.; basically a single page summary of your main characters.

At these stages of the Snowflake Method of writing, you will be alternating between story and characters, and growing each of them together.  That's not to say that you won't alter things as you go along, because you will, but this is a more structured way of approaching things.  It's your road map, if you will, but you can take a variety of routes to get to the end: a finished first draft of your novel.

So, here at Step 4 of the Snowflake Method, you will be switching gears and going back to your story.  Dig out what you had from Step 2.  From each of the sentences that you have from this step, you will now be expanding them to form a paragraph.  At the end, you will have at least a page, probably more, that details out your story.  You'll start to add particular settings that you may want, a little background on your characters perhaps, or other cool things that spring from your creative mind.  Basically, you are writing out a solid synopsis of your novel that most people would be able to understand and (hopefully) decided if they wanted to read the whole novel or not.

Do things have to be perfect?  No!  The whole point of the Snowflake Method is to help you get closer and closer to the ultimate goal of a finished first draft of your novel.  If there aren't things that you realize you want to change, tweak, or discard, either you aren't doing it right, or you are much, much better at this than I am.  The goal isn't perfection, the goal is expansion - and fun!  This whole process should be fun.  You should be enjoying getting these details down on the page, working out how your characters interact, and putting them in new places and times.  Always, always, enjoy the process.  If you are feeling like things have become too much like "a job", then take a break for a few days (or longer).  It will always be waiting for you when you return.

So, at the end of this step, you'll have at least a page full of details about your story, and I'm guessing that you'll have new threads to pull at in your brain as well.  Take time, mull things over, rewrite your sentences, etc.  This, too, will be the basis for a later step and you'll be helping yourself along by getting things as much to your liking as possible.

Okay, final reveal time again.  I'll give you an example of one of my sentences from my Step 2, and then I'll put below it my paragraph of that sentence from my Step 4.  Enjoy!

Step 2 sentence:

Out camping and geocaching in the deep Wisconsin woods, two best friends unwittingly get drawn into a voyeur's murderous game.

Step 4 paragraph:
Two best friends...plan for a weekend in the Wisconsin northwoods, camping and geocaching. They drive deep into a national forest in their Jeeps and make camp at a rarely-used site. Excited to find a new geocache before anyone else does, they set out in the late Friday afternoon sunlight to locate the geocache. Upon finding the geocache and opening the weather-proof box, they discover a photo of themselves taken just a couple of hours ago as they were setting up camp. On the back of the photo is a set of coordinates.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Amanda Hocking Strikes Again

So, maybe you've heard some news somewhere, or read a newspaper, or a blog, or something.  Basically, Amanda Hocking strikes again.

What did she do this time?  Well, she's agreed to hand off one of her EXISTING book series to the same group that she signed with for a new book series - yup, St. Martin's Press.  But why?  Well, there are a few reasons, but the biggest reason of all is that there is serious talk about them being turned into one or more movies!  That's right, not only is she making good money with writing now, but she's captured the attention of Hollywood.

I have to admit that I'm a little jealous of her success, but let's be honest:  she put in her time.  She's been writing for a number of years, and finally decided to take the self-publishing plunge only a couple of years ago (I'm guessing here, so don't quote me on the time frame).  But she's got plenty of stock on her shelf that's written already, plus more that hasn't yet been published, plus more yet in her head.  She's a writing machine!

So I say, Congratulations, Amanda!  You've continued to provide us with something to aspire to, and here's hoping that you continue to enjoy the whole process.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Book Promotion

Some authors love it, some authors hate it, and some just don't have a clue as to where to start with promoting themselves and their book(s).  Social media, press releases, articles, websites, blogging, interviews, book signings, author readings, emails, letters, phone calls.....   Pretty soon you are ready to just scream at the top of your lungs "I GIVE UP!!!!"

Okay, hold on their partner, come on down off of the ledge.  Things really don't have to be that hard.  Can anyone do EVERYTHING related to promotion?  No, and don't try to kid yourself that someone does, because I will guarantee you that they are missing something that would bring them just 1 more person to buy a book.  But, you say, there are all of these things that I NEED to be doing, or at least that's what "everyone" is telling me.  What do I do?

First, let me start by telling you that I only do a handful of things at present, for a few reasons: I still have a full-time job that I enjoy, I am still writing my novel and generating new ideas, I have a wife and 3 cats to keep happy (the cats are easier!), and I have other interests that I choose to make time for, like camping, fishing, gardening, etc.  So I don't have all of the answers, but I think I've got a good idea of how to get things started, no matter which avenues you choose to pursue.  And make no mistake about it, you should choose those things that you find easiest and most productive, because you will then stick with them for the long haul, and that's important - longevity.

First, you should make a list of all of the things that you have easy access to and knowledge of how to do it.  For me, I knew about blogging (hey, you're reading this, right?), I had a Facebook account and a LinkedIn account.  So that's where I've started.  But I didn't do it all at once.  I first started with my LinkedIn account, where I started to join groups focused on writing and publishing.  I follow conversations, join in where appropriate and where I can offer solid information and/or advice, and generally absorbed and continue to absorb all of the information that is out there.  If you aren't on LinkedIn yet, you should look at adding that to the mix!

The next thing that I started was this blog.  I had no wild assumptions that I would suddenly have thousands of followers and people would love me - that's just crazy talk.  Instead, my approach has been to set a schedule for myself on a minimum of blog posts that I would hit in a given week, and then stick to it.  I also chose a focus of what I wanted in my blog - in my case, its to talk about my journey in writing and self-publishing, and to toss in a few random, fun things related to authors/writers and the industry in general.  Over time, I knew that I would start to gain followers and a readership, and hopefully that this would continue to grow as time went on and I plugged my blog in the groups that I'm in on LinkedIn and other places.  I may not have the most spectacular numbers, but I'm happy to have at this point 10 followers to my blog.  I didn't know how quickly I would get them, but I'm satisfied at this point, and will keep working to grow it.

The third thing that I've added now is a Facebook Fan Page.  This is a page separate from my personal account, and that I'm dedicating to my writings, books, and industry fodder.  My Fan Page is also following other pages of interest to me: writers, publishing devices, etc. (Kindle has a Fan Page, for instance).  About once a week or so I post something to my Fan Page - come and visit me and "like" my page if you wish:  Darren Lee Kirby.  Each time that I do a blog post, I go to my Facebook and LinkedIn pages and post a link back here and invite people to read my latest blog post.  Kind of a nice little circle, eh?

I also submit articles occasionally to Articles Base, most of which originate from this blog.  That's something else to think about: syndicating your blog posts as articles with links back to your blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, and any other pages that you have.  The goal is to increase your readership.  I'm going to be adding more "layers" over time as well, again to help increase readership and hopefully to have people ultimately get to know me better and purchase one of my books.

So, sit down and see what you already know and do - go after that low-hanging fruit and exploit it.  Do each one separately, and add the next after you've gotten a handle on the previous "layers" that you have added.  If you find out that you are presently tapped out on time to do more, then at least continue on with what you are doing, as its better to be doing something rather than nothing.  Also, be sure to start doing something TODAY!  Even if you are still working on your novel, like I am, its important to start making a name for yourself as soon as you can.  It will make things much easier when you finally release your novel, as you'll already have a small platform from which to shout to the mountains "Come buy my book!".  Best of success to you!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ah, the future of libraries!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Novel Update

So, I keep talking about (and blogging about) the Snowflake Method approach to writing a novel.  But exactly how am I doing in this whole process?  Well, let me take this wonderful opportunity to clear up a few things for y'all (I'm not from the south, but sometimes I just like saying that!).

Well, I think it was sometime earlier this year that I finally got the itch to buckle down and do what I had only dreamed about doing to this point: writing a novel and getting it published (and making sales to people who are not related to me, friends with me, or were otherwise paid off to purchase a copy of said novel).  As I had previously blogged about, I had joined a writer's critique group that I helped form, and was off to the races.  Wow, that was almost 4 years ago now!

But, to catch you up to today, I've been following the Snowflake Method myself for my story idea that I had dubbed "Geocache Murder".  I think that I'm going to be changing it to something a little more understandable and relatable - check my link at the top of my blog to see if/when I change it, as that will be the new title.  Anyway, I am currently at Step 9 in the Snowflake Method.  This is the step prior to actually writing out the first draft of the novel.  I'm quite excited to be this far, as I've never gotten so close to finishing a novel.  Don't get me wrong, it's been a lot of work, but it's also been a lot of fun.

I will continue to blog about each step and provide you with some examples of what I've done for each.  I certainly don't have all of the answers, but there is enough of void out there that I feel like I can help others just by showing them a small example of how someone did it.  And I have plenty of other story ideas that I'm going to use this method for as well.  I know now that it works for me, and it helps me to keep my thoughts from straying too far off course.  If all continues to go well, I'm hoping that by mid-summer I'll have my novel available as an ebook and a print book, as well as be working on an audio version of it to release by fall.  Also, because the first time is the hardest for anything, I am hoping now that I'll be able to get out a second novel by the end of the year, but that could be wishful thinking.

If you've ever thought about writing a novel, whether you intend to publish it or not, I ask:  why not start?  I'm giving you a method to accomplish that, I'm providing examples of how I'm doing it, and if you wanted to self-publish, I'll be providing that information as well.  Basically, a blueprint for how to do it yourself.  So get going!  Write that great American novel that you've always wanted to write.  Then drop me a line to let me know how you are doing.  Cheers!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Snowflake Method - Step 3

Welcome to Step 3 of the Snowflake Method of writing.  If you've been following along so far, we've taken baby steps towards the completion of your novel.  In Step 1 of the Snowflake Method, we attempted to distill our story concept down into a single sentence of preferably not more than 15 words.  Tough to do, I know.  Then, in Step 2 of the Snowflake Method, you expanded that single sentence into a full paragraph of 4-5 sentences.  Congratulations, you've made great progress!

In Step 3 of the Snowflake Method, you will now switch gears a little bit and begin to focus on your characters.  But, at this point, we'll only be focused on your MAJOR characters; your MINOR characters will be addressed later on Step 5.  For this step, you will be filling in the following points for each major character:

* The character's name
* A one-sentence summary of the character's storyline
* The character's motivation (what does s/he want abstractly)
* The character's goal (what does s/he want concretely)
* The character's conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching said goal)
* The character's epiphany (what will s/he learn, how will s/he change)
* A one-paragraph summary of the character's storyline

I'm sure you're saying "Wow, you expect me to figure all of this out?"  Well, yes, that is the point!  The work you do now will help to make your story more vibrant, more real, more enjoyable - both to write AND to read.

Now, there are a couple of things at this point that may come up.  You may discover that as you fill out these character profiles that what you originally had from Steps 1 and 2 needs to be changed a little.  This is normal, and actually expected, with the Snowflake Method.  We aren't perfect people, and we learn from our experiences.  So as you make your way through the steps, be prepared to find yourself going back to revise things from earlier steps as you get deeper into your story.  The efforts you make now with these changes will only serve to make things much easier when you are finally at the point of writing your first draft.

Another thing to keep in mind, which I referenced a little just a moment ago, is that you won't have things perfect.  And they don't have to be!  The point of this whole exercise called the Snowflake Method is that it gets you to start putting these ideas down on paper, in a somewhat logical format, and to continually expand on them, building them up.  You will always have a chance to go back and change things, and at some points you'll have to because you'll discover that the action that you thought you would have your heroine perform in the dead of night - she can't, because she could be: a) dead, b) sleeping, c) somewhere else, d) it could be daytime, e) or any other number of things.

Now, for each of your major characters, you should expect to spend an hour, give or take, filling out the above points.  Hopefully you don't have a cast of thousands!  But again, these are important baby steps to get you to the point where many aspiring writers never get to:  The End!

Now, like my previous posts, I'll share with you my Step 3 from one of my major characters.  Enjoy!

Name: Sam “Sammy” Larson
Age: 25
1-Sentence storyline summary: Sammy loves a good adventure, and when a strange geocache shows up, he just has to investigate – consequences be damned.
Motivation: Answers to adventurous questions. He wants to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Goal: To have a great adventure that he can tell stories about for years to come
Conflict: His inquisitiveness sometimes is his undoing; he needs to be more cautious
Epiphany: To late, he realizes the foolishness of his actions, and how they affect his best friend
1-Paragraph storyline summary: Sammy heads out with his best friend John to do some deep-woods camping and geocaching. They are able to start geocaching that Friday evening, and Sammy is ecstatic, and a little creeped out, at what they find in the newly placed geocache that Sammy had discovered earlier before leaving home. Convincing John that they need to find out who put it there and why, Sammy proceeds to get himself trapped in what turns out to be an evil torture room. As he tries to escape, he makes his own situation worse while also endangering the life of his best friend. He realizes the irony of his greatest adventure...and the fact that he may never get to tell it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Konrath Blows Away Notions of Traditional Publishing

So, I'm wandering around my usual haunts this afternoon, and decided that I needed to take a peek at Joe Konrath's blog site.  By the way, I HIGHLY recommend you do as well, if you haven't yet - you can find a link to his site from my "Blogs I Read" on the right side bar.  Do it, do it now!  But then come back...

Okay, so I read his latest entry, then proceeded to the comments section - always a good time.  There's the usual postings about thanking him for sharing his thoughts, yadda yadda yadda (still good for a pick-me-up, BTW).  But then, an Anonymous poster decided to throw his or her thoughts into the mix about why a traditional publisher is still VERY valuable in the publishing world, and not to be a hater, etc., etc.  Oh my, I could almost see Joe just jumping up and down at his computer, chomping at the bit to answer it.  And answer he does!

Behold, I have copied from the comments section of Joe's blog, Joe's responses to the Anonymous posters comments.  I had a righteous laugh too!  (Italics are the Anonymous poster)
This is why I still allow anonymous posts. Because every so often someone engages in intelligent debate.

JA, it's clear you're making lots of $ self-publishing but it's an error to make a broad brush conclusion that "traditional /legacy" publishing is automatically wrong or stupid.

Legacy only wrong and stupid if you're making less than a million bucks a year.

The benefits are print (with distribution momentum and push)

A dying market. Ebooks are now outselling print. Do you want to give a legacy publisher 52.5% for ebooks when print is a subsidiary right?

library shelf space,

I'm on OverDrive now.

bookstore shelf space,

That's like buying real estate on a sinking island.

editing, cover design,

Fixed costs, not worth paying 52.5% in royalties.


Ack! Sorry, just spit Red Bull on my monitor.

reviews (PW, Kirkus etc.)

LOL. How many books have you bought because you read a great Kirkus review?

Contrast that to Amazon reviews. I now have 8 books with more than 100 reviews each.

I think I'm okay in the review dept.

book signings

Double ack! You do know who I am, right?

That and all the other things that come with a publisher is clearly worth something,

Actually, no, they aren't.

not even counting the advance and downstream royalties.

An advance is a loan that costs too much to repay.

And royalties? Hell, I just got $25k in royalties.

It would have been $200k if I had those rights back.

Many people and almost all big authors have concluded that this is the way to go.

Yeah. And lots of people joined the Tea Party too. That doesn't mean it's a smart way to think.

I don't think anyone can say they're wrong. And certainly no one can say that it's not their decision to make.

I can. And I did. And I'll continue to do so.

But thanks for playing.
If you've ever had these questions run through your head at one point or another, consider them answered.  Now, the only question left is...  Why haven't you self-published yet?  Hmmm???

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Am I Crazy For Self-Publishing?

I think the above question is the one that so many indie authors ask themselves, and also have asked of them.  I've certainly asked myself that question.  The answer that I have for myself now, and what others should be saying as well is:  no, I'm not crazy, I'm brilliant!

Now that's a pretty strong statement to make, I'll agree.  But the evidence is becoming more and more overwhelming that the smart money is on self-publishing ebooks rather than going with one of the Big 6 publishing houses (or one of the many smaller publishing houses).  I think the most important aspect to self-publishing ebooks is the length of time people have to find you - essentially unlimited.

Let me expand on that a minute.  With a traditionally published book (and I'm just talking fiction here), the publisher will work to have as big a push at the release date as possible.  Doing interviews, touring, book signings, etc.  The reason?  Because they know that after a while (in many cases a SHORT while), your book, which was the newest thing, won't be the newest thing anymore, and your sales would slip to the point where it isn't economically feasible for them to carry copies in their stores.  And as a book buyer, if I can't find your book on the shelves of the bookstore, the likelihood that I will have them order a copy of your book is slim to none, and slim is riding away in the sunset pretty fast.

Contrast that with ebooks.  Once the ebook has been published and put on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, etc., as well as possibly your own website, then you don't have just a few weeks to get the word out.  You have months.  And months.  And MONTHS.  And YEARS to work on getting an audience for your book.  Should you try to get an initial push of sales early on?  Yes, I think you should so that you have more copies floating around out there that people will potential share, give, or otherwise put in front of other people's eyes.  That will lead to more sales as people say "Hey, I want a copy of that for myself."  The virtual shelf space is basically unlimited, so your book can remain active and ready for purchase for a very long time.  And when people search for you or your book title, they will find it in stock and ready to buy, which will lead to more money for you.

Here's another thought for you too:  with going the self-publishing route, you maintain control over all of your rights.  Digital, print, foreign, movie, audio, and any other subsidiary right that might be discovered and potentially exploited in the future.  This means that you are the master of your fate.  You can understand exactly what rights you are giving away for each contract, and you should also have a good understanding of what doing so will mean for your pocketbook.  Many publishers' contracts are not balanced in favor of the author.  What?!  I must be joking, right?  Well, no, actually, I'm not kidding.  It pays to read through and fully understand what your contract says.  Trust me when I say that I've seen and dealt with publishing contracts that I wouldn't sign without major changes if I was the author.

In the end, some people might say that I am crazy for self-publishing.  But, I'm convinced they think that way because they are too scared to give it a try themselves.  Why can't you write a novel and put it out as an ebook yourself, even though you have 10 novels under contract right now?  Give it a try and see for yourself.  It isn't that painful, and you might just enjoy the process, and you'll definitely learn a ton.  Happy writing (and self-publishing)!