I predicted it last year. (I shared those predictions with another author who’s a close pal …and with my webmasters’ group. Only.)
It’s happened …when I predicted it would. (Yes, math still works.)
What does it mean?
It means that indie authors now really have to treat their vocations as a business or get out of the game. It means calculating in overhead, operating expenses, and COGS. It means pricing their books competitively, not giving them away, nor discounting them, except for planned promotional deals that run days, not weeks, months, or years. It means less ability for indie authors (or the trad published, either) to game the system with cooperative ventures. It means a lot more than that, but it’s not prudent for me to publicly share the rest of what I know, calculated, and project …except, of course, with my inner circle.
Looking for that perfect last minute Christmas gift for the readers on your list? …Something that costs under $10 and will delight them?
Here are a few suggestions:
For the who-dun-it fans on your list, here’s a top-rated, realistic series that features a uniquely perceptive lady detective. Written by crime beat journalist Laura Belgrave, the entire 3 book series will cost you under 10 bucks.
For those on your list who love thrillers, lots of tension, steamy sex…. Michael Allan Scott’s Lance Underphal series is the ticket. Dark, different, intense.
And for that animal lover who likes moving stories with feel-good endings? Meet Warren Jeffries, DVM, and his co-stars, furred, feathered, and human.
Great novels by talented, accomplished authors, all under $10, and all available at Amazon.
from Laura, Michael, and E. J.
(…Oh, and from Dawn, too.)
WORKING TITLE: Writing Your Novel – The Very Best, Easiest, Fastest, Least Frustrating Way to Write Your Novel
I like books that get right to the point, so let’s, shall we?
I’m, by nature, a pantser, that is, I like to create organically, writing on inspiration driven by emotion, rather than pre-calculated structures. I like to let my characters lead the way through the crises presented to or perpetuated by them as churned by the story’s plot engine. It’s an exciting way to write …if you know what you’re doing and where you are going. It has surprises, elicits moments of pure genius, and, most of all, is sublimely fulfilling. There’s a ‘but’, though.
Organic novel writing, or pantsing (‘writing by the seat of your pants’), has its problems, namely left turns, right turns, U-turns, and, worst, winding up completely lost. These problems can leave the writer frustrated and discouraged, their manuscript unfinished and abandoned. There’s a reason for that, and there’s a way to avoid it.
A successful pantser, just like a plotter—a writer who calculates what happens next in a story based on their detailed outline and story mapping/plot mapping—should know a few things before plunging into the writing, namely:
- what their story is and what that story is about (two different things, though related),
- who the story is about, and
- where the story is going and will wind up (terminate).
You also should know the main conflict and pretty well understand how the plot will flow (the overall plot mechanism to be utilized). Most importantly, though, you must know your ending …usually. (Don’t you just love exceptions? We’re going to proceed without discussing those exceptions, though, because they so very rarely apply to such a very few writers.)
Further, you really should know your main character(s), their vulnerabilities and strengths.
What you don’t have to know is the how of where the story is going to go next and next and next as you write it through, not unless you’re a died-in-the-wool plotter. If you are a plotter, then, yes, you will need to know exactly or all but exactly where your story and its plot are going next and next and next through every moment of every scene.
My main complaint about plotting is that there’s absolutely no excitement or real joy in writing a novel via the plotting method. It’s pure labor. Once you’ve dryly outlined the whole of it, it’s a matter of padding it out so it holds reader interest. My brain goes cold and my eyes dry up doing that, so that method is absolutely not something I advocate for anyone who isn’t writing pot boilers for minimum wage income. And nothing really genius usually happens unless the character really takes it off script—those extreme left, right, or even U turns organic novelists regularly can experience, twists and turns that often lead to surprising, even brilliant results, but sometimes lead to complete disaster. Nice thing about disasters is that, as the creator, you can go back to the fork in the road that leads to it and try again, over and over, taking yet another pathway until you find the one that’s perfect. Of course, that means that writing without plotting can take regrettably longer to complete.
Disasters like this rarely happen to me, and there’s a very good reason. It’s called ‘know your story’.
For those of you who read my How to Write a Good Book in 17 Days, you’ve already seen a crash course that employs this technique. In this book, though, I’m going to elaborate on the process and start from inception and conception, then walk you through execution. Let’s begin.
Every Story has a Beginning that is the Result of a Previous Ending
Every story has a beginning, but that beginning is actually the result of an ending. You’ll often see me end a novel or short story with ‘The Beginning’ instead of ‘The End’. There’s a reason for that. Because the story’s culmination is actually the beginning of the next story. This is true of every cherished novel I’ve ever read, be it something by Mark Twain, Conrad Richter, Ursula Le Guinn, Kim Stanley Robinson, Greg Bear, Charles Todd, Prestin and Child, or any of the other many authors I enjoy reading, a list way too long to present unless you’re the kind of person who enjoys reading through the begats in the Bible’s Old Testament. If you check your own list of favorite novels and novelists, though, I think you, too, will find the same to be true of your favorite author’s novels.
The end of one novel can beget a new unwritten novel’s beginning. And therein lies a clue to effectively starting your novel….
8 Months Research, a Breakthrough, So It’s Build Time
Back in January, 2016, I quit publishing. I had book #3 of the Country James series ready to throw to my editor and was pounding out the final manuscript of E. J.’s Come-Back Road, the second book of a planned three book series covering the life of one Dr. Warren Jeffries, DVM that started with Old Hickory Lane. I quit because I got a good solid look at the piracy numbers of just one of my titles. Then, I got the rest of the numbers, too.
Throughout 2016 and 2017, I published nothing. And I was pretty darned sure that I would never publish another novel, not until piracy could be defeated (Ha! Dream on. Did a year of research on that and found no good solution.) Then I met author Laura Belgrave, mystery/crime author of the Claudia Hershey Mystery series. Like a drip of water that slowly wears away stone, Laura got my rock hard petulance worn down bit by bit. It took her until January of this year. Then, once again, I began to research.
I’ve got a very interesting brain. It works at its own pace, and, usually, that pace is quite fast. Not this time. I kept shoving data in, but got back …silence. I shoveled in more data. Then more again. Still silence. Eight solid months inputting more and more data; eight solid months of dead silence. …Until last week, when, like gears finally starting to move once the penetrating oil does its job or like one of those strange flowers that takes months to form, then bursts open into full bloom all at once, the whole evaluation and conclusion precipitated from subliminal simmering into fully served answer.
So I tried it.
And it worked.
Now, I’m scurrying about, pulling out projects I built, then mothballed as unworkable, and all the pieces are hanging together quite nicely.
I’ll keep you posted on progress as I work through all the various branches of the project’s build. See you on the other side.
Way back before I set a moratorium on publishing my novels because of piracy, I set out to write at least two books a year. And did it. In fact, all three of my Montana Love Story novels were written in a month and under, with the second and still unpublished third book drafted in seventeen days and sixteen days, respectively. It was something which I hadn’t thought myself capable, that is to write a good book — one of my books — in shorter than a year. I proved to myself that I could …only to quit publishing in a fit of temper about all my books having been pirated, even those exclusive to Amazon.
Now, a full two years plus since my last novel’s release, an author friend’s needs prompted me to put my process down in an orderly, organized guide. Here it is:
I had an interesting discussion last night that made me think about the books I’ve written, the published and those sitting in files, real and virtual. An author friend, Laura Belgrave, whose website I manage, admitted that, yes, her books matter to her. I admired that when she said it.
I’m not sure why, but, for me, while the books I’ve written and published delight me when I happen to reread them, I don’t place them as ‘important’ in things I actively care about most: my husband, the animals I care for, the land and trees, friends, my husband’s musical compositions and his instruments, my brain, body, knowledge and skills, maintaining my father’s house, my own musical instruments….
The books I’ve written? They’re just things I’ve done and released into the world. So, too, when it comes to my artwork, and my musical performances.
Laura’s caring about her creative works in contrast to my own curious attitude about my creative outputs gives me pause to wonder at myself. It especially makes me wonder why I write.
I do feel quite happy, even proud, of the books I’ve self-published (not, though, the ones previously published by others). In my opinion, my books — the ones I’ve authored without interference from money men — are very good, despite errors missed in editing, some due to Microsoft Word’s auto word-replace penchant, errors that I should, but don’t, make the time and effort to go back and fix. They’re great stories, written with passion and skill. So why, I wonder, don’t I place them high on my ‘most valued’ list?
I’m not sure of the answer to that question, but I think it might be something of the zentaoist in me. Those books, though brought into existence by my hand, exist completely independently of me, their author. They are, in essence, each their own entity once created. I own copyright, but they are not me, nor I, them. I certainly delight when someone enjoys them, but not because I wrote them. Rather, it is a delight in someone appreciating them, the books themselves, and the animals, aliens, and people, that live within their pages.
And, now, I think I’ve touched on something pertinent: I write to bring the characters within to life, so you, too, can meet, greet, and appreciate them, whether they’re people, animals, the land and its lore, or aliens from other worlds and cosmoi.
“Dawn, why don’t you…”
“Because it’s a waste of my time.”
There are no ‘but’s.
What the hell am I talking about? Book promotion, that’s what.
As an author, specifically and mostly a novelist, I write ’em — books, that is, (used to publish them, too …until the pirates pissed me off) — but I’m not interested in spending my life chasing futility, much less paying for the dubious honor of being stupid …which is what happens when and if you fall for all the bullshit out there about book promotion.
Oh, sure Number One: Release a new book, and, maybe, a past reader will care, if they see the promo, always chancy because emailed announcements get ignored, posts on social media don’t get seen, ads get missed and blocked.
Release new books regularly, as in every three months, and, yes, you’ll sell some, both the new and some from your back catalog. It’s all predicated on luck and happenstance, though. There are no guarantees.
Oh sure Number Two: Facebook advertising works and doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg …or, maybe I should say, will cost only an arm and a leg, depending on your target demographics.
And, yes, oh, sure, Number Three: Amazon advertising works, with the same caveat as with Facebook.
Newsletters? Oh, sure Number Four: You’ll sell some books because you dun your mailing list subscribers, but you’ll also net a whole bunch of ‘unsubscribes’ in the process, people who will never, ever buy another book from you because you pissed them off by hitting their inbox at the wrong time.
Reality: A check of the numbers, especially when penciled out against time and money spent, means that you are, literally, paying for the privilege of irritating people who may be somewhat interested in your new release …maybe, but, mostly, are irritated by getting yet another “See? Look! I just released another novel” dun on their social media notifications or in their inbox.
I’m sorry, but my time is worth money, plus, I’m not interested in providing folks an extra excuse to dislike me more than they already do because I’m a mouthy, opinionated so-and-so. I especially am not interested in alienating those who do appreciate me because I am a mouthy, opinionated so-and-so, but who don’t like having me push my novels at them. And I’m certainly not into paying for people to unlike, unfriend, and unsubscribe …which is what happens, much as the “How to Sell Your Book” gurus don’t share that consequence — a real consequence!
And that brings me to the “How to Sell Your Book” gurus.
Did you ever notice that the “How to Sell Your Book” gurus never offer to use their “guaranteed formula” they claim works so well to sell your book? That’s because they know that their “tried and true” system doesn’t work. Did it and did they offer such a service, there isn’t a book author out there who wouldn’t part with 50% or even 100% of their royalties for becoming a ‘known’ author to readers. Heck, wannabees would flock to cash in on the service at 1k, 2k, maybe even 5k in USD $$$$ per book. Heck, the gurus would be rolling in the dough, wouldn’t they?
But, no. That’s not what the “How to Sell Your Book” gurus are selling …for a good reason. They couldn’t do it. Their tried and true method would not work, even for them. It’s all smoke and mirrors, and they know it. They know they’d be spending innumerable futile hours, getting way less than minimum wage trying to, no matter how many starving third worlders they employed at pennies a day to plug in their magic formulas.
Instead, they take the easy route to fame and profit. They sell their “guaranteed formula” for success to hungry-for-fame-and-profit book authors, their guarantee only valid (read the fine print) if you meticulously follow all their rules and keep at it …forever. Oh, and buy their latest how-to book, because, y’know, don’t you? The market is always changing, so you’ve got to have the latest greatest along with their previous books on the subject. (“Secret #4 referenced in book 1, secret #9 referenced in book 2… .”)
Here’s the deal: Most all the folks who claim to have the inside edge on how to sell your books make their livelihood and niche best seller fame by selling “How to Sell Your Book” books to pantingly desperate and gullible authors. Now, while some of those methods worked for the instances shown, they don’t work by the time the “How to Sell Your Book” book hits publication. It’s a done deal, that strategy only working for a few weeks, maybe months at the outset for the strategy’s originator and a handful of others who immediately copied them. After that, nope. But the ‘how-to’ formula is still saleable, of course.
Well, what about services like Book Bub and Book Gorilla?
Book Bub is expensive and a PITA to get into (See concluding sentence of paragraph below.); Book Gorilla, inexpensive. But you know who signs up to those mailing lists? Authors interested in checking out those services as a possible path to more sales. (It’s part of the sign-up process, getting you on their mailing list.) The other most notable demographic are Bargain Basement book shoppers, mostly those who read lots and lots of Big R romance. Oh, sure, Number Five: Bargain Basement book shoppers will always grab freebies and, maybe, 99 centers. But that’s it. They ain’t into payin’ for books. It’s gotta be free or dirt cheap.
Onto oh, sure Number Six: There are a minuscule percentage of readers on those Book Bub and Book Gorilla mailing lists that actually are interested in discovering new authors and are willing to actually pay for subsequent books from an author’s catalog, but those folks are rare as hen’s teeth (and, for those not in the know, hens don’t have teeth. Hence, their ‘rarety’. That’s the irony embedded in the saying.) Oh, and, PSST! Book Bub has now become the tool of Trad Publishing, don’t you know? Indies really need not apply, please.
I’ve already covered “How to be a Hugely Successful Published Author“. If you want to know my secret for promoting my books, it’s this: I occasionally and prudently advertise. I put my dead tree books in shops I know will attract buyers. And how about on the Net? My advice: Be yourself. Be active and interesting. Don’t badger people with duns to buy your books or keep announcing them over and over, ad infinitum. It’s enough to put the covers there for the seeing. Folks who become interested in you, the person, might happen to finally decide to read one of your books. And, if they like them, they might buy more of your titles.
If you seriously want to write books for a living, I suggest you either write the consistent best selling genre on Amazon — erotica/BDSM — or find some hungry non-fiction, self-help niche …like book authors seeking the magic secret to fame and fortune, then pump your books out at a rate of one every couple to three months, because, anymore, that’s about what you’re going to have to do for folks not to forget you and your books exist.
So, a bunch of “legitimate, hard-working ‘authors'” are in an outrage. Feathers are kerfuffled, bent, even broken. Tsks, clucks, cries, and screams of outrage (text-style) flood the cyberlanes. SJW-style calls-to-action abound. Hands grab virtual pitchforks, clubs, hoes, and hatchets.
It might not make your local news, but, in the online author circles, the ripples are palpable, the temblors quaking their virtual landscapes. The headline reads: “Scammers Break The Kindle Store”. (If you’re interested, DuckDuckGo it, because, no, I won’t link to it or any of its reblogs.) What that headline should read is: “System-Gaming ‘Authors’ Beaten at Their Own Game,” because that’s what’s happened.
Authors ‘serious’ about getting their ‘eBooks’ noticed in the hopes of making both money and a name for themselves as ‘successful indie authors’ collect and then mine their followers, email list subscribers, author pals and cooperatives, friends, relatives, and anybody else they can to try to get their books highly ranked on Amazon and other online book selling venues. Calls-to-action abound with
- Urges to read a provided eARC (eBook version of an Advanced Review Copy) then post reviews of the book on its release date or very soon thereafter. (Of course, four and five star reviews are expected.)
- Coordination of blog posts among genre-similar associate authors promoting the book are pre-scheduled, as are blog tours.
- Subscribers and followers are urged to buy within x days of release or an older release’s new promotion, with specific dates sometimes assigned.
- Social media pals are sent copy to post pre-release, on release day, and the few days following that release.
- Seeking permafree status on Amazon of an author’s first book or, better, of the first of a series, is something pursued with vengeance and artful manipulation.
- BookBub campaigns, Book Gorilla campaigns, eliciting votes for best cover contests and best book contests….
- et al. ad infinitum.
Here’s the reality: Legitimately good books written by legitimately good authors don’t usually make it to the top of any rankings, because most legitimately good authors don’t have the crowd charisma and marketing gumption (and, yes, I said ‘gumption’, defined as ‘boldness of enterprise; aggressiveness’, because that’s what it is) necessary to hold sway. Success in eBooks, especially on Amazon, regardless of actually how good the book is (and most of them are, in fact, schlock) is based on how well the author of that top-ranked book has gamed the system, which is dependent upon ‘likeability’, luck, skill at manipulating the various ranking algorithms and, more so, skill at convincing others to raise you and your book’s popularity and sales/download/pages-read numbers.
So, indie authors are in an uproar …because outsourced clickfarms have stolen their tactics of inner circle clickfarming and are ruining their game-plan. Truth is, all the outsourced clickfarms are doing is exactly what the authors were doing, only much more effectively, it seems.
Me? I don’t find the outsourced clickfarming any less ethical than author-run efforts. In fact, I think I find them less offensive. Of course, my opinion is that of a tiny minority, and, I guess, it’s extremely offensive to people like Stuart Whitmore over on G+ who decided to resort to insults and trolling me over it. That’s okay. I expect that. I’m not and never have been willing to just go along to get along, embracing the most popular opinion just because it’s socially advantageous.
First off, you have to write a book …or get somebody to write it for you, but it has to be one that is going to strike the fancy of ‘the mob’. (Think 50 Shades….) If you don’t have something that’s going to strike a chord with the masses, then you’re just one insignificant among the millions of others publishing in the U.S., never mind globally.
Now, before doing anything else, and I mean anything (no queries to literary agents, no submissions to publishers, or, if self-publishing, no announcements, no pre-publication notices or pre-release sales, no cover reveals…NOTHING), lets go down the checklist:
- Are you an extrovert? Yes? Good. Continue.
- Are you part of one or another ‘in’ crowd, hugely popular both in the real world and on social media, and do you have a frenzied bunch of followers who dote on your every word, video, and image share? Yes? Good. Continue.
- Do you have a bunch of money to fling to the winds? Yes? Good. Continue.
- Are you already famous? Yes? Excellent. If no, continue at your own risk.
- If self-publishing, get a really good cover made for your book. If going the literary-agent-to-big-traditional-publisher route, start querying the big agents, but, after landing one who actually manages to shop your book to one of the big five, expect to wait about 1.5 years before going to the next step.
- Whether self-publishing or going with one of the big trads, hire a top-of-the-line publicist, buy lots of advertising, and get on with it.
And, no, this is not tongue-in-cheek. And, yes, you’ll come out behind for the first book, but, if it’s a hit like 50 Shades…, no problem. You’ll make it back on books 2 and 3. If it’s not a hit, continue with books 2 and 3 at your own risk …and, yes, if it’s not a hit and traditionally published, your publisher may very well dump you; your agent probably will, too.
One more thing: If you do make it, hire a financial adviser and learn what NOT to do so you don’t wind up blowing your wad and end up in the poor house.
HighlightsFebruary 18, 2019February 17, 2019January 3, 2019November 3, 2018October 28, 2018October 27, 2018October 13, 2018October 11, 2018September 10, 2018May 7, 2018
For The Record
I voted for NEITHER Hillary NOR Trump.
My 2018 Writer’s Book
My New Anthology
Under my E. J. Ruek pen name
Under my C. J. "Country" James pen name
Under my SF pen name
FOR WRITERS: People ask me about fans. Here's what I think: I think acquiring an effective fan base is dependent upon striking a chord with the right influential and admired people. Without them, you're just whistling in the wind, no matter how much potential appeal your work may have.
- If You are a Flutist, Beginning or Advanced, I Suggest This Book
This is a very slim volume written by my teacher, the pre-eminent flutist, Professor Richard Hahn. It's only $5, so it isn't going cause you any pain and may, in fact, bring a good bit of ease and practical help.
night by d. l. keur
Spirit of the moon,
Rising at the death of solar light,
Furls the wings of eagles' flight
Until the images of night
Are but an echo.
- a lifeway
- north idaho life
- other professional business
- professional life
- the personal side