Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What's been going on

I've been listening to this a lot lately, so I thought I'd post it up here. It's "Tear You Apart" by She Wants Revenge. Great song, great video.

Someone was surprised that I also run an indie music blog, and said I should link it here. It's called Paisley Sound and it's a project I've been running for two years now that's starting to take off. So go read it.

I've got a lot going on (studying for my boards, remodeling the house, just got back from a trip to D.C.) but I wrote another half of a chapter of my next novel. I'm way behind on my #suwrimo goal, but ... I think it's all right for now.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Guest post by James Martin, author of The Hunter

Today's guest post is by James Martin, author of The Hunter (available on Amazon and Smashwords). James is active on reddit's self-pub channel and maintains a Twitter account, @JMartinAuthor.

Self Publishing Doesn’t Make You a Failure

In my own mind, I had failed. For years after writing my first novel, I hit the streets and queried agent after agent. The only thing I had to show for my work was a dazzling array of rejection letters, ranging from extremely short form letters to handwritten apologetic letters.

That story is likely a familiar one to many, many writers. The feeling of dejection and failure from seeing yet another response that begins “Dear Writer, thank you for querying us, but…” is an extremely tough one to deal with.  The worst part, though, is the waiting. Agencies take months to respond in some cases, and I was never sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

On the one hand, maybe it’s taking a long time because my work is being discussed, thought over, and considered. On the other hand, maybe it was forgotten about. I had to keep my mind on other things as much as I could, for fear of going insane from the constant speculation about why an agency would take 4 months to respond to a simple query. If they had a full manuscript, I could totally understand the wait, but 4 months for a short, three or four paragraph query letter?

Of course, it’s obvious why there’s a wait. Literary agencies are behind the times, they don’t employ many people, and they receive many, many queries each day. It’s quite possibly the worst setup for someone trying to break into the industry. Agencies also often employ archaic rules (snail mail only, as an example), strict guidelines, and no tolerance for deviation. 

Once or twice, an agent or small publisher bit my hook. I refined my query letter and synopsis, and over time I found that more and more people were requesting partial or full manuscripts. That’s a great feeling for an aspiring author, but seeing your manuscripts come back rejected (or not come back at all) is even worse than a query letter rejection. Instead of rejecting my general idea, they were rejecting my actual work. I did, unexpectedly, receive some personal feedback, mostly to the effect that my book’s genre is hard to place, and doesn’t fit anywhere nicely. I don’t disagree with them. 

At one small publisher, my full manuscript was accepted, and one of the owners was championing my book. That felt awesome. There were three co-owners, and the way this particular publisher worked was that they had to have a unanimous vote on a new manuscript in order to accept it. My book received two votes. I found that experience emotionally difficult, and decided not to submit to any more publishers or agents.

So there I was, after spending years of my life trying to find someone – anyone – who would publish my book, I logged on to Amazon, self-published it one afternoon, and promptly forgot about it entirely. My original goal in self-publication was not one of selling copies or making it on my own, it was entirely self-defeat. Screw it, I thought, I’ll just publish it myself and get it over with. That was the end of it.
I checked my sales from time to time and was not surprised to see that no one was buying it. Copies sold for the first 2 years combined were single-digit numbers. But again, my goal was not to sell, my goal was to get rid of the book and ultimately try to forget the horrible experience of traditional publishing. The book was, in my mind, tainted due to failure.

Recently, a friend of mine decided to start writing and came to me for some self-publishing advice. He had heard I was a self-published author, and was eager to break into it himself. Instead of giving advice, I found myself receiving it. He suggested I take the e-marketing approach and try to sell the book myself. A dedicated Twitter and GoodReads account later, my sales started rising. 

What do you know, the system works!

What ultimately started as an act of desperation has transformed into one of hope. The book is selling, it’s getting reviews, and for the first time I feel like a real author. 

It’s clear to me that the traditional publishing model isn’t sustainable for much longer. eBook sales are rising, traditional books are dropping. Traditional publishers don’t take many risks, whereas the entire eBook market is saturated with risk. It costs nothing to try something out. Write a genre you’re not used to and self-publish, see if people like it. That would never happen in traditional publishing.

Self publication is not failure. You may not make many sales, but ultimately you are in control. Complete control. You can change the cover, correct any editing mistakes, update the synopsis, market to the audience you identify, and publish whenever you want to. It’s definitely not failure, but it is a lot of work.

Thanks, James!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guest post by Matthew Boyd, author of ZNA: Origins

Hey all - today I'm pleased to host a post by Matthew Boyd, author of the novellas ZNA: Origins and Suicide Serial. I asked him to talk about some of his experiences and successes in publishing books for the Kindle.

Matt: Before I say anything else, I would like to thank Laura E. Bradford for providing another insightful blog to the growing community devoted to indie and ebook authors.

I have always had the craziest imagination, according to my parents. When I was a child I would create my own original board games to play. I would imagine impossible, outlandish scenarios and ask my Mom and Dad, "What would happen if...[insert something incredibly unlikely and quite possibly terrifying] ?"

Around junior high school, I started writing little short stories for my own enjoyment. I never really stopped. I can't tell you how many little crazy stories I have had and lost on hard drives over the past 15 years. A few months ago I found out that you could easily publish your own work on Amazon and actually make a little money doing so. I had already nearly completed "Suicide Serial" so I tried to format it for the Kindle and had a good friend, N.C. Jones (screenwriter and artist extraordinaire) design a nifty piece of cover art for it. It's basically the story of two homicide detectives pursuing a serial killer whose MO is to intimidate his victims into committing suicide.

I imagine that if I had stopped right there and never done one ounce of publicity for the book I would have sold about 2 copies. I decided to spam all my wonderful Facebook friends about my new book and offer everyone a free copy. I directed them to the Amazon sales page and asked only that they give it an honest review. I handed out well over 20 copies of the book and to date I have had 3 reviews. Not wanting to pester the living shit out of my friends and family to do the review on Amazon, I settled for hearing what they had to say on the phone or whenever I would see them. Every single person told me they really enjoyed the book and that it was a real page turner. To be honest, I was frustrated that sales were so anemic to start off with and that so few people had reviewed the book. I pressed on and eventually found the superb thread at Somethingawful.com targeted to ebook authors. I put up links to the product page and images of my cover art. James "Myrddin Emrys" Martin started r/selfpublish on reddit.com and I placed a promotional for "Suicide Serial" up there as well. Sales started to trickle in a bit more regularly since then.

"ZNA: Origins" is easily my biggest seller. It is the first in what will be a series of short books that detail the life of Paul Anderson, zombie apocalypse survivor. I took the exact same steps for this book as I did for "Suicide Serial" and then went a bit further. A quick Google search reveals several forums that relate to whatever subject matter one could wish to discuss or find out more about. I joined up with several "zombie/apocalyptic" type forums and posted about my book. I offered the first three people to reply to the thread a free copy of the book. Occasionally I will update the thread with something related to the discussion or with news about the progress of the next book in the series.

I made sure to use tags on the product page with terminology directly related to my audience. Using tags like "zombie" will only get you so far, and with literally thousands of other works tagged the same way, does nothing to make it easier to find your book. You need to find words that might not be quite so over-used to give you a bit of an edge in the search results. Think about certain terms, usually acronyms, like NASA or OMGWTF that can help your book have a better chance at ranking in the search results. This type of marketing strategy is used constantly by internet "search engine optimization" (SEO) gurus. I would tell you my best tags, but then I would have to kill you.

In the time frame of a bit more than 2 months, I have sold just over 200 copies of my books, with "ZNA: Origin" making up about 80% of my sales volume. I sell both ebooks for .99 cents and I do not plan to change that anytime soon. I will probably consolidate the ZNA series into one big ebook once it is completed and sell that for $2.99 to take advantage of the increased royalty payout.

Finally, I am exploring a new way to promote my books - guest posting on a blog! I will be sure to let you know how this one turns out!

Thanks Matt! You can check out his Amazon author page here. - Laura

Thursday, June 09, 2011

What's new

Recently I did a guest post at Rebecca Knight's blog. And did I mention her debut novel, Legacy of the Empress, just came out? Go check it out.

I was really amazed by the support for Sunset on Mars. Someone asked me to make it available for the Amazon Kindle, but to do that I'd need to charge 99 cents for it. Right now it's so short (~1500 words) that it doesn't seem to justify that price. Maybe I'll add some stories to it and re-release it, so I'll have to see.