Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Is Genre Important?

When I decided to write my first book about travelling around Australia, I didn't give its genre much consideration. I thought I would focus on writing and worry about the rest later.

It wasn't until I had finished my first draft that I seriously started to think about having it published. I wanted to see my book on a shelf at a popular bookstore, so I researched everything I possibly could about getting published the traditional way. And after three months of research I decided that the only way I stood a chance of traditional publication was to follow the guideline religiously.

I looked over my first draft a month after finishing it and decided my manuscript was in no fit state for anyone to cast their eyes over it. Feeling determined I typed up the second draft, and this time I decided the genre it fitted into best was autobiography/memoir. The book didn't have enough factual information to be classed as travel (I never intended to write a travel book anyway). I thought the memoir description was the most appropriate because the book is about my experiences on a gap year. But once I had given the manuscript a closer inspection, I saw elements of erotica and humour in there too. And I began to wonder ... was my book really a memoir, or was it nothing more than a confused mixture of genres?

Still feeling positive I sent my manuscript away to a professional copy editor and waited nervously for their verdict. When I received the critique, their main issue was the mixed genres.

Disappointed, I wondered what to do next. My book, so my editor said, was unlikely to get traditionally published unless I started again and wrote about one theme that would underpin and hold together the entire book.

It was about this time I started to research indie publishing. And I discovered books on the internet that had multiple genres, and were still selling well. Through doing this research I began to re-think my editors critique. I thought about publishing my book on the internet as an indie author instead of being a traditionally published writer. I could see all the benefits of taking the indie author path, and I thought my success could be potentially greater. So then I decided to put my theory to the test. I discovered that both Smashwords and Amazon allow you to tag your book with keywords that show up when people are searching for a particular catagory. So as long as I knew the main genre of my book, I could tag other relevant key words to it.

Three months later this strategy seems to be working. People are finding my book and buying it, even though it's a mixture of genres. And during these last three months, I've discovered many indie authors are saying the same thing about mixed genres. A lot of writers struggle to keep to one specific genre, they find it beneficial to cross genres where appropriate. They're still successful, even though they are doing something which the traditional publishing industry forbids.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Guest Post

Today I have a guest post by Kenneth Weene

I’m a writer, which makes for some difficulty. You see those ideas - the ones that start a good story, a novel, or even a poem – don’t just flow from a magic tap. It isn’t like my drinking water: turn the valve and out it comes, safe, satisfying, and abundant. Nope, writing ideas come in fits, starts, and explosions.

Sometimes those ideas lead on and on like the legendary snipe – those birds I was encouraged to hunt as a kid growing up in Maine.

'Let’s go on a snipe hunt,' somebody would say; and off we’d go even though we’d never seen one. We all knew that snipe were to be found just around the next corner of the road.

'Perhaps the grunion are running,' another jokester would offer. Down to the beach to search the shoreline, small box in hand. Grunion made particularly fine eating. Ask anybody who’s never had one.

What do kids know? Off we would go on one of those hunts – knowing, just knowing that around the next corner, beside the next rock, the quarry lay. Press on!

So it is that I follow that story idea. I write. A thousand words, ten thousand, even more. Then, exhausted, I sit on a wayside stump and laugh. The prey has eluded me. No matter, tomorrow will come – a new idea, a new beginning, a new hunt.

At least now I understand what kids know: They know it doesn’t matter if there are snipe and grunions. They know that it doesn’t matter if at the end of all that typing there is a story or perhaps not. The fun is in the chase.

Luckily I’ve had a few of those story hunts actually work out. At the end there have been real stories – even a few novels (two of which are currently available to readers and two more ready to publish). Which brings me to a wonderful part of writing. Those ideas, the ones that have actually worked: they never end up where I think they will. As I chase them through the dark woods which is my imagination, the stories twist and turn. I start out with an idea for a love story; it ends with pain. I start with the idea of people breaking out of a mental hospital and it ends with pregnancies, elephants, and sex scenes.

In that way, the creative process that generates those ideas is in no way like the water faucet, but it is a lot more fun to use. While the water may flow tamely into my cup, there is no advantage to having that cup run over. But the fitful spurts and false starts of creativity allow my cup to truly run over.

Wait! An idea. The Navajo masks that hang by my desk. Why are they arguing? I bet there’s a secret. Can I chase it down?

A New Englander by upbringing and inclination, Kenneth Weene is a teacher, psychologist, and pastoral counselor by education.

Ken’s short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications including Sol Spirits, Palo Verde Pages, Vox Poetica Clutching at Straws, Legendary, Sex and Murder Magazine, The New Flesh Magazine, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Daily Flashes of Erotica Quarterly, Bewildering Stories and A Word With You Press.

Ken’s novels, Widow’s Walk and Memoirs From the Asylum are published by All Things That Matter Press.
To learn more about Ken’s writing visit:

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Reality v Fantasy

I thought I would post something a little different today instead of what I usually blog about. Because I am a recently published ebook author, I thought I would wait for a couple of months before talking about my own experience with the epublishing industry. In other words I wanted to wait until I knew where I was going before I shared any experiences.

As well as getting on with writing my next book, I've treated these past couple of months as an ongoing experiment to see what works and what doesn't in this industry. Before I was published I had no online presense, something which I now regret and would advise all first time authors against. As some people say: marketing starts yesterday - you need to establish relationships with people before you do anything else. I cannot express just how stressful I found it at the beginning, waiting until my book was out before I started to interact with people.

So, what have these past three months been like?
Mostly extremely stressful and an anti climax. I had waited so long to publish my ebook, and I couldn't wait to get it out there so it would sell. I published via Smashwords and I understood it would take time to go into the premium catalogue. It would still take a while even if I managed to get all the formatting right on the first attempt.

So there it was on Smashwords, and yet nothing else had changed. I felt not one single person in the entire world knew about it. I sold a few copies in the first couple of weeks, but I strongly suspected that it was to those who already who knew me. Disappointed with my initial lack of sales, I decided to put it on Amazon with the hope I would sell more there. I sold 0 copies on all the Amazon sites in the first month. I cannot begin to describe the fear and the panic, not to mention the overwhelming disappointment that was now flowing through my veins. I thought to myself that if I'm not managing to sell a thing on one of the world's largest online retailers, what hope is there for me elsewhere?

By now after the first month, I had completely given up checking my sales. I just couldn't bear to put myself through that feeling of disappointment on a daily basis. So I tried to concentrate on writing my next book about travelling Canada. I decided my first two books were going to be about my overseas experiences, before I started to write fiction books. But because my first book was selling so poorly, that really shook my confidence and made me doubt about my ability to write this second book.

But then I started to read articles about how you have to have quite a few books out before any of them start to sell really well. I decided then that my initial expectations were probably too high, and that I just had to get on with writing. After all, I still had plenty of material for my second book; I thought it would be criminal to waste it and just give up.  That's one thing about me - if I really want something I'll never give up until I get it. There was simply no other option for me: I had to carry on.

So I've written 15,000 words on my next book. And as I have been concentrating on writing, I've suddenly realised I've been selling quite a few books in the last couple of weeks. I don't know where these sales have come from but I guess all my book needed was time for it to be discovered.
Now my biggest sales are with Amazon but I've also had sales with Barnes & Noble and Apple too.

And then came a one star review. I've always been aware that my book content will no doubt offend some people. But that's OK: you can't please everyone. That still didn't mean I was any less irritated by what the reviewer had said; I just wondered what made them so perfect. Let me say now I can take constructive criticism by the bucket load. I hired an editor and received plenty of constructive criticism from her. That was fine. That's her job. She would have failed if she told me everything was perfect when I already knew it wasn't. I wasn't paying her to tell me what a fantastic writer I was - I was paying her to pull every sentence apart. Which she did and now my book is better for it. I'm not saying I took all her advice, I didn't. But I did what I thought I had to do.

That one star review was a personal attack. That's all. Nothing more, nothing less. As artists we can't escape the people who want to slate us for whatever reason. We can't escape them, especially not online.

These past three months  have taught me so much. More than I could ever hope to learn. If you want to write then just do it. Write, and write some more. Continue to market by building up relationships with people, and learn to love your critics as well as your fans.

In the first three months, I have passed my sales target I set for the whole of the year.

Friday, 15 July 2011

How to Market your Book

Here are some of the best ways through my experience to market your book. Whether you're an indie author or a traditional author, these tips will work for everyone.

  • Establish yourself to create a brand name: Who are you and what is it you do? Are you a thriller writer like J.A. Konrath, or a chick lit author like Sibel Hodge. How do you want to be seen on social media sites and online. Choose something that is attractive to you, and will be desirable to others.

  • Let creativity inspire you. You need to make your business cards work for you. How about printing a 5 star review on the back of the card beneath your book blurb. Make sure to include all the online links to your book to give your customers the maximum choice of where to buy.

  • Leave a trail. Carry your business cards everywhere you go and leave them in every available place. Ask friends, family, colleagues to distribute them to their network as well.

  • Share your expertise, knowledge, and wisdom. This is what I try to do. I blog about marketing tips. But if you're writing your next book and don't have much time to gather information off the internet, you could blog about your own writing experience.

  • Establish relationships with as many people as possible. This is an area I blogged about on Tuesday. The more people you know and have a good relationship with, the more potential readers you will have.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Importance of Online Relationships

One of the most important issues with any platform is maintaining healthy relationships. You can establish an online presence with social media and advetise your book there. But unless you make an effort to interact with people and maintain a relationship, you're not going to make as many sales as you would do if you were sociable.

Another author said last week that people will buy you, not your product.

With this in mind I formed a plan.

I started to think of people who interact with me on a regular basis. People on Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog, Twitter, and Goodreads. These are all people who are already reading what I have to say, so they're more likely to respond if I interact with them further.

Whatever I do I musn't ignore these people. I look at them as fans. And why would you want to ignore your fans?

I will always respond to every email they send, and I will always thank them for retweeting information for me. After all, they are helping me to build a bigger platform so the least I can do is thank them. And I will always make the effort to return the favour.

I then started to think of people who I admire in the online community. I thought of ways I can build up a relationship with them, to show them I'm a fan. Retweeting information for them is always a useful thing to do. And I always make an effort to comment on their blogs. If you see an opportunity to do someone a favour and help build their network, they will always respond to you in a positive manner.

Friday, 8 July 2011

What Makes a Successful Author?

Over the last few weeks I have come across many articles that talk about successful authors. These people are successful because they have been able to make a living from writing.

I must have read at least a hundred of these articles and yet they all seem to say the same thing. Here is my conclusion:

  • Authors have to write a lot of books. Some authors like James Patterson have had over fifty bestsellers, and this particular author now has nearly one book out every month. I think this is probably one of the most important points. Everyone who is a successful author has plenty of books to their name.
  • Know what you're good at and stick to it. Names like Jilly Cooper and Catherine Cookson fit in with a particular genre. Most people will know what they write and they know what the book offers the reader. If you're a writer that likes to write under several different genres, have a different name for each. Famous names are brand names and the readers know exactly what they will get.
  • Write a book which can be part of a series. If you write a novel that people love they will be eager to read more of your work. And if that book is part of a series you can almost guarantee that people who loved the book will want to buy future books.
  • Overnight success rarely happens.  Most successful authors have been around a while and most of them didn't find success over night. They have success now and they share one important factor: they have stuck around.
  • Write in a poular genre. These books will always be of interest to the general public.
  • Keep books cheap. This is true for ebooks especially. My book, although it's not in a popular genre, is certainly cheap. I've kept it at a low price because I'm a first time author with only one book out at the moment. But my book is still selling okay. I seem to sell a few more copies each week.
  • Have an eye catching cover and a good blurb. Something that will intrigue readers enough so they will become curious enough to buy it.
  • Be consistent with what you do. Get into the community, whether that be in the real world or online, and talk to people and try and help them. If people like you then they will be more likely to buy your book.
  • Build up as many platforms as you can, especially if you've written an ebook. These online platforms enable the whole world to see your book. Good author platforms include Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Diesel, Lulu, and Manic Readers.
If you have any more ideas, tips, or advice that I have missed, please leave a comment and share them.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Ten Ways to Write Quality Blog Posts

1. Write short, well spaced out blog posts.
It's easier for the reader to scan over the information and pick out key points in a short amount of time. Highlight important text in bold so it stands out even more.

2. Make the layout of your blog look professional.
Limit the use of flashing gadgets/widgets and photographs too. Have a neutral background with a clear, no frills font. Use black ink. Don't have white text on a black background or you run the risk of people becoming snow blind. Be gentle on your readers eyes, especially if they're anything like me and read dozens of blogs everyday.

3. Have your own unique voice.
Don't try to sound like someone else. If your posts reflect your individuality, what you say will stand out more.

4. Organise yourself.
Spend less time participating in trivial matters. Use that time wisely to post to your blog instead.

5. Don't worry about perfection.
No one is flawless. If you worry about perfection your writing will reflect this. You need to sound confident as well as assertive.

6. Take a pen and paper with you wherever you go to jot down brief notes.
You'll probably get a lightbulb idea when it's inconvenient to write it down.

7. Don't feel you have to know absolutely everything when you blog.
Your experiences are learning curves and you want to share your information with others to make it easier on them if they go through similar things.

8. Ask questions to generate conversations.
Make your followers feel like they're part of a discussion.

9. Write when you want to and you're feeling lucid.
You're more likely to type interesting and intelligent articles then.

10. Keep in mind the questions people ask you for future posts.
Consider expanding the questions so you can use them as a base for the next article you post.