Category Archives: Publishing

Marketing Secret: Don’t do what I do

I have dreaded this blog post ever since I signed up for it.

And that was before being rejected by the agent I pitched to back in February. So be warned, this post will be brutally honest. And short.

This month is all about how to get the word out and create a market for yourself. That includes everything from advertising to creating a personal brand.

I suck at all that stuff. And that might even be a great exaggeration of how well I do. I doubt I really climb into the neighborhood of “suck.” Adjectives that might be more appropriate range from “abysmal” to “self-destructive.”

How my first three books sold as well as they did is a mystery to me. I did virtually nothing to market them. I invested maybe twenty bucks total in Facebook or other ads, and when they didn’t nudge my sales noticeably, I abandoned that effort in less than a week.

I have never done a book signing. The closest to that was a last-minute appearance at a library “meet local authors” event, where I sold a couple of books. I’ve never done an interview, except a short one here on this blog. No radio shows. No contest entries. No Twitter campaigns. No viral, guerrilla, non-traditional or creative marketing.

I keep intending to do all that. But some of it costs money, and those that don’t cost money, I have never been satisfied with the end result, and so never seriously made any effort to do it.

That’s why not getting picked up by an agent has had such a negative impact on my motivation. The main reason I pursued an agent was to get into the traditional publishing model where all I had to do was write.

Guess that’s not happening soon. I’ll have to get off my lazy butt and try to find a way to get it done. Hopefully all the great articles on this blog for this month will give me the guidance I clearly need.

So, take my advice. Don’t do what I do.

Embracing the Pain – Receiving Editors’ Feedback

EditsReceiving edits back from an editor is like opening a Christmas present on the set of a horror film: exciting and terrifying at the same time.

Don’t get me wrong. I love editing. The process of revising and editing and polishing a story transforms it into its final, awesome form. It’s like taking a house that’s got external construction mostly complete, and internal walls roughed in and completing the construction, painting, and furnishing every room to make it a livable home.

Even so, that first scan of an editor’s comments can be painful.

As much as I know the draft I submitted is far from perfect, there’s a part of me that still clings to the hope that the editor will simply say, “Wow. I’ve never read anything quite that amazing. I can’t imagine how to make that better.”

Never going to happen. Instead, a good editor will shine a spotlight on every flaw, point to every weakness, and ask for clarification of every inconsistency. They’ll highlight every issue part of me was secretly hoping they’d never notice.

Feedback is something we authors desperately need and usually crave. When we’re new, we’re usually terrified by it, sometimes take it personally, treat is as an assault, or embrace the righteous anger of a parent protecting their precious child. All the wrong answers.

I still feel flashes of that sometimes when I’m first reviewing edits, and I’ve learned to laugh at myself. My pride is meaningless, my vanity useless. The story is what matters, and a good editor helps identify weaknesses and make suggestions to help that story fulfill its potential.

They do point out the things that do work, and that’s also extremely helpful, but the work and the growth comes from the constructive criticism.

So I always complete an initial quick scan of the feedback, then take a break, breathe deep, consider what I read, and sometimes take a walk as I mentally update my assessment of what I had thought I had written to the reality of what I had actually produced.

Only then can I get to work.

That’s when the fun begins. When I embrace the feedback, accept responsibility for the flaws, and embrace the work required to fix and improve the story, it’s always amazing how fast new insights and ideas flow. Sometimes that’s the point when I finally understand what story I’m really trying to tell. That’s when I can make it amazing.

Some authors are smarter than me, and perhaps their experience with editor feedback is more like a gentle, encouraging massage. For most of us, it’s a bruising beating that helps us grow stronger.

PerfectionWithout fail, when I keep an open mind and honestly review suggestions and critiques, not only do I see ways to better tell the story, but I gain insights into my own weaknesses as a writer. With every story, I grow. I discover blinders that I had on that prevented me from seeing weaknesses, I gain insights into higher forms of craft, and strengthen my skills.

So next time my manuscript will finally be perfect on the first try!

Or not. And I’ll fix it.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinRune Warrior coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers Contemporary Fantasy/Historical thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

The Long and Short of a Series

Guest post by Lauryn Christopher

 

I am a fan of short fiction. Most of the books on my nightstand are short-story collections, and I enjoy dashing off a short story whenever I can. There are many reasons for this, but for now I’d like to talk about short stories that connect to the larger world of an author’s novels, from the perspectives of a reader, a writer, and a businessperson.

As a reader, a short story is a great way to test the waters and see if I like a new-to-me writer’s work without the commitment of reading a full novel – and when that short story is set in the same world as the author’s longer world, so much the better. It’s like going to the store when they’re handing out free samples, knowing that if you like the little taste, you’re more likely to purchase the full-sized product.

As a writer, of all the things I like about writing short stories (which includes challenging myself, and using short stories to help me practice particular writing skills), I think my favorite is the opportunity they give me to wander the side-streets of a larger work. In a short story, I can:

 

  • get to know a secondary character in greater depth
  • explore a story idea that doesn’t require the complexity of a novel
  • explore an idea or character to see if it’s a world I want to play in at greater length

As an example, my short story, With Friends Like These (at 9,500 words/~40 pages) was written as the result of an intensive writing workshop assignment. But as I got to know the main character, she let me know in no uncertain terms that she had many more stories for me to tell, and I quickly went on to write the novel Conflict of Interest. And thus my “Hit Lady for Hire” series was born.

As a businessperson, I routinely look at each short story in my inventory to see how I can best leverage it. That’s not to say that I don’t go all creative-artist during the writing process – I do, even when writing on demand for a particular market or to a specific theme – but when the story is complete, and the act of artistic creation is finished, I now have a new piece of inventory, and it’s time to put on the business hat.

It’s a simple truth that every additional piece of inventory we create provides readers with one more point of contact for finding our work. Because discoverability is such a critical part of a successful writing career, one way to think of your short stories is like the magic breadcrumbs that lead your readers to the rest of your work. Remember my “As a reader” comment at the beginning of this article – the more of those “samples” you have out there, the more opportunities you create for readers to find you.

Selling your short fiction in to the magazine and anthology markets is another way of leveraging your short stories. Be aware: There are a lot of unpaid markets out there for short fiction, and rates in short fiction markets are typically in the pennies-per-word range, so writing short stories probably isn’t your best plan if you’re looking to get rich quick. However, because short fiction markets only hold onto the rights for a very limited time, when those rights revert, you can then sell reprint rights, put the short story up as an ebook at low or no-cost as a loss-leader, offer it as an audiobook, etc., and continue earning from it. The more you learn about ways to license your intellectual property rights, the more you can put your short fiction inventory to work for you.

It’s often been said that the best publicity for your book is your next book. Well, you can also leverage your short stories as advertising for your related novels. Whenever you sell a short story into a magazine or anthology, in many ways, it’s as if they are paying you to put a multi-page advertisement in their publication and then sending your advertisement (in the form of your short story) to their subscribers – and unless you’re exceptionally well-known, it’s likely that they have a much more extensive mailing list than you do. That short story publication helps you:

 

  • build name-recognition among readers
  • keep your name visible between related novels
  • give your new readers an introduction to your work and world
  • build a collection you can eventually sell/self-publish to accompany your full-length novels
  • gives you a “backlist” you can draw from (your previously published short stories). This is a great source of bonus, series-related material you can give to readers when they sign up for your mailing list!

 

As an example, working around the demands of everyday life (read: the day job), means my readers have to wait a while for the next book in my “Hit Lady for Hire” series of suspense novels. But rather than keep fans of the first book twiddling their thumbs and risk having them forget about me, I released Backstage Pass (at 8,000 words/~35 pages) in a mystery collection, and not only connected with my own readers, but also with the readers of all of the other authors in the collection.

In summary, short stories connected to the worlds of your full-length novels can be great workhorses:

 

  • They keep existing readers happy
  • They introduce new readers to your series
  • They help you expand your fictional worlds
  • They provide an additional income-stream
  • They keep your readers happy (it bears repeating!)

 

If you enjoy reading short stories, there’s a wealth of material out there for you to enjoy. And if you enjoy writing short stories, there’s plenty of readers waiting to read them.

 

– Lauryn

 

Lauryn Christopher has written marketing and technical material for the computer industry for too many years to admit. In her spare time, she writes mysteries, often from the criminal’s point of view – they’re not always who (or what) you might expect! You can find information and links to more of her work, and sign up for her newsletter at http://www.laurynchristopher.com

 

 

The Series Trap

So you want to write an epic sci-fi or fantasy series…

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Been there, done that.

I know authors who have written double-digit books in their series. I suppose that’s a great thing if it’s making money. But to me there’s a sort of hidden trap in creating a series that becomes self-perpetuating and endless. Part of that may just be my own proclivities as a reader. In general I find three or four books to be about as long as even the best writers can keep my interest in one story, one protagonist, and/or one set of supporting characters.

I just have too much interest in other stories to keep going back to that same water hole.

So when I started my War Chronicles epic fantasy series, I very deliberately set a story line that would be finished after three, maybe four books. I had no intention or desire to be writing War Chronicles books for years. I wanted to write other stories.

Now, had that series taken off like Harry Potter, and publishers were flying to my home to shove money in my mailbox, maybe I’d have a different perspective. But that didn’t happen, so I’m happy with what I did earn on my first series, and am glad that I have since written a sci-fi novel, and am now working on a contemporary murder mystery novel. From the first time I decided to pursue writing as a hobby and (hopefully) a career, I wanted to keep my options open and write widely in different genres.

I think that will make me a better writer in all genres.

Now, from a career perspective, maybe that’s a mistake. Maybe sticking with one sub-genre for my entire career might be a better way to establish a loyal fan base and churn out stories that are eagerly anticipated by those fans.

But even if it is, I’m enjoying my foray into contemporary murder mystery. Who knows, my next book might be a romance novel.