Tag Archives: Joshua Essoe

Eric Edstrom: It Worked, It Failed – Lessons Learned in Indie Publishing

Guest post by Eric Edstrom

On December 24th, 2011, I clicked “save and publish” on Amazon’s KDP platform to launch my very first novel, Undermountain. A few hours later the book appeared for sale on Amazon.

Relief and satisfaction washed through me. I had realized a life-long dream, a biggie from the bucket list. I had done it. I’d written and published a novel.

I relaxed and smiled. No more pages of edits to go through, no irritating “track changes” issues to deal with from an editor, no more “when will your little book be out?” questions from doubters.

I’ve done this twice since then. In January of 2012 I published a little non-fiction ebooklet about writing lyrics for the Nashville music scene. And on July 1st I released Afterlife, the sequel to Undermountain.

I don’t claim to be an expert. If anything, I’m an advanced beginner. But I do have enough experience to offer insights into what has and has not worked for me as an indie author.

1. Goodreads.

Although many authors fear Goodreads due to trolls torpedoing authors’ books, I’ve found a friendly and welcoming community there. I wouldn’t have half the reviews I have without them. There are a number of Goodreads groups (basically discussion forums) with dedicated topics for “Authors Requesting Reviews” or ARR. Join one, read the ARR rules, introduce yourself, offer up free copies, and be patient. And it’s pretty much a no brainer, give a free e-copy of your book to anyone who promises to review it. It worked!

2. Hiring editing and proofreading services.

I worked with two editors. The first one did an okay job, but mostly just pointed out that my book was crap. I rewrote a bunch of it and then worked with Joshua Essoe, who helped me beat it into shape. After that I hired a proofreader. Notice I’m not mentioning who did that. I should have done an extra proofreading round after that. It worked. Lesson learned: ask for references.

3. Sourcing cover art through Crowdspring.com.

This worked, but it made the cost higher due to Crowdspring’s listing fees. I listed a project there, set my price, and then waited for designers to submit concepts. I gave feedback and encouragement to some of them, and eventually chose the cover you see for Undermountain (which is awesome according to everyone). Since then I’ve worked directly with the artist on the sequels. It worked! Lesson learned: It’s cheaper to work with artists directly. Find unknowns on deviantart.com and conceptart.org.

4. Hiring services to prepare my manuscript to feed into Smashword’s infamous meatgrinder conversion software.

I did this for Undermountain because I was exhausted and couldn’t face reading Smashword’s style guide. I paid ebookartisandesign.com $50 to do it. It worked!

5. Preparing my manuscript for the meatgrinder myself for book 2.

It’s actually not that hard to do if you clear space in your calendar and mind to just do it. It worked!

6. Hire Createspace services to create the interior layout for the POD version of my book.

I got my POD book done and ready for sale. It worked . . . but I was extremely disappointed with the speed and quality of their service. Their mistakes added three weeks to the process.

7. Create the interior layout using Word for Mac.

I did a superior quality layout for my second book in about four hours by following a tutorial I found online. If you’ve done your own prepwork for the Smashwords meatgrinder, you have the perfect starting point, BTW. It worked!

8. Dictating the first draft.

Once I got over the idea that dictation wouldn’t work for me and just did it, I found that it was insanely fast and the quality was good. I wrote a blog post on this. It worked!

9. Reserving an editor time slot before the book has been written started.

I did this on my second book because I knew Joshua’s schedule was filling up. I treated this date the same way I would a deadline for any other editor. I worked backward from that to figure out my schedule. I worked forward from that date to figure out my launch date. As a result, I launched an awesome book on time. It totally worked!

10. Tweet spamming my book.

I couldn’t help myself at first. I was so proud of my book and thought all fifty-seven of my followers would rush to Amazon and buy it. I do tweet my buy links occasionally, but for the most part I’m trying to build relationships on twitter. I have no evidence that I’ve sold a single copy due to tweeting. Tweet spamming: Fail!

11. Being afraid to push my book.

I just got done saying I was a Twitter spammer, but in real life I wouldn’t bring it up with anyone. Fail! Lesson learned: You’re not selling your book so much as you are selling yourself. Some people are good at this, some are like me. I can say with 100% confidence that I never sold a book to someone who didn’t know it existed.

12. Advertising on Facebook.

Fail! I sold nothing. I’m not saying it couldn’t work, just that it didn’t work for me. Why? Because I had no idea what I was doing. Advertising is an skill, and to do it right you really need to A/B test everything and tweak headlines.

13. Amazon Select.

Fail! (for me) I gave away thousands of free ebooks. There was no post giveaway sales boost and I got only one review as a result (it was very positive, BTW). I think my absence from other platforms set back my growth there and my sales on the big A did not go down once I left the Select program.

14. Creating a printed version of my book to boost sales.

Fail! I’ve given away way more copies than I’ve sold of my POD book. From a return on time/investment standpoint, POD was not worth it for Undermountain. And yet . . . there is nothing in the world like holding that book. Now that I know how to do interior layout myself I will continue to do them. Lesson learned: when you hire your cover artist, make sure they agree to tweak final dimensions for the wrap-around cover and placement of back cover text, etc. The issue is that you won’t know the spine dimensions until you know how many pages the book will be. And you won’t know that until the book is finished and the interior layout is complete.

15. Create an awesome book trailer that will go viral, resulting in huge sales and movie options.

Fail! I did all the work on my awesome trailer myself. It was far more expensive than it had to be because I licensed stock video and sounds from istockphoto.com and pond5.com. I already owned Final Cut and had video editing experience, so at least that didn’t cost me extra. Lesson learned: having an awesome book trailer is its own reward.

16. Speaking to a bunch of eighth graders at a local school.

It worked! Many were very interested in buying my book. Lesson learned: Make sure your your POD book is ready. This may be different now, but not one of the 100+ kids in the audience owned an ereader at the time. Due to Createspace design services slowitude, I did not have any inventory on hand. Fail!

17. Ringing up sales by obsessively refreshing the KDP, Pubit, Smashwords, and Writing Life dashboards.

Fail! I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that this is ineffective. If it was, I would be the best-selling writer in the history of the world.

Guest Writer Bio: Eric Kent Edstrom is an author, songwriter, and guitarist. The first two volumes of The Undermountain Saga, Undermountain and Afterlife, are available in ebook and trade paperback from all online retailers. Eric lives in Wisconsin with his wife and daughter.

Twitter: @ekdstrom
Facebook: facebook.com/EricKentEdstrom
Web: ericedstrom.com

The greatest YA science fiction series about bigfoot of all time: The Undermountain Saga. Book 1: Undermountain and book 2: Afterlife. The final book will launch 24 December.

Brandon Sanderson Dishes on Publishing

It has been a busy and wonderful month here at Fictorians.com. To finish off our Publishing Month of Madness, Brandon Sanderson was kind enough to agree to take some time out of his crazy schedule for a short question and answer style blog post.

Here it is in all its glory.

Joshua Essoe: It used to be that producing a book a year was sufficient, even productive, but now it seems if you’re not getting at least two or three books out there every year to feed the cavernous maw of impatient e-readers, you’re too slow and the tide will just pass you by. What do you think of the difference between e-books and traditional publishing?

Brandon Sanderson: Authors are doing some interesting things in e-books. One thing you’re noticing is that in e-books-probably for pricing reasons-the books are growing shorter and coming out faster. It’s moving closer to a much older model, where you would release serialized editions of books that were more like episodes rather than an entire novel. Some of the market is going that way. I think it’s just a different model; I don’t necessarily think it’s going to be the only model. It’s just a new and interesting thing that e-books are doing.

JE: Is there a pressure that has developed from traditional publishers for their authors to be pushed towards more production? When should an author consider self-publishing instead of trying to land a book deal in NY? Should one self-publish while trying to land that book deal and use potential sales numbers as part of the pitch?

BS: I don’t feel that there has been any push from New York to publish books at any different speed at all. In fact, one of the main reasons to publish with New York as opposed to self-publishing is if you are an author who doesn’t write at least one book a year. If we’re to take The Way of Kings as an example, there’s no way that I’m going to be producing 400,000-word epic fantasies as fast as a lot of the self-published writers can put out books. There’s no way that anyone could have made that book at that speed. It’s a book that takes a year, maybe eighteen months to write. So for long epic fantasies, New York certainly has some things going for it.

One of the reasons that it’s really good to publish fast and short when you’re doing self-publishing is that you don’t have any sort of marketing push behind you. You don’t have bookstore shelf presence, which is one of the major forms of marketing-people seeing your book there on the shelves. Word of mouth is always the most important thing, but it becomes even more important for the self-published writer. Publishing quickly and getting a lot of books out helps to get your name in more places in the market and helps to push some of that momentum through. That seems to be the key way to make it as a self-published writer.

When would I self-publish versus New York-publish? I would not abandon either model. Self-publishing has proved itself so viable recently that if I were a new writer, I would be looking at doing both at the same time. Maybe taking the longer, more epic-style books to New York and doing the faster-paced, more thriller-style books online, and seeing what works best.

So the expansion of the e-book market gives you more places to go. That said, if you’re not a particularly fast writer, self-publishing is going to be a very hard route for you because everything I’ve seen-granted, I’m not an expert on this; there are places to go other than me for expertise-shows that being able to produce quickly is a key factor in being a successful self-published author in this market.

JE: How long does it take to be forgotten in this fickle book market, and what should an author be doing to prevent it?

BS: It depends on your method. What you’re getting at here is the balance between promotion and just writing the next book. That’s a balance authors have had to work with for decades, if not centuries-the idea being that promoting your book keeps it in people’s minds. Right now you can do that through engaging blog posts, being on Twitter, going to conventions, doing book signings, and all of these things. They take time. If they take so much time that you’re not writing your next book, then the question becomes are they worth it?

Do you want all your eggs in one basket? Do you want to write one book and then spend the whole year promoting it, trying to get it to take off, or do you want to, in that time, write three books and try to get one of the three to take off? I don’t think there’s any right answer; they’re both valid ways to go. You could end up writing that one book and, with your promotion, turn it into a big success that builds a name for you. Or you could be in hindsight wasting your time promoting it when it never ends up taking off.

So you have to find the right balance for yourself. Part of the question that I would ask myself is, are you an engaging blogger? Can you write interesting things on a topic and build a platform that is not just about “Buy my book!”? Would it be something interesting and fun for people to read, and can you leverage that to make people interested in your writing? If you can, then blogging would certainly be helpful to you.

Guest Bio: Brandon Sanderson writes epic fantasy novels for Tor Books.  He is the author of Elantris, the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, and his newest grand epic, starting with The Way of Kings. He was also chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, the final book of which, A Memory of Light, is due out in January 2013. Find out more about Brandon at www.brandonsanderson.com.


Joshua Essoe: Editing Saved My Life. And It Could Save Yours.

Writers frequently ask me if an editor is really necessary. The answer is no. An editor is not necessary, an editor is essential.

Many indie authors say, “But, I can’t afford it.” The truth is, if you can’t afford it, then don’t publish a book. Something I think many indie authors tend to miss is that you guys are running a small business. You’re the boss and the employee and everything in between, and should expect a certain amount of upfront cost. Releasing a book before it’s ready because you won’t hire an editor or cover designer does more harm than good. It is better to wait and make sure that your book is as strong as you can make it before you throw it to the wolves.

Especially your first book. There are thousands and thousands of self-published books out there and they’re all inexpensive and easy to get. If a reader gets hold of it, finds a few spelling errors, a missed word here or there, and an abundance of passive voice, they’ll put your book down (or remove it from their e-reader) and just move on to the next thing. They’ll never give your potentially wonderful story a chance to be potentially wonderful—and there goes your chance for future sales to that reader. Think what your reaction would be as a reader. First impressions mean everything. That goes for your first book in a new series, your first book ever, your first chapter, your first page, your first sentence.

The New York Times has editors, TV news stations have editors, Vogue and Maxim have editors, all the publishing houses have editors. Why would successful businesses like those all use editors? There must be a reason. . . . Ah, yes. It is because they’re essential to a finely tuned, professional product.

An indie editor is different from a trad editor. The only person who pays an independent or freelance editor is you. The only person that editor is beholden to is you. Their job is to strengthen your words and your voice to help make your story as good as it can be. The way you want it. A good one will be enthusiastically in your corner, working to help make you a success. And you want them in your corner. You wouldn’t think of going into an MMA match without having had a trainer. You’d get killed. Likewise, you shouldn’t throw your darlings to those wolves without some ninja skillz.

An editor’s job is not to rewrite you. Writing is your job. Their job is to help you make that writing shine as brilliantly as possible.

And another huge difference between indie and trad editors? Between hiring your own editor and having one imposed on you? If you hate what they do, you don’t have to use it—any of it.

So what can your friendly neighborhood editor do for you? There are several forms of editing; copy or line, content, substantive, proof reading. We’ll focus on line and content which will be the most applicable and reasonable for an indie author.

A copy or line edit, as the name suggests, is a meticulous edit of each line in the text looking for missing and misspelled words, superfluous language and redundant phrases, mixed tenses, and all technical inconsistencies. Line editing is editing for tone, style and flow—focusing on polishing the author’s words to improve the overall effect and increase the impact of the writer’s message. And to make sure that horrible passive voice is not yammering all over your story. You don’t want readers to admire your writing. You want them to be so engaged by the story that they don’t notice your words.

A content edit is more involved. It is checking the story for logic holes, inconsistencies of plot and character, patching any holes in the fourth wall, finding spots in the story that are weak or don’t make sense, then suggesting possible solutions.

An editor’s job is to help you get the movie you see running in your head playing the same way in the heads of your readers. What makes a story work is an emotional connection with your readership. If you get that, they’ll love your book and they’ll love you.

A good content editor is not easy to find; there aren’t many out there who can tell you what’s wrong and offer solutions on how to fix it. So be careful. Get references, talk to people you trust or people with experience.

When you contact an editor be professional. Be prepared to send a sample. Be prepared to give the editor a deposit for reserving time for you. Be prepared to meet your deadlines so that you have time to do a couple passes on your own before handing it off. Not only will those passes make your editor happy, but it will make your wallet happy. Make sure you know what format the editor needs. For example, I use industry standard—I know how long an MS formatted to those specifications will take me to edit based on a five page sample.

What will amaze and appall editors of all shapes and sizes is that a large percentage of manuscripts submitted for review have not even basic formatting set correctly. It immediately gives the impression of laziness, that the author didn’t care enough to do a little research.

If you are curious what the vaunted Industry Standard looks like, read Vonda McIntyre’s handout. This is a good starting point, but keep in mind that the industry is in flux and many online submissions will vary from this. If they do, they’ll certainly state it in their submission guidelines. If not, always go with the old standard.

A good content editor will also be able to help you sculpt your story to best appeal to the audience for which it is targeted. Do you want to enrapture teenage girls? Or do you want men in their thirties on the edges of their seats? Knowing who you are writing for and what appeals to them is as important as having a wonderful story. Because what might be an amazing story to that thirty-five year old guy is almost certainly not going to appeal all that much to a sixteen year old girl.

So, all you indie authors out there, go out and find an editor you love (and hate—if the editor is any good you’ll curse their name more than a few times). Get that editor working for you, and let them help you and your business produce the best product possible.


Joshua Essoe is a full-time, freelance editor. He’s done work for best-seller David Farland, including the multi-award winning novel, Nightingale, Dean Lorey, lead writer of Arrested Development, best-seller, James Artimus Owen, and numerous Writers of the Future authors and winners, as well as many top-notch independents. He is currently the finishing editor at Urban Fantasy Magazine.

Together with tie-in writer Jordan Ellinger, indie success-story, Michale J. Sullivan, and traditionally published author and NY Times best-seller, Debbie Viguie, he records the weekly writing podcast Hide and Create. You can find his interview episode here.

When not editing . . . ha ha, a joke. He was a 2014 finalist in the Writers of the Future contest, and lives with his wife, and three horrible cats near UCLA.