Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What Your Favorite Authors Don't Tell You

I’ve been a writer for the last ten years and in that time I’ve learned there are quite a few things that readers don’t know and writers don’t talk much about. I think it’s time to shed some light on those things. Without further ado, and in no particular order, I present to you, the myths of being an indie author.

Myth: Writers become independent authors because they can’t make it in the “real world” of publishing.

This couldn’t be further from the truth for most authors. I started out in the supposed real world. My first agent turned out to be a con artist who made her living preying on novice authors with dreams of making it big, and I lost a bit of money and a lot of hope as a result. My second and third agents were legitimate, but they couldn’t sell my work. It was met with mixed reviews by publishers. Some liked the story but hated the characters. Some loved the characters but hated the story. When I decided to submit to smaller houses, I was offered a contract for one of my novels only to have the publisher go under before my book ever made it to print. Another small house offered me a contract on another of my novels, but it never made it to print because one of their staff was on an extended leave and they had no return date for her. Apparently, she was the only one that could format the novels. I was able to break that contract. Yet another small house offered me a contract for that same novel with the editor assuring me she loved it and didn’t want to change it only to ask me to make a major rewrite. When I balked, the editor sent me a scathing email telling me if I was with one of the “big publishing houses” these changes would be made without my knowledge or consent so I could either agree or move on. I moved on.

For most of us, it isn’t a lack of literary talent that motivates us to release on our own. It’s the fact that we can retain our rights and control and still reach our desired audience without getting our hopes up, our hearts broken or having to jump through needless hoops.

Myth: Writers don’t need your reviews. It’s enough that you bought and liked the book.

This is wrong, wrong, wrong on so many levels. Independent authors don’t want your reviews because we want our ego stroked. We need your reviews because Amazon isn’t going to promote our work if we don’t reach a certain number of reviews.  More reviews also leads to recommendations. Have you ever clicked on a book to get more info and seen this: “Customers who bought this also bought…”? That recommendation is the result of your reviews of my book in the same genre as the one you’re currently browsing. So, yes, I need your reviews.

Myth: Writers don’t care about or want to see bad reviews

Bad reviews hurt. That is no lie. Reading a bad review can feel like listening to someone bad mouth your child. It makes the mama bear in you want to lash out, but there’s another choice that I make when it comes to reacting to bad reviews. I use them as a tool to improve my writing. The only ones I tend to disregard are those that are not constructive and obviously intended to hurt. One of my Amazon reviews reads: “This book is a waste of miney and it’s free.” Given that the reviewer couldn’t spell money correctly and was the only person to give that book a one star review, I disregarded it, but I do not ignore all bad reviews.

Myth: Using social media will make a huge difference in a writer’s book sales.

Maybe social media works for well-established authors who have a large and loyal following. Maybe there is that one success story where the unknown author takes to social media to spread the word about her book and makes it big. Sad to say, it doesn’t work for the rest of us. I have a Facebook page with nearly 800 likes, but I doubt even one-third of those people are actually reading and buying my books or my quarterly royalty payments would be much higher. I also have a large number of Twitter followers and Tweet about my books and my writing daily. Only my die-hard fans read and retweet and favorite. The rest seem to be skimming over them. My Instagram hasn’t even cracked double digit followers, but I created it because a number of people told me it was necessary to build an audience and tell them about my books. Maybe I’m doing something wrong on that front. If you have any ides, please share them with me so I can fix it.

Myth: Joining Facebook groups that promote reading and writing will increase books sales.

When I first joined Facebook, I went in search of ways to use it to promote my books. I’d read countless marketing articles that said this was something all writers had to do to reach more readers. I found a number of groups dedicated to allowing authors to promote their work and began posting daily. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was one of an astronomical number of authors doing the same thing. My posts were quickly getting buried by other authors who were there, like me, to push their own agenda. Most readers don’t seem to be looking at Facebook groups to find new books to read.

Myth: Trading reviews with other authors will increase the number of your reviews.

It should, but it doesn’t always. There are several groups online where authors can seek out reviews from their peers. I find most of them either don’t get responded to or those that do respond don’t like my genre. Either that or I don’t like their genre and couldn’t enjoy the book enough to give a fair review.

Myth: Giving away free copies of your book is a good way to get more reviews.

This should work, especially when you specify that you are giving it to someone in exchange for an honest review being posted on Amazon. Unfortunately, there are some people out there who want the free book and will accept it without any intention of writing the review. It sucks, but it’s not like I can take the book back once I give it away. All I can do is cross that person off a future giveaway list.

Myth: You can promote your book with little or no cost and see a big return.   

Yes, you can promote your book for free or spend only a little bit of money, but you will not gain more readers by doing this. Ever heard the phrase you have to spend money to make money? Not only is it true, but it applies to marketing your books. The less money you spend, the smaller the return on your investment. You reach fewer readers and reviewers which means you make fewer book sales.

Myth: Book tweeting services are great exposure for very little money.

Some book tweeting services are fairly inexpensive, and they deliver on what they promise. For a nominal fee, they will tweet information about your book to their ungodly amount of followers. They do that, but it doesn’t mean that anyone cares or rather that enough people care. Just because they have one million followers doesn’t mean all one million followers will see and buy your book. Not to mention, this service is available for any writer willing to pay for it. That means they’re sending out an awful lot of tweets to their followers every day that are probably being ignored.

Okay, I will admit this is a long and somewhat depressing post, but I don’t want you to feel bad. I want you to understand how hard it is to be a writer and why you matter so much to us. Without you, we have no one to write for.  Please, buy our books but don’t stop there. Tweet about our books. Post pictures of our books on your social media. Encourage your friends and family to buy our books. Take a few minutes from your day to post a brief review on Amazon. If you don’t let us know what you think, how can we get better?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Just What I Needed

As a writer with a full time day job, and a family, it can be difficult for me to find time to write.  In my earlier days of writing, I used to come home after working all day, have dinner and then head straight for my computer where I would write until bedtime. I would also write from sun up to sun down on the weekends.

All this writing time was great, but it translated to not spending much time with my family so I changed the routine. I still spend most of my weekends writing, but I no longer write in the evenings after working all day. I confine my weekday writing to my lunch hour on the day job. The formula’s been working, but like any writer, I wish I had more time to write. That’s especially true when I’m close to finishing a story and I want to see how it ends.

There are some bonus days to write. Those are the days that I’m supposed to be at the day job, but I get the day off. Those are typically a holiday. Now, there are some holidays that I won’t be writing because they’re for family, but there are some that I can sneak in the time to write.

This past weekend, I decided I was going to lengthen my Memorial Day weekend by taking Friday off the day job. That Friday, my husband was working, one child was in school and the other spent the day with her friends. That gave me an entire day to work on a story that I was near finishing and pretty damned excited about.

Good news! Thanks to my extra day off, I finished the first draft of that story. I also started the editing of another novel that I’m hoping to be ready for release this month.

It was such a great feeling to take that time and be able to focus on my story and my characters without any distractions. The fact that I was so productive was an even better feeling. It made me wish that I could give up the day job and take up writing as my full time gig. I’m not there yet, but I will say that extra day to myself was just what I needed. You better believe I’ll be doing it again soon.