5 Things Every Writer Should Know About Self-Publishing.

Since the rise of sites like Smashwords and Amazon in 2007-08, self-publishing quickly became the go-to for many authors who could not get a deal with Trad or Indie publishing houses. Soon, the lure of doing it yourself and keeping all the profit skyrocketed in the self-publishing world, and now millions of books are unleashed to the world every year.

Yet as thousands of new authors soon realise, it ain’t as easy as it looks, so here are five things every writer should know about Self-Publishing. Note; this is ALL from my years of experience.

1. You have to do EVERYTHING: I do mean everything. Without the support of a publisher, authors are left to find and pay for editors, cover designers, formatters and everything that goes into marketing and promoting a book. This can cost you thousands of dollars. At the onslaught of the self-publishing wave back in 2010, book covers for SP books were amateurish and sloppy. You could pick out an SP author from the thousands of books that were released every month. It quickly became adherent that if you wanted to compete with the big boys, you had to look like them, and that meant a cover and everything in between. Authors 

2. No real deadlines: There are a few advantages to doing it yourself, but the biggest one (and the one I like the most) is no set deadline. Authors can choose when their books come out and can push back a release date if they’re not ready. Try being a new author and telling your Trad publisher that the deadline they gave you just isn’t going to work.

3. Expect your book to be swallowed up: I don’t know how many times I see authors upset that their first book is not being seen, especially first-time authors. There are, on average, close to two million books self-published each year, and it’s a slow process to find a steady audience who will buy your books. This is where promotions come into play. Promoting your story is a part of your writing career, and people expect you to do some. I write books in genres that aren’t really popular, so I don’t get a lot of traction, and I’m fine with that, but be warned that even if you write in a ‘hot’ genre, you’re still going to find it difficult. Be patient and write that next book. Having a catalogue of stories helps out and will help with #4. One tip; don’t spam social media for sales. Nothing will get you ignored faster, and how are you going to sell books if everyone is ignoring you?

4. You won’t get rich.  This goes hand-in-hand with #3. As soon as people realised you could make money writing books, everyone started doing it, and there were a lot of scams out there, and Amazon was ripe with them, which is why I will never make any of my books exclusive to that platform. There is an unrealistic ideal that if you write a book, you’re set for life. You’re not, as a matter of fact, it may take you dozens of books and constant sales before that dream actually happens. You have to be realistic about this. Here’s a good article on the subject. https://medium.com/real-life-resilience/heres-why-so-many-writers-fail-7bdb5d647e4c

5. More rewarding – Yes, you have to do everything yourself. Yes, you will easily spend more to put your book together than you earn, and there is a good chance a handful of people will see your novel and even fewer will purchase it, and yes, there will be constant anxiety about promotions and marketing, but at the end of it all when you look online and see your novel for sale there is something incredibly rewarding about it. YOU did that. That story came from YOUR imagination, and you worked on it for months, if not years, and how many people in your life can say they wrote a book? That is your small chunk of immortality, my friend. Something that will stay around as long as the internet exists.

Of Writers and Prose: Are writing hashtags worth the effort?

For years, writers have been told to add hashtags to just about everything they post on social media. The belief is that hashtags allow writers to find one another, support one another, and be included in conversations on these platforms within the writing community. Hashtags are a great way to find support for whatever you need and a good way to find others who share the same likes. Genre hashtags are no different, and they help hundreds of writers who love a specific type of genre feel like they’re part of something bigger. A place where they can gather and chat about the books they read and write.

Everything has a hashtag now, and I mean everything. On some social media, it’s the only way to find the content you want. I find using them helps to keep the crap at a minimum, especially on sites like TikTok and makes using these platforms more enjoyable as both a user and creator. The use of hashtags has grown over the years and unfortunately, not in a good way. Scroll through a writing one on Twitter and you’ll see they have de-evolved into a spam-fest stream of nothing but promotions. I followed a writing hashtag for close to two months, and ninty percent were nothing but authors promoting their books, blogs, or posts on other social media.

What happened to the exchange of ideas and communication that they were supposed to inspire?

I see creators using so many hashtags in their posts that it’s longer than their actual post. I understand wanting to be seen as much as possible, but do you know how UNINVITING this makes the posts look? Which is the exact opposite of what you you’re trying to do. I see these over-used hashtag posts and scroll right on by, because it tells me that the creator has no interest in actually engaging with the community. That they don’t care. Another over-use is how some posts are tagged to content that has nothing to do with their post. Again, trying to be seen, and again, only makes them invisible.

In order to sell books, writers need to promote, I understand that, and writing communities on social media are a great way to meet people, but when those same outlets become congested with spam, where does the community come in? I’m not saying to stop using hashtags, just the opposite, but think about why you’re using them. Are you reciprocating? Are you interacting with the community? I’ve been interacting with the community hashtag?

I stopped interacting with communities for years because of this problem, and only recently started again. I’ve had some great, albeit short, conversations with other writers, but I’m not going to lie, all the ‘shameless self promotion’ and ‘lifts’ are enough to drive me away and never look back.  

Think about this the next time you use a hashtag, and ask yourself why aren’t you getting any traction with that latest book promo or blog post. There’s a reason. People are tuning out. Give them a reason to tune in.

Of Writers and Prose: Has Discord Become the New Proboards?

Do you remember Proboards? The wildly popular forum website that swept through the internet in the early 2000s. Released on January 1st, 2000, it ushered in a new age of online social communication. Everyone had a Proboard forum. Hell, I started three and was a part of three more. It was one of the earliest forms of community on the web (yes, I remember the old Yahoo chat rooms), and over 3.5 million forums were at their peak. There was a Proboard for just about everything. Sadly, that has dropped to roughly 1.2 million that are still active and garner the occasional page view. I’m surprised there are any still active at all.

What was so appealing about Proboards? The same thing drives people to Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social media sites; a sense of community and interaction with like-minded people, and the upgrades allowed for that interaction to grow, but it also had its problems. Maybe it was just a flash in the pan, or people got bored, I don’t know, but it’s not as popular as it once was. A new forum God has taken over, and it’s called Discord.

Launched in 2015, it was created for the gamer world as a means of a better form of communication. The Wikipedia for the site is HERE. You should give it a read. It’s really interesting. Discord doesn’t have karma points or fancy mods to make it appealing. You get the basic text and communicate via voice. Plain and simple. Maybe that’s why it’s become the go-to forum? Plain and straightforward always wins out in the end.

While both websites have advantages and disadvantages, I would go with Discord if I had to choose. People want to engage with others and talk about their interests, and real-time texting is easier to carry a conversation than the post-by-post forum. The program is designed for voice and text and is more suited to the mobile world, and I think that’s where it wins out over Proboards. You can also download the program to your computer and get instant notification of when someone replies or posts. Again, it’s that real-time communication that makes it so popular.

Are you on Discord? You should be.

Of Writers and Prose: Support Your Wife and Help Her Write You into Retirement!

Literally the subject line of the last email I sent my husband.

I was not one who anxiously supported Patreon when it first came out. It wasn’t that I didn’t want people to be paid for their creative services, just the opposite, but I have a hard time asking anyone for money outside of purchasing my books, and it just felt creepy for me. Some content I think should be free to help grow your audiences, such as blog posts and newsletters. When I became dedicated to doing a monthly newsletter, I struggled with what I should put on my blog vs. what I should put in my newsletter. I’m still working on that, and now I have one more thing to add to my indecisions.

I started a Patreon page. It’s right HERE.

I didn’t entertain the idea of starting one until a few of us were chatting in the SF forum about what to put in a newsletter, and I mentioned my Inkarnate maps. I plan to take screenshots as I create them and post them one by one so people can see how it all comes together. One of the chatters said that would be an excellent reward for Patreon, and then the idea made a home in my brain.

I have three tiers on my site with an idea for a fourth, but it will be just for Canadians and won’t come into being for quite a while. This is more of an experiment than anything else. I do like the idea that people can subscribe either monthly or yearly. It will be interesting because I have so many ideas for what I want to put on this page; audio files of me reading excerpts, pictures of maps, and post on the inspirations behind the stories and why. I will keep the format I have been using for my blog posts, and I have a few new ideas too. This will be more work for me, but I have a plan, and if I stick to it, this could work out for the better.

Do you have a Patreon? How do you like it?

Of Writers and Prose: Creating a special occasion in your story.

Have I mentioned that I am in love with the world I created for my alternate reality story?

Okay, maybe a few times, but this is a place where I’ve let my imagination run wild with possibilities and mashed two genres together, or maybe three. I don’t know. Okay, let’s not call it mashing how about blending?

One reason I love this world so much is that I get to create holidays. I believe holidays are important to stories. It allows you to explore the culture you’ve created, and it can offer some wonderful opportunities for your characters to interact and reflect. Because this is an alternate reality, I chose to expand on some well-known celebrations; keeping them familiar while adding just enough of a twist that they are unique.

It sounds like a daunting task, but I made it easy for myself by jotting down a few things about the holiday that I know. For example, Halloween. First celebrated as the end of harvest and end of the year by some cultures, celebrations revolved around the finality of the growing season. The end of something scare people because they don’t know what will happen afterward, so I designed a playful ritual where a volunteer dresses up as a Banshee (or as I spell it for the novel Banshii) and is led through the parish by someone dressed as an undertaker. Children throw flowers at them as they pass by and chant a little poem. If the Banshii stops near someone, they throw several small bones, and the bones foretell the future for that person, but it’s all for fun.

I also expanded on the idea of covering mirrors. Instead, all windows and doors are covered with heavy black material, with only the homes of people who lost a loved one within the past year remaining uncovered. The idea is, that the newly departed soul returns on this day for one last visit, and might get confused as to which house they once lived in. The covered windows and doors make it easy for the spirit to find their family, and for the neighbours to show respect for the dead. I made this a very strong superstition in the story.  

Those are just small adjustments to traditions that are still widely performed. Do you put celebrations in your stories? How do you create them?

Of Writers and Prose: And then my flash drive crashed, Your Honour.

It was that kind of month, lemme tell ya.

For over thirty years, I’ve struggled to find a reliable means to save my writing. When I started, I used a plastic binder and paper. I had boxes of binders and loose paper that had the beginning of stories that eventually went nowhere, and I had to get rid of them because they became a fire hazard. I bought a word processor in my mid-20s that saved everything to a floppy (don’t you DARE ask me what a floppy is), and I loved it. All my work was right there at my fingertips. When I bought my first computer five years later, it didn’t recognize the word processor program, and I had to print everything out and type it into my computer. That was fine. I formatted the floppy and reused it, and everything was right with the world until computers no longer had floppy drives, and I had to save directly to my computer.  The first time my computer died, I swear I cried for days. My writing was my only outlet; my husband knew this and wasn’t too upset as we went into debt to buy me a new one. I learned my lesson too, and started looking for ways to save the work OUTSIDE of my computer.

Enter my Dropbox phase.

For years I used this online program to save all my work and a few extra things, and then someone introduced me to flash drives. I put finished stories on my flash drive, as well as family pictures. I thought it was the perfect way to save those files and keep space open on my computer. When Dropbox decided to reduce how much I could store, I added all of my writing and kept only the projects I was working on at that moment on my computer.

And then . . .  well, the title says it all. Good thing my kid has enough money for bail.

The same day I released The Quiet Dead, I accidentally bumped my flash drive while it was still connected to my computer, and everything went P00F! I. Mean. Everything. Pictures, finished stories, story ideas, and first drafts of novels I planned on publishing. It was like that first computer crash all over again. Blerg. Yet this story has a happy ending. See, it USED TO BE that if you crashed a flash drive, that was it, but I found technology that allows you to recover those files. It cost me $60, but it was worth it. I got all my files back and then some.

Yeah, and then some. Over four thousand files.

Ninety percent were duplicates, and I’ve been going through it all, deleting the files that the computer can’t read and saving the ones it can under a new name. I found stories that were so old I didn’t recognize them. I thought maybe they weren’t mine, but why would I have other people’s work on my flash drive? Anyhoo, my stories are back, and everything is right with the world again. Have I learned my lesson? Who the hell knows, but if I ever have a problem again, I’m going to THIS SITE.

Trust me, it’s worth it.

COVER REVEAL!

The ebook goes live July 15th, and there’s a short excerpt at the back for the second book in the series.

Blurb:

In the middle of a deadly pandemic, forty-five-year-old Jolene Sadler hides out at her trailer in Wasaga Beach Canada, with her daughter and a few neighbours. Mainly it’s to get away from her abusive ex, but as the world falls apart, it becomes a refuge where they can ride out the pandemic in relative security, but things are never what they seem.

The world descends into a chaotic madness, and desperation seeps into the camp along with the virus. Rumours spread that the illness makes people go mad, but Jolene witnesses a truly frightening affliction firsthand; resurrection. To complicate matters, her ex is discovered at the campground which forces her into an ugly confrontation. As their haven devolves into a graveyard, she and her small group are forced out onto the open road with few supplies and even fewer options.

As her ex and the dead haunt their every step, their journey culminates into a showdown for their lives, but sometimes a bad situation can turn the tide, especially when hopelessness leaves Jolene with only one option.

Five Things Every Writer Should Know About Instagram.

I like to call Instagram the Twitter of pictures.

For those of you who don’t know, Instagram is a picture heavy social media site. It also hosts videos as well. Probably in competition to TikTok and YouTube, but personally, I like it just for pictures.

Instagram is one of my favourite social media platforms. I post so many different types of photos, from personal to business and connect with others who do the same, but it’s my favourite because I don’t have to think of something clever to say, like I try to do on Twitter. With Instagram, I can throw up a picture and leave it at that, and honestly, it’s one of the simplest platforms to use, and like all platforms there are good and bad sides to it, so here are 5 things you need to know about Instagram.

  1. Picture heavy. As a writer, you want to reach as many people as possible and that means you have to expand your audience to include non-writing people as well, and Instagram is a good place to start. I think of it as another way to be creative. You can post pictures of themes that run through your story, maybe of actors or places that you used for character and story inspiration. I sometimes post snippets of my works-in-progress. A visual excerpt of the actual word file.
  • You can link to other platforms. Instagram is owned by Facebook (or do we call them Meta now?), but that doesn’t mean that you’re limited to what you can connect to. Facebook -yes, Twitter – yes, Tumblr – yes, and I have it connected to my WordPress blog, so pictures come up in a side bar. Connecting one social media platform to another an greatly expands the range of your audience and you may pick up a follower or two.
  • Limitation on what you can do with pictures. Apart from a few filters, Instagram doesn’t have a lot of options to fancy up your photos, BUT, you can upload pictures from your computer, so if you do something fancy in whatever paint program you have, you can easily share it.
  • Can use hashtags just like with Twitter. The whole purpose of having social media accounts is to connect with others, and it’s much easier when you use hashtags. You can even follow certain hashtag topics, so anyone who uses ones you’re following, will pop up in your stream, and vice-versa.
  • Very user friendly. After Twitter and a blog, I would suggest (once you feel comfortable) having an Instagram account. Want to post a picture? Click on the icon of a box with a (+) sign, and it will either open a box (on your computer) to drag a photo, or, on your phone it will have all pictures that is in your gallery, and you just pick the one you want. You can do multiple pictures as well by clicking the double screen icon on the bottom right-hand corner.

Instagram has been around for almost twelve years and there isn’t a business site that doesn’t have an account. It’s fun, simple to use, but it can be a time suck as well. There are so many creative ways a writer can use the platform to promote themselves and their work. I’ve mentioned a few in this post, but if you think of others, I’d love to hear it. I’m always looking for a good idea for a picture.

Of Writers and Prose: When obsession is incomplete.

For years, I was obsessed with acquiring a literary agent. I thought it was the only way to become a published author, but shortly after I sent out my first short story, self-publishing became a thing, so I went with it. In the years that followed, my drive to acquire an agent has waned, but the idea did not.

This whole agent thing, it pokes at me, especially when online events happen. It’s almost as though I need this assertion that my writing is good and the only way that can happen is by landing an agent. I know that’s not true, but it’s this little chunk of doubt that persists, and if I don’t act on it every now and then, it festers and becomes toxic.

I’ve written three books that have been turned down. One I eventually put out myself and the other two (which includes my most recent novel) I will probably do the same. I truly thought I had something with my magical realism novel, even got a nibble, but in the end, it wasn’t meant to be, and I must face facts that agents can’t connect to what I write. Am I sad? Maybe a little, but the biggest problem I face now, is accepting this and moving forward.

A small part of the reason I haven’t put out any books over thee last seven years is because I hung on to this idea of having an agent. I’ve worked on other projects, but in the back of my mind, the notion that none of these were any good depleted my love for the project to a point that I had convinced myself that a better idea would come along, and I would put all my energy into that project.

I wrote five novels in the last six years; Down Finnegan’s Hollow, The Possession of Mercy Moreau, two zombie novels, and my magical realism, plus I started umpteen others, but it wasn’t until Eva and Skye that I felt I *had* something and threw my energy back into writing, solely on the hopes that THIS would fulfil an agents wish. Now that it hasn’t, how do I break this obsession? How do I stop lingering over a dream and just start writing for me again?   

Oddly enough, while writing out the first draft of this post, Hubby and I went out for breakfast, and a crow flew across the street in front of us. When I looked up what that meant (because I am superstitious), the information on the web site coincided with what I was writing about.

            The crow is trying to bring attention to unhealthy behaviors that are holding you back. The crow is literally trying to stop your tracks to metaphorically give attention to self-sabotaging behavior that is holding you back. It could also mean that big changes are about to happen in your life, but they will lead to long-term happiness and success. 

So where do I begin? How do I break this mindset? I’m not sure, but this last story is strike three and I’m not going to try again. I love all the stories I’ve written, and plan on publishing them. I’m not sure when, but you will be seeing them in the future.

Hopefully.

Wish me luck.

Five Things Every Writer Should Know About . . . Facebook.

When I thought up this series last year, I had a love hate relationship with Facebook, but over the last little while, between what’s happened with them in the last few months, to the fact that it really doesn’t help writers other than provide a time suck, I no longer suggest Facebook for authors, but it’s still worth a look so here are Five Things Every Writer Should Know About Facebook.

1 – Facebook is a time suck. Unfamiliar with that term? It just means you can waste hours scrolling through posts of your friend’s cat pictures, silly game promos, and the never-ending barrage of meme posts. Facebook, like all other social media platforms, does NOT sell books, and quite frankly, there’s nothing you can do on it that you can’t do on the others. The ONLY reason I’m still on it is because of the friends I’ve made.

2. Facebook does not sell books. There have been numerous posts regarding their paid post promos, but I haven’t heard anything good. Only that they got the author’s money, and the author didn’t get anything in return. I had an author page and was constantly bombarded with requests from Facebook to promote my latest post for a few dollars. I never fell for it because the information I saw from other authors who did, didn’t impress me.

3. Algorithms – Facebook’s algorithms are notorious – good and bad, but it’s the same with any program that uses them. You just have to understand how they work. It takes some time, but you can manipulate them to show you what you want, but you must be vigilant about it. One slip and you can go spiraling down a rabbit hole.   

4. Keeps you connected – the ONLY reason I still have Facebook, is to keep connected with friends. That’s it. I don’t use it for anything else. I had an author page, but I would forget to update it, or my posts weren’t being seen by the amount of people it claimed were following. This is where they make you pay to get your posts ‘seen’ in more places. Personally, if they would just put it up in the feeds of people who followed it, I’d have no problem.

5. Groups: Facebook groups are another plus for this platform. There are groups for just about everything, and it comes with it’s only good/bad points. Social media is about connection and connecting, and at the beginning of its life, Facebook was great at that, but somewhere in the last decade it’s descended into becoming one of Dante’s levels of hell. Which is sad because connection is a cornerstone for authors to sell books.

Facebook groups and connecting with friends is about the only good thing about this program, and I may just write a post on it.

Is there anything you’d like to add to this list? Some aspect about Facebook (good or bad) that I’ve left out?

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