Of Writers and Prose: Ten years as a published writer.

September marked a full decade that I have been published. So much has changed in the last ten years, and yet a lot has not.

I self-published The Watchtower in September of 2011 because it was too short of a story for agents or publishers. I knew that from the beginning, and I thought it would be an interesting experience to do it all myself. Self-publishing was still quite new and there were a bunch of us who decided not to go the Trad route. It felt oddly liberating to be a part of such a big change in the industry. Authors did well, some even made enough that they could write full time. Maybe that was the lure, but it seemed as though over-night the self-publishing world exploded, and everyone was publishing books.

I put out six books in five years. I experimented with paperback and distribution channels. I have publishing accounts with three different places so I could cover the most ground, and I NEVER, NOT ONCE, put all my books solely in one place. I’ve never seen it as a smart move. Why limit yourself to one market? Yes, I know there’s a Kindle app for Android, but why not just put your book in as many different places as you can? Especially when it’s free to do so?

I experimented with promotions and advertising. I remember when anyone could get into BookBub, but now you have to offer your first born to get a spot. There was the ‘first book in a series for free’ craze, bundle craze, blog hops, rafflcopter, just to name a few. There were a few nefarious schemes like ‘I’ll give you a good review if you give my book a good review’, and downright nasty practices by authors who would get their followers to gang up on another author. It’s the main reason why I don’t go onto Goodreads anymore.

I saw Traditional Publishers scoff at ebooks, then embrace them. Articles about how print books were dying off, then coming back, then dying off again. Same articles were written for ebooks as well. Ten years ago, there were the Big Five publishing houses – Random House, Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon and Shuster, Hatchet, and Macmillan. There were few indie publishers’ and self-publishing was seen by many as ‘vanity’. There are a lot more indie publishers now, many geared toward specific genres, which makes it easier for reads and authors alike to find their audience, and self-publishing is seen as a legitimate career path.

A cottage industry has blossomed around publishing. There are so many editors offering their service, graphic designers doing cover art, and with audio books, voice actors are lending their talent to the author. With an influx of hopeful authors and the possibility of making good money, there were a lot of book scams too. A few scammers would create ebooks so when you got to a certain page (usually the second or third page) it would jump to the end and count as read. These and other scams took a lot of potential money away from real authors, and that’s when I decided to step back for a while.

This is where I am now. Six years after my last release and I feel the need to put something new out. I keep talking about my novels, but I never seem to really do anything with them. I believe it’s time to change that.

Of Writers and Prose: Writing fads come and go, but a good story lasts forever.

The popularity of some genre’s come and go like the ebb and flow of tides. One year vampires are all the rage, and then something else comes along and knocks them by the wayside—but only for a short time, because everyone knows that vampires are immortal, and so is the genre. There’s just one problem; you don’t have a vampire novel to publish, and therefore miss out on the popularity and sales.

Welcome to writing fads, and there’s a few problems. One is having characters exactly like the characters of other stories. Some tropes are a necessity of the genre, but you can always tweak those to make them an original creation. What is it about your characters that make them stand out from others in the same genre? What quirk about them could you explore or enhance? Do they have an interesting habit, good or bad? Small things like this can create interesting plots that could set your story apart from the others, and still be part of the genre.

Fads are something that come up rather quickly, one reason why they’re not really popular with Traditional publishers. Putting a book out with them can take months, even several years, and by the time your vampire story is ready, the moment has most likey passed. Self-publishers have a better chance with fad books, especially if you’re a prolific writer. Just remember, a bad book stays in the mind of readers just as much as a good one.

Writing to fads can be frustrating especially when you miss the current wave, or the market is already saturated, but these trends come in cycles and will return again and again, so don’t give up. Write that vampire, werewolf, or zombie novel, because the trend will return and when it does, you’ll be right there, ready to unleaseh your story on the world.

Of Writers and Prose: To swear or not to swear.

Like most people, the odd swear word escapes my mouth every now and then. Okay, who are we kidding, I swear on a daily basis, it’s just a natural thing for me, which is probably why most of my stories have it in them as well. For me, I feel that swearing is a part of a character’s personality, but to what degree and intensity is based on the personality traits of the individual character.

Swearing in stories shouldn’t be about creating shock value, there are other ways to accomplish that, but it should be consistent with your character’s persona. I realized this as I wrote the first draft of my magical realism story. It takes place in the 80’s, and back then, everyone around me swore to some degree, so I included it in the story.

It’s a given that the majority of the populations swears, but whether or not people want to read it in a story is another matter.

Swearing used to denote low intellegence or someone whom society deems an outcast, or someone with criminal or nafarious intentions, but that’s not always the case today. Swearing can be seen as an emotional outlet; a way for your charaacter to release anger or frustration, which begs the question, what happened to make your character so emotional that it caused the strong outburst?

Another view of character swearing; social interactions. Teens swear. Maybe you weren’t one of those when you were younger, but the majority of them do, and teen dialogue in your story can reflect that as much as you want, again, as long as the amount of swearing is consistent with the personality of your character.

As for adult swearing, you can be a little more sophisticated with them. Most adults tend to swear in a more private or intimate situations, as opposed to teens who can lack any descretion and swear anywhere they want. I find most adults swear out of frustration or anger and are less to use such words as an insult. Sometimes, it’s more of a habit than anything else, and the shock value of swearing decreases with age.

Whether or not you choose to put swear words in your dialogue is up to you, but if you’re going for realistic, it’s my feeling that you should have some. It doesn’t have to be the really ‘bad’ words, and if you’re not sure of how to go about it, listen to the flow of real conversations. More often than not, real-life examples will give you examples that you want to imitate.

Are NTF’s the Future of Ebooks?

I came across the acronym a few months back and had NO IDEA what it meant. When I did some research, the idea that this could be put to use for ebooks sparked a great blog post, but when I did more research, I found Huge Howey’s post on the exact same thing, and to be honest, his post makes it easier to understand not only what a NFT is, but how it can be used for creative compositions, and not just for ebooks. Go have a read.

https://hughhowey.com/nfts-for-authors/

The thing I like about his version is this, not only is it difficult for pirates to copy and profit, but if the book is sold to a third party, everyone in the chain of creating this ebook profits. I liken it to residuals actors/directors get from syndication of tv shows and movies. As Hugh points out, it’s not a lot, but at least it’s something.

On the down side, NFT’s are like Cryptocurrency and take a lot of energy to create. Considering how environmentally unfriendly bitcoin production can be, I’m not sure how sustainable this really is. Publisher’s Weekly did an article on it as well, and it brings some doubt as to whether this is just a fad or an investment.

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/86104-could-nfts-work-in-publishing.html

I am ALL FOR any way that keeps illegal downloads from taking money from the creator, but not at the expense of the environment, therefore, I am on the fence about this.

Read the articles. What do you think?

Of Writers and Prose: Social Media for Authors.

I can hear you all groaning from here.

Social media; the bane of every writers existence, but one of those things that we all need to do, whether we like it or not.

I wrote this post based on my experiences over the last decade with many social media platforms new and old. Whether or not it’s scientific, I don’t know, but this is the conclusion that I’ve come to. Take it or leave it, it’s up to you.

Social media keeps us ‘seen’ in the publishing/writing world, the one thing that all writers need in order to sell our books. Now, don’t get me wrong, Facebook and Twitter and all the others DON’T sell books, but keeping ourselves visible whether by posting those cute cat photos, retweeting someone’s book promotion, or making that quick video about absolutely nothing, keeps us engaged with our audience and in the end, it’s that engagement we need.

Why do we need it? Because, my friends, THAT is what sells books.

When you retweet another writer’s book promo, publish a blog entry, or make that cute video, you’re creating/manipulating the algorithms that all these sites use. Have you ever noticed when you watch something on YouTube, and suddenly there’s are a pile more videos just like the one you watched? That’s the algorithm working. Content IS the key to algorithms. It’s the reason the majority of how-to sites for social media specifically state that you should post on a regular basis? Because you’re creating the algorithm that will allow a potential audience to find you.

When someone clicks on your social media site, more of your content will appear on whatever platform they are using. If you post regularly, even as little as once every two weeks, you are actively engaging with the platform and it will recommend your site and more of your content. Don’t believe me? Click on a YouTube video and see how many more of the same type show up on your feed. (I’m using Youtube as an example because that’s the one that moves the fastest.) Click one video on say ghost pictures, and Youtube will list a dozen or more other channels with ghost pictures, or more content from the channel you watched.

That’s the algorithm in action. That’s what you need to harness.

Each platform is different and it takes a bit of time to figure out how each one works. TicTok is similar to YouTube with its algorithm, but I think Facebook is the slowest. Twitter goes by who you already follow, so the key is finding the followers, but that’s a topic for another post.

Engagement is the key, not just you putting out content, but you engaging with others, and it doesn’t have to be for hours at a time either, but you need to identify what works best for your and that includes how much time you’re willing to give. Remember, it’s called ‘social’ for a reason, and yeah, I can still hear you all groaning.

Of Writers & Prose: When the mind says YES, but the body says NO.

I am the most indecisive person I’ve ever met. My ideas flow like crazy but making them a reality is a whole other story. My on-again-off-again desire to make YouTube videos consumed me for the nearly eight weeks I was off work, until it culminated into a health problem. A minor one, but still it forced me to stand back and take an honest look at what I wanted to do compared with what I could do, and I’m afraid the latter won.

I had a slew of video ideas all planned out. There would be interviews with writer friends on their new books or whatever they wanted to talk about, and I had a series of five minute videos entitled 5 Things Every Writer Should Know, that were quick takes on all sorts of writing related subjects. I did this to keep my mind engaged during lockdown. Last time I did nothing but doomscroll, eat and play video games for six weeds. What I didn’t realize was with the schedule I’d made, I was adding more stress on top of the stress of being in lockdown, and my body (and computer, for that matter) decided I needed a wake call in the form of heart palpitations. My maternal grandfather died of a fatal heart attack at 50, so needless to say I was a bit concerned. I had this years ago when I was drinking a lot of coffee, and they went away when I switched to tea. Quite frankly I feel stupid for it (I know I shouldn’t, but I do), and once I cancelled the interviews everything went back to normal literally overnight. I did toy with the idea of starting them up again, a part of me isn’t willing to risk another round of problems.

Having said that, I still like both of these ideas, but I’m going to make them more me-friendly. The short series I’m going to put up on my blog. I think it’ll be a nice addition to my Writers and Prose posts, and as for the interviews, well, I still want to do that as well and I’m working on making it a reality, just in a different, less stressful way.

Stay tuned . . .

Of Writers & Prose: The Muse is a Tricky Bitch . . .

I have been a sci-fi fan since 1975 when I saw my first Godzilla movie. More so when Star Wars and the original Battlestar Galactica came out. When I entered adulthood, I discovered dark fantasy and paranormal, so it was a given when I started writing stuff that I would, naturally, gravitate toward the genres that captured my imagination. When I was in my twenties, so where my characters, and as I grew older, they did too, so imagine my fucking surprise when my Muse gives me a story idea that can only be written where the MC is a teen!

Look at my Twitter account. It says ‘Author of dark Adult Scifi & Urban Fantasy novels & scripts.

Adult. ADULT!

So where the hell did this idea come from and why am I so excited about it? I tried to envision the story as an adult novel. Nope. So then I tried with a young adult age, but it still wasn’t right. This story had to be written from a teens POV, problem is, I haven’t been a teen in DECADES, and I just briefly encounter the teens at work. Sometimes I can listen in on their conversations, but a lot of the time it’s more work related than general teenage banter. Not to mention the dialogue.

That’s another problem, I’m not ‘hip’ with the slang of today’s teens, so I decided to set it during the 80’s; a time I am very familiar with. This turned out to be a blessing in several ways:

  1. I remember how the world was back then. You could get away with a lot more then than you could now.
  2. Technology was in its primordial phase. There were no cell phones or laptops. We had computers but everything was run on DOS.
  3. Socially, things were much, much different. While there were bullies back then, the entire bully culture is taken so much more seriously now. For which I am grateful.

These three reasons alone excited me enough to want to work on the story. Plus, I have another set of magical realism novels that I could easily attach to this.

As of the writing of this post, I have cleared the 50k wordmark. Quite a feat for me. I’ve also decided that while the characters may be teens, the novel will be for adults; especially those who remember the 80’s and how we used to act. My memories of the ’80s are from a teen’s POV. Was it all sex, drugs, and rock’n roll? Pretty much, at least for me, it was and I think these characters will reflect that culture. I’ve already written a few scenes that are right from my memory and I will admit, it’s kinda fun looking back.  

Of Writers and Prose: Writing and Social Media.

I’ve written about this before (at least three times), and apparently I’m not done. I still believe that social media is a great ‘tool’ (note the parenthesis) for writers, and used properly it can have a great influence and help authors sell their books.

There are a few more platforms to choose from, but for this post I’m going to stick the ones I use most; my blog, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Tiktok.

Yes, I said Tiktok.

In the beginning there was Facebook. All writers had an author page. I still do, but in the last ten years it’s become less popular due to their TOS, and the few scandals around their algorithms. Their paid promo’s haven’t show to increase anything, no matter what they claim. Ask any author who has paid for their promotion. You won’t like their answer. I rarely use my author page anymore but I’m afraid to give it up.

Enter the New Age of Social Media.

As I stated, there are four I use the most, and while they seem so different in what to post, honestly, they’re all a great way for authors to reach out and connect. One thing you *must* understand; social media isn’t about selling books; it’s about connecting with readers. Writers read other writers, but to really sell you need to step outside of the author/writer/publishing triad and connect with the non-writer. Social media is great for this and you must keep this in mind when you’re using any platform.

#1. Twitter.

Twitter is real-time short conversations. There are threads that go on for post after post, but for the majority it’s short 250 character thoughts. Even Twitter realized how important the platform could be and doubled the character limit. Twitter is great to give a quick shout-out to folks, do a book promo, or engage in meaningful conversations with other writers. It’s typing, and writers are comfortable with this format.

#2. Instagram

The IG is a place writers can express their creativity through photos or short videos. This platform is good for book covers, pictures that inspire you to write, or have inspired you in other ways. I’ve posted pictures of excerpts on my account, food pics, cats, weather. You name it and I’ve probably posted something like it on my IG account. This is one of the places that I can reach out to non-writing folk.

#3. YouTube

Okay, here’s where things start to get a little time-consuming. It’s taken me about ten years, but I think I finally know how to utilize this platform. Right now I’m doing about one video per month, because the amount of work required to get one up is incredible. I can spend at least a whole day editing a thirty minute video down to around five to six minutes. There’s music that I add and I have an opening title and credits as well. The main reason I do the videos is to acclimatize myself to speaking about my work. I can sit at a computer and type away about my books, but *actually* talking about them is a different story. Making videos, watching how I move, how I speak, it’s preparing me for a time when I might have to talk to a lot of people about my books. YouTube is a lot of work, but for me, it’s something I want to invest the time in.

#4. TikTok.

Welcome to YouTube lite. It’s the only way I can explain it. The app has editing tools and you post short vids (about a minute long) about anything you want. I have a video editing program I bought for YouTube so I can do a bit more with my vids, but I try to keep them short and hopefully interesting. I haven’t been on long, and am setting up certain days to post certain videos. You can use hashtags just like you do on Twitter and IG. It’s only three years old, but it’s wildly popular.

The last platform I want to talk about is a blog. I don’t know how many times I’ve read these click-bait articles about how blogging is dead. No, it isn’t, and it never will be because those who use it will always feel the need to express themselves through words. I still recommend new writers start a blog, just so they can get used to the idea of creating new content and keeping a deadline. It’s perfect for the introvert who doesn’t feel comfortable with any of the other platforms.

Well, there it is, my fourth blog post about social media. If you’re interested in the other articles I wrote, I’ve linked them below.

Of Writers and Prose: Five Problems with Social Media

Of Writers and Prose: Are Authors Sick of Social Media?

Social Media for Writers: The New Time-Suck or Time to Connect?

Of Writers and Prose: Writing as a Source of Income.

As an author, I can say I have lived my dream job.

Creating worlds and stories has been something I’ve done since I was a child, but I never entertained the idea of making money from it until I was in my early forties. To spend the day deep in prose and publishing the books myself has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done.

Every writer’s fantasy is to be able to stay at home and write, and, to a greater extent, make a living off of the novels we create. For some people, it’s the reason they start writing, but when reality sinks in, and they soon realize that money from novel writing doesn’t go the way they planned, they have to accept the fact that they may never live out their dream.

Take it from me, making money writing novels can take a long time; sometimes years, and can be full of frustration, disappointment, and rejection. I started in 2009 and put out my first novel two years later. I did quite well those first years, but it took several more until I saw a sustained amount coming in every month. It wasn’t life changing, but it was something and it allowed me to invest in editors and better book covers. At the same time, other authors were coming to the same conclusion I was; the more content you have out, the better chance you have of making money. This was the era of Amanda Hocking. Don’t know who she is, Google it.

I saw authors put out two or three novels a year (digital), and while many of those were of a good quality (proper editing, eye-catching cover), many more were not. Within two years self-publishing became such a glut of badly written novels put out by people who saw it as nothing more than a get-rich-quick scheme. There was such a glut of digital books that it was almost impossible for a new author to be seen, let alone make any money. The only ones who were still profiting had a large back list and had been in it for a while.  

The same holds true now.

So the question is; can you make money from writing novels? Yes, if you’re willing to spend the time and energy doing so. Writing novels isn’t a cash cow, and you’re not going to get that six-digit contract with a publisher, so why do it?

Because you’re a writer, and you HAVE to write. There are more options for writers now than there were ten years ago, but not enough to allow someone to quit their day job, and I strongly advise that you don’t.   Unfortunately, the days of sitting at my laptop writing all day have disappeared. The income from my books disappeared as well and while I do still get the odd payment from Amazon, it’s nothing like it used to be. While I haven’t put out a book in almost five years (yikes!), the dream of returning to writing full time is constantly on my mind, and as I put the finishing touches on my zombie/plague novel, I find myself thinking the same questions I did ten years ago; will it be with an agent and a Traditional Contract? Indie? Who knows, but at least I know it’s possible to make some money with a writing gig.

Of Writers and Prose: Writing after an illness.

Quill-And-Ink-Line-Art-300pxI have a very unusual factoid about myself; I went into the emergency room of the local hospital once a year for about seven years. A few times it was minor (seriously sprained ankle) a few other times it was serious (mild concussion, appendicitis), but even with the minor health problems, it still knocked the hell outta me, and put me off of my writing routine.

Getting sick can throw a writer off faster than anything. It’s a strange feeling too look at the open word file and know I wanted to write, but the words weren’t there. My mind goes silent. It’s disconcerting as my brain is constantly at work; plotting out ideas, dialogue or scenes. From the moment I wake up until I fall asleep, that’s all I think about, and not always about the same WIP. I have distractions, work, games, life and the internet, but even at night as I try to relax and fall to sleep, I play out in my mind a plot or idea for a story.

Out of all the health issues I had, the concussion was the worst. Not only did I not feel like writing, I didn’t feel like doing anything. It was a good week before I even entertained the notion to open a word file and fell into my nightmare. I stared at the words on the page and no matter how many times I read or re-read, nothing came to me. I literally had no idea what to write. This wasn’t writer’s block. This was something else and it scared the hell out of me. The idea that I may never create another story scared me so much I refused to look at any word files. My fear turned to anger and I deleted the story desktop icons on my screen. I wanted nothing to remind me of what I couldn’t do anymore. My husband was incredibly supportive. “Just leave it alone,” he said. “It’ll come back to you. Do something else.”, but that was it. I don’t know how to do anything else. I can’t paint or draw, can’t sing or play music. Writing is the only creative outlet I have and I’ve been doing it since I was seventeen. For those few weeks, I never felt so absolutely useless. I don’t’ know how else to describe it.

I focused on work and played games. I was still in a fog at work; and they gave me short shifts to help me heal. It was a good two weeks before that feeling set in. You know the one; you’re supposed to be doing something, but you don’t know what. That was my brain telling me that I hadn’t written anything for a while and I need to get my ass in gear. I was excited. It was another week before I opened a word file, but the words didn’t come easy. I found my attention drifting to other things, things that didn’t require me to think. Games mostly, but in that non-thinking mode, it would poke at me; and I’d go and look at the file again. Slowly, over the course of another week the words came, but not in the way I expected. I was writing new words, but revising the pages I already had. I re-read scenes and found countless ways to improve them. I was pleasantly surprised to find my creativity had kicked up a notch. This is part of the reason why I re-opened my zombie survival novel.

The second worst was my appendicitis. Three weeks of recovered and I had to be careful how I moved so not to rip my stitches. Any kind of pain is a creative killer for me. Game over. Done. It drains my energy and forces me to focus on being comfortable instead of creativity. The recovery was a slow process, but I did manage to get a few pages written.

I’ve told you all of this because I’ve always been a strong advocate for being in the best mindset for writing stories. I dislike the adage of a writer having to write every day, because quite fucking frankly, we’re not always up to it and forced writing to me, it worse than not writing.

If you’re sick, take care of yourself. You are the instrument in which the stories flow. If the instrument is not in proper care, the story suffers. Be good to yourself. That’s all that matters.

%d bloggers like this: