Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Careful On What You Promise

Books cannot just come out in a vacuum.  Well, they can...but you then face the prospect of no sales because no one knows a new and potentially interesting book is out.  Like it or not, you have to be a businessperson too, and that means marketing your work.


I've been doing this for a while, and I've got a fairly robust email distro list to show for it.  My readers get regular updates about Akeldama and other things, so they know I'm still around.  As a bonus for signing up, I also promise them a discount on the book(in hardcover format).  However, as production has demonstrated, one needs to be careful when promising things.


I originally started out by thinking that a discount of around 25% would be fair.  When I first did my numbers, a 25% discount would still leave a couple of buck as a profit margin, so it didn't seem like a big deal.  Then inflation happened, as well as my own inability to get things out in the current price market.


You see, the list price of $15.95 was originally compared to a print price of around $7 or $8 per book, so three bucks or so off wasn't going to do me in.  However, once prices went up in production, not only did the after-discount profit margin decrease, it went past the point of profitability at all.  In that vein, the POD wouldn't even let me offer this discount since it would mean selling at a loss.


Yes, I could raise the price to around $17.95 and still offer the discount at 25%, but that seemed stupid to me - why raise the price just to lower it to what you originally were going to make?  So I decided to keep the original $15.95 print price and reduce the discount to 15%.  I will still make a little off each book sold to my subscribers, and they'll still be able to get it at a lower price than the general public.


This could cost me some customers.  I recognize that.  However, I said at first the discount would be 25-ish%, so I never locked in on a hard number due to the unknowns in terms of capital production.  And while I hope everyone will still stick with me, the right to buy or not to buy still rests with the customer.  I think that most will still be thrilled with getting it at a lower price, but some may get upset enough to go elsewhere, and that's their prerogative.


The lesson has been to better evaluate promises before making them.  I want to serve my audience, but I need to be more in tune with the numbers before I say something.  If nothing else, I've definitely learned this for the next time.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Story Exhaustion?

As most of you know, I've been reviewing Akeldama for a while now in order to get it ready for my May 18th publication date.  I've been going over(and over, and over, and over) the formatting, text, and general layout of the story for a few months, and it's beginning to get a bit tedious.

Don't get me wrong - I'm still very excited to be nearing my debut novel's release date, but I'm growing so familiar with the story that I don't even need to look at the text to understand it.  I realize this makes little sense to those who don't write - after all, I write the story, so I should obviously know it inside and out - but it has become repetitive.

I'm a big fan of putting a story away after you write it and before you edit it so that you can look at it with fresh eyes.  However, the work necessary to bring Akeldama to fruition won't let me put it down right now.  Yes, this is a bit like complaining I have too many bills for my wallet, or that I can't decide which sports car to buy, but that doesn't make it any less real to me.

Do other writers have this issue with their stories?  After so many revisions and edits and rewordings and reviews, does it get more chore-like after a time?  Or am I whining over a non-issue?  I find myself wishing the release date will get here just so that I can move on to a new tale.  I'll always love this story, but even a person eating his or her favorite food every day will likely long for some variety.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Unicorns

I recently ran across a post that compared writers like JK Rowling and Stephen King to unicorns - very beautiful but incredibly rare.  Their level of success is something most people dream of but will never even come close to, so why bother to fantasize about it?

Yes, I've previously written that you shouldn't make a career plan based on being Dan Brown of Stephenie Meyer, for most will inevitably fall short.  However, I don't think that harmless daydreaming is necessarily a bad thing all by itself.  Sometimes the fantasy keeps us going in those dark times when we feel like no one will ever read our work.  I believe that as long as we don't make that fantasy the bedrock of our career plan, then it's perfectly okay to occasionally wonder what hitting the literary lottery would be like.

Besides, someone has to be the next unicorn.  It's no secret that I loathe the writing of Stephenie Meyer, for I consider it to be trite and simplistic, but that doesn't mean she didn't find an audience looking for the vision she was selling.  Had you shown any halfway competent and successful author Twilight before it was released, the person would've laughed at it before running down any chance of success Meyer had.  However, most experts have more conceit than powers of prognostication, and Meyer hit a nerve with an audience most couldn't tap, so she went on to grow that horn from her forehead and pranced in as the next unicorn.  Such unexpected success could strike anywhere, and maybe it could strike you.

I think it's such tales that keep many of us going when we feel inadequate.  So yes, keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, working hard and doing what you can to build a viable career, but don't let that stop you from wondering what your own shiny unicorn horn would look like on those starry nights when you're by yourself.  Maybe that spark you feel will turn out to be the next bolt of lightning to open your career up to stratospheric heights.  I mean, we can all dream, right?  And aren't dreams what start a writer writing to begin with?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Not As Good As You Think

I pride myself on being a better writer than most people.  This is a conceit I believe most writers hold, even if they won't cop to it openly.  There's a part of us that sighs when we run across a piece of writing that's out of sorts, for we just know we would've written it better.  Whether it be spelling, or grammar, or just the way the sentence is worded, we're all so certain that it would've been perfect if we'd written it rather than the poor soul who just doesn't have our knack for stringing words together.

However, there's often a difference between this conceit and reality.  And sometimes it smacks us in the face pretty hard.

I've been reviewing the proof for Akeldama, confident that this was merely a formality.  After all, I've edited the hell out of this thing, so this was just to help me bask in the glow of my brilliance, right?  This was the culmination of a project several years in the making, and I needed merely to sit back and revel that I finally had a physical copy of my work.

Wrong!

Much to my dismay, I've managed to find over a dozen mistakes in the work.  I was already annoyed previously when I found mistakes I was certain didn't exist, so this came as an even bigger blow to my ego.  Yes, the majority of what I've found is minor, like writing "rocks" instead of "rock" or "screeching" instead of "screeched," but there was one sentence that had to be totally re-done because I wrote it as a statement instead of as the question it was meant to be.  I found myself growing angrier as I continued to review the book, upset with myself that I somehow missed these points during the previous gazillion rounds of editing.

Needless to say, the process has helped shock me back into humility.  Sure, I could probably let it go since there are so few errors in the 340 pages, and most people wouldn't even notice, but I'd know they were there.  Further, leaving in such stuff would show a lack of professionalism and could get Akeldama written off as yet another sloppy indie job.  And pretending people wouldn't notice may just be another point of arrogance since I tend to notice these kinds of things when I read.  For example, I love Williams Forstchen's novel One Second After.  However, whether because he didn't know any better or because he was just stupid, Forstchen consistently wrote the contraction "could've" as "could of," and it drove me bananas every time I read it, so what kind of hypocrite, not to mention hack, would I be if I just let the stuff I wrote contain such errors?

The process has been effective in reminding me that I'm not as good as I think I am.  It seems like every time my arrogance starts to ride up, something comes along to knock it back down, and this has surely done it.  Akeldama is now in the process of (what I hope to be) the final revisions before my release date.  I wonder what else will come along to remind me to try and stay humble...

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Proof Of Life!

Not a long post tonight.  I'm busy...reviewing the proof for Akeldama!  I'll have a more extensive write-up after I finish going over it.  Still, as one guy once said, there's nothing quite like holding a copy of your very own book in your hands.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Popularity

I've been going over my post list here at the blog, and I'm struggling to understand what makes a post popular and what makes a post barely get noticed.  I thought of it when I saw that my most recent post last week got six views.  C'mon, folks...six?  I know I can't rock the universe every time, but six?!?!

The average for most of my posts is somewhere around 30 unique views.  A few get more, and a couple get hundreds of unique page views, but figuring out what will go viral(at least viral in my world) is tricky.  Some are predictable - my cover reveal got around 80 individual page views, and since I've touted Akeldama for quite some time, that came as no surprise.  I reference Salvation Day quite a bit, so that isn't a huge surprise either, although the total number of unique page views for it certainly is.  But my take on going indie versus traditional went waaaaayyyyyyyyy beyond what I thought it would.  And somehow, this post on imagination - a post I found a little dry - is far and away my most popular, with over 1500 unique page views.

I guess I could try and be "edgy" with some posts, spewing venom at the world and acting all cool, but I'm not cool, and edgy can be dangerous if you piss off half(or more) of your audience.  Yes, sometimes something gets up under my rear and makes me go on a tear, but that doesn't happen very often.  Further, it shouldn't happen very often, for if it does, then such "edginess" merely becomes background noise.

(As a side note, being edgy all the time can be exhausting - I get worn out sometimes getting mad over whether or not my favorite team will draft the right player)

I cross post my blog to my Facebook page, so some of my views come from friends there.  I used to post on a writers' forum, so that could've driven some of my early traffic.  However, some posts just go off for reasons unknown to me.  Others, like last week's, wallow in obscurity, like even clicking on the link will cause leprosy or something.

There's not really a point to this post - it's merely a mental exercise in a vain attempt to satisfy my curiosity.  I wish I could figure it out so that I could get more "viral" posts, but as long as I'm wishing, I'd kind of like to have a pony too...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Lots Of Learning

Every time I think I have everything figured out, life throws me a new curve.  This time, it was in the form of not understanding as much about the POD business as I thought.

I made the decision to go with Ingram Spark a while back based on the recommendations of several people.  Everyone said that the books would be 100% top-notch professional, and that they could be distributed through every channel imaginable.  And that turns out to be true...but incomplete.

First of all, the process at Ingram Spark is lots more complicated than using CreateSpace.  CreateSpace will walk you through the process step by step, pointing out along the way just what exactly you need to do.  Ingram Spark believes you already know what to do, even if this is your first time.  I had little difficulty until it came time to order the proof copy - I accidentally approved the full proof without getting one because I clicked the wrong button.  I'm working hard to get that fixed, but it has led to lots of frustration.

Another issue with Ingram Spark is that although they distribute through Amazon, Jeff Bezos is apparently not very happy about you not using CreateSpace, so he puts a delay on some of the stuff from Ingram Spark ordered through Amazon.  This has the potential to discourage the customer base when they realize that their order will take a bit longer than usual.

Fortunately, there appears to be a solution - use both.  Based on articles I've read, I can use Ingram Spark to sell to bookstores and other outlets, and I can use CreateSpace to publish through Amazon.  The catch is that I have to only use the Amazon distribution option with CreateSpace or else I'll have to pull everything else from Ingram Spark.  Why not just use CreateSpace then?  Well, because most bookstores view Amazon - and CreateSpace through them - as a competitor, and they're less likely to order your work.  There's also a feeling that CreateSpace is less quality, but I'm not sure that's really the case.

So I'm learning how to use both systems, and it really is a pain in the ass.  I'm sure it'll get easier as I get more used to the actual selling of my work, but the learning curve is steep.  That's why this indie thing isn't for the weak of heart.  As I've said before, it's a business, so treat it like one.  I am, and although it makes it more challenging, it also means it'll be more successful than just being a hobby(I hope).

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Read, Read, Read

If you want to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader.  I can't stress this enough.  I was reminded of this point recently with the number of people I've run into who've declared they have the next great American novel in their head and need only the time to bring it out.  They've all, without exception, asked me how to do that, so as I've gone over my process, I've asked them how often they read as well.

The most common response has been, "I don't have the time to do that."

"Then you don't have the time to be a good writer," I reply.

You can't just delve in and think you learned enough in a college writing course to make something folks will want to read.  Good writing takes time to hone, and you need examples.  There is no go-to for who to read - it all depends on how you like to write.  Beyond that, you should read more than your favorite authors so you can see how others get a point across.  Maybe you'll find some of what not to do as well.

But you must read.  You need to know how others tell a story others want to hear.  You cannot just start writing and think you'll produce anything more than what your family will look at(and even then, they're only being nice).  You're just not that good.  None of us is.  We need to learn, and reading is the only way to do that.

So read.