State of Writing

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I’ve been busy plugging away at the keyboard. I’ve only got two chapters left on  my semi-final edit of Dekker’s Dozen. I’ve kept up with my devo writing and shifted gears on my active writing towards an extensive redrafting of a story I’m submitting to a writers contest. I plan to re-title it, but it’s the harrowing story of a biker’s struggle with his own inner demons… I’ve described it as Sons of Anarchy meets Touched by an Angel… I gutted the story years ago after a publisher wanted it if I cut it to 5,000 words. Once I’d done that, they didn’t want it anymore (it was the right length originally and I had to hurt the story to sell it.) Now, I have to get it up to 10k, which is easier than trimming off 3,000 words, to meet the minimum submission length–but the story is better off for it.

I have some fairly good news on the query front. I’ve been offered a contract from a smaller publishing company for Wolf of the Tesseract. I need to more fully investigate the contract, but it could mean we see me in print fairly soon (well, soon as far as the industry goes– so six to eighteen months from the end of negotiations).

5 Things Successful Indie Authors are Doing

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I’ve noticed a bunch of trends within the worlds of successful indie authors (well, successful by my own metric). Here are a few things that I’ve noticed have made some authors stand out, all lifted from a nifty resource I stumbled upon (which was probably a collection of other advice pages’ data before someone aggregated it,) located here: http://insights.bookbub.com/book-marketing-ideas/

These are my first “top five.” I’ll likely post another set next week–and I want to go on record (as you might guess, if you’re read my blog) by begging indie writers to edit, edit, edit! Hiring an editor is not on this list at the above link–probably because no amount of tips, tricks, or nifty programs can rescue a shoddy book. Look at 50 Shades of Grey… it may be a runaway success, but it’s still a load of crap and written more poorly than a Shakespearean turd (just don’t focus on the fact that the author made millions and my argument holds more water) and look here… my top 5:

Hire a cover designer. A great cover design can have a major impact on your sales numbers. For example, romance writer R.L. Mathewson went from selling five or six copies per day of her novel, Playing for Keeps, to over 1,000 per day by updating her cover design. It’s usually worth hiring a professional to create a polished cover that appeals to readers in your genre.

Unify cover designs in a series. Create consistent branding between books in a series to make purchasing decisions easy for readers. A unified cover and title style often helps readers recognize connected titles and encourages them to purchase subsequent books.

Make book samples end on a cliffhanger. For example, on Amazon, users can download the first 10% of a book for free or read it on-site via the “Look Inside” feature. This gives you the opportunity to score a sale if the reader wants to continue after the sample.

Bundle the first few books in a series. Include the first two or three books of a series in a box set to promote a full-price book later in the series. This can be a way to hook readers and make them invested in the characters so they’re willing to pay full-price to know how the tale ends. Promote the next book in the series in the box set’s back matter.

Offer free copies to Amazon top reviewers. Reach out to Amazon users with a “Top Reviewer” badge who’ve reviewed books similar to yours. They’ve proven themselves to be experienced reviewers — they know what makes a good review, they’re willing to take the time to write a truly helpful review, and they will likely have a quick turnaround on reading and reviewing.

Free Fiction Tuesday

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I saw Batman V Superman the other day and thought… heck, with such a plethora of superhero movies out there (and with my nephews getting me all sparked up on the genre over the course of an Easter visit) lets dedicate the next couple weeks to hero stories. Here’s an intriguing read called No Capes that I found enjoyable with the right mix of action, intrigue, and humor.

www.wattpad.com/13407383-no-capes

If you’re on Wattpad, please make sure to follow me!
www.wattpad.com/user/ChristopherSchmitz

Are Indie Publishers Pooping in the Swimming Pool

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I’ve already mentioned in some of my reviews and recommendations that I’ve been reading some Indie (self-published) stuff lately. In the past, it’s been hard to identify exactly which pieces are not total garbage. Quite seriously, most people are extremely gunshy about reading things not put out by major publishers–not because they like what the major houses are selling (quite honestly, it’s a limited spectrum of voices that DO NOT always represent what people desire,) but because too many authors are not authors–they are merely people who wanted to put their name on a book.

Too many people refuse to edit, redraft, or put serious effort into their work and have been lured in by promises of “indie press” companies that seem to promise their book will be the next best-seller. They are usually easy to identify: cover art obviously done by Deviant-art users whose portfolios are mostly filled with anthro/furry erotica and Title/Text featuring the Papyrus font. Those “houses” are typically geared to make money off of authors and not sales, so they don’t care. Their status quo is “good enough” so that the author sends their check and another crappy Amazon listing goes live… don’t be that guy/girl. (Don’t publish until it’s a highly crafted piece that’s ready for the market.)

I’ve picked up books before, turned the spine to find Xulon, Tate Publishing, Createspace, etc. and had to find a restroom in order to wash my hands after. Some companies and authors are downright terrible. BUT NOT ALL OF THEM ARE. It only takes a couple kids pooping in the swimming pool to make the rest of the waters nasty for the rest.

Here’s my case in point: I recently got back into reading some indie stuff (mainly via Amazon Createspace) because of good marketing on books done right… I contacted a few authors directly because the marketing was so good that at first and second glance I could not honestly tell whether or not it was an indie book or a major publishing house. that leads me here: an article by Lindsay Buroker abiout Amazon’s marketing/advertising.

I like how she breaks down some analysis for a break-even point on some of her sales using a structure that pays per clicks and shows her profitability. Very seriously, it’s making me second guess my previous opinion that all self-published stuff ought to just be avoided. When an author is serious enough to actually invest in a third party marketing strategy, they have enough confidence in their book to actually shell out money to do things right. It’s even got me thinking about testing the waters with my sci-fi, just as long as I’ve got some support in order to stay out of the deep end of the pool with all the brown floaters.

Free Fiction Tuesday

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Ava is a typical seventeen-year-old dealing with everyday teenage problems. A job opportunity for her father takes her parents overseas. Not wanting to move, she accepts her grandmother’s offer to let her live with her, until her parents return.

On her first day at school in the new town, she meets Jared Walker-tall, dark and gorgeous, with an ego to match. Ava soon discovers that there is more to him than meets the eye. He is hiding a secret that will pull her into his world and put her life in danger.

Hey peeps. I have another free book for you all this week, so warm up your Kindle and grab a seat.  Here’s a free full length YA urban/paranormal. All you fans of Twilight and City of Bones will feel right at home with this, so snatch it up while it’s still available at the cost of a casual mouse-click!

http://www.amazon.com/Archaic-Regan-Ure-ebook/dp/B01AFUVLWU

Monday Recommendation

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I love some of these writing prompts and questions I see around that gets people talking about fiction. The question I pondered recently is this: what’s the biggest book that you ever read in a very short amount of time, and how quick was that? Or at least, that’s the question I answered.

I recommended Battlefield Earth by L.Ron Hubbard. He was a weird dude and cult leader, for sure, but this 1100 page tome hooked me and I spanned it cover to cover in 3 days.
True, the film adaptation was one of the worst books-to-film ever, but the filmmakers grossly deviated from the book… basically they kept the names and the setting the same and changed everything else, opting to make a very formulaic Hollywood movie within those things and trade special effects for the story-line, hoping no one would notice. We did.

The book does get a little long about two thirds of the way through, but there’s some very good payoff after it and the way that it bogs down is reflective of the main character getting mired down in the burdens of leadership and his own inabilities, so it could certainly be intentional (I know I’ve used this before–although sparingly–if a writer doesn’t get the audience to connect with the story, first, it’s  an encouragement to drop the book.)

Definitely pick this one up as a classic. And don’t fear; nobody will think you’ve converted to Scientology–it’s not that kind of book (but if you’re that worried, a short piece of duct tape over Hubbard’s name will solve the problem. Everybody knows that Thetans can’t see through duct tape–it’s like Superman and lead.)

 

 

State of Writing

 

For a period I was updating weekly with what I was doing–chiefly as a way to keep myself accountable. Didn’t do it last week–that’s mainly because I have a day-job, too. Sometimes life keeps you busy. It doesn’t mean we forget about our goals. I didn’t quite make mine, but I almost did–I  instead refocused them on something else and sent out some queries and did some things other than working on my fiction–honestly, I knew that it would probably pull me in and leave little mental energy for other things. I guess the moral is: know yourself and don’t be too rigid.

Authors: Stop Writing and Read a Little

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Read! Be a consumer–this applies to all aspects of life: know the market, at least know what others are doing. For writer’s it means reading… not writing.

About nine months ago, I got a great piece of advice from Piper’s Dojo, a service that sends out weekly tips to improve your bag-pipping game. The advice was so simple I couldn’t believe I’d overlooked it: listen to other pipers. I started listening to other soloists (as I don’t play in a pipe band and that music/style is slightly different) and started to hear how certain things ought to sound–especially on tunes I also played. I learned a few tricks, reinforced good techniques, and began to notice some weak areas to work on. If I never broadened my scope, I would never improve. It’s the same with every aspect of life–it’s why industry leading companies hire consultants… we need to get out of our own heads sometimes.

I’ve played in bands, I’ve worked in youth ministry, I’ve written books. Across the board, I’ve encountered others who think they are at the top of their game and refuse to look at what others are doing because they are too busy “doing it their own way.” Over the years I’ve seen bands who do some stupid things that hold them back or even spell doom for the group; bands that succeed are willing to take a hard look at other groups that are having success and find ways to emulate successful traits. Bands that fail claim to be the greatest and refuse any guidance or advice (of course they aren’t “signed” yet and have an excuse for that.) …this isn’t the seeming narcissism that comes with always being and self promotion mode (but really isn’t vanity–its a promotion mindset–artists will understand what I’m talking about,) it is actually the refusal to create with open eyes. The reason for that is fear.

Don’t be afraid of that self-comparison. It is a good thing to have a standard you are trying to achieve. If you are afraid because you won’t meet those “market standards,” then you probably should have spent some time on another draft/paid for an editor, or rerecorded that track in the studio, or instituted some changes at work to improve yourself.

Know what’s out there. Read. Keep an open mind. If you “don’t have time,” then get creative. I’ve been reading indie sci-fi lately by listening to it on Audible while driving and working out. If you want to be good at something, you will find ways to hone your craft.

Recommended Reading

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I had an interesting chat with my foreign exchange student over the weekend. She is a voracious reader and so we’ve had many scintillating conversations about fiction and how it interacts and informs our world. I forget how the conversation turned, but we somehow ended up discussing angelology and demonology and the nature of spiritual beings (mainly because one of the villains in my epic sci-fi is a demon-possessed alien tree that crash-landed during the Akkadian wars in the ancient Middle East.)

There are many works of fiction which play off of angels and demons and other mythologized pseudo-biblical creatures such as anakim/giants, nephelim, witches (think of Saul at Endor), vampires (mark of Cain), Lilth (Jewish/Kabbalic folklore), dragons, etc. A lot of these things pop up in Western Urban Fantasies.

The conversation begged the question, “what do scriptures really say about these things?” We had a brief conversation about that (I was already late for something else, but so enjoy those kinds of speculative conversations…as long as we can also turn the corner and discuss what we really know and what is made-up).

We discussed the City of Bones series, which features a nephelim main character and how the book takes queues from the traditional, mythological idea that nephelim are part of an angelic race somewhere down the charts and lower than cherubim and seraphim. I could write pages and pages of this stuff—but ultimately it reminded me of an old favorite which I highly recommend: Many Waters by Madeleine L’engle (yes, this is a follow-up book a couple stories down the line taking place several years after A Wrinkle in Time.)

As a teen reader, this book introduced me to some of those fantastic elements above with Nephelim and giants, even a manticore, long before anyone else was doing that sort of thing. She’s been an inspiration for a long time. Her writing is also smarter. If you want some of the interesting content and creatures from City of Bones, but without all the Twilight-inspired teen relationship drama—pick up Many Waters… and if you’re a City of Bones fan and want to read even more of similar content, I think this book will keep your pages turning.

Random Friday

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A lot of times I take to Facebook in order to find some inspiration. The only thing it’s been inspiring me to lately is to not be on Facebook

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I think this is pretty much how I feel at the moment. Parties have never been as divided as they were this year. Some of that has been engineered and there’s a whole lot of ignorance on both sides. It’s too bad our planet has de-evolved from its ability to have rational conversations. It’s almost impossible to even point out to actual friends when they’re spreading blatant misinformation (usually from ignorance–I’m beginning to understand the whole ostrich thing and just bury my head in the sand. It will be all over soon… I hope.

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