Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Five Tips for Success as a Self-Published Author (and giveaway!) by Susan Kaye Quinn

Five Tips for Success as a Self-Published Author
by Susan Kaye Quinn

Can you spot the self-published titles?

Hint: they all are.

(Caveat: A.G. Riddle started out indie but is now published through Amazon's 47North imprint along with Marko Kloos)

The truth is that self-published titles now regularly top the charts - if not outright dominate them. Successful self-published titles have great covers and lots of fervent fans - often the only way to distinguish them from traditionally published titles is the publisher listing in the description (and the price - indie titles are usually less than $5.99 for single titles).

How do you become one of these successful indie authors? Hard work, luck, and educating yourself about how the indie marketplace works.

Here are FIVE TIPS to get you started. For a full run-down on how to launch your indie author career, see my Indie Author Survival Guide (Second Edition now available). To take your indie author career to the next level, pre-order my For Love or Money: Crafting an Indie Author Career (releases 7.14).

TIP #1: Study the Bestsellers - In both craft and business, studying successful people will help you discern the ingredients of success. Always be striving to take your craft up a level - by craft I mean storytelling, not just the way you string words together. Because as much as we like to disparage that poorly written erotica book at the top of the charts, I guarantee that good stories well told actually do sell. (Alternatively, if you want to chase the latest trend, that's possible now  - there's no sin in giving readers more of what they want, but it's nowhere near as easy as you think.) As far as business, look who is selling in your genre and what they did to get there. Don't follow what people say - look at what they actually do. The actions of successful people often fly in the face of conventional wisdom. (I welcome you to look at my own path to success as well as many other indie authors - often the most successful are not the ones offering advice about it! #yesIseetheirony )

TIP #2: Be a Professional - Don't dabble. Don't dip your toe into indie publishing with a short story that's not going to sell. Go full cannon-ball jump into the pond with professional covers, formatting, editing, the works. Make sure your novel can comfortably sit in the top 100 of your category. This will require up-front investment, but most books can be well-published for under $1000 - and I know of no other legit business you can start for that little money invested. Don't skimp. (Note: on the other hand, don't throw money away on a $3000 cover that will be hard to recoup; be sensible.)

TIP #3: Launch With a Series - You don't have to pre-write an entire trilogy and release the books one month apart... but that's an option now, with indie publishing. If you can write a novel in six months, you could publish the first book, then write and publish Books 2 and 3 within a year. I've seen both models be successful (note: don't wait more than six months between books). Make the commitment to quickly build a backlist and get books into readers' hands. Delivering three connected novels to readers within a year is a strong way to launch a career (note: I'm talking novels here, not novellas or short stories or serials - those are fun, but not career-launchers).

TIP #4: Launch in Amazon then Go Wide -  There's a lot to learn in indie publishing, so staying focused can be key to staying on track - plus launching a new series in the Kindle Unlimited system gives new authors/new series a boost in visibility. Use this to get your footing. Then, when you've established your brand as an author, you can expand to the other retailers (Nook, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play). You'll be a veteran at that point and in a good position to weigh the pros and cons of exclusivity vs. reach.

TIP #5: Never Stop Writing - the single most important thing you can do in your career is write the next book. Generating new IP (Intellectual Property) is the one thing only you can do - the rest can be outsourced. It's tempting to get bogged down in all the latest and greatest changes in the industry, but the biggest lever you can pull to move sales is to launch a new book. Or an entirely new series. You want to study the bestsellers, but always remember: your biggest asset is your uniqueness. Make sure you're continually feeding your creativity, reaching for that next level with your work, bringing out the fullest expression of your abilities. Spend the bulk of your time doing creative work - reading, writing, watching movies, taking workshops, using craft books to boost your skills, exploring new forms, learning how to write faster... whatever works for you to elevate your craft and increase your enjoyment of writing. This is the creative life you want, yes?

I really should have started with TIP #0: Decide What Mountain You Want To Climb - I have an entire section in my Indie Author Survival Guide about making a Mission Statement so that you know you're climbing the right hill before you set off in dogged pursuit of the success you think you want. 
Knowing what will make you happy, then having a plan to get there? That's the only key to success you actually need.

p.s. if all of this terrifies you, I understand. Truly. Watch this webinar on facing your fears and don't let that hold you back. 

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the Singularity Series, the Mindajck Trilogy and the Debt Collector serial (as well as other speculative fiction works) and has been indie publishing since 2011. She?s not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: she?s one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. The Indie Author Survival Guide is based on her experience in self-publishing fiction?the First Edition was published in 2013, the Second Edition in 2015, updated to account for changes in the industry. It?s a guide to help her fellow writer-friends take their own leaps into the wild (and wonderful) world of indie publishing? and not only survive, but thrive. Facebook | Tumblr | Website | All of Susan's Fiction
Indie Author Survival Guide (Second Edition) now available
For Love or Money: Crafting an Indie Author Career - preorder for 7.14

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ever SEE something that NEEDS to be written?

Sometimes, if I'm lucky, I run across something that just begs to be in a book. Somehow, you're going to shoe-horn that thing into your manuscript, and it'll be better for it.

It could be a snippet of someone's tale of a relative's crazy wedding, or how a friend and her husband accidentally stole their rental car while on vacation, or that "truth is stranger than fiction" story you read in the newspaper about that serial killer.

But sometimes, that thing is visual.  It could be that adorable little old lady in head-to-toe leopard print in the middle of February, or the gorgeous rainbow-colored hair of that teen in Walmart (pro-tip: Walmart is an excellent place to get good character-visual ideas...trust me on this), or the straight-out-of-the-seventies hair-do and outfit of that teller at the bank.

The other day, I saw something that hit me like a ton of bricks.  Hubs and I had attended a family event, and afterward there was a lovely party at a relative's home.  There were a bunch of little ones running around; the oldest were around seven, and the youngest was still in her mother's arms.  There were several little girls were doing exactly what I would have done at their age (around 4ish): tearing around in their sundresses, having a blast with their cousins.

The weather was warm and mostly cloudy, plenty fine for the kids to play outside on the swing set and playscape in the back yard.

We'd been there most of the day and were getting ready to head home when, in the middle of our goodbyes, two of the girls (again, aged 4ish) came onto the wooden deck.  Each of them carried one of two parts of a chain attached to a swing (the kind of kid-swings that adult idiots end up stuck in and then on YouTube), and the swing seat clunked behind them wherever they scampered.

Something about the image of these two struck me as simultaneously innocent and creepy--rather like the twins from Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining.  I couldn't tear my eyes away as they giggled and happily dragged the swing around with them, off the deck and into the yard.  Neither of them pulled harder than the other; there was no tug-of-war, just an odd synchronicity to their movements.  The whole thing seemed as though it would have played out the same way if they'd been hauling a severed head, or the body of a mangled torture victim, or a demon they'd just slain.

I know exactly how weird that sounds, believe me, but I think all writers somehow see the world differently than more analytic types, at least to some degree.  And if I were able to come up with that, think what goes on in Stephen King's brain.  Yeah.  Let that one percolate for a bit...

And no, I can honestly say that I don't see morbid or creepy things everywhere I go. Often they're whimsical, odd, or beautiful. I'm sure no two people would ever see things exactly the same way.

I hope I can fit that image into one of my books, because visuals like that just shouldn't go to waste.

Have you seen something or heard something that just begged to be written? What was it?  Did it ever end up in one of your stories, or if it hasn't, do you think it ever will?  Let me know in the comments!

xoxo Sarah

Friday, May 8, 2015

Tips for Editing Your Manuscript from a Real-Life Editor, Part 11

Welcome back to our (ir)regularly scheduled programming! 

As always, the links to the other parts in this series are at the bottom of the page.

This is Part 11: Sit on it.

No, I don't mean that in a weird rude way. 

We, as authors/writers/whatever you want to call yourself, are generally too close to our own writing to get any perspective.  You know how when you read a book (doesn't matter what kind) and can pick out errors? That's because you're a set of fresh eyes on it. 

And with our own manuscripts, there comes a time when you're literally unable to continue editing it because you're too close to the story, characters, and everything else.  At this stage, it's extremely frustrating--and bad for your manuscript--to keep going. Trust me on this. 

So, in order to get something close to a fresh set of eyes when you're the only one around to edit your manuscript, or before you send it to an editor you've hired, or what have you, you need to distance yourself from your work.  Let it sit for a while.  

The time period can vary from author to author; I prefer at least a couple of months; some authors I know let it percolate for a few weeks while they draft or outline another story. I'm aware of others who got to the point where they hated their manuscript, set it down for a year or more, and finally picked it up and edited it into something they were happy with.

I've recently started on what I feel will be my final run-through (before any kind of publication, self or otherwise begins) on my novel, Fate's Awakening. This is the first time I've really--really--looked at it as a whole in a number of months, and I'm surprised that I like what I've written. It's getting a few tweaks here and there, but nothing major (at least until it hits another editor).  See, the last time I looked at it, I hated it. I wanted to hit delete on the whole thing, and that's how I knew it was time to step back.

So, if you're done with your manuscript, schedule some time to take a break from it and sit on it for a while. Work on something else, then come back to it.  It'll do wonders.

I know this one was a shortie, but, as always, I hope it was helpful!  Let me know what your ideal "sit on it" period is in the comments. I know it's different for everyone!

xoxo Sarah

Saturday, May 2, 2015

#AtoZChallenge Wrap-up!


Okay, folks! It's been a bit since the final post for the 2015 A-Z Challenge went up, and all of the participants have started to recover from their blogging-induced carpel tunnel.  So I wanted to write a bit about how the challenge went for me this year and what I discovered.

First of all, I wrote all of my challenge posts in their entirety ahead of time and scheduled them to go out at the same time each day. Yep. I was "done" with the challenge by March 31st, and you know what? It was super relaxing. It gave me more time to explore the other blogs in the challenge, and didn't leave me scrambling for time and content at the last minute. In past challenge years I've done several entries at a time (maybe a week ahead at most) but never the whole thing in advance. And if I do the challenge again, I will do it the same way...advance planning for the win!

Secondly, I enjoyed having a little key that bloggers could use to identify the main content on their blog if they chose to.  I tagged mine on the sign-up page with a "WR" to signify that my main content was about writing. A lot weren't tagged, and that's okay, but it allowed me to check out other blogs with content I might find interesting.

Thirdly, Google+ is super irritating when, apparently, it's the only thing you can use to comment on certain Blogger blogs that have it enabled. I will likely cave and make a G+ profile, but I shouldn't have to have one to comment on a Blogger blog (which is the platform my blog runs on and is freaking owned by Google anyway). If I go to comment on a Wordpress blog, yes, I should have to make an account to comment, but not for a Blogger blog. I get that no one wants to be on Google+, but don't be so desperate, Google. Seriously. Not cool.

Fourthly (is "fourthly a word? It doesn't look like one...weird...), I wished I had more time for reading other blogs, but there's never enough time for that. When I did have time to read, I attempted to hit up 10+ blogs instead of the 3-5 per day recommended, but I always felt bad if I couldn't get to it. I did my best to comment and say hello on each one I visited as well.

Fifthly, each and every comment on my posts made me smile! I loved seeing that someone had liked one of my letter posts, and it's always encouraging to read a kind message. So thank you.

Well, that's about it for me!  How'd the A-Z Challenge go for you?

xoxo Sarah