I just finished up with a free book promo for the Evolution Trigger, and I ended up giving away close to 3000 copies over a three day span. I like to think that’s pretty decent for a debut novel from a no-name author, so I’m pretty happy I was able to reach that number of people. If I can retain half of that , or even a third, for future sales, I’ll be ecstatic.
What’s really interesting, however, is that actual sales seemed to have picked up after the free promo ended. My book was floundering for a few weeks before I did the free book giveaway, ranking usually somewhere around the 200k-300k mark, but since last Friday it’s been around 30k – 75k, the rankings I was seeing post-debut,. The number of KENP read through Kindle Unlimited is at its highest ever, also. I expect the rankings and numbers to taper off again, but for now I’m pleased that the free book promotion seemed to have provided an additional boost for actual sales.
So, hooray for free books!
A good philosophy to keep in mind when writing books is this: you’re not selling the 1st draft. Whatever plot holes, spelling & grammatical errors, or inconsistencies you have in the 1st draft is more or less a moot point, because it’s not the version you’re going to sell. The purpose of the 1st draft is to finish the book. Get that foundation set, and then once you do, you can roll up your sleeves and do what’s really important: rewrites and edits. That’s where the magic truly happens.
Unlike a first draft, which I believe you should finish within a reasonable amount of time, I urge you to take your sweet, sweet time with the rewrites/edits. You’re applying a fine coating of polish with the rewrite, and you don’t want to mess that up. You want to make sure it’s perfect, or as perfect as you can get it.
Don’t worry about how long it’ll take with the rewrites. If it takes as much time, if not longer, than it did to write the actual thing, well, then, that’s okay. You can’t rush perfection. I finished the Evolution Trigger several months before its actual release, but it took me an almost equal of time just to buff the hell out of it. Huge chunks of it were taken out and changed, and in the end, it came out much better than I could have imagined.
A trap a lot of writers fall into is attempting to write a novel that tries please everyone. They want to write that perfect novel that everyone can agree is awesome. The 5-star novel, rave reviews across the board, impeccable and flawless.
It wont happen.
You need to constantly remind yourself that you can’t please everyone. If you constantly worry about how everyone is going to perceive your novel, then you’re going to end up writing a novel that pleases no one. Every single book in history, successful or otherwise, had their detractors. Tolkien has detractors. George R. R. Martin has detractors. H.P. Lovecraft has detractors. Philip K. Dick has detractors. Stephen King has detractors. No one is free of criticism and naysayers.
Taste is subjective. Remember that. Just write the book you want to write. Don’t write the book you think everyone else wants. Writing what you want, how you want = authenticity. Give it your voice, make it real and raw, and the fans will (eventually) follow. And if you get a hater, well . . . so what? You can’t prevent it, so don’t worry about it. Haters are (unfortunately) a part of life. Tune ’em out, put your head down, and get to writing.
Should you write what’s popular, or should you write what you want to write? In my opinion, if you’re writing and self-publishing to Amazon (and other vendors), then most likely you’re hoping to earn some money off of this. But sometimes, when you’re looking to make money, you have to make a few compromises, especially with writing, because making money while writing is not easy. If it was, then the entire landscape wouldn’t be littered with writers who quit when they only made $15, or are barely making enough just to scrape by. As I said before, if making money is your sole reason as to why you’re doing this, then you’re better off looking elsewhere. Making videos for Youtube will most likely net you a bigger gain than writing.
That’s why it’s not uncommon to see self-published authors chasing genres. By that, I mean writing books for popular genres, like romance, erotica, or vampires, because of the huge built-in audience voraciously buying books. Most authors will rationalize it as: “I write X amount of books in this specific genre, so that I can afford to write books in my preferred genre a.k.a. what I really want to write.” It’s a solid strategy, so no hate from me, but for a lot of us, we don’t have the patience to dabble in something we don’t want to write about.
So, what do I propose? Tweak your story so that it does fall in line with a widely read genre. I’m not talking about wholesale changes, but just adjustments here and there so that familiar tropes are present. Like I said, some compromises have to be made if you want your book to be marketable, because let’s be honest, your story about a dinosaur who does pizza delivery service is not going to sell. But tweak your story a bit, where it solidly falls in line with a genre, where it tickles the fancy of what people are looking for and expect, and you could be in a very good place. And luckily for us, a lot of genres are popular. It’s not just the 3 aforementioned genres I listed. There’s horror, sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, etc. Yes, some genres are more popular than others, but you won’t lack an audience.
So it’s definitely possible to write what you want, and still make money for it. And who knows, maybe tweaking your story can give you ideas on how to progress/expand/elucidate your story.
Every author in the world, no matter how famous and rich, will inevitably encounter what many of us lovingly refer to as “writer’s block.” Essentially, a symbolic wall that blocks the progress of the story we are writing. George R. R. Martin is famous for this, as he’ll willingly describe how he’ll often times struggle with his writing (which, in turn, explains his long multi-year delays between book releases). A friend of mine went to an author panel at a book fair, and one of the authors described how she spent months stuck on one single chapter. It’s a real, debilitating thing, and it effects all of us in many ways.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic pill that can solve writer’s block. It’s in individual struggle, one that we’ll have to overcome on our own. But I can suggest a few things that I hope can help you move forward.
1.) Create an outline before you begin to write. Detailing what’s going to happen can give you a clear sense of where the story is going and what it needs. The road ahead is paved for you, in other words. The outline doesn’t have to be super detailed, where you have to explain in intricate every piece of dialogue and action, but it should be enough where you have a clear waypoint of the path ahead.
2.) Change what you wrote previously. The one reason why you might be stuck is because you might have ultimately written yourself into a corner. If you truly cannot see a way over the hump, then you might have to revisit what you already wrote and change some aspects of it so that you can finally move forward. This has happened to me more times than I can count with The Evolution Trigger.
How that story looked in the beginning is vastly different than how it looks now.
3.) Barrel through ahead. If all else fails, just brute force your way through. If you have an awesome story planned out after this bump in the road, then just write whatever so you can continue ahead. I mean it. Just write something like, “This happens and then boom, we’re done.” Anything to move forward, you know? You can always revisit this bump once you’re done, and I’m certain you’ll think of something plausible while you’re finishing up the rest of your story.
I can’t guarantee this’ll work splendidly for some of you, but I’ve employed all 3 in varying ways, and they’ve helped me overcome my struggles. Give it a shot, it might just work for you.
The new year is here, which means (for a lot of people, at least) a resolution to begin anew. What’s mine? It’s simple: to build upon what I started just a couple months prior. To continue writing, to release more books, to entertain people with the stories I provide. I achieved what I sought out to do so many years ago by actually writing and releasing and book, and now I want to take the next step and just pump out more. I want to reach a bigger and broader audience.
Here’s to seeing what 2017 will have in store.
Goals for next year: See if I can complete the Evolution Trigger trilogy. Second book is well underway, and definitely releasing in 2017. I’m optimistic that the third will come out too, but that’s all dependent on how quickly I can create a template for it. While I may have a routine down for actually writing a book, when it comes to outlining the entirety of a book, well . . . that can take a while, especially when I try and detail every little thing that’s going to happen. But I’m excited to complete the trilogy and get started on my new series. It’s going to be a long one, and hopefully something a lot of people will be able to enjoy.
To build upon my last post about routine, I think the most important aspect of that would be to set a daily word count goal that you can realistically achieve. Doing so will ensure that your book will eventually be completed, as long as you sit down in your chair and get to typing everyday.
But what should that daily word count be? That’s entirely up to you. It can be anywhere from 100 to 10,000 (if your extremely confident in the speed of your writing). For me, I set a daily goal of at least 1000 words. If I’m able to match 1000 words a day, then I’ll have a 90,000 word manuscript after just three months. A 90,000 word novel is a good size. If you’re more likely to write a smaller novel, like say 50,000 words or so, then you can pump a novel out every two months or so, ensuring a steady stream of releases.
What happens if you don’t meet your daily requirement? Then add the amount you missed for the next day. So for example, if I was only able to write 800 words today, then I would add that remaining 200 for the next day, where I would have to write 1200 words. Doing so would ensure that you’re right on schedule.
When writing, try not to worry about making it perfect the first go-around. No one ever sells their first draft. The most important thing is to complete the manuscript first because without it, all you’ll have is just a half-completed book that you can’t sell, no matter how pretty your prose is. Finish it first, that’s the milestone you have to reach. Once you do reach it, then you can get to rewrites, revisions, edits, etc.
When it comes to finding that magic formula on self-publishing success, there’s a lot of back and forth and theory-crafting within the community as to what that formula could be. Debate is robust and disagreements are widespread. You have to do X amount of marketing! No, you have to have the perfect blurb and author bio! No, you have to price it at this pricepoint and then initiate a Kindle special at this specific point in time!
But there’s one parameter nearly everyone can agree on, and that’s having a stable of books to your name. The more books you have, the greater chance you have of finding success. Very rarely will your first book sell a million copies. Just because Fifty Shades of Grey achieved it doesn’t mean you will. Fifty Shades of Grey success is akin to winning the lottery; only a lucky few will achieve such a massive windfall in such a short period of time.
So for the rest of us, you’ll have to walk the beaten path, which is building up a catalog of books, and to build a catalog of books you need to write. Everyday. I’m stating the obvious here, but books don’t write themselves. You write them. It doesn’t matter if you think you have the greatest story idea in the world. If you don’t put that idea in novel form, then no one will know it exists. So just keep writing, and don’t stop. Well, maybe you can stop long enough to pat yourself on the back after you complete a novel, because you absolutely deserve it, but other than that, you have to keep writing.
It’s hard not to get motivated when you read reports of self-published authors making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. You think to yourself, “Wow. These people are making bank doing what they love. I can do that too!”
But you need to be realistic. Not everyone is going to make it. For every successful indie author that’s making six or even seven figures a year, there’s 10x that number who are struggling to sell even one book a week. Too many first-timers get starry eyed and think their first book will catapult them to instant success, when most likely the opposite is going to happen. Think about it; you’re an author no one knows about. Who’s going to buy your book when no knows you even exist? After that initial pop of sales you get from friends and family, how are people going to find you?
If your goal is to make money, then I’d advise you look elsewhere. Just about any other field will provide a more lucrative career path. Hell, you probably have a better shot at making money from creating a YouTube channel than selling books at an online retailer. Writing books is a true passion project. Money is just the cherry on the top. You have to be in this if you truly have a love for it because otherwise, if you’re here to just make a quick buck, you’re going to leave disappointed.
Is real, substantial money a possibility? Of course it is, but realize that this is a marathon, and not a sprint. You have to be in this for the long haul (read: life-time) in order to see some sort of respectable compensation. I know a lot of writers dream about quitting their day job and writing full time, but until that day actually comes, you may want to hold off on that.