Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Paths of the Shadow now permafree!

After considering the pros and cons of this for a while, I finally pulled Quest of the Messenger from KDP Select to wide distribution and made the first book of the trilogy, Paths of the Shadow, permafree.

Some authors firmly believe in the principle of "zero price = zero value", and are offended by the mere idea of giving their book away for free, but I disagree. As a matter of fact, this ability to make a book permafree and not worry about setting up free promotional days once a quarter, was part of what swayed me in the direction of going wide.

The concept of taking something you have poured blood, sweat and time into, and just offer it for download, may rankle when you only have a book or two out, but the more books you publish, the more it makes sense. There's nothing like offering the first in a series (or a stand-alone book that is one of several in a similar setting) for free to funnel new readers to buy the rest.

This tactic is successfully used by those people who promote new products in supermarket stalls, as well as by dope dealers - give a free sample to get people hooked so that they will pay for the rest.

Naysayers will claim that people who download free books are only looking for freebies and don't often bother to read what they grabbed anyway. But if a series has been sitting on a shelf for years and doesn't get much traction, the chance of getting some readers - even without getting paid - is better than nothing.

If you get a 1,000 people to download your book, 100 of them might read it, 10 might like it, and one might love it so much that they become your diehard fan and buy all of your books, give you a bunch of glowing, genuine reviews and recommend your book to others. It's all about numbers - the more pebbles you throw into a pond, the more ripples you create.

So if you like epic fantasy, medieval settings, dark magic and lots of intrigue, go ahead and grab your copy of Paths of the Shadow.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

How to survive with no support network: for authors

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You know those heart-warming statements by successful authors who say, "I would never have been able to get to this point without my spouse/family/significant other. Their support meant everything to me along the way"? 

This is great, it really is. I'm always happy for authors who had that support from their nearest and dearest while they were clawing their way up the rocky, lonely path from first draft to publishing success (whatever success means to them - a trad publishing deal, critical acclaim, a significant income stream). But what you don't often hear, despite how common it is, are experiences such as, "My wife would pull faces and come up with random to-do lists every time I sat down to write, and just couldn't stand me 'wasting my time' like that. Whatever I have achieved, I have achieved despite her lack of support and appreciation."

A fellow author once told me, "My husband and kids complained constantly that I never paid attention to them. I was always writing, they said. Cooked dinners, housecleaning, and the full time paycheck I made went unnoticed. What mattered was the fact that not every single second of my day was focused on them or serving their needs."

It's hard not to grow resentful. It does chafe and grate when your husband looks up from his phone, on which he's been busy browsing AliExpress, and asks, "are you sure you can afford to waste so much time on this?" - which brings me to my first point of advice:

Don't hate them. As popular as it is to say that our spouses/family are supposed to stand 100% behind our every venture and give unconditional support, the fact is that writing, like any entrepreneurial venture really, is a steep, uphill climb with a very uncertain outcome. Your family/spouse may be genuinely concerned that you are investing your all into something that is unlikely to ever pay off. It really is easy to neglect our own needs and the needs of our families, and to pour money into something that may yield no return, which brings me to point number two:

Balance, balance, balance. When you're on your own, it means you're also the one responsible for taking care of yourself. If you find yourself hovering over the keyboard with your fingers shaking, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep and faint with hunger; if you find yourself resenting  your bladder for demanding relief and your kids for asking, at 3 PM, whether lunch will be happening anytime today, you should probably slow down, or you risk going the fast track to burnout. Few writers at the start of their road can afford to write full-time. I know I'm not even part-way there.

But don't give up, either. Carve out every possible moment to write. Make use of those little pockets of time that inevitably occur each day. We all have them; on the train, waiting in line to the doctor's office, or when you catch yourself goofing around on Pinterest. Don't worry about efficiency. Just write a few paragraphs, even on your phone or in longhand. Don't wait for that perfect moment when you're on your computer with a cup of tea at hand, the house quiet and you're at leisure. For more advice on how to find time for writing, check out my free e-book, Writing Tips for Busy People.

Finally...

Make sure you aren't all alone. The online writing community is amazing. It can make the difference between giving up and plunging onward. There are so many people out there just like you, just like me - or people who had been in the same place until not too long ago. A supportive network is worth its weight in gold, and I'm so thankful for it.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Writing to market: why and how

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It is popular to say, "write what you love", "don't short-sell your art" and "money won't buy happiness", and... yeah, money might not be the most important thing in the world. 

Until, you know, it is. 

Because money might not make you happy, but lack of it can surely make you extremely miserable. Money might not buy health, but it will sure buy good health insurance; money won't buy love, but the day-to-day battle for financial survival saps out energy and joy of life. 

As someone who has been through major financial straits with my family, I can definitely tell you that, hypothetically, if someone offered me lifelong financial competence (paid off house, new car every few years, college savings for all the kids) under the condition that I won't write another word ever again, I'd accept in a heartbeat. 

No such cheeky little fairy is likely to come my way, however, so I'm free to go on writing while I try to figure out how to also make a living of it and have balanced family time.

I came to writing as a career from a point of financial crisis and major strain, which is probably not the best place to start with, as you do preferably want some funds you would invest in your books, like in any other business, but it did help me focus. 

One of the reasons why I'm not no longer looking for an agent is that, even if someone could guarantee that I will land a good one, I can't afford the long-term haul of chasing a book deal. I'm not interested in literary recognition or winning contests for its own sake, either. Please give me the money, preferably soon so I can pay the electric bill. 

That's also why, after casting my net far and wide with several genres I love, I am currently focusing on my Frozen World Antarctic sci-fi series, which is garnering me the best and steadiest reader response I have ever experienced. More established authors would probably see this as small potatoes, but for me it really is a cause for celebration when I get unsolicited sales and reviews. 

Some authors are laboring under the misconception that "writing to market" means picking up the most popular genre of the moment and starting to work in that genre even if you absolutely hate it. Actually, writing to market means picking the one genre of those YOU love which is doing best commercially, and focusing on it. 

This makes sense on more levels than just money. We writers, the cultural heirs of those storytellers gathering an eager audience around the cave fire, don't create in a vacuum. We thrive on the love, interest and engagement of our readers, and can only keep so long at something no one seems to want to read. 

This doesn't mean that you should lower your standards with the reasoning of, "fans of the genre will swallow anything". Nor do you have to follow tropes, as is explained in this excellent post: "Formula writing means that by chapter two this has to happen and by the midpoint this other thing has to happen. Or, there has to be a rival for the heroine’s affections, or the dreaded misunderstanding. There are perhaps writers who write to formula, but that isn’t what’s meant by writing to market."