Saturday, January 31, 2015

Research, the Devil is indeed in the details

I'm reading reviews-as I often do-and a reviewer is ticked at the 'completely absurd' detail listed in the preview of the book. I've read other reviews where the devil in the details lost stars or irritated the reader. Just like when you drop a word, overuse or don't use your commas anything that takes the reader out of the story which is usually is caused by annoyance is bad because when you take the reader out of the story you are going to pay for it. That whole, writers write what they know is a given-there's a reason why so many protagonists are writers (BTW-stop it, it's really freaking boring when everyone does the same thing.) I'm fairly lucky(?) I've had several different jobs and done many very different things in my lifetime-I'm also really annoying in that I will pump my friends on the minutia of their day. Again the devil is in the details, I want to write a story about a very real scenario I read about, from my years in the financial industry I've got that part down but I need a football player and to know stuff about football-I don't want to anything about football *whine* this is Texas there are eight year olds that know and can teach me everything I need to know about football but there are so many stories waiting their turn and I'll get there, later. Will that stop me from writing what I'm going to write? No, it will just take some time and I have the time. So for now I'm writing what I know. 

One of the things writers really need to be aware of is that often readers will pick up a book not just because it looks good, it's because it's set in their city (how cool is that?) or the h does what they do, a nurse, teacher finally a 'real' person. Let's be conservative and put those reasons at 25% of why they bought the book so if you can't get their city right-I35 doesn't meet with I10 what the hell are they talking about? If you don't know that giving 75 CC of lidocaine will kill someone, if you don't know what Bfib is, don't use it. Don't trust your knowledge to come from television or movies. 

If you live in the sticks and are tired of setting your stories there, okay create a small town but for the love of god be careful-start at the beginning, how many people, grocery stores are there, how far to a a major city, how many schools and write that shit down don't shift your town, people hate that shit. Even better ROAD TRIP! Sadly I don't believe you can really get the vibe of a city in a weekend, we're talking a week maybe two.(Take Austin, you can look us up on the internet and it even mentions Eeyore's Birthday what it doesn't mention is it's 75% hippies and half naked people will be smoking blunts as the cops roam around-I love Austin. Nope people mention Austin and it's barbeque not the awesome food trucks and the plethora of coffee houses and that's it's slowly being turned into LA.)   Road trip not doable than for the love of god hook up with someone on the internet. It's how I've met awesome people-and don't forget to thank people for their help in your books. 

Yes, writers write what they know but here is the most wonderful thing, you learn something new every day. You can learn it all on your own or you can learn by meeting new people and seeing things through their eyes. There isn't a damn thing wrong with not knowing something and asking but there is something wrong when you don't know, don't ask and just guess. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Networking-don't make it hard because it isn't

I used to think networking was some made up word like 'synergy' and I had no idea what the hell people were talking about. Even today if you tell me to network in my day job, I would have no idea how exactly to do that. It might be because I hate my job or because I don't really care to meet new people at work. It's insurance and boring as hell and it pays the bills and that's it.

Networking isn't that big of a deal and it's not that hard. All it is, is making connections with people, that's it. That thing I wrote about Twitter where you thank someone when they tweet you? That's just being polite. When you tweet the person back, that's called networking. Hopefully, it will become a regular thing and you will have formed a connection. Will that single person make a difference to you? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it's someone they know that will make a difference. It might not be that day, it might be in the future, someone who hasn't even been introduced to them could down the line see a tweet and it could spark something for you.

Then there are the actual connections you can make besides just tweeting,  unless your are so busy you just can't spare three minutes it doesn't hurt to reply and have a  back and forth with someone on Twitter or Faceback who knows what kind of connection can be formed. In this indie thing it's easy to feel alone and fall into the rut of same old, same old day in and day out. Meeting someone online and forming a connection can make you not feel so alone. In tweeting alone I have made connections that have gotten me reviews and an invitation to a Facebook group where several people retweet each other, it's been great being in that group because there are other things that we've done and even just the back and forth has been a great source of support.

The Indie writing group I formed is a form of networking, meeting other writers and talking about writing but we also talk about dozens of other things. Those people are my sanity, my oasis of thank god I'm not alone, I'm not the only one is positive what I've written is shit and should be tossed and we've all talked each other down from the, 'I'm just going to burn it' moment. I didn't think of it as networking when I set it up but that's exactly what it is and it doesn't just help me as a writer it helps me as a person.

I've debated posting this because I hate for people to get the message, 'Hey, everyone you meet will do something for you' because one that might not always be true and two that's a pretty mercenary way of thinking and if you're only going to do it so you can get something out of it then you're doing it for all the wrong reasons and likely won't get anything out of it. Like the people who only follow me because I retweet yet I don't see from their history that they do anything but tweet themselves seven times a day, I'm not going to follow you and retweet you if all you're out is to take. 

For me I've only ever looked at it as being a really great way to meet someone and bonus points if I learn something from them. As far as I'm concerned I'm happy to meet and more than happy to help out another writer because my feeling is if they succeed than I can succeed whether they are in my genre or not. Every time an indie writer makes good it helps all the others by proving that an indie book can be just as good as a book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble and just maybe that will trickle over to me. 

So take some time, say 'hey' and be open to forming a connection. You might make a new friend who can help you not feel so alone or you might even meet a new fan or someone you can become a fan of. The more you form a network the more it gives you stronger ties to your community and it can only ever be a good thing. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Merch, is it worth it?

Merchandising or merch as some people like to call it, the bits and bobs, cups for some bookmarks for most-which makes no sense to me since most of the people doing it are only selling ebooks-but whatever. Then there the pens and even necklaces. Yet I'm not even sure I want to get business cards, so as far as spending money on bookmarks when I'm only selling ebooks, spending money on merchandise doesn't make sense to me. 

Argument for is to hand out the 'goodies' to your readers who will hopefully be reminded of just how awesome you are every time they look at said bit or bob. Will your pen float into the hand of a new reader who will look you up and discover your awesomeness? Will someone see your fan using/displaying your bit or bob and comment then get to hear your fan chatter on about how awesome you are? Perhaps it will inspire loyalty or at the very least some fond memory that will carry over to sales. Because here's the issue, unless it translates into sales or unless you have money to burn there are so many other ways you could and should be spending your money.

Argument against is basic, unless it translates into sales you should be focusing your time and attention to writing books and not checks for something that will likely not be used or tossed the next time a clear away is done. Because the problem with merchandise most of it is disposable as in having little value to the owner because it was a gift and because most of the items are inexpensive. I used to go to a used bookstore and there was a cup of bookmarks for free with information on books and authors like so many giveaway and I have to tell you even though I used them until they got lost or bent out of shape and I  looked at them and thought 'oh that looks interesting' I never once looked for an author or a book that I saw on the free bookmark. As I went there often looking for new books to read why didn't I ever look for books by the authors, because it was free I didn't place value on it.

It's because of that that I don't see the real value in merchandising. Am I saying never, hell no but I'm saying at this time as I debate spending money to advertise on Goodreads and shudder over it, I don't think it's worth it. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Pricing, questions and doubts

 Pricing is usually the second to the last question once you are ready to hit publish, with the last question being promotion. The problem is I do think pricing and promotion are pretty tangled together. Do you price at the top of your genre and in so doing declare your book is most awesome and devoid of errors, editing issues and has passed the test to be called awesome and deserving of the price? Because that’s what you’re saying when you price it so high, so your cover better be steller, not an error or dropped coma in sight and it better be fucking phenomenal to your betas or guess what your reviews will be so low and so immediate it will surprise you. There is nothing like failing to deliver that will guarantee a screaming review. I’ve read them. So do you price it at the bottom as a ‘hey, try me out for just a few pennies.’ Careful with that, set low expectations and sure you’ll get great reviews but if you set the expectations on pricing low once you develop a following and try to raise the price you might see your sales plummet and expectation for the next you release be set at the price.

I wrote for a year with a plan for six, then thankfully ended up with seven and now I’m at eleven. When I sat down and made the plan it was with the knowledge that one of them six would be free with the plan to take it higher at a later date. This went in hand with promotion, try me free and if you like me then I have all these other books for you to try. When I released my five, I priced at $3.99 and my free was doing pretty well but eh on my buys. I was actually doing pretty well on Nook, nothing to scream and shout over but very well. However, on Kindle while my free was doing pretty damn well it was crickets as far as sales were concerned. I gave it two months and I couldn’t take it anymore, at the suggestion of a beta and highly valued friend I lowered the price. On Nook the sales soared and on Amazon I finally got a few bites, nothing to crow over but not bad.
Then I started seeing other authors do pre-sales at a low price or .99 cents with the warning once it went live the price would go up. It appealed, I won’t lie at that point I was beginning to lose patience with Kindle so I figured I didn’t really have anything to lose. So when I released my last four I did a pre-sale at ,99 cents with the warning they would go up to ‘regular’ price of $2.99 and the sales soared. I made four times in that month what I had made the previous month on Kindle.
It made me happy but honestly not that happy. Why? With those sales shouldn’t I have been doing flips? Yes, from the promotional standpoint of all those sales finally put my books out on Amazon for suggested and those who bought where the others hadn’t been before. That right there is promotion that I didn’t pay for, but no because I did pay for it from the loss at the higher sales. No, because here’s the thing I don’t want someone who’s only willing to buy me at .99 cents and those aren’t the buyers anyone should want.
There are titles I have that have never been ‘on sale’ and never is hard word to put in print so we’ll go with unlikely, there are titles that are unlikely to EVER go on sale. Why? Because people are willing to pay full price for them. Paying attention to my sales is important to know where I stand in pricing.
For days, I dawdled over changing the price on one of my titles from .99 cents at new release to full price. Completely honest, I checked what other writers were doing and I made the decision to leave it at .99 cents as a way of promotion. 

Not going to lie, it burns like hell to have the perma free and only .99 cent titles as I wonder will I be in a position to raise the price someday. Then I have to consider that I’m not paying to promote so the free and .99 cent are my promotion and for now I’m okay with that because technically no money is coming out of my pocket. When my free goes up, the sales do trickle in after that. For me it works.