Friday, December 19, 2014

What I've Learned from Self-Publishing

Way back in 2012, I embarked on a new adventure--self-publishing. I missed the first few heady months of Amazon's successful Kindle Direct Publishing program, but I hastily jumped on their indie bandwagon and began producing a series of novels all by my lonesome.

2014 is now coming to a close. I've written 10 novels, 4 short stories and even one kid's middle grade reader. I've got something like 19 products on sale on Kindle (and iTunes, etc) and I managed to make several thousand dollars this year in royalties.

Has it been worth all the work? Well, yeah. Therefore, I enourage anyone who enjoys writing, and who wants to make some money doing so, to consider self-publishing. To that end, here's the most important things I've learned since 2012.

1. Readers want good stories. That's it. Very simple. Readers aren't all grammar-nazis. Most don't expect perfection, they expect entertainment and value for their money. I've read countless Big Five-published novels that sucked, had typos and errors and stupid plots. Books that surely didn't deserve shelf space in a book store. But me and countless others bought them, because we were hungry for stories and got suckered by slick marketing pros.

2. People do judge books by their covers. Especially now. There's such a huge glut of books on Kindle, that readers will indeed look at your cover and decided to move on or not. So you need something that's eye-catching and doesn't look like crap. Now, bear in mind, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so you need to tailor your cover to the market you're appealing to. Doing a romance novel? Have bare chests and sultry women on the cover. Doing something with action? Try an action-oriented cover, say with people fighting, shooting, etc. Don't mix these two up. Femme fatales staring wistfully into nothingness may cause a male reader to pause to admire the model's beauty, but it might not sell that many books.

Additionally, once your cover has caught someone's eye, you need a good blurb. You know, the little tidbit of a tease normally on the back of a paperback. It's what makes people want to look inside. And on Amazon, they can do the same thing. Or they can move on because your blurb is boring or stupid.

3.You must advertise. It does no good to write a book and then shove it in the back of a filing cabinet. No one will see it. Similarly, if you publish your book, putting it alongside millions of others on Amazon's virtual shelves, people may not see it. Oh, sure, it could show up for 30 days as a new release, but so will hundreds, if not thousands of others.

You may not have thousands of dollars to Russell up and invest in your book, plastering the internet with ads, but you can start small, offering free days on twitter, facebook, etc. Use those first few days of advertising to buy more ads. No sense editing every stray typo out of your book. Perfection doesn't magically attract readers. Ads do.

4. Readers want more. You can't write just one book. Well, you can. Maybe it's a therapeutic release, or you way of telling the picky gatekeepers to take a flying leap, but if you want to make money, you can't offer just one product. You're not a hotdog cart... although you might be a lunch truck. Write several books, preferably series. People like series.

5. Frequency is an Ad. The more often you release books, the more often you show up as a new release. That is a free ad. It's like buying multiple quick pick tickets in the lottery. Yes, no one might buy or even see your books, but you have more chances with more books. Shotgun method here. Plus, if a reader likes one book, and you have more, they might buy more, instead of moving on to the next indie.

6. You don't have to DIY. It's great if you can do it all yourself: making your own cover, editing, proofing, marketing... but like any industry, self-publishing has spawned thousands o hungry sharks circling the online seas looking for your money. Hire with caution, as many suck and just want your money. They can be no different than con men or home improvement fraudsters. Be selective and bargain shop. There's more "professional" services available online for indies than you can shake a stick at. Get quotes. Compare prices and results. And remember #3--you've got to have ads. They take priority.

7. Conventions suck (for selling). When you go to a comic book convention or a scifi convention, you look at products to determine if you want to spend money on them. With a book, it's really hard to tell if it's any good before buying. And conventions are costly: booth fees, print costs to have dead tree versions of your books, food you'll eat while there, gas to get there, maybe even hotel rooms. Selling a print copy and making $1 to $5 a copy, you better sell a crap ton of copies to even break even. Don't listen to people hyping "networking" or "word of mouth". It's a money pit. Spend the money on ads online. Or maybe try a bookfair where people are actually looking to buy books.

8. Join an online community. Lurk a lot on line, reading what others have done and taking notes on what works and what doesn't. Of course, you have to filter out a lot of boasting, like folks who claim to be best sellers because for 2.3 minutes their book was #1 in Fiction>Mysteries>Detectives>Eastern EuropeanGhosts. NEVER PAY FOR ADVICE. At least not until you've exhausted what free resources there are online. Yes, you can buy other writer's books and programs and what not, but odds are with a little work, you can find the same information for free.

9. To make money requires hard work. Writing is fun, but you need to keep at it. You can't slowly relish unfolding your epic masterpiece over a decade. You need to crank it out like a TV show. Produce, produce, produce. Any of the successful indies online had one of three thinsg that led to their success:

a. Lots of money to pay for book doctors, editors, proofers, cover artists, ads, etc
b. A stroke of huge luck
c. Connections with someone important or in the public eye who hawked their book for them
d. Buckets and buckets of elbow grease

It doesn't cost anything to do this. Work hard, be patient and you can eventually make some money and enjoy doing so.

10. Not everything works for everybody. Meaning everything I've written up to this point could be completely useless. Take in lots of opinions and advice and figure out what works on your own.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Back from obscurity...

Once upon a time, I wrote for this swell little blog called "My Thought World". It was  regional, political-type place for conservaties, by conservatives. But gosh darn it, folks were so sick of politics after 2008, the readership plummeted and we shut that blog down. Kenya believe it?

Since that time, or at least since 2012, I've been writing. Novels. Supernatural thrillers where the darkest of evil gets its collective butt kicked every book by pulp-styled super soldiers.

Fun stuff.

In the past nearly three years, I've learned a lot about publishing and self-publishing. I've learned authors are supposed to have their own blog and that they should help those just starting out.

So here I am. Ready to ramble. Come back and see me once a week, or leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer.

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Dusty in Here...

Anyone who happens to stumble across the Troglodad blog may notice it hasn't been updated in awhile. That's because I've moved on to other projects.

As such, it's probably time to come clean. Troglodad is just a persona. An online troll I developed for a little website called "Mythoughtworld.com".

I'm not really as trollish as Troglodad appears. It was all just an act. Preparation really, for a non-fiction, humourous parenting book.

Alas, I never got that project finished. Real life got in the way and then I got bit by the screenwriting bug. Which led me back to fiction writing and then on to self-publishing.

These days, my time is all focused on that fiction book, which you can read more about over at http://www.StoneSoldiers.info

So it's going to get dustier here at Troglodad. A lot dustier. In fact, I'm letting the .com domain name expire.

Maybe one day in the far future, Trog will return. But for now, I'm putting him back in his cave.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

#HighGasPrices #Whatchagonnado

Dear Hollyweird,
 
I regret to inform you that due to the increase in the price of gasoline, due in part to the officials you helped get elected, I will no longer be able to go see your overpriced films in theaters.
 
You see, not only are your tickets prices too high, but the actual cost to drive to your theaters has become prohibitive. As such, myself and my family will have to stay home and rewatch DVDs we have already paid for, and can rewatch countless times for free. Thereby saving ticket money and fuel- to pay for the fuel we need to go to work, the grocery and to take our children to school.
 
I realize this places a hardship on you and your countless employees. This will undoubtably cause many fine ilms to not be made. But the reduction in your funds may also mean that you will have less to invest in political campaigns, and ultimately gas prices might once again return to more reasonable levels.
 

Sincerely,
 
Average Consumer

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

#ParentTip Teaching Your Kids NOT to Curse

There comes a time in every parent's life when they hear their child utter a profanity for the first time. For me, it was when my oldest was almost 3 and she blurted out "F*CK!"
 
Horrifying.
 
In all fairness, it was my fault. Like a veritable indoor Cody Lundin, I like to go barefoot at home. This is often dangerous when small children lay their toys about. Especially girls with their chintzy vending-machine jewlery. In this case, a metal ring undoubtably made of 50% lead, imported from the finest of Indian jewlers. When I placed my foot on it, then pressed my (then) 265 pounds down on it, it very nearly sliced through my callouses. I immediately exlaimed the F-word, and struck the wall that happened to be nearby. My daughter thought it was hilarious and burst out laughing. For several days thereafter, she would run around and declare "F*CK!" then hit the wall and break out laughing.
 
Not long after, we adopted the "movie talk" policy: you may only use movietalk if you are in a movie, or when you reach 18. It has worked for years.
 
Alas, as the children have grown older and become more exposed to life, they are beginning to hear more and more colorful language. Especially from the internet.
 
Just a few nights ago me and the kids watched some Youtube gamer videos- I'm fascinated by the ways so many people find to glitch and cheat in games. We stumbled across very polissibly the funniest gamer on the internet: ROBBAZ- King of Sweden. Amongst the colorful language we heard from Robbaz was him calling the other team in a commentary of a BF3 match "Pussies" (or as he says it, poo-sies; he has a funny swedish accent). Yoinks!
 
The next night, me and the girls waited in the minivan while the wife grocery shopped (the van having a DVD player and comfortable leather seats- making it far more comfortable than pushing a shopping cart). During this waiting time, my eldest, Sammie, decided to quote Robbaz, and uttered the word "Pussies".
 
Argh.
 
I told her not to say that word... then had to explain why she can't. Crap.
 
I hastily explained that pussies are pussycats, and went into one of my mind-numbingly boring dissertations on the origin of the phrase: how in 1950s people called someone very nice and quiet a pussycat, etc. etc. I then went on to explain that pussycats are the weakest of animals- that even a small child could kill one, and so a "pussy" was someone overly weak. I told her that there was another use of the word that is cursing, and that she didn't need to know it, but just don't use the word and but that Robbaz meant it as a "sissy"-type remark on his gaming opponents.
 
Ha! Clever, on-the-fly lying points for me...
 
Hours later, as I reflected on this, I thought, "Oh, my God, what if my daughter says that word at school? In front of her mother?
 
After a talk with the wife, I decided it was time for a conversation about cursing with my 12 year old.
 
I revealed the origins of the word again... from harmless 1950s & 60s term for a quiet, nice, etc person, to the shortened euphemism for a female body part in the 1970s and 1980s, to it's over use in the 1990s, leading to it cavalierly being thrown about now as a term for a weak person. I equated it to "pantywaist" a term not used much anymore. Then I had to explain that. I stated that I prefer she use "wussy" if she had too, but admitted I don't know the origins of that one.
 
We then went on to cover other profanities, "balls", "Bollux", "fag", etc. etc. I liked to throw the British terms in to demonstrate how something harmless-sounding here might be offensive in other countries and vice-versa. For example, "Tits", another of Robbaz's favorites. I explained teats, boobs, knockers, hooters, etc. I explained that "tit" doesn't have the same offensiveness overseas as here. I should have explained "tit-mouse" but I completely blanked on that one.
 
In the end I answered her questions about other words she's heard at school ("Chode" for example). I explained why boys like to talk about "hot dogs" and "weiners" and why they think it's funny. And I got an agreement that she not repeat any word she doesn't know the meaning of until checking it with me.
 
Thank goodness the wife had already given a Birds and Bees 101 talk. it would have been f*cking awkward to have that conversation with a 12 year old.
 
So to all you Youtubers out there... please watch it with the sex talk. Children are watching.
 
 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Is your Furnace Working?

It's nearly winter here in the midwest, and that's the time of year that many people find out that their furnace isn't working.
 
Fear not, just because the heat won't come on, doesn't mean you have to panic and call a repairman.
 
Here's a quick troubleshooting checklist anyone should be able to do to get things working:
 
1. Check the batteries on your thermostat. Replace them even. Bad batteries can cause the whole system to go off. Or maybe someone (your kid) played with the thermostat and turned it off, or broke it. Thermostats are under a hundred dollars, sometimes under $50 at your local home improvement store. Changing a thermostat is more complicated than changing a light bulb, but less complicated than changing a bad breaker.
 
2. Check the air returns to make sure nothing is blocking air flow TO the furnace. Gas furnaces have a safety feature where they kick off if they can't pull in enough air. This is to prevent catching themselves on fire
 
3. Check the vents- to make sure they aren't blocked, preventing proper air flow (see #2)
 
4. Check your breakers. Maybe one tripped, shutting off power to a part of the furnace. Like the main or secondary blowers.
 
5. Check the filters- a clogged filter can prevent proper air flow. (See #2)
 
6. Look for an error code light. For example on my Trane, there is a curcuit board with an LED. Through a window in the front access panel, you can see the light blink. Count the blinks. Take off the panel off (when the furnace isn't running)and there should be a chart that tells you what the blinks mean. It might be a return heat sensor (upper limit) that's gone bad (ours has three times in 12 years). If it goes out, the furnace thinks it's too hot and shuts off. (See #2)
 
7. Check to make sure the panels are on right- they have to have a good seal to prevent bringing in outside air. If a panel has been knocked loose, the system may shut off- similar to what happens when you open the door to your dryer.
 
8. Get your make and model number and google, google google. You might find it's some simple other problem.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A VAN-tastic Weekend



What a weekend this past one was. Chock full of the perils of parenting and modern day life.

It began on Friday with a quick trip to the local Target to get a birthday card for our friends' little boy. He had a party the next day, and when we got his present earlier in the week, the wife forgot to pick out a card.

I didn't know it at the time, but that turned out to be a $250.00 card.

Saturday, we went to the party, leaving the hous elate as folks with kids so often do. We cruised up the interstate to our friends' house, arriving in their town on a quarter-tank of gas. Whoops. No problem, we pulled into the local Circle K for a fill up. Except the pumps wouldn't come on.

The thing I love most about using a debit card is not having to go into a gas station and stand in line like a schmuck. To get gas. Instead, I swipe at the pump, select my fuel, pump and go. It's awesome. Unless the people inside don't activate the pump. And instead turn it off. And you have to swipe your card three more times. Then you move to another pump, and it too takes your card, tells you to pump, but the idiots inside won't authorize the pump to start. That's annoying. And a good way to add 20 more minutes onto your lateness. Thankfully, there was a working gas station across the street.

The party was pretty standard fair for an 8 year old. Kids running around playing, no structured activities, while the parents sit around and talk. In this case the parents being my wife, her two female co-workers and one other husband. Myself and the other husband didn't say much.

The party over, we took our kids and headed home, stopping at a McDonalds for some cool drinks. In the case of my over-heated 6 year old, a chocoloate milk shake. Not a good idea.

Once home, me and the kids enjoyed a little TV then crashed on air matresses and sleeping bags on the basement movie room's floor about 11:00 PM. At 2:00 AM or so, my littlest sits up and does an admirable Linda Blair/Exorcist impersonation- vomiting all over her blankets, sheet and mattress. In my dadcave.

A half hour later, after disposing of he chocolate and hot dog chunks (and the sheet they were on), we were all cleaned up and the weekend basement camping resumed. Cause I needed my sleep since I'd be moving furniture on Sunday.

3:00AM or so, my littlest awoke again.. with dry heaves. Been there, done that. Just not from drinking chocolate milkshakes.

The next day, the furniture move commenced. It was time to get rid of the pee couch.

I never knew girls bedwet until my six year old started doing it on my recliner couch in the basement dadcave. Despite scotch guarding and a bottle of dog urine-removing enzymatic cleaner, my couch got ruined in the first few months of the year. I tried to mask the smell with Febreeze, and a couch cover, but that human urine smell just doesn't seem to go away. On top of that, the 12 year old couch finally gave out on one side, it's recliner mechanism buckling under my Shrek-sized mass. It was time for a new couch.

As luck would have it, a friend is getting married. He and his new wife have to reduce their two households to one. Which meant yardsale. And a gently-used couch and recliner. For me.

grabbing a buddy of mine and folding down the stow and go seats in the minivan, I began the move.

It was as I was opening the doors to the van at my engaged friend's home that I noticed the damage to my van. Parking lot hit and run. Maroon paint, from a maroon's car, down the passenger side of my van. Including a nice 6-inch groove in the body above the rear wheel well. How my wife and oldest daughter missed this getting in and out of the van is beyond me. But it was very clear: we got hit at Target. Friday.

After a bout of cursing, I got the couch in my van and headed home. Already pissed off, and not really wanting to carry the pee couch up my basement stairs, I broke out some wrenches and a hand saw and turned pee couch into three piece sectional to relieve some anger. it was also much easier to carry.

Then it was time to bring the new couch down.

Unfortunately, the new couch's narrowest measurement is 31". While my exterior door is 32" wide, the basement door is only 29.5". No couch in my basement. Nope. Now I'm stuck with a couch on my carport, waiting for someone to pick it up. I have a three piece pee couch in my front yard that hopefully the garbage men will take, and two recliners in my movie room... instead of a couch and two recliners.

But best of all... since no one identified the person who hit my van, I have to pay $250.00 in a deductible to get it fixed.

Vantastic.

Many morals to this story:

Buy birthday cards and presents at the same time.

Don't park next to big trucks or SUVs at Target.

Don't rely on passengers to check their side of the car for damage when leaving a parking lot.

Don't get gas from Circle K.

Don't give an Overheated child a milkshake to drink.

Tell your Kids they need to chew their food more thoroughly so their puke is not so chunky.

Get the new furnture inside BEFORE chopping up or moving the old furniture.

Measure new furniture, and your doorways before making any purchase. Even from a yard sale.