The Tortoise Two-Step Vs. the Bunny Hop

As the eBook and Print on Demand phenomena hit the scene and began to grow, it created a new industry supporting and advising independent authors . Whenever I heard about a new site, tool, or technique I filed it away for the day when I would have time to read and try out the information, since I was working and spent my free time writing.

When the day came and I was able to quit my day job and devote myself to being an author, my first impulse was to dive into this backlog of advice and immediately implement all the wisdom I’d compiled. I was hopping off in all directions at once like a schizophrenic jack rabbit. I made very little forward motion in spite of all my effort and was becoming frustrated. Worse still, I wasn’t writing. Even though my first and still-favorite character is called Bunny, this system was not working for me. I needed to prioritize and take my time.

We are often reminded that writing is a marathon and not a sprint. Very few authors become overnight successes and many of the best spent years developing their craft, so I decided to slow down, forget about trying to immediately replace my previous salary with book royalties, and concentrate on writing the best books I can, while testing and  implementing promotional practices one at a time.

The bit of advice I’m concentrating on at the moment comes from Stephen King: know your Ideal Reader. I’ve created a bio of this IR in order to get to know her better.

I have been utilizing Twitter for some time to promote my books and support other authors, with mixed results.  Keeping Stephen King’s advice in mind, I am now focusing my  own tweets on my Ideal Reader and only retweeting what I think the IR might find interesting. For instance, I know my IR doesn’t want books with half-naked men or women on the cover. She isn’t into vampires or zombies, either, but she’ll read a cozy with a ghost or witches, if there are enough cats in it. I don’t write those, but she likes them, bless her heart.

I’ll let you know how my new slow and steady system goes in a future post. Just be patient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Second Saturday Interview with Author Linda Crowder

Today we’re chatting with talented writer, Linda Crowder.

Linda lives with her husband and a variety of happy pets in the wilds of windy Wyoming.

Thanks so much for joining us, Linda.

  • Cropped head shotReaders are interested in how familiar writers are with the locations in their books. Your Jake and Emma series is set in Wyoming. How long have you lived there?

I moved to Wyoming in 2006 and have spent the last ten years exploring the state. My husband is a third-generation Wyomingite and has been a wonderful tour guide. I can’t believe I grew up so close to Yellowstone and the Tetons and had never visited them until I moved here. They are spectacular and should be part of everyone’s summer vacation at least once.

  • I understand that you grew up in Colorado and also lived in the Bay Area, but your new series is set in Alaska. Have you ever lived there?

I haven’t lived in Alaska, but I’ve been to towns very similar in feel to my imaginary Coho Bay. Unlike many tourists, I spend a lot of my time talking to locals about what it’s like to live there – the good and the bad so I hope they’ll feel their time talking to me was well spent when they read the new book.  I’m returning for another two weeks in May and hope to be back on a regular basis.

  • You are not only an author, but also a career coach. What exactly does a Career Coach do, and how does this work influence your writing?

Different coaches have different areas of specialization. Mine is working with people who’ve been laid off. I help them explore what they’d like to do next. Some want to jump right back into the work force, doing pretty much what they’ve done before so I help them be more competitive in doing that. Others want to step back and think about their next move and I help them explore what they might want to do next, then map out a strategy to take them there.

My work in nonprofit human services, which I did before I became a Career Coach, bubbles up in Emma’s career as a therapist and in Jake’s work in juvenile justice. I very carefully don’t base people in the books on people whose stories I’ve been privileged to hear over the years, but what I’ve learned about mental health and about how the courts work does find its way into the books.

  • You have many pets and include them prominently in your books. What is your favorite real-life anecdote about one of your animals?

I have, at current count, seven cats and one incredibly patient dog. Ringo left me a couple of years ago and is now starring in my short stories about his exploits as a ghost cat. That cat had too much personality to say good-bye! One day he was sitting on the porch, flopped on his ringoside in his lion pose, listening to my husband talking with his daughter and her fiancé. My husband made the mistake of saying that Ringo was too “fluffy” to catch a bird. Well, that cat stalked off the porch and was back not five minutes later with a bird! Caught and released, mind you, just to prove that he could.

  • How delightful! Do you find that your readers connect more with your characters because of the character’s connection to their pet(s)?

I get emails and comments from readers who love that I write rescue animals into the lives of my characters. I’ve always had rescue animals and I absolutely love them. I’ve adopted kittens and puppies, but I have to say I’ve had the best luck with the adult dogs and cats I’ve brought home. They are much more easily introduced into the crowd I always have with me and they are so often passed by in favor of the babies. I encourage everyone to consider adopting an adult cat or dog.

  • You are currently an independent author. From your experiences of doing all the promotion, etc. yourself, will you be looking to sign with a traditional publisher in the future?

I am looking at working with a small press for my Coho Bay series and we’ll see whether they like the book enough to offer me a contract. It’s a LOT of work being author and publisher in one and I would love to see some of that workload go off my shoulders. However, I won’t hesitate to publish independently in the future. It’s been a learning experience, but a satisfying one.

  • Any advice for other indie authors?

Two things helped me most. First, join a really knowledgeable and supportive author’s group. There’s so much to learn but you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Second, make the investment in an editor, even if only a line/copy editor. It makes a huge difference.

  • Who designs your covers?

Carla Garcia, who is a graphic artist. I am her only covers. She normally designs websites and marketing material.

  • Current work in progress? Plans for the future?

Coho Bay is with my editor right now. My next work is the fifth Jake and Emma book, A Body on the Ballot, which is currently in outline form. I am planning to spend a month in Texas next year, researching locations and culture as a setting for a work I’ve been tossing around in the back of my mind for more than a year now. I’d planned to write it after Death Changes Everything came out, but Coho Bay elbowed it’s way in and demanded to be written first. Books do that.

We will keep an eye out for Coho Bay and the next Jake and Emma.  We have enjoyed sharing with you today, Linda. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Readers can sign up for notifications of new releases and promotions on your website, http://www.lindajcrowder.com/

See Linda’s Amazon Author page: http://smile.amazon.com/Linda-Crowder/e/B00A3AY5RG

 

Fiction Authors are Different

After publishng my first novel, Hollow, in 2012 in the early days of  print-on-demand and digital publishing, I began reading every bit of advice I could get my hands on about promoting independently published books.

I tried to faithfully follow all the advice about establishing an author blog, newsletter, email lists, giveaways, tweaking keywords and meta-data, setting up pre-orders, using book promotion sites on social media and planning booklaunches, etc., all with mixed success.

It is only in the past year that I’ve seen articles confirming my earlier suspicions that much of the advice I’d been getting up to then actually was meant for non-fiction authors. Webinars, for instance, don’t really suit most fiction authors.

While it was much easier to break into the market when relatively few indie authors were producing quality work, it has become almost impossible with the millions of new books hitting the virtual shelves every day. Indie authors can become frantic and grasp at each new technique. Thankfully, and perhaps surprisingly, the increased competition has not kept indie authors from supporting each other. In fact, many of us sell more books to fellow authors than to the general reading public and we constantly share helpful advice.

To that end, I want to say to new independent authors of fiction, “When you read advice for independent authors, be sure the wisdom being offered is targeted for fiction writers.”

While some successful indie fiction authors have gone on to make careers out of non-fiction books of guidance for other indie authors, most fiction writers are less comfortable with self-promotion and need to use our limited promotion budgets in ways that work for us.

 

 

Publisher’s Imprint: does it matter?

Independent authors have an uphill battle to overcome the perception that we are less legitimate than authors affiliated with traditional publishing houses.

Many indies, recognizing that some readers shy away from self-published books, create their own publishing imprint in the hope that a name other than their own, CreateSpace or Smashwords, etc. will get their book into the hands of more readers.

I have been tempted to create my own publishing imprint for this very reason, but have resisted, feeling a twinge of dishonesty in the practice.

I believe it is perfectly legitimate to give yourself a creative logo and publishing name, especially as indie authors do all the publishing work themselves, but how does the reader feel?

JaBerHawky logoIf I designed a logo, like this one (well, not exactly like this, you understand!), and listed JaBerHawky Press (for JBHawker, get it?) as the publisher, would you, as the reader, feel somehow tricked if you found out later the publisher was the author?

I suppose until I can feel comfortable under my own imprint, the best thing I, and other indies who feel as I do, can do to overcome the stigma of self-publishing currently hanging over independent authors is hone my craft, write the best story I can and be sure my editing and production standards are as high as I can make them.

Nook Hardback Self-Publishing

I got an email last week announcing Barnes & Noble’s new hardback self-publishing feature. You can now have your books printed in hard cover and even with a dust jacket.

When I read this I was so excited. How cool to have hardback copies of my works on my own bookshelves and available for readers to buy.  My first four books are currently on the shelves of my local library in paperback and I thought I might donate hard copies, once I have them all formatted, etc.

My enthusiasm dimmed when I read a post from a fellow independent author criticizing the quality of the hardback books and making me aware that any books I have printed through this service will not be available from resellers.

I double-checked this information on the B&N site and this is what they say when asked:

No. The NOOK Press print platform program is for you to print books for your personal use, and does not include selling those books through Barnes & Noble stores or BN.com. You may sell the books you print on your own, however.

So, my fellow author is correct. This facet of the Nook self-publishing service is merely a vanity press.

I may still print single hardbacks of my books for personal display and as gifts, but my enthusiasm has been replaced with disappointment.

This incident illustrates one of the many benefits of joining Internet groups of fellow Independent Authors.  It was a member of the Sweet Cozy Mystery Writers’ Support Group, a closed group on Facebook, who alerted me to the limitations of this Nook service.

While it may be overwhelming to see just how many other independent authors are writing in your own genre, the blessings of shared experience and the support we give each other more than outweigh possible feelings of competition or discouragement.

Pulling back the curtain

Like many new independent authors, I was naive about the publishing and marketing world. I believed when an author wrote a book, if it was published and got good reviews, it meant success was right around the corner. (Great American novel…or at least great american cozy, here I come!)

After publishing four novels, all getting pretty decent reviews, and finally dipping my toe into promotion and marketing, my fantasy bubble has well and truly burst.

While there are a few lucky authors whose writing careers took off the way I’d ignorantly imagined, most of us must scramble frantically simply to get our books noticed and begin to build a reader base.

I was surprised when I learned of some of the ways being used to get reviews and push good ones to the top of the list. I had foolishly assumed after the first few reviews from the author’s friends and family, all the rest were authentically from readers who cared enough about a book to post a critique.

Imagine my dismay to read a nasty “revenge” review of a friend’s book, after she had given an honest, but unflattering review of another author’s work. Who does that?

Loss of innocence can be a painful experience, but usually one which leads to  greater wisdom and maturity.

I’m looking ahead with eyes more widely open than before, but with hopes and dreams intact, as I learn to swim in the turbulent waters of the independent author.