As a debut self-published author you seem to spend most of your time
begging kindly asking for reviews. 60% of these requests are ignored, 35% reply (which is amazingly scholarly and decent of you) and then 5% reply AND post a review (which is unbelievably generous of you).
So you spend a lot of time waiting.
Typically, you wait and then two come along. SFCrowsnest at the beginning of the month and now Sci-Fi Kingdom. Check it out here.
It’s a nicely structured review; a synopsis, the review, a grading (8/10 btw 🙂 ) and the best bit, ‘favourite quotes’ which was great as I’d forgotten writing these lines and even I thought they were pretty good! So that was a nice reminder.
You can get your own copy of ‘In A Right State’ here. It’s FREE at some places and about £2 at others – Amazon doesn’t make it easy to list books for free.
Amongst the huge wastes of extended, frozen time within the publishing landscape, occasional glacial changes happen, breathing a little fresh air upon your dry, scaled skin before finally eroding it into the desert forevermore.
I got a book review.
It’s over at SFCrowsnest, one of the oldest SF related sites out there, so they know their onions.
This is the first book from Ben Ellis so it’s his debut novel which surprised me as its quite impressive…it was an enjoyable read and I’ll keep a look out for more work from the author.
So thanks to Andy and SFCrowsnest for reviewing the book, much appreciated.
If it looks like a traditionally published book, is formatted like a traditionally published book and reads like a traditionally published book, then why not treat it like a traditionally published book?
I’ve had this post on my mind for a month or so and then bumped into this (excellent) post – It Isn’t (Always) Personal: a Bloggers Take on Not Accepting Self-Published Books – by Kate Tilton which prompted me into action.
As a self-published author, when you’re out there on the internet scouting for book bloggers to review your book you come up against a lot of ‘we don’t accept self-published authors‘. Fine. It’s their blog and I’ve no God given right to be accepted by anyone.
The reasons Kate gives in her article of why (some) book bloggers don’t accept self-published authors are; quantity, quality and professionalism.
I understand all these, especially quality. I remember reading the first chapter of a story on one of those publisher backed platforms, the ‘author’ had managed to describe a woman’s rack as bouncing up and down via the metaphor of being on a trampoline 3 times in the first chapter alone. I never went back. I can only imagine the dire shite some reviewers have had to go through before they finally shut up shop to self-published authors for good.
Quantity could be tamed by stipulating certain milestones such as number of reviews (which BookBub does).
Professionalism may be let down by self-publishers but it’s not their exclusive domain. I don’t quite agree with the argument Kate makes about traditionally published authors having to answer to their publishers if they step out of line. There’s been a few sock puppet authors out there behaving badly who should know better due to their full-time writing status. People can be dicks on the internet, no question. If any writer is being a dick through blogs, Twitter and elsewhere then I’d hope the news would quickly spread and the appropriate levels of ridicule and ostracisation befitting such a dick would soon ensue.
(Although, check out the example I linked to. That earned him national press across ALL the major outlets and I bet it resulted in an upswing of sales. So, unprofessionalism isn’t always going to hit the bottom line in a negative way).
Is there a happy medium? Is it possible for established book reviewers to read an unsolicited, self-published book?
Last month Buzzfeed asked it’s member ‘Tell us how you write, where you write and what keeps you going and you could be featured in a future BuzzFeed post.‘ so I thought I’d note down a couple of comments.
In the end I got carried away and wrote the following;
I’ve written 3 novels. My routine has evolved so that I prefer to write away from home in a coffee shop. My back has to be against a wall though because I’m paranoid of people looking over the shoulder and laughing. I have a laptop with Internet connection, it’s handy for finding quick answers and rewarding myself with some procrastination after finishing a chapter/page/paragraph/really convoluted metaphor. Make sure your laptop is charged or that you have a plug.
I listen to deep house tunes with little to no lyrics, so I’m in the groove but not distracted. I like to write in the afternoon because of work, lie ins and vegging in the evening.
I don’t set myself a word count. My only goal each day is to sit down and write just one sentence. 99% of the time after you’ve written one sentence the rest just flows. I don’t meticulously plan nor fly by the seat of my pants, I’m a ‘structuralist’. I know the beginning and the end, and I only plan an outline 2 or 3 chapters in advance as I go, this gives me a goal but also the flexibility to change if characters and events are leading me elsewhere. I finish when I’m stuck or when I reach the end of a chapter. Momentum for me is key, I don’t believe in the idea of stopping early so that momentum is carried over to the next day. With me, it’s forgotten.
If you’re stuck, sleep on it, go for a run, a walk, go to work, just step away from your laptop. It’s amazing what gets sorted out when you’re not staring at a blank page. I outline in a paper notebook and take notes, especially at the very beginning. Flesh out ideas, characters, plots, sub plots, themes, try to delve a bit deeper than that initial idea. The notebook comes in handy a year later when you’re fresh out ideas and you’ve only got a handful of chapters to go, sitting there will be a scribbled gem you’d cleanly forgotten about.
Write everyday but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t, life gets in the way. If you do 5 days out of 7, you’re doing alright.
The first draft is key; keep going, keep that momentum going, don’t reflect, judge or critique. You have other drafts to do that. Don’t sweat the small things; names, a wide vocabulary, how to dissolve a body, grammar, etc, all the details can be fixed in subsequent drafts just keep moving! Get the first draft finished. Finishing the first draft of your first novel will change your life forever.
Nothing I wrote got chosen to go in the final article ‘19 Writing Tips To Help You Become The Next J.K. Rowling‘ which may explain why I’m not the next JK Rowling but at least it’s a new blog post for here.
In a stroke of marketing genius and profound business acumen along with a stenching wiff of extreme desperation, I’m giving away my first born novel away for FREE.
Amazon doesn’t allow you to price your ebook for free unless it’s exclusively with them, which mine isn’t and isn’t going to be, so you’ll have to grab your freebie elsewhere.
Google Play FREE
The book has been professionally critiqued and edited and got a good review from SFBook – https://sfbook.com/in-a-right-state.htm – being one of their books of the year for 2014.
Some might say, you get what you pay for, but I like to think of it as ‘paying it forward in a bartering economy with no risk to the consumer’ – let my talent for concise, poetic prose dazzle you.
If you like the book then repay the goodwill by writing a good review or mentioning it on a social media site. Don’t keep schtum.
My novel, ‘In A Right State‘, was launched in June 2014, about 18 months ago. The sales stats are pretty shocking. Sold about 30. So, what now?
I could keep the status quo and also hold fast to the principle that art costs money but, in reality, where is that going to get me? A few months ago I did a BookBub promotion giving away the ebook for free on iBooks and got a few thousand downloads. It also resulted in a few extra reviews on iBooks…literally, about 5.
Giving away my novel for free is a bit of a shitter but the main crux I have to resorting to this measure is that the USP of this book is the price; the ‘freeness‘ of it. Not the story, the writing, the plotting, the characters, the marketing, nor even the cover which I didn’t do myself, but the price. The most successful act of my writing career so far is giving something away for free.
But fuck it. It’s also a career move. I’m currently submitting ‘Blindsided‘ to agents with just the mention I’ve previously self-published a novel. But if I can successfully give away this first novel to a bunch of people, garnering more positive reviews and also drumming up some new Twitter followers then submitting to more agents with some positive numbers might help swing their opinion my way. Publishing is a business. Katie Price’s ghost written opus’s are published because they’re a guaranteed seller, not because they’re going to threaten the Man Booker shortlist.
So, my debut, self-published novel, professionally edited and designed, costing a pretty penny to launch is now a mere marketing vehicle. I had such elevated dreams for this young fellow, now it’s been relegated to walking the streets with a sandwich board over it’s shoulders.
First, I’ll list the ebook as free on iBooks, Kobo, etc and then hope that Amazon picks up that it’s free elsewhere and change their own listing to free (see – Amazon, Let Me Give My eBook Away!). Once it’s listed as free everywhere then I’ll try and do one more BookBub promotion. Hopefully that’ll really ramp the numbers up and see where that takes me.
Not to the bank, obviously 🙂
Here’s a double post rolled into one.
About this time last year I wrote about – My Writing Goals for 2015 – so here they are along with a quick review on each one;
- Finish 2nd and 3rd draft of Novel 3, ‘Blindsided’ by Easter. – Done.
- Give copies to beta readers for feedback. – Done.
- Write 4th draft of ‘Blindsided’ based on feedback. – Done.
- Get first 3 chapters and synopsis professionally edited and sent off to agents. – Done.
- Get ‘In A Right State’ onto other online retailers. – Done.
- Keep an eye out for marketing opportunities for ‘In A Right State’ and experiment with price. – Done.
- Get 2nd novel, ‘Broken Branches’, professionally critiqued and edited in the 2nd half of 2015 and look to get a self-published version launched early 2016. – Totally failed. ‘Blindsided’ took longer than I expected, eating up most of the year and it’ll be too expensive for me to release ‘Broken Branches’ next year unless a personal financial miracle happens.
- Write more blog posts. – Done.
- Think more about 4th novel (untitled) and make notes. – Half done. I’ve thought about my next project but haven’t made notes yet, see here – Starting all over again, a new ‘Project’.
My writing goals for 2016 are going to be a lot simpler as I’m at the beginning of a project. Here they are;
- Finish the first draft of my new writing project, whatever it is.
- Continue to list ‘In A Right State’ online and as a POD paperback but list the ebook for free to generate downloads and reviews.
- Write more blog posts.
- Continue to submit ‘Blindsided’ to agents.
I think that’s about it. Looks so easy, only four things to do!
Three novels written and now I’m at that beautifully naive stage; the very beginning. Anything is possible.
I was last here about 3 years ago – Novel 3 is Go, Go Go! – so it’s been a while but the feeling overwhelming me the most is not the dread of the blank page but not having anything to work on at the moment.
I’ve titled this post with ‘Project’ rather than ‘Novel’ because 2 of my 3 ideas are not novels. A part of me is tempted to go elsewhere, stretch my legs and test myself with something different.
Plus I’m not exactly showering myself with success writing novels so far.
I have the experience of finishing 3 novels so cold, hard determination to get to the end doesn’t faze me. The day-to-day grind of sitting down to write, wrangling plot holes, giving life to cartoonishly and crudely drawn characters, is something I enjoy. I actually love facing a blank page and turning it into a story.
With this knowledge and experience comes confidence meaning I feel empowered to step into a new arena and challenge myself with something I’ve never done before. A new novel in itself is enough of a challenge so maybe a better way to look at it is; I fancy a bit of a change.
So my 3 choices are;
- Contemporary Novel – I’ve got an idea of a man and woman meeting through one committing a (non-violent) criminal act against the other. Odds = 50%
- Football Film – I fancy writing a football film script, mainly for the reason that, can you name a decent football film? If you can name a fictional film with at least passable (pun intended) passages of play, let me know. Odds = 65%
- Interactive eBook/App – I’ve written some novels, I’ve produced an ebook and I used to be a web developer so it only seems natural to try and create some kind of interactive story. I’ve got a few ideas and I’m currently reading ‘Her Story‘ and I’ve got ‘Black Bar‘ lined up to go next. Odds = 80%
I’ve got my pre-project rituals all set up. There’s only two. A new A4 notebook and a new playlist of deep house tracks collected over the past year. Now to spend some time thinking, making notes and exploring these 3 ideas until one grabs me by the balls and says ‘Create me!’.
A couple of weeks ago I submitted my novel, ‘Blindsided‘, to 5 agents. I upped my game this time and hired the services of an editor BEFOREHAND for a critique of the whole novel, to copy-edit the first 3 chapters and help with the synopsis and cover letter.
Overall I’m well happy this submission package is a lot better than the previous 2 I’ve sent out in the past purely because I’ve had an editor work with me on it. Comparing what I’ve put together for Blindsided with my 2 previous novels plus the fact I think this novel has more commercial appeal means I’m giving it my very best shot.
Also, because my previous 2 novels were speculative fiction and this current one is more of a contemporary novel, I’m also looking for different agents which makes the searching a little more interesting and also widens the net a little.
So now I’m in a little dead zone between finishing one novel and starting another. A welcome break until I crack open a brand new notebook and start thinking about what to write next. I’m going to catch up on some reading this month and maybe do some more blog posts if I can think of anything remotely interesting to write about, whilst I try to await responses from agents, patiently.
I recently got this handsome letter from ‘The British Library‘ informing me the paperback version of ‘In A Right State‘ is now taking up valuable space on their hallowed shelves. Well, it’s deposited, not yet indexed, so it’s probably propping a door open or straightening a wonky table leg.
So how can a self-published slice of speculative fiction end up at The British Library?
Go to – How to deposit printed publications – on The British Library website. Here it gives you a brief description of why and where to send it, there’s more in-depth information on ‘Legal Deposit‘ here. I simply wrote my address on a post-it note (sick of writing cover letters!) and stuck it to the front cover, signed the book and posted it off. No SAE required.
From posting my book off to receiving this receipt took about 2/3 months.
My book was published by Completely Novel so it’s good quality and has an ISBN number. The British Library doesn’t mention either of these points as being a pre-requisite but I doubt they accept stapled pages of A4 paper.