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July 23rd, 2013

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Writing in the Face of Fear

February 11th, 2012

I’m getting ready to re-vision my blog. By that I mean I’m going to take a short break to brainstorm some great ideas for future posts. I want to make this a place you can stop by to pick up handy tips and inspirational messages to help you in your day-to-day life, as well as catch a weekly laugh.

That being said, I don’t want to just leave you high and dry while I work up a new plan, so I’ll be re-posting some of the best from the last year. Enjoy!

Writing in the Face of Fear

In his book The Courage to Write, Ralph Keyes tells us that every writer worth his or her salt has a fear of writing.  It’s not just a fear of being rejected by a traditional publisher, although fear of rejection often causes the would-be author to become what Ralph calls a “trunk writer” (someone who writes something, then puts it in a drawer or “trunk”).  There’s also the fear of the blank page (or blank screen).  We writers give it the nice euphemism of “writer’s block,” but more often it’s fear.  What if I can’t come up with anything?  What if I do and it’s crap?

Brenda Ueland has an answer to that in her book If You Want to Write.  She says it doesn’t matter.  She dares each of us to try to write the worst story we can because she believes even in the worst we can find great stuff.  Brenda cautions the would-be author not to get too hung up on technical details of writing and encourages us all to put something of ourselves into everything we do.

While I agree with Brenda on both parts, Independent Authors do need to make each work as flawless as possible before going to print.  It’s impossible to get anything perfect, but it is possible to make everything the best you can.  Ralph gives several suggestions on how to do this in The Courage to Write. Another good source for things to look for is Edward C. Patterson’s eBook Are You Still Submitting to Traditional Publishers? When it comes to technical aspects such as punctuation, my favorite resource is The St. Martin’s Handbook.  If you plan to freelance for magazines and newspapers, you’ll probably want a recent edition of The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual.

Knowing I have several good resources at hand helps me face the fear of writing, but I still find myself frustrated by the blank page on occasion.  Ralph points out that many great writers have what he calls rituals to help them get started.  Having a ritual may seem like a waste of time (sharpening 20 pencils before writing like Hemingway did certainly qualifies in my mind), but if it’s what gets you in the right frame of mind then it’s worth the “wasted” time.  Personally, I know I can’t string more than two words together without having my desk relatively cleared of clutter and a hot cup of Earl Grey tea at hand.  Whatever you need to do to psych yourself up to write, do it.  Just don’t let your ritual become an excuse not to write.

Although I won’t go so far as to say embrace your fear, I will say that knowing the fear is there for your fellow writers can be a comfort.  You’re not alone.  Remembering that and having a few good resources at  hand makes writing a little more enjoyable and a lot less frightening.

How do you face your fears?

Ebook Buyers: Can You Afford To Lose Them?

January 29th, 2012

ereader photoI recently read a guest post by Chris Keys, author of The Fishing Trip – A Ghost Story and Reprisal!: The Eagle Rises!, about the difficulties of selling self-published books.  According to Chris, he’s only sold about a dozen books.  It seems typical of independent authors, but here’s the catch: I looked for Chris’ book The Fishing Trip – A Ghost Story on Amazon and found that he only had it in print. (Update: Chris has now jumped on board and has his books in multiple formats, as well as taking advantage of the Kindle Unlimited program)

What really bothers me about this is that he used CreateSpace to publish his book.  I would think putting out a Kindle edition as well as a print edition would have been a no brainer.  It’s really too bad Chris didn’t go with both because I was poised to purchase an eBook edition, provided the price was right, on the spot.  I wishlisted the book, but that doesn’t mean I’ll remember to go back and buy it later.

I’m left wondering how many indie author sales are lost because of this kind of shortsightedness.  Between earning higher profits on lower prices and the immediate delivery (aka immediate gratification) of eBooks, how can anyone afford not to publish in electronic format?  That’s especially true now that epublishing is free on major bookseller sites like Barnes & Noble and Amazon and through 3rd party distributors like Draft2Digital and BookBaby.

I suppose many authors cringe at the idea of formatting their manuscript into eBook format. It’s not as difficult as you might think, though it does take some time. There are numerous articles on the web on how to do this, including “How to Format Ebooks” by Jamie Wilson and “Smashwords Style Guide” by Mark Coker. If you use Adobe InDesign, check out EPUB Straight to the Point by Elizabeth Castro. For basics on Kindle formatting browse Joshua Tallent’s Kindle Formatting web site.

If you still don’t want to try formatting your own book (or find you just can’t wrap your mind around it) then find someone who can. Indie Author April L. Hamilton of Publetariat warns us of taking the cheap route and simply converting a manuscript rather than having it formatted properly. It’s better to spend a little money on putting out a great book, than lose readers due to poor formatting.

Formatting is different from conversion in that formatting standardizes the manuscript and creates any companion files needed for the eBook while conversion is simply loading the work into a program and clicking a button. Conversion is easy. Formatting takes more time and effort.

Regardless of whether you choose to do it yourself or have someone else do it for you, if you want to get your book into the hands of more readers, don’t neglect the eBook format.

How important are multiple formats, especially ebooks, to you?

Photo by The Daring Librarian

Avoiding Dragons With a Training Budget

October 29th, 2011

Welcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

How often have you overspent on a “deal” that was guaranteed to help increase your income, but left you broke instead? How many times have you lacked the funds necessary to buy that eBook that could teach you ways to improve your marketing strategy?

If you’re like most Independent Authors, myself included, the times for either scenario are many. So what can you do to safe-guard against those ups and downs in your finances and take control of your spending?

Budget.

If your primary goal is to continue to improve yourself, whether that means your writing or how you market your product, having money allocated specifically to continued education assures you that the money is there when you need it without having to ask the dragon (aka credit cards) to fit the bill. Using a budget for those funds also forces us to think before we buy.

Michael Martine of RemarkaBlogger suggests in his post “The Most Important Question You Need to Stop Asking Yourself” that you first set training goals, something specific like learning how to take advantage of social media to market your book, and then take a look at how you spent your “training” money in the past year. (If you’ve read The Money Book you’re a step ahead already.)

From there he tells us to set our quarterly budget by taking the amount we’re comfortable with spending over a year and dividing it by four. As Michael says setting a training budget helps us decide between what is a good buy and what would make us “the victim of others for their gain.”

While we’re setting a spending limit, it’s based on past experience.

As Simple Life in France puts it in “How to budget for inspiration not deprivation” by building a budget at the end of the month, or in this case upon last year’s spending, “your budget is just an honest friend here to tell you the truth about the way you spend your money. You’re making observations, not judgments.”

As my mentor, FlyLady Marla Cilley, says, in order to improve ourselves we need to get rid of the “stinkin’ thinkin’.” That means not beating ourselves up each time we overspend, but rather making an effort to do better this month.

If you want to budget for your continued training, basing it upon last year’s spending and reviewing it at the end of each month can be a real stress reliever, especially when you can congratulate yourself for staying within your limits.

What approaches have you used to tame your finances?

***

Catch up on the adventure with other books in the Malkin series.

Apprentice Cat CoverApprentice Cat available in paperback and for KindleNookKoboScribd and iTunes.

Buy the .pdf now 

Also available as an audiobook on AudibleAmazon and iTunes.

 

 

Journeyman-Cat15percentJourneyman Cat available in paperback and KindleNookScribdiTunes and Kobo.

Buy the .pdf now 

Audiobook coming soon.

 

 

Secrets-of-the-Malkin-sidebar-newsletterSecrets of the Malkin ebook version available for KindleNookiTunes and Kobo.

Buy the .pdf now 

 

 

 

Huntress of the MalkinHuntress of the Malkin ebook version available for KindleNookKobo and iTunes.

Buy the .pdf now 

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Writing in the Face of Fear

August 12th, 2011

In his book The Courage to Write, Ralph Keyes tells us that every writer worth his or her salt has a fear of writing.  It’s not just a fear of being rejected by a traditional publisher, although fear of rejection often causes the would-be author to become what Ralph calls a “trunk writer” (someone who writes something, then puts it in a drawer or “trunk”).  There’s also the fear of the blank page (or blank screen).  We writers give it the nice euphemism of “writer’s block,” but more often it’s fear.  What if I can’t come up with anything?  What if I do and it’s crap?

Brenda Ueland has an answer to that in her book If You Want to Write.  She says it doesn’t matter.  She dares each of us to try to write the worst story we can because she believes even in the worst we can find great stuff.  Brenda cautions the would-be author not to get too hung up on technical details of writing and encourages us all to put something of ourselves into everything we do.

While I agree with Brenda on both parts, Independent Authors do need to make each work as flawless as possible before going to print.  It’s impossible to get anything perfect, but it is possible to make everything the best you can.  Ralph gives several suggestions on how to do this in The Courage to Write. Another good source for things to look for is Edward C. Patterson’s eBook Are You Still Submitting to Traditional Publishers? When it comes to technical aspects such as punctuation, my favorite resource is The St. Martin’s Handbook.  If you plan to freelance for magazines and newspapers, you’ll probably want a recent edition of The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual.

Knowing I have several good resources at hand helps me face the fear of writing, but I still find myself frustrated by the blank page on occasion.  Ralph points out that many great writers have what he calls rituals to help them get started.  Having a ritual may seem like a waste of time (sharpening 20 pencils before writing like Hemingway did certainly qualifies in my mind), but if it’s what gets you in the right frame of mind then it’s worth the “wasted” time.  Personally, I know I can’t string more than two words together without having my desk relatively cleared of clutter and a hot cup of Earl Grey tea at hand.  Whatever you need to do to psych yourself up to write, do it.  Just don’t let your ritual become an excuse not to write.

Although I won’t go so far as to say embrace your fear, I will say that knowing the fear is there for your fellow writers can be a comfort.  You’re not alone.  Remembering that and having a few good resources at  hand makes writing a little more enjoyable and a lot less frightening.

5 Self-Publishing Lessons From A Toddler’s Perspective

July 23rd, 2011

It’s amazing, being a mother of a toddler, how much this little girl has taught me in just the 2 1/2 years she’s been with us. What’s even more amazing is that many of those lessons can be applied to self-publishing.

Lesson #1: Anything worth doing takes time. My daughter has been a little slow in using “big people” words, until recently. In fact, up until she turned 1 1/2, she would refuse to say words we knew she knew how to say. I can only guess the reason behind it was she wanted to be sure she could say it right before putting it out there for everyone to hear. In self-publishing,  throwing our work out to the general public before we’ve refined it to its best is a very bad decision. It’s bad for sales, bad for our reputation and bad for other self-publishers’ reputations. If we think it’s worth publishing, then we need to take the time to do it well.

Lesson #2: Learn to have patience, with yourself and those around you. Tiny Tot, as we affectionately call her, can throw some of the best tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants when she wants it. However, she’s also learned that sometimes we just have to wait. We often hear her say “Patience!” as she reminds herself that it’ll be a short wait before she can have some ice cream or that toy she really wants. As a self-publisher, we want to make it all happen right now, but that’s not the way it works. It takes time to build a fan base, time to connect through social media. Everything takes time and that’s okay.

Lesson #3: Sometimes it helps to explain what you’re doing. Refilling a sippy cup of milk used to cause a melt-down. She was getting what she wanted, more milk, but she didn’t understand what had to happen to get it. Since we began explaining each step as we do it we’ve managed to avoid those tantrums. I’ve found gathering support for my self-publishing venture easier to gain when I explain exactly what it is I’m doing along the way.

Lesson #4: If you’re having a hard time making anything do what you want, take a nap (or at least a break). When my little girl starts throwing tantrums over the smallest things, like putting in a video instead of CD or vice versa, I know it’s time for some downtime be it a nap or just a drink and some quiet rocking time with Mama. I understand where she’s coming from because when I get tired and/or frustrated with a project I know it’s time for a break — or to go to bed when I’m burning the midnight oil. Coming back to a project refreshed means being able to look at it from other angles and maybe finding a solution I didn’t see before.

Lesson #5: You can do anything you set your mind to so long as you don’t believe you can’t. Tiny Tot has done some things I didn’t think she’d be able to. For example, at eleven months old she said her first complete sentence. She asked her Grandma, “Can I do that?”, meaning she wanted to help Grandma re-load the dishwasher. If her Grandma and one of her aunt’s hadn’t also heard her say it, I would have believed my mind was playing tricks on me. She didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to be able to do that, but she did it. Self-publishing can be like that. There are a lot of experts who say you can’t do better than break even by self-publishing; however there are people doing just that. In fact, it’s said that self-published fiction books (especially in eBook form) are the least likely to be purchased and yet Independent Authors like Joe Konrath are doing quite well. These people have been told they “can’t” do what they’re doing. They just don’t accept that they “can’t.”

I’m glad I’ve taken the time to get to know my little girl because she’s given me some wonderful tips. Listening to what my toddler teaches has made my life, and my self-publishing career, a richer experience.

What have you learned from your child(ren) — including the furry ones?

***

If you’re interested in learning about prayer (what it is, why we do it, some ways to pray and how to know your prayer was answered), then check out my book Simply Prayer, available in print, for Kindle and NookAudio book version coming soon.

Christian Fiction Indie Authors Continue Success In Kindle Top 100

June 1st, 2011

As it was in mainstream fiction, so it is still among a lot of Christian writers. Many still believe the only way to be validated and sell Christian fiction is to be traditionally published. Validation, however, depends on the writer’s idea of what success means.

What is success?

If the only way a writer will feel as if he succeeded is to find his book in a brick-and-mortar store, then traditional publishing is about the only way that will happen.

However, if reaching an audience is the real answer to “what is success?”, then perhaps epublishing is the better choice.

Mainstream indie authors are continuing to prove the DIY method can lead to satisfying sales, but what about Christian indie authors? How do they fair in the Kindle Top 100’s in Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Here’s what I found.

Top 11 Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy

  • The first five books listed in Top 100 Paid were by Vaughn Heppneran indie author selling his books for $2.99 or less.
  • In sixth and tenth place was Mary Doria Russell, traditionally published by Ballantine and selling her books for $11.99.
  • Vaughn Heppner reappears in slots 7-9.
  • In the number 11 spot was Angela Hunt, also traditionally published by Thomas Nelson and selling her book for $1.27.

So what can we conclude from this little snapshot?

What’s happening in the mainstream is also happening in Christian speculative fiction. The main difference I’m seeing is that some publishers seem to be adapting quicker to the new paradigm: readers want good ebooks at low prices.

It also means that getting traditionally published will only validate your writing if that is how you view success. Indie authors writing Christian fiction have the same opportunities as any other author, provided we work smart and give it our all.

Success is a matter of choice regardless whether you choose traditional publishing or indie publishing for both mainstream and Christian fiction.