When your first work isn’t your best work, hone your writing as you go.

Floating Donut by Scarce at Wikimedia Commons

Hi there, Readers.

Have you ever hit the send button to submit your work, but then only moments after uttered a Homer Simpsonesque, “Doh! What have I done?”

Few authors will admit it, but I’m going to be honest here, trot out on a limb and present my “Doh!” moment for your perusal. It comes with highs and lows of what worked and what didn’t.

After sending my MS off to the publisher I realized that things were missed here, could have been structured better there. Timeframe might have been made clearer, etc.. Not to mention that my story strayed from the style of conventional books on the subject. I took a risk writing my novella, Stealing Time, in a non-traditional fashion, and wasn’t sure it would play out.

Formulaic lessons of writing generally call for a tidy wind-up in true Spielberg style; hero leading everyone safely over the top of the mountain, sun caressing shoulders, planes flying past in salute, and everyone beaming smiles down on a shining end.

Well, I didn’t want that.

My original goal in writing Stealing Time was to craft it with content and ending that you might find in the comic book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, the original Watchmen. Their work left much to the imagination, some things hidden and simply not explained, and therefore open to delightful speculation.  A current example of the cliff-hanger style I wanted to replicate is Dirke Tiede’s manga-styled, Paradigm Shift. The author keeps me anxious to grab the next copy to see how it ends–or begins–come to think of it. Consider adding his series to your shelves.

But I digress; the desire to write in a way that was familiar to me as a reader, was harder to create as an author. I  ploughed my way inexpertly and inelegantly through my manuscript with plenty of “Doh!” moments. And yes, comments after publication on Amazon reflect those mistakes. Fortunately, most folk who read it liked it, but more importantly, they voiced complaints. What readers had to say provided a place to start in terms of improving my writing, even if it was after publication. So, what did I learn from the “Doh!” factor?

I practiced my art, writing to their demands to bring them an improved experience in the sequel. The readers  became my guides in bringing secondary characters into play, having them better developed, digging deeper into the plot, etc.. But, stubborn to the last, I kept true to my original vision, tried various techniques to explain just enough but not too much, because I remembered something else that shone through those reader comments.

Most of them wanted more.

Though my fledgling novel had holes in it, my goal to create a cliffhanger, something I haven’t often come across, succeeded because my readers liked it. It drove them crazy that it ended where it did. They were startled that not everyone had been saved, that questions went unanswered, that the plot thickened only to come to an end. The outcome? Mistakes of my first book were balanced by its success of keeping the readers engaged, turning the pages, and wanting more.

My point is, your early efforts might not be your Magnum Opus. Perhaps they fly in the face of traditional thought or style. Whatever your personal experience, consider a few questions: Can you know what your best work is if you haven’t yet written it? Moreover, how can a work with mistakes possibly be a success? By all means edit, and edit voraciously, but until you risk sending your book out into the world, how can you know if it will fly with your readers?

The answer lies in how you perceive success, and I have a theory that every book has an audience anxious to turn its pages, even through “Homer” moments.

*If a reads your work, even leaves a negative comment, if they point out where the author lost them, you have a map for your next efforts to impress Mr. Tough-Reader. That leads to working harder and smarter, which leads to higher knowledge and better acceptance from a tough audience.

*When a person takes the time to read your work and leave a comment, even if the comments are mixed, consider how many other books they might have read, and perhaps not commented upon. A great or mediocre response to your book means it is worthwhile to that reader, and their comments are an open invitation to hone your skills and delight them further in future.

*Finally, a book’s influence can be measured by what a reader takes with them when the last page is turned. You may not consider it your greatest achievement, but someone else may have an entirely different opinion. One of my favorite comments for Stealing Time, though not written on Amazon, was relayed to me through a bookclub. The reader said, “It angered me that it ended.” What a great compliment! Why so great? Because it touched off an emotional connect to the story and the characters and left him wanting more.

That’s more than enough encouragement for me to continue pounding the keys.

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Write to Pub Wednesday: Give it Away Free for e-Book Market Visibility

Give it away at a Bloghop!

Greetings All,

You’ve got your book marketing platform built, blog or website in place, buy-links to purchase your e-Book accessible and user friendly; but still you have one question; where are all the customers? Where are the other authors for mutual support and camaraderie in the field?

The answer is: If you build it, you must get out there and mingle and put your work into their hands; then they will come. You can do this on the internet or in person, just as you would in any face to face environment. Once you’ve built an online reputation that is welcoming and shows a genuine interest in supporting your fellow scribblers, they will come. Readers, however, sometimes need a little bit more to sweeten the pot before they come out of hiding.

Let’s face it; people like free. Doesn’t matter if someone is hawking an old stick. The question becomes, “What will it cost me?” And if the answer is , “Here, it’s free!” I feel safe in saying that in a crowd, someone will imagine all the things they might create with that old stick. Polish, carve, paint it, whatever; the point is they will step up and say, “I’ll take it!” But people are like a flocks of birds. We are creatures of habit. That same person may return to see if there is anything else you’re handing out, and so will the crowd in general; after all did you see the fantastic cane that guy made from an old stick? As a new author, or an up and coming author, how about enticing them with a free copy of your book for a limited period of time, or perhaps a gift card to Amazon for visiting and subscribing to your blog?

One of the best ways to earn a following is to reward your readers to be. Post a free excerpt on your blog if it is copyrighted. If you aren’t worried about copyright, post work just for the enjoyment of writing it and inviting people to read it. One of my favorite blogs belongs to a friend, author Nishi Serrano. For a glimpse of a great horror author in action, she posts free samples of her writing a chapter at a time. Essentially, people who visit regularly get to read an entire book for free just for showing up. How cool is that? There’s a cracking good horror tale in the works right now, just scroll down past the fun and creepy cars of horror films, over the pics of cute animals, and there you will find a lovely little tale called the Bilge. I’ve read it and anticipate the next installment with bated breath–and with the lights on. Check it: Author Nishi Serrano

Giving a way a title for free now and then creates interest in your brand. Another way to do this is joining a blog hop or two. Bloghops seem complicated to a noob, but they are simply a way for authors and readers to find each other. A site hosts a bloghop, sometimes based around a theme. Authors prepare a writing or a welcome for the given day and post it to their blog or website. All the sites are linked through the bloghop host, and all authors give away a prize of some sort; generally a free copy of their E-book or paper print book to one lucky hopper.  I participated in a blog hop before my book ever came out! It was fun meeting all the authors and visiting their sites, too. I even won a book myself! Not too shabby. For that hop, with express permission from my publisher, I gave away in advance two copies of Stealing Time. Now that my book is released, I’ll send them their copies as a download. That’s it! I found the bloghops well worth my time. Connections I made through participation in that hop are invaluable. I’m participating in another hop coming this October.

Many authors out there will balk at giving away their work for free, but there are an equal number who swear that a giveaway for a short length of time pumps up their readership and sales; this is true for traditional-pub or self-pub authors, but if you are with a traditional company, check with them first to see if you can. Self pubbed authors can do it whenever they feel the need to stir up some interest in their books! Here’s a site to read it for yourself: lindsayburoker 5 reasons to consider giving away a free ebook.

There is a money guru by the name of Suzy Orman who is constantly saying that to receive money, you have to be willing to release that money back into the universe, you must give back to society to keep the money flowing to you. At least that is the gist of what she says. I believe her. I might not have a lot to offer right now; but I can giveaway a free read every now and then, and I have traveled the long road form writer to published author. It is my mission to give back to all of you who still travel this road and help me have a better understanding of the best in human nature, and to share it along the way. Remember to be nice because you are making connections, not burning bridges; share what you learn, give away a little bit of yourself and your brand, and mingle at the bloghops!

Cheers!

C.K. Garner

Shopping Out Your E-Book: Are you covered?

Hi Writers!

I discovered an interesting surprise today. Many of you are aware that my first E-Book, Stealing Time released just two days ago. A friend told me yesterday that it was up on Amazon. This seems obvious, I know, but I was paying attention to sales from my publishing company’s site rather than thinking about other venues. Today, curious as to how far across the boards I could find my book, I did a little bit of digging. It is a wake-up call to see how many markets a book crosses to get it in front of the viewing public.

Some might view it as checking out the competition; but that is an incorrect assumption. Perhaps the venues compete with each other, but for the author having your work available across a wide range of venues increases your chances of being picked up by a new reader. That is good marketing at its simplest form whether you are a self-published author or with a traditional company. Make sure your readers or even just the curious can find you with minimal effort–every click is a potential sale. So where can you find a copy of Stealing Time? Check this out!

Stealing Time on Amazon only $0.99 cents!

Stealing Time on Smashwords only $0.99 cents!

Stealing Time on Barnes and Noble only $0.99 cents!

Stealing Time on Manic Readers only $0.99 cents!

Stealing Time on Musa Publishing only 0.99 cents!

I only covered five venues, but you’re getting the idea, right? Make sure that your readers can easily find you across multiple websites. Market wherever and whenever you can.

Thanks for reading, now go and check to see where your readers can find you, and add a site if needed. Remember to come on back for Write to Pub Wednesdays!

Cheers!

C.K. Garner

Write to Pub Wednesday: A Social Media Market List

MARKET DAY!

Hi Folks!

When you take a trip to the local market do you have a habit of tossing a motley group of unconnected items into your basket? What’s the problem with that strategy, you ask?

Purchase too much or too little and you wind up spending your time and money on random things that don’t work together to make a good meal, or you wind up with lots of  spoiled goods, which is like tossing money into the trash bin. For a better way to shop just make a list before you hit the market.

The same strategy can work for your visibility as a new author, or as a writer on the road to publication. You want to develop a marketing platform which can bring you into the blogo-sphere and put your name out in front of the world! So what do you need to achieve this feat? A MARKETING LIST.

List One: BLOG

Start with something cost effective. If you can get it free of charge, even better. The simplest way to keep your promotional costs low and get into the habit of engaging with your future audience is with a BLOG. There are several great sites in which to explore this arena. Try one of the following sites to nab a free blogsite and begin building your web presence and your brand.

http://www.wordpress.com

http://www.blogspot.com

http://www.weebly.com

Choose a blogsite, build some content and personality into it, set a schedule to post regularly, and you are on your way to Web visibility, where before you had no connection at all. My advice is to keep it free for as long as you can. Many successful authors are content with just the blog service itself; however, when you are ready to invest a few dollars into it, consider buying a DOMAIN. Most sites will do this for a small fee, converting what you already have on your blog service into your own personal WEBSITE.

Here’s an example of a regular blog address–  http://www.bathtublub.blogspot.com   –kind of long isn’t it?

This example reads like a domain address–  http://www.bathtublub.com  –much easier on everyone involved.

The value in owning your domain is the simplicity in which people can now find you in a search. It is also easier on you as a writer whenever you need to type it out, and looks cleaner on a business card or connected to other social media.

List Two: TWITTER

Signing up for a Twitter account is easy, and once again, cost effective because it is free! Did you notice I didn’t put Twitter on the list of Blogs? Twitter is in itself like a mini-quick blog to tell the world about yourself. The great advantage of Twitter is that if you are short on time, because all posts on Twitter are a mere 140 characters or fewer, you can spend the minimum of time getting the maximum from your efforts. If you allot time to re-tweet and connect with other writers and authors, really just be happy for them when something goes right, sympathize when the crap is hitting the fan, and enjoy the mutual company; all else will follow. The key is to support your fellow Twitter users, and they return the favor. Trust me; this works better with Twitter, but can apply for blogging, too!

So once again, what is the difference between Twitter and a blog besides shorter content? Currently Twitter doesn’t show all you might need to post as an author. You can link to cover art, or content for instance, but not show an image unless you use it as your avatar. You might also want to post excerpts form your published works, or tales that you don’t intend to publish, thoughts you pen for sheer enjoyment of the act, writing practice, and don’t mind sharing to an audience on the Web. A blog allows for you to post content of a variety of lengths, cover art, hold discussions, guest-host other authors and writers, post excerpts, and whatever else you want to do with the space.

List Three: FACEBOOK and GOOGLE+

Okay, this is where I diverge on usability and visibility.

Facebook appears to be a great reach-out community, but with the new arrangements in visibility on the part of the folks who run it; getting your brand out there can be a daunting task. I can say that being with a small publishing house came with some advantages; we connect to each other and therefore have a built in mutual audience. On the other hand, I’m not sure that the average Joe, unless he is already well connected is going to reach an audience unless he goes with one if its pay versions. Since my experience with this is still in an experimental stage, I will explore it further and report back to you.

Google+ is a new experience for me, but I find it easy to use, and it is beginning after only a couple of months to pick up speed as a viable social media tool. One of its best features is the Google Alert. The Google alert, once set up, will send a notice to your inbox anytime someone searches for you on Google! How’s that for staying on top of your social loop? I’ve only been using Google alerts for a week and already it has sent several messages to me. Some folk searched for me by name: C.K. Garner, and others by my website blog title: Blog, Paper Scissors. That surprised me. My book, Stealing Time, goes live in two days. I have just set the parameters for Google to alert me if anyone searches for it; very exciting!

So how do we make these items work together?

List Four: LINK IT!

Every one of the above mentioned formats can be linked to each other through an APP.  The simplest description for the function of an APP is that it enables a person to easily share content from one site into another. You can easily connect your BLOG or WEBSITE to your TWITTER account, FACEBOOK, GOOGLE+, and where ever else you’d like to connect your marketing platforms together!

So this is your final checklist for Try it Thursday–or later depending on when you read this!

Social Media Market List:

BLOG

(or)WEBSITE

TWITTER

FACEBOOK

GOOGLE+

LINK WITH APP
These are the beginnings of what I hope will be a successful marketing experience for you as Writers and Authors. Well, I gotta go now; need to post this to my other social media sites and get my brand out there! Oh, and remember; my E-Book Stealing Time, a steampunk novella, releases August 10, 2012! Come on back and I’ll have a purchase link posted!

Cheers!

C.K. Garner

Write to Pub Wednesday: Traditional Publish or Self Publish?

That moment of self realization has come; you are ready to begin the publishing process. So self pub or traditional? Holymoly, this is a huge subject, and lately all over the news and the Net. How is a writer on the verge of discovery to choose which route to follow?

Let me begin by saying that my coming release is traditionally pubbed. That said, I’d still very much like to try my hand at self pubbing, too, just to have that experience. It is not whether one is better than another; it is more which one works for the present situation. It is about achieving the balance between life as an author and commitment outside a writing career. Choose the one that  suits your current position best, keeping in mind that the other stepping stone awaits should you decide to walk that path at a later date.

So why did I decide on traditional over self-pub for my book even though the traditional process takes longer? Chalk it up to inexperience. I can write, am a decent fact finder and edit with some success; but technology? Not my strong-suit. I decided to learn from the experience of going the traditional route and hone skills already present. Now, I have that knowledge to build on for self-pubbing later. Going initially with my strongest skill-set; learning and perfecting those before delving into self-pub is akin to an athlete changing their ultimate competitive sport. Could a swimmer make the transition to competitive rowing? Probably. Will the skills I’ve learned and perfected from traditional publishing transfer to self pubbing? Absolutely.

Balancing a day-job along with family needs left  little time to commit to another venture–but commit I did. While researching traditional and self-pubbed authors, the importance of scheduling time to write vs other needs cropped up time and again, mirroring my own situation. Having elements ready to go is like having a pre-made lunch packed for a long haul; very convenient and ultimately saves time and money.

Mastering the technology of self-pub appeared daunting for this newbie; I can barely program a cell-phone, let alone design cover art, format a manuscript into shape for an eBook or printrun, not to mention self-editing vs other people’s eyes making a huge difference in quality of the final product. The traditional publishing house was golden because they provided technical items such as no fee in-house editing, free cover artist, access to house-only master classes taught by seasoned professionals to better perfect writing and marketing skills, guides for style and content, a built in network of editors, and other authors for mutual support. All this leaves an author free to decipher the wonders of social media and set up a marketing platform for the book release. Did I mention that my publisher helps with that, too? The big picture here is getting a book to publication takes a commitment of time no matter which way you go. A traditional publisher can help free up your valuable time by providing a variety of services.

There exists the option of paying for most items listed, but funds were dear, and time to explore providers was being sucked up by my research for how to craft a better story, setting up and sending in a manuscript and to whom, learning about submitting to a big house vs a smaller house, and avoidance of predators within the business. Are you becoming aware that the true price of getting your work published involves a dogged perseverance and an Iditarod Musher’s drive? Good! Then we’re on to the next leg of our trip: Self Publishing.

You have some tech skills, are comfortable enough in the social media-sphere that set up comes easily, have a manuscript that looks like it is ready to go, and possess some knowledge about photo-shop. Sounds to me like you are a candidate for self-pub road-trip. There is a whole host of information about self-pub how to sites on the web,  in books, and even indie groups to help in setting it up. As with traditional publishing, there can be a lot of footwork involved in tracking down the right elements needed for your self-pubbed book, but there are plenty of authors who boast great success at it. Self published books are a hot ticket, if you do the research and put in the time to do it right, you can have your work in your readers hands the second you hit send. But wait! Before you hit that golden button, lets time out from the publication race to discuss proper execution of form.

What are the drawbacks of self Pub? The foremost gripe about self pubbing is the number of mistakes that appear in the final copy. Self pubbers need to allot plenty of time for rewriting. Run that manuscript by a handful of friends for critiquing, maybe join a writing group, hit up an old teacher for advice; anything to whip your manuscript into shape and catch errors. The downside of these books is that they have a reputation for poor content. I say rubbish to that. It isn’t a lack of good content; more it’s a lack of proper editing. The value of an outside editor is that they aren’t in your head.Your work comes across to them in an entirely new perspective because it is seen through different eyes. If your invited beta reader doesn’t get it, neither will your future audience. Time to chop sections that don’t work and rewrite until the meaning is clear.

Which brings us to the finished product–or does it? You have created your cover art, edited and polished your manuscript until it shines, consulted with indie groups for content and formatting, chosen where you are going to upload it for release day–what did you miss?

Marketing. Second to editing, for a self pubbed author, the trail of a social media platform through keen distribution plan is key to hitting a home run. In this arena, self pub is no different from traditional pub. Your name is your brand as much as your product, so getting it out there is what will make you visible to future customers.

So, which path is the best for you? If you research, train, and map out a good plan, there are multiple ways to reach the summit. Consider both types of publishing as valuable components in building your road. The short  answer is; each writer is unique; so their paths in publishing will differ too, but both have the same goal on the journey from writer to published author.

Odyl and Facebook Marketing: Worth it for Authors?

Image

For my next act I will gargle peanut butter!

What does it take to get your FB page noticed as an author? How can you market your brand name as an author and make book(s) more visible to fans and potential new readers?

Here is a company that appears to have a solution. Odyl has its eye on authors. From what I can see, it markets not only to the big six, but also to smaller publishing sites and indie authors through a fully integrated Facebook platform. What does this mean for authors? Take a look at what author J.T. Ellison has to say in a guest post on Odyl website. She’s not the only one touting its virtues. I scouted around the web and found several authors using Odyl to boost their visibility and sales.

I’m interested in seeing what it might cost for such a grand scheme. Sent a note to Odyl to have a look at prices and see if they have something manageable for new authors. I’ll let you know the results.  Have a look at the article from AllFacebook.

Facebook Marketing Tool Odyl Boosts Authors

Yea! I’m getting published! What Happens Next?

Howdy Peeps,

Yes, it’s been a long, lonely time since I posted to my wonderful followers about cuttin’ through the red tape to the gettin’ published finish line, but here I am, and I am happy to say that I’ve finally crossed and broken through the ribbon*drum roll please* I’m getting published! Musa Publishing  accepted my manuscript, Stealing Time for publication in their Urania Speculative and Sci-fi imprint. Stealing Time is scheduled for release August 10, 2012. Can you say walkin’ on air and thus giving my tootsies a break? *big grin*

So, now that I’ve found a publisher, submitted my manuscript, had it accepted, and signed the contract I get to sit back and ride the magic carpet to success as an author, right?

Well, I’m afraid that is dead wrong, my friends. It’s time to get back to reality, here.

Getting accepted by a publishing house, large or small is just the beginning. There will be blood. Okay, maybe not blood, but there are blogs, email accounts such as Blogger and WordPress, Twitter, and Facebook to set up and link, author groups within your publishing house to take an active role in further honing your craft, author interviews to set up  for yourself, and interviews by you for your fellow authors, taglines and blurbs to write and rewrite that will help to sell your book, descriptions for the artists to consider when creating your cover, and supporting your fellow writers in their endeavors, and so much more. Not to mention writing your sequel, ahahahaha, that’s the  part we love!

Those of you who thought you were entering a cakewalk, or are just plain chickening out may leave the building. We don’t condemn you, seriously, who wouldn’t balk at that list? Of course, it does make one wonder if all writers and authors aren’t just a little nuts, because here we are, ready to get cracking!

Okay, all those still in the game are go. Let’s have some liquid courage before we get into the new round of discussions, you can never get enough caffeine in you if you’re in it for the long haul. *pours various forms of highly caffeinated beverages all around* 

Next Blog:

Square One: Why I chose an E-book publisher over a traditional format publisher.