Reading a blog recently reminded me of why I found the passion to write. I remember the sense of urgency building up inside. I had no idea what I would write but I truly believe the creativity I possessed had to find a venue after years of career, family, and life took precedence. The epic fantasy family saga fiction was the result. (I'm still working on it.) From there several stories spawned from research and volumes of reading I did. But my first attempt never had the sense that it was ready for print. Recently I listened to a speaker on a webinar that quoted my journey almost verbatim.
Am I the poster child for bad beginnings?
Everything I should had done right I did wrong. Except, I never published that first book. What was recommended was to keep writing, get skilled, and learn from the mistakes all novice writers make. I did those things. My first published book was the fourth novel I wrote. I'm not convinced that we can escape all the trials and tribulations of trying to make writing a career. No, I had no plan for my story. No, I had no target audience. No, I didn't research genres, I simply wrote what I would enjoy reading myself. An obscure niche, probably? The only truth is not to give up. When giving up there is no improvement, lessons learned, or satisfaction.
The business of writing is daunting and so competitive and its basic structure has changed entirely. No longer do publishing companies take your draft from you and complete the process. Although that's what many of us would prefer.Today authors have to take on the majority of the costs and personal involvement. There are smart ways to go about it and then there's my way. Head first. I've learned so much along the way.
Especially about myself. I'm not a public speaker, never will be. I'm an introvert who loves to write and research. My passion for writing comes from curiosity and exploring situations, people, and places. Not a money making commodity. It can be an expensive hobby. There are industry standards and expenses at every turn. before and after production. But good decisions can help ease the budget burdens. A good cover, a good description, and keywords.
My excitement for writing comes from knowing others are reading my stories. The best venue for that, I found, was from Book Club reviews and trade shows, but that is a thing of the past... for now. I've had to rely on social media, the rare online reviews, and developing friendships with other writers. I've also added audiobooks into the mix. All of my books in print have an audio version available or in production. I love hearing my stores read by a narrator and my experiences with narrators have been excellent. Being sight impaired, I started listening to audiobooks several years ago. I learned what I like and had a direction when my books were produced. I prefer a single narrator whose voice can present a male and female version that's not heavy handed or theatrical. When I sought auditions for my first book I recognized my character's voice immediately. Margie Valine of margiesvoice.com was Ernestine Lambert's voice. It was a fun process for all my books. Using RS (Royalty Share) is not a choice for most seasoned voice over artists. The industry standard per hour is at least $200, and most audiobooks being 8 or 9 hours can be costly considering the cost of editing and producing the book you already paid. It is possible to find a talented novice narrator who is willing to go with the RS in which they share half the royalty and build their business.
Writing a blog is another way to build and keep clients interested in your work. It's all about service and getting your readers to know you and like what you write. I have two links below to really good information I learned in the last webinar I viewed.
I was asked to write a guest blog for Shirley Nomakeo, and I liked the idea. Here it is. My upcoming book, Touch My Head Softly, is about my experiences with my partner who died of Alzheimer's Disease. I learned a lot about Alzheimer's when my partner had it. I also did quite a bit of research on it for this collection of poems that I wrote.
Alzheimer's is a terrible disease that needs to be talked about. Alzheimer’s Disease afflicts more than five million Americans. It affects more Americans than prostate and breast cancer combined. For every person who has the disease, there’s also a caretaker and a family involved.
My collection of poems, my second, is a very personal, singular experience with Alzheimer’s Disease. My partner, a brilliant mathematics professor, was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s in his 60’s. The deterioration happened quickly and I was left in shock for years. I recently started writing these poems and a narrative and this book emerged. The book is comprised of three sections: the relationship before Alzheimer’s, the year before he died, and the aftermath following his death. It is my way of trying to make sense out of what happened. I’m donating part of the proceeds from the book to the Alzheimer's Association for research for a cure.
Eileen P. Kennedy is a poet and academic who has focused on the writing process. Her former partner died of Alzheimer’s Disease at the age of 69 and this collection is based on those experiences. Her first book, Banshees (Flutter Press, 2015) was nominated for a Pushcart Award and given Second Prize from the Wordwrite Book Award in Poetry. She holds a doctorate in language and literacy and has published a textbook, as well as fiction and nonfiction. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she canoes, hikes, and writes. She winters in Costa Rica. More at EileenPKennedy.com
Do you have any experience writing a guest blog?
My blog can be found at:
My upcoming book, Touch My Head Softly is due out in early 2021 from Finishing Line Press: Click Here
Add me to your Bookshelf on Goodreads:
Shirley McKissick embraces her cousin in front of the Fairview Bungalow.
I found this picture and it inspired me. A while ago, I wrote a memoir about my mother (child on right). If I was ever to publish it, this would be a great cover image. New day, new month, and new year all came together for me and took me out of the doldrums. My sister Catherine's gift to me at Christmas launched me back into my role as author in full. She has been at the forefront of my five year journey so far. Actually, 6 years I began on January 10, 2015. Yes, I have that date etched in my memory. A nice batch of Audiobook sales of The Summer Palace also helped me to get back in the business. Book 2, Autumn Shelter, is now in production.
My mother was an incredible woman. She lived in a time of great sorrow, great struggles, and great discoveries. Being a fiction writer, even I couldn't make this stuff up. She lived to a ripe old age outliving my father by seven years. All seven of them, hard for her to bear. She was the story teller from whom I got my gift. I often encouraged her to write, she should have but never did, seriously. She penned a few stories that she shared with us. Mostly, she talked and I listened that's how I managed to have enough insight to write her memoir. At this point I have no intention to publish it. I decided to offer it as a giveaway on my author website. I did enter it in a memoir contest, but it didn't place. Another rubber tree plant. Is that where I was around the holidays and the end of the brutal year 2020? Too many of those darn plants to move got the best of me? Writers block? I still don't really know what that is. Too many irons in the fire? Could it be my one, lone WIP that was eating away at my soul? My sister took care of that with her generous gift. Everyone should have one. I mean a sister like her, not the gift... although those are nice too.
No trade show this year. In my opinion the best way to sell books. Hard copies of my books will have to wait. Still, I concentrate on e-books, online print books, and audiobook sales. I have managed to get an interview on a podcast this week, my first, if we don't count the interview with Jay, my significant other. Podcasts are the way to improve sales, or so they say. I'm optimistic... never leave a soon unturned.
Reviving my latest writing project is another one of my resolutions. I need to do a bit more research before I pick the WIP up and dust it off. That portion of the time travel sci-fi is in line with the subject of this blog—family. Ernestine Lambert is back again traveling through time, but her antagonist Repo has resurfaced and finds himself in Ireland at the time of the famine circa 1845. My ancestors and my mother's beloved grandmother, Margaret Rose, came from Ireland. It's true they never talked about it because if Margaret Malloy ever told my mother about the harsh conditions in Ireland, she would have told me. I have been learning the horrible truth of these exiles from the land of their birth through the research I have done. This is one of the aspects I love about historical fiction. I can explore the times while writing and learning about subjects that interest me. As an indie author I'm no heavy hitter... simply trying to tell stories. It's most likely a major payback, trying to get readers to pick up my books; because I often ignored the pleas from Catherine to tell her stories when we were 12 and 7 years old respectively. My daughter enjoyed the word games we played during our commutes back and forth to elementary school. They always ended up in a story. In my career I edited a company newsletter and my stories continued. Although I never took journalism or writing in college, it was alway in my purview to write. Letters to the birth mother of my two children was another avenue that required the most important words that end up on paper. A bit of advice? Talk to your family members while you still can. You never know when the urge to write strikes and you should write what you know. A link to the pdf of my mother's memoir (unpublished) is below.
The Fairview BungalowGiveaway. It may spark interest in some of my other work.
Going on the truth that writing is a gift, then this is the perfect season to give the gift of words. There are so many authors that share their gift and too few get to read them. My writing group, a small local group averaging 6-8 writers per week, share their stories derived by prompts. On the average, we share two ten minute short stories and get one extra prompt to write over the week. I have experienced such joy over the creative responses and shared experiences these talented writers offer. Some are published and some write for the fun of it. Every one of them have enough talent for the world to see, hear, and absorb. Gifts from the heart. We encourage each other and laugh a lot. During the summer we met outside and now meet on zoom. Although we're given one prompt at a time, the results are as different as we are.
I also belong to two critique groups (online) and experience a wide variety of talent and endless creativity in the many genres. The mediators of these groups are to be given much praise for all the work they do to keep these gifts coming. The idea here is to encourage all writers, no matter the stage they're at, to hone their skills, praise their work, and encourage them to keep on giving. Gifts come in all sizes and genres.
Inde authors, I am one myself, have the obligation to self-promote and target readers. Social media is a big help but also a constant struggle. On twitter I like to pick books to read and review. That is the readers chance to re-gift. In turn, I hope someone will pick up one of my books to read and review. FB has many groups that accept self-promotion from their members. A catchy phrase or some creative posts can assist you in sharing your gifts. Audiobooks are also a great way to add dimension to your gift and repackage it to a whole new audience.
Who knows where the inspiration to write evolves? To take a story beyond a journal or diary, perhaps, or the desire to fill a creative gap in a life that somehow was shoved aside. A childhood inspiration or a long sought struggle? Whatever the reason the need is fulfilled and the result is a gift for all to share.
Here's me feeling rather baffled:
by Mercedes Rochelle
I'm embarrassed to admit it, but research on my first novel began about 30 years ago, and even so it's hard for me to remember life before the internet. Due to a poor market concerning historical fiction, a bad experience with my agent and a very thin skin, I put my book on the closet shelf and forgot about it for 25 years. Well, I didn't quite forget about it; more realistically I'd say I lost heart and considered myself a failure. Life goes on and I started my own business. Who had time to write?
But wisdom sometimes comes with middle age, and when I turned 60 I decided to blow off the dust and try again. Was I in for a surprise! Without mentioning social media (the rude awakening), I was amazed to discover a whole new wealth of source material accessible without even having to leave the house. When I think of where I started, I'm amazed I got as far as I did, research-wise.
I was born and raised in St. Louis, and one big advantage I had was the accessibility to university libraries. I could go anywhere without being a student. I investigated the dark and dusty shelves in the history section, and found some amazing books. At random, mind you. It was hit and miss (mostly miss). I decided I needed to be closer to the center of the publishing universe and moved to New York City when I was 26. One of the first places I went was the Columbia University Library, pencil sharpened, with a roll of quarters in my pocket for the Xerox machine. I went through the turnstile and came to an abrupt halt. They wouldn't let me in! Only students were allowed; I couldn't believe it. I was kind of devastated.
Lucky for me, I discovered the New York Public Library. It sounded so unassuming, but I was quickly undeceived. Now HERE was an establishment worth settling down in. Any book I could think of, and more, were available as long as I was willing to wait the 20 minutes for someone to go fetch them for me. There was a long wait for copying, too, which someone else had to do. But I didn't care; I could finally do some serious work. Of course, I often only needed a paragraph or two in my book of choice, then off to the card catalog and another 20 minute wait. It's amazing how quickly I could go through a pile of books. I remember purchasing my first hand-held copier (with a 4" wide output on a strip of paper) that you placed against the page and pulled forward. The librarians were baffled, and it took a lot of begging to get permission to use it. For some reason they feared copyright infringement, even though they were all right with Xerox copies.
Then I discovered Edward A. Freeman's "History of the Norman Conquest of England" and I thought I had hit the jackpot. It was a revelation. Here was six volumes of definitive research. Once I moved to New Jersey and paid an annual fee to use the Princeton University Library, I found the second set of Freeman. It was a great relief and spared me many trips to NYC. I could prowl the bookshelves again on my own like the good old days. I think those were the happiest days of my adult life!
But there it was. I had to go to the library if I was to make any progress. I don't remember many used book catalogues from England. If I couldn't find a book locally, it wasn't to be had. Then I made my first visit to England. OK, I admit it, I felt like one of those early 19th century art collectors gobbling up great European paintings and bringing them to America. My long-suffering boyfriend and I searched every used bookstore we could find. We even had to drive 40 miles to the nearest American Express office to get a cash advance so I could purchase a "must have" set of Joseph Strutt costuming books with hand-colored plates. (Remember the phrase "Don't leave home without it"? It didn't apply in England in the late 80s). It was the AmEx office's first attempt at a cash advance and we almost didn't get the money. Then of course, 40 miles back to a very happy book seller. I think those three books cost me $700 at the time. I still have them.
Then we moved on to Hay-on-Wye and I was in hog heaven. I found my very own Edward A. Freeman 6-volume set, a red leather-bound set of Froissart, and a pile of other hardbound books too numerous to mention. This was before luggage had wheels. Oof, what a trip through the airport that was! I think we brought home the equivalent of a large child in book weight. I couldn't believe my good fortune.
Nothing takes the place of holding those volumes in my hand and opening to my scruffy bookmarks, but now I can download those same books onto my hard drive and search the PDF files. Admittedly, PDF is faster and I will bounce over to Wikipedia when I need a quick answer. Still, I have a pile of books below my computer and I go to them first when I need do some serious research. I also have a pile of books on my Google Bookshelf, but I'm embarrassed to admit I forget what's there; ditto for many PDF books on my hard drive. Now that I have access to considerably more sources than ever before, I keep finding myself going back to the same three or four hardback favorites. I feel a little schizophrenic.
But back to the research. I wanted to see the famous scenes of 11th century Scotland, especially where the battle of Dunsinane was fought. This presented a problem. At the time, there was no parking lot with a clearly defined path to the summit for visitors. Or if there was, I couldn't find it. We cleverly purchased a Geological Survey map of the area, only to discover that there was a Dunsinane Hill and a Dunsinnan Hill not ten miles from each other. Which one was it? Forget about finding Burnham Wood. So we duly drove to each location, though I wasn't entirely sure which hill among the many hills would bear signs of a castle. Or thousand year-old occupation. Or something. We didn't see any people if we had been brave enough to ask.
One thing's for sure: I didn't find anything. Nor did this seem like a proper place to hold a battle... especially one by land and sea as I had read. It wasn't until this very year that I found corroboration; in "Bloodfeud" by Richard Fletcher, the author stated, "Its site is not known: Dunsinane, properly Dunsinnan, is a later improvisation."
I moved on to Dunfermline (resting place of Robert the Bruce), allegedly founded by Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland. At least there I was gratified to see the remains of his famous tower... or at least, all three feet of them. It just confirmed to me that I should have seen something at Dunsinane. Later, I saw a plaque on an archway in Forteviot (Strathearn) where Malcolm was rumored to have built a palace. When I traveled over to Edinburgh Castle (also allegedly founded by Malcolm), all I saw was St. Margaret's chapel (the oldest building on site and supposedly built by him for his Anglo-Saxon wife). I asked the girl who was working at the castle for more information about the chapel, but she knew absolutely nothing. On the way back to London, I stopped by Stamford Bridge, hoping to glean some local history. All I found was a marker and a little pamphlet in the local market (mostly full of misinformation). I'm pretty sure that's changed by now, since they even do battle reenactments.
Well, you get the idea. Researching travel destinations was pretty primitive in those days, so we got in our car and drove. I haven't been back to Scotland since that fascinating and frustrating trip, but I can guarantee that the next time around I will have mapped and marked every single place to within a square meter.
I learned three things during my week-long online summit on Fiction Marketing. It was a free seminar which I found very helpful. Actually, I learned more than three things but these were stressed throughout the entire webinar and stayed with me until now.
The first was the idea that as an author, I'm not writing for myself but for my readers. My genre and my audience require certain elements in order for me to be successful. Maybe. Just maybe the passion I have for my story falls in line with my readers, especially since I read voraciously. Supposing what I like they will like as well, is one thing I can take with me. Still, learning what your readers like is preferable. I simply sat down and wrote a 80,000 word first draft. No direction or outline only a fierce desire to write.
The second element of this business I learned was... I need a huge email list. My limited attempts at building a list was insufficient (under 1000). This is your base and your list when completed. No one can take it away. This is your best chance of promoting a new book, launching a campaign, and keeping in touch with your readers. Building an e-mail list can be done in several ways. You don't need a website to do this a landing page will suffice. Also there are many list building programs available. I have a website. A weekly or monthly newsletter or blog is a good way to get subscribers to sigh up. A giveaway of a published book or short sample of your writing can work to glean e-mails. TradeShows or BookFairs can interest potential readers in your work and you can provide a sign-up. Launching a campaign? In my experience, the one published traditionally, I never had a publish date in which to plan anything on. Eventually it was clear that this 'publisher' was not what they claimed to be. Yet I hear advice that you can promote a book launch months prior even if the book is incomplete. What? That kind of a launch gets your base onboard. Clearly, I need to revisit that claim.
The third element to get readers interested in your work and where I fall short is Ads on various social media or Amazon or other outlets. But crucial to this is the amount of reviews you have on each of your published works. 15 is the magic. number to reach before considering an ad. Risking being redundant (if you read my last few posts), reviews are important and getting them is difficult (for some). A friendly reminder to review at the back of your novel, a book giveaway with a promise for a review, and providing readers with a guide on how to write a review were all suggestions from the experts. So build up your reviews before paying for ads. Part of this is building your platform either by podcasts or influencers. Guest blogs or podcast interviews. Finding out was other writers are doing, and tapping in to their process.
One thing I do have is persistence. Writing the novel in the first place. Continuing to write while waiting for queries and time in the queue and waiting for a book to be published. Going to the conference and pitching my book. Taking those first negative reviews in stride and weighing them against the good ones. Taking in a webinar and learning you've done everything wrong so far. One thing I did right? I never published my first novel.
When asked "What does a writer need to get started?"An author I follow on Twitter said A lot of money. A harsh response seeped in truth. There are ways to do it and better ways to get it done. I like Twitter but according to the experts, it's not the way to promote sales. Building your readership, being interviewed on podcasts, and guest blogging are best. Persistence. I must admit after this week of should have, would have, and could have was morally defeating. You get to the first water station in the marathon and find your water bottle is only half full. And in my case there's a slow leak. But that drive rears its head and here I am blogging about it.
Historical Fiction authors.
Mercedes RochelleMercedes Rochelle
Keagan Tierneyhttps://writingmynovelnoworkingtitleyet.blogspot.com Tierney
S. Forrest Nomakeo is a full-time published author of Historical and Science Fiction..
BE KIND REVIEW
A couple weeks ago I ranted on about negative book reviews. Yes, we
have to have thick skins and yes there will be readers who don’t like
our genre, style, or characters. Yet, there are some negative reviews
not backed up by comments and left anonymously. I have been a
reciepient of both.
Remember the old Video Stores? And the old VHS tapes? Be Kind Re-Wind comes to mind. Hence the title for this blog.
Reviews, as I find as I go along, are so very important to book sales.
We care what our peers are saying and I for one have listened to some
comments when choosing a book, to read or listen to, and moved along
to a different choice when we don’t want to spend a weekend reading a
novel that is not worth the effort (in our opinion). Yet, I have
ignored reviews other times and picked up a book and ended up enjoying
it. It really is a matter of preference.
What got me to writie another blog on this subject was a trip to a
local restaurant to pick up a quick dinner. While telling Jay not to
use the GPS to go around the corner he plugged in the name of the
restaurant anyway. Siri told us that the restaurant had a 2-1/2 star
review and would we like to choose a different location. What? Even
Siri, the automated voice, is a critic. We have been going to this
place forever. We like it and go there often. Someone gave a bad
review, or several people gave a bad review. But this is messing with
someone’s business and livlihood. Hence the conundrum. Why put in a
negative review? It’s only one opinion. You like your pizza hot... I
like mine cold. Not a good example. I don’t know what the reason was
for a negative review. The boneless chicken wings had bones?
I edit manuscripts and review audiobooks. I don’t give a negative
review. If I don’t like the MS, I don’t take it on. I check the audio
sample, stay within my genre, and try to make a good decision before
committing to a review.
Authors especially Indie or new authors rely on reviews to get their
visibility up. If you read a good book, leave a review. Sign up on
audible for a listener page or on Amazon and Goodreads. My advice
would be to take the last five books you really loved and give them a
review. Read the other reviews and see if you agree. Learn how to
write a good review. Cover all the high points and what you liked best
about the story.
We love to have our books read. We love to hear when someone likes
what we wrote it’s not something that happens regularly and it’s a lot to ask.
Readers; Write Reviews
I belong to audiobookboom.com. Every week I get an e-newsletter
listing audiobooks that are free with an audible book review.
My audiobook has been offered in this promotion as well. I pick a book
from one of the many genres and listen and give a review. It’s a great
way to listen to a great audiobook and give a review. Picking from my
favorite genre and listening to the five minute sample unsually
guarantees I can honestly give a favorable review. I have discovered
three favorite new authors this way. It also gives an opportunity to
create a listener page where your reviews are tallied and when an
author is dealing out promo codes they can view your history. It helps
them decide if you’re going to be a reliable reviewer. Before
publishing my own books I never gave a review. I read many books and
never thought to send my praised to the author. Since joining
audiobookboom.com that has changed and my listener page on audible has
over 25 reviews to date. Still what I need to do is learn how to write
a good review. Recently, I received two five star reviews for my
audiobook and I was overwhelmed by the depth of detail the reader(s)
were able to glean from my story. The only other experience that I
found came close to this was a Book Club review where I was present to
hear the detail and the thirst for information these voracious readers
craved from the author of the book they read. I loved it.
Unfortunately in these days of quarantine, libraries aren’t open and
the warm experience of in-person reviews are not possible. Another
good experience I had for feedback was the trade shows. For now those
are a thing of the past as well.
If you read a good book, give it a review. If you’re not a member on
Amazon, become one. Same with goodreads, they have so much to offer
readers. If you’re not a member of Audible.com, follow the link on my
audiobook page get a free copy of my audiobook with a new membership.
If you are a member, use a credit and give the book a review.
Hopefully you’ll choose one of mine
A RUN ON WORDS
To be a good writer, I will do anything. Although I have only been
writing for five years, it has been a Jacques Cousteau sized
submersion into the craft. My first novel was a four month spill of
words. What I had was a rough, rough, rough draft. An excellent
outline and a good start. Another four months of more writing, intense
review, and editing went by, and I had another rough draft. I didn’t
realize this at the time. While this book was out for agent approval,
I started another novel. Six months later, I had entered my first book
in a contest and my second book was queried out. Switching genres, I
wrote book three. My fourth book was a short story that didn’t stay
that way for long. I had a new respect for editors, so I sent my third
book out to be professionally edited and paid a good price. After all
the suggested cuts were made, the book was cut in half. From 60,000
words to 30,000. I cried.
Not being able to touch my wounded half-a-book, I applied all I
learned to book four. By that time this book four (now a 70,000 word
novel) was sent out to ten agents and publishers. It was picked up. A
year later my second edit had so many typos when it came back for
final approval, I panicked. I went online and reviewed my grammar
basics ( I thought that was what a publisher did) no longer I was
told. My book was published. I wasn’t happy with the experience. While
I was waiting (one year) for book four to be published I wrote the
sequel and the trilogy. That spring book three sprung to life. I sent
it out to several agents and I got a request for the MS. I was over
the hurdle. So I thought... it was rejected. So I decided to
self-publish. I worked in printing as my career and found the road to
self-publish not too difficult.
First Draft MS
Never send out a first draft to query. It needs to be carefully
reviewed and edited. An agent, beta reader, helpful online MS partner
wants to read your story and not be distracted by carless mistakes
that a careful edit would find. Use spellcheck and ‘Learn Spelling’
for unusual words or names. A squiggle on page 50 will alert you to
the fact your special word or name was misspelled. I find spellcheck
useful for some things but not for all it is a machine after all.
Style gets in the way of grammar rules. My opinion is you should learn
how to walk before you can run. Know the basic grammar rules then
break them intentionally.
Other than writing
I have always been an avid reader of Historical Fiction. I joined a
Book Club to widen my scope of books I read. I joined an online
critique group and then another one. I have been editing for two years
another critical tool for writing better, I feel.
During covid I lost my best venue for book sales. No gatherings so no
tradeshow. Luckily I had set another poker in the fire. I
self-published book three and produced an audiobook. I found the
perfect voice on acx a division of amazon. Hers was the voice I hear
when I imagine my protagonist. I self-published my second book and
produced an audiobook for that one as well. A Historical Fantasy, a
fairy tale where I imagined young girls voices and I found the perfect
voice for that in the same manner. Soon to be released. I have a third
audiobook in production and had an audition come in and his voice was
perfect. Early 2021 release is expected.
I have joined the APA and several facbook groups. I tweet every day
and never give up.
You can’t speak or write about writing without mentioning that four
letter word. Review. (I still can’t count) . It is extremely hard to
get readers to review your book. Yet, a good review brings attention
to your hard work. So if you loved an audiobook, review it on audible.
If you loved a book, review it on amazon or goodreads. I write about
my Book Club reads and blog on my website about books and other
things. If you’re reading this, you’re there.
Gleaning e-mails from the website is difficult, for me, as well. I
don’t have a lot of people subscribing to my maillist on my new blog
site. My first site had significantly more most of which were robots.
So I rely on my inbox. By only gleaning e-mails that were sent to be
directly, I feel a shameless plug is okay once in a while. Using
constant contact they only need to unsubscribe. There is so much more
that I should have done, but didn’t. There are so many suggestions I
have followed and learned by listening to the experts. By becoming an
expert myself and learning from my many mistakes, I can help others
and happy to do so.
August 28, 2020
Because Of Covid-19
I have spent the last few months concentrating on audiobooks. I have one published in February 2020, one was uploaded in June 2020 and still hasn't been released for sale on audible. The third audiobook in in production.
Flashback to January.
I started writing a third book in the trilogy. I was building an inventory for a trade show in March. A local event that has given the best sales results. Last year I sold out on the third day of a four day event. So, clear sailing. Ordered new business cards, bookmarks, and copies of a book that came out in February. Then, as everyone knows the quarantine hit. No public meetings… anywhere. So I continued to write I got to the half way point, 40,000 words and put it aside to do some research. Couldn’t go anywhere.
Forward to April
I found a narrator Lianne Walker on acx and started producing my second audiobook. It went rather smoothy and I was so happy with the performance. Lovely voice sweet characters... take or leave a a few. It was uploaded early June. Covid again. I’m still waiting. Sales of my first audiobook slowed. So I started looking into marketing and promoting audiobooks.
Back To The Present
All my books are on kindle and in print as well as audio. All my books are self-published. When I sat down to write my first novel, I was green as green can be. I’m thinking of the expenses it takes to write a book and get it published. It took my first paid edit, 90 pages, to show me how green I was and what an expense it was to get a professional edit. No periods or commas were moved. It would have been a waste because the entire MS had to be rewritten. The editor suggested I get several books, I did. The editor pointed out the highlights and suggested I get rid of the lowlights, I did. I used a confused omniscient voice and the editor suggested a third person limited, I did that too. A very painful experience. I put the book aside.
A partnership where I paid half of the projected expenses. Another mistake. Contests, queries, paper and ink. Conferences, books. What I’m getting at is I should have had a plan. But I don’t live that way. Head first ask questions later. Once the book is done there’s other expenses for cover design, marketing, promotion, reviews, narrators if you’re going audio. Every where you turn. You have to have money or you have to be savvy.
I had to learn the tools of the trade. Since I had a career in printing, I was able to navigate the self-publishing. Being a graphic designer, I managed to design my own covers (so far). I refreshed my grammar lessons, joined a writing group, book club, and online critiquing exchange group. I found narrators willing to share royalties (as an indie author, I retained my data rights) and wonderful beta readers who reviewed my books and I reviewed theirs. Those decisions were not mistakes.
So what was my original premise, oh yes? Audiobook promotion. A blog, guest posting, podcast interviews. By the way, the answers are all out there, you only have to have the proper key words. Find facebook groups and join them. Baby steps. Familiarize yourself with alll the social media platforms. Being an introvert (INSF), I would much rather sit in my office and write and be creative. I did do some public speaking. That was also a mistake. I do well at the trade shows though. I don’t have the same fight or flight feeling while I’m speaking one-on-one.
Keeping up with your social media obligations is key. I think. You never know where that one tweet or share will make your day. Like a five star review on Amazon, Goodreads, or Audible. In my last blog I ranted on negative reviews. They really hurt sometimes. That might be one of the hardest set backs in this career. A great review on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air. A confirmation that that instinct you had about keeping that character or that particular setting or choice of words was correct. Not everyone you meet will like your genre, or the fact that it is fiction or memoir. These decisions come from what you love and decide to put on paper. So don’t let others tell you otherwise. Some best selling authors were rejected many times before that editor’s assistant picked the MS up and insists it get another chance. In my case that first edit was critical but also gave me some encouraging advise to continue writing. Selling over 200 copies of my first book. Getting the first “I loved your book” and even better, the smile that went with it. The Book Club that read it and reviewed it in front of me. Discussing my characters, using their names, asking the tough questions. Finding details that I didn’t realize anyone would pick up on. I invited them in and they accepted.
A New Beginning
It’s been five years since I started writing. A lot has happened
since. My idea was to journal my experiences as I started writing. I
had a blog in the first two years of my writing career but I stopped
when I lost my sight. Six months later it came back and I picked up
where I left off. By that time I had a published book. It was released
in Novmber of 2017. I have since severed my relationship with my
publisher and have my data rights back and hope to have an audiobook
I saved some of my original blog posts and thought I would add one to
my latest blog entry.
This is me, spilling my guts.
In January I started a project, just, something to do to get quality
time with my sister. I thought writing a novel by posting paragraphs
back and forth embellishing the story so as to inspire a more creative
exchange would be fun. I e-mailed a prompt and she e-mailed back a
paragraph with a curve. Then I e-mailed a second paragraph and she
sent back another — several days later. I was so worked up that I
cheated, and wrote another three pages. I probably overwhelmed her
because she encouraged me to keep on writing, so I did. Three months
later I had what I thought was a pretty good sized book (28,000
words). I presented it to my sister thinking she may jump in and enjoy
doing research, editing, etc. in the hope we would spend creative
weekends together but there wasn’t the “fire” I had experienced. She
continually encouraged me and actually read the story, liked the
characters and theme, the syntax however was getting in the way of the
readability. Since then “Part One” has been gone over three times and
there are now four parts and 130,000 words.
I have written some letters, stories, newsletters in my lifetime but
nothing like what I experienced this winter and spring. I have been
told my letters made her* cry. My novel is complete. I just need to
tweak Part Four and do some research to reinforce what I have written.
I would like to attend a writer’s conference.
Its true what they say about the “trance” writer’s get because I can
still sit down and write — not really knowing what will end up on the
paper. Memory DNA? That is an awesome thought.
Whats Wrong With Woven?
June 15, 2020
My first novel has been re-written three times. It was resurected two
years ago during NaNoWriMo month and died another slow death the
following spring when the WIP was sent out for review, even my beta
readers weren’t impressed.
I decided to let it die, but Lazarus is trying to make another come back.
First Novel Blues
This first attempt at writing was my favorite. No impedements, such as
pov, target audience, or outline. It was a raw, four month,
free-flowing event. It is now a tangled mess. Appropriately it’s
called Woven, an epic fantasy of world building, Egyptian Gods,
warriors, and seventh sons. It spans three generations and four books.
Planning serious edits, it will end up being one book, four parts
instead. Which darlings are going to be sacrificed? That’s a good
question. In my mind, on this particular day, I won’t compromise on
some but have a sadistic view on others.
In my fifth year of writing, several books published, and two
audiobooks produced, I have a different perspective than when I first
sat down to write. I walked head first into a portable fan of slice
and dice opinion. If I knew then what I know now kind of mindset.
Only 15% (give or take) of the population read. Of that less than 50% read
Historical Fiction, my chosen genre. I avidly read historical fiction and to
expand my world, I belong to a book club and read other genres as well.
The Evasive Agent
I also edit MS’s through an online critique exchange group. After two
years, I began to get insight into how the professionals might react
to hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts in a week. In ten words or less, I think
the general problem is the desire to have your story read takes
precidence over the cold truth of self-edit and containment. Sixteen
words or less. Most first sentences or paragraphs are not worth
reading on and simple errors in grammar are a turn off. In my case, I
just wanted someone to read my book and tell me what was wrong. That
could cost thousands of dollars because no agent will take the time to
edit your work. The best response I ever got... 'We received your MS and if
you don’t hear from us in 90 days, it’s a no...' Most times, there’s no
response. Eventually, after sending out hundreds of queries, I got two requests for
MS. Neither worked out. Then, I was blindsided by a non traditional
publisher who offered a partnership because ‘my writing should be
published’. Despite all the warnings not to go along with a paid
partnership, the dangling treat was too much for this greyhound to pass
up. One book was published with this vanity publisher and the rest
have been self-published.
Even after five years of writing, conferences, trade shows, bookclub reviews, and editing dollars spent, I still don't know what will become of 'Woven'.
Reviews and Criticism
A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet. A quote from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
I won't give negative reviews. My opinion is just that. Why would I try to ruin someone else's accomplishment? Any author deserves credit for writing the story and having the courage to get it published. Reviews are what we live on. We want to hear constructive criticism, but are all reviews constructive? I think not. Especially when the bad reviews are dealt anonymously.
Reading through most reviews you will find a wide range from 'I loved it' to 'I hated it' and such is the way of the world.
Why did you hate it?
Not my genre. Not my taste. Hated the ending.
And who are you? Why should your opinion matter so much that it ruins a work that took years to write and it's sliced with one swipe of a bitter sword?
Can we suppose that most substandard works are edited before hand or left on the cutting room floor? What about the agent or publisher that promoted such work?
What about Independents such as myself? Recently I heard the comment from a narrator. What do I do if the work sucks? (Not a direct quote). Simple answer. Don't narrate it.
I have been at the end of both constructive and harsh reviews that leave me with no answer as to what was wrong? A matter of taste?
As a reviewer/editor of first draft MS's, I have begun to learn what makes a story good and what keeps it from its full potential. Yes, I can finally see what an agent goes through on a very limited scale (my scale). I have readers that love my books and others that won't read them. I listen to audiobooks and when I glaze down the reviews I have learned that if I ignore the most negative ones, I may end up listening to a most enjoyable book, for me.
In the sea of hundreds and thousands of books to choose from, one bad review can cause a reader to move along. So very unfortunate. I have read some first drafts and see so much potential, but alas, the opinion panel at the publisher or other censorship critic will cause a good story to never see the light of day.
Shirley Nomakeo received a B.S. Degree in Graphic Design from Rivier College.