swan's sililoquy

A bad case of writer's blog

Purpose

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A blog without a purpose is an ugly thing.

Mine didn’t necessarily lack purpose, and I’m not saying I’ve found it either, but this is a writer’s blog. And a writer’s blog without content is essentially a journal, and I have no desire to write a journal. I’m simply not that interesting.

Secondly, considering my ‘content’ is still a work in progress, it’s hard to share it, or even post snippets on here because as with all things on The Internets; once it’s out there, there’s no taking it back. And first impressions last forever.

I’ve also been hesitant of turning this into a lecture seeing as I’m neither qualified nor experienced enough to talk about writing, or publishing, or how to do either well, never mind just one.

So in an aid of not making myself look pants on head retarded, I’ve held back from publishing anything from the book until I’m happy with it. I.e. 100%.

I also didn’t want to be one of those people who wrote a blog post every day simply for the sake of writing one. Instead, this is more of an update than anything else, because finishing the book is taking a little longer than I expected, but then again, it takes six months to make a Rolls Royce and fourteen hours to make a Toyota, and I know which one I’d rather have at the end of the day.

That’s also the reason for the two month break since I wrote a single word on this page. I was thinking / writing, and hence why it will be a little while longer before I post even the first chapter on here. Sorry… but I’m still thinking, still writing. But some have asked why I went quiet, so I figured I’d at least give an update, an idea of my intentions and my plans, as they stand, plus I’d much rather have a point than a ramble. As such, I decided to run this as a little Q&A session with myself, titled:

The most common questions I get asked, and the questions I ask myself.

And of course, question number one is:

When can I read it?

The first time I post an actual section / chapter from the book on here, it will be:

  • Finished / complete (Which means a professional edit)
  • Linked to Amazon
  • In the iBook Store
  • Cover art finished
  • Price point entry set
  • Launched on as many forums / social websites as possible. E.g.:
    • Imgur
    • Reddit
    • Facebook etc.

How will it be released?

In eight parts of approximately 15k word sections. One at time. Each part being about 50 pages in a paperback book.

Part 1- the first 15k words will be published as a free download on Amazon.

I.e. A sample.

Same idea as how most people buy a book in an actual bookstore, they pick the book up, skip through the first chapter to see if it hooks them. If it doesn’t, they put it down with no cost to themselves except for time. The 15k sample works on the same premise, and all books on Amazon currently offer this feature anyway. You can try the sample, and if you like, you just hit the buy button.

However, the next 15k words, (Part 2) would come in at $0.99, and the rest (Parts 3 – 8) would all be priced accordingly.

Why $0.99?

On Amazon you can basically set the price of your book to be anything you like, with a minimum of $0.99, unless of course you’ve published it for free somewhere else first (like iBooks), then Amazon price matches it down to $0.

Why wouldn’t you charge more?

Because at the beginning it should be about growing an audience, not making money. If enough people don’t read it, or aren’t aware of my work because of a price barrier, then I make no sales at all. People are hesitant to take risks on new authors, unless it’s recommended by someone else, and the only way that happens is by getting as many eyes on it as possible.

Note:

A lot of self-published authors use this strategy if they’re writing a series of books / parts, and its becoming an increasingly popular method of getting your name out there.

So what’s the catch?

Basically there are two commission rates you can get through Amazon:

  • 30%
  • 70%

But the 70% rate is only available if you price your book at $2.99 or above.

So if you try to sell your book really cheaply (say a $0.99) to get more readers, then you have to sell about six times more copies to make the same money as you would if you sold one copy at $2.99 with the 70% rate. But at least you’re selling them.

In essence, $0.99 is all about exposure and getting your name out there. If people like what they read, they keep going. $0.99 is also the impulse buy limit of most people; they’ll spend $4 a day on coffee, but $2 on a book by an author they’ve never read before….hmmm.

Why haven’t you published anything on here yet?

Because no content is better than shit content, no matter the medium, blog or book. First impressions are all that I’ll get, so it has to be as close to humanly perfect as possible. Well edited, and devoid of spelling or grammar issues. Once it’s published, it’s final, no changes allowed.

What’s so hard about revising?

Revising means fixing all the problems. And in a body of text with ~140,000 words, there can be a lot of problems. For me that meant learning how to both take, and look at feedback subjectively, and to do so properly, because just like my own writing, not all feedback is great, helpful, or even correct. You can’t let ego get in the way, but you can’t bow to everyone else’s opinion either.

Why, what can be wrong with feedback?

When it comes to writing, reading, and associated feedback, you have to remember that people have different tastes. Everyone will want to give you his or her impression, or his or her opinion on how you should write the book. That doesn’t mean they’re right, it just means that they have their own opinion, no surprises there.

Simple example:

In my writing group, there are fourteen people all writing in different genres, with different reading histories. Which means we don’t all share the common base knowledge level (ie. what’s been done before, big name authors in each genre, who’s influenced our own styles).

Example being there are several in my class writing kids fiction (12 yr old stuff), two writing romances, a couple of sci-fi, and one about tranny porn ish. And then theres me….killing everyone. And as a result, there’s a bit lost in translation sometimes. But I can’t be defensive or blind to feedback either, because sometimes feedback is spot on. And when you’re too close to your own work it’s often easy to miss a big glaring flaw / problem / or stylistic issue.

I for instance, apparently like to overuse the full stop. Making my sentences short. Blocky. And abrupt. I wasn’t aware of this until it was pointed out, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when used in moderation, anyone who reads Lee Child (Jack Reacher) will agree.

What’s the biggest indicator of meaningful feedback?

If more than one person points something out, then it’s probably an issue that I need to fix, and I can’t discount it as just personal preference. Such that if everyone is saying a section I wrote is too slow, well… then I have to add more pace. I have to make it Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

The tricky part is knowing which one to listen too sometimes, my gut, or some feedback that disagrees? Do I stick to my guns and make it work, or do I admit defeat and kill my darlings?

That’s the challenge, but it’s also a blessing in disguise. Listening to feedback and integrating it before I publish it means I get to fix things before I embarrass yourself publicly, and permanently. Which means a lot of revisions, which means draft 1, 2, 3, etc.

As such, my alpha readers deserve a medal, they’ve had to wade through the worst of it.

Note:

Most published works go through an average of 8 drafts.

So what’s your point?

Basically I’m not going rush it, or show my hand too early. Which means I can’t post extracts until they’re ready. Too much is riding on them, but hence the delay. I have to incorporate the feedback, and then interweave it back into the story while still making sure I’m speaking with my own ‘voice.’

And what makes voice so important?

These words you are reading now, whose voice are they in? Yours or mine? What does it sound like in your head? The point of writing is to take charge of the voice in someone else’s head. Tell them what to think, what to feel, what they can see, and to describe what’s happening around them such that they forget they’re reading a story.

And if it’s done well?

Well then they keep reading.

But what does this mean in terms of feedback?

It means that if I’m not careful, if I listen to too many other people then I might just end up losing my own voice, and I might just end up with a book that looks like a horse designed by a committee. #ugly.

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How long really then until it’s all done?

August, as a soft deadline. September as final.

By Christmas I’d like to be seeing actual sales and growth. That would be the ultimate feedback and vindication of the ginormous gamble I’ve taken.

Why then?

Because the cover art should be done by August. Sadly I can’t post that either (it’s still in progress / early stages), but I’ve commissioned a digital artist and we’re getting there. Concept. Revision. Version A. Revision. Version B. Revision. etc etc.

So it should be done in time, and that’s important because the plan is to:

  1. Contact an author in the US (August).
  2. Hopefully get a response.
  3. Send a finished and polished product to him
  4. Ask his opinion, maybe even get some face to face time

Hell, if I’m really lucky he might even plug it on his website, and that gets 30 – 40k hits a day. Granted, that would be like seeing all the stars align, but hey, if I’m going to aim big, then it may as well be out of the park big.

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Which US author?

His name is Hugh Howey, and for those who read / dabble in the low sci-fi genre, you might have heard of him already. To everybody else, he’s a rich and pretty damn successful author. He’s also one whose business model I’d like to emulate.

Why him you might ask?

Primary reason being that he went the self-publishing route. In fact they call him the poster boy success story for self-publishing. Secondly he’s a strong supporter of self-publishing over the more traditional big publishing house route. Or the Big 5 as they’re called, namely:

  • Hachette Book Group
  • HarperCollins
  • Macmillan Publishers
  • Penguin Random House
  • Simon and Schuster

There are numbers backing up what he’s saying too, as in research, actual benchmarks, relative performance, sales data, and income comparisons. See here if you’ve got time / interest.

But, in a nutshell:

Self-published authors, on average, earn more than their traditional counterparts.

Lastly, Hugh Howey has a pretty strong and easily accessible voice in social media. So when I write to him, I actually stand a real chance of getting a serious answer.

Why self-publishing you might ask?

Because it lets me start publishing parts of what I’ve written, and that’s important because it allows me to start building up reviews, comments, and some idea as to reception / audience. It will also give me an idea as to whether I’m on the right path, whether I keep going on it, or if I switch to another story.

What’s the biggest difference between self-publishing and the Big 5?

On Amazon, self-published authors are paid 70% of the list price instead of a mere 17.5% that you might expect to get through the Big 5. Plus nearly 98% of all submissions to the Big 5 never see the light of day, even if they’re pure gold in terms of potential. They disappear into a dark hole and never come out, or it takes them years and years to gain some traction.

Example?

  • J.K Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected by the BIG 5 publishers and everything else in-between a total of 12 times. It took a year before someone finally said yes. She also only got a £1500 advance.

One more example?

  • Carrie by Stephen King was rejected 30 times before it was published.

Here’s another example, just for comparison, but a self-published one.

  • E.L James, the author of 50 Shades of Grey, went the self-publishing route.

Disclaimer

It’s garbage (but that’s just personal opinion / taste). See?

But it was also earning E.L James $1million a week, so my personal opinion doesn’t mean a thing when that many people disagree. And that’s the biggest selling point of self-publishing. You can still get your work out there, even if everyone else with ‘taste’ says no.

Confession:

I even tried reading a couple of pages out of curiosity, trying to work out just how the hell it was making so much $$$

Actions taken:

  • Pick up gf’s book.
  • Open at random page x
  • Starting reading
  • Turn to page x + 1
  • Lose innocence
  • Horror
  • Run away

Result:

PTSD. And since then I’ve never felt entirely comfortable when I sit down next to someone reading it. I crawl into a ball, and hide.

There is no eye contact, which is good. But how could there be? They never look up from the book they’re reading. Instead they’re stare at the page like it’s sucking their eyeballs out, and now I know why. In all likelihood, they’re probably balls deep in the middle of a pretty nasty porn scene.

On a side note.

J.K Rowling is now also the only person (ever) to earn a billion dollars from writing.

E. L James, the author of Fifty Shades is now worthy approximately $80 million, all earned in the last two years alone.

Moral of the story?

The bigger the audience reached, the bigger the chances of success. Even if 9/10 of people who read it come away with a mental disorder.

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4 thoughts on “Purpose

  1. Keep thinking big!

  2. You are so on the money about feedback, losing your voice and writing by committee. The last one I have been thinking about a lot lately. I think it’s hard to weigh up the feedback when I have so little experience and thus not much confidence…ah well.

    • I try to only listen to the committee if it’s consistent. Everything else just makes me doubt myself, and for the most part it’s working. Fingers crossed.

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