Part 4 ~ How to Professionally Develop as an Author

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

~ Stephen King

 

 Thanks Stevo – that’s keeping it simple and effective.

 As an author you’ll need to invest time in Professional Development.

Every author needs to improve the writing craft.

Doesn’t matter how good you are now or think you are…

there is always room for improvement.

 

One does not have to be brilliant to be successful, but must have an insatiable hunger for victory, absolute belief in his cause and an invincible courage that enables him to resist those who would otherwise discourage him. As success is achieved, the jealousy others feel for him intensifies. ~ Attila the Hun, “The Scourge of God” 

 

 How to professionally develop as an author:

  • ·      University courses: Master of Arts and various Bachelors. Personally I hate formal education. It brings me out in a rash.
  • ·      Creative writing courses… rash.
  • ·      Online writing courses… slight discoloration of skin with a few spots.
  • ·      Instructional and educational books. I have crunched through a load of these – well I skimmed them… O.K. I read the blurb. I read the cover.
  • ·      Critique groups.
  • ·      Writers groups.
  • ·      And your own personal reading – read, read, read your little heads off.
  • ·      Blog On – write everyday.

 

In all seriousness, choose what suits your learning style, budget and time so you can learn all about writing. University is a huge commitment and cost but comprehensive and thorough. Writers group are cheap but tend to dominant in the department of fervent chat-fests about semi-colons and defective syntax.

Your professional development is all about writing improvement. Thus achieving the aim of ‘getting better’, which leads to creating work that is publishable.

 So to get published, an author has to be an accomplished writer – an expert with a sound command of all aspects of writing. One who has had a solid education on narrative conventions, grammar and punctuation…. or a really good story teller:

 

I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.


~Tom Clancy

 

Simply:

To get good at something you need to practise it. So get writing today. Anything… as long as you’re writing every day. Good Luck & Happy Writing.

 

Coming soon: Aspiring Authors ~ The Fun & Short Guide To The Basics.

 

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Publishing Pitfalls with CreateSpace Amazon. Beware.

There are people who buy your book as soon as you self-publish it on Amazon and sell it for twice or three times the price to unsuspecting buyers. As seen here with my second book, Funny Australian Letterboxes. Look underneath the ‘In Stock’ and three used copies are selling for $28.47.

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 10.53.18 AM.

I clicked on one of the ‘Used Books’ and this is what appeared… $36.41 for one book.

$36.41

+ $3.99shipping
Used – Very Good
Money Back if not happy.

or

Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering.

Two weeks ago there were ten books priced between $25 to $35. I priced my novelty book as low as Amazon would allow me at $12.28, to ensure sales, so a traditional publisher would see the commercial viability of this book and consider publishing my second book in this series. So it’s an understandable frustration of an independent author, who does all the work creating, formatting, publishing then promoting the book, to find others profiting from it. And making a lot more money then themselves. Here are my royalties for the first three months… $18.84. The payment is made to my daughter as Amazon didn’t cater for Australian authors and banks at that time.

Really AMAZON?

Futhermore, it is highly likely I won’t receive a royalty from this sale (my cut supposedly being $2.28 from each book sold, as you will see below on the Amazon Royalty account – this is not accurate. I receive an average of 24 cents a book… I better put a stop on that Lamborghini). This is because Amazon, unfortunately, has errors with its accounting of sales and delivering of royalties. Other independent authors and blogs attest to this. I know I sold twice as many units as Amazon calculated in January from friends alone. Who knows how many other sales from online book stores that Amazon fails to calculate and therefore profits from.

When I contacted Amazon with my concerns, they informed me there was nothing wrong with their accounting methods.

This is not a rant, whinge or complaining blog – just telling it how it is. If you self publish with Amazon, you’ll know what to expect.

How To Get Feedback On Your Book

Give it out for free to family, friends &

drop a copy into your local radio stations and newspapers.

 

I bought my third batch (twenty copies) of my second book and gave it to family and friends. My brother’s reaction was priceless.

 

Proof that Funny Australian Letterboxes book

is really funny or…

My Brother cacking himself

That a demented sense of humour runs in the family ~

Sean Byrne

 

 

The photographs say it all.

Part 3 ~ How to Go From Aspiring Author…to Author.

It is perfectly okay to write garbage…as long as you edit brilliantly. ~ C. J. Cherryh

 

So you want to stop aspiring and actually become a writer or an author. First thing to do is create a website, then buy a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches and then…

 

No. Write a plan with realistic goals.

 

Goals: The Big Picture

Outlining realistic goals keeps you as an author on track when life gets hectic; or when the writing becomes tough, and when you get to the stage of your writing career when the crushing rejections rush in.

 

Get Writing.

That manuscript is not going to write itself.

Stop aspiring and start doing:

Goal Number One ~

Write your manuscript – usually 75,000 to 100,000 words. How many hours a day can you put aside to write? When and where? Be ruthless and stick to it. Even if it is an hour a day (before work – get up, you get early bird, or lunch break – yes, time to be antisocial and hit the laptop, or after dinner – bye bye T.V. shows).

This basic fundamental weeds out the aspiring authors from the real authors – the wannabe, gonnabe, try-hard authors from the real deal.

 

Good advice, so I dove right in and wrote three-quarters of my manuscript – a thrilling, political mystery abounding with witty dialogue and keen insights. What a creative rush! What a thrill! It poured out like a gushing waterfall. I couldn’t type fast enough. Wonderful and unique characters danced across the pages in stunning repartee. Exotic locales painted a colourful backdrop and the plot twists had me going, ‘ohhh-ahhh, I would have never thought of that’. Then it all came to a grinding halt. I lost my way. My plot got into a bit of a muddle, which left all my characters in somewhat of a pickle, and me in a bit of a bother.

 

I forgot the outline.

 

Goal Number One: Write a manuscript… Write an outline.

 

Write an outline before writing your manuscript: main characters, theme, location, who are you writing for – target audience, etc.

 

The outline: That little thing that keeps the whole novel on track – the fundamentals and the beginning, middle and end deal. So I wrote up a comprehensive outline with an event timeline detailing conflict/resolutions, surprise twists and the killer ending. I then summarised all the chapters to nail down what was happening to whom and where. Then I researched my locations for authenticity, and reworked character dialogue for realism and relevance.

My book,  THE BASICS ~ The Short and Fun guide for all Aspiring Authors, will be out soon. It gets to the point on the outline fundamentals to get you started on your bestseller. The eBook will be the affordable price of 99 cents. 

 

“Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with a first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing. ~ Richard North Patterson

 

Are you still reading this blog… stop! Write up your outline and start being an author.

Best-A-Luck


 

 

Publicity – even a little is GREAT!

 

 

 

An online newspaper published my post about my experience yesterday with my failed attempt at securing my local book store to stock and sell my independent book, Funny Australian Letterboxes…and not at the bottom of the page – front and centre.

 

Now that I have been validated, I’m off for tea and scones with friends.

Big fat scones with heaps of strawb jam and lashings of cream.

Have a great Saturday everyone.

 
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Can a self-published author sell books in a book store?

YES! and NO.

 

Allow me to explain. I dropped off my self-published novelty book, Funny Australian Letterboxes at my local book store in the hope they would stock and sell it. The friendly assistant said this book store did consider self-published books for sale. She informed me I would be contacted in a week as to their decision and further business discussions.

YES!

Three weeks past…

So I casually dropped in (with my press release and business plan: cost per unit, various shipping prices and timeframes, ect, boring ect).

The owner was sitting behind the counter. Great! I get the opportunity to chat with him directly.

Yeah, not great…

I greeted him with my lovely smile and asked if he had a chance to look at my book. He responded with, “Which one is it?” and turned around to his in-tray. It was sitting on top. He asked me, “What do you think it’s worth?”

“It’s a novelty book in a soft cover. I’d like to sell it for ten dollars.” I responded. He nodded in agreement – oh good, he agrees. Off to a good start. So I continued my pitch. “Amazon are currently selling it for $12.28 with a postage and handling of three dollars, so the customer is up for $15.00. I can personally buy my book for seven dollars each and you can make three dollars on it. I don’t want a cut from it. I just want it to sell so I can get my foot in the door – so to speak. If I can sell these, my next book will look more attractive to a traditional publisher.” I looked at him with, this-could-be-the-beginning-of-a-beautiful-business-relationship expression.

The owner picked up my book again and asked who published it.

“Amazon.” I answered.

The owner of the book store tossed my book

down onto the counter. “I can’t sell this.”

Amazon is my competitor.

 

“I only sell books from publishing warehouses.” He added.

“What do you mean?” I asked stupidly.

“The traditional publishers.”

I sighed. I refrained from saying, If I was traditionally published I wouldn’t be behind your counter personally soliciting you. My publisher would have distributed my book on my behalf and Funny Australian Letterboxes would be smiling at me from the humour section. Also, I didn’t explain I’m self-published through the platform CreateSpace owned by Amazon. The owner was already sitting behind his register screen intently looking at it. I could tell by his expression that he was lumping me in with the evil online giant that is bleeding his small bricks and mortar book store dry.

Amazon was great to publish with – cheap and straight forward, but everything after the initial process has been fraught with problems. I’m dissatisfied with Amazon and their gross inaccuracies of sales tracking and royalties. My last batch of books were packed incorrectly so they arrived dog-eared and in poor condition. And now I can’t sell my book at the local book store because of the online giant.

To his credit, the owner tried to be polite with me, but I could feel his annoyance with Amazon and thought it best to leave.

I thanked him for his time and rethought my business plan. I’m going to talk to Australian Post Shop and Novelty stores about selling my books.

This could be a new opportunity.

 One door closes and another one opens…

even if I have to pry the door open myself.

 

Life of an independent author is never dull.

 

Part 2 ~ Three Myths About Authors

Author Reality Checks  

 

 Three Author Myths Needing Instant Destruction:

 

  1. 1.  The idealised Author – the Romantic Version.

 

We see him hunched over a polished mahogany desk furiously scribbling as classical music gently plays in the background. The master of prose leans into his high-backed leather chair. He ponders for a moment. Struck by a brilliant thought he returns to his page, and effortlessly pours out the literary genius that is completed in two weeks. He scoops up his parchment and trots off to the printers where the hard-bound beauty bounces into his open hands, and goes absolutely viral at every book store. He pockets a pretty penny, has drinks with friends and churns out yet another bestseller.

 

Reality Check:

Modern day authors are busy, social networking,

holding-down-a-day-job, multitaskers…

and it takes a long time to write a book – six months to a few years.

 

 

The reality is that authors are juggling writing with day time jobs, family life and professional development. And there is more – the social networking, blogging, keeping up to date with publishing trends, the never-ending editing and rewriting of manuscripts, sending  hundreds of query letters to publishers and agents… all this really impinges on time spent at the desk, serenaded by Mozart, whipping up bestsellers.

 

 

 It can be a frazzling experience for many authors. We just want to write stories. Good ones of course, not airport trash. Instead, many authors produce bottom draw fodder that never reaches the dizzying heights of the vile airport stands. Bottom draw fodder is not equivalent to wretched failure. Consider it practice. Every author has stuff tucked away before they were published.

 

Hitting the typewriter for hours of uninterrupted creative genius is a fantasy that only a few enjoy. Many authors rush in after work, throw dinner on, yell at the kids, scoff food, help with homework, squeeze in a little social networking and offset sleep to pound the keyboard before bed.

 

The difficulties of striking a balance between writing demands, family responsibilities, work commitments and then having a life, is difficult. So many authors turn into Sir Tweet-A-lot on one long blogothon, pandering to literary agents and mass-marketing to the world. Who then lose the will, lack the energy and run out of time to write an actual novel. Be ruthless in your social media, smart in your marketing and give yourself time to write your story.

 

 

  1. 2.  Inspiration, Creativity and The Muse.

 

These three make the whole process fun and easy, but they are so unreliable. Real authors don’t rely on them and their collective arbitrary work ethic. Being a successful author necessitates whipping these three into line and not being beholden to their whims and fancies. I often hear authors lamenting unfinished manuscripts because their Muse was on holiday, or conversely, rapturous exclamations of, “I was so inspired writing this chapter. It was a spiritual experience. The Muse guided my every word.”

 

 The myth that authors can only create when inspiration strikes, creativity hits and when the Muse arrives needs to be shattered.

 

 

Why You Need To Murder Your Muse

Here are many reasons to kill your Muse:

 

  • She cares about what others think and she’ll fill your head with excuses not to write.

 

  • She is fearful. She has good intentions but she is afraid of what you’ll produce and the success.

 

  • She’s distracted. You need to actively focus on your writing. Your Muse can jolly well flit around the place but you need sit in that chair and pound the keyboard.

 

  • She is a perfectionist. She doesn’t understand that there will be days when ‘it is not happening’, what you produce is mediocre, and writing is a frustrating experience. Also she doesn’t like editing and revising. She knows that editing is a necessary process, which improves writing but she lacks patience and finds it boring. Your Muse is unable to push through the tough times, instead this whimsical and erratic creature likes to do things when she feels like it.

 

  • She lacks understanding about the realities of writing. Marathon runners pace themselves and understand that there is a long haul ahead. They experience the wall of pain about three-quarters through the ‘race’. Unable to breathe, lungs burning, muscles fatigued and every body part protesting in pain… does the wall of pain prevent? No. Marathon runners don’t have a Sports Muse whispering encouragement into their ears to inspire them. The Marathon runner motivates himself. He actively pushes through the tough times to triumphantly complete the race. When writing times get tough, the Muse deserts you and flops into a bed of marigolds.

 

If you kill off your Muse, who will replace her?

Your talent and hard work.

 

 

Reality Check:

There will be days when being an author has to be forced.

It can be unpleasant and monotonous – especially the editing stages.

 Being an author is not a spiritual experience.

Some days inspiration needs to be forced, creativity needs to be created and the Muse needs a slap in the head if she is not doing her job.

 

 So writing is still work. We all experience highs and lows. Every job has good days and bad days.

 

  

  1. 3.  Success is around the corner and instant fame awaits you.

 

It takes years to learn the craft of writing. Then a few more years of writing a couple of manuscripts to inhabit the bottom draw before writing the acceptable one fit for publishing. Building an authorial empire is a slow process, one literary brick by literary brick. Read any author’s biography – writers spend years learning the ropes and perfecting their personal art form before they became successful.

 

Reality Check:

Being an author involves hard work & it can be a long process.

 

Hitting the big time and scoring instant fame sounds like fun. It’s rare and highly unlikely. The reality of writing involves refining the work and slowly building a readership.

 

Extinguish the dream of instant success and the delusion of fame early. When months turn into years and the rejections come out swinging – with the absence of recognition, the lack of instant success won’t depress you.

 

It’s all part of the job for any hard working author.

 

 

 If you are not suitably depressed from the reality checks

and ringing the local cinema about that popcorn job,

we’ll get started on more Author Basics next week.