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17: 50 (25-24) mistakes of the fledgling fiction writer.

 

25-24: The weekly countdown continues to the biggest blunders to help you avoid them.

You have to sell yourself−even if you get a publishing deal, you will have to do this anyway, and lots of it. As you are waiting for those rejection letters to finish off papering your toilet, you need to start down the other path−self publishing. It is no longer just a vanity project; it is a legitimate way into a publishing deal and a fulfilling way to earn passive income. If you have managed to get thousands of people to like, potentially read, read, write reviews−you already have an audience.

 

25 Self-publishing is not a new innovation, Laurence Sterne−Tristram Shandy (1759), The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L Baum (1900). More recently Wool by Hugh Howey (2011) and you may have heard of the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy by E.L. James! − Which has now sold more copies on Amazon than Harry Potter! The list is endless, and one thing is for certain, if you don’t get it out there to the world to see, you have no chance.

Remember whatever self-publisher you use, you own the rights. So which one should you use? The obvious elephant in the room is Amazon, and I know a lot of people, especially in Britain don’t like to buy anything from Amazon, not even a ‘Will I Am’ facemask or a multiple Edwardian moustache kit−but they are the biggest platform and potentially give you a larger market. Their publishing arm, CreateSpace is relatively straightforward to use. You can do it yourself, or you pay them to do it in-house. I have used them twice and intend to use them at least one more time. Rather than get them to do it−I could have quite easily done it myself, I pay a friend, as it saves me huge amounts of time. If you are on a tight budget and you intend to put lots of work out, spend the time learning. One drawback for many people outside the US is an ITIN (International Tax Identification Number). You need this from The IRS or you will pay tax there and in your home country. To get this you need to send your passport off, and it can take 4-6 weeks, so you don’t want to be doing this when you are going abroad on holiday−Do this before your book is completely ready. I always produce hard copies and turn these into ebooks, you might only want the latter.

You decide what contract you sign. I won’t go into all these, but they are quite straightforward. You obviously don’t have to use Amazon; there are many others out there. Some of the ones I have heard good reports about are; Smashwords and Lulu. Others include Blurb and Authorhouse. A long time ago when I had very heavy work commitments I used Xlibris. Personally I found them expensive−remember everything you get them to do will cost you, including changing a few typos that were pointed out to me by readers. I also found they hassled me with phone calls a lot, to the stage I pretended to be out!

Googlebooks is on the rise and has fewer books listed than Amazon, so a search is more likely to find your book, but obviously not as much traffic as the Amazon Behemoth. 

I could go into a lot more detail, but to be honest it’s a bit boring and trainspottery−you’ve got the idea, it just boils down to some research and finding what best fits you. Ask yourself, ultimately what is your aim? That will determine to large extent which is the best for you.  

If you have written your book and you are happy with it, get it out there. I read some research the other day that said 95% of people that self-publish feel a sense of pride and achievement for getting to the final stage−what are the other 5% feeling, let’s hope it is no worse than indifference! Even if down the line you are not 100% happy, like Philip Pullman with his first book, you can always take it down and revamp it. At some point you do need to let it go and get it out, because a book is never finished, Henry James is testament to that… But, holding it in your hand, smelling it, touching it, taking it to bed−might just be the inspiration you need to climb the next mountain!

 

24 Social media:

 

“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media; the question is how well we do it?” -Erick Qualman, author of Socialnomics.

“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer – it is what the consumers tell each other it is.” Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit.

 

These three quotes sum up all you need to know and get your head around with social media.

 

The two questions I get asked most by people starting out in writing are not actually about writing: 1.How do I publicise my work to get sales? 2. How do I use social media effectively?

More so by older writers which are new to social media. The six which I use the most, and restrict myself to, are, in this order; Twitter, Goodreads, Google (Blogger & Blogspot), WordPress, LibraryThing and Facebook. There are many, many more obviously. I have website as well.

Twitter was one of the last for me to engage in, even though lots of friends badgered me to join. I knew it would be another activity that could take up huge amounts of my time. It’s also the one I find certain people still most reluctant to sign-up to. Their main fear is: ‘I don’t want to talk inane drivel, tell people my diet through photographic evidence or when I went to the toilet!’ This may sound risible but I can assure you it’s a true anxiety−the mundane ‘flash-tell’ of your life in 140 characters. The big mistake I made was not fully understanding the basics before I joined and consequently when people followed me−I did not reciprocate−big mistake, you want as much traffic to your feed as possible. If you don’t they will unfollow you pretty quickly, it can be a nihilistic world sometimes−but remember lots of people are on twitter for exactly the same reason as you−to raise their profile, connections and sales.

How are you going to connect to people? You need to use # for key words e.g. #writing #reading #illuminatinghalloweensocks, this will direct your tweet to those areas and @ for specific addresses e.g. @thewritingIMP @b0ringtweets (Which is an amusing ironic site that highlights some of the aforementioned drivel that some fear). When I started following this site 13K followed him, now he has 200K. Which just shows; there’s nothing better than a personal recommendation! 

Buffering−not something you might find in Lars Von Trier film (well you might!). But a way of staggering your tweets over a few days, so Twitter does not take over all your waking hours. There are many of these, they are quite straightforward to use and you just feed them directly into your own twitter address. This is also useful because if you consider Twitter to be like walking down a High Street, and every window to be an individual tweet, you not only have to be passing the shops to look in, but you have to actually look in as well. Not everybody will be walking past your shop continually. Buffering is also great for exposure in foreign countries−tweet while you sleep.

Don’t just bombard people with pleads to buy your work, they will tire of you very quickly. One thing I did that has gone down well is quotes from the two books I have put out recently in my own name; these are often re-tweeted by others. Re-tweet interesting stuff you read, put links into other sites about anything you find compelling. Attach photos to your tweets−research shows people are much more likely to notice them. Do not feel the compulsion to tweet incessantly; you are not a 24-hour news agency! Excessive Tweeting Syndrome (ETS) is not a psychologically recognised syndrome yet, but it will be, and you heard it here first at: @thewritingIMP #ETSETS! Don’t buy bundles of thousands of followers for a few dollars, unless you want thousands of virtual reality followers in a computer office in the Philippines! Build slowly by following people you are genuinely interested in, and vice versa.

There are many plug-ins, upgrades and apps you can buy that will assist you, but do some research before you shell out any money−I advise you buy an advanced buffer app. There are many Kindle accessories ‘to boost your sales.’ If they sound too good to be true… well, they are.

I have a friend who runs the media for the Sharp Project (@sharpproject) in Manchester, England, which is like a mini BBC with associated small start-up technology companies. He was telling me that when he first engaged with twitter for many months they only had about 200 follows and the number stubbornly did not move, within a couple of weeks they had jumped to 3K, and from this several substantial contacts were obtained.

Social media reminds me of that Malcolm Gladwell book ‘Blink.’ The third chapter is about a car salesman who never dismisses people due to their appearance. He gets a yearly sale of a Lexus to a farmer, that initially turned up scrofulous and unkempt, other salespeople were not interested in the agriculturalist! You never know where the break you need might come from. From this blog last week I was contacted for an interview from a much bigger blog. Don’t make the mistake I made initially and turn down any exposure because you are too busy writing.

Goodreads, were you are probably reading this now−so there is little mileage explaining to the converted. For a writer this is the best site by a long way; sales, exposure, contact, friends, blog, giveaways, flags, comments, book recommendations, fans and much more. You need to be on here and visible.  

Google sites: The main reason you need to be on here is there is an enormous algorithmic monster in a stalactited server-cave somewhere under Iceland that is putting everything whizzing around on the inter-web through its consciousness−it feeds of it and gets bigger by the second. You need to be as high up on the Google search to get exposure. Two important rules are, produce at least 300 words and add as many relevant tags. Even if not that many people view your work there you are rising up the Goggle rankings, and keeping the all-seeing lonely monster alive.

WordPress I do because it offers more applications, especially for statistics. As you are aware there are many other sites, which you may prefer. But Goodreads and Google should be top of your list.

LibraryThing I use for ebook givaways (Goodreads for hard copies), again there are many of these friendly helpful sites. The advantage of giving ebooks away is it will save you a lot of money when you are trying to get reviews. People often prefer a pdf version of books, so that costs you absolutely nothing.  This site offers an Author profile as well.

Facebook: I am not a big fan of Facebook. I don’t do much on this site, but feed other sites into it. You may have a differing view; I know a lot of authors (and artists) love it. I have my own personal Facebook, which I avoid as much as possible as it can suck precious time away.−“Distracted from distraction by distraction” as T S Eliot once said as he was being distracted.  

 

You have to play the percentages game when it comes to the Social Mediarati. There are four main factors that are going to put you off more productive writing; time−finding enough of it, rejection from publishing houses (no one likes rejection however resilient they claim to be), The Critical Devil eating away at you−the little destructive bastard, and social media. Great if you love it, some people love selling themselves and their work, and not just the nihilistic. It can be hard work coming up with new innovative ways to do this, but remember if you are doing social media you are not writing your next great opus−find a happy balance.

Books are word of mouth. Ask yourself, how many times have you read a review and then gone out and purchased that book? Now, compare that to a close friend raving about a book. That’s why you have to start small and build, and that’s why you have to make social media your friend!

 

I apologise for this weeks’ long blog, but I wanted to get the social media stuff out of the way over just one week. If you feel like you have been on a busman’s holiday while sucking eggs with your grandma next to you, as you sightsee in your own neighbourhood−apologies once again−if that is you, you will have no problems with the medium. When I reluctantly started out on Twitter I asked my tech-savvy friends the most moronic questions−hopefully this has answered some of them for the novices, at least given you a gentle nudge−you will need to do some research, there is plenty of information out there−you soon get the hang of it. For Twitter substitute nearly all social media.

On a personal note, I really don’t want to see you with a picture of your cat/s. It’s great you have one, but if I want to see it, I’ll ask. Why not share a photo of yourself, even if you are just auditioning for the next Catfish series!  

Well done for getting this far, the sticker and Edwardian moustache kit are in the post.

@thewritingIMP   www.ianmpindar.com

Ian M Pindar’s latest books, under his real name are: ‘Hoofing It’ and ‘Hoofed,’ the first and second novels in The Robert Knight Series and are on special offer http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Ian+M+Pindar  He has another three novels out this year.