Wednesday, October 1, 2014
The IWSG is making a book!!
This is a monthly event started by the awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh and organized by the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Click here to find out more about the group and sign up for the next event.
This month marks the anniversary of the IWSG website and FB group, and to celebrate the IWSG Team is putting together an eBook that will benefit all writers - The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond. The eBook will be free and available for all eReaders by early December.
My post this month is also the contribution to the e-book, which is why I'm sharing my thoughts on what I learned so far on writing and publishing from my still very limited (but hopefully expanding) point of view.
To me, these are the most important things that make for a good story and a solid readership:
Research. Spend at least as much time researching as you do writing. Talk to people. Read non-fiction on the topics you deal with in your book. For example, when I started jotting down my ideas for my debut novel, CHIMERAS, I knew nothing about police procedural, and had never talked to a cop before. So I went on amazon and bought a bunch of books on forensics. I also found two true crime books written by Miles Corwin, a journalist who was embedded in the RHD for one year. Fantastic read, I can't tell you how much those books (Homicide Special in particular) have helped me shape my story and make my characters ring true.
But I needed more. So I went looking for people I could talk to. I'd met a writer online whose books where set with the LAPD. I asked her where she did her research and she introduced me to a retired LAPD cop who helped her lot. That retired LAPD cop is now one of my best friends and his memoir sits in my Favorite Books shelf. Through him I learned not only the lingo cops use, but also their modus operandi, their witty humor, their lifestyle. And it paid off: I've had readers praise my characters because they "ring true."
Writing rules. Every time the topic comes up I roll my eyes. Can you do X in writing? Are you allowed to do Y? Why is Z strictly forbidden? For me, it all boils down to this: do not be afraid to break rules. Rather, be afraid of not breaking them well.
Build a solid and reliable readership. By that I mean a group of readers that will always buy your books, will always write reviews and will always give you valuable feedback. The group doesn't have to be large, but it does have to keep growing and it should be a steady presence in your writing career.
Provide interesting content. Now, I know a lot of fellow writers will disagree with me on what makes interesting content. When I browse people's blogs I see that most writers talk to other writers. They post about publishing, writing, and the ins and outs of the life of a writer. And mind you, I really appreciate this because as a writer, I learned a lot from other writers who generously shared their experience on writing, publishing and marketing. But you must not forget that who will ultimately read your books are readers, not just writers.
If you look at the most successful authors out there you'll notice that on their blogs they talk to their readers. Not fellow writers, not friends or family. They engage their readers in their writing process. So yes, keep the blog posts on how to format books, what platforms are best and what promos work versus the ones that don't work. But also talk about your characters and how you got inspired to write them and what you're working on next...
Be patient. Michael Bunker wrote a great post a while ago on Kindle stuffers. A lot of people stuff their Kindles. Yes, those people will likely give you a spike in rank and it will feel good. It's a high that doesn't last long, though. Many of those Kindle stuffers will keep stuffing their Kindles and your book will be buried under a pile of stuff that may or may not be read some day. You want reliable readers, readers that pick your book because they read the description and loved he reviews. Those readers are harder to get but I promise, they are here to stay with you for the long run. So work on getting those more than you are at working on your ranks. It takes more time and even more patience, but in the long run it pays off.
Make your readers part of your writing process. Create a newsletter for your upcoming ARCs. Sending out ARCs is a must in order to build that reliable readership. Don't just send them out, ask for feedback. Tell your readers you love to hear back from them and always thank them for the time they put into reading and reviewing your work. My drafts got much better thanks to the feedback of my reviewers, and many of my readers have now become great friends.
Your time is better spent writing. Yes, I know, there's a lot of books on how to publish successfully out there, a lot of blog posts, a lot of tricks, do's and dont's that people talk about. Have I read them? Some. Would I recommend going through all that stuff? Maybe. To be honest with you, I think they're just tricks, and, statistically, what works for one book/author is not likely to work for all books/authors. Yes, if you're good at marketing you may have a better time than others struggling to push their work out there. But really. Don't waste too much time on that stuff. The time you spend writing is your investment in that faithful readership that you need to build. Let your readers push your book for you while you focus on producing the best story ever written.
Final considerations. My advice will likely be the least popular you will find out there. Why? Because it's the kind advice that overlooks fast rewards in favor of hard work that takes a long time to build. And maybe I will be proven wrong. But I see a lot of writers rise fast and then just as fast fall (and this is true for both traditionally published as well as indie authors). Fire burns through hay very quickly. If that's what you want, then go for the fast reward approach, aim at those Kindle stuffers, etc. But if you want a long lasting fire, go for the slow burning coals. Your ranks won't be shocking any time soon, but your readers will follow you through time.
I want to thank everyone who will be stopping by and leaving comments today. I'm on the road today so I will publish them and reply as soon as I can.