Wednesday, 21 January 2015

It's OK to "Fail"

Here's where I'm at right now. I'm almost 19,000 words into a romance novella and I've just said to myself, "I could have written this story so much better."

I started off just fine. Writing happily away with no real idea where I was going with it but the story was moving forward and it was interesting. It kept me interested, anyway, which is always the yard stick I use. If I'm interested in the story developing on the page…if I'm still intrigued enough to keep watching the movie playing in my mind…I'm probably writing a story readers will like.

Then I watched a few lectures on storytelling and thought about my novella when I was doing other things…cooking or taking walk…and I realised I knew how to tell that particular story in a much better way.

So now I either have to start again or go back and insert scenes and dialogue to lay the foundation of the new story.

In a way, I've failed. I went into this story without considering the optimal way to tell it. I took a wrong turn at the 5,000 word mark and kept going down the wrong road for another 14,000 words.

But that's okay. Now that I've faced the reality of the situation, the resulting book will be better.

I have to go back and do a lot of work. Time-consuming work. Yesterday, when I thought about what today might bring, I didn't think I'd be scrapping a lot of words. I was getting ready to write a good few thousand new words and bring this project to completion.

But today's reality will never live up to yesterday's dream. As writers, we sometimes let enthusiasm take us over. We say things like, "Tomorrow, I'll write 12,000 words. I've never managed that many in a day so far but I will tomorrow."

Then tomorrow comes and we manage 4,000. Or 2,500. Bleh. We suck. Can't even write 12,000 measly words.

No, we don't suck. It's easy to say, "Tomorrow I'll write 12,000 words" when tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. It's much harder to actually write those 12,000 words when the time comes.

So don't beat yourself up about it. Accept the words you did get done and move on.

"But yesterday I said I'd write 12,000 words."

That was yesterday. That time is gone. You can only live in the present. Yesterday is a memory and tomorrow is a dream. Reality is only happening at one moment in time…right now.

It's good to make goals for tomorrow and it's good to be enthusiastic about them but if you "fail" to achieve them, don't be too hard on yourself.

What I think might happen tomorrow:

What might actually happen:

And it isn't only word counts. If you're writing something and it doesn't live up to the idea you had in your head and the writing is becoming a chore, don't be afraid to say, "You know what? I'm going to scrap this and start again. Or work on something else. Or rework what I have." It's all part of the process and it leads to putting out your best work.

Everyone makes mistakes. I once published two episodes of a sci fi series then realised I didn't have the time to continue it.  I pulled the episodes. Some day, I'll go back to that series but for now it's a "fail". I've written romance novellas and novels that failed to sell and I can see why when I look at them. They were't my best work, to put it mildly. Luckily I found a romance niche that suits me and I'm now writing a bestselling series.

It's okay to fail. Just pick yourself up and move on. 

If you write a few books that fail to set the literary world on fire, so what? Write another. And another. You're a writer in an age when you can write anything and get it to readers. If your political thrillers fail to sell as well as you'd like, try writing a couple of mysteries or a thriller involving pearl divers.

There's a lot of doom and gloom going around at the moment. Remember that nobody represents the entire industry and just because someone says the latest changes at Amazon are killing their sales, that doesn't mean you have to throw yourself on your sword too. Many people are thriving right now. 

While the more vocal doomsayers moan about KU and lack of discoverability, there are many writers quietly working away and making plenty of money.

So if you've failed at something today, don't dwell on it. Do what needs to be done and move on.

After all…tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Create a Brand for Your Books

Every company has a brand. The most successful have a brand which is instantly recognizable. Recognition creates a sense of comfort in customers. It's origin, the Latin word recognoscere , means "to know again, to recall to mind".

So when someone is miles from home in a strange city and they find a Starbucks, they get a sense of familiarity. They know they can go in and order their favorite coffee and it will taste exactly like it does in the Starbucks at home. Just seeing that brand identity will make them recall the last time they were in a Starbucks enjoying their favorite coffee.

We fear the unknown. We are attracted to the familiar.

As a self-publisher, you are a business. You have customers and you have products. Do you have a brand?

Countless time, I will see an author on a forum saying something like, "My series isn't selling very well" and when I look at the books in their signature, I ask myself, "Those books are in a series?" What I am usually looking at is a selection of books that don't look related to each other in any way whatsoever. Yet apparently they are in a serial or series.

If you are writing books in a serial or series, you owe it to yourself to brand them. 

Just like the Starbucks logo gives someone a sense of familiarity and stirs subconscious memories, you want to do the same with your books. If a reader enjoyed your first book, seeing a similar brand on the second and third in the series gives them that sense of familiarity and a memory of the pleasure they had reading the first book. The fact that the second book is branded similarly to the first tells the reader they will get the same experience they had from reading the first book if they buy the second.

We'll look at how to brand books in a moment but first, let's look at what a brand is not. 

1. A Social Media Presence is Not a Brand

"I interact with my readers on Facebook/Twitter/TSU/my blog. That's my brand."

No, that is not your brand. Interacting with readers on social media can help your brand but it is not the brand itself. You want your brand to attract potential readers in the retailers. Most of those people won't know or care if you have a social media presence. 

If you think it doesn't matter that all three books in your series look disconnected from each other because, "I told all my followers they are the next books in the series", you aren't seeing the bigger picture.

2. You Are Not a Brand

I hear this one a lot. "I want readers to love everything I write. When I write sci fi, romance, and erotica, I want a readership who will buy it all. Because I am the brand."

You are not a brand. Most readers don't even know who you are. If you release a sci fi book, followed by a mystery, followed by a romance, then a YA coming of age story and expect readers to buy them because they were all written by you, it might be a good idea to squash your ego now. Because if you don't, your lack of branding strategy will.

Go into a bookstore and look at the signs above the shelves. Are they author names? No, they are genres. "Mysteries & Thrillers", "Science Fiction". People who have been in this business a long time know that the first thing a reader looks for is their favorite genre. Then they look for their favorite author within that genre.

Unless you are a famous celebrity, you are not a brand.

3. Writing All Books in the Same Genre is Not a Brand

The opposite of number 2, this thinking goes along the lone of, "Well all of my books are sci fi so that's a brand. I have a brand."

No, you don't. You could have written 20 sci fi books that all look like they were written by different authors.  That is not a brand.


So let's look at how a series of books can be branded properly.


Imagine a potential reader logging onto Amazon, or B&N. They are looking for books to buy. the first thing they will do is go to the virtual shelves for the genre they want to browse. Whether that is the top 100 list for the genre, or the popularity list, the first thing they are presented with is a display of book covers. As they click on these books, they are also presented with a display of also boughts.

They might scroll through the shelves. As they look at the covers, they are searching for a book that fits a mental genre checklist in their head. So if they logged on thinking, "I want to read a mystery," they are looking for something that will give them the mystery experience. A lot of covers are going to be scrolling across that screen and the first thing the reader will do is reject any that don't look like they are a mystery.

So your cover must reflect the genre. It must say to that reader, "I'm a mystery. Just what you are looking for." Same for sci fi. Same for fantasy. Same for any genre.

The genre you write in has certain conventions for cover design. If you don't know what they are, look at the successful books in your chosen genre. Get a feel for the tone of the covers, the types of images used.

So the first thing you book must do is say, "I'm the genre you're looking for."

Now if that reader looking at all those covers sees a number of books that are all branded and obviously belong together, the message is more powerful. "I'm the genre you're looking for and so are these." 

Many readers are drawn to series. They know if they love the first book, they can have the same reading experience with subsequent books in the series. 

So instead of setting up a single unknown coffee shop, having a series is like setting up a chain of Starbucks. 

So your series covers must

1. Clearly belong to the genre
2. Clearly belong with other books in the "chain"

Let's take a look at the first point. Your books must clearly belong to a genre. 

Genres are Powerful

Ask some people what types of books they like. You will probably get answers like, "Thrillers," or, "Romance," or, "Mysteries." 

Probably not so much this: "Well I like sci fi stories with a touch of crime, a little fantasy, and some romance." 

As a writer, you probably want people to read your stories. So if readers all have favorite genres, why are you writing a book that defies genre expectations? 

Is it because you are special and your snowflake of a book is "art" and can't be fit into a defined genre? Fine. You write your art but you are probably reading the wrong blog if that is your goal. 

Writers who want to produce stories that are read will make their stories fit into the defined genres. Why? Because that's where readers are looking for their next book and they don't like things that don't belong.

So your crime novel should look like a crime novel not a YA dystopian. Your sweet romance should look like a sweet romance, not a thriller.

Genres are powerful because just by being on the shelf of a particular genre, you will attract readers if your book clearly belongs there and offers the readers the "mystery experience" or the "military sci fi experience" or the "steampunk experience"

But My Book is Special

No. It isn't.

Now onto point 2. 

So your book's cover clearly states the genre. And like all good businesses, you have branched out into a chain. Now, how do you let your readers know all the books belong in that chain?

When you create a cover (or hire a designer to create one for you), there are always three elements you need to consider.




Here's the simplest way to ensure your books look like they belong together: put the title and author name in the same place on each cover and use the same fonts every time. (I don't mean use the same font for the title and author name, of course. Use the same font for the author name on each book and use the same font for the title on each book.)

Make sure your cover image conveys the genre. A good idea is to use images that are connected. (same characters, same color scheme, etc)

If you make your own covers, create a template in your graphics program and save it so each new book will have those elements exactly where they should be.

You might want to use a repeated graphic behind the titles or the author name.

If you have more than one series, you can distinguish between them by branding each series differently.

Another branding trick is to use connected words in the titles.

…or the same word repeated.

Think about how you want to brand your chain of products. Make sure every book in your series looks like it belongs there and all the books belong together.

If your brand doesn't seem to be working, rebrand the series. Try something different. 

Have fun!


Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year!

I'm still at my desk but I'm about to close everything down and go celebrate the end of 2014 and usher in the beginning of 2015.

I wish all of you a happy new year. Whatever your goals, I hope you achieve them. There was never a better time to make writing dreams come true.

Here's to a successful 2015!


Monday, 29 December 2014

2015 Could be YOUR Year

"Everything flows and nothing abides,
 everything gives way and nothing stays fixed."


There's been a lot of wailing, teeth-gnashing and histrionics lately regarding Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program. Some authors who were big hitters a couple of years ago are reporting heavy losses in income. Writers who were once full time are going back to their day jobs in droves. The sky is falling and nobody can make a living in the writing game anymore.

It's all over...what's a writer to do?

From someone who has weathered the (so-called) storm and knows a lot of other writers who are just as full-time now as they were before KU ...and some who are doing better now than they were before KU... here are a few suggestions.

Rise Above the Drama

Don't take on someone else's problems as your own. Your focus should always be on YOU.

Remember, only sensationalism makes the headlines. Don't be distracted by sensationalism.

There's a lot more I could say on this subject but the purpose of this blog post is to be positive, so I won't. Suffice to say, if one of the top hitters in KDP sees a decrease in sales, they might think the sky is falling but they do not represent YOU or many other authors. They are not in your position and you are not in theirs.

If 10 people fall out of the top spots on Amazon, 10 others take their place. Are those 10 new people going to be complaining about recent changes or celebrating them?

Nothing stays the same forever. Everything moves in cycles. Those who were shining brightest in the past must make way for the new stars of the future. This is how it should be, or things would get boring very quickly. As Heraclitus said in the 5th century B.C. "nothing stays fixed".

When Everything Changes...Be Prepared to Change Also

KU has changed the publishing landscape. There is no escaping that fact, and whining that things aren't like they were in 2011 isn't going to make you any sales.

When everything changes, be prepared to change also. Adapt. Survive. Thrive in the new environment.

If you're driving along a road and the road suddenly turns, you make the turn and stay on the road. You don't continue straight ahead as you've always been doing, driven by inertia, and go off the road into the swamp. It doesn't matter who you are, you need to make that turn.

Do You See a Problem...or an Opportunity?

Like it or not, Kindle Unlimited is here. you can whine all you want about it but in the end you have two choices.

1. Ignore it
2. Use it to your advantage

Whichever choice you make, you must accept the consequences of that choice as being of your own making. 

If you choose option #1, that's fine. 

If you choose option #2, that's fine too.

But whichever option you choose, it is your free choice and therefore your responsibility. You know about the exclusivity clause and the payment pot and you will make your decisions accordingly. 

If you have a large enough catalogue of titles, of course, you might choose to put some in KU and leave other out. Whatever you choose is, again, your responsibility.

While KU might have allegedly toppled some authors from the cherished top spots (and put others up there in their place), for the average write there are opportunities in Amazon's new program.

1. You are now less of a risk for readers who are interested in your work. In the pre-KU world, readers had to buy your book to take a chance on you. This could be why the same relatively small number of authors were always at the top; readers stuck with what they knew. Now, they are more willing to try other authors because those authors' already part of their monthly subscription package. The only thing they are risking by choosing a new author is reading time.

2. Visibility. Borrows count toward your book's ranking. Visibility is so important to your career, this overshadows all else.

3. Shorter works earn the same borrow rate as longer works. Writers of longer works complain about this but that's the way it is. 

So, seeing all these opportunities...what's a writer to do?

I have long been espousing the advantages of writing novella length books in a series. Kindle Unlimited is the perfect marketplace for such a strategy to succeed, and succeed well.

If you can publish a set of well-written, interconnected (not necessarily serial) novellas that satisfy the expectations of the genre you are writing and put them into KU, you will probably attract a lot of readers. 

Here's one I did earlier...

That book at the top there was released a couple of weeks ago and attracted 891 readers through the KU program. Now I could gnash my teeth and say that I have "lost" 891 sales to the evil KU monster or I could accept the FACT that I have 891 readers who will go on to read later books in the series if they enjoy the book they borrowed. If the book wasn't in KU, those 891 readers might not have taken a chance on it and become ensnared by my compelling writing. :P

And when I'm about to throw my hands heavenward and cry out, "I would have made $2.09 on each of those if they were sales but KU is only going to pay me $1 plus change for each one," I need to remember that I might not have any of them at all and $1 plus change X 891 is better then zero.

I talk to a lot of authors and many of them are making more income now by being in KU than they were before it existed.

So some writers are making less income while some are making more. It's up to you to decide your next move in this new landscape. If you're willing to put in the work and adapt to the twists and turns in the road, you could pass all the cars stubbornly driving into the swamp.

2015 could be YOUR year.


Thursday, 4 December 2014

Eat My Shorts

With the introduction of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited, there have been some instances of scammers uploading crap into the system to get a piece of the money pot. This crap is usually short because all the scammers are interested in is getting $$ for as little effort as possible.

This is wrong. All authors and readers should be appalled at this behavior and the scammers should be dealt with by Amazon. We can all agree on that.

But now I'm hearing statements like the following being bandied about:

"Short story writers shouldn't get as much share of the monthly pot as writers who have entire novels in KU."

"Writers of short stories and serials are just trying to scam readers."

The people spouting this nonsense seem to think that short fiction isn't as worthy as a novel because it is shorter. I've said it before and I'll say it again…the value of a book is not determined by how many words it contains. If you think it is, then go read a dictionary. It has plenty of words in it.

Every story has a purpose and its value is determined by how well it serves that purpose. A story's purpose is not to be as long as the author can possibly make it, as if that confers some magical "value".

If a story serves its purpose, it doesn't matter how long or short it is.

A short erotica story and an epic fantasy novel have very different purposes. The short erotica piece is meant to titillate and serve a need that the reader may want served quickly. An erotica reader doesn't want to plow through thousands of words of description before arriving at the good parts.

The epic fantasy reader, on the other hand, does want to read lengthy descriptions of the world in which the story takes place.

To compare the value of the erotic short story and the epic fantasy novel by number of words is ludicrous. Each story is the correct length to keep its particular readers happy.


…delivers a very different reader experience to this…

...and is a different length. But that is how it should be. A reader who buys the first book is looking for a particular experience, as is a reader of the second book. But it isn't the same experience.

Each book has a totally different job to perform and requires a different word count to do that job. Each book has an appropriate length for its genre.

A movie and a TV episode both entertain but the TV episode takes less time to tell its story. Does that make it of a lesser value? Do the people who attack short story writers only watch movies, and the longer the better? Do these people email TV show writers and tell them they should be only writing movie length material? Do they only eat big meals, even if they are full, because more is always better?

And while we're here, let's dispel another myth. Writing short stories is not easier than writing novels.

Because of a novel's greater length, the author can get away with sloppy writing in places because those parts get lost in the larger whole. In a short story, the writing should be tight from beginning to end.

A short story writer needs to constantly come up with new ideas. Writing a lot of shorts means coming up with a lot of ideas. Novel writers get more words out of each idea because they are writing in a longer form.

Writing short stories is an art. There is less latitude to make the same mistakes which can be overlooked in a novel. Knowing what to leave out as well what to put into a short story is a skill.

In no way am I saying short story writers are "better" than novel writers. I write both shorts and novels and each has its own challenges. What I AM saying is that short story denigrators who say writing short fiction is "easy" are talking BS. And to say short fiction writers should get paid less for entertaining readers is ludicrous.

If YOU don't like short fiction, fine, don't read it. But don't assume everyone else has the same tastes as you and don't try to penalize short story writers just because they don't write what you read. Their stories are just as valuable as anyone else's and they work just as hard.

If someone said, "I think crime writers in KU should get less of the royalty pot because I don't read crime fiction," you'd think they were bigoted and selfish and had delusions of grandeur wouldn't you?


Saturday, 5 July 2014

Hugh Howey or BUST!

Alternative Title: How To Be A Full-Time Author Without EVER Penning A SINGLE Bestseller!

From an email a few weeks ago:

WRITER: Hi, could you show me someone on Amazon who is self-published and having success writing serials or series in the detective/mystery genre.

ME: Sure. Here. (attached a link to an author on Amazon)

WRITER: No, I mean someone who is successful. Making money. Her books are mostly ranked in the 20,000s. She has one at 11,000 and one at 15,000 but the rest aren't selling all that well.

ME: She has 11 books in that series, all priced at $2.99-$3.99 and they are all selling copies every day. She also has a second series of 4 books that are selling every day. The highest ranked is at 11,925.

WRITER: Yeah, but she hasn't even got anything in the top 10,000. MY book is in the 20,000s same as hers and I'm not making much money.

ME: She has 15 titles.

WRITER: Is there anyone else? Someone who is successful?


A more recent email:

WRITER #2: Hey, TW, since you won't reveal your pen names can you point me to a successful sci fi series. (self-pubbed) But not an outlier.

ME: Yeah. Here you go. (link to sci fi series on Amazon)

WRITER #2: No, his books aren't what I meant. I mean somebody making money.

ME: He is making money. Six books in the first series and the most recent was published in April but is still at 17,000 way after the "30 day cliff", showing he has a fan base. All the books are priced at $3.99 and the first in his new series is ranked at 11,000.

WRITER #2: I meant someone who has books in the top 2 or 3 hundred ranks.

ME: You said, "Not an outlier."

WRITER #2: Not an outlier but someone successful.

ME: <expletive deleted>


Here is something to think about:


Hugh Howey has said that the real story of indie publishing is the amount of authors quietly making enough money to pay their bills.

There are many, many full-time authors out there making a good living from self-publishing yet their books have never graced the Amazon top 100, and maybe not even the top 1,000. They are known to their fans but are not household names and they MAKE A LIVING as FULL-TIME authors. Isn't that great?

If you go and take a look at one of their books and dismiss it because it is ranked at #35,000, you aren't seeing the full picture. Where are the author's other books ranked? What about books you might not know about written under pen names? How many titles do they have out? How much royalty are they making? How much does this all add up to?

If you get enough titles out, you can make good money even if no single title ever becomes a bestseller.

Think about that for a minute.

If you write enough good stories, you WILL make money. That wouldn't necessarily have happened in the old world of publishing.

So next time you think an author is not a success because their books aren't all at super-high ranks, take a moment to consider how many titles the author has to and how long all those books have been selling. Do some mental math. Maybe that's something for you to aspire to.

…which brings me on to my next topic, which I call the "Hugh Howey Or BUST!" syndrome.

I'm seeing writers on message boards bemoaning their lack of sales and saying things like, "I thought there was money in self-publishing." or "My <insert genre here> books don't sell, therefore the <insert genre> is dead." or "I've been doing this for a year now with not much to show for it."

This ties back to the topic above and the writers quietly making a living at self-publishing. Those "quiet" authors might be inspirational for people moaning about their sales but the moaners are focused on the authors the media mentions whenever a story about self-publishing crops up …the BIG names. Outliers like Hugh Howey, Joe Konrath and Bella Andre.

In the "failed" author's mind, if he/she doesn't become a success as big as Hugh then what's the point?

Isn't the point that you want to write? You DO want to write, correct?

Because if you don't, there are much easier ways to earn a living!

In the old days, before self-publishing, you wouldn't have been able to make ANY sales without first querying agents and publishers, signing contracts that gave you very little royalty and waiting years for your book to come out. If you make even 1 sale of your self-published book, you are doing better than you probably would have with all those gatekeepers.

And in the old days before self-publishing, there was a quality every writer needed: PERSISTENCE

Manuscripts would go out to publishers only to be returned with form rejection letters. The author would simply send it out again to another publishing house. And again. And again. They knew they were going to have to work hard if they wanted to make a living doing something they loved. And while the book was out doing the rounds, they were working on the next one.

Do you have the same persistence as those pre-kindle writers or are you spoiled by the ease of self-publishing? Just because it's easy to put a book online doesn't mean it's easy to make a career out of it.

Not too long ago, before the advent of self-publishing, you would have had drawers full of manuscripts that would NEVER sell yet you would keep writing and keep improving your craft. These days, you can out your work up online and hope it sells but you still need to keep working and improving. Who told you this was easy?


This may be a new world of publishing where you can publish yourself but I put this idea forward to think about.

To make it as an author in today's world, you must possess the same strengths as authors in the old world possessed.

Meaning: Don't do something that would have killed your career in the old model of publishing because it will probably kill it in the new model too.

You need that tenacity and stubbornness to keep going in the face of adversity. In the old days it was rejection, now it's lack of sales. Like the writers who shrugged it off and sent out the manuscript again, do the same and write another book.


Do you moan about your lack of sales? Think it's the genre and not your writing/covers/blurbs that is at fault? Want to do anything (marketing/promotion) other than write more books? Here are some solutions to specific problems…

PROBLEM: "I've been at this writing game for a year and am not where I wanted to be."
SOLUTION: Do it for 2 years.

PROBLEM: "I've been at this writing game for 2 years and am not where I wanted to be."
SOLUTION: Do it for 3 years.

…If you really want to be a writer, you will keep at it for however many years it takes. Look up your favorite writer and see how many rejections they had to endure before they "made it".

PROBLEM: "My <genre> books aren't selling. The genre must be dead.
SOLUTION: If you decide that a genre is dead, then it is dead to you. And you are dead to it. You could be making a big mistake turning your back on a genre you love. Opportunities are everywhere. Be a happy writer.

PROBLEM: My first book didn't make much money.
SOLUTION: Write your second book.

PROBLEM: My second book didn't make much money.
SOLUTION: Write your third book.

…if you REALLY want to be a writer you will KEEP GOING.

PROBLEM: There's an author who doesn't write anywhere near as well as I do but they make way more sales than me. It's disheartening. What's the point?

SOLUTION: You should only ever focus on YOUR OWN career, not anybody else's. You will be MUCH happier.

PROBLEM: Writing is a lot of hard work.
SOLUTION: Who ever said it was going to be easy? If you want to write, you won't mind doing the work.

PROBLEM: Writing is too much hard work.
SOLUTION: Get another job, An easier one. And forget all about that nasty writing.


Don't spend your time focusing on the outliers. Concentrate on your own career and make it the best you can. Aim high but don't try to follow in someone else's footsteps (it's rarely possible to do successfully). Instead, be a trail blazer. If you want to write pearl diver romances (and let's face it, who doesn't?) then do it.

But be honest with yourself and be prepared to work.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Indie Advantage…Have We Lost It?

Happy New Year to everyone. Here's hoping there will be continued success in 2014 for indies.

So, as usual, the landscape is changing year to year. A recent change is that a lot of trad publishers are lowering prices to compete in the market place. This is good for readers, not so good for indies. In fact, I've been hearing a lot of doom and gloom about this point. "How will indies compete?" "We've lost our advantage." "This is the END!"

Before we follow in Virginia Woolf's footsteps, let's analyse the situation a little deeper. 

When self-publishing was new, some authors hit the big time and sold a zillion copies by using the 99c price point. Amanda Hocking, John Locke and others sold their books for a low price the trad publishers couldn't duplicate. Readers went mad for low-priced fiction and large numbers of sales followed. John Locke used his 99c price in promotion, saying that Stephen King had to be ten times better than him. (Because his books cost ten times as much). Locke had some other promotional practices, like buying reviews, which we won't go into here.

Then the indie market became flooded with a lot of bad books by people who were trying to catch hold of the mythical "Kindle Gold Rush" and the 99c books lost traction, being regarded by a lot of readers as 'bargain basket crap'. Some writers (myself included) experimented with prices like $1.49 for short stories to make their books stand out.

Putting the 99c debate aside, self-published books have always been good value vs their trad-pubbed counterparts. $2.99 for a well-written novel is damn good value. But now the Big Five are catching on and lowering the prices of their books.

The Indie Advantage is gone. Gone! (insert doom-laden music here)

Or maybe it isn't gone...

Maybe it's time we looked at some other advantages we have over the big dogs.


No, not the movie with Nick Cage. The ability of indies to adapt to change. 

The market has been turned on its head since the recent advent of self-publishing and things have not settled down yet. Everything is still in flux. New trends arise, new superstar authors are made, there are even new genres (I'm looking at you, New Adult). If you were in charge of a company whose main business is selling paper books to distributors, how quickly could you react to these changes? If the next big thing happens to be Pearl Diver Romances, how quickly could you hire writers from your stable to churn out a series of Pearl Diver Romances, get editors to look them over, hire the cover designers to create the covers, then get everything to the printers before selling them to distributors?

Now, what if you're Susan Indie or Alex Selfpub and you notice the Amazon Top 100 being taken over by Pearl Diver Romances? How long does it take you to join the growing list of Pearl Diver Romance authors? How quickly could you catch that wave and reap the benefits of being a hot author in a hot topic? 

And before the 'artistes' leave comments with words like 'mercenary' and 'money-grabbing', they should use their artiste heads a little. You can still write what you want to write and hit a hot topic at the same time. You write thrillers? I can think of dozens of plots for thrillers involving pearl divers. Mystery? Yes. NewAdult Romance? Yes. Science Fiction? Yes. Fantasy? Yes. You just use your ability to write what you want to write while acknowledging market trends. That's not 'selling out' is it? If acknowledging the market means the same as selling out to you, you're reading the wrong blog.

And if Pearl Diving fiction becomes a thing, I want credit dammit!

So there is a huge advantage indies have over the trad publishers….adaptation.

No, Nick Cage…not you.


No, not the movie with Nick Cage. The ability of indies to know their audience.

Trad publishers know squat about the readers of the books they publish. They don't know who they are, where they come from or what their names are. Trad publishers sell to big distributors who then go and sell the books to bookstores. A trad editor might know what certain distributors like to buy but they don't know anything about the reading habits of Amelia Tench who like cozy mysteries, or Jack Force who like's men's adventure.

As indies we can do what the trads can't. We can interact with our readers. Facebook, Twitter, and mailing lists are tools in our arsenal that enable personal interaction with our readers. This communication goes a long way to building up relationships with our customers that the trad publishers don't have. We can put the personal touch on our product.

So in addition to adaptation, let's add knowing.

No, Nick. 


No, not the movie with…

I'm talking about the ability to kick ass with what you write and publish. 

You see, when it comes to deciding what books to put out, trad publishers are limited by release schedules, budgetary constraints and the need to make a profit. So in a lot of ways they have to play it safe. You, however, don't.

Just before Christmas, I decided I wanted to write a post-apocalyptic sci fi story which I would publish in serial format. So that's what I'm doing. Could a trad publisher make the same decision? Not without consulting others, forecasting profit margins, fitting the work into the release schedule, testing the market, etc. How many serials are there out there published by the Big Five? Not many. In fact they are very rare. Beth Kery springs to mind but not many others. Stephen King did it with the Green Mile (I still have the original little books somewhere) but he's Stephen King and publishers do what he says.

So here's an advantage you have over the trads: you can publish what you want, when you want, how often you want.

Publishers limit their authors to one (maybe two) releases a year. But you can get your name out there over and over throughout the year, gaining visibility and an audience. 

You aren't limited by market forecasts . You want to release a book about a romance between two pearl divers? Then go ahead and do it. That's a freedom you have that trad publishers do not have.  Want to release it in weekly instalments? You can do it. 

So next time you feel like the trads are muscling in and shoving you out, remember you can kick ass in ways that they can never dream of. 

No, Nick. Just no.

"Argue For Your Limitations…

…and they're yours,"as Richard Bach said. If you want to make it in this strange world of self-publishing, you need to look at the positive position you are in. You have no limitations. You have the freedom to do what you want. Think about that for a moment. That is a great power.

Next time you feel like your self-publishing opportunities are about to be crushed by outside forces, remind yourself that you have advantages. Reduce the problems to what they are…an irritating piece of grit.

If you work around the grit, you could end up making a pearl