I don’t normally post about WIP (Works In Progress). However, I thought I’d provide an update on how End War: Lonely Hunter is progressing. It is my first full length Science Fiction novel. To be honest, I’m a bit burnt out at the moment. Between a demanding full-time job (that has nothing to do with writing), blogging, relentlessly growing my understanding about how self-publishing works, continuing to promote my first novel (to include finishing up the audio book), and working on Lonely Hunter and its four sequels…I’m smoked.
The Damnation of Theron Ware, by Harold Frederic, is considered one of the classic novels of American literature. Published in 1896, it is a realistic portrayal of a Methodist pastor (Theron Ware) in upstate New York. Of note, the novel was also published with the title Illumination, which in some ways is a more accurate (if less dramatic) depiction of Ware’s travails. In modern terms, it is the story of a man in mid-life crisis, who makes some bad decisions when he finds himself in a new environment. But just as the proof is in the pudding, the tale is in the telling…
One of my goals this year was to read more indie/self-published novels. Part of my motivation was to study them to help me learn how to better write a book. My own novel is progressing, and I do read about the craft and some classic works of fiction. But sometimes it is good to look at the not so good to better understand what does and does not work. So far I’ve read seven novels and novellas. That is not a huge sample size, but it is big enough that I wanted to provide some summary thoughts. And these books are not randomly selected from Amazon. Let me explain….
At the risk of provoking the popular vs. good debate, aspiring writers who wish to write well should study the novels that have endured (let’s call them the works of “masters” for this discussion), not the forgettable books on the top 10 bestseller list this week.
Free Indirect Discourse (also called Free Indirect Speech) seems a clunky mouthful, but it is also a powerful tool to make your writing more intimate when used in proper measure. Wikipedia says: “What distinguishes Free Indirect [Discourse; FID for short] from normal indirect speech is the lack of an introductory expression such as ‘He said’ or ‘he thought’. It is as if the subordinate clause carrying the content of the indirect speech is taken out of the main clause which contains it, becoming the main clause itself. Using [FID] may convey the character’s words [and thoughts] more directly than in normal indirect.”
No, I’m not selling thousands of books a day. And, no, this is not a huge category. But it is still pretty exciting.
In the US, my book has made it to #6 and #9 in two different categories. And it has made it to #1 in France, #2 in Australia, #2 in Canada and #9 in Brazil. And it has cracked the top 100 of several more lists. All that is exciting, but a #1 spot is special and not something I’ll ever forget.
Thank you to everyone who bought a copy. 🙂
I stumbled on a powerful and simple way to make a 3D book cover for free. Several sites offer book cover makers, but they all seem to either want your email address, have poor resolution or offer only a few predefined views from which you must pick. I found one that with a little bit of “post production” work on your part will leave you with a very nice ebook cover or paperback book cover, much as you see above and in my sidebar. Now you can do your own book cover design, and see it in 3D. Let me show you how it’s done.
Most young writers (of all ages) share their manuscript much too often and much too early in the hopes of getting constructive feedback on their work in progress. For instance, I see a lot of writers share their work after just a first or second draft. Some share “Chapter 1” of a novel, even though chapter 1 is all they have written. Even if such drafts are free of spelling and grammatical errors, sharing a draft so early is a mistake.
Are you writing a story (or writing a novel) to be critiqued? If you are participating in a writing group — be it a fiction writing workshop, a fiction class in school, a writing studio, or a writing seminar — there are a few, simple things you can do to help make sure your work is well received. I bring this up because I often see writers do things which predisposes their critique group to dislike their work or avoid it almost immediately. The good news is these are really easy things to do.
Sales of my novella of been good. The story is about young men in combat during the Vietnam War, and how they live with themselves and each other years later. As I promised, I am donating half of what I collect from sales to organizations that help our veterans.
With a match from my employer, today I’ve been able to donate another $500. Last time I donated $150 to the Wounded Warrior Project. This time I have donated to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation.
I have now donated a total of $650.
There is no understating how important it is to get reviews to help ramp sales of your new book. And I’ve previously written about how to get great reviews from some of Amazon’s top reviewers. But I’ve just discovered this: There is a group on Goodreads that is helping authors get thoughtful reviews posted to three sites (Goodreads, Amazon US and Amazon UK) from readers they don’t know. It’s a great and simple system. How much does it cost? No money involved. You just have to pay it forward and review a book from someone else. And there is no limit; you can get as many reviews as you can give.
In a recent blog, Neil Patel shared an article titled: “Modern Online Marketing Education: 18 Courses and Resources”. There are only a few blogs I follow closely, and Neil’s is one of them. I know of no one who provides so much value so clearly. In his most recent post, his intent is clear given the title. Too many writers don’t understand that their success has as much to do about marketing as it does about writing well. That is why most books published on Amazon never sell more than 20 copies. Writing blogs can help you write better, but you have to know who you are targeting to sell.
Writers always need help with editing, so this is pretty damn cool: Two of my favorite tools are now working together for free. The Hemingway App has always been free, and Grammarly has a free version. But now, with the Grammarly Chrome extension, not only can you use both of them, you can use both of them together. It’s not the same as having a human editor, but if you are trying to figure out how to write a book, this combination can be a big help. Let me explain…
I believe we live in a universe governed by laws of causes and effects even though we don’t yet fully understand all the causes and all the effects. When it comes to art, in particular, it is immensely difficult to know what cause will result in which effect. So it is tremendously difficult in the realm of words to know which sentence, which metaphor, which plot device will resonate with a majority of your targeted genre’s readers and turn a bunch of words into a great story. Though we don’t know these things with precision, I do believe that there are quantifiable causes and effects in play.
Wired for Story is Lisa Cron’s assertion that we do in fact have (some) science in the realm of writing that enables us to understand the causes and effects of good storytelling.
When I published my short novel about combat in the Vietnam War and how it affected the participants, I promised to donate half of the proceeds to organizations that help our injured veterans. At the time I published it, I was hoping to sell 1 copy a day at a price of $.99. It was my first publication, so I wanted to keep my expectations in check.
When you sell through Amazon, if you price below $2.99 you only get to keep 35% of the sales price. Borrows through Kindle Unlimited and sales of my paperback are at different rates. So there are a variety of formulas in play, and I’ve changed the price of my book a few times. But in short, I was expecting to only collect about $125 dollars for the year, of which I’d give half to such organizations.
The great news is that my book has sold far better than expected — actually cracking the top 10 of several of Amazon’s Bestseller lists — and I’ve stabilized on a price of $1.49.
In short, I’ve now collected over $500 in revenue in less than 9 months. Though my total production costs (editing, some modest advertising, etc.) are close to $600, I’m keeping my promise and sending half of all I collect to organizations that benefit our Vietnam War veterans. Above is a screenshot of the first check.
In the grand scheme of things it is not a fortune, but I’m sure every dollar helps, and there will be more coming. When I hit a total of $600 collected, I’ll send another $150 check.
If you want to help me raise more money for our Vietnam veterans, please buy a copy of my book — which is dedicated to our veterans — and forward this link to those who care because there are soldiers who still need our help. This check went to the WWP, but that is not the only veterans group I’ll donate to over time.
Thank you, and thank them.