Every blogger wants their site to move up in the rankings. So I was very excited to see that according to Alexa Rank (per their site) my writing blog has cracked the top 200,000 in the US and simultaneously broke into the top 1,000,000 worldwide. There are a lot of blog rank checkers, but Alexa rank checker is arguably the most authoritative. I’m still a long way from the front of the pack but doing far better than most websites, especially as an author platform. How did I do it?
I’ve long enjoyed military science fiction, so I have had The Forever War on my to read list for…well…you know…forever. I’m glad I did. Finally. It is not just damn good, it is good for a reason. Several, in fact.
One of my daughters is a capable artist and headed to an undergraduate program in Medical Illustration soon. As an aside, she is getting smarter about posting her art to websites and beginning to think about how to charge for her work. I’ve recently had similar discussion with some other writers about how they price their novels. What is really being discussed here is “Penetration Pricing” vs. “Premium Pricing”. Based on my own experience, it sounds more complicated than you might first think, but it is really not that complex.
A few months ago, I published a blog about how to use the free Hemingway Editor and Grammarly’s free grammar checker together. Both are powerful tools for writers – the Hemingway app focuses on readability by highlighting unnecessary words and complex, overly long sentences even if they are grammatically correct. In contrast, Grammarly will identify many of the grammatical errors in your work.
Great news! There is another grammar checker you can now use with the Hemingway Editor if you are not fond of Grammarly. You can now use the free Ginger grammar checker with the Hemingway app. It is super easy.
I am happy to share that since I last made a donation in March, my sales of Youth In Asia about the 173rd Airborne Brigade during the Vietnam War have generated more than $600 of income for me. Not bad for a book priced at just $1.49, and of which I only get 30%. Since I’ve promised to donate half of my earnings, that is $300 more to donate.
Additionally, Crawford Roberts, the accomplished producer of the audiobook version of my novel had offered his services at a discounted rate, and then, after working on the projected, offered to complete it for free. I did not feel right keeping the $200 I had promised him, so I have added it to the $300 I will contribute. That makes $500.
Better yet, my employer again agreed to match my total contribution, so (in part due to Crawford’s and my employer’s generosity) I have just made a $1,000 contribution to the VFW’s National Home for Children.
With your help, I have now donated $1,650 to the VFW, Wounded Warrior, and similar organizations from my book sales to help our veterans
I will also donate a portion of my revenue from Lonely Hunter. Two of my children are chronically ill, so I’m happy to give to organizations doing medical research from which my children and all children will someday benefit.
Rogue One: A short Review
I took my four teenage daughters to see the sci fi movie “Rogue One” a few days ago. There were some really strange coincidences between the movie and my forthcoming novel, Lonely Hunter. But first, some thoughts on Rogue One.
None of my kids are particularly dialed into Star Wars, but a few have seen a prior movie or two. I’ve seen four of them (swore I’d never go to another one after Clone Wars). Three of my kids enjoy various Sci Fi-ish flicks from time to time such as Hunger Games, Inception, the Marvel franchise, Transformers, etc. We all thought the trailer looked interesting, so we gave it a shot.
The consensus coming out was that it was underwhelming at best. But what was really weird were the number of coincidences with my own novel.
As I continue to edit my work in progress and think about meeting readers’ expectations, especially when it comes to descriptive writing, I recently came across and interesting review of Peter Mendelsund’s What We See When We Read, “a book that explores how people imagine and remember the things they read.”
I’ve always been loath to write (and dislike reading) detailed descriptions of characters and settings. I’m OK with details that surface as the story progresses when they are relevant, but one of the fastest ways for me to lose interest in a book or story is a front-loaded block of description sentences which have no other purpose, and an abundance of adjectives and adverbs. She was tall and had green eyes. She stepped over the puddles with her long legs while smiling at Bob, showing off her perfect, white teeth… Ugh.
Since I recently released my first audio book, I thought I’d provide a summary of my experience publishing an audiobook via Amazon’s ACX Audible to help anyone headed down the same path. The book has gotten strong reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but I wanted to make it available so people could hear it as well as read it on their Kindle Fire.
None of us want to fail as writers or have to admit to our families and friends that after all our hours in seclusion banging out our manuscripts they failed to sell even 10 copies. That is the height of embarrassment that none of us want to experience. As an indie publisher, it is critical that we understand what we are getting ourselves into and how to be successful before we start. This is doubly true as I am writing a book, and I hope this second one is even more successful than my first.
The Road. Indeed. It is a road, a journey, a trek through hell, but is both more and less than that. Less than that meaning: Cormac McCarthy presents bleak as no other writer can. While I was reading it, several times I thought that I’ll never again believe a writer who uses the word “hopeless” to describe the plight of their character. In The Road, there is nothing but hopelessness. Almost. Which leads to where I struggled with this novel.
I have written about grammar checkers and style checkers before. I continue to believe they are a powerful tool in a writer’s tool bag. AutoCrit has revised their editing software product and has an active marketing campaign underway. I signed up for their trial membership for $1 for a week. Yesterday I spent about 3 hours working on my upcoming novel with their cloud-based app. In the end, I had two strong opinions about their updated writing software.
A recent article argued that there is a formula to writing bestsellers. The article says the algorithm is “built to predict, with 80 percent accuracy, which novels will become mega-bestsellers. What does it like? “Young, strong heroines who are also misfits (the type found in The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). No sex, just ‘human closeness.’ Frequent use of the verb ‘need.’ Lots of contractions. Not a lot of exclamation marks. Dogs, yes; cats, meh.” So if you are writing a novel and want to trump your competition, you should abide what this book says, right? Let’s see how I’m doing with my upcoming science fiction novel:
* Young, strong, heroine — check.
* Misfit — check.
* No sex — this one is an in betweener…you’ll have to read the novel to understand.
* Human closeness — check.
* Frequent use of the verb “need” — hmm… 154 times in a novel of 116k words…I can work on this one.
* Lots of contractions — I probably need more, so this is fixable.
* Not a lot of exclamation marks — I’ve got too many. I can fix this.
* Dogs — Several of them.
* Cats — One. Dead.
I suppose if I put an image of a young woman on the cover… Bestseller, here I come!
Traditionally Publish or Self-Publish? This is a more complex question than it first appears. You also have to answer 1) What are your objectives? 2) What are you willing to do/not do yourself to help sell your book(s)?
I have modest experience with both traditional and self-publishing: 20 years ago I wrote a novel, printed it, put it in a box and sent it to what back then was a medium size, independent publisher of military history that was trying to break into the fiction market. I had no agent and put a letter in the box to the effect of ‘let me know if you want to publish this.’ A few weeks later I got a thick envelope back. They loved the book and had sent me contracts for it and two more books. I signed all three contracts and they sent me advances for all three.
As a self-publisher (or indie publisher), you not only have to write well, you have to be good at every aspect of production and marketing if you want to sell any books. I’ve taught myself much about book publishing, but there is much more to learn. One of the most important things I have learned is that picking the right keywords for your title and subtitle on Amazon allow you to tap into the massive amount of traffic that is already on Amazon’s site.
This is really important to understand. Optimizing for keywords may be an arcane science, but keywords are what your potential customers use to find what they want. These are people who are already shopping to buy a book, and if your book is in their genre, the book they see might as well be your book. Much (but not all) of the success summarized in the graph above is because I fine-tuned the keywords in my subtitle to get more interested traffic.
I think about writing like I think about long distance biking. I (used) to do a century (100-mile) bike ride about once every other month and even tried a double century (but only made it 172 miles ). Tour de France rider I am not.
The analogy is this: Writing is a long-haul exercise, just like any endurance sport. And if you are into endurance sports you know you are going to hit really bad times along the way. It’s going to happen. You have to be ready for it, or you will give up when you hit the hard times.
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.