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Liebster Award

liebsterawardI don’t typically do these kinds of posts, but I felt like straying from what I usually do for once.  I was nominated for a Liebster Award, which really just means I answer a bunch of questions and then choose five other people to say, “Tag, you’re it!”  I was nominated by the author of A Muse Who Likes to Muse.

Here are the rules:

1.) Mention the person who nominated you, and link them to your post.
2.) Answer the questions the blogger has asked you.
3.) Nominate five other bloggers.
4.) Create you own questions for the nominees to answer.

Questions:

1. What gives you a sense of purpose in life?
I suppose I would be a horrible husband and a father if I didn’t say that my wife and child give me a sense of purpose in life, right? But for longer than my son has been around and for longer than I’ve known my wife, artistic creation has given me a sense of purpose. I’ve been an artist and a writer for as long as I can remember, and without being able to draw or to write, I would be empty.

2. What is your ideal weather in order to be overjoyed to be outside?
Warm enough to wear shorts and a t-shirt, but cool enough that I don’t sweat. Also, some cloud cover to keep the sun from beating down on my pale skin the entire time I’m outside.

3. What advice would you give to your younger self if you could?
“You will fail. Constantly. But the successes that come along once in a while make it worth the pain.”

4. What are 7 things you love about your life?

  • I get to be a stay-at-home dad.
  • I found a woman that I’m completely happy with who feels the same about me.
  • I’ve experienced a heck of a lot in 33 years of life.
  • I’m stubborn. This comes in handy when trying to complete a task.
  • I know how to brew my own beer.
  • I live in an era when I can self-publish my own works without having to deal with the drudgery and frustration of the traditional publishing model.
  • That when I get passionate about something, I get PASSIONATE about it.

5. If you could choose 10 musicians/bands to share with the world, who would you choose?

  • They Might Be Giants
  • Dream Theater
  • Ben Folds
  • Animals as Leaders
  • Sithu Aye
  • Hum
  • Guided By Voices
  • Bad Religion
  • The Pixies
  • Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

I don’t really read blogs much anymore because I don’t have time, so I only have two nominees:  Kat Micari and Alice Nuttall.  If anyone else wants to do this, feel free to lie and say I nominated you.  ;-)

Here are the questions for the nominees:

1.)  What is your ideal day like, from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep?

2.) What routines do you have to keep yourself productive?

3.) What’s your favorite food-related guilty pleasure?

4.) Coffee or tea?  Why?

5.) What is your current passion/obsession?

Have fun!

Starting From Scratch

I published my last book over a year ago, and I stupidly did not market it very well. I debuted it at a small press expo and I did my usual social networking, but that was about it. And now, as I’m gearing up for my next book release, I’m left wondering what has changed in the landscape of self-publishing in terms of marketing.

Granted, I’m writing this post before I do any research. It’s kind of my way of getting everything out of my head while at the same time hit my personal deadline of getting a post written. I’m sneaky like that.

Back in 2012 when I released Blood of the Mother, people suggested several things that I haven’t seen much of these days. One was to make a book trailer, a short teaser video for your book. I saw a spike in these around that time, but never did one myself, and now I haven’t seen one in a long time. Unless I’m looking in the wrong places, they seem to have gone the way of the buffalo.

Another tip was to get reviewed by a book review blog. This was something that I did try, and it was a major pain in the butt. For one thing, the landscape had become so bloated with book review blogs that audiences were spread pretty thin, leaving me to wonder who actually had readers and who didn’t. Another problem was that more than half the blogs I found weren’t accepting any submissions because of taking on too many of them already, and of the remaining blogs many of them had guidelines that I didn’t meet (no self-published works, no fantasy genre, etc.). And nowadays, I rarely hear of anyone talking about trying to get reviewed anymore, leaving me to wonder if this is no longer a viable solution at all.

Social networking is, of course, still around, but does it do much good? Facebook’s algorithms, powered by greed, keep many fans from seeing anything posted on a given page. I’m doubtful that much good marketing comes of Twitter these days because of the sheer number of people tweeting constantly. Tumblr is only good for silly pictures and television show/movie fandoms. Google+ is just an vacant lot full of chirping crickets. So where do I go next? Is there anywhere new to go? Or is social networking a dead end, too?

So I’m left with the odious task of figuring out how to market my next book in a world that has changed by leaps and bounds in just the last three or four years. But then again, I have to look at the fact that I’d be completely out of luck if it wasn’t for the internet. While many of the things I mentioned may not pan out 100%, at least I can aim for a minimal percentage while figuring out where to concentrate my efforts.

And I am aware that by mentioning the word “marketing” and using it as a tag, I’ll probably get a bunch of likes on this post and new followers with no intentions of ever paying attention to this blog or reading my books. But at least I’ll feel popular for about ten seconds.

Loss of Control

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but for those who have forgotten or are just tuning in, I’m a bit of a control freak. It permeates many areas of my life, especially when it comes to my creative endeavors. That’s why I self-publish; it gives me a large amount of control over what I do.

One of my biggest fears about being a professional author, as I mentioned in my previous post, was that editors would want me to change things that I didn’t want to change in regards to my stories. It’s not as if I can’t accept criticism; on the contrary, I like to hear what other people have to say about my work. But it doesn’t mean that I agree with them 100% of the time, and with editors working for a publishing company you kind of have to. Does that make me a difficult person to deal with? Maybe, but I like to think of myself as steadfast.

Okay, fine, I’m stubborn. Still, much of what I write is crafted in such a way that pulling certain things out of it is much like playing a game of Jenga – pull out too many pieces or one important one, and the whole thing comes crashing down. Maybe no one else will be able to see the jumble of wooden pieces at the end of the day, but I’d be able to. And a large part of me always feared that much of what would have been changed had I been traditionally published would have been due to marketing and trying to reach certain demographics and trying to conform to how things have been always been done and so on and so forth.

Typically, I let Katie take several passes at my work. Like me, she has spent most of her life reading and, if I may say so, is exceptionally intelligent. She does very well at finding the nitpicky grammar stuff as well as telling me what doesn’t work big picture storywise. And I trust her more than I would trust an editor whom I know nothing about on a personal level except that they are doing their job. Maybe that’s a mistake, I don’t know. All I know is that it works for me.

But for my Bardsworth novel, I’ve decided to test the waters and get a handful of beta readers. This is a little nerve-wracking for me. I can debate with Katie when she makes a point that I disagree on. I can’t do that with people who are offering their time to help me out; that seems a little disingenuous. I don’t plan on disagreeing too much, since they represent my potential audience, but I know there will probably be a few things said that I don’t want to hear. And I just need to suck it up and accept it, think about it, and make an intelligent decision based on it.

Or I could cry in the corner with a glass of whiskey. That works too.

Literary Anarchy

For someone who grew up always having to do things his way and attempting to rebel against authority of any kind, I sure have rough time accepting that since I’m an indie author who gets to break the rules.

I touched upon this a bit back in October when I talked about the wordcount of the Bardsworth novel, but I still have yet to truly take it to heart. I worry about things like my chapter lengths being too short or too inconsistent in size. I worry about my story structure lacking a traditional plot arc since it focuses more on characters. I worry that there’s too much dialogue and not enough description. I worry, I worry, I worry. Sounds like an app from Apple – the iWorry.

Sorry, bad joke.

A large part of my problem is that I started writing long before the internet made self-publishing a viable option. Sure, self-publishing existed back then, but it was mostly so-called vanity publishers, and God forbid you ever even think about considering that as an option. So I studied up on how to make myself look good to the agents how to conform my stories so that an agent wouldn’t feel like it was too great of a risk to take me on. And you know what my worry was back then? “What if they make me change the way I write my stories?”

Irony, my name is Pete.

Sure, there are things that should be kept sacred and rules that I should abide by. But there are a lot of things that I need to be able to look at and say, “You know what? I’m doing all the work, I can do what I want. If the readers don’t like it, they don’t like it.” And the fact is that readers are gradually becoming more and more used to the way things are becoming, not the way things have been for decades.  So why not be a part of the new culture and leave the old one behind?

I’m the punk rock of the writing world, baby. Deal with my three-chord stories.

A couple of weeks ago I made a decision that I had been waffling on for a while. I decided to make my first novella, Dark City, Dark Magic, free for downloading. I had left it at $0.99 for a long time because it was my best seller, and I had no proof that anyone who bought it ever actually went on to buy the other books. However, after quite a bit of deliberation, I decided to say, “What the heck.”

The following stories, Dames and Diviners and Angel in the Shadows, are still at their original price points in the hopes that if someone downloads and reads Dark City, Dark Magic they’ll want to spend the money on the next two. Or, better yet, they’ll drop a little more on Fantasy Noir to get the polished version of Dark City, Dark Magic as well as the other two.

Dark City, Dark MagicI think some of my hesitation stemmed from the fact that I was so proud of Dark City, Dark Magic that I didn’t want to just give it away. I earned the right to ask for mony for it. Plus, I had the – admittedly prejudiced – view that a lot of ebook stories being given away for free were not very good. A pompous way to look at things, I know, but I’m only human. At least until I get those microchip implants. But I digress.

My decision is partially a marketing decision, an effort to get my work in front of someone to tantalize them into buying the rest of my stories. And the other part of the decision is purely ego driven. I’m so proud of the story that I feel it’s in everyone’s best interest to get their hands on it. Again, I’m only human.

So, in summary, Dark City, Dark Magic is now available for free through Smashwords. If my sources are correct, eventually Amazon will catch on and lower the price (they don’t allow you to manually set something as free), but until then Smashwords is your go-to source. Enjoy!

One of the things that I struggle with as a near-perfectionist self-published writer is the fear of typos leaking into my finished product. And it’s happened, every single time. I do reread my own stories* and I’ll typically catch a wrong word used or a misspelled one or whatever. And I’ve learned to be okay with that.

My wife and I have discussed this on a few occasions, and we’ve both been finding more and more typos in traditionally published books that we’ve purchased. I remember when I was younger that if I found a typo in a book it was a rare occurrence and it made me question the infallibility of those in charge. Now it just makes me roll my eyes. I don’t know if publishing houses are trying to pump out books at such a rate that quality control has just gone down the toilet, or if the quality of the editors that they hire now has diminished, but typos have apparently become the norm.

I could be mad about this as a reader, but I’ve chosen to view it as the status quo as a writer. It doesn’t mean that I don’t try to find every mistake in my writing or that I don’t have someone else look it over for me, but I feel better about those few mistakes slipping through the well-looked-over cracks.

Hey, we’re all human, right?

(*I mentioned in my previous post that I like to write the stories that I would read, and I prove that to myself by rereading my stories and enjoying them.  Plus, I sometimes have to do it to remind myself of things because I’m terrible at keeping notes.)

Niche vs. Generic

Which is the hardest road to travel, trying to sell a niche book or trying to sell a generic book?

I’ll tell you right now – if I had the answer to that question, I’d be selling a lot more books.

I recently received a few reviews for Angel in the Shadows and Fantasy Noir, and while some of it was good, some of it really made me question what I was doing. It seems that some people can’t deal with how hardboiled the Rick Walker stories are, even though I make it clear in the descriptions of the stories that they are indeed hardboiled. I don’t know if it’s people wanting me to be Jim Butcher or if they think that fantasy can’t be gritty and crass, but it’s been a tough sell because of what it is – a niche meshing of genres.

And on the other side of things is Blood of the Mother, which is about as generic of a fantasy story as you can get. And that one sells poorly. To be fair, my lack of marketing has hurt that a bit, but I was just going over the pitiful sales that I made at a book fair last year and realized that none of my copies of Blood of the Mother sold at all, and I was right there promoting it.

So, it seems that I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Perhaps it’s a case of waiting for lightning to strike the right spot. I don’t know what the right course to navigate is, but what I can do is to continue writing stories that I want to write.

I recently watched the documentary Harmontown, which deals with writer and creator of Community, Dan Harmon. In it, his friend and writing partner Rob Schrab mentions that they always lived by the mantra of writing television shows that they would want to watch. And I think that’s something I’ve always believed in, even if not consciously. I write the kinds of things that I enjoy reading.

If I didn’t, the editing process would be a whole lot of torture.

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