A Christmas Present

time trial book coverToday is December 25th, that means a lot of you reading this will be celebrating Christmas with  me today. I’m in the UK, so it’s 6 in the evening here and Christmas is almost over, but a lot of you have almost the entire day left and I hope you have a great time. 

I don’t need much of an excuse to run an eBook freebie, but Christmas is always a good time to give, so if Santa brought you a kindle this year then you might like to know that you can download one of my stories absolutely free today and tomorrow. 

Time Trial is a science fiction story about three reluctant time travellers, imprisoned on a planet where time travel is strictly forbidden. You can buy it here: Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Making a Facebook Author Page.

Why Do You Need a Facebook Author Page?

Like thumb from FacebookI just made myself a Facebook Author Page. It was a painless experience that I put off until today for two reasons. Firstly, I do not make much use of my personal Facebook profile. Secondly, I have not had much of a response from Social Media since I started publishing in 2012. However, there are strengths to a Facebook page that make it a valuable asset for an Author.

Most signficantly, a Facebook Page does not operate in the same way as a Facebook Profile. It is more like a public website posted within Facebook’s network. Anyone can view the page or subscribe to it, but not everyone can post to it. It has a certain amount of independence from your personal profile, and anyone viewing its content has chosen to do so. This means that you can be more businesslike in your treatment of your page, promoting yourself to your hearts content, because that is the very purpose of the page. It’s like having a second homepage, with the added benefit that it is completely integrated into Facebook.

It’s also worth remembering that Facebook has probably the widest audience of all the social networks. It isn’t just your Grandma on there making embarrassing comments about your photos, it’s everyone’s Grandma. And everyone’s Grandma just might love your latest book. Anything that gets your books further out into the world is good. Different social networks have different strengths, Twitter has immediacy, Tumblr has hardcore fandom, Facebook has the guy down the road.

Finally, Facebook is very shareable. You’re not limited to the amount of content and it’s easy for any of your readers to find your content, comment and share from your page. If you have fans on Facebook, making a page is the best way to put things right under their nose, and makes it easy for them to start promoting your content for you.

How To Make Your Author Page:

If you’re one of the last surviving souls on Planet Earth without a Facebook account, you’ll need to register with Facebook.com first. Once you’ve made your account, uploaded a terrible profile pic and opened unwelcome new avenues of communication with your parents, look for a cog icon on the top right hand side of the screen. There you’ll find a drop down menu that will give you the option to create a page. There are different categories of page, but you’re probably best going with “Artist.” From there you’ll be able to choose specifics like Author or Writer.

After that, you’ll be given the option to upload a picture. If you don’t want to use a picture of yourself, a book cover makes a pretty snazzy avatar. You’ll also be asked to fill in a description of yourself. This can be pretty awkward, describing myself is one of my lest favourite bits of self publishing. If in doubt, just go with the standard Genre and Book Title. e.g “Horror Writer, Author of Cujo, The Shining and many more.” You don’t need to be Captain Charisma yet, just functional enough to let potential readers and fans find you.

Getting the Word Out:

Once you’re done, Facebook will try and pimp its advertising service to you as a way to find fans for your page. I wouldn’t bother with that, Facebook advertising has its uses, but  until it gathers momentum an Author Page is really only of interest to people who already know your work. You’ll have much better success spreading your page by posting it on your Facebook wall, inviting any of your Facebook friends who like your writing or otherwise support your writing career and posting it to your other social networks.  (Hey Kids, Why Not Like My Facebook Page?) After that, it’s all a case of making good use of your page. Write good books and you’ll get good fans, post good updates to your Facebook page and they will make use of it.

Leave a comment and let me know how you’re getting on promoting yourself on Facebook.

Self Publishing: Two Years On, the Pros and Cons.

Retro Self-Publishing.
Retro Self-Publishing.

In the first week of January 2012, I self published my first short story to Amazon’s kindle store. It was called Christmas Past, and it was a fortnight late. It was still the best decision I ever made, I’ve had some good feedback about the book since then and I’m still really happy with the way it turned out. In the two years since I’ve published two more books, that’s a bit less than I hoped, but writing is not an exact science and a good book never resolves itself quite as quickly as you’d like. However, the last two years has been educational. Here are some of the Pros and Cons I’ve learned about Self-Publishing eBooks since 2012 began.

Pro: Self Publishing has let me learn while working.

The modern image of the traditional published author is a very recent myth. It is only in the last twenty or thirty years that we have seen a literary market so focused around the Blockbuster Novel. This is because they are the cheapest to produce and the easiest to recoup the costs. Unfortunately, the age of the novel comes at the expense of other avenues like the magazine. Before the decline of the fiction magazine, young writers would be able to train their skills by submitting to magazines that took shorter works for smaller niches. This was a valuable experience that provided feedback and reinforcement to new writers, now it is almost impossible to break into traditional publishing without writing a standout novel. That’s a big thing to ask, leaving many young writers in a position of writing without publication or compensation for years into their career.

In many ways, the eBook market has replaced the genre magazine. It has become a haven for short fiction, aspiring writers and part time scribblers to offer up their work for modest financial compensation and this has been of enormous benefit to me. I am someone who likes to jump in at the deep end, I don’t like to work on projects that might languish forever with no tangible results. Publication, even without the independent approval of a publisher, provides me with an attainable goal and makes me a better writer.

Con: Free-Market Gatekeeping.

Nobody  wants to sell a crappy book. If you’ve put the time into a writing, rewriting, proofreading and formatting a book, you must have a little faith that it’s a book someone wants to read. Crappy books are out there though. A common criticism of Self-Publishing is that it is overburdened by the world’s awful first drafts. I don’t mind this so much, I have a lot of respect for anyone that takes the time to write a book, and I’ve read a lot of books that could have used a decent editor but were still great reads. The problem comes when we look at the methods available for sorting the good books from the bad. Often the books that rise to the top aren’t the best written, but had authors with the most to spend. A trip to a decent editor, a cover design from a talented freelancer, a few verified reviews from a black-hat marketer; they all play a part in helping books rise to the top and they all cost money. Traditional publishers aren’t the best Gatekeepers in the world, but money is a far worse filter.

Pro: Short Fiction has a better chance.

It is very hard to get Short Fiction printed these days. Sure, if you’re an established author you can usually get a book of shorts out there, but if Short Stories are your bread and butter then you’re never going to launch a career with a traditional publisher. Don’t get me wrong, Short Fiction isn’t an easy sell in the eBook market. Novels are still the preferred read of most customers, but with no entry cost and a royalty rate of 35% on Amazon, a Short Fiction writer has more time to find their audience and great financial rewards per sale by publishing this way.

Con: Self-Promotion can be expensive, draining and pointless.

Like I said, Short Fiction is a hard sell. Unfortunately, that’s what I write. If you’re lucky, you’re a novelist and you’re working in a fashionable genre. That will give your book a kick up the backside that it will sorely need. If you’re trying to corner a quieter corner of literature, you’re going to have a hard time. Promoting an eBook is a never ending process of freebies, finding review sites, posting updates and hoping for Amazon reviews.

And I hate it.

This is more of a personal problem, I suppose, but I have a real loathing for advertising. I don’t like it, I’m immediately suspicious of it, and I don’t like it inserted into places it doesn’t belong. I don’t like its manipulative language or its sneaky tactics, I don’t like hype or teasing. But I have a product to sell. So, marketing always leaves me in this Rationalisation/Shame/Desperation loop.

Take my most recent book, The Octopus of Suspense. I’m so proud of this book, I think it’s well written and original, the feedback I’ve received has been excellent. I think it deserves to do well. (Rationalisation.) So, I post a few tweets trying to push it a bit and end up feeling like a shill. (Shame.) I stop promoting it for a bit, enough time goes by and the book’s fortunes don’t seem to be improving so I start itching to promote again. (Desperation.) And so I remind myself how proud of the book I am. (Rationalisation.)

Of course, it shouldn’t be like this. With a traditional publisher, you can loathe advertising and completely ignore that side of things. As a Self-Publisher, you need to be writer, editor, advertiser, PR and a whole host of other jobs too. I’m learning to swallow my pride on promotion, I’m going to need to learn about selling my books and coming up with a good marketing strategy, but I will never be particularly good at it.

Pro: People will read and enjoy your books.

I don’t sell a lot of books. It’s no big secret or shame of mine, writing is hard and selling books is harder. I’m not making a regular monthly income from my eBooks and I won’t be paying my rent with them any time soon. However, it has been so rewarding to find that readers have been finding my books anyway. I have had Amazon Reviews, emails and tweets from people that have read my stories and enjoyed them. There haven’t been many, I’m not sitting on a massive pile of fan mail, but they exist. And that is so unbelievably rewarding that it keeps me working on the next book.

Con: You’re working a second job that has taken over your life and you aren’t getting paid much.

Writing is often a full time job for me. It doesn’t always feel that way. When I’m working on a first draft I might just write for a couple of twenty minute sessions a day and forget about other things.  Other days I need to write one story, edit another, design a cover, rewrite a blurb, format a manuscript and then go do my real-world job in the evening.  When you sit down and make the decision to write for a living, you are choosing to do hours upon hours of unpaid work in the hope of being adequately rewarded much further down the line. This can be demoralising too. There will be days, maybe weeks, where you never really give writing the attention it deserves. There will be times when you think of nothing else. But you free time will never really be your own again. Until writing is paying the bills and you can quit the day job, every minute you spend watching a movie or reading tweets is time you could be writing.

Pro: Every book is a checkpoint.

When  I first decided I was going to seriously invest time in being a writer, I tried to think of a reasonable, attainable goal to aim for. The goal I settled on was pretty simple. I wanted to earn enough money from sales each month to pay my rent. I don’t need to earn enough to quit my job (if I did, I’d probably turn into a scary hermit.) and I don’t need to be a millionaire, but I do need to pay my rent. It’s my biggest bill, the one thing that always needs to be paid on time. We all have financial stones around our necks, my rent is the heaviest stone. If I could cover it with writing books, it would free up money to save and enjoy. I’m nowhere near that goal yet, and often it feels like I take two steps forward and one step back, but publishing a book is like a checkpoint. A magic step that can never be removed. I published three books since January 2012, and if I never publish another book, that will not change. Unlike traditionally published books which can go out of print, those three books will always be there as a foundation to build upon. When times are tough and progress is slow, those three books are a permanent reminder that I never have to start from scratch again.

Self-Publishing has been very rewarding for me. It’s hard work, and it can often feel like the time and effort you put in is irrelevant to what you get out, but at the end of the day the results (good and bad) are all your own. You have to deal with your failures, but when your successes come around, you get to enjoy them completely. It can be a slog, but the motivating side makes it worthwhile.

If you’ve been writing and self publishing, I’d love to hear about you experience with it too.

Celebrate the end of NaNoWriMo 2013 with another Free Book!

NaNoWriMo 2013 is over, I’m in high spirits but still feeling exhausted from that last minute crunch. As usual, I couldn’t do it without my fellow WriMos. I don’t have much to give in return, but I am very happy to offer another eBook freebie.

The Octopus of Suspense CoverAvailable on: Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

The Octopus of Suspense is a collection of eight little stories with a very silly title. They cover a range of genres but are all between 1000 and 1500 words long. I’m really proud of this book, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it. It will be free until the 7th of December, and is available on Amazon’s kindle store. So, if you have a kindle or kindle app on your phone, check it out!

That Was NaNoWriMo 2013!


November is over, a lot of you will still be reeling from 30 days of full on writing. Some of you will have just finished your first novel. This post is a little late because I had a incredibly busy weekend and so I just haven’t had the time to stop and blog about it. But I’m here now with my NaNoWriMo updates.

I did finish, that makes my second completion now, and I’m feeling generally more positive about my novel than I did last year. It’s generally a better looking creature than 2012’s crazy mess. It’s a bit choppy towards the end as I rushed to completion, but I can see myself working on it just as soon as it’s had a little time to settle. My final word count was 50345, so I just scraped by.

As I said when I hit 25k, I will be having another freebie to celebrate my completion. There’ll be more details about that tomorrow, so fire up your kindles!

As always, let me know how you got on in the comments.

– Owen