Taking chances is very rewarding and leaves you to never have to wonder what could have been.
When I came up with the idea for a book about my experiences adapting novels into screenplays I didn’t really think anyone would be interested, but I wrote, edited, and published it anyway. And in the past year Learning to be a Good Editor: by Adapting Novels into Screenplays and Stage Plays has been my biggest seller.
A writer friend of mine, Jennifer M. Fulford, best known for her work related to the Three Musketeers series, Love, Blood, and Steel, put out a book of poems herself and found the experience invigorating. A handy thing about her book of poems, Poems from Planet P) and some of my shorter books (Unity is Now, So ALL VOICES May be Heard) is if you use Amazon’s services you can have a good sample of your work out there for a very low price. So if, for example, you published a very short collection of your short stories or a chapbook of your poems through Amazon’s services then published it through Kindle and KDP Select, if you’re willing to take only 35% of royalties you could have your book available for sale as an e-book for only $0.99! This can be an excellent tool for self-promotion as it gives readers a good, solid appetizer of your work which will hopefully entice them to want more.
And in this post-Internet day and age many people expect to get free or nearly free samples of anyone’s work. A great deal has already been shared on the Internet for free (except for everyone’s internet/ cable bills, costs of buying a computer or other device, electric bills, repair bills for said devices, etc.) And many people see the Internet as a laid-back, worldwide community for sharing. If you need to make some money people understand. But if you expect to charge for everything, or charge a high for everything, people get very unhappy with you. It’s irrelevant if you or I like this or not—it’s a fact and so it must be considered when making product and marketing decisions.
Many people, especially with the economy the way it is these days, won’t spend much money on an unknown author, unless the price is low enough. So you could make a small collection of your previously published works, which most markets won’t accept (almost all markets want previously unpublished work—and posting on a blog, obscure website, Tumblr, etc. almost always counts as “published” these days). Since Amazon’s basic services are free anyway you may get a huge return on investment J
Take a chance in general. Life is short (even if you believe in reincarnation every lifetime is short and you won’t be this person again), so don’t waste it. Don’t let fear, internal doubts, or criticisms from others stop you. Life is for living.
I used to work in a landscape and property maintenance business, mostly doing landscape labor. Many of our customers were elderly—this is why they hired us, because they could no longer do their yard work or often their husband was deceased and therefore couldn’t do it anymore. What you see is people regretting the chances they didn’t take, not the chances they did, even when the chances didn’t work out. Some people play it safe their whole lives, experience very little, and then they die, disappointed in life. It isn’t “life’s” fault. You are responsible for your own life; you are not a victim of it. You are not powerless. If you’re still alive you can still do something. Take these chances while you’ve still got them. Some day you won’t. Death is the greatest teacher, it gives us motivation and gives all life meaning and value it wouldn’t otherwise have. Wonderfully, you’re alive. So go live. Best of luck to you on your journey. I hope you find what you’re looking for. Enjoy.
If you use a traditional publisher you’re still expected to do all of your own marketing and promotion, unless you’re already well-known. And for that you’ll give up 50% of your Copyright and royalties. And you lose a lot of creative control. They can make you edit and re-edit your book to their liking, change the ending, pick the cover design and pictures for you, and much more. Your project becomes their investment and like any investors they want a say in all of it. This is fair for them, you just have to decide if you’d be willing to go through that. For me, that would defeat the whole purpose of why I create art. And I doubt if many publishers would appreciate how much I intentionally get creative with the art form (e.g. every one of my novels has at least one poem somewhere in it, and I’ve been known to include “a character’s” essay in a novel, change fonts for these pieces, and more.)
It typically takes two-three years to find a publisher. Twice that long if you found an agent first to shop your work to publishers. Then it might take 18 months to two-three years before they’ve finished working with you to edit your work, and then finally release it. And in that amount of time the person at the publishing house who was excited about your project may not even work there anymore. Your project might just get sidelined. It can work though. I writer friend of mine, Jennifer M. Fulford, had success with a traditional publisher, but only after at least two years, and a lot of money spent on stamps, envelopes, printed pages querying many a literary agent and then many a publisher. And her book already had an audience—it was about one of the Three Musketeers!
For self-publishing with Print On Demand, the huge industry-changing technology, there were a few companies in the beginning, and Xlibris by and large came out on top. It had the best services for its prices, and included marketing services like book posters, post cards, business cards, and more.
Then Amazon designed Create Space was the next huge game-changer in the writing and publishing industry. Unlike Xlibris and the others Create Space offered a free service. They have expanded services for fees but anyone can publish a book (or other works) for free using their basic services, which most importantly allow you to control the prices and keep them down to prices lower than what the other companies would sell your books for—a genuine must for beginning writers unless you already have a lot of money in the bank from some source other than writing. Then they can enroll their work in Kindle and KDP Select for e-books, which includes services like allowing those who’ve previously bought a paperback version of your book to purchase the same book as an e-book for little or no additional cost (I use no additional cost for this as that is the most customer-friendly option and customers always remember courteousness, and rudeness), and book lending options for friends with kindle accounts. Book lending between friends is extremely important as it’s a part of Viral Marketing and has for centuries been a way for authors to get new readers.
Xlibris still has better distribution than Amazon’s CreateSpace, but that doesn’t matter much for writers who aren’t well-known, especially since e-books can go anywhere in the world, and especially when compared with Xlibris’ and other POD company’s much higher prices—not just that they have no free services (last time I checked) but because if you accept a 35% royalty on a Kindle version of your book you can sell it for as little as $0.99. This means you could release a smaller book, such as a chapbook of poems or a short book of short stories or nonfiction vignettes, and have a very low price, run sales or other promotions on KDP Select, and get readers introduced to your work that way.
Looking through literally hundreds of potential markets’ websites recently I was amazed at how many people, even today, make terrible websites. One of the main problems is people who are fairly well-off making websites without stopping to fathom that most people throughout the world don’t have much money and therefore can’t afford high-speed internet or the latest computers. This means that for most of us websites with a lot of graphics, animations, or videos take a very, very long time to load. If you want to snub everyone who can’t afford really expensive things like the latest computers and the highest-speed internet connections then by all means, do this. If, however, you’d like to reach the largest audience possible and be inclusive of everyone possible, you’ll keep the data on your site to an absolute minimum. Shrink videos, only use images if necessary and shrink them—full page photos or loads of photos per page take a very long time to load, and annoy many of us into clicking out of the page before you’ve even had a chance to impress us with your lovely content. Many of us just leave impressed at how many people still don’t get that most people can’t afford all the best products and connections. Even in the U.S. most people have cheap Wi-Fi connections that load things slowly and often stall and cause other problems. Outside major U.S. cities the internet connections are usually lousy. And if that’s the U.S. then just imagine how bad it is elsewhere.
Here are some more tips for other things to avoid when making your site:
Some writers turn to Twitter to help them promote their work. Some writers have success with this but from what I understand, since users tend to make more updates even than people on Facebook, it’s very time-consuming and can keep you from having the time, energy, and necessary long, quiet times in solitude that writers need in order to create good works. Some people have no respect for Twitter and it may look bad to editors you submit work to if your author bio includes mention of a Twitter account. Facebook is less stigmatized than Twitter in this way but still looks very unprofessional, whereas your own website looks professional. Many people in the literary community specifically despise Twitter and consider it the anti-Christ to all things literary and intellectual. Others find it to be an interesting source of quick updates that may clue them into things like a new article that’s been published by a certain economist. You’ll have to decide for yourself, but twitter isn’t considered a necessity the way putting even a little something on Facebook generally is considered a necessity these days.
When building your site or looking for communities and Facebook groups online to help you promote your work you should think of who your target audience is for the type of work you do and then think of where they’d be online and what they’d like to see. For example, my work often touches on issues and themes of the working class so I’m not likely to go fishing around academic, literary presses out of universities or upper-class literary communities online. However, anything related to the working class, Feminism, GLBT rights, human rights, and social issues in general, or things of a secular Unitarian Universalist or Buddhist perspective are good places for me to start looking for those who’d be interested in my work.
And obviously it shouldn’t need to be said that on online communities you should be respectful and have manners. Just use logic and commonsense.
It can be a very good idea to have at least one author video on YouTube, however, this won’t help you if it’s a bad video. If you don’t know anything about videos and don’t know any friends who do you may be able to get someone else to help you. You can check local colleges with photography and film courses or check local literary groups. The literary group Willamette Writers in Portland, Oregon offers its members an author video service for $50, which includes filming and editing by a novice professional. For examples of good and bad author videos you can check their site HERE. It would be good for you to watch several of their videos with one or more of your friends and get opinions on what works and what doesn’t. (I don’t want to say as I don’t want to name the ones that are very bad, but I hope they stand out to you.)
Two other sources of author videos you can study are the raw and personal ones by Chicago writer, editor, and publisher Janet Kuypers HERE. And the publishing company style video from Jennifer M. Fulford HERE. Then think of the types of work they do and how their author video styles relate to it and work for it.
In doing my own author video for YouTube (in May 2014, HERE) I went with something very simple and plain that most authors wouldn’t do but that suits my particular branding of what is essentially my author product (for more on that see previous and future posts).
In this day and age, authors obviously need to utilize the internet to promote their work, but first you need to decide what you have to promote. If you create a website and promote it too soon you may just look incredibly self-involved. If, however, you have several pieces of work done and some published, and aim to publish a book some day, then a website may be a good tool for you, particularly because when you’re submitting works for publication you can entice editors with a quick mention that if published you’ll add a hyperlink to their site on your site.
Promoting your work online can get pretty expensive if you don’t know where to look though or don’t know how to begin. First of all, a lot of beginners think they need to have things like their own domain name, which costs money. It used to be that to look like a professional you did have to have your own domain name rather than a sub-domain name, like .angelfire.com. Nowadays hosted free sites aren’t stigmatized like they were before, especially given how bad the current economy and job-market are. Even a lot of middle and upper middle class people have become far less judgmental of people very obviously doing things to save money. I’m not an internet or tech expert, but I can start you on the right track with this…
There are free sites with drop and drag menus and the like that make it easier than ever to have your own site. If you use a sub-domain name they’re even free. If you want your own domain name you can get one through them, right away or at any time. So you can try the free version today and in a few years decide if you want to upgrade. Free sites offer basics like text and photo capacities but not video. Paid versions will host video and other features, however, with YouTube’s free accounts and all the other free sites out there it might not be worth your while.
Some of the free sites are Blogger, Blogspot, Weebly, and Wix. There are several more and you can find them by Googling this. Which is best for you will depend on exactly what type of site you want to create.
A few years ago I went to a class taught by my author friend Jennifer M. Fulford where she went over website and blog creation with about two or three types of sites. I immediately liked Weebly the best and quickly went about using it. With Weebly you can easily create a site with a blog with pages, just pages, or just a blog. And you can add or remove pages and blogs to your site at any time. I find it wonderfully flexible and easy to use. Additionally, the customer service system is excellent and the rare times I’ve had any issues with the site (usually when something’s been updated), I got a response from an actual person within 24 hours and any issue was resolved quickly and courteously.
You can do all this without knowing how to write HTML (website creation language). But you can drop and drag in an option to “embed code </>”, meaning to add HTML if you want to. I’ve done this before; when I wanted to add a subscription button powered by Google Feedburner (another free service) I was given a line of HTML code which I copied and pasted into my Weebly site to get a Feedburner subscription button on my site so it’s very easy for anyone to subscribe to it.
What your site should contain as a bare minimum is a brief author bio, typically written in the third person and including any professional credentials, qualifications, and experience, and at least one or two interesting personal things about you; some list and/ or showcase of any work you have out, or hyperlinks to places your work has been published; one photo of you, even from far away if you don’t really like to get exposure, and some way of putting updates about your work on the site, e.g. mentioning new publication credits.
Covers various aspects of the craft, practice, and profession of writing, for beginners to professional writers, in a three-year process.
It is not meant to be fully-comprehensive, but rather an outline to follow over three years, listing many of the areas one must cover to succeed as a writer.
Written by an author of several books.
Donations to support these arts appreciated (with PayPal).
Ava Collopy Books is on...
Ava Collopy is published in...
Fiction: Adrift, Brilliant Flash Fiction (contest shortlist, as A.C.), Down in the Dirt, Sunlight in the Sanctuary, and Treading Water.
Nonfiction: The Relic, the Effort, the Yell, Down in the Dirt,
Poetry: Ascent Aspirations, Poetry Pacific, Re/ Verse, Verse Virtual, and others.
Her work is showcased fully on her website:
Dreamscape Realities... Ava Collopy Books, which has a YouTube channel.
She lives in Ireland, her ancestral home. She's from Oregon, U.S. (west coast), and has traveled through North America and Europe while working various jobs, doing volunteer work, and donating blood several times.
She is a happily life-long non-mom with many friends, who has oft enjoyed being a single independent female, a fact she proudly promotes to remind people that everyone must make the choices that are right for them.
She has a blog with New Ideas for Social Issues: ALL VOICES Heard.
You can also check out her Amazon Author Page.
Talks about Her Books, Website, and Blogs
(with Footage of Dublin, Running Time 2:54)
Talks about her Creative Inspiration, Professional Choices, and Writing Good Content
(with Footage of Dublin, Running Time 3:24)
The Author's Books
All contents of this site Copyright 2012-2015 Ava Collopy. Fair use is fine but nothing for profit.
|Unending Horizons, a Blog for Writers, by Ava Collopy||
Three Years of Advice for Writers, from beginning to professional