Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Some advice from Chuck Wendig

Haven't done one of these in a while, but if you're a writer here's a little wisdom from Chuck Wendig. If you like this, go read the rest of the post at his blog. There are 24 other tips on using social media. And, as is typical with a Chuck post, don't go if you have easily offended eyes. Chuck has been known to work blue.

"You are not a brand. Social media is not your platform. The world has enough brands. You are not a logo, a marketing agenda, a mouthpiece, a Spam-Bot. Approach social media not as a writer-specific tool (keyword: tool) catered only toward your penmonkey self and see it instead as a place where you can bring all the crazy and compelling facets of your personality to bear on
an unsuspecting populace, your audience. People want to follow other people. People don’t want to follow brands."

Monday, August 22, 2011

And we hit 100

I wrote yesterday's post before church, not expecting that by the time I arrived for the service I'd find out that I'd sold the 100th copy of Chasing Filthy Lucre. However, that's exactly what happened. I'm excited about that. Happy to say I've sold 100 copies.

Ever since I started writing regularly in junior high school, this has been the dream. Not to sell 100 copies of a book, but to have people read and enjoy what I write. Thanks to a rapidly changing publishing world, that's happening.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Worrying about what you can control

I'm getting close to a milestone number as far as book sales go. I'm one sale away from hitting 100 total sales. Honestly, I thought I'd be there by now. I started the month of August just four sales away from 100. So, a little quick math, that means I've sold three books this month.

I've heard from lots of independent authors that summer sales are slow and that August is the worst. "Sure," I thought, "but it can't be that bad." No, it can be worse.

Honestly, I thought that August would go well. July started slow. No sales for the first two weeks. After that, though, I sold almost one book a day for the rest of the month. Momentum, I thought, I finally have some. This will carry over into August. And I was fooled, because for a day or two it did carry over. I sold a book on the fist day of the month. I hadn't done that ever. Then I sold another on the third day. So far so good. Then I didn't sell another book at all until this weekend. Someone on Barnes and Noble picked up a copy.

I was checking every day hoping to see that third and fourth sale, but nothing. Until this weekend, I was stuck at two. I've been tweeting about Chasing Filthy Lucre. I've been pushing it on Facebook. I've had interviews and reviews posted. Still, nothing moves the sales.

I am starting to realize that what some of the more successful writers have been saying. You can't control how many copies you sell. You do what you can to let people know about your book or books. You make your best effort and hope that works. You can't, however, make anyone push that buy button.

That's why you concentrate on the one thing you can control: writing your next book. There's one thing that almost all the successful indie authors say will drive sales, and that's having more books available. Two books will sell better than one book. Three books will sell better than two. Four better than three, and so on. I'm about 15,000 words into Book 2 into and it's really starting to take shape. I always knew where this book would go but the details are in focus now, and that's a good thing. I have a goal, the second book being published by my birthday, October 4. That's very doable.

So for now, I'll keep doing what I've been doing and hoping that these slow sales are just the summer doldrums. That things will pick up once the weather turns cooler and the kids go back to school. And I'll keep writing.

And speaking of milestones, here's a little something I just realized. That last post -- the interview with Steve Umstead -- was the 400th post on this blog. That's kind of cool. Didn't know I was getting close to another round number.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Get to know Steve Umstead

I met Steve Umstead through Twitter. He's a great guy and a great author. He wrote a fantastic book titled Gabriel's Redemption. It's the first book in a planned trilogy and a great value at $2.99. (Amazon/UK/Barnes and Noble) It's an interplanetary adventure that races to an exciting finish. I sent Steve a few questions. He sent me a few answers back -- while on a vacation out of the country, no less. Take a few minutes and get to know him.
Give me a three sentence summary of Gabriel's Redemption.

Gabriel's Redemption is a near-future science fiction/adventure story of a man, a disgraced Special Forces soldier, who lost his team and his command on a far-off planet called Eden. Now, plucked from the slums of the Caribbean, he is given a chance for redemption, with a new team, a new mission, on a new world. However, the mission, and the people behind it, aren't quite as they seem.

Where did the story for Gabriel's Redemption come from?

The story was written during 2010's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but the premise behind it was a scene I've had in my head for perhaps a decade. That one opening chapter, the people in it, the past that's behind it, created the entire story, and the character of Commander Evan Gabriel himself. I just knew there was a complete story behind it. And since it's an ebook, readers can download a sample and see what I mean by that first chapter...

Now pitch me on the next book in the series.

The next in the trilogy, Gabriel's Return, is, as of this writing, in the final editing stages and should be out for public consumption by mid-August. Commander Evan Gabriel and his team, having survived the previous mission mostly-intact, are being sent on a highly secret new mission, one to rescue an important relative of a good friend, and to take down a terrorist organization. However, the mission takes Gabriel back to Eden, the planet where he barely survived a massacre that killed his entire team five years ago, and the mission which cost him his command. Plenty of jungle-based combat scenes intermixed with political intrigue on three different worlds.

What are your plans for future books, both in and out of this series?

There is a third, and final, book in the Evan Gabriel trilogy (obviously!), tentatively titled Gabriel's Revenge. Things happen at the end of Book 2 that Gabriel struggles with and teeters on the brink of losing control, and he has his enemies in his scope. 
As for after that, I've already got a half a page of notes on a different type of science fiction story, one involving a planetary disaster and time travel (I'll have to ask my teen son, who apparently knows quantum physics better than I do, for assistance). Also, I plan to drift a bit out of my usual genre for a stab at a present-day technothriller, as I was a big fan of Tom Clancy (back when he actually wrote his own books).

I'm stealing a question from Declan Burke. What three words would best describe your writing?

Hmm, good question. Um, Pulitzer Prize worthy? No, probably not…let's go with imaginative, realistic, and enjoyable.

As a self-publisher, you're really the head of a small publishing company. Has your experience owning your own small travel business helped you in your publishing endeavors? If so, how?

Actually, yes. Last year, before the writing bug ever became real, I set up our company's social media program from scratch. Facebook company page, Twitter account, Flickr, LinkedIn, et al. That gave me a big leg up (in my opinion) on having to launch my own program soon after publishing the book. Yes, absolutely, I should have started the social media program before publishing the book…but I didn't expect to actually publish. It was done for fun, so, when it happened, I found it easy to put a social media program together. I also think I have a pretty good grasp on web design to appeal to customers, an understanding of the financial and tax processes, that sort of thing. Whether that will ever translate into success…we'll see!

What's the most surprising thing you've discovered in the writing/publishing process?

That there are SO MANY other people, great people, out there, that are all in the same boat. I've been alive for forty *cough…mumble* years, and I'm not sure if I've ever run into such an amazing group of people. Everyone with the same goal, the same challenges, the same drives. Real, true, down-to-earth people; best I've ever run into. Truly incredible -- if I never sell another book as long as I live, I know I've found a form of success in the people I've met, people I know will be there for years to come. (As an aside, yes, most of them have been online. However, I was privileged enough to meet nine of them in person at Readercon, and they're just as fantastic in person -- if not more so -- than online…and I look forward to meeting many more.)

How long have you been reading science fiction? What authors influenced you?

I have been reading voraciously since I was very young -- one of my first memories was when I was 7 and read both Jaws and All The President's Men in my mother's room. As for science fiction, Star Wars in 1977 changed everything for me. Reading-wise, early on Arthur C. Clarke (there's a nod to one of his postulations in my novels) would be one of the first I can remember. I'm actually not a classic scifi reader; most of what I enjoy have been fairly recent, most notably David Weber, Charles Sheffield, Peter F. Hamilton, and John Scalzi.

Give us a quick recommended reading list. What little-known books have you discovered that more people should know about?

The Ragamuffin series from Tobias Buckell I felt was so amazingly entertaining and well-written, but you never hear anything about it. And while Weber is widely known, his Safehold series (number four is in my TBR list) was fascinating.

Now how about the three books that you couldn't live without.

Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising was probably the book that influenced me most, and I might not have had the writing bug without it. Great multiple plot, world conflict, tech and characters blend. I think I've read it four or five times. David Weber's first in the Honor Harrington series was excellent. He's an absolute master at realistic (physics-wise) space combat. And let's go with Peter Benchley's Jaws, in the original printed form (not movie). I still, after thirty *cough…mumble* years, can picture scenes from it in my head, scenes that were not in the movie. It really had a profound impact on me as a reader.

Finally, what's next for you? Anything we should know about?

For me? Finishing off the Evan Gabriel trilogy, hopefully by the end of this calendar year, and closing out his story. A few new works I mention above, as well as working on getting the Gabriel name out there to potential readers. But maybe the most exciting thing I have coming up is helping further my son's writing career as best I can. He published his first work last month, a young adult science fiction novelette called Shifter, for Amazon/BN/Smashwords, which honestly blew me away. I knew, know, that he's an incredibly gifted and intelligent kid, but seeing 10,000 words on paper, as well-written as they were, took my breath away. It's the first in a series of novelettes about the same character, and he's spending his summer working on a full-length novel. Big proud papa here...

Check out more from Steve at his blog.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'm an author. A real, live paid-for-my-writing author

Using the strictest of terms, I became a professional writer in college. That was the first time anyone paid me for something I'd written. I was on the staff at The Shorthorn, my college newspaper, and I was paid by the column inch. For every inch of copy that I wrote I was paid between one and two dollars. I don't remember the exact amount. But that's when I first became a professional writer. That was nearly 20 years ago.

But it wasn't until this weekend that I became a professional author. That's when I received my first check from Amazon for sales of Chasing Filthy Lucre. It's not for much money. I could treat Gina to a fast food meal out somewhere and that's about it. I knew the check would be small since my sales aren't at blockbuster levels. Things seemed to be picking up at the end of last month and I have already sold a book in August, so I'm hopeful. But I've been paid for sales from a book I've written. Using the strictest terms, I'm a professional author.