Category Archives: Commentary

I’m Going To…

Today’s pet peeve is brought to you by “Middle Aged Grouchiness: The Only Thing Worse Than Teenaged Angst.

A couple phrases I absolutely hate hearing are “I will ___ when I get a chance” or “I’m going to do ___ when I have time.” They grate on me like nothing else. (And to be fair, I’ve uttered those words and regretted it every time.)

When someone tells me “I will do this or that when I get a chance,” it’s more like a brush-off. It’s as though they’re telling me “I can’t be bothered. Let me tell you something to get you off my back.” It’s frustrating. Just do whatever it is you need to do! Why wait? Why imply a promise of action when you could be doing the action instead?

do-it-now-1432945_640The same goes with “I’m going to do this or that when I have the time.” Ugh!! Do it now. Take care of it now. You know what needs to be done!

These phrases have irked me for some time. Yes, I’ve used them before and I’ve not felt good about them.

What brought this to my attention was a recent interview I heard on NPR with an author whose new memoir contained egregious plagiarism. The author (sorry, I don’t remember her name) replied to the accusations by saying “I will get to them soon.” She knew there were problems, pointed out several of them herself, and carried on like it was nothing. If I recall correctly, I think many of her citations to other books were wrong or led to the incorrect pages of her cited works.

No! Do them now! You know the problems are there and you know the solutions. Fix it now! Why wait? What do you have to gain from postponing the action?

It sounded more like she was deflecting away from the errors and giving an answer she thought would satisfy her critics while doing nothing about it. She promised future action as a means of quelling the immediate problem.

Can we all stop this? Can we be people of action and not deflection? I include myself in this. I’m just as guilty as the next person. The sooner we can take ownership of the problem, the sooner it will be fixed. Responsibility folks: it’s a beautiful thing.

Rant over. Thanks for dropping by.


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Give A Little, Would Ya?

Lately I’ve found myself sharing my experiences with other writers as though I’m some sort of “Johnny Appleseed” of indie authors, planting my advice wherever I can. Let’s get that idea debunked now: I’m not an expert.

But what I am is a person willing and eager to share my experiences with the hope they will help someone else. My experiences might not be the most relevant or the most powerful, but they are mine not to keep to myself, but to share with others.

germ-2871773_640I belong to several indie author Facebook groups where new and experienced writers can exchange their stories and learn from one another. I’ve taken it upon myself to answer a lot of questions from the newer authors because if I were in their shoes, I’d want someone doing that for me.

It’s paying it forward and we need more of that.

Navigating the often difficult path to indie writing and publishing can be daunting without the proper guidance. I’m not going to say I know it all or I’m an expert by any means. My mistakes and low sales are evidence to that. But I do have experiences that if shared, can help others after me grow faster and possibly sell way more than me. And I’m cool with that.

I don’t see indie writing and publishing as a cut-throat scenario where I’m gonna keep my successes (and failures) to myself so others will be at a disadvantage. I want us all to rise up and be better. As fellow writer and all around good-guy Brian K. Morris says, “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.” If I succeed, I want other writers there with me.

There are always unscrupulous people out there in every facet of life; indie publishing is no different. Sometimes the advice or experience I share might benefit them too. It’s a price to pay for being willing to open up with others.

I hope you’d consider sharing your experiences, good and bad, with other writers and people in your life when you can. We should all be learning and growing. Our advice and recommendations may make it easier for others and might help them surpass our own efforts.

Cool, bring it on. Let’s all grow better together!


ForgottentrilogyCoverLast week I posted about reviews. This week, I’d like to ask for them.

My boxed set of The Forgotten Chronicles: The Complete Trilogy is chilling on the various ebook retailers all alone without a review to accompany it. Would you be willing to leave an honest review? If you bought the boxed set or read the trilogy on its own, you can leave a review for it on Amazon. For the other retailers, you’d have to actually buy the trilogy. So…if you could help a brother out, that would rock. I plan on running promos in the near future and as I posted about last week, many services need to see a certain number of reviews before they’ll promote your book.

Thank you!

 

All Those Reviews…All of Them!

Book reviews are like gold for authors. We all want them. They’re the “social proof” our books are being read by readers. But…how important are they? How many do you really need? What’s their point? What do we do with them?

how-to-post-a-book-review-memeEarning reviews on books helps potential readers decide if the book is for them or not. I worked hard to earn 50 reviews on my book The Selection. I joined groups for reviews.

I started a Facebook group called The Review Circle where a bunch of authors would agree to read and review the book of another author while also being read and reviewed by a third author. It works like this: Author A reviews Author B. Author B reviews Author C. Author C then reviews Author A. I didn’t want review exchanges, but the freedom of the author to read and honestly review a different book knowing they were not being reviewed by that same author. The concept works and we’ve done many “review circles,” but it was difficult to keep up with, especially when the same authors signed up and we avoided (as best we could) having people review authors who have already read them.

With all that work, how important are reviews? It depends on what your goals are.write-a-review

Many book promotion sites require a certain number of reviews before they’ll accept your book. Many need to see at least 10 reviews, others less. It’s funny because the largest and most effective book promo site, BookBub, does not have such rigid requirements. I understand why some of the services do. They want their readers to know the books they’re promoting aren’t hack pieces and have some legitimacy to them.

How many do you need? I guess this depends on what you need them for. If your book sells even though you have few reviews, maybe you don’t need that many. Or, maybe you could use more to increase those daily sales. If you want to schedule an email blast promo, you’ll need as many as they require for you to sign-up.

Why do we crave reviews, what do they do for us? The easy answer is that they let us know we’ve somehow touched the reader with our book in a way that compelled them to leave a review. It’s one of the most gratifying experiences to read a positive review of your work. At the same time, it’s crushing to read a negative one, though if taken as a learning tool, it can help sharpen the writer’s skill for future works.

I welcome any and all reviews, as long as they’re honest. If you’ve spent your money on my books or picked them up for free during a promo, I fully expect that your time will not be wasted in my words and my hope is that you’ll leave an honest review of my work. If you don’t, that’s cool too. It’s your call.

I’ve retrained myself to always leave a review of the books I’ve read, especially if it’s a fellow indie author. My hope is that it will encourage them to continue or maybe give them just enough to book a promo they’ve wanted to do. And the great thing is, it doesn’t have to be a long in-depth review. Just a few words saying “I really liked this book” or something like that works too.

What’s your take on reviews? Do you think they carry more weight than I’ve described above? Do you leave them? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Have you followed me on BookBub yet? If not, click the image below enter into a drawing where two lucky winners get a $100 Amazon gift card. All you have to do is follow me to enter. Gain over 80 additional chances by following the other scifi and/or fantasy authors as well.

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Want my book The Selection for free? Grab a copy when you sign-up for my email list through the Birthday Book Party giveaway. While you’re there, check out all the other free scifi and fantasy novels!

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BookBub Myths (And What You Can Do!)

Getting a BookBub is every indie author’s dream. It’s a spectacular email blast promo service that shares your discounted or free book to eager readers waiting to buy. There are other services, but none pack the punch of BookBub.

Because they don’t share what really goes into a Featured Deal acceptance, rumors run rampant throughout the indie author community about what it takes in order to get them to select your book.

I’m not an expert, but what follows are my experiences which I hope will help other authors plan and hopefully experience the joy of “Getting a BookBub!” Let’s start with a couple myths.

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Myth #1: You need at least X amount of reviews to get a BookBub.

Ok, so reviews are important. They’re social proof that readers like your book. I work hard to earn honest reviews so hopefully other readers will see how my book might appeal to them.

One of the biggest myths I’ve heard about BookBub is that they need to see at least 50 reviews on a book to even consider it. Umm…no.

I have no idea if they really have a baseline for number of reviews. What I do know is that both of my books selected for Featured Deals had less than 10 reviews at the time of the deal. Actually, they both still have less than 10 (one of them only has 3 reviews!)

From my experience, the thought that you need at least 50 reviews for BookBub to accept your book is flawed. Yes, you want reviews but they won’t hold you back. It’s funny because services that have a much lower ROI than BookBub require a certain amount of reviews and both my books would have been denied on that point alone.

 

Myth #2: You need to be wide (Not Amazon exclusive).

It might actually help if your books are wide (meaning on more than just Amazon) but from my experience, it wasn’t necessary. Both of my books were in Kindle Unlimited and still are.

What’s this mean to you? If you’re comfortable going wide, do it. If you prefer to stay within the confines of KU, do that. No matter what, present the best book possible, which leads to my recommendations.

I think what tipped the scales in my favor were a few factors.

The first was the cover.

For my horror novels under my pen name, I chose a new cover designer that rocked it! They nailed the genre while touching on the material within the book. I think if you want to be considered for a BookBub, make sure you get a killer cover first.

My novel “The Selection” has been rejected like a dozen times from BookBub, but the first time I submitted my first horror novel, it was accepted. I want to recover all three books in my trilogy but…money.

The second thing that helped was a decent blurb. So, I suck at these and always need help. I’m never satisfied with them. However, you want to make sure you create a blurb that leaves the reader wanting more and ready to hand over their money for your book. I think mine weren’t perfect, but they were good enough.

Finally, I think genre had a role. As I mentioned, my young adult scifi novel has never been accepted, but both my horror novels were. I’m thinking maybe not too many apply for that genre? Or maybe it’s a genre that’s growing? I honestly don’t know but I think with the great covers and decent blurbs, I stood a greater chance to get accepted.

Are there other myths you’ve heard that I didn’t touch on here? Please leave a comment below and let’s get the discussion going.

How did my BookBub Featured Deals do? Come back next week for a follow up post where I peel back the curtain and let you know exactly how they did.

In the meantime, why not click below and follow me on BookBub? You’ll always be alerted when I have a new release.

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Do A Kindness For Others

Have you ever found yourself doing the right thing when it was so easy not to?

Years ago while on my way to class at SIU, I stopped at a local McDonald’s for breakfast. I paid the cashier at the drive-thru window with a $20 bill and received a $20 bill and change in return.

My first thought? “Right on! I’ve got some extra money!

I drove to school grinning at my gain.

But then the guilt got to me.

DriveThruAt the time, I was working at a fast food restaurant as an assistant manager and I knew if any of my cashiers came up at least $20 short at the end of their shift, it might be grounds for dismissal. Was the extra cash worth it for me? Was the greed worth someone else possibly losing their job? What if the cashier was struggling and this was their last chance with their employer?

I wasn’t rolling in money. The extra money sure would’ve helped, but at what cost?

I only had one class that morning so on my way back home, I stopped at the McDonald’s and went inside.

“Can I speak with the manager?” I asked. The cashier looked at me with wide eyes. As a manager myself, I knew almost 100% of the time when a customer asked for the manager, it meant something was wrong.

“How can I help?” the nervous manager asked.

“I went through the drive-thru this morning and the cashier gave me $20 too much money.”

He misunderstood what I was doing and thought I was asking for more money back.

“No,” I said, “He gave me too much in change. I need to return this.” I handed him the $20 and turned to leave. A customer in line stopped me.

“You did the right thing,” she said, smiling at me as I left.

The money would’ve been great, but the cost to the cashier was not worth it. They would’ve never known where the money went and I would’ve gotten away with it. But in the end, I decided it wasn’t worth the trouble it would’ve caused the other person.

I don’t share this to brag or gloat, but to inspire others to always do the right thing, even when no one would know if you got away with the wrong thing. In the end, it’s worth it. I promise.

How about you? Any cool stories when you did the right thing though you knew you could get away with the wrong thing? Feel free to share! Or maybe you were the recipient of someone else’s kindness. Let’s brighten things up a bit, shall we?

 

 

 

 

First Ever BookBub Deal (Results)

I recently ran my first ever BookBub Featured Deal, the gold standard of all book promotions, and I wanted to share the results for all my fellow writers and interested readers. If my experience can help you better organize your business or promotional goals, right on!

In case you didn’t know, I started a pen name for my horror works. Several months ago I set-up a Twitter account, Instagram, and even a Facebook Author page as well as a free Wix website for the name. I went this route out of respect for my family. Needless to say, the pen name doesn’t have much of a social media presence and nothing published under that name until now.

On July 20th, I released the first novel under that name and had a couple sales. Literally a couple. By the time my Featured Deal ran, it only had nine sales.

I tend to submit my novel The Selection to BookBub every thirty days, as is their policy, and have been rejected at least nine times. On July 25th, not even a week after I released my horror novel, I submitted The Selection and while there, I figured I’d give my new book a shot knowing I’d get rejected and would have to wait another thirty days.

Two days later, a full week after the book’s release, I got the email from BookBub accepting my submission and that it would run my .99 deal on August 5th if I wanted it. Umm…YES! I paid the bill, about $350, and geared up for the email blast.

My novel had a ton of things going against it for a successful BookBub promo. It was a new novel by a new author with very little social media presence. It was a stand alone book with no series to back it up. It was exclusive to Amazon. It only had (and as I write this still does) two reviews. I did nothing else to promote the book other than a couple low cost AMS ads and a low budget BookBub ad (which is waaaay different than their Featured Deal). I did add another book on pre-order so potential readers had more to try from me and to know I wasn’t a one trick pony.

The morning of the 5th came and the email blast went live. I was nervous and worried I wouldn’t get any downloads. I knew how many I needed to sell to cover the ad cost and waited anxiously for the numbers. I’d been watching other authors on kBoards share their BookBub success and hoped I’d follow suit.

One the first day, I sold a grand total of 286 copies, well short of my goal and a bit discouraging. It was the single biggest selling day ever for me, but I knew then I wasn’t going to cover the ad cost. That day, as the numbers rolled in, I went through a series of emotions, mostly rethinking my ability to write and if maybe I ought to toss it all and give up. So far, I’ve not made back the cost of producing a book, ads, or anything. At the end of that day, I was bummed but decided to carry on because I feel I can write compelling stories that others enjoy. My time will come.

youtuber-2838945_1280So day two came and went and I sold a total of 42 copies. So far today, day three, I’ve sold 3 copies. I’ve also started to see a rise in Kindle Unlimited page reads which will help. There have been 4 pre-orders of the other book I put up just before the promo.

So what’s my take away? After the initial shock of watching sales come in slowly and talking myself off the ledge, I’m viewing this as an extremely positive experience.

To land a BookBub Featured Deal on the first try with a new book and new pen name was amazing. What better way to introduce that name to readers than the best promo service around? I expect this will set up my name for quite a while and give it the foundation it needs for future success.

Promoting a horror novel on a Sunday might not have been the best day. Don’t get me wrong, when BookBub says we wanna share your book, you jump at the chance. I’ve tried other services and none have the return they have.

I knew going into it that a stand alone book stood less of a chance to recoup ad costs and in my case, that has proven correct. If it were the first in a series, the read through to the other books would’ve helped tremendously.

For those that wanted to know, there ya go.

Oh, on the bright side, my novel did rise to number one in two of its three categories, earning the coveted orange Best Seller stripe and in one category, I was beating out Stephen King!

Onward and upward friends!

 

Seeking a Genre

I’ve had a difficult time lately trying to figure out what kind of writer I am. Do I write horror? Am I a scifi writer? What about fantasy? Does it even freaking matter?

I’m not sure what’s prompting me to pigeon-hole myself to a particular genre or not, however maybe it’s best if I gravitate toward something. The phrase “Jack of all trades and master of none” keeps coming back to me.

Of all three genres, I think the one that I most identify with is horror. It’s what I’ve read the most, watched the most, and what interests me the most.

I don’t feel I have the credentials to call myself a scifi or even a fantasy writer, though my background in medieval history does give me a foundation for the kind of fantasy I enjoy. I’ve not read many of the scifi classics. I have tried to navigate my way through some of the mainstays of the genre to have a working knowledge of what’s been done before and the major players in the field. Still, it doesn’t feel like I’ve “paid my dues” and learned enough about previous authors to jump into their genre. Does watching a lot of scifi shows count? I don’t know. Maybe? Do I have to have those works read in order to write my own stories?

thinker-1294493_1280I imagine purists would scoff at the idea of someone with a basic knowledge of science fiction calling themselves a scifi writer. I kinda agree. Start throwing questions at me about Heinlein or Asimov, I might give you a blank stare and change the subject.

Same goes for fantasy. I know a few pillars of the genre, but I’ve not read many of them. My first real introduction to fantasy was through Robert Jordan and I know there were many before him like Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Terry Pratchett and more. I love fantasy for the idealized medieval worlds they tend to portray (and yes, I’m aware of the Euro-centric bent of most fantasy) though I’ve not read extensively in the genre. Do I have to in order to call myself a fantasy writer?

When it comes to horror, I do have a greater background through reading and movies than the other two genres I gravitate toward. King, Barker, Jackson, Oates, Ramsey Campbell, and countless other authors have all been my go-to authors when I want something to read. I love the dark themes and ability of authors to scare the crap out of me. I feel much more confident calling myself a horror writer though to date, I’ve not written much more than several flash fiction and short stories in the genre.

So why question all of this? What’s the point?

skull-3026666_1920As I continue to grow my readership and reach out to new readers, I don’t want to confuse them. I love using elements from all three genres in my writing. One day I feel more like writing fantasy, while another I want dark, scary horror. I don’t want to be forced into a genre I’m not entirely 100% all in on (or at least don’t feel like I belong because of a lack of rudimentary knowledge of the field.) Yet, readers and especially other authors want to know “what do you write?” Damn good stories? I mean, that’s how I want to answer.

Lately I’ve come to use the term “Speculative Fiction Author” to describe what I write. It’s a term not without its drawbacks and controversy, though for the most part, it encompasses all that I enjoy writing. It allows me the freedom to flow between genres without feeling stuck or unable to try something else. It’s like when King wrote the Dark Tower books. He’s known as one of the most popular horror authors ever, yet he wrote a fantasy series. Of course, it sold because his name is on the cover, but in my case, I have a long way to go to establish my name. If I call myself a “Speculative Fiction Author,” readers generally understand I genre-hop and can pick and choose what stories of mine to read.

If I take a big step back, this entire discussion about genre really is all about marketing anyway. When bookstores sell books, they need to know where to put books to make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for. When Amazon categorizes books, they get down to fine detail about the genre. It all goes back to marketing: How do we sell this book? Who is the market for this one? Have a monster in it? Good, call it horror. Is the protagonist a seventeen year-old girl? Call it young adult. It makes it easier for readers to discern what to buy and not buy. I get it.

The more I can figure out who I am as a writer, the easier it’ll be for me to market myself. If I claim “Speculative Fiction Author” as my title, then I’m open to marketing myself in all three of the genres I enjoy depending on the books I’m writing at the time. It’s not that I’m chasing the latest trends, but writing stories I enjoy and hope others will too. I don’t even know what the latest trends are! Reverse harem? Who knows!

I hope to figure this out soon. I’d like to sell a few books and begin making a profit off my work. I haven’t yet, however I have earned a few new readers in the process.

 

Behind the Forgotten Chronicles

With the conclusion of my young adult scifi series The Forgotten Chronicles, I wanted to take a moment and share the process for how it came to be.

When I wrote the first book, The Selection, I kinda hoped to write several books but I wasn’t sure how it would be received or if anyone would care. I knew the story was interesting and action-packed, but I had no idea if it would lead to anything.

The way I write longer pieces, I have a tendency to leave the ending somewhat open for another installment if I feel it deserves it and if readers ask for more. It might not be the best way to write, but as a novice with little recognition, that’s how I thought (I’ve since changed my approach, but that’s how it was when I wrote The Selection.)

THE FORGOTTEN CHRONICLESTRILOGYAfter its release, I was surprised by the reaction for The Selection. By and large, most readers enjoyed the story and were awesome about sharing that through reviews or connecting with me on social media.

It wasn’t until about a month after its release that I decided to write a follow up novel. That was also when I decided to make it a trilogy (I mean, it worked for Star Wars!) I started writing in early May of 2017 and by November, I had a fairly clean and polished story ready for release with book 2, Rise of the Forgotten. It came out in January of 2018.

Before the release of book 2, I had already started book 3.

I kinda knew how I wanted it to end and did a bit of planning to make sure The War for Truth was a satisfying conclusion to the series.

It’s been an educational journey as I went from “Hey, read my book The Selection” to a finished trilogy.

I never wanted to write a YA series. I wanted a book for my son written by me. What I found out was the story worked for others and they were eager to find out more about the world introduced in The Selection. I can’t even explain how amazing it felt knowing someone else cared about what I created.

I hope you were one of the many readers who took a chance on me. If not, no worries. Maybe one day you’ll give it a try. Until then, feel free to ask me anything about the process or how it came together. I’d love to share more with you.

Thanks!

 

Behind The Story

Not many readers know I like to hide surprises in my writing. I want to share one of those with you today.

 

My young adult scifi series “The Forgotten Chronicles” is set on an alien world similar to ours yet orbiting a red sun. I based it off of a NASA travel poster released several years ago for the planet Kepler 186f. I wanted an Earth-like world where readers were familiar enough with how it worked yet still completely alien. If you’ve read The Selection or the follow-up book Rise of the Forgotten, you know what I mean.

What hardly anyone knows is they may have read a story about this series before it was ever released. I had it hiding in plain sight.

I honestly didn’t know if The Selection would ever see publication. I enjoyed the story but still wasn’t sure if I was going to put the time and effort (and money!) into making it a novel I wanted to release. I wrote the book leaving the ending in a way that if enough readers enjoyed it, I could continue the series. As it happened, many readers loved the book and that gave me the impetus I needed to write Rise of the Forgotten. The final book in the series, The War for Truth, is due out in May (and can be pre-ordered for the ridiculously low price of .99. Go here to get it: The War for Truth)

However, one of the questions I often get asked is why are there so many boys born on the planet Anastasia? What causes this? Why does it happen?

AlmostAs an origin story mostly for myself, I wrote a short story called The Long Sleep which answers these questions. If you’ve read any of my short story collections, you may recognize it. I released it in my first ever book, (Almost) Average Anthology, back in 2016. It was the last story in the collection and gives a great explanation as to how things got to be in The Selection.

I released (Almost) Average Anthology in Jan. of 2016, well over a year before I released The Selection. The story The Long Sleep isn’t my favorite of the collection, but it most certainly belongs with my series as an origin story.

So, for fans who like to know behind the scenes info, there ya go. You can get the entire 16 story collection (Almost) Average Anthology for .99 or if you subscribe to my newsletter, you get it for FREE. Either way, I hope you enjoy the dark tales and I hope you continue to follow along with my scifi series. It’s been so much fun to write and the reader response has been amazing.


For those interested in the series, here are the links.

The Selection: ebook, paperback, audiobook.

Rise of the Forgotten: ebook, paperback.

The War for Truth: ebook (special low pre-order price)

 

Self-Doubt Sucks

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know I’ve been kinda down on myself the past few weeks. I’m not normally one to share a lot of personal info (like do you really care that I ate nothing but fruit for breakfast or how work is going?) however I did take the time to share how discouraged I’ve been with my writing.

depression-2912424_960_720Like most writers or creatives, I doubted myself and my skills. I doubted if I should even continue writing. It’s not like many people are reading it! But an amazing thing happened.

I had support.

By sharing my doubts about my craft, many others (maybe even you!) stepped in and told me to slow my roll. You encouraged me to continue what I’m doing because I do indeed have a tiniest clue as to what I’m doing. I do not suck as bad as I thought I did.

I think I go through this mentality about once a year or more. When it passes, I blissfully continue what I’m doing and spend my time writing new stories that will one day entertain and delight readers.

I’d love to make writing a full-time paying gig, but for now it’s not there yet. It may never be, but with encouragement from those brave enough to try my work and like it, I know I’ve got support from those who truly care about the next adventure I write.

It helped me so much to see how many people believed in me. I don’t like sharing my doubts because I don’t want others to see my weakness. I don’t want them to pity me. I have a hard time accepting help and encouragement, a trait I know is not the best. But sometimes, it just needs to come out.

If you’re experiencing something like this, I’m here to talk if you need it.