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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

To outlline or not to outline

An outline, is basically a mini version of your book to be. It can be anywhere from a couple of pages, to forty or so. Many authors create an outline before they begin writing their book. This is one way to avoid suffering from the dreaded (writers block). Essentially, the book is already done. All the author has to do is flesh it out from the original outline. So...should "you" create one before you start your book? I suppose that depends.

As I mentioned, creating an outline can help a new writer avoid writer's block. Because the entire story has already been written in compact form, all he or she has to do is fill in all the detail. Another advantage to making an outline is that the author is able to write much faster. (More words per sitting) Because they already know the path the characters are going walk, there isn't a whole lot of (what should I have them do next) involved. Remember, the story is already complete and just needs to be told.

So why doesn't every author make an outline before they write? Well, for some of us this method just doesn't work very well. (That's correct. I don't use them at all) Why you ask? It's because I just can't think that far ahead. If I had the ability to visualize a complete story from beginning to end, I might use this technique. The truth is, I don't know what's going to happen until it happens. I change things on the fly. When I first start writing, I have very little idea of where any of this is going.

I once watched an interview with one of my favorite authors, R A Salvatore. He was talking about how the business works from being traditionally published author. He HAS to write an outline, then give it to his bosses in order to get the green light to go ahead and write the book. He talked about how they would look it over, give him the OK, then hand it back to him. When leaving, he would get as far as the secretaries office before throwing it right in the trash. All he needed was the OK to go ahead with the project, and now he has it.

I feel the same way. I can't handcuff the characters and force them down a premeditated path. By the time I start writing the book, everything I put in the outline will be void anyway. An outline doesn't matter to me because as the story progresses, I'm going to change nearly everything as I go.

So am I saying don't use an outline? No. I'm saying it can work very well for some authors, yet prove to be a terrible hindrance for others. Experiment, and see which kind of author you are. Find out which way works best for you.      

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Get your book into more categories

A lot of my readers are also writers as well. I thought today I might offer some additional advice to those who are trying to get their books noticed. (Now I'm not going to keep blogging about self publishing forever. It's just that I get these questions a lot, and this is a great opportunity to help many authors at once.)

Now, one of the most important things you can do to get greater visibility is to get your book into more categories. Most books end up being in around four or so. This is pretty typical. Now look at my link to Land of Shadows on Amazon. Scroll all the way down to the bottom.  A bit more than four, correct? So how did I do that?

First you get to choose your main categories. For example, my books are all in Epic Fantasy. But what about all those other categories? One's you can't even choose outright? Does amazon just put my book there? The answer is simple. You are allowed to use 7 key words that will help people find your book through the search engines. But what not everyone knows is those key words will help you land into sub-categories that you couldn't otherwise choose.

Here is a great example. Sword & Sorcery is one of the sub categories of fantasy. But you can't actually choose Sword & Sorcery directly. This is where key words come in. One of my key words is simply the word Sword. That got my book into Sword & Sorcery. Another of my key words is Arthurian. Guess which sub category that got me into.  :)

You see where there this is going. Too many authors type in the key words quickly, and never give them a second thought. They think they don't really mean anything. As you can see that is not true at all. So don't be afraid to experiment with your key words. If you don't like the results, change them up and republish again. There is no limit to how many times you can do that. (I'm sure amazon would not appreciate me telling you that)  :S

That's it for now. As always, everyone have a great day!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

What does it take to be a successful self published author?

I know what you're thinking. Write a great book, and success will come. The cream always rises to the top, as they say. Well, the truth of this business is that it doesn't work like that at all. There are so many wonderful books out there that never get read because no one can find them. They are lost in an endless sea of books. Amazon carries literally millions.

The opposite is true too. There are books in the top 100 of numerous categories that appear to have been written by twelve year olds. (I mean no offence, to any twelve year old reading this) So what gives?

Allow me to give a very brief outline on what any new author must do in order to succeed at this very difficult business.

My book is awesome! Anyone who reads it will love it, and shower me with admiration! Maybe that's true. But why would they choose your book over the other five million floating around out there. You need to standout somehow.

1. Have a professional cover made. DO NOT try to make it yourself. No matter what you've heard, people DO judge a book by it's cover. If your cover looks better than most, you have given yourself a huge advantage right out of he gate.

I'm an English major from (who cares) University! I never make grammar errors, therefore I don't need an editor. Good for you. You're the smartest person alive. But you STILL need an editor.

2. Ever wonder why you can see mistakes in someone else's writing but you never see them in your own. After all, you're still the same person with the same literary skills. It's because you're too familiar with your own writing. You're mind will fill in the missing words as you go. Someone else's writing is not familiar to you so you see the mistakes rather easily. In short...hire a good editor.

I twittered and facebooked about my new book for a year now! It's still not selling! Why? This one's going to hurt folks... It's because no one knows who you are. But I dropped the price all the way down to 99 cents! That changes nothing. They STILL don't know who you are. Why should they risk even a dollar on a complete unknown.

3. This leads me to my final tip. There has to be some reason for the customer to take a chance on you at zero risk. Yep, it sucks. You have to give a book away for free. If you don't do this, no one will ever take a chance on you. They need to decide for themselves if your stories are worth paying their hard earned money for. (even 99 cents)

Well that's it for now guys. Good luck to those of you who want to try and walk this path. PS: My editor does not work on my blog for me. See the difference... :(