Here you are, my friends. I wanted to share it with you first. What do you think? Would you read it? Okay, okay, ARE you going to read it?
Nuggets of knowledge from a small publisher/author on the everyday grind
Here you are, my friends. I wanted to share it with you first. What do you think? Would you read it? Okay, okay, ARE you going to read it?
My writing process is insane. Don’t try it at home.
I envy those writers you read about who can flick their muse on and off like a light switch. I have, what my editing Jackie Rodriguez calls “writing jags.”
Imagine if your writing muse had the stomach flu. One moment, there’s nothing, and the next, there’s everything.
One day, I might not write anything, the next, I’ll churn out thirty pages. I don’t pretend to make sense of it. I just ride it out.
You can imagine the flux I was thrown into halfway through my fifth novel when my second daughter was born. In addition, I went back to teaching full-time and we have a four-year-old in Pre-K as well. My peak writing times are — you guessed it — when I’m in school. Balancing my after-school commitments and family time is tough, but you do what you have to do.
To get through it, I grab any and all writing time I have. Ten minutes before I get my daughter up for school, five minutes while she plays in the bathtub. A half-hour when my wife is nursing our newborn, and maybe twenty minutes during my lunch break. My muse has learned to live with it and gradually, so have I.
So, tell me, if you’ve had a similar situation in your field, how have YOU done it?
My literary friends and I debate over whether or not Kindle Direct Publishing’s Select Program is “worth it.” Actually, they think I’m a little cray cray for considering anything besides Select, but I’ve been called worse.
Amazon’s Select program allows you to set 5 days (per book) where your book can be downloaded for free and Amazon promotes for you. In addition, if your book is “borrowed” by Kindle Prime account holders (they’ll get it free, too), you get a small cut of an unspecified pool of money per borrow. All of this is in exchange for a 90-day period of exclusivity.
Is it worth it?
As my accountant adviser loves to say, “it depends.”
If you are writing or publishing to make money, the answer is a resounding “yes” from my perspective.
Of course, Barnes and Noble has its Pub It platform, which essentially does the same thing as KDP Select, except its not as user-friendly for reviews, doesn’t demand exclusivity, and doesn’t have the book lending/profit sharing mechanism that KDP Select has.
But, by not enrolling in the Select part of the program (and just having your book available on Kindle), you can publish to B&N, Smashwords, the Apple iBookstore, Kobo, etc. That’s five different streams of income in comparison to one.
KDP Select, however, is easier to manage and maintain if you’re starting out and building your audience. Marketing yourself is hard enough without having to do it for five different places on a rapidly multiplying, infinite bookshelf.
Even if you hire someone to manage your marketing for you, would you want them laser focused on one channel guaranteed to make you money, or five that MIGHT make you more money in the long run?
Here’s my advice: with one title, stick with KDP Select. With two or more in your backlist, mix it up (I’m actually doing this now). Spend 90 days with Select, and during that time, try to establish a way to maintain those other publishing sites. Then, shift from Select to those and see what happens. Let me know how it works out for you!
Recently, a friend asked me, “How do you market yourself [as an indie/self-publisher]?”
Aye, there’s the rub.
Indie and self-pubbed authors want to sell books, but don’t necessarily know how. Witness almost any self-publishing outfit that will offer you bookmarks, business cards, placards, postcards, and the like as marketing collateral (don’t fall for it — do it at Vistaprint for less). To date, I’ve never bought a book because I received one of those things alone. Have you?
So then, we go to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and other free forums to promote ourselves. I’ve unfriended/unfollowed quite a few people, due to the “Check out my book/buy my book/like my status/watch my trailer” flurry of automated tweets.
I can’t speak for you, but ad nauseum sales pitching turns me off. Be doubly-concerned with your consumers and what they want, not always just what your bottom line demands. It’s my belief that investing in the former will take care of the latter.
So, how do you market yourself? Honestly, without investing time or money, you can’t do it effectively. Trust me, I’ve tried. Pumping out a book a year is a lot more difficult to do when you’re learning how to market, actively marketing, and putting it into practice. Either your sales or your writing will suffer.
Here are two tried and true tips that worked for me.
Hope this helps! Stay tuned for my take on Kindle Direct Publishing and whether it’s worth it (or not).
Shakespeare famously said in Romeo and Juliet, that “A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.”
So, why are the names of your characters important?
They’re probably not terribly pivotal, but I try to make them meaningful in my novel-writing. To me, it’s like naming your child — if you happen to have 20+ of them. Any old name would work, but does it fit them? What purpose does it achieve?
My characters are less cardboard cut-out inventions and more “friends in my head.” Though I use a character building worksheet, I don’t refer back to it much after the personality is established. You don’t want your character to do something because you (the author, Almighty Oz, the string-pulling deity scribe) say so, but because they do so as a function of who they are. If I care that much about a character’s ideals, morals, and motivation, I’m less likely to label them “John” (no offense if your name is John), and keep going.
For example, Jason, the protagonist in my new book, is a scrawny, 15-year-old black kid with anger issues. He’s been suspended from school for fighting and sent to an alternative school. On his first day there, a bully picks on him and Jason fights him — not because I told him to, but because a 15-year-old kid with anger issues, a messed up home life, and fresh off of punishment really wants to keep his iPod. To do that, he fights for it. But, is he fighting for the right to keep his property, or for MORE than that?
Could Jason be called “Mark”? Probably. It’s about what fits your character as you go along, and I always pictured him as a Jason. Do what works for you. After all, a rose could be a “table,” but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?
Last month, me and Kemya Scott of Phisco Marketing held a Social Media and Self-Publishing Facebook Chat. There, a chatter asked me, “What’s the toughest part about self-publishing?”
That was a few weeks ago, and I still don’t have a better answer than, “it depends.”
Where do you want to go as an author? If it’s “just to get your name out there,” most of the well-publicized self-pub places specialize in that. The aim of those places is to get 100,000 authors selling hundreds of books, not hundreds of authors selling 100,000 books. That’s not a secret, but it’s also not the toughest part — deciding how to go.
Say your plans are bigger than a couple hundred copies. In that case, go indie with your own company.
Indie authors are automatically anonymous, and there are lots of us, good and bad, out there. Changing that — getting shelved, notoriety in media and social media circle, etc — is an uphill battle. You need trade reviews (which are hard to get unless you pay for them), an attractive cover, snappy back cover copy, and engaging writing in order to even be considered.
Still, in my opinion, not the toughest part.
When you succeed, the bookseller will shelve you and take between 45%-55% of your retail on each sale. You get what’s left, minus your Cost Of Goods, 90 days after the sale occurred (60 for digital on Amazon after your total owed reaches above $10).
That part is pretty tough to swallow.
I spent a few thousand dollars promoting The Lost Testament. We had a book launch party and invited 50 guests (about 20 showed) and the media (none). I hired a publicist for a few months, flew to Philadelphia for two book signings, and did the virtual book tour rounds.
I don’t know what I expected my sales to be after all of that, but I wanted it to be more than what I got.
For my second and third books, I did more of it myself. Part of that was necessity because my advertising budget had shrunken considerably. The other side of the coin is that I wanted more bang for my buck, and either you spend time learning a new craft, or pay someone who knows that craft. In my case, the knowledge was valuable enough to sacrifice the time to learn.
THAT’S the toughest part, to me — all of the D-I-Y. If you’re an author, what was yours?
It’s just the two of us here, so I can be direct and honest with you, right?
After all, that’s why you visit my blog in the first place – to know my unadulterated thoughts. The thing is: I adulterate a lot. It’s politically-correct, and a largely accepted practice. Isn’t it? If someone in your inner circle asks you “How are you doing?” and it’s the worst day of your life thus far, would you open up, or something like “I’m good.” (I tell the truth to the right people).
This week, I’d like to answer some recent questions my way.
Q: How’s the book going?
A: Well, book selling is essentially retail sales, and retail is seasonal. The reality is that, while Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. are popular sales outlets, they pay 60-90 days out. So, even if I made a lot of sales this month, I won’t see a dime until July. Their profits allow them to sell merchandise lower than everyone else, which undercuts my ability to do so through my own site.
Am I going to top Suzanne Collins’ numbers next week? Probably not. Will I sell enough to sip coffee, listen to Pandora, and hire a publicist, marketing firm, and accountant so I can write my next three books? Not yet. But I’m working on it. In the meantime, I’d appreciate your help spreading the word about The Anarchists. I’d do the same for you
Q: Why can’t I have a complimentary copy of your book?
A: Because my parents – the people who helped give me life – pay for their copies. And, unfortunately, when I go to the grocery store, they won’t give me complimentary food. No matter how much I ask for the hookup.
Q: Why don’t you just (enter simple, but time consuming task)?
A: The first two years of starting up are the hardest for a small business. Great Nation Publishing is a month away from being two years old. Often times, a bank will not loan a start-up money until it’s been in operation for at least two years. At that point, you get a shot.
What that means is I do my own marketing, publicity, bookkeeping, and event planning. In between, I write, and occasionally spend time with my toddler and pregnant wife . So, while your suggestion is a GREAT one, I simply don’t have the time to do it. However, if you’re offering to help. . .
Just a little insight this week. Hope this helps!
If you’re a minority, you might have one of these stories. Thankfully, mine doesn’t end with a bullet.
During my freshman year at Morehouse, I hung out with a group of about 11 other young men. We hailed from different parts of the United States – Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Georgia, etc.
One day, we walked around Phipps Plaza — a fairly upscale shopping mall that used to have a music/video store in it. The dozen of us went into this store and split up. Our presence brought the attention of a white store employee, who asked us if we “needed something” ad nauseum.
This morning, I recounted the story to my wife, saying, “I can understand why we got followed. After all, there were 12 of us.”
Twelve educated, well-dressed, African-American men cannot walk together in a group and disperse into a store without drawing suspicion? What if we were dressed in designer business suits instead of jeans? Would that have made a difference?
I have a real problem with the point-of-view that says “We’re going to keep an eye on you, just in case you do something. If you actually do something, that justifies our suspicions. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”
And. . .what if nothing happens? Not one of us stole a thing. Isn’t it a violation of my rights as a human being, to not be able to browse a store without “Big Brother” policing my prospective inner intentions?
You can investigate my past – I’ll tell you, I’m not a saint. I’ve done some things I’d rather not have to explain to everyone on the planet. I crashed my mom’s car in 1994. Tomorrow, I will turn 36 and she still reminds me of it, along with pretty much everything I did wrong as a teenager. I forgot to take out the trash, A LOT. I once broke curfew to drive a drunk friend home.
Still, my imperfections don’t mean I deserve to be followed, or get a bullet to the chest, do they?
When Rain Falls in 140 characters or less: Two unsolved murders, cop’s widow + two kids lose friend. Divorced cop on case. Romance suspense!
When Rain Falls is the debut novel from Tyora Moody. I could not tell this was her first work. The writing is engaging, the plot gradually progresses with increasing speed toward the climax, and while my eyes initially bulged at the page count (it’s about 370 pages), she does a lot within it. It’s a must read if you like reading: a.) suspense b.) romance, and c.) Christian fiction that doesn’t beat you over the head with the message.
Candace Johnson, her protagonist, is the child of a mother who’s murdered. A few years prior to the events of the novel, she loses her husband, Frank, to an unsolved murder. Tragedy strikes again when Candace’s best friend Pamela is killed. I tried a few rounds of “Guess the Killers” and lost. Several times.
Darnell Jackson, a West Coast transfer on the police force, is on Pamela’s murder case with Frank’s old partner – who still has Frank’s death hanging over his head. Reluctantly, they work together to find who offed Pamela, with occasional interference from Candace.
I don’t mind the romantic pairing between Darnell and Candace, as that’s no mystery. Their interplay is not contrived at all, and I found it to be totally believable. The case goes in twists and turns, from the pointed fingers at Pamela’s married lover and his wife, to a final twist I didn’t see coming at all. Then, Moody throws a curve within that swerve. If that’s not enough to bait your hook, I don’t know what is.
All of the novel’s threads are neatly tied together at the end. If I had one gripe (and it’s one, small, tiny, melt-in-your-mouth-not-in-your-hand, bite-sized gripe). . .well, all I can say is that one of the threads “skips a loop.” Weird to say at the end of a review, I know, but I HATE spoilers.
Almost a Bad Boy?
Sharp and smooth would be how I describe one of my main characters in When Rain Falls, Detective Darnell Jackson. From the introductory scene until the last chapter, Detective Jackson, charmed me the entire time I developed his character. Despite being a female writer, I found writing from Detective Jackson’s male perspective enjoyable. His antics definitely cracked me up and I wished he wasn’t a fictional man. Often times the scenes flowed faster than it did with the other main character, Candace Johnson.
Both characters had experienced loss. Candace’s loss was a bit more intense with losing loved ones to violent crimes. Darnell had been struggling with his own loss. Divorce is often equated to death since individuals lose a significant other and portion of their life. His loss affected him enough that he moved from the West coast back to his roots in the Carolinas.
Darnell was an almost bad-boy. While growing up he tended to be on the other side of the law, but a strong, praying mother and aunts influenced him to attend the police academy later. Now a detective in the Charlotte Homicide Department, he is truly about seeking justice for the victim. There is a hint of Darnell’s bad boy tendencies when he confronts persons of interest or suspects. Not that he is a bad or corrupt cop, but he does push the envelope. His edginess has left him on the outside in the department. The tension between Darnell and his partner, Brunson, was so intense they often went their separate ways to keep from exploding on each other. When we meet Detective Jackson, he has been struggling with the toil his job has taken on him.
Read an excerpt below from Chapter 2 of When Rain Falls for an introduction to Detective Darnell Jackson.
He couldn’t take it anymore; he was ready to run. The sun remained hidden, but his body told him to get up and move. Without looking at the clock, Detective Darnell Jackson leapt from the bed. He slipped on a light blue Tar Heels sweatshirt and then a dark blue pair of sweatpants. Inside the bathroom of his master bedroom, he rubbed his hand across three days’ worth of stubble on his face. He certainly was no Denzel Washington, but most of the time he felt pretty good about his looks.
What he saw in the mirror this morning—just plain scary. His dark brown eyes were haunted from years of studying the evil ways of people. The case from this past week still weighed heavily on his mind, locking stress deep down into his neck and across his shoulders. Was there any rest for the weary? He needed to burn off some of this tension so he could enjoy the rest of his day off.
Darnell headed to the living room. This was his place, but he spent so much time on the job, some of the walls still remained bare, and in other areas, stacked boxes served as the decor. He bent down over the coffee table and pushed around two weeks’ worth of newspapers, several ESPN magazines, and a stack of junk mail.
As items fell off of the table, his golden Lab/beagle mix, Zack, came alive from his corner and began putting his nose to work. It didn’t take long for the dog to discover remnants from his owner’s late-night snack—a few cold, greasy fries. Finally locating his shades, Darnell placed them on top of his head. The sun would certainly meet him on his way back.
He glanced over at his four-legged housemate and laughed. That dog brought him a lot of joy. The irony continued to boggle his mind, since it was only three years before that he’d brought home the shy, mistreated dog for his now ex-wife. But it had been too late. Apparently, a raggedy mutt didn’t make up for his frequent absences. Two years had passed since the divorce, and Darnell considered Zack his best asset. “All right, boy. Let me grab your leash, and we’re out of here.”
The dog nearly ran into his owner as Darnell walked over to grab the leash from the hook behind the door. Zack jumped in the air and then stood on his hind legs. Darnell laughed again, trying to snap the leash on Zack’s collar. His hand was on the door when his cell phone chimed from the coffee table. Man and dog traded glances.
If he answered the phone, his gut told him he could forget about running. And so much for the afternoon off. Despite the effort he and his partner had put into gathering evidence, it simply wasn’t enough for the district attorney to send before a grand jury. He needed a break. Sometimes Darnell hated the job he loved.
About the Book
“Why does God keep taking away the people I love?” This is the lamentation of widow CANDACE JOHNSON when her best friend is brutally murdered. Ensnared by a deep-rooted bitterness, seeping her faith day by day, Candace is determined to seek justice.
Detective Darnell Jackson is in need of clues fast. The police captain is coming down hard on him and his partner to find out who murdered Pamela Coleman, the daughter of a high profile judge. Darnell confers with Candace to get the inside track on events leading up to the murder. As the investigation heats up, his growing attraction for Candace plays havoc on Darnell’s judgment.
Little does she know, Candace’s quest to find the truth has led her straight to the killer. She’s already lost loved ones. Now Candace must choose to completely trust God with her own life.
About the Author
Tyora Moody’s debut novel, When Rain Falls, is the first book in the Victory Gospel series. She owns and operates Tywebbin.com, a design and marketing company. Her company’s niche is assisting authors with branding and developing an online presence. Tyora served as a judge for the Christy Awards for threee years. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and American Christian Fiction Writers. Tyora resides in South Carolina.
Visit her online at:http://www.tyoramoody.com