What I’ve learnt about self-publishing – Making friends and joining communities

In this series of blog posts, I’m going to tell you about what I’ve experienced and learnt about the self-publishing world. Staying motivated about a work in progress can be tough especially as writing books can take months and years at a time. Encouragement from readers and other writers is vital to keep you going.

Make Contacts and join communities

I started on this self-publishing journey back in 2010 when I started writing what would become Terran Defenders: Genesis.

I’d graduated from university in 2008 with a degree in journalism but thanks to the Great Recession decimating much of the newspaper industry and with the rise of online publications that profession was nigh impossible to break into.

I worked shitty job after shitty job just, so I could afford the rent and put food on the table, and I soon realised that if I didn’t keep writing, I’d lose that thing that all writers have. A need to write. So, in my spare time, I got to work on writing a daft science fiction book that in a lot of ways saved me from losing the plot and giving up on my search to break into the cutthroat world of a paid writing job.

Terran Defenders: Genesis took a year to write, and at the end of it I wondered what to do next. That’s when I discovered the world of Webook (a website that was the precursor for sites like Wattpad). Back in the day, Webook was a fantastic community of writers and readers. I met many interesting people and even made some friends (Aaron from the US I’m looking at you, buddy). I received a great response to the book on there, and it was there that indy publishing was brought to my attention. The Amazon Kindle was still relatively new to the market, and those early pioneering writers were having some great successes.

The Webook community helped me to find confidence in my ability as a writer. I was still learning much of the tricks of the trade at that point, and the advice and guidance of some of the older folks were invaluable.

Sadly, as with everything in life, good things always come to an end, and Webook was no exception. The site was sold, and soon the community began to drift apart and find new avenues for their work such as Wattpad (more on that in a minute). If you venture onto Webook, nowadays the place is a ghost of its former self. The user interface remains the same it was back in 2010 and looks ancient compared to modern sites which is a crying shame. I found that place far more engaging and useful than I ever did Wattpad.

By joining communities, you can test the waters with a work in progress. Readers always spot things that the author does not, and if a plot point doesn’t make sense, then they will most certainly point that out. Use them as critics and proofreaders, (one thing I’ve learnt is that there is always some smartass who just loves playing the role of a grammar nazi. They may come across as patronising or aggressive but look through that at the points they’re trying to make and fix accordingly if they have a point.)

Wattpad

One of the main writing communities these days is Wattpad. I fully embraced this site for a while as like Webook there was a solid community of writers and readers, however, as time went on I discovered that there are issues with plagiarism, not to mention that many of the site’s users seemed to favour genres that I don’t write in. (Teenagers really like cheesy romances for some reason). The forums were great for sharing tips and tricks of the trade, and it was via Wattpad that Heir to the Sundered Crown won the 2014 Write Awards. A competition where Wattpad users voted on their favourite entries. Winning this gave me a big confidence boost, and shortly afterwards I published the book via Amazon where it performed very strongly (and is still my best seller).

Facebook

Social media channels have hundreds, if not thousands of groups just for writers. I’ve met some great authors, and it was via one of these that I was made aware of the now annual SPFBO competition hosted by Mark Lawrence (author of Red Sister, Prince of Thorns etc..). I entered Heir into this year’s contest, but alas it never made it past the first round. I wasn’t too down about that however as simply having the experience, and a chance to meet and communicate with other Indy fantasy authors was invaluable.

Be aware that Facebook is also filled with trolls and asshats too. For every conversation about real writing issues, there’s one where a person is either insulting someone else or just posting inane nonsense. Trolls are just a part of life, and as an author, you’d best be prepared to be on the receiving end of them.

Here are some Facebook groups I’ve found most useful –

https://www.facebook.com/groups/FantasyFaction/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1800355053523765/

In my next blog, I’ll cover how to get those words down onto the page, something that many wannabe writers struggle with.

Are there any writing communities that you’re a part of? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Writers: How to Be a Fairy Godmother

In this latest guest blog post, Rebekah DeVall the author of When Your Melody Fades gives us some tips on how to be inspired.

Fairy Godmothers got all the good stuff. Seriously. You don’t see pretty capes or magic wands sitting around anywhere besides a costume store, do you? And if you do, they’re most certain to be counterfeits.

Figures, when we writers need all the magic and bippity-boppity-booing that we can get. After all, we’re expected to pull full worlds and stories out of thin air, aren’t we?

Now, my fairy godmother is out somewhere today, but she’s left me a note giving me her Top 3 Tips on How to Be a Fairy Godmother.

 

  1. Steal for all you’re worth.

As somebody sometime said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

Did you really think the Beast’s enchantress (from Beauty and the Beast, of course, what other beast do you know?) just invented a mirror for him out of thin air? Ha ha. Yeah right. She stole the idea from the Evil Queen’s fairy godmother, fifty-seven years ago, in 1937 to be exact.

Be a fairy godmother. You see a worldbuilding aspect you like in someone else’s work? Steal it. Just make sure you cover up your tracks. Fairy godmothers don’t take kindly to the theft of their ideas.

 

  1. Choose a time period.

Use your gifts wisely. If you must bippity-boppity-boo a magical object or gift out of the air for one of your damsels in distress (ahem, characters), make it time-appropriate. Cinderella was given glass slippers, not neon pink stilettos.

A modern-day damsel in distress must not be given the art of drawing on cave walls—unless you intend to lock her up in a cave somewhere, in which case you deserve whatever grief she gives you.

This includes their names. Fairy godmothers aren’t just called to bless a baby on their birth, they’re often called to christen the baby too.

Cinderella was christened Ella. Christening her Apple or Montana would have been a dreadful mistake. Though Rapunzel’s name was ridiculous in its meaning, it fit her time period, as did Charming for the prince.

Be a fairy godmother. Name your people according to their time period.

 

  1. Storm castles.

Fairy godmothers are too often envisioned as being weird old ladies who give gifts—or curses, remember Ella Enchanted—to little girls and nothing more. That… isn’t always true.

Fairy godmothers have affected royalty for many ages, far longer than most care to admit. They raise kingdoms, demolish kingdoms; begin wars, end wars; bring to life and send to death. They stare fearlessly into the face of battle and of death and laugh.

Be a fairy godmother. Bring your people—your characters—to the brink of death and back. Take them to the depths of the deepest ocean—and don’t be afraid to let them drown.

Raise kingdoms and demolish them. You weren’t given that magic wand—I mean, pen—only to whip dresses and slippers and pumpkins into existence.

Give your stories meaning. Bring them to their peak, drop them to their deepest depths. Don’t fear danger. Don’t fear adventure.

Be a fairy godmother. Be brave.

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Susan Perrow and the Healing Power of Storytelling

In this latest guest post writer C. East discusses the power stories have to heal.

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 This morning I listened to an interview with Susan Perrow on 702 ABC (Australia) ‘Conversations with Richard Fidler’. Perrow is a passionate writer, storyteller, teacher trainer and parent educator. Listening to her tell her life and career stories inspired me to tell others about this incredible talent and her unique work. She’s known as a ‘Therapeutic Storyteller’ and believes in the healing power of stories.

Stories have been an integral part of humanity’s existence, probably since we could produce intelligent speech, to communicate in oral tradition; knowledge, wisdom, belonging, danger, safety, hope and many more, which have enabled us to survive and thrive long before modern times.

Some indigenous people’s use the oral tradition of storytelling otherwise known as; ‘dreaming/songlines’ to First Nations people in Australia. For First Nations people of Australia they used storytelling to teach each generation the lines they would walk as nomadic people, where to find water, hunt for food, sacred places, healing places and their own laws and culture.

In a modern context, storytelling is just as vital to our existence, surviving the rigors & stressors of modern times and thriving in these circumstances, requires more joy and hope perhaps than ever before.

There are stories for; explaining death to children, giving hope to adults & children alike, encouraging imagination & learning, and stories to distract from our busy, fast-paced, stressful lives. Slowing down to read a book, is a simple pleasure which most people can enjoy.

Towards the end if the interview Pellow detailed the power of storytelling in one tale as she briefly recounted an opportunity given to her by Norway, after the bombing in Oslo & mass shooting at a summer youth camp in Utøya in 2011, when 77 were killed, 69 of those youths and 319 injured by Anders Behring Breivik.

Norway asked her to write a story for children ranging from primary school age through to high school age, it was to be read on the children’s first day back at school since the attack over the summer, they wanted a story to instil hope in the children after what had happened, as every child in Norway would have been privy to what had occurred. It was a big responsibility and Perrow didn’t feel adequate for the task, but did some research anyway, which sparked the idea.

She came across information on the marches the Prime Minister of the day organized for every major city to march with roses, citing “we are going to answer hatred with love”. And so they did, every person from children and babies to 80 year olds participated, they marched together each carrying a single red rose, which were carried through the streets and then left in the town squares.

She also discovered that Norway has a royal family and castles, the whole fantastical ideal for a fairy-tale story.

Perrow said she had a vision of a rose, a rogue thorn and falling petals, so combining this and the Norway culture of royalty, “The Rose and the Thorn” was born.

Teachers read the story to children and children started their school year not in fear or grief, but in hope. Teachers said children drew pictures of the story and spoke about it, it was exactly what was intended and shows how the right story, at the right time can give you what you need to be happy, to be healed, to change your mindset, and perhaps even your life.

You can listen to Susan Perrow conversation with Richard Fiddler here:

http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/conversations-susan-perrow/8495006

More about Susan Perrow can be found on her webpage:

http://susanperrow.com/about/

 

Description and other monsters

Description and other monsters

In this latest guest post, Aiden Meyer discusses how to write descriptions and the importance it has on a story.

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Oddly enough, description does a lot more than just describe things. Think about this: “The sky was gray.” It’s the simplest, blandest description you can come up with, and yet it does more than just say that the sky was gray. If the sky is gray, the sun isn’t shining, there might be a chance of rain or snow, the atmosphere might be heavier, the world might be bleaker. What I’m getting at is that description doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Let’s see how it impacts everything else and how to make it come alive in the reader’s head.

Senses: This is probably the first lesson in description, but it’s worth keeping in mind. Since the world is being witnessed by someone, keeping only to sight limits how much you can immerse the reader into your world. Having wonderful visual descriptions is great, but it’s in the smell, in the hearing, in taste and in touch that your reader will feel your world. It doesn’t mean you need to have your characters licking lampposts all the time, but trying to incorporate all senses can really pay off.

Motion: This is how you bring the setting to life. Having dynamic elements in your description will make the world feel alive. The flickering of a light, servants rushing around, tending to their duties, a flock of birds heading south, grasshoppers jumping out of the characters’ way. It gives the impression that there’s more happening in the world than just your plot. When everyone and everything move independently, the world feels real, not a static playground for your characters.

Interaction: Having characters interact with the environment, especially during dialogue, can be a great way to use description. Not only does it break up dialogue and lessen that talking head feel, but it also helps your descriptions feel less like a list of traits. For example, you can make a character stir the fireplace and throw a log into the glowing embers while he speaks. When the characters interact with their environment, both become better for it.

Cause and effect: Things in the setting need to have an effect on the POV character. If there’s a horrible smell in the air, the character needs to have a reaction. What that reaction is depends on the type of character, but they need to react somehow. The heat should make them sweat, fan themselves. A cold breeze should yield a shudder and so on. Make sure your environment affects your characters, and their actions change the environment.

Entire books can be written on the topic and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should have you on your way. Experiment, practice, and keep working on it!

Find out more about Aidan at – https://www.aidanmeyer.net/

Check out his novel here- https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ82L75

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GIRL UNDER THE GUN

In this blog post my fellow Firebound author Rob May talks about his new novel; Girl Under the Gun. Check it out today!

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When I wrote my epic fantasy trilogy, Reckoning of Dragons, I tried to bring the excitement, pace and plot twists of my favourite thrillers into the mix. So when I sat down to write an actual modern day thriller, I thought I’d flip my approach on its head, and supplement the car chases and gun fights with some classic fantasy elements.

So Girl Under the Gun has a lot of things you might recognise from your favourite fantasy trilogy: a young hero takes her first steps into a wider world; an experienced warrior finds his jaded worldview challenged; an old conflict is re-awakened; and a trail of secrets leads to a hidden treasure, while several factions with conflicting motives stalk and fight over dangerous new territories.

If this sounds like an odd mix, don’t forget that The Lord of the Rings could arguably be described as a chase thriller: everyman Frodo Baggins is pursued by sinister agents all through the book, from his home in the Shire right to the entrance of the Crack of Doom itself.

Before I started writing, I couldn’t decide if I wanted an old-school, tough protagonist, like James Bond or Jack Reacher, or whether to feature a resourceful fish out of water, like Robert Langdon or Christopher ‘Fluke’ Kelso (from Robert Harris’s Archangel, one of my favourite thrillers). In the end, I went for both options: LJ Hardwick is young literature student, who has never left England, while Mark Grant is a soldier-turned-spy, whose reckless, unconventional approach to missions has earned him the nickname the Game Breaker.

But LJ is smart, fast and adaptable. The word of spies and secrets might just be the future that best fits her growing potential. And for Grant, finding solace in new friends and rightful causes might finally put the brakes on his untrammelled aggression.

Of course, since Girl Under the Gun has the same twists and subversion as Reckoning of Dragons, you won’t find the answers to any of those questions until the very last page …

 

Girl Under the Gun is out now, for the special price of 99c/99p for a limited time, or read it FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

http://amazon.com/dp/B06Y1F9CWP/?tag=robmay-20

Or get in touch via my website, and I’ll send you a free review copy.

http://robertwilliammay.com

Finally, for fans of Reckoning of Dragons, book one of the follow-up series, Empire of Dragons, will be out in August. Sign up to my mailing list for more info!

http://robertwilliammay.com/newsletter/

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Audio Books – Obvious next step, or a bridge too far?

My fellow Firebound Books author and the creator of the bestselling Eastern Kingdom Chronicles and the Whistler Novels, T.J Garrett discusses audio books and whether they are the right choice for every writer.

Since commissioning the audio narrative for my book DEAD AGAIN, I have had two predominant thoughts. Firstly: “Oh my god, I can’t wait to get my first audio book published.” Secondly: “Bloody hell this is expensive; I hope it isn’t a waste of money!”
Audio books are great, and they are getting very popular. With the success of Audible, a lot of indie authors are choosing to go down this route. But is producing an audio book a necessary step, or even practical, for everyone?

Is It Necessary?

If you’re not selling eBooks, I doubt producing an audio version will do you any favours. At the end of the day, audio books are just another format, and much of the same marketing rules and trending concepts apply to their sales. It is possible, I suppose, to have a successful audiobook career and not sell eBooks, but if you’ve tried selling eBooks, and haven’t been successful, then what makes you think audio will be any different? I think the point I’m trying to make is, audio books will not boost a flagging career just because they are a different format; you still need to market the product, and you better be good at that before you spend the huge amounts of money required to produce a good quality audio book.

Is It Practical?

Audio books take a long time to produce. Unless you have a narrator in your pocket, waiting on your manuscript, the lead time for an audio book is at least twelve weeks. For most of us indie writers, getting the books on the shelf is the most important stage of our business, so waiting another three months for an audiobook may not be practical. Yes, you can release the audio book later on, but you’ll miss out on all your initial marketing. Also, where do you advertise your audio book? To my knowledge, there are no Bookbub-type services for the audio book industry. The best form of advertising appears to be within the Audible App, and that is bloody expensive!
Note: If you know of any advertising funnels for audio books, let me know!

The End Game
Why are you making an audio book?

Yes, it’s a great ego boost to have someone read out your manuscript and have it “aired” on sites like audible – it’s kinda like the poor man’s version of having Hollywood knocking at your door. You’re making a multimedia version of your work, but is it going to make you any money? Don’t forget, if you have a series, you are going to have to have all your other books recorded, too. If you have three or four books, you’re looking at least a five-grand production budget – and that’s based on the cheap end of the spectrum. You need to think seriously before undertaking this endeavour.

What are the Advantages?

To be honest, I don’t know. I haven’t released my book yet. All I have at the moment are a lot of what-ifs. What if I’m wasting my money? What if I can’t find a way to advertise? What if nobody wants it? This process has taken me right back to the initial decision I made when deciding to become a full-time indie writer. I hope it will work. I hope people will like the recordings and buy lots of the audio books. I hope I’ll at least make my money back. But at the moment, it’s all just questions and doubts.
I’ll let you know what happens after I’ve released the book (June 2017)

For more information of T.J’s work check out his website at – www.tjgarrett.com

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The Importance of social media to Indy Authors : Facebook

There are countless guides on the internet about how Indy authors should use social media if they want to raise awareness of their books. In this series of posts, I am going to tell you why, for once, you can believe what you read online.

Facebook Pages

Let’s start with the world’s biggest social network; Facebook. With over a billion daily users you cannot ignore this network’s potential to help raise awareness of your work. The first step for any author is to create an author page. (Click here for a simple guide on how to do it. I’ll be going into more detail in another post soon so keep checking the site.)

You can find mine here

As you can see from the image above, Facebook gives you several options such as creating offers and getting sign ups. These tools are very useful when promoting book promotions and trying to grow your mailing list. You also get a choice of options for the layout of your page so you can set it up like an online store.

Grow Your Followers

An author page is a great place to get fans and followers. Invite all of your friends and family, make them aware of what you’re doing. You will find that some friends and family members are very supportive and will share and like your posts, others, unfortunately, will either like the page and do nothing further or simply ignore your request. If that happens… well, at least you know who your supporters are.

If you want to increase your likes and followers to people other than those you know you will need to become savvy at social media marketing. Have links to your Facebook page in your Ebooks (either at the very front or at the back it’s up to you).  Put links into your newsletters, blog posts, on your website and on any other social media that you’re using.

Sadly getting likes and clicks organically is now a lot harder after Facebook changed the way it does things. As with any business, it wants to make money and what better way to do that than to charge businesses and individuals to get their content seen. If you have a post that you feel is important then using the boost post option may be the best way to get it seen.

Facebook Groups a useful advertising tool

Having a Facebook page is great and everything but how do you use it to promote your books? You could post links to them on your Facebook page and leave it at that. However, there are some other methods to spreading the word about your books. Facebook Groups are an excellent place for you to advertise. Simply search for book groups and you will find hundreds, if not thousands.

In the build up to any of my book launches I post daily in every single one that I am a member of to try and generate awareness. The effectiveness of this method however is very hit and miss. To get the best results you need to post at the best times of day. In my experience posting at the times when the USA wakes up and in the evenings are the best times that generate reactions.

I have sold many books using this method. Persistence is key when using this very time intensive strategy. The best thing about posting in Facebook groups is that it’s free advertising (albeit very hit and miss).

Facebook Ads

I’ve covered this in a previous blog post (click here to read it) and their effectiveness depends greatly on how much money you are willing to put behind them. Some authors swear by them but in my experience they’ve been disappointing every time. Trying to generate likes and clicks for example often results in profiles from random countries like Pakistan or parts of Africa spamming the likes and clicks. In my experience the ads very rarely reach the people you want it to despite setting them up to target specific audiences and nations.

Do you have any other tips for getting the most out of your Facebook author page? Let me know in the comments or message me on social media.

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Are Free Books the enemy of Indie Authors?

I’ve been encountering a fair few debates surrounding the issue of free books and indie authors and have come to the conclusion that yes; free books are the enemy of Indie Authors.

Before I get attacked and torn a new one by my fellow indie authors let me give you my reasons for thinking this way.

I began this crazy journey back in 2012, a period that many now believe was a golden time for Indie writers. E-books were all the rage and Kindles, in particular, were selling like hotcakes. I released my first book Terran Defenders: Genesis and at that time had very little knowledge of promotions etc. The book sold relatively well with little to no promotion by me and sold at a price of £3.99. It didn’t set any records or anything, but it sold a few copies per week.

In 2014 I released Heir to the Sundered Crown and in that glorious summer it went on to generate more revenue than what I earned in a month at the job I had at the time. Again, this was with only a little promotion via social media. (Remember those glorious days when organic traffic was easy to generate, the days before Facebook launched its paid ads and effectively killed organic), anyway I digress. That book went on to sell several thousand copies over the first two years of release and I naively thought that book 2 in the series would meet with similar success. Alas, it wasn’t to be. In those two years, the E-book industry had changed dramatically.

A lot more people got involved, thinking that they could cash in on the successes other authors had achieved and as is the way the market was flooded with countless new books (some great, many dire). The competition was now fierce and that’s when it started to happen; authors began giving their books away for free in an attempt to be spotted amongst the competition. At first, it seemed to have worked for a few but then it appeared as though everyone was doing the same thing.

Look at this post that was put onto a Facebook writing group I’m a member of –

Here’s an interesting if somewhat arrogant response to one of my recent newsletters where I recommend other author’s books to my list. I’m wondering if many other readers feel the same way.

“Let me first state that I haven’t had the time to read your free book, but why do “new” author’s expect readers to shell out money on their books, when so many authors are offering books to read for free, why would I pay money first? I have gotten free books that I have enjoyed, and I have since bought the author’s other books. I am offered so many free books, why would I spend money before finding out that I like the author’s style? Yes the cover of Calamity Rising by Z. V.Hunter is kick ass, and looks interesting, but when I’m drowning in free books, like yours, why would I spend my money first? The reason I bring this up is that while I appreciate you suggesting a book I don’t think it is advantageous to you, or those that are reading your e-letter to suggest this book. If this book was free, the cover would move it up my reading list.”

This message from one of the posters readers sums up what is happening. Some readers now expect indie books to be free. Not just part ones of series but EVERYTHING! Don’t get me wrong, using free promotion days is not a bad thing, my issue is with permafree. Now that readers expect indie books to be free I have to ask, what’s in it for the indie authors? Sure there are always those who say they do it for the love of writing (I hate those people by the way. If you’re good at something then why shouldn’t you make some return on that talent?) but that doesn’t put food on the table or pay the bills. For those that write just for the pleasure of your writing being read then great, there are websites such as Wattpad and Webook for that.

I’ve been lucky so far in my Indie author career. Over the years I’ve been able to use the income generated by my book sales to help cover costs and it even paid for my nice TV. I have never expected to be able to live off of selling books alone (although that is the dream).  Some authors, however, do live off their earnings and I have spoken to many that have said that they have noticed a dip in their income.

I’ve written about pricing before (read it here) but permafree is in my mind seriously harming an indie authors ability to earn money. You’ve spent hundreds of hours of your time writing, if people want to read it then we should be rewarded.

Free Means Crap?

A business wouldn’t create a product and then give it away for free and being an Indie author is like being a business. On a final note here’s a comment from a reader that I think is important –

Just my 2 cents here as a reader (I’ m new to this e publishing). I consider myself somewhere in the upmarket regarding books I enjoy. My problem is – too many books now and too little time. How to find in this waste amount of books some I’ ll be looking to read. Joined instafreebies in hope to find new interesting authors, but so far no luck. I’ m not price sensitive buyer – I’ ll buy without blinking if the book is what I want to read. Sadly I have a pile now which I DON’T want to read. As a result I’ll leave instafreebees and will try to find a different way to find MY books. For me right now free = crap (no offence here, it’ s just seems that books I want to read don’ t appear on feebies. If being a writer is hard, being a reader now is hard as well. HOW to find the right book? I think it’ s the biggest challenge of our time. If the readers will be able to find exactly what they want, sales will grow.

I have to agree with this person. When you’re browsing around for something new to read what do you think when you see that a book is free? Personally, I think that it must be of low quality, after all, if the author puts no value into their work then why should I.

Personally, I only use freebies as special sales or as a tool to try and grow my mailing list. These tactics work for those purposes but in the long run, I will never set my main books as permafree.

What do you think of permafree? Is it the enemy of Indie Authors? Have you had success using permafree? I want to know!

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Writing as Art

In this week’s guest blog post, author Tom Barczak discusses whether writers are artists too.

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Every time I speak to a room full of authors, I ask the same two questions, seemingly unrelated, but they do have a point.

I ask: “Who considers themselves an author?” Most people in the room raise their hands, depending on their definition of that particular claim.Then I ask: “Who considers themselves an artist?” Only a few of those hands formerly raised are raised a second time.

Then I ask: “Who considers themselves an artist?” Only a few of those hands formerly raised are raised a second time.

And that I think is a mistake.

When someone goes to a gallery, they don’t go to buy a painting, they go to buy an artist. When most people go to a bookstore, most people don’t go to buy a book. They go to buy an author.

They do that because, well I believe, writing is very much an art. It’s as much an art as painting, dance, or music. And how would you, or could you, expect great work from a painter, or dancer, or musician who didn’t consider what they did as art, or themselves for that matter as artists.

It is that very thing, that acknowledgement, that taking of responsibility, that I believe makes their work great, that makes what they do, art. Because they’ve taken that responsibility for it. There is now a piece of them in it. And they can never get it back.

So why do we sell ourselves short in that regard? I think it’s because most of us don’t want, or afraid of the responsibility. Of the risk.

As for myself, I am a visual artist as well, a painter and illustrator. Perhaps that’s why I feel so strongly about this.

I’ve always loved the old coffee table books I remember from when I was a kid, with the illustrated plates before every chapter.

With my first published written work, Awakening Evarun, a 6 part Kindle serial like the old dime store serial novels, I wanted to illustrate it. For me, my drawings and words are somewhat intertwined. I often sketch my way through writer’s block. With my first novel, Veil of the Dragon, I did the same, illustrating every third chapter.

I love the way they both worked together as a whole, through the words and the drawings.

My latest novel, Mouth of the Dragon: Prophecy of the Evarun, published by Perseid Press, is not illustrated, although the Dragon on the cover is mine. It’s been a good reminder for me that one art form need not necessarily be dependent on the other. But still for me they will always be inseparable. I will always sketch my way through writers block. I will always write what I see as the story in front of me.

I write like I paint. I put down the story as I see it before me. For me, it’s a story that’s’ already written. It’s already real, just someplace else. My job as a writer, and as an artist, is to translate it in such a way that the reader will understand what they see. That whatever purpose there is to my seeing it will be passed on to them. You see, in the end, it’s not even my story. I just get to carry the message.

One of the things I just mentioned was risk.

When I write, when I create art, I do give away a piece of myself. I can’t not. But it’s always for a reason.

I believe the words you write on a page, even the book you publish that sits on a shelf, physical or digital, waiting to be purchased, is only half done. The other half of the great work is done by someone else, the reader. I think perhaps that theirs may be the greater half.

Imagine it’s the difference between talking to yourself and telling a story to kids around a campfire. It’s the difference between leaving a painting in a drawer or putting it on the wall of a gallery. It’s the difference between leaving your manuscript in a drawer where no one can ever see, and getting it published.

Art, and therefore writing, is about having a conversation. A dialogue has to happen. It is the difference between craft and art. It is a gift that must be received. And once it is then I believe both, giver and receiver, are forever joined and changed.

The amazing thing about all of this, about art, is that what you have to say may not even be up to you. You may never even know. But I promise you, you do have something to say. It’s what makes you an artist. It’s why you were given a voice unlike anybody else, for someone out there who is waiting to listen to you.

Check out Tom’s work at the following links:

https://www.amazon.com/Tom-Barczak/e/B006SOKHMI/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

www.theperseidpress.com

www.tombarczak.com

https://www.facebook.com/thomas.barczak

If you enjoyed this post get in touch and leave a comment, alternatively if you would like to write a guest blog post please contact me via Facebook and Twitter . Also, sign up to the newsletter to get the latest sales, news and updates.

 

 

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Editing Myths – by Walter Rhein

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be long-running series of guest blogs. To kick things off Walter Rhein looks at editing myths.

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There are some pretty absurd misconceptions floating around about editing a manuscript. Facebook and the internet in general, have conspired to proliferate a lot of insanity, but Stephen King’s 2000 release ‘On Writing’ is particularly to blame. Sure, there is a lot of valuable information in ‘On Writing,’ but the literary landscape has changed considerably since the book was first published and much of the information isn’t applicable to small press writers.

The part of ‘On Writing’ that is the most problematic is the godlike reverence that King holds for editors. Although this is the kind of thing a new writer needs to hear, you shouldn’t let the editors know. When you have a good employee you don’t actually tell the employee s/he is doing a good job because now you’re stuck negotiating a higher salary. Sometimes things that are true need to be handled with pragmatic subtlety.

In a perfect world, there is a balance of power between the writer and the editor. A writer is foolish not to listen to an editor’s suggestions, but at the end of the day, it is the writer’s name on the cover.

A thing to consider too is that many writers are working with small publishers who simply don’t have the same quality editors that Stephen King is used to working with. Just because somebody has a Master’s Degree in English doesn’t mean they’re going to offer you competent editing advice. There are plenty of completely incompetent editors with Master’s Degrees out there. After all, if you can continue to pay the university, they’re going to give you a degree eventually. Degrees are somewhat the scholarly equivalent of self-publishing.

Most recently I’ve been fortunate to work with Janet Morris as an editor. Morris is the author of the bestselling Thieves’ World books published by Baen Books. She is a big name in the industry and is as gifted as an editor as she is a storyteller. Prior to working with Morris’s Perseid Press, some of my earlier manuscripts were handled by smaller publishers. Some of these had good editors, and some were tougher to work with.

For the most part, the editor for my cross-country skiing novel ‘Beyond Birkie Fever,’ did a good job, but at one point during the process, she became convinced that I should use the word “dissipate” instead of “disintegrate” to describe how a lead pack of cyclists fragments during a race. If you’ve never seen a bicycle race, you could think of it like a comet. Pieces break off the head and leave a trail of riders behind.

The head disintegrates. The tail dissipates into space. I was speaking about the head.

I still contend this is the correct word, but I ended up receiving a series of emails both from the editor and the publisher explaining why my word choice was wrong.  The editor went so far as to type out definitions of both the words, which wasn’t helpful to her cause when I pointed out the definition of “disintegrate” was the situation I was trying to convey.

After a face to face meeting with the editor, the publisher even called to urge me to change my position. Once you’re accused of being obstinate, it’s difficult to crawl out from under that shadow. The editor clearly had it in her mind that I was trying to convey some other image and didn’t seem interested in communicating with me.

In the end, it started to seem like the conflict was more about establishing authority than doing what was right for the passage. The publisher let me keep ‘disintegrate’ but the editor elected not to put her name on the book. To me, this seemed like a rather large response to a minor disagreement over a choice of words.

That editor was eventually replaced by the publisher and even though we’d disagreed on this small point, I was sorry to see her go. The replacement editor was absolutely terrible. Not only did she offer questionable suggestions, she did so with snide and sarcastic comments that were unprofessional and unhelpful. About a year after the new editor was hired, the publisher went out of business.

I’d been through about ten editors by the time I started working with Janet Morris. I’d lost publishing contracts because I’d been stubborn about not making certain changes here and there and that had left me somewhat cautious. I brought this up to Janet and she assured me that she expected me to engage in dialogue about her suggestions—which was a great load off my mind. It was also good to know that this was the way the writer/editor relationship was expected to be handled by larger publishers.

None of this is meant to suggest that the editing process is ever easy. Stephen King was right to underscore that the writer has to get over his/her own ego and accept that passages need to be improved. Editing can be painful, and there are still times I have to walk away from an edited passage and come back later with an analytical rather than emotional mindset. It’s a lot easier working with Janet Morris because I respect and admire her abilities as a writer and editor. It’s pointless and counter-productive to create tension over power struggles. The objective is to make the best novel possible. That objective casts its own shadow of authority over the process which should provide enough motivation for anybody.

About the Author:

Walter Rhein is the author of The Bone Sword with Harren Press. He maintains a blog about Peru at StreetsOfLima.com, and contributes regularly to Silent Sports Magazine. His novels The Reader of Acheron and Reckless Traveler were published with Perseid Press. His novel, Beyond Birkie Fever, was originally published by Rhemalda Press. He can be reached for questions or comments at: WalterRhein@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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