Tips for Indy Authors part 1: Planning

Hi everyone, I was working on my latest book and being distracted by social media (Damn you Facebook!) when I realised that there are so many writers out there that don’t have a clue how about getting their work out there. In this new series of blog posts, I’ll be covering some of the basics.

Now you may be thinking that it might be a bad idea to help other writers. After all the competition out there is fierce and I myself would be classed as a struggling author. In reality, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt over the years is that helping one another is really important.

One of the most common questions I see on social media is about how authors go about getting started and planning their books.

It all starts with an idea

A muse, creativity, imagination call it what you like but there has to be something that creates that initial spark. Not everyone possesses such a thing whereas others can be consumed by it. In my case, I get inspiration from the world around me. The news, hobbies such as gaming, people watching (not in a creepy way) and history are great sources of inspiration. It’s hard to describe the feeling when an idea takes root but you know it’s a good one when your mind constantly goes back to it. This where the idea of a muse comes in, a little voice in your head that nags you to look into it more. Sometimes an idea can be tenacious, other times it can hit like a lightning bolt or a Eureka moment.

In fantasy especially, I often start out by creating the world the story will be set in. I’ve written about world building before so check those posts out here. At this phase, you can get lost in creating a history or lore of the world and its during this phase that planning rises to the fore. I have notebooks and word documents filled with timelines, character and place names. I find it helps to write them down by hand first and then compile them onto a computer later.

Once this initial burst of creativity has occurred the actual story is the next step. Now, this is where being an author gets a little weird. In effect, you become something like a god. You create characters that in your mind might be as real as you or I and then you plop these ‘people’ into the world you created. I myself have experienced and been told by other writers that once they do this their characters often do unexpected things that shift a story into an entirely unexpected direction.

I’ve been experiencing this in my current project and while interesting such detours can put a spanner in the works of the story you’re trying to tell. This is why planning is so important.

Pantsing vs Plotting

I am what would be considered a pantser writer which means aside from having a broad outline of how I want a story to go I just let my mind run free and make it up as I go along. Others really struggle with this method and instead intricately plan out every page of a story. No method is better than other as a pantser can often write themselves into a corner thanks to troublesome characters not behaving and a strict planner can become stifled and trapped by their plan to the point of feeling trapped. The perfect method would be to incorporate the two, which is something that I myself am trying more and more.

raybradburyplot

In my current project, I still have a beginning and an endpoint that the story has to reach but whereas before I would wing it and see what happens to reach that end, I am now creating strict plot points that each chapter has to hit. How they are hit however is left to my imagination and it can be tricky reigning in a plot that is trying to go off on a different tangent.

There is software that provides plenty of planning functions and options but for me, a good old-fashioned notepad works best.

Writing is a learning experience and we all develop our own ways of planning out our projects. I’d love to hear what techniques you use. Are you a pantser or a strict planner? Let me know in the comments.

In part 2 I’ll be covering the common question of ‘How do you find the time to write?’.

Follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, oh and please subscribe to my mailing list for the latest news and book deals.

 

Ideas, Ideas, everywhere!

So many ideas!

Hi everyone, I’ve not posted in awhile. So, this is just an update on what I’ve been up to this past month.

Well in terms of writing the novels I’m afraid to say I’ve not done anywhere near enough the amount that I would have liked in January. And that’s because I’ve been settling in at my new job as a content manager, which I think is going pretty well so far.

2017 was a rough year for a few personal reasons but I did manage to release the audiobook version of Heir to the Sundered Crown, book 3 in the saga and the trilogy boxset.

This year I’m hoping for a lot more stability in my life in regards to work and will be hoping to crack on with my current works in progress. The thing is, there is I have so many ideas at the moment that I’m struggling to focus on just one project. As it stands I’m still aiming to release The First Fear sometime in the summer, but at the moment I think that will be my only release in 2018.

Never Enough Time!

Whilst working on that title I will also be working on book 4 in the Sundered Crown Saga and will also be dabbling in a few other projects. Unconquered Book 2 remains on hold due to time constraints but I will do my darnest to focus on it fully when the opportunity arises.

For this blog, I’ll be doing some more writing relating posts, movie reviews and will be opening up some slots for any guest posts that my fellow authors would like to contribute.

So here’s to a (hopefully) productive 2018!

 

 

What I’ve Learnt About Self-Publishing – Is getting a traditional publishing deal better than going Indy?

Is getting a traditional publishing deal better than going Indy?

As a member of many writing groups online I’ve seen more than a few authors brag about landing traditional publishing deals. I have debated and in some cases outright argued with some who claim that landing such deals means that they are superior to us Indy authors.

Sure, landing a deal with an internationally recognised or genre leading publisher is fantastic! Well done you, but in this post, I’m not going to be talking about the big players but rather the small presses of which there are hundreds. Now, some of these are fantastic at what they do and genuinely support their authors with marketing etc., but far too many don’t provide those they ‘sign’ with any support at all.

The thing I think that needs to be made clear is whether going the traditional publishing route will indeed prove more effective than self-publishing. I’ve seen many authors delighted to land a deal, but then their book disappears into oblivion as the publisher does not promote the book at all. I’ve been in arguments with some authors who look down on Indy publishing and believe that because they’ve landed a deal with some obscure publishing house, they are better than those going alone. A simple look at their books ranking on Amazon however soon proves that in reality, their book is doing terribly and that for example, my Indy book sells better than theirs. I get that there are some kudos for landing a deal but at the end of the day if we truly want to be true authors our writing has to make us some form of income.

There are countless scammers out there posing as publishers. (Read my blog about vanity publishers here.) Unlike vanity publishers who demand an author pay them to publish there are some that offer contracts and even pay the author for the rights to their work as well as promising to market the book. I’ve seen many authors fall for these small presses who often turn out to be one man shows or run by people who don’t really seem to know what they’re up to. The number of books ‘signed up’ to these publishers that then go onto to vanish without a trace is quite frankly shocking.

Publishing is a gamble either way

A good friend of mine in the USA wrote a fantastic Sci-fi novel that exploded in popularity on a writing forum. He was then approached by a ‘publisher’ who paid him an advance and promised him to support the book. This was over 8 years ago, and his book has still never seen the light of day, and he is now embroiled in a legal battle with the publisher to get the rights back from them. I know for a fact that if he’d taken the Indy route and published it himself, then that book would have done well, and no doubt would have made him more cash then he’d earn via the small press. In short, he took a gamble and lost.

With Indy publishing, everything is down to you. You control the rights, you control production, and you control your marketing. In my view, its better for your book to be out there then locked away gathering dust. By going Indy, there is always a chance that your book could take off, whereas if a small press is mismanaging it or refusing to publish it, then there is no chance at all and you could end up in a legal battle to get back control of your story.

What do you think? Have you had a bad experience with a small press? Have you achieved success going Indy? Let me know in the comments or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter and please sign up to the newsletter

 

What I’ve Learnt About Self-Publishing – Writing is not for the faint-hearted

Being a writer is a profession that leaves you wide open to critics from all walks of life and backgrounds. You may think you’ve written the best thing ever but be assured that someone somewhere will think its terrible and will most likely relish the chance of putting the boot in.

Now I’ve received this treatment in both my working career as a copywriter and as an Indy Author. Sometimes there is just no pleasing people. A lot of the time the criticism is constructive (no-one is perfect especially me!) but sometimes, just sometimes you encounter people that simply defy all logic and reason. I’ve had people complain about a piece of content I’ve written, but not give any reason whatsoever as to why they disliked it and then I’ve had it where an article I’ve drafted is literally waved in front of my face and been told its crap. Writing is not for the faint-hearted, and it’s a bloody tough profession to succeed in.

So many Indy authors experience the annoyance of obtuse or downright nasty negative reviews on the likes of Amazon. I’ve had some that have said I’m the worst writer ever, others that they simply hated the book and that’s that.

When I was still fresh to self-publishing, each of those reviews stung, and I was personally offended by them (so much so that I even replied to a few). Now though I simply shrug my shoulders and say to myself ‘Each to their own, you cannot please everyone’. As tempting as it is, as upset as you may become, do not respond to negative reviews.

Now don’t get me wrong, don’t just ignore the comments of bad reviews, if they’re genuinely critical then take on board what they have to say. For example, I’ve had a 2-star review that outlined things that I could improve upon, and I am genuinely grateful to that person for writing it as they were correct to highlight things that could and were improved in later titles.

Some reviews, however, are just nasty for the sake of it, and it seems some people simply get a kick out of abusing indy authors. My favourite one has to be a 1-star review from a guy or gal who named themselves The Hater. This sad act of a human being trawls through Indy books on Amazon and just 1-stars them all for no good reason.

There’s a great thread on Goodreads about 1-star reviews that you can check out here

Which brings me to the fact that as an Indy writer you WILL encounter plenty of crazy individuals. I guess as writing falls into the same category of the arts this is to be expected. It draws out all manner of eccentric personalities, (hell, just check out some of the writer’s groups on Facebook for proof of that!)

At the end of the day if we want to succeed at this we all need to develop a thick skin (easier said then done). Learn from every piece of genuine criticism and ignore the bullshit (there’s a lot of that out there). We suffer through the bad times and the negativity because we are writers and it’s what we love to do. Never let the bastards grind you down, keep going, and one day you might just succeed. I’m trying to do just that.

Leave a comment below or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter and please sign up to the newsletter

What I’ve learnt about self-publishing – It’s a collaborative effort

Writing is a lonely profession. It’s a fact. Sure you can talk to people for ideas, but when it comes down to it, it’s just you and the thoughts spilling out of your head.

For a long time, I was going solo. I’d used Terran Defenders and my historical fiction novel Unconquered: Blood of Kings as an experiment into the world of self-publishing and had learnt a fair bit about the technical side of how things worked. It was shortly after this that I finally got down to writing the fantasy tale that had been floating about in my head for many years. It took me three years to finish the first draft of Heir to the Sundered Crown, and it was with this book that I put into practice all I had learnt until that point.

I promoted the book via social media and writing groups and thanks to the support of other indy authors its release (to me anyway) was a huge success. At one point it even outsold Game of Thrones in the USA, an amazing achievement for an author that no one had (still hasn’t) heard of. The success was shortlived, however, and the book drifted off down the Amazon charts to hover around the 50k level.

Collaboration

It was after I launched Heir that I was contacted by a Mr Rob May, another fantasy author who’d grown a large fanbase on Wattpad. He had an idea, and it was one that has proven to be a massive help to me. His idea was to bring together a small number of other fantasy authors and together we would assist each other when it came to creative ideas and the more technical side of things.

Tony Garrett joined, quickly followed by Kate Cudahy bringing our merry band to four. We brainstormed some ideas, and Firebound Books was born. The idea behind Firebound was that when it came to publication on Amazon and other channels, we would do so under that name. It gave us a more professional air to the process.

Via regular communication (most through Facebook messenger) we devised strategies for our literary work. Together we discovered which promotional channels (I’ll be writing about that soon) were the most effective, the best ways to create and launch our individual websites and assist each other with story ideas.

Editing and proofreading are vital. It’s something that many indy authors discover at some point either via reviews or just from giving their books another read through. Even books published by the big publishing houses contain the odd error so I can guarantee yours will contain at least a handful. Finding a good reliable editor can be tricky as you have to navigate the many charlatans that prey on indy authors. Collaboration helps massively here too as fellow authors can share their recommendations to you.

It’s not just publishing that we help each other out on. Being an indy author is a tough thing to be and at times can be hugely demoralising. By collaborating we help pick each other up and keep our shared enthusiasm for writing going. Persistence is key, and I’m sure one day that one of us (hopefully all of us) will truly reach the big time.

When we’ve finished drafts of our books, we get the others to read them through, and Rob, in particular, is a great proofreader. He’s also good with helping with cover designs and the more technical side of formatting.

All in all, without the collaborative efforts of my fellow Firebound authors I know that I would most likely have given up as a fiction writer. If you want an easy life and one free of worries then writing is not the profession to pursue. It can be downright scary and unreliable. Finding others to collaborate with, however, can provide invaluable support in the darkest of times.

In the next blog, I’ll discuss the minefield that self-publishing world is and how to avoid falling victim to the scammers and con artists that want to prey on you.

Get in touch via Facebook and Twitter and please sign up to the newsletter

Follow me on Amazon and check out my books at https://www.amazon.com/Matthew-Olney/e/B00LE9XEBS/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

 

 

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!

 

Get in touch via Facebook and Twitter and please sign up to the newsletter

Follow me on Amazon and check out my books at https://www.amazon.com/Matthew-Olney/e/B00LE9XEBS/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

Writing Quest Part 3

It’s week 3 already! Despite a rather tumultuous week, I still managed to get the first 2 chapters written up for Quest, I’ve edited Danon (Pre-order today from Amazon)   in preparation for its release at the end of the month.

My fiance came down with an illness which led  me to look after her for most of the week. I even had to call out paramedics on Tuesday as she had shown no signs of recovery despite being in bed since Saturday. After a swift visit to the doctor, we discovered that she had been suffering from severe migraines. She is now rested and feeling much better.

Mid-week Elevenmedia posted their review of Heir to the Sundered Crown. You can read it here.

It has been a very long week, and as it is about to come to an end I will reserve any strength I have for next week. I intend on throwing myself back into my writing starting Monday and hope to have another chapter finished by the end of the new week.

69a2a76eab0a1384e692b7d9ff8ad8cc

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter or sign up to the newsletter (you’ll get a free copy of Danon when it’s released later this month)

Image by http://www.deviantart.com/art/Battle-579545697

 

Firebound Authors

Firebound Books is a collective of fantasy and science fiction writers.

Rob May – Rob May studied English at Lancaster University and is the illustrator for Super Maths World and Super Science World. He is the author of Dragon Killer, Roll the Bones and Sirensbane, the first three books in a series of fantasy thrillers featuring Kal Moonheart – adventurer, gambler and thief.

Rob is currently writing science fiction adventure Lethal Planet—the final book in the Alien Disaster Trilogy. He lives in Warwickshire, England.

robertwilliammay.com

Kate Cudahy-

Kate Cudahy comes from north-west England. She studied literature at the universities of Essex and York before moving to Poland in 2003, where she teaches English as a second language.

Kate writes fantasy fiction with an LGBT focus. Her novels Hal and Hannac follow the exploits of a young duellist, Hal Thæc, as she searches for love against the odds. Kate is currently writing a third novel, The Firefarer epic fantasy with a postmodern twist.

katecudahy.wordpress.com

T.J Garret – Over the past two years,Tony Garrett  has become not only an avid reader, but also a fairly prolific writer. What makes Tony’s story remarkable is this fact: Tony is legally blind, and – even with the assistance of digital displays – reading is a chore. Despite this T.J has managed to write fantastic epic novels.

blog.tjgarrett.com

M.S Olney – and then of course there’s me!