community, writing

Indie Authors Do’s and Don’t’s

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Is there any one surefire way to get people to read your self-published work? Nope, sorry. Are there certain things that do seem to work better than other approaches, though? That’d be a yup.

Not that I’m a huge expert (only 5 months after printing my debut novel), but I’ve found that are particular methods to writing and marketing that will help set your publication apart from the masses, and encourage readers to spend their hard-earned money on it.

DO network and interact with other indie authors. Finding connections on Twitter, Instagram, WordPress or Blogspot, and all the online communities is very important. Word of mouth does sell books for us independents. A handful of detailed reviews on Goodreads or Amazon can really push people towards choosing our title over a bunch of other available options.

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DON’T spam people to read your book. Only Tweeting about your latest release, only subscribing to others whose messages include the “am writing” hashtag, so you can DM them with a very brash, “Hey, you exist, so buy my books!”, will tick people off. Building personal associations with potential readers first, then politely asking if they’re interested in reviewing your work, generally goes down very well.

DO write your story in a unique, unfamiliar way. Many readers are honestly tired of the usual tropes of genre fiction, and hungry for something different. They are more likely to try an unknown author advertising a tale or style that doesn’t sound like all the new novels released last year, than another same-old-same-old by a traditional publishing company playing to a worn-out formula.

DON’T worry about being the next JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, or Maggie Stiefvater. Number one — none of these authors got to be who they are now overnight. Number two — their writing styles and stories are unique to who they are as authors and as people. So there’s no pressure to become an amazing literary master — or someone you simply aren’t. Your readers will appreciate your style and story if it’s coming from a real place.

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DO take the time to edit your manuscripts thoroughly. Are we all human, and going to make mistakes now and then? Of course. But when it comes to first impressions, let’s be realistic and understand that most people aren’t going to say, “Oh, well, they’re only human,” after they hit the 125th typo in your published book. A few (literally, under 10) scattered throughout a self-edited work (by someone who most likely is not a professional proofreader) won’t really irk most readers. But much more than that, and it can make following your story more (unnecessarily) difficult, and may cause people to wonder how important their satisfaction was to you — translating into lower sales (when it could be avoided).

DON’T ignore others’ feedback. No one wants to be told that somebody thought their work was about as interesting as watching paint dry. But when you’re going through the beta-reading process or ARC reviews, if several people regularly note the same thing as giving them trouble, you might want to pay attention. Not that you absolutely have to do what others suggest for your work. It can definitely help your sales, though, if you make some tweaks that reflect common critiques. (This is also why you ask for beta-readers prior to printing. It can be a massive help!)

DO have fun with the whole self-publishing thing. Since you’re not traditionally published, that means you’re not fulfilling a contract or getting paid a large sum of money to write, so that usually indicates you are undertaking this endeavor purely for the joy of completing your work and sharing it with others. And if it’s not fun, then, in this instance, what’s the point?

Yes, becoming a published author (even doing it by yourself) is a big deal, and a real rush (I won’t lie). But although we are after fame and fortune (at least a little!), we also are trying to tell a story, and if other people think it’s awesome sauce, that’s even better.

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blogging, community

Masters and Beginners Updates and Announcements (Read My Book or I’ll Take Away Your Coffee)

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No, I won’t actually take away your coffee (or will I???), but people on Twitter seemed to find this a very sufficient threat. (Since I can’t drink coffee anymore myself, the severity of this hypothetical situation will remain a mystery to me.)

Anyway, recently I a) ran a giveaway for a copy of the re-release, b) suggested starting a book club for my own work (which I swear is not an act of extreme hubris), and c) tried to made serious headway on the revisions for Volume 2.

The results of all this is a) the winner has been selected and notified, and if that happens not to be you, please feel free to acquire your copy through Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press website (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/masters-and-beginners-daley-downing/1126998956?ean=9781538033111), or I still have copies of the first edition, featuring Toby.

b) I am starting a book club for my own books.

c) My goal is to have Volume 2 ready for publication before November 1st.

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In the meantime, let’s start a book club all about The Order of the Twelve Tribes!

I’m thinking that the discussion date for Volume 1 will be around October 30th. It’s short, easy to get through (I’m not a fan of 17-letter words), and that date also nicely coincides with an important date in the story (no spoilers, moths in the know!).

If you’d like to participate, just obtain or re-read your copy of Volume 1: Masters and Beginners (by the way, either cover, it’s the exact same story), and watch this space for a discussion post that you can all jump in on!

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blogging, community, writing

Two Tags in One (Be Impressed…)

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…because these will be the only tags I do this year. Remember, the thing about time not growing on trees.

But it has been suggested that my readers would be interested in my answers to the Strangest Browser Searches and Writing Rituals tags.

(And I could use an easy post. There are other things going on behind the scenes that are making my life a bit challenging.)

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Honestly, I don’t consider most of my browser searches (for writing) to be that strange. Usually it consists of topics like, “what do you call the daughter of a Countess?” and “depiction of faeries in art”. Once I looked up “which colors to wear if you’re blonde/brunette/redheaded” for a scene where Sophie and Gwen were getting ready for a party, and I was drawing a complete blank on how they would have been dressed.

Most of my searches include things like the correct spelling of Gallifrey (the Doctor’s home planet) and Minecraft stuff (to make sure I get those references right — and even then, I have to double check it with White Fang).

Once I did have to look up Coeur D’Alene, Idaho (because that’s Amelia’s last name, and while I had a general knowledge of the city’s history, I wanted to make sure of the facts.)

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Now the questions for the Writing Rituals tag:

When do you write? (time of day, day of week)

Whenever I can. Though I’ve found better ideas tend to happen earlier in the day.

How do you seclude yourself from the outside world?

Give me a moment to look at this question with the most sarcasm that can be put into an expression. There is no such thing.


How do you review what you wrote the previous day?

With extreme caution. No, it’s usually not that bad. Generally I read the last page or so of what I wrote last the day before, to remind myself where I was and what the plan is.


What song is your go-to when you’re feeling uninspired?

Lately “Meet Me in the Woods” by Lord Huron and my guilty-pleasure-80s-classics (like Def Leppard and The Cure).

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What do you always do (i.e. listen to music, read, watch youtube, etc.) when you find yourself struggling with writer’s block?

Avoid writing, generally (ha, ha). Sometimes I’ll focus on reading or blogging more. Every once in a while, bingeing on a favorite movie or TV show gives me that spark of inspiration.


What tools do you use when you’re writing?

Only the software or the pen and paper, sometimes music, sometimes a movie. (Yes, those count, in big ways, trust me.)


What’s the one thing you can’t live without during a writing session?

TEA.


How do you fuel yourself during your writing session?

See above. Also, the creative input part of music, etc. And taking breaks during the process is very important. Trying to force yourself to sit still and pour forth words when you’re just not feeling it won’t do any good. Taking 10 minutes to throw that laundry in the dryer and empty the dishwasher can make the difference between breaking writer’s block and staying stuck in it.


How do you know when you’re done writing?

I am never done writing, never, mwhahaha… Usually, it’s when the story seems to have reached a natural conclusion. At least for that installment (since I am apparently incapable of writing a stand-alone novel; maybe one day I’ll try).

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blogging, community

The Liebster Award

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Good morning! How are we all? I’m not sure I even remember what day it is! But I do have this post for you! The lovely Susannah Metzler over at A Tea with Tumnus has nominated me for the Liebster Award; I just don’t do the awards/tags circuit usually these days, mostly as a result of time not growing on trees. But I am quite aware that the appreciation for my blog is genuine, and I am very grateful for that.

So I won’t be tagging/nominating anyone else, but I will be answering the questions.

What is your favorite film score/movie soundtrack?

Hmmm. Generally I don’t listen to film scores — well, obviously I’m aware of them when I watch a movie. But otherwise, I don’t really look up the CD or anything. Though I do like the Lord of the Rings score (except I can’t make it through 2 lines of the Annie Lennox song at the end of Return of the King without completely losing it).

What is your favorite band?

Pink Floyd, Adele, Coldplay, and I am utter trash for Taylor Swift’s “1989” album.

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If you could play any fictional character in a movie adaptation of your favorite book, whom would you be?

Do I get to say Avery McKinnon in my own work? Otherwise, probably Sandstorm from Warriors (yes, I am aware she’s a cat), or Susan Sto Helit in Discworld.

Explain what your WIP is about in at least three sentences.

More faeries, talking cats, and geek references. Uncovering a deeper plot (not nefarious, though). Long-lost relatives coming home. More on autism, angels, and background of the Order.

What are your three favorite superheros?

I have to come up with 3? Sorry, folks, I’m just not huge on the superheroes thing. Thor. Doctor Strange. Maybe Logan (circa 2000-2010 in the movie franchise).

What would you name a boat if you had one?

Okay, this will be a lame answer, as I would not have a boat — I’m afraid of deep water. Can I get a toy sailboat for Muffin to use in a kiddie pool? Then I could call it The S.S. Munchkin or something.

Which fictional character would you think would be the most boring to meet in real life?

Wow, I need to beg people not to throw things at me right now! Probably Prof. Trelawney from Harry Potter (although I honestly appreciate that she had a real gift she had to hide). Or the talking tree dude from Guardians of the Galaxy (nobody hit me! — just, how many times can you hear him say the one word over and over?!).

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If you decided to change your name, what would that name be, and why?

Ahh, this is a trick question for me, as Daley Downing is a pen name (but I guard my reasons for assuming this nom de plume with my life — sorry, guys).

What is your favorite genre to write?

Definitely fantasy. Though I’ve tried my hand at contemporary and historical fiction, too.

What are three things you share in common with your main character?

Which one? Since I have several. Also, I don’t tend to have a lot in common with any of them. Well, for Emma or Madison, I am an only child. I definitely agree with Flynn’s love of Pink Floyd and Doctor Who. And like Sophie and Cal, I have read most of the Warriors books.

What is your favorite movie/book quote right now?

“This must be Thursday, I never could get the hang of Thursdays.” — Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

And in one episode of Supernatural, Crowley said something fantastic to his minions — “Under pain of infinite pain!” (I finish my instructions to White Fang a lot with that one.)

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community, reading

One Reader’s Confessions

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(These are being divulged in the secret hope that others will agree with me.)

I judge books by their covers. This is totally unfair, because a less-than-visually-stunning cover does not, for an instant, mean the story inside is underwhelming. Yet I don’t hesitate to put right back on the shelf a novel whose cover doesn’t make me want to run off to the Scottish Highlands with it.

There is no guilt about not finishing books. Even if it’s a selection that no less than 56 bloggers I know and 43 Goodreads acquaintances have recommended. If it’s simply not for me, I’ll let it go with a wave of good wishes and not a moment of regret.

If I really didn’t enjoy a book all my friends love, I won’t post a negative review of it. I don’t want people I care about to be aware of my disappointment and in turn be disappointed themselves. That would make my insides wibble-wobble.

Rarely, if ever, do I give authors a second chance. There are exceptions to this. But generally, if reading so-and-so’s work transformed me into a koala of temporary sadness/frustration, then I won’t attempt another title by them.

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Diversity fiction is not necessarily my thing. Do I appreciate movements like “own voices” and encourage diversity in writing? Completely. But depending on the specific novel, I’m pretty likely to give it a pass. Maybe it’s because I don’t have much tolerance for things like sexism/disability prejudice/religious elitism in certain cultures (and honestly, very little interest in developing this). And, quite frankly, I don’t like characters who are fixated on forcing their race/ethnicity down the readers’ throats.

Have I read diverse fiction? Of course. Have I found some great examples of it? Yes, indeed.

Do I get tired of trying to avoid the soapboxes? Yeah…

I won’t read negative reviews of books I love. Actually, probably a lot of you do this? Why spoil it for yourself, right?

I hold to a Judeo-Christian belief system, but don’t recommend Christian literature. Not entirely; I’ve gotten a lot out of non-fiction by Max Lucado and Joyce Meyer, and honestly enjoyed some Ted Dekker. But I find too much of the “Christian” market to be problematic in many ways.

Impulse library requesting is totally a thing. And this occasionally gets me into trouble. Like when several holds come in at once (you try lugging 8 or more hardbacks three-quarters of a mile, including up a hill, on foot, in the rain, without getting a little grumpy). And then I only have a maximum of 6 weeks (with renewals) to read them all.

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In order to finish a long book faster, I’ll skip some parts. For example, about 75 pages from the end of The Raven King, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and cut to the last chapter to find out if Gansey survived. (In my defense, after I learned the answer, I did go back and catch up on what I missed.)

Page count totals more than 400 pages? It and I shall never meet. Again, yes, there are exceptions, though they’re few and far between. Does this mean I may be missing out on some really great stories? Yupper. Do I mind that much? Not at all. Bring on the movie version. Sorry, folks, but I simply don’t have the time to sit down and slog through 650 pages of any (even an amazing) novel.

I’ve given up on classics. Not because all the classics are terrible. A Tale of Two Cities and The Scarlet Pimpernel have a permanent spot on my list of recommendations. It’s mostly the time issue; also, it’s a matter of personal taste. Too many classics either frustrate or bore the living daylights out of me.

Please, please, please don’t make me read anything that isn’t speculative fiction. This covers fantasy, sci-fi, sometimes dystopia, and even steampunk. See, that’s plenty of options! So I’m abandoning romance, mysteries, thrillers, most historical fiction, and even biographies — trust me, that still leaves me more than enough choices. And these are the genres I love — what’s the point in depriving me of that?

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community, reading, writing

The Fear of Missing Out: The Bookdragon Edition

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“The Fear Of Missing Out” is apparently a real thing. Nah, come on! Don’t we have more self-esteem than that?! Who cares if we haven’t heard of this band, or that actor, missed that TV show, skipped this movie, didn’t read that book…

Er, hang on a minute there.

Here are some very valid things bookdragons are concerned with when it comes to being afraid of missing bookish stuff:

All your friends loved this novel/series, but you just can’t get into it. Yes, it is totally okay to have a different opinion, even from the people you’re close to. But when you seem to be the only person in your life that doesn’t appreciate a certain trilogy or author, it can be a bit…almost lonely.

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You come across titles written by your favorite author(s) that you had no idea existed. This can come as a real shock to the senses. How can you even claim to be a fan? How is it possible that this knowledge escaped your attention? And how quickly can you catch up?

There’s a genre that you try and try and it just doesn’t mesh with you, and it’s on fire right now, so it’s taking over all the sales this year. That makes it more complicated for those of us who would like to find new titles not belonging to this genre of the moment. I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to spend my meager book budget on releases that will simply test my patience and make me have buyers’ remorse.

You can’t afford merchandise based on your favorite series. Honestly, I don’t have to own throw pillows and tote bags and coffee mugs emblazoned with characters and dialog quotes and cover logos for every single novel I’ve ever enjoyed. But sometimes it would be nice to have just one or two.

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It’s really hard when you don’t like a book you were really, really hoping to like. Okay, compared to losing a job or finding out your car is totaled after that minor accident, it’s not that hard. But when you have a lot of emotional energy invested in a project — yes, even reading a novel — and it doesn’t pan out the way you had anticipated… Well, when you’re someone who thinks and analyzes and introspects a fair amount (hands up out there — be brave, only I can see you, I promise), this can be a big deal. (Trust me, it’s a big deal.)

Re-reading an old favorite can lead to the discovery that you no longer like it. This has actually happened to me in recent months. It was devastating. (You hush, yes, it was.) Now I don’t know what to do with those selections, their space on my shelves, how I might feel later if I actually got rid of them… The dilemma ensues.

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Sometimes publishers consider it necessary to release immediate sequels in a different size to the original, or to change the covers from country to country. This is very frustrating when you’re trying to get all the titles in a series to match because the universe will end if you do not. Or when you actually like the covers for a foreign nation better than the ones available in your own home town. Is it just me, or do we all agree that publishers need to take fans’ feelings more into account? Grrr…

Occasionally, an author that you love decides to write something that you just cannot stomach. Believe me, this is heartbreaking. Yeah, there are other types of tragedies in the world, like losing your phone or forgetting that coupon for Bath and Body Works until after you’ve left the mall. When you feel betrayed by one of your previously favorite authors, though, this ranks right up there.

(Has anybody seen the episode of “Spaced” where Simon Pegg burns all his Star Wars stuff after The Phantom Menace comes out? It’s like that.)

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community, reading

To Review or Not to Review?

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That is the question.

For a lot of book bloggers, it’s kind of an obvious thing: “I read the books, then I review the books, then I start all over again.” But — is it just me? — sometimes this routine can (as a blogger) begin to feel a little…stale.

After all, we aren’t being paid to post our reviews (most of us), so is there any set-in-stone rule that says we have to review every single thing we read?

While I tend to put at least small snippets about pretty much every selection I finish on Goodreads, I often don’t bother doing so on my blog. Partly because of the potential-dullness-creeping-in-to-steal-my-joy factor already mentioned; but also due to the simple fact that there are lots of topics I’d like to post on and discuss.

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It isn’t merely as a result of not having as much free time to read new titles, or easy access to new titles (money and children issues, of course) — I could easily choose to review something I read ages ago. The fact of I want to be known as more than a reviewer certainly contributes.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being primarily a reviewer, either. There are many bloggers that this totally works for them, so more power to you, ladies and gentlemen. Some of you I truly look forward to reading your reviews and getting to know your thoughts on this classic or that impending release.

But I’ve always struggled to find my niche as a blogger, and I think it just boils down to: there is no way I can be so single-minded as to choose one subject and stay there.

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There is just too much I want to cover while I’m in this space. Please, let’s talk about our favorite childhood novels, whether adolescents should be reading adult fiction, e-books versus physical, hardcover versus paperback, the benefits and downsides of ARCs, and if we pick books for our children based solely on the illustrations (hint: that’d be me).

And since I’m not only a reader but a writer as well, there are so many things I want to do on that front, too. Writing advice is so subjective — since what works for one person won’t at all for another — so let’s dive into the discussions on breaking tropes or genre expectations, various marketing concepts, what writing guidelines should really be, if you actually need an agent, and how long is too long a debut publication.

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Plus, as a storyteller in general, I’m really interested in the mediums of film and theatre and how stories can be expressed not just in books, but through plays, dance, song lyrics, and music videos. Like I said, there are simply too many wonderful notions to explore in this space, to devote most of it to posting reviews.

So, I really am okay with the reviews being few and far between on this blog.

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