Archive for August, 2011

Back in the day, writers were told that if you wanted to make a lot of money, fast, then you had to write pornography. They used the word ‘pornography’ rather than ‘erotica’ because back in the day there was no erotica! Well, maybe there was, but I don’t think it was called that.

As the end of the month nears and I contemplate my back-balance being plundered as my rent cheque barely squeaks through, I wonder if writing about something other than urban fantasy would be more financially lucrative (hell, almost anything would be more financially lucrative!). I’ve gone so far as to try to calculate the average Amazon ranking for books in each of the categories (fantasy, science fiction, erotica, and so on) to discover which kind of books sell best, but, as far as I can tell, books with erotic content don’t seem to do markedly better or worse than any other kind of book.

I will confess to putting some thought into the question of whether an unknown author of erotic romance has a better chance of selling their work than an unknown author writing in another genre. Personally, I doubt they do. Here’s why: I think that, all things being equal, the key to an unknown writer selling a story is how easily the writer can define and write to their market for that story.

Let me try to say that again, only in another way. (Here we are stipulating that the stories we are comparing are equally well written.) A writer who knows more about what her audience wants to read, and who writes accordingly, will have a better chance of selling their story, provided they can connect to that audience. I think this counts for a lot of the success Harlequin has. They know the demands of their audience and they give their audience what they demand.

Of course the size of the audience matters. I imagine that the market for erotic stories is enormous (suddenly it seems all my words have a double-meaning!), but so is the market for urban fantasy, or just plain old romance stories. Also, as John Locke mentioned in his excellent book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months, it isn’t just the size of the audience that matters, it is whether you can connect with that audience, as well as how engaged that audience is with you as a writer, and with what you write (that is, how likely they are to buy your work; the more likely they are, the smaller the audience needed). Or something like that.

I’m blathering. If anyone would like to share your thoughts on this, please do, mine seem to be running around chasing their collective tails. Also, what genre do you think is the most profitable?

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Smashwords is an ebook publishing and distribution platform for people, scribblers like myself, who publish their work in ebook form. If you are an independent author — a writer who has chosen to publish their work themselves — Smashwords provides a fantastic opportunity to get your book into the hands of readers while retaining control over every step of the process.

I have published two books through Smashwords and it has been a great experience. While I’m learning how to be a publisher, marketer and publicist, I’m part of an ever expanding community of mutually supportive writers and readers. What’s not to like?

What Can Smashwords Do For Me As A Writer?
Smashwords will not only help you publish your book but will act as a distributor getting your work into digital bookstores. Here are a few of the retailers Smashwords has access to: Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Nobel, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store. (For a complete and up-to-date list, click here.)

How Much Do I Have To Pay To Publish Through Smashwords?
Smashwords is free! This is from the Smashwords FAQ:

We don’t charge for our ebook publishing, conversion and distribution services, and we don’t sell publishing packages. We earn our commission only if we sell your book, and our commission is only 15% or less of the net, which works out to slightly under 10% of the retail price when your book sells at our retailers.

If I Publish Through Smashwords Does That Mean I Can’t Publish Through, For Instance, Amazon?
Not at all! Smashwords allows an author to opt out of certain distribution channels, allowing you to publish your work to that channel yourself. For instance, although I’m using Smashwords to publishing my book, Until Death, to iTunes, Barnes & Nobel, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel Book Store, I chose to publish my book through Amazon myself, without help from Smashwords.


My Experience With Smashwords
When I first heard about Smashwords it sounded too good to be true. I’ve published two books through Smashwords so far and — while formatting my first book was tedious — I found formatting my second book, Until Death, to be relatively painless. At the moment it only takes me about half an hour to format and upload a file. Speaking of which, here are some formatting tips and tricks:

Styles. When I was formatting my book files I found it worked best if I used styles based on the normal template when I did any formatting. This saved me, oh, so much work. The last time I did this my manuscript went through the meatgrinder with zero errors. Yay!

Table Of Contents. This is what I do, I know other folks do it differently, but this works for me. I number each chapter simply with “Chapter 1”, “Chapter 2”, and so on, and I don’t bother typing out a listing of the chapters in the beginning of the book.
The first time I formatted a book file I spent half an hour just formatting a fancy table of contents and put links from the chapter headings in the manuscript to the TOC entries and back again, but I kept getting errors when the manuscript went through the meatgrinder and the epub file wouldn’t display properly in Adobe Digital Editions. After I removed my lovingly constructed table of contents, everything worked perfectly.

Recommended Reading For Publishing on Smashwords:
When I first formatted my book file for Smashwords I knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about the process. Here are a few links to resources. I’ve read every one of these books and they helped me enormously.

1. Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author, by Zoe Winters.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. When I bought it I was hoping Zoe would give some advice about marketing, but she did very much more. I stepped through her description of how to publish on Smashwords the first time I went through the process. Her advice was great and it made me feel as though I had someone someone experienced with me each step of the way.

2. Smashwords Style Guide, by Mark Coker
When someone first recommended that I read the Smashwords Style Guide my eyes glazed over; it sounded too much like something I’d have to read for school. But I read it anyway and was glad I did. The Guide is well written, nicely organized and easy to understand.

3. Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, by Mark Coker
This is a must read. When I decided to become an independent author I knew nothing — and I do mean absolutely nothing — about promoting or marketing myself. A writing acquaintance of mine with a background in advertising recommended the Book Marketing Guide to me I am very glad she did. For instance, most of my sales have been generated through my Twitter contacts but I wouldn’t have joined Twitter if it hadn’t been for Mark Coker’s urging. He’s great! 🙂

I’d like to end this blog post with a few links to blogs that I’ve found enormously helpful:
Joe Konrath: A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing
Joe Konrath is the unofficial spokesman and leader of the indie publishing movement and he seems like a toughly nice guy. When I first started reading Joe’s blog I knew nothing about the independent publishing movement. He was the one who showed me that there was a big difference between the vanity press movement of yesteryear and the independent publishing movement of today.

Dean Wesley Smith
Dean Wesley Smith has written over, probably well over, a hundred books and has been part of the traditional publishing industry, both as a writer and a publisher, for many years. His series of articles contain essential information about where the industry is today and also give the beginning writer encouragement. I highly recommend this blog to anyone starting out who wonders if they will be able to make it as a writer.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Kristine Kathryn Rusch has been in the writing and publishing industries at least as long as Dean and has won many awards for her truly incredible writing. Like Dean, Kristine doesn’t mince words when it comes to talking about things — gottya clauses — to watch out for in a publishing contract as well as warning about trends in the industry that could harm a writer’s career.

The Passive Voice blog
The Passive Voice blog is written by an attorney who practices contract law and who has the uncanny ability to explain contracts in a way that a layperson can understand and even enjoy. A must-read for anyone who thinks they may sign a contract one day.

I hope that I’ve given you at least one piece of information about Smashwords that was helpful. Smashwords is a great publishing and distribution platform that I would highly recommend to anyone considering self-publishing their work.

Good luck!

When people ask what kind of stories I write I don’t know whether to say Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance because I’m not sure what the boundaries of each category are — and also because I think I write both. That’s my motto: If you can’t pick between two great things, don’t! (Buffets are my nemesis. 😉

Larissa Benoliel over at herosandheartbreakers.com has written an excellent post on what exactly Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance are, how they are defined, and then goes on to give examples of books she feels fall into each category. Folks, this is an amazing post! I agree with her 100%, but even if I didn’t I would admire the thought behind her blog post as well as the clarity she has brought to a difficult subject.

Here are the highlights:

Urban Fantasy:
– “… Urban Fantasy is all about the paranormal embedded in a modern setting. There might be romance, but the romance is not the primary focus and a happily ever after is never guaranteed.”
– Stories that fall into the Urban Fantasy category, “usually include a love interest and even a boyfriend or another, but the focus of the series is the action, character development, and the plot.”
– Narrating Voice: Heroine narrates in first person. (Not always perhaps, but most of the time.)

Examples of Urban Fantasy:
– Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series
– the Hollows series by Kim Harrison
– Charlaine Harris’s Southern Mystery series
– Stacia Kane, Unholy Magic

Paranormal Romance
“… the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about Paranormal Romance is the happily ever after, in a PNR series or novel, you can absolutely expect that there will be a HEA [Happily Ever After] for a couple in each of the books in the series.”
– Narrating voice: “Paranormal Romances are usually written in more than one point of view and all in third person. We constantly get to get into the leading lady’s head along with the leading male and sometimes even the villain and other side characters as well.”

Examples of Paranormal Romance:
– the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward
– Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld
– Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed
– Larissa Ione’s Demonica series.

To read the rest of a truly excellent article, click here.

I love Kristen Lamb’s blog, and her latest post shows why. Witty and poignant, she talks about that most dreaded of questions: What do you do?

Although I have a day job, I consider myself a writer. Whenever I tell people that either their eyes glaze over with disinterest or their next question is: Are you published? Then I have to go through the whole song-and-dance of explaining that I’m an independent author. Usually — and understandably! — they don’t have any idea what it means to be an independent author and occasionally, horror of horrors, they associate it with vanity publishing and look at me as though I’ve sprouted a third eye.

Suffice it to say that the question, “What do you do?” has begun to seem ever more unfriendly and I’m seriously considering replying: “I’m a gynecologist. You?” That should end the discussion pretty quickly!

In any case, here is Kristen Lamb’s humorous defense of the profession:

I still remember the day I told my family I was leaving corporate sales to become a writer. I think what they heard was something akin to, “Leaving any feasible way to make a living and feed myself. Joining a cult. Kool-Aid.” Or something close to that.

If you are a writer, then you know we share this collective pain.

People ask, “So what do you do for a living?”

“I’m a writer.”

“No, I mean what do you really do? What’s your job?”

Sigh.

So, to repay you for your pain, here’s a laugh at our collective expense.

Top Ten Reasons to Become a Writer

10. Therapy is getting too expensive

When you become a writer, the first thing that becomes clear is that if you are at all interesting enough to be able to write good fiction, then you are seriously screwed up. As in years of expensive therapy screwed up. Writers are not normal.

So why not take all those notebooks filled with letters to your Inner Child and turn those babies into cold hard cash? I say, it is time for us to demand Inner Child Labor. Instead of letting that ungrateful punk float around in our limbic brain, it is high time we make the little twerp pull his weight.

Have anger issues coupled with violent fantasies? You are a born horror author.

Attend sex therapy to deal with a porn addiction? Erotica author.

Have “Mommy” issues? Memoir author.

9. Revenge, Duh

What better way to get back at that jerk who stood you up for the big dance? Or the toad who slept with your best friend? You got it. Become a writer. Surely you can think of a story that is in need of a pathetic cross-dressing hermaphrodite who gets killed by an inflatable doll. Slap the ex’s name on him. Just change the first letter of his last name. Heck, use your newfound power to help out your friends. Surely they can give you lists. Find a need for a character who has a tragically small penis or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Become a writer and no one will cross you again lest they be found wearing hot pants while soliciting prostitution from sheep at the petting zoo in your next story. And hey, with the Internet, EVERYONE can be published.

8. High School Reunion Coming Up

So maybe you have done nothing with your life in the past 20 years. Who cares? All you have to do is find some out of print author and borrow his name for a bit. Hey, not like he is using it. Just tell those jerks you wanted to impress that you write under a pseudonym, and now you are “in between books.” Think of it this way, you can hold your head high that “you” accomplished something they never did, and, since you won’t have to see those jerks for another 5-10 years, no one will be the wiser. If you do get found out, it is just free publicity for the struggling dope you impersonated.

7. You drink a lot and it was either become a writer or attend AA

Enough said…

6. Can hang out with our friends somewhere other than the Renaissance festival

Renaissance festivals and Trekkie conventions can get expensive, especially when you work at the last Barnes and Noble left in your city. And while living with Mom does help off-set the cost of rent, World of Warcraft isn’t exactly free. Form a critique group with your pals and all vow to become famous writers. Hey, you still get to hang out and talk about elves and wizards and what you would do if you were a vampire, only now it is considered “work.”

5. Because what other job comes with a dress code of thrift store jeans and juvenile T-shirts?

Do you just love Superman, Mickey Mouse, or even Mr. T? I pity the fool! Feel like expressing yourself on 100% pre-shrunk cotton? Hey, if you were a 37 year old accountant or airline pilot, others might think that an entire wardrobe comprised of Xena, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica T-Shirts meant you were emotionally immature or “touched in the head.” Now that you’re a writer, you can be…eccentric. Hell, throw in a beret just to be extra annoying.

4. Because “writer” sounds so much more glamorous than “unemployed” or “Starbucks Hot Beverage Consultant”

Refer to Number 8.

3. Because it is the next best thing to having your own reality show.

Have a whacked out family or embarrassing habit? Write about it. The great thing is that now EVERYTHING is a tax write-off. Have an insatiable coffee, book and movie addiction? Then you are writer material. So go ahead and collect action figures, souvenir shot glasses and rare comic books. Do a “Tour of Pubs” and get plastered as you sample every beer under the sun. Or take that trip to Texas and ride the mechanical bull at Billy Bob’s. Just make sure you write about it, and then it is all deductable “research”…and the pictures your so-called friends post on their Facebook page of you being hauled away for Drunk and Disorderly Conduct are less “mortally embarrassing” and more “priceless promotion.” Just make sure you ask Denny’s for a receipt before they throw you out.

2. Because your family told you that you should be a doctor.

Don’t get along with your parents? Hey, go big or go home. What better way to insure your status as black sheep of the family than announce that you are giving up everything to become a writer? Short of announcing that you just converted to Scientology or that you sold all your stuff and are moving to a commune in New Mexico, telling the folks that you want to be a writer is guaranteed to make you the definitive pariah. And the plus side is that there is no studying chemistry or staying up all night to memorize Kreb’s Cycle. Just think of it this way, they will forgive you once you’re published anyway.

1. Because you can be….GOD!

Yeah, now you get a glimpse of how it feels to be the Big Guy. What other job, short of an IRS agent or a meter maid gives the raw power of being able to make or destroy lives with ….a pen?

Did I miss something? Do you guys have a reason you would like to add? Put it in the comments! Just think of this as group therapy without the privacy 😀 . What’s your favorite of the top ten posted? Can you relate? Share and we promise to laugh at yo-….um, be compassionate and supportive.

Read the rest of Kristen’s post here.

This is my 200th post! I thought, to celebrate, I would do something a little different.

As near as I can recall, my first story was about a Gothic mansion that was painted red inside. All the rooms, the hallways, every interior surface was painted red. The twist was that the red paint wasn’t paint at all, it was blood!

I’m chuckling as I type this. I was in grade two when I wrote that story — it was for an in-class assignment — and I know now that dried blood is brown, not red, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as dramatic!

My story came back from the teacher a couple of days later covered in red; not blood of course, but red ink. Apparently my skills as a writer needed some improvement. 😉

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? What was it about?

Stephen King is one of my favorite writers so this bit of news caught my eye. I’m going to see if I can’t tune into the station using one of my nifty iPad apps.

BANGOR, Maine — Stephen King is offering an antidote to what he sees as the biases of right-wing radio talk shows by hiring a former Green Party vice presidential candidate to co-host a morning talk show on two stations he owns.

In a rare public appearance, the horror writer held a news conference Tuesday in Bangor, Maine, at the headquarters of his three-station Zone Radio network.

“The Pulse Morning Show” will be co-hosted by 50-year-old Pat LaMarche and 43-year-old Don Cookson, a former television reporter. LaMarche ran for vice president as a member of the Green Party in 2004.

During the news conference King said, “We’re a little to the left, but we’re right.”

The show will begin airing on WZON-AM and WZON-FM at 6 a.m. on Sept. 12.

Read more at the Sacramento Bee, here.

I’m stubborn, I like to do everything myself. So when I first heard about Hootsuite I thought, “Well, that’s fine for some folks, but I don’t need it.”

Yea. Just like I didn’t need a food processor. This is a true story. For years I put off getting a food processor because I didn’t think I needed it. I mean, what does it do? It chops vegetables! I can do that. After I broke down and got one, I had no idea how I’d ever managed without it. It saved me a lot of time. Hootsuite is like that; for me, it is the food processor of the Twitter world.

Here’s why:
1. Hootsuite shortens my links for me.
Before I used Hootsuite I would go to bitly or tinyURL to shorten my link and then copy and paste it in my tweet. When I started sending out more than a couple of tweets per day this process became tiresome. One of the features I love about Hootsuite is that it has a URL shortener built in. It works beautifully and I don’t have to go anywhere else for what I need. For me, this is a big plus.

2. Hootsuite can schedule tweets.
When I decided that I wanted to tweet more than three times a day I started using Hootsuite’s scheduler. Wow! Very nice. It doesn’t work as well for tweets that are time sensitive — breaking news, that sort of thing — but for everything else it is a dream come true. Just cue up your tweets for the day — or the week — and you’re done. Before there would be, say, three stories that I wanted to tweet about but I didn’t want to do three tweets one right after the other. I would try to remember to do one every three hours or so, but I would usually forget. The scheduler is like my underpaid digital assistant who takes care of these things for me.

3. Hootsuite is Free!
There are a lot of other great things about Hootsuite, but one of the things I love about it is that it is free. Yes, there is a professional version which costs 5.99 a month but I have been using the free version and am very happy.

4. Hootsuite Hootlet
A couple of days ago I discovered a browser addon that will capture the title and url of a post and dislay it. Here’s what the folks at Hootsuite have to say:

We call the Hootlet our secret weapon because it has the power to completely change how you use Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. Want to share a link? Hit the Hootlet button, and automatically, the URL is shortened and text is grabbed from the site.

The Hootlet is truly great, I’m hoping they come out with something like it for Safari.

That’s my review of Hootsuite. Other reviews I’ve looked at have given it four out of five stars and I’ll admit that I only tried out two or three different programs before I settled on Hootsuite, but I am truly thrilled with the program and will probably at some point spring for the professional version.

Cheers!