Category Archives: Hobbies

Rush to Preorder: Write at Your Own Risk…er…Pace, Part 3

Missed a part? Play catchup here.

“Rush to Preorder”

In August 2015, I gave my novel, The Computer Nerd, a preorder date for October 20, 2015, the day before Back to the Future Day. Then I started to write it, or add to its existing short story form, rather. I thought this was a good idea. I was on such a hot streak that I thought two months was plenty of time to produce a great title. I thought wrong.

I had just finished and uploaded the revised version of The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky, a novelette that I’d written as a simple short story years earlier (and am currently in the process of revising again to include more story and less fable, but more on that another time), and because I was trying to keep my release momentum up to one new title a month, it was time to get my next e-book title in motion. I was planning on revising and releasing the short story version of The Computer Nerd, which was only about 6000 words and ended with the protagonist taking a chance on his wife not murdering him in his sleep by going to bed with her, but I decided rather quickly that the story was just a first act and really needed more. So, by the second week of August, I ditched my progress on Teenage American Dream, which was supposed to be my next title at the time, and went to work crafting a novel out of that single-act short story. By September 9, 2015, I finished the first draft of the complete novel, and I was happy with it.

I’d set the preorder date for October 20th, because I thought that would give me plenty of time to revise it and get enough beta readers to tell me how to make it better, even though setting a preorder for October 20th meant I’d actually have to have the whole thing done and uploaded by October 10th. But I couldn’t get the beta readers I wanted even though I asked. I got one reader and two advisors for certain moments in the story to cover my every question. Hardly enough feedback to tell whether the story truly worked, or if it was even any good. Had I given myself, say, six months, I might’ve gotten more feedback, or even given myself enough time away from the story that I could read it with greater objectivity and see for myself what works and what doesn’t. Had I given myself that kind of time, or even a year, I’d have been able to learn enough about editing for genre that I could clearly see what was off about the story and worked to fix it before anyone in the public eye would ever see it.

But I didn’t do that. I obsess over most of my stories, which is evidenced by the fact that I keep going back to stories I’ve written more than ten years ago to see if I can improve them, but I didn’t give myself time to obsess over The Computer Nerd. In fact, as I write this two years later, I still don’t know if my ideas for improvement are actually good enough to make it worth public attention even now. All I know is that my plans for its revision are better than what I actually published in October 2015, as a preorder, in an attempt to publish something new every month.

In Part 1 of this unintended series (I thought I would tell this story in one part, not three), I mentioned my plan to rerelease this story with new content and a new title. This is why the planned update for a “finished” novel that people have bought on Amazon or downloaded for free at Smashwords during promotion seasons. I rushed the current version without giving myself enough time to really let it sit with me. I rarely rush through anything without giving myself adequate time to meditate on its details and fix whatever doesn’t work. But the conventions of indie publishing pushed me in ways I wasn’t ready for, and I broke my own personal conventions (and convictions) to see how the story would perform in the marketplace. The result of that performance was poor to say the least. I had no sales at Smashwords or its affiliates, short of a couple hundred free downloads during my I-no-longer-care phase, which aren’t sales, and may not even be reads, and only a couple on Amazon, the first of which yielded a one-star review. The print book never sold. As of this writing, I have the only print copy in existence, and I don’t get far into reading it without cringing. It’s not bad, but I know I can do better.

I intend to do better.

And I wish to do so by giving it a new identity, hence its retitle to Gone from the Happy Place. I want to make sure that readers get the story they deserve and not the one I felt obligated to rush out the door. I still have logistical questions to answer, like whether or not I want to change the opening, or even scrap the original first scene (my gut says yes), but I also have to consider conventional rules for its genre and figure out how best to incorporate those ingredients that the current version lacks, like, say, adding a new character who complicates everybody’s relationship to each other by simply being in the same room as they (because she’s trying to arrest two of the three characters while stealing the third away as a romantic interest even though he’s married to one of the two she’s trying to arrest, and you get the idea…spoiler alert).

The end result of this tale is that each of my stories are now under scrutiny, and some, like Gutter Child, as much as I like their current versions, still need more to become competitive in the marketplace. I can’t save every story or turn them all into blockbusters. But I can still do my best to give each one a proper foot forward, and that’s why I no longer wish to rush anything I write, even those stories I need to rewrite. Gone from the Happy Place is “finished” already; at the same time, I haven’t actually begun the version that will earn its new name, and I won’t start it until I’m satisfied with my rewrites for The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky, Shell Out, and whatever else needs my attention. And even when I do finish it, I won’t release it until I can get proper marketing in its fuel tank. I want to have a better launch for its next version.

So, if you’re wondering why my publishing pace has suddenly slowed to a crawl, or why I’ve produced nothing commercially since May 2016, that’s why. I believe in quality over speed. I ignored it in 2015. I won’t do that again. It’s the same reason I don’t blog all of the time. I’d rather spend my writing on novels than on lectures.

But thanks for reading this all the same! Please come back. Next time I’ll write about…er…stuff, I guess. You won’t want to miss it!

Note: You can find links to most of the books mentioned in this series as thumbnail images to the right. If you’re reading this on your phone, you can find the links at the top. Alternatively, you can wait until I release the revisions and just subscribe to this blog for updates instead.

Please be sure to subscribe to Drinking Café Latte at 1pm to receive alerts when new posts go live. The handy blue subscription button is located at the bottom of this page.

Cover image by Pixabay

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The Experts Aren’t Always Right: Write at Your Own Risk…er…Pace, Part 2

Missed Part One? Play catchup here.

“The Experts Aren’t Always Right”

As an independent author, when it comes to writing and selling books, I have to take matters into my own hands. As much as I would love to have someone else handle my marketing, cover design, copywriting, actual writing, etc., I don’t have that luxury. If I want people to read my stories, I have to get the word out on my own, or convince others to help me by convincing them that what I have to share is worth reading. And to convince them to read my work, I have to market to them, which means, ultimately, the cycle is unavoidable, and I’m responsible for getting the word out regardless, help or not. If it’s near impossible to get any reader interested in reading my work, then it’s even more nearly impossible to get them to market for me. If I don’t do it myself, it won’t get done, and the book will undoubtedly flop.

But even if I do get readers, and even if I can convince a few of them to help me get even more readers, it doesn’t mean my career is set and ready to launch. I also have to figure out how to get and retain fans, which is even more nearly impossible than the even more nearly impossible task of getting a support system to help me find those fans.

But nearly impossible isn’t the same as impossible. Fortunately, impossible is a dead adjective in independent publishing. Okay, more like an animated corpse that seems lifelike. But it’s still dead.

Through traditional publishing, authors have a chance to get their books displayed on a shelf at a bookstore, and by proxy, open an avenue for exposure that indie authors often don’t have. This doesn’t necessarily improve the author’s chances at discovery, as any book that’s displayed with the spine out is no more likely to get discovered than a specific crack in a sidewalk in the heart of a beautiful park would get discovered. But even shy people can discover that crack in a sidewalk if the alternative is to make eye contact with other people, so at least it’s an extra opportunity.

For an independent author, that chance for discovery is almost entirely limited to marketing, whether via e-mail, or word-of-mouth, or blast system like Bookbub or Instafreebie, which tends to succeed only when the author already has a following or fat marketing account and strong copywriting and cover design, and getting a sale through that market or discovery is dependent on whether or not the moon passes by the sun at the precise time a chicken crows while a dog pees on its head, which is, to say, not easy.

And that’s just for one book. What happens when the independent author writes another one? How many times does the moon eclipse the sun? (At the time of this writing, the total eclipse is scheduled to begin in Oregon and proceed through the heart of the United States and into South Carolina in a few hours, so, timely! But by the time this goes live, it’ll be long gone, so ha ha, you gotta wait another 18 months for the next one! But I digress.)

Because it can be difficult to build an audience, and even more difficult to retain one, independent authors are often encouraged to write books quickly (one every month or two) to earn enough income to write full-time. And this is assuming they have at least 3000 e-mail list subscribers who are ready and willing to buy every book the independent author writes, or tens of thousands of subscribers that can balance the odds enough to glean about 3000 loyal readers from the list. With the average $2.99 e-book earning its author 70% of its sales, 3000 loyal readers can earn him over $6000 a book. And that’s great…if he can pop out a new book every couple of months on average.

Traditional authors can’t do that because the industry takes about 18 months to contract and release a book via publisher (the length of time you’ll have to wait for the next total eclipse to happen after today, August 21, 2017, aka the day I’m writing this post, not necessarily the day I’m posting it). But independent authors can release books as quickly as they can write them, which is awesome for anyone who writes quickly and cleanly and doesn’t mind ignoring his loved ones most days.

The key idea here being how quickly one can write, edit, market, and release a full-length book of about 200 or more pages (50,000 words or more) and still be good enough to keep the reader coming back for more. Is one-to-two months for each book really long enough?

I guess it could be. Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond novels in the summers he spent at Goldeneye, his home in the Caribbean (Jamaica, I believe), and spent the rest of the year working as a real spy, leaving his publishers to take care of the rest. That’s about two months per book for his part. I don’t know if he had to do anything more than just write the books. But even still, at that rate, he produced just one book a year. You could say he spent the other ten months researching.

I’d argue that producing a new book every one or two months is beneficial for keeping readers’ attention, but it may also be too much for those who feel oversaturated by reading books only from a particular author who, for some reason, is more prolific than even James Patterson or Stephen King. Ian Fleming had a dedicated readership, and even though it took him just two months to write each novel, it took about a year for his readers to get each one. In spite of the gap between stories, they came back anyway. They had other authors they could read in the meantime.

Indie authors don’t have to wait a year to get a book they’ve spent two months writing into their readers’ hands. But is that a good thing? I have authors I’m subscribed to that I still haven’t read because I simply can’t keep up with their pacing. It seems like every time I think about starting one of their freebies, they’re pitching me a new book. I’m not ready for it yet! Of course, it’s not their fault I’m not ready for it yet. I’ve just got so much else to read. Maybe a year between releases isn’t so bad. But, for the indie author, a year between releases is the same as starving. Seems like neither party really wins here.

I don’t know how involved Ian Fleming got with his books after he submitted them to the publisher, and it may be that two months dedicated to his author career was plenty, but independent authors don’t have the luxury to stop at the writing process or spend two months a year on a single book. They have to maintain the editing process, as well, and that can cost time and money. If an editor charges between $1000 and $2000, for example, then that reduces the author’s $6000 in sales profit to just $4000. And that’s not including cover design costs ($300 on average), marketing services (conditional, but probably more than $100 and upwards to about $600), and any subscriptions to web hosting or e-mail list providers ($100 a month or more), and now the author is down to earning an ROI of about $3000 or less for his book, and that’s assuming he’s grossing $6000, and if it took him two months to produce that book from zero to hero, then he’s earning about $1500 a month as an author, which is about what I make tutoring college students how to write.

It’s not a lot when you crunch the numbers. And it takes a long frickin’ time to get enough subscribers and fans to produce those kinds of numbers in the first place.

Now, these are estimated costs based on research and not based on experience. In contrast, based on experience, each book earns about $3 a year. This is without a mailing list, or marketing system, or editing service, and so on. This is based simply on writing and uploading a book to Amazon or Smashwords and crossing my fingers (what all writers wish they could do successfully) and seeing what happens. This is based on zero reviews, or a three-star average thanks to a one-star review cancelling out a five-star review, and, while I’m at it, wishing upon a star.

And that three-star average is based on cranking out a book in two months without editing, marketing, or having any real beta reading support, save for a single reader who says the book is “pretty good,” which isn’t the same as saying the book is “freaking amazing.”

It’s also based on beating a preorder deadline on the advice of experts who say preorders increase first-day sales and that preorders should be given to all books. No, I’m gonna have to disagree here. Preorders are yet another marketing stage for increasing exposure on a title that needs marketing to get that exposure, but it’s only helpful if the author produces a book that readers would actually want to read, which usually requires something called quality, which is hard to achieve on two months’ worth of writing, marketing, etc. I’ll cover that in more detail tomorrow.

But everything about writing and publishing independently comes down to costs, both in money and time, and neither produces guarantees for success, even though more of each increases the odds.

Now, there are things in my life I wish I could reset like a videogame, most of them having to do with career choices or women, but I don’t regret giving independent publishing a chance. What I do regret is rushing through my titles in order to match the speed that some authors claim they need to produce their own success. It’s that regret that has led me to the decision to otherwise disown the current version of my novel, The Computer Nerd, and seek to revise and release the story under a new title, and to do so at the pace I need to make it worth buying and reading. This isn’t to say that it’s bad in its current form, mind you. But it is to say that it needs better.

More on that tomorrow.

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Cover image by Pixabay

Public Revision: Write at Your Own Risk…er…Pace, Part 1

Would you like to go back in time a few years and redo something you screwed up? Or maybe just a few days? Or even this morning, perhaps? If you could do it all over again, would you refuse that job offer, or decide not to date that person (or marry them), or make that investment in that swamp that was supposed to be the home of the next big mall but to this day remains a swamp? If given the chance, would you have decided against erecting that statue of a controversial figure to our national history?

We all fantasize about correcting the bad choices we’ve made in life, but rarely can we ever do anything but forge ahead and hopefully make better decisions the next time we’re faced with something similar.

In videogames, we see this fantasy realized in two places:

  1. Most games come with a reset button of some kind. We make a mistake in the game, we turn it off, we reload from our last save, and we try again but tackle the problem differently and see if that earns us better results.
  2. Game developers who release a bad or buggy game have many opportunities (if finances allow) to patch it before their clientele finishes lighting up the pitchforks, as long as they remain in communication with their fans and customers that improvements are coming. In this way, they can turn a bad game into a great one, if they pour in the time, money, and love to see it through.

Okay, three places:

  1. In the case of old or poorly executed games, creators can remake their games with better technology and/or better ideas, and anyone who appreciates the idea behind the original may be onboard for trying out the new version. Take a look at SimCity for example…

Or don’t; your choice.

It’s the perfect medium to work with because gamers are the most forgiving people on earth…at least it could seem that way as long as you ignore the flames they fan on gaming forums (especially on Steam) or if you constantly update your game, preferably weekly, even after you’ve released the final version of the final version of the version that jumped the shark because people keep demanding updates when the game has outlived its need for updates and you just want to get on with the sequel or a new property already, but can’t because those ingrates won’t leave you alone about adding that stupid feature where the hero blinks when you press the mouse button three times while upside down because real heroes blink and your game sucks if the hero doesn’t blink and you said that the hero would blink way back when you announced the game was coming and foolishly published your wish list of features as a motivation or goal for yourself, which included the possibility of having the hero blink at the click of the mouse, as if you were making promises to the people to implement these features when you really intended to implement them only if time and money permitted and that anyone who trusted this wish list to double as your infallibly planned features list would inevitably have their hearts broken, and as a result cry out to the masses that you’re a fraud who only cares about grabbing cash and couldn’t give a crap about releasing a quality or finished product to everyone who deserves the game that they want because they spent a whopping five bucks on it, dangit, and demand to get their every penny’s worth! See, it’s the perfect medium.

But books and movies don’t get the same love, it seems. Or do they???

I can’t speak much for movies, as I’m neither a filmmaker, nor am I in the loop with filmmakers, and the only time I ever see a movie “revised” after its theatrical release is when it goes to DVD or Blu-Ray as a director’s cut. But books are becoming friendlier as a medium for post-release revisions, and I think readers may even be at a point where they’re ready to accept it.

Okay, I don’t actually know if that’s true, but it should be. Here’s why.

Remember The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien? Have you read it? It’s, in short, a brilliant fantasy novel that jumpstarted the fantasy craze that continues today, eighty-five years after its publication. It’s a tightly-written children’s book about hobbits, dwarves, elves, trolls, adventures, wizards, and kings, told in a sing-song, fable kind of way, mixed with rhymes, riddles, and rendezvous with fate that captivates the imagination of any of its readers. But did you know that, according the video interviews by Peter Jackson, Tolkien had plans to revise it? After the success of Lord of the Rings, he decided he would write a revision to The Hobbit to better tie the two stories together thematically and theatrically (sounds better than plotrically, so, you know), which, to me, sounds like a worthy plan. If you suffered through The Hobbit movie trilogy (I have, and I’m a better man for it), you’ll get an idea what the rewrite could’ve been like, as Peter Jackson, the director of both Middle Earth trilogies, took Tolkien’s notes about the planned revision (that he clearly never finished) and filmed that, according to the documentaries that come with the films, which are worth watching, even if you don’t care for the movies themselves. Whether that revision would’ve been better or not remains to be seen, but after the success of Lord of the Rings, both in book and movie forms, it stands to reason that readers, whether they’d like it or hate it, would’ve been willing to give it a shot.

And that’s a fair assessment, as we give movie adaptations of books a chance all the time. Sometimes, in the case of movies like Silence of the Lambs and Silver Linings Playbook, these adaptations work. Sometimes, like in the case of The Running Man, the movie even improves on the book. Revising an already published work is not a bad thing, nor should it be a problem, especially in today’s world where e-books are biting off a piece of the reading market.

To revise is to sand off the burrs that mar the otherwise perfectly sculpted image, and reshape that statue of Mr. Controversial into one that looks more like Miss Congeniality, and that revision can happen at any time, even decades after the first version originally went live. The goal is to make sure the new version is better than the old one, and to make sure the end result won’t piss anyone off or cause a riot in the streets.

Having said that, tomorrow I would like to move toward a discussion about my book The Computer Nerd, and why I think it’s important to write and release a revised version, retitled Gone from the Happy Place, and why you should be happy that I’m doing so. I’ll begin by discussing the nature of independent publishing and why it’s a tough business. Hope you’ll come back for it.

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Cover Image by Pixabay

Using Scrivener for Game Design

It’s been quite a while now, but once upon a time I wrote a post about a software tool for writers called Scrivener that revolutionizes the way authors create worlds. This post attempted both to inform how it works and to review it as a product, based on the lessons taught in the tutorial. I had planned on writing a follow-up post that covers the remaining sections of the tutorial, but I never tackled that post because I never finished the tutorial. I’ve since bought an online course at Udemy on how to learn to use Scrivener and haven’t looked back. I decided not to write the second half of the post because there are plenty of videos that do a better job showing what I can only write about, and my point was pretty much made in the first part anyway.

But, the moral of the story, in both my post and the many videos on the software that you can find on Udemy, YouTube, or anywhere that Scrivener exists, is that Scrivener is the best tool for writers since the typewriter, and it’s just a good idea to have it.

What none of these courses, posts, or the like will tell you, however, is that Scrivener is not just a decent world-building tool for writers, screenwriters, and bloggers. It can also be used for game designers.

What???

Yes. But to make that make sense, let me first remind you what Scrivener is:

Scrivener is a project-based design tool that keeps all of your documents, web links, video files, PDFs, etc. in one place. What does that mean? It means you can use the program to plan out your games extensively, from the journal itself, to character bios and files, to maps of your games, and so on. You can also tag your assets, keep notes on every file, view select files at once, maintain side-by-side comparisons of documents (perfect for scripting), and so on.

Here is a sample of what my game design journal for Entrepreneur: The Beginning looks like in Scrivener.

From my May 25, 2009 entry:

scrivener game design 1

Notice all of the many tabs in the left binder that have dates attached? Yep, those are journal entries. I can track my development progress, ideas, etc. by clicking on the tab for that day. Because I can tag items with labels and/or keywords, searching for specific terms is quick and easy. If I need to find out what my plans are for the trashcans west of the game’s town, I can search for the keyword “trash” and see what pops up.

Next, here’s an early version of the game map that I produced in another program. I’ve imported it as a PNG file, and here we are. If I need to get a quick reference on where a store is located, I don’t have to open the game file to find it. I can just look at the graphic I posted in Scrivener.

A visual map of Hybrid City to remind me where everything is located:

scrivener game design 2

And that’s not all. Games require a programming language specific to the engines they’re designed on, and Scrivener, while not a compiling source, and not recommended for actual coding, can still be used as a storage container for active codes or scripts, and even used as a before and after example if certain code needs revision.

Here is a sample of what my plotscript file looks like in Scrivener. This comes from HSPEAK, the scripting language for the OHRRPGCE, which is the engine I use to design Entrepreneur: The Beginning.

The script I use for starting the game:

scrivener game design 3

Because Scrivener does not work as a compiling source, you would need to copy your scripts to a text file and compile from there. Or, you could probably export your scripts into a single text file, or into a document that you can convert into a text file. It’s neither hard nor time-consuming. But again, it is perfect for keeping track of scripts and for taking notes on what each script is used for, and even where you might be using it in the game.

An example of the side-by-side view, using the search parameter “random text”:

scrivener game design 6

You can also keep a chart that tracks how you’re using your assets in case you want to make a drastic change to one of your systems.

Keeping track of game assets:

scrivener game design 4

But Scrivener is not just a place to update your design journal or list locations of assets. You can also write the story in the same file you keep graphic images, research, etc.

Here is a sample of a story script in Scrivener. The program comes with various templates to help you draft the perfect story in your preferred format. It also comes with character and setting sheet templates to help you flesh out your people and locales during the design phase.

Note: Those templates are usually located in the novel formats, but you can import and use them wherever you want.

A sample story script from the game’s introduction:

scrivener game design 5

If these screenshots don’t do enough to convince you that this program is awesome and a great tool for game designers, then check out this three-part video I recorded on the topic.

Video 1 (Design Journal): https://youtu.be/N9kcDbOBB_Y

Video 2 (Plotscripting): https://youtu.be/9DhhU0CZJCo

Video 3 (Screenwriting): https://youtu.be/YNnj6G5d8Ho

Full Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2ihfMnuinWPyDkNfgtqSotqWuonxKqWM

This is just the tip of the iceberg regarding all of its possibilities. Scrivener is the ultimate organizational tool, and it can even import mind maps if you have supported software. It’s extremely versatile, and after going through a minor learning curve, anyone can find a use for it in game design planning, or any type of design, and it can even replace the need for a Trello account if you’re clever enough.

It does come with a price tag, but it’s low compared to most writing software, and probably more useful than most of them.

So far, it’s saving me the burden of getting lost in my plotscript rewrites, and it’s reminding me of all of those unimplemented features I’ve forgotten about.

scrivener game design 7

Scrivener can be bought and downloaded at https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php.

You can also try it for free for 30 days. So, if you’re on the fence, you can explore that fence without fear of falling too hard on your crotch.

Please be sure to subscribe to Drinking Café Latte at 1pm to receive alerts when new posts go live. The handy blue subscription button is located at the bottom of this page.

Cover image from Pixabay

Bonus: In Other Programming (Software) (The Marketing Author 001, Part 13)

Missed an article from this series? Look for it here.

“Bonus: In Other Programming (Software)”

Welcome back to The Marketing Author 001. This week I’m giving you a bonus chapter, which will cover some important software decisions you’ll want to make as you begin you’re indie author hobby…er, career. You won’t need them all, but you should probably consider getting them all, or similar programs, if you want to maximize your potential.

Microsoft Word:

You probably have this item already. It’s the world’s premier word processor. You probably wrote all of your English essays on it. I’m using it to type this sentence. It’s Microsoft Word. You should just have it. It’s very powerful. I shouldn’t have to explain it to you. If I do, you probably shouldn’t become a writer. This is your chance to flee! Really, why don’t you have Microsoft Word yet? Is it still 1990 where you live?

Microsoft Excel:

You probably have this program, too. (Most people have the core Microsoft products, Word, Excel, One Note, PowerPoint, etc. on their computers.) Let me just offer a shortcut here: All of Microsoft’s Office products are useful for one reason or another. One Note is good for keeping all of your thoughts in one place. PowerPoint is good if you want to build an online presentation to promote your product or build a course that will get people interested in what you have to say. But what about Excel? Why would a writer need to worry about Excel? Simple. You need Excel to keep track of your sales or downloads so you can see how well your titles perform (and what changes to metadata or cover images might do to improve those sales). Here’s what my sales looked like in November 2015.

Cool, huh? Okay, those are pretty much all free downloads. But the important thing is that I can see how each book does against the other. You want Excel as part of your author toolbox if you want to keep good records and track performance, especially since most of your hosting sites, like Smashwords, will only display stats over a certain length of time.

Scrivener:

Official Website

author marketing 001 - scrivener

You want Microsoft Office for your piecemeal work, but Scrivener is the Mercedes of the writing world, and for writers, it’s the thing most likely to replace Word as the writer’s best friend. It’s got a high learning curve, but through practice or via paid courses, you can discover just how great Scrivener is for any author and why you should have it on your computer, even if you’re a casual hobbyist writer who just wants to journal.

It’s a writing tool. It’s an organizational tool. It’s a digital notebook. It’s an idea farm. It’s a research hub. It’s basically all of Microsoft Office’s programs compiled into a single program, and each “file” is actually a “project file” that stores all relevant information into a story file via folders and special categories. It’s also about 10% of Microsoft Office’s price tag, and it provides a 30-day trial if you’re not sure.

But give it a few minutes and you’ll be sure. It’s gradually replacing Microsoft Office as the go-to for writers.

Note: The Mac version has features the Windows version doesn’t offer.

Editor:

Official Website

author marketing 001 - editor

Disclaimer: I have this program, but I haven’t used it in years. That said, the reason it’s on this list is because I still think it’s useful, especially if your power of language or ability to spot grammatical or repetition problems is weak. I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting problems at the local level, which is why I don’t really use it anymore, but this program has once upon a time helped me spot a page one problem with punctuation that I must’ve overlooked twenty times, which is something I never would’ve done, even in thirty or forty revisions. I had become too accustomed to ignoring that particular problem. That reason alone keeps me loyally recommending it to anyone who needs an extra boost in spotting problems, even if I don’t use it much for myself.

It should be noted that Editor is a reporting tool, not a fixing tool. Its creator is an Ivy League English professor who wrote the program to assist writers in making wise style choices, not to override their writing, like what Word might try to do. It reminds writers that no program can know all connotations in grammar. It can only make an educated guess about your usage and that you, the writer, should still know grammar.

It’s also the only editing program I know that looks for clichés, repetition, and comes with a few dictionaries, like a rhyming dictionary if I recall correctly.

The only thing I don’t like is the interface. It’s pretty raw.

KDP Rocket:

Official Website

Part of the importance of marketing is knowing how to locate effective keywords that can increase exposure or interest in your book. This program, which I just bought recently, will go to a subscription model soon, so I’d get it ASAP if you want it, as it’s still sold for a one-time only fee of $97, but its job is to report the top performing books at Amazon in that particular category or keyword you choose so that you can make an informed decision about the keywords you apply to your book. For example, I learned that my keyword for The Computer Nerd, “marital thriller,” is pretty good, while my keyword for “computer nerd” kinda sucks for a psychological thriller (though it wouldn’t be so bad if I were writing a book about programming). The things we learn when we research.

Results for keyword “marital thriller”:

Results for keyword “computer nerd”:

You can alternatively find separate programs like KDSpy and Kindle Samurai to do similar functions for less money, but the nice thing about KDP Rocket is that it does everything these other programs do, but in one place, and it does it better in my opinion.

Adobe Digital Editions:

Official Website

author marketing 001 - adobe editions

This is not essential but still highly recommended, as this program will allow you to read .epubs right on your desktop. If you’re writing an e-book and you want to see how your story will translate, this program will help you see that translation. It’s kind of like tasting the batter before you commit to finalizing the cake. You want to know that you’re about to produce and distribute a quality product and Adobe Digital Editions can help you see what your readers will see.

Amazon Kindle (Desktop App):

Official Website

author marketing 001 - kindle

Ditto as above, but for .mobi files used on the Kindle platform.

WordPress:

If you want to blog, this is probably the best platform for it. You’re reading this post via WordPress. That’s how good it is. I don’t really want to talk about something you can clearly see for yourself. But having a blog is a great way to talk to people so that you don’t have to waste your life on Facebook. Plus, you’re more likely to reach your subscribers through WordPress than you are on your friends list, as Facebook requires you to pay lots and lots of money to promote your posts. That’s how they stay afloat.

And so on.

So that covers this week’s bonus chapter. If you have a program you like using, talk about it in the comments below.

Thanks for joining me on this beginner’s journey into independent authoring and marketing. Be sure to tell me how your marketing adventures pan out as it happens. I’m sure I’ll blog about mine soon enough.

I hope to launch a new series soon about books on writing, so stay tuned for that.

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A Fine Captain Doesn’t Sit on the Beach with Cocktails in Hand (The Marketing Author 001, Part 12)

Missed an article from this series? Look for it here.

“A Fine Captain Doesn’t Sit on the Beach with Cocktails in Hand”

By now, you should be an expert at getting your book discovered by the masses, and by “expert,” I mean “have some inkling on what to do now.” And if you don’t, that’s cool. This series hasn’t been about turning you into an actual expert, but about putting you on the path that will help you figure out how to become an expert.

I know; after twelve installments of this series, you probably expected me to show you how to become an expert. If that’s the case, have you not been reading my words? I’m still learning this stuff, too. I just know where to look now, whereas I had no idea when I first started. My goal has been to help you prepare for the journey, much like a parent might prepare his kid for college. It’s still up to the kid to learn something at college. Mom and Dad just need to hand you a check and say, “You can do it, Bubba.”

And that’s what I want say to you. You can do it, Bubba. But, I’m not going to hand you a check. If you’ve been keeping up with my blogs, you’ll know that I made less than $10 in book sales since May 2015. You’ll also know that I still don’t have the money to launch the necessary materials I need to get my marketing started, hence my reasons for now actually taking a chance on the lessons I’ve learned. Remember, I spent about $1000 just learning this stuff. Doesn’t leave me with much to practice with. Hopefully, you’ll spend less so that you’ll have more for marketing. Then you can show me a thing or two about what you’ve learned out there in that wild west of e-book indie publishing.

At the end of the day, however, simply having the right attitude isn’t enough, and that’s where you can push ahead of me in this journey. Learning is one thing, but doing the work is another, and we all have to do the work if we want to find the success. That means writing the books. But it also means finding the appropriate cover artists (and learning what types of covers work with what types of genres); it also means finding a sufficient editor or the right beta readers; it also means picking the right platforms (Amazon, Smashwords, Ingram, etc.), deciding whether or not to do a paperback, etc. It means not just imagining the mountain moving. It means telling it to move, or pushing it. Just do more than sit there admiring the Corona in your hand as you ponder how nice it would be if you could sell $3000 in books this month.

Sooner or later, if what we’ve written is any good, we can find some amount of success. How much, I suppose, depends on how much we commit to the process of marketing it.

And that ends the core message of The Marketing Author 001. I do, however, have a bonus part planned for next week, which will cover some software you might want to invest in to make the most of your author journey. Come back for the final installment then.

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You’re Smart, but They’re More Experienced (The Marketing Author 001, Part 11)

Missed an article from this series? Look for it here.

“You’re Smart, but They’re More Experienced”

Okay, so I had put this series on hold because nobody was reading it, and with so much else on my mind at the time of the last post, I didn’t want to commit myself to something nobody was showing interest in. But, almost four months have passed, and I really hate leaving things unfinished. So, here we go with the beginning of the end of The Marketing Author 001! Hopefully you’re reading it.

This week we’ll talk about the experts you might find who can help you become a better independent author.

Let me begin by saying that nobody should be so independent that he or she does everything alone. This is true about editing, true about marketing, and even true about writing. Just as we need feedback on the things we write, we need guidance on developing the best plans for our writing future. This is where the experts come into play.

Now, when I say “experts,” I mean people who have done something right more than once and have built a successful author career as a result. Not only that, but I also refer to those who have special skills, like cover design, or marketing tricks they’ve tested again and again, like using Amazon Marketing Services to their advantage or leveraging freebies to grow their mailing lists.

You’ll know them by their similar procedures and information, their commercial makeup, if you will, much like a vanity press that pimps out its many, many subsidiaries. They all form their own little networks, and when you find one, there’s a good chance you’ll find them all. That’s how I learned marketing (and how I’m still learning ways to put it into practice). That’s also how I learned about the pros and cons of going down the rabbit hole of marketing research. I’ve spent about $1000 in the last year trying to learn this stuff, and if you know me, you’ll know that I don’t have much extra money to spend on average, pretty much ever.

But it’s $1000 well-spent, as my knowledge of marketing is stronger now than it was when I started my e-book indie publishing journey. And now I know where to look for answers to those questions I didn’t think I had to ask. I’m even beginning to understand who the good ones are and who might be just a tad unrealistic in their enthusiasm (or perhaps a tad lucky in their success).

It isn’t just about whom you know, but what you know about what they’re selling. And they’re all selling something, often at $497 or higher. And much of what they sell overlaps with the information that others like them are also selling, and they all sell it the same way, by giving you a free PDF or introductory video to their courses, by giving you a live training event running about 90 minutes, complete with questions and answers at the end, by giving you about five days to make a decision about the upsell, the premium course on how to build an email list, or write copy that sells, or design the perfect book cover, etc.

It can get very expensive if you’re not careful. But the tradeoff is good information. Most of these people come from marketing backgrounds, or something that’s related to the information they’re selling today. Some of them just “fell into it,” but they figured out how to make it work well, and now they’re in the business of sharing that info.

It’s an important road to explore, as their knowledge is well-founded. But, be careful with the numbers they project. Most, if not all, will never promise you success. They will generally make the claim that their systems (a shared system, it seems, as most of them say the same general things about book marketing) worked for them, even though it may not work as well for you (though, it probably will, as it works for most everyone who applied the EXACT systems they use). But, it’s also important to know that the numbers they project are often paired with numbers they get from other sources related to their business, like selling courses, for example. For those of us who just care about books, which is often the case for us fiction writers, we should expect a much lower number in our dollar returns than the many “experts” who, you’ll find, are predominantly successful, or have generated the seeds of success, through their nonfiction titles that begin with an odd number and end with the solution to a problem, like 51 Ways to Turn Celery into a Useful Vegetable, for example, or through their supplemental businesses related to the product, like a premium course on how to make the most of your celery sticks through 12 videos you can access for life, as long as you pay $197 in the next five days.

If you enter the search for experts with this in mind, then you should be well-armed and ready for information-gathering without busting your bank account too badly.

Remember that the information you find is going to be similar to the information you’ll find here or there. The difference is in the delivery, and in some cases, the focus. It’s a good idea to go for the general marketing courses first, and if you can afford them, take the more specialized courses later. Anything that costs you more than $997 is probably too much, as you could probably get similar information at Udemy for $10 and not miss a thing. The course you choose should depend on the instructor offering the course, taking into consideration his or her reputation, path to success, and ability to retain success. A simple way to check on that last one is to use a program like KDSpy or KDP Rocket and look at the financial reports they’re generating. It probably won’t show you paperback sales (I’d have to search the Internet for a program that can report paperback sales), but you’ll at least get an idea how well they’re performing in the e-book department at Amazon, the company with nearly 70% of the market share, and a decent indicator of how the average author is doing across all platforms.

It also helps to know that the course instructors (or “experts”) run sales on their courses and add bonuses during new launches every few months, so if you go through the funnel, but find that at the point of signing up for the premium course you don’t have the money, don’t fret it. As Alinka Rutkowska, the instructor of Author Remake (the course I decided to buy last March), told me, there will always be another course around the corner. Just do what you have to, to give you and your book the best chance it can get at success. That’s something I agree with, and that’s why I keep doing what I can to learn from the experts. If you want to prevent any flailing in the water during your author career, I’d suggest seeking out these experts, too.

Here are a few sites I recommend checking out and subscribing to if you want to get more knowledgeable about succeeding as an indie author. This is just a small handful in a vast trove of informants, and most of them will lead you to other gurus who are sufficient guides in this crazy infant wild west of e-book and indie authorship. Take a look. Give them a chance. And explore!

Goins Writer

The Story Grid

CreativIndie

Book Marketing Tools

The Book Designer

Next week, I’m just going to motivate you. I like writing, and I think everyone should do it. Publishing your work for all the world to see is simply a bonus. And, yes, I do mean next week, not four months from now.

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Calendar of Upcoming Posts: August – September 2017

As I said last week in Friday Update #10, the four-month silence of Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm is coming to an end, and a new slate of posts, series, and big ideas is on the way. Although this may not represent the entire span of things I have planned in the coming month, here is a working schedule of content postings you can expect soon.

August 23, 2017: The Marketing Author 001, Part 11
The emotional recovery hiatus I spent away from writing happened during the weekly stint of The Marketing Author 001 postings, and for months it looked like I would never finish the series. Well, I did, last night. The next installment about finding experts to guide you along your authorship path debuts tomorrow night at 7pm EST.

August 24, 2017: Photobucket Apocalypse
A heart wrenching story about what happened to my online promotional screenshots of a project I’ve been working on for years, wrapped in a lesson about trusting third parties to handle our content and essentially giving them the basket in which we put all of our eggs into. It’s a lesson we can all learn from.

August 30, 2017: The Marketing Author 001, Part 12
The Marketing Author 001 series reaches its conclusion, giving aspiring authorpreneurs encouragement to take a chance on the independent authoring business and have some confidence about the outcome, even if success takes a while.

August 31, 2017: New Entry into the My First Mullet Saga
Although the plot is a secret, at the end of August the next terrifying installment in the ongoing My First Mullet series will make its debut exclusively on Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm. But to give you a teaser, this time both man and mullet are forced to confront a force that could ultimately destroy them both. Has their war pushed them into the face of a new common enemy?

September 4, 2017: The Art of Censorship
Based on a concern I’ve had as a writer for years, this likely controversial essay will attempt to call out a writer’s responsibility to show authenticity in his or her writing, regardless of how it might be negatively or positively received by people with opinions. This may or may not be split into two parts, depending on length. If it becomes two essays, the second will be released the following evening. For now I plan to keep it as one complete piece. As writers, we need to consider the truths we write about. This essay will attempt to show why that matters.

September 6, 2017: The Marketing Author 001, Part 13
The true final installment in The Marketing Author 001 series, this bonus chapter will offer a list of recommended software to use during your foray into independent authorship. This list includes Microsoft Word and Scrivener, but promises to go beyond just the word processors to help you build a toolbox for future success.

September 7, 2017: Using Scrivener for Game Design
Two years ago, I wrote a first impressions article about Scrivener, but I never wrote the second half of that piece. This isn’t that second half, but it is a new idea for how an untapped market can use Scrivener to its advantage. Even though it won’t outright say so, the theme of this essay is to be creative in how you use software to your advantage, regardless of your industry. Even if you don’t design games, you should still read this for ideas.

September 13 – 15, 2017: Write at Your Own Risk…Er, Pace
A three-part essay exploring the importance of developing quality writing versus the commonly advised approach to rush independently produced books out the door within a month or two of conceiving the idea. This will also double as my postmortem of what happened and will soon happen to my novel, The Computer Nerd. Don’t miss it.

And this is just what’s on the planner. I also aim to produce a number of book reviews for my summer reading list (and many of the books I’ve read in the last few years that I’ve never reviewed), and will hopefully post those one after another throughout the coming month.

In late September, I hope, hope, hope to be ready to launch a series I’ve been wanting to do for the last year-and-a-half, which I’ve been putting off because I didn’t quite know how I wanted to tackle it. But I think I’m just about ready to give it a whirl. I’ll talk more about that soon enough.

So, please come back each evening to see these latest posts. With the exception of “The Art of Censorship,” all of the above posts are written and scheduled for release, and will only be tweaked between now and their live dates. So, they are coming. Look for each one to go live between 7:00 and 8:30 pm EST on their respective release dates. Feedback is welcome. Looking forward to seeing you then.

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Cover image by Pixabay

Plan to Succeed, Be Ready to Fail, Then Go Ahead and Succeed (The Marketing Author 001, Part 10)

Missed an article from this series? Look for it here.

“Plan to Succeed, Be Ready to Fail, Then Go Ahead and Succeed”

Life is a nut.

There’s no joke or punchline here. Life is a nut. You can have the most perfect plan in the world, perfectly orchestrated, perfectly prepared, perfectly funded, and life will still find a way to intervene on its own behalf to do whatever it can to push your plan into a wall at 900 miles an hour because life has to dip its hands into everything perfect and mess it up because life is also a jerk. It’s a lot like a Batman villain. Just when you think you have some sense of control (Batman), you lose it because life has other crazy disturbing plans, which may include laughing in your face or watching the world burn (Joker).

Is this something you recognize? Have you had something planned, something that would change your life for the better even, just to watch it come crashing down because you can control only some of the factors involved? If the answer is no, then congratulations, you have no ambition or vision. And, if you have neither, then you have no need to read further. You are in a safe space, and nobody likes you.

Life didn’t become a nut by obeying your will or granting your wishes. It became a nut the moment man thought he could improve upon perfection then eternally messed up the order of what perfection is. Life became a nut because when life has order (perfection), it doesn’t need to fill any holes with incompatible plans. And life would never have such a thing! Not these days!

When we set out to write a book, we have big plans in mind. Writing the book is part of the plan, sure, but so is getting it out to the public. We imagine sales upon sales rolling in, growing for us a massive passive income that can sustain our appetites for weeks, months, or even days! We think every word will translate to “wow,” and every period will be akin to the stroke of a gong, filled with such bravado, such resonance that the whole world must hear it.

But no, our periods will get squashed by life’s big nut sack with the rest of our dreams. It’s the order of things today.

Launching a book presents the same problems. We can set up a preorder and still come out with zero sales. We can host a giveaway, and still lose all of our newly interested participants the moment the prize is drawn and all but one person loses. We can build our email lists over time and never crack 10 subscribers. We can spend hundreds of dollars on promotions, hundreds more on covers, copywriting, and editing, and still fail to sell more than a handful of copies at launch.

Life is a nut.

But we can stand up to it.

We have to be ready to fail at anything we do, especially in marketing and writing, but only because it strengthens our resolve to continue; because, at some point in this journey, we’ll figure out how to outsmart life. At some point, we’ll develop the knowledge, skill, endurance, drive, or random luck to find success.

And success is a lot like blood. When we taste it, we become ravenous for it. Then we start making life listen. Then we find our rhythm and learn how to dodge the wall that life is driving us toward at 900 miles per hour.

Yes, we have to be ready to fail at anything, but we should still plan to succeed. No plan is perfect, but even imperfect plans can reach a happy resolution, as long as the people enacting them don’t give up on them, instead making changes as needed. The reason the most successful people become successful is because they know life will try to screw them over, and they know that they will fail before they succeed, and they will develop a thick enough skin to drive them forward even when failure tries to drive them back. They won’t back down in fear. They won’t give up on their prayers. They will keep fighting for what they believe in, even if the opposition keeps knocking them down. Eventually, the opposition will tire of their persistence and back down. Eventually, life will throw down a peace offering and say, “Okay, you win.”

Remember, Batman defeats the Joker in the end. Usually.

Yes, life sucks, but don’t give up on it. If you want people to read your book, learn those marketing tips that so many successful people before you have learned and then take a chance on releasing it. You won’t reach everyone, but you can use your experience to reach someone. It’s a lot like meeting the person of your dreams. The first step when you meet them is to say hello. Life rarely botches that part up. Usually.

But even if it does, you can try again next time. Make sure there will be a next time.

Next week will be about instructors. Maybe you’ll read that one, too?

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Patience Is a Virtue, but so Is Intelligence (The Marketing Author 001, Part 9)

Missed an article from this series? Look for it here.

“Patience Is a Virtue, but so Is Intelligence”

At some point, we’re going to send our work to a place where the public eye may see it. It’s inevitable, if we don’t lock our darlings in a file somewhere among the dark recesses of our hard drives first. If we care anything about learning from our own lessons, we’ll share what we’ve learned with complete strangers who have identifiable experiences and compare notes. By that, I mean, we’ll write what’s on our minds, and somebody we don’t know will likely criticize our thoughts in the form of a review on Amazon. It’s all fair in the game of knowledge trade.

But the inevitable has a maturation point, and we shouldn’t rush anything that isn’t ready for show. Just like that green banana that we await for ripeness, we can eat it now, if we really want to, but it won’t quite be full of its expected nutrients, and it certainly won’t taste very good. Likewise, we don’t want to delay something so long that we rob it of its best opportunity to put a strong foot forward. If we wait until the banana is brown and mushy, we, nor anybody, will no longer want to consume it.

When we think of marketing, we think of releasing products at the exact right time when they can gain the best traction in the marketplace, and sometimes that means anticipating what the market will want ahead of time. Major corporations plan for this cycle of desire annually, and create products according to a schedule that will satisfy this expected demand best. For example, if you turn on your TV tonight, you’ll probably see an ad or two for Samsung’s next great invention, the Galaxy S8, and you’ll likely salivate at its exclusive new features, like the expanded window that makes it look like an infinity pool. I know I think it’s cool, and I know I kind of want one. It’s good marketing, for sure. But more importantly, its upcoming release is timely: the Galaxy S7 was released about this time last year, and in the world of cellphones, you better have the next update ready within a year. If Samsung releases the S8 too soon after the S7, its customers will feel cheated. If it waits too long, its customers will buy whatever Apple is releasing this summer. Samsung knows its window for release is narrow, and if it wants to keep its customers happy, it better hit that window, and it better do so with as few snags or misfires as possible.

We can see the same needs and issues in writing. Biopics, for example, are timely if we’re hitting an anniversary of a major event. A year and five days ago, Prince died. Earlier this week, tributes to Prince appeared all over the place. If these tributes had surfaced two months ago, or two months from now, they’d still hold value, but they wouldn’t be as timely, and ultimately not as popular. Magazine sales might not spike as well as the publications might like. Radio stations might not hold a listener’s attention for as long as they could if they were to air a marathon of the artist’s hits on the day of the anniversary. A televised tribute might not have as many viewers if held on any other day. These tributes are all subject to timeliness, and releasing them any other time would yield a lesser result, and, inevitably, a lesser profit.

As a marketing author, we should consider what our product contains, and what type of release schedule would maximize its exposure. Is it better to release a book on a Tuesday or a Saturday? Should a young adult fantasy book come out the same weekend as a major Hollywood movie of a similar theme, or should it be deliberately delayed to capture anyone still champing at the bit for more of the same? Or should it be released ahead of time in anticipation of the movie sucking so badly that it destroys the genre? These are important considerations to make before releasing a title.

But, these considerations are also important for deciding how long it takes us to formulate our ideas and create our products, and even for deciding when to start working on them. If we know we want to release a blockbuster action thriller during the summer beach-reading season (incidentally the same season that Hollywood releases most of its blockbuster action thrillers), then we should probably start writing that book by NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month) if we want to ensure that we’ll have a finished product with sound editing and cover art and a decent amount of marketing behind it by May. Or, if we can crank it out faster, then we can start later, but we still need to anticipate those snags that might delay our productivity, so earlier is better. We can always delay release of a finished product until the hour of maturation (when it will perform best), but it’s hard to successfully launch a product that isn’t ready for our discerning and unforgiving readers. Remember, nobody wants to eat a green banana.

When we write something we’re proud of, we want to share it with the world immediately. But pushing it out the door before it has its pants on might not be the best plan. To successfully market anything, we need a schedule, and that means marketing smart. Before we launch anything, we need to remember the old cliché, “Fools rush in.” If we wouldn’t marry somebody we don’t yet know well, then why would we throw our baby into a pool of sharks without first giving it a flashlight and a shotgun, or a party of cool people without some kind of beacon that says, “Hey, I’m cool, too!”? We’d want to give it the best chance against the opposition as we can. Sending our books out unprepared is as bad of an idea as sending them out in a season when nobody is interested in that topic. We don’t need just a schedule; we need smarts to plan effectively.

So, my advice today is to get smart. If you’re not smart, figure out how to become smart. Then use that newfound smartness to plan a properly structured and timed release. And make sure that banana is ripe and ready for consumption before you ask people to eat it.

Next week we’ll go over more planning, so plan to be here! (See what I did there?)

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