Saturday, July 11, 2015

How to Sell a Million--Cheat a Bit

Can I write a best seller? Can you?

No matter how great your story, if you don't package it in a satisfying way few will read it. That is where structure comes in. It is how the writer seduces the reader.

The three act novel is a time tested form. It has survived for so long because it is satisfying. I want my readers to be satisfied. I want them to come back and want my next book too. (Go to the Writer's Digest site and pull up an article about it). 

In fact, I want my new novel to be as easy to read and satisfying as possible. If you are seeking a career as a novelist, you should want the same thing.

I cheated. I took a novel in my genre that was highly successful and used it as my text book. You can and should do the same.

I even cut in into sections. Yes, you guessed it: I cut it into three act sections.  Then I took a highlighter pen and went to work.  How did the writer hook me, hold my interest, make me feel and care about the characters? 

I had to find out.  I highlighted the hooks, the words that hit the human chord of feeling. I worked that book until I knew the formula. 

It is a game. KEEP THE READER HOOKED.  Let me use a fishing analogy. I used to deep sea fish often. And just like the relationship between fisherman or woman and the fish, the writer 'plays' the reader.  Let me show you.

When the fish first takes the bait the fisherman sets the hook. Just like your fist page where something happens that grabs the reader and makes him/her want to read more to find out how it is resolved.

The primary rule when fishing? Don't give the fish any slack line. You have to keep the line taunt or the fish will spit out the hook.  Just like a fish, if your story goes slack, or stalls, the reader will escape.

How do you do that? By throwing in obstacles for your hero/heroine, protagonist. That is how the reader stays hooked.

Once you have recognized the tricks in your favorite writer's book and have them highlighted, you can form your story using the same techniques.  Keep the cut up novel beside you. Refer to it often while plotting and outlining.

I would add an important note: Readers want escapism. With that in mind, create a protagonist who helps the reader escape the mundane.

Writing is a craft, like building a house. You learn by study, practice, and by imitating the masters. Once you have sold a couple of titles, then you can write your The Sound and the Fury, where you experiment with structure and form. But right now, seduce the reader, give them the subtle smile of a book description, the cleaver line that makes them laugh and want more is your first page hook. You know the rest. Learn the craft, learn to seduce.

I am struggling with it. My coming book, Touching Spirits, will hopefully reveal whether I've been a good student. Can I do it?

The dream of being a successful novel has been my jealous mistress my entire life, calling to me, begging me to come to her.  The time is now.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Writing Around Life

I am driven. I lack a university degree. I don't have a famous writer mother or father to help me break into writing. But I have a burning desire to sell a million copies of my books.

What else do I have?

Experience. I traveled, hitch hiked around Europe, Africa, the Middle East, for ten years. That changes a person. I lived in an abandoned house beside the Caribbean. My memory is rich with experience.

But can I break into the ranks of the best sellers on Kindle? While working for $10 an hour at Home Depot? While living with a senile cat, driving a 1975 truck. I am sacrificing for my dream.

How am I going to achieve it? With ... hard work, study and determination.  I go to Barnes and Nobles twice a week and look around at all the books, and say to myself: "Every one of these books was someone's dream. I can do it."

Today I want to write about Claiming the dream. That means writing around life.

I have what I believe to be my break out novel (Touching Spirits). I published it a couple of weeks ago on Kindle, but one of my readers noticed some mistakes, so I pulled it in order to make it absolutely the best it could be. If I am going to sell a million copies I have to produce writing a high level.

I just got the manuscript back from three trusted readers. I'm on fire to sit down with my nineteen-year-old cat beside me, and reenter this world I created in my head, the world of a Caribbean I lived in so long ago. Scenes are rushing around in my head. I know the changes I need to make, the issues I need to resolve, but life is getting in the way.

It happens to every writer, right?  You want to sit and write, but you have to go to the insurance agency, or the kitchen drain is leaking.  In my case the toilet was leaking. The trick is to keep writing. Don't let the project take the entire day. Fight back.

Even though you have to do whatever, SIT DOWN AND WRITE, if only for an hour, or half an hour. You have to establish who is in charge. Don't give up a full day. It is of utmost importance.  By not giving up you take yourself seriously. You are saying: my writing is more important than this project.

I live in a house built in 1928. That means a lot of maintenance. Today it was the toilet. The pipes were put in almost 100 years ago. So, what did I do? I attacked the cast iron toilet drain, cut off the damaged piece, and installed a new one, after writing for an hour.
Despite the pressing obligations of life, I still carved out time to write. That is the most pressing thing in my life. I will reach my goal of selling a million copies, and by pushing back against the universe I am sending that message.

To all the writers struggling with jobs and projects and loved ones, remember what Shakespeare said: 'above all else, to thine own self be true.' Apply the butt glue and put your back side in a chair and stay there and write. And remember, it took Margaret Mitchell ten years to write Gone With The Wind. Did she first become 'a writer' upon publication? 

If you don't claim your time, fight for it, you won't write. There is no perfect time to write. There is only now. Do it.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Writing Goal: Sell 1,000,000 copies!

Today I am between projects. I recently finished a new action novel, Touching Spirits, and it is being read by one of my beta readers. One of my automotive books is being shipped for proofing from CreateSpace, so, I find myself without a writing project.

I could continue editing Falling Up, another action novel, but I've decided to take a day off. I won't study the craft of novel writing or even look at my books.  They will have to take care of themselves. One day a week is my play day.  Today is my day to let my mind run free and frolic.

Tomorrow I will again pick up the manuscripts for editing, the helpful blog posts, the books of my craft and all the other aspects of my life as an Indie author.  But today I PLAY.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Saving $ with

Today I want to speak about
I had this cover changed ...

It is a great resource for writers on a budget.

If you are not familiar with this site, it is where you go when you need work done, whether that be formatting a manuscript for Kindle or CreateSpace, need an ebook cover made, or you want to hire someone to record a video for you, or even to sing a jingle. You can get it all done there ... for $5. Theoretically.

I was in heaven when I found fiverr. I'm a writer surviving by working at Home Depot, and that means buying new shoes is difficult. Fiverr allowed me to make changes to several of my books already on Kindle, bringing them up to a professional level.

... to this for $5 on fiverr
But I quickly learned the good and the bad about fiverr.  The bad is that the service is so inexpensive workers often refuse to make draft changes unless you tip them. There are good designers and formatters here, but it takes time and patience to find them. You have to suffer through many who do business like an emotional 15 year-old.

Here are my tips for working with designers on Fiverr:

1.  Hire only someone who is in your country.  Send them a note and carefully read their response. You want a native speaker of the language you are working in. Details are monumentally important and you don't want any lost due to poor language skills.

2.  Also for cultural reasons, hire a native of your country. There are huge cultural differences in how other countries do business. "Go with what you know."

3.  At the beginning ask your prospective worker if they communicate with clients during the work. You don't want to be left waiting for days without a word, only to find your worker has forgotten about you.  It happens.

4.  Workers here depend on written ratings.  So, if there is a dispute, if you get a 15 year-old who refuses to make changes and offers to cancel the 'gig,' (fiverr lingo for a job), don't do it. Once you mutually agree to cancel you can not rate their service. Cancelling works to their advantage.

5.  I have found fiverr customer service to be prompt and fair.

6.  Although a gig costs $5 on fiverr, several jobs cost more.  Take formatting, for example. I either spend a couple of days doing it myself, with a 300 page novel, or I pay $90 to have it professionally done at Polgarus Studios.

At fiverr I have found sargo2000 to be a reliable and professional worker. He formatted a fifty page automotive book for me, complete with twenty-two images, created a hyperlink table of contents, for five gigs or $25.  I was so happy with the product I tipped him $5.

7.  The less expensive gigs tend to take lower priority. I believe the reason for that is that the designer has to do so many that a few slip through the cracks.  Also, I believe that many of the 'designers' are students with limited skill, working on a lap top.

I have had good ones that I have worked with repeatedly suddenly flake out and stop communicating. So read ratings from other clients and send them a note prior to hiring them for your gig.  You want to hire one who has ratings and comments posted from clients mentioning the specific work you are interested in.

Let me know your experiences.  Kevin

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My white Irish ass.

I'm going to post a photo of myself face down in a hot spring. All those who come and read and vanish without leaving a note or +1 or even a 'boo,' can kiss my white Irish backside.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Another Step Toward my Goal

I want to sell a million copies. How am I going to do that? 

*By writing excellent books. How do I do that?
  1. By becoming an A student of my craft.
    A. I am studying elements of fiction daily, reading, practicing.
    B. I keep Writer's Digest issues handy for quick reference while writing.
        1.  The issues are marked so I can quickly find articles on structure, plot, characterization, pacing, conflict, suspense, etc.  When I am in doubt I grab one and read to find direction.
    C.  I am taking courses: Novel writing, digital marketing, grammar (Lord help me get through fifteen pages of ... pronouns, yes, Fifteen pages of rules and explanations!)
    D.  I reevaluated my Kindle books and pulled the ones I thought not up to a professional level.  These I am rewriting.
    E.  I guess the biggest change I've made is getting beta readers.  They help a lot. I send each the manuscript before publication and they go through it and make suggestions and find mistakes.  They are invaluable. It is one more step to producing a quality product.
    F.  I stopped formatting myself. Remember how my formatting allowed (I weep) 10,000 copies of a novel to go out with vertical print?  No more. I now use Polgarus Studio to do my formatting. They are located in Tasmania, Australia, and do excellent work. Check their site. They boast having several best selling clients. It is worth it.
    E.  I am developing a following on Goodreads. They are massive. If you want a career in writing/selling books, cultivate a following on Goodreads. Open an author page. Chat on the forums. Organize a giveaway for any new book.  It is another step toward the promised land.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have gotten serious about the writing.
Changes I made to my Kindle books:
  1. I used fiverr to redesign covers that I thought non professional. (Those I made myself).
  2. I again used fiverr to change my author name on certain covers so I have one name. I previously used Kevin Robert Hill on some books, and Kevin R. Hill on others.
  3.  I studied other author's book descriptions.  I think this crucial to sales. This is the first thing a prospective reader sees by you.  Plot it. Rewrite it. Make it kick ass. If you can't hook a reader here, you have no chance of selling your book.
     A.  In James Scott Bell's book, Self-Publishing Attack, he has a good section on your book description.  It is all important.

Are these changes going to make a difference? Will they increase my sales?  We shall see and I'll keep you updated.

My next post will detail my promotion for my coming book, Touching Spirits.  I'll tell you what I am doing, which sites will be carrying a giveaway, and soon afterward I'll post the results.

I wanted to mention something funny. I work on an old truck I have to relax me. It is a 1975 Ford F250. The reason I mention it is because I was between writing projects and decided to spend a couple of weeks writing a carburetor how-to book, with photos and whole bit. I popped it out in two weeks! 

That little book has become the train that could. It is on Kindle and just keeps trucking along, a sale here and there, even when my novels seem belly up in the water.  It cracks me up. This past week I had 34 people buy it!  Now that is not gang buster sales, but for a niche market it is really good. Because of that book and the short writing time required, I'm going to be writing a few more automotive books.  I've also put the carburetor book, The Quadrajet MPG Secret, on CreateSpace, and print editions should soon be available.

I'm going with the flow.  Hopefully the auto books will drive traffic to my fiction.

I want to close by mentioning a great article in Writer's Digest that has helped me: Goodreads, step by step: The Best Way To Grow Your Career, in the February 2015 edition,  by Michael J. Sullivan.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Do you want to sell your books?

Are you a writer? I have a goal of selling a million copies of my novels. Let me tell you how I plan to achieve it.
I want to live from my royalties in a tropical village. It is my life goal that I am daily working to obtain.
It was a book by James Scott Bell, The Self-Publishing Attack, that made me get serious and professional with my writing. (I forgive him for writing zombie novels).
Yes, I had some titles on Kindle, had sold travel articles in several countries, even some automotive how-to articles to a national magazine, yet my career was going nowhere. Sales were nearly non-existent. Should I let go of my dream, I wondered.
But then I read Mr. Bell’s book. It was a wakeup call.
Writing is a business. Why was I playing at it? I was dabbling without commitment. Why didn’t I set goals, time goals, and approach the writing as a job?  The Self-Publishing Attack was great to read because it aroused desire.
I want to sell a million copies! And by taking calculated steps to reach that goal, by daily working at my craft, reading books about novel writing, by creating new books on schedule, books that captivate and amuse, that grab the reader and shake them, I could achieve my goal.
I’ve known it since I wrote that first short story at eight-years-old, lived inside the story and couldn’t write it fast enough, stayed after class, hanging off the side of my desk, a writing storm flowing from my pencil.
If I was going to SELL my books it was going to take work. It was going to take a daily routine of writing, studying, reading, and promoting.
I had made some embarrassing blunders along my writing path. The worst was giving away 10,000 copies of my novel, Falling Up that had vertical text. It was beyond horrible. Would readers ever trust me again?  When I discovered the problem I pulled the book out of publication, changed the cover and title, waited six months and republished.
Ultimately the book fell flat. Four years’ work was gone. Depression followed.
To start writing again was very difficult. How could I sit day after day for years without knowing that something would come of it. All I wanted was to make people laugh and sad that the book was coming to an end. Was that too much to ask?
The only way that I could write again was to record the happiest time of my life. So I went in the writing to when I had sold everything and moved to an abandoned house on the Caribbean. I set my novel there, in that turtle shell of a house, without windows, a frog living in the toilet tank, sleeping on a hammock, the sound of the surf filling my dreams. I set my new novel, Touching Spirits, there.
Beginning to write again came during a major life change. When the economy crashed I was a contractor making good money and flying to Mexico and Europe a couple of times a year. After the crash I had to take a job as a sales person at Home Depot for $10 an hour, working twenty hours a week. I couldn’t afford shoes.
But still I sat down daily and wrote my heart out. Something kept telling me to write love.
After Mr. Bell’s book I made several changes.  I now keep a copy of Writer’s Digest magazine near me when I write. Their articles are amazing for a working writer. If I need help with structure, or point of view, or characterization, they have an article about it. And they are short and to the point. It has made a great difference in my writing.
Another step I took was to buy a Kindle. When I publish a new book to Kindle I immediately buy it and check it on my kindle.  It is a tool that insures no more faulty formatting will leave my computer.
I also found Fiverr dot com. For $5 I had non profession ecovers remade.  I also had them change my author name to Kevin R. Hill on all my books. I had used Kevin Robert Hill on some and that confused even Amazon.  I didn’t want readers to think I was two people. These changes were about making my product as professional looking as possible, and making it easy for readers to find me.
Some of the Fiverr workers are flakey. They don’t respond to your notes, or go over schedule on your project.  My advice is this: find a designer in your country, who is a native speaker of your language. That is very important. You don’t want details lost in translation. After much trial and error I have found two people I work with on Fiverr. 
Those changes have invigorated my writing. I again believe I can make my dream a reality, can live in my tropical village, hear the surf in my dreams.
You can do it too.
I am now standing with a new action novel ready for release. Do you want me to tell you how I plan to promote it? Should I write about the sites I will be using to get the word out about my book?
Should I tell you what the result was?