Sunday, 21 April 2013

Dark Days WIP snippet

I've been working on a horror novel and I thought i'd give you a little snippet. I wrote this passage a couple of days ago and quite liked it. Of course it may never make it to the final novel but there's a good chance it'll survive in some form or other.

One of his teeth felt loose from where the guy had slugged him. Millward had started it, glaring at the man until he got up and came over, then hitting him once, twice, three times in the face before the guy could say a word. The man’s brawny neck had soaked up the punches like a boxer’s training pad, then he had hit Millward with what felt like a sledgehammer. Bar staff had broken it up then and Millward had stumbled outside and fled in case the man wanted a second round.

Why do I keep doing this to myself?

It felt strange to say it, but he had enjoyed being hit. The guy had probably outsized Millward by thirty kilograms and at least three inches in height. He hadn’t wanted to hit the guy, only to incite the guy to hit him, because pain was the only way to make himself remember that he was still alive, that blood still pushed its reluctant way through his veins.

He pulled the phone from his pocket and glanced at the clock. It was 1.47 a.m. He couldn’t remember what time he had got back to the police station with Welch, but it had been no later than nine.

Sometimes the time just disappeared. 

There were three missed calls from Welch on his phone, and a voicemail, but he ignored it, shutting the phone and putting it back in his pocket. She would just be hassling him again, either about work or wanting to fuck. He didn’t want to know about the first and the last would make him feel too guilty, even though it was tempting at times. Welch was a desperate, hollow soul like himself, but he feared that if he got too close to her they would simply dissolve into each other, disappear.

Yeah, I know either disappeared or disappear will have to change but I like both of those sentences at the moment. We'll see.

I'm up to 77 pages now (29,000 words) and hope to finish it around June or July. Of course, it might never get there but so far it's going well.

For anyone who's wondering, I'm also editing Tube Riders: Exile and its going okay. These are my two big projects at the moment. I have a couple of older novels I want to edit up into shape for possible future publication but I don't want to overload myself too much right now.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Blog News

I've been thinking about this blog for some time, and have now made a few decisions. This blog has kind of served as a multi-purpose blog since I started it a year or so ago, and while I have a handful of regular readers and followers I think that in order for it to become more popular it's necessary to break it up into its component parts.

There are three things I write about - my books, writing craft and business, and my life in Japan. While some people may have an interest in all three, others will only have an interest in one or two, so it seems counterproductive to write on a variety of topics which will interest people only 1/3 of the time.

This blog, A Million Miles from Anywhere, will remain the blog dedicated to my books and books in general. I'll be writing all about my own books, plus posting book reviews or news I find of interest about other authors here. This will also include interviews with other authors.

Everything specifically about my life in Japan will be posted in future on my new blog, Living in Nagano. I just started this blog today and it will be a photo-heavy online diary of my life and what I find of interest in Japan. I'll be attempting to post at least once a week, mostly just pics with short descriptions rather than the 2,000 word plus posts that I often put on here.

All my posts on writing craft and self-publishing will be moving to another new blog, Self-publishing for Beginners. I literally started this blog 45 seconds ago so there's no content there yet, but I have about twenty blog posts specific to the subject now so I'll be cross-posting them all over there in time as well as adding new ones.

People who are interested in what I have to say will therefore be able to pick and choose what they want to read while avoiding the parts that don't interest them. All my blogs will be linked from each other plus the two new blogs will be carrying ads for my books (because they're my books and my blogs haha) as well as links to my cover designers, editors and proofreaders on my self-publishing blog. In addition, assuming I'm allowed to, I'll also be monetizing the two new blogs with Google AdSense. I've avoided this up to now because I hate ads on websites, but if they're not too intrusive I'll let them stay. I don't make a lot of money from writing but I'm not doing this solely for love, either. I've been told by several blogging friends that I'm missing a trick by not monetizing my current blog already.

So there you have it. I'll need a couple of weeks before things are running smoothly but you can look forward to lots and lots of interesting things to read from me in the future. And lots of pictures of my cat, because, as everyone knows, cats rule the world and are allowed to go wherever they damn well like!

Chris Ward
18th April 2013

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Beware the Crutch

Recently I saw a post on a writer’s forum giving a link to an online tool which allowed the self-published writer to quickly add up their sales figures on their Amazon reports. There were lots of positive replies on the usefulness of the aforementioned online tool, because it meant you no longer had to add the numbers up yourself.

Hang on a minute …?

You need an online tool to add up a string of whole numbers? While I’ve come across a lot of evidence to suggest a brain isn’t always a requirement in the world of self-publishing, in general I’ve found that mine is usually sufficient enough for this task, often with the help of the fingers on one hand, or occasionally both on a good month. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who sells in the kind of numbers that might take more than few seconds to easily calculate, then there’s always that trusty tool known as a calculator. Most computers have them, as, often, do desks, drawers and pockets.

The paragraph above might come across as being a little condescending, but be assured it was meant to be tongue in cheek. However, this online tool is a simple example of a writer’s crutch.

Of these, the self-publishing writer should beware.

I see lots of posts on forums by self-published authors wanting programs to help them do things. “How do I keep track of sales/chapters/characters?” Um … Excel? Or failing that a pen and a piece of paper?

I see a lot of writers talking about a program called Scrivener. I don’t know what that is, but apparently it’s a computer program that organizes the hell out of your novel. Personally I’m happy with an old version of Word and a simple Excel spreadsheet, but even that is a crutch. A computer is a crutch to make life easier for writers who used to write on a typewriter, which was in turn a crutch for a writer who used to use a pen, which was a crutch for carving something on a rock, itself a crutch for your mouth, which was a crutch for your heart, which is where stories truly come from … whatever, you get it.

Just to clarify, I’m not trying to belittle Scrivener or those who use it or any other specialist writing program. I know far better writers than me who swear by it and sooner or later, if it’s as awesome as I’ve heard, I’ll probably be using it myself. However, as a noob starting out on a writing career today who has already decided to start self-publishing as soon as heavenly possible (which is probably too soon) then you could do worse than working with a pen and a pad of paper. Many moons ago that’s what I did. You’ll connect with the words a whole lot better and when you start out that is the only thing that is important.

My point is that you should beware over-reliance on something that makes your job easier. When you’re starting out on the quest to write as well as you can, you shouldn’t concern yourself with how to make it look pretty, or how to organize it neatly. Right at the very, very beginning, you shouldn’t even worry about plot. You should concern yourself with the WORDS AND THE WORDS ONLY, because if your words are awesome all the rest will come together in time.

The biggest crutch I see self-publishers leaning on is the editor/proofreader. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use them because I strongly believe that you should – but knowing that an editor is waiting to correct your crappy grammar or your poor spelling is no excuse for not striving to get your book perfect before it is seen by anyone else. The old analogy that you can’t polish a turd is appropriate here – an editor might be able to round a turd into a more uniform shape so that it appears somewhat more like a mud pie … but it’s still a turd, and shame on you for sending it to them – for leaning on your crutch – in the first place. You should never have let it out of your sight in that condition.

I used to do proofreading on the side, but I gave up because people were sending me the kind of junk I would be embarrassed to allow off my computer and expecting me to fix it up into a quality book that people would want to pay money for. I molded a couple of mud pies, but that was the best I could do. Then, surprise, surprise, aforementioned turds later appear on Amazon with five-star reviews from friends and family and the evil beyond all evil, the paid-for review service. So it looks great, and it sounds great. But what has really happened is that turd has been allowed to get all the way to the reader before it’s been flagged as a turd, but by then it’s too late, your turd is in the hands of someone with the power to smash your sales into smithereens, simply by pointing out in a nicely worded one-star review what you should have realised long before you self-published it that what you have on your hands is nothing more than a turd. All those fake reviews are like a paper umbrella – it’ll protect you from the rain for a while, but sooner or later the rain is going to break through and then you’re going to get drenched. But whatever, it’s each writer’s personal choice. There is a school of thought that self-published writers can “grow up in public” as it were, improving their craft with the public as the ultimate judge. Each to their own, but as a shy, fragile kid who’d been pushed around a bit at school I know without a doubt that had I self-published those novels I wrote at 18 and 19 in the form they existed in then, I would have got deservedly hammered by reviewers, and that would not have been good for me. It would not have been good at all.

But, whatever. Each to their own. Personally I don’t enjoy getting punched in the face, either in real life or on the internet, not until I’ve developed a chin to take it.

It says a lot about a writer who leans on crutches too much. First and foremost a writer is an artist. After he (or she) has created something worth selling he then becomes a businessman. Review that phrase “worth selling”. This is the key. It is your responsibility to produce something worth selling. After you have done that it’s perfectly acceptable to get someone else to give it a shine and then put it into a nice packet ready for sale. But don’t cut corners or those corners will reappear sooner or later to bite you in the ass.

Beware the crutch. We all use them, but know that you’re using them and always strive, where possible, to do without them as much as you can. You’ll be a better writer for it.

That is all.

Chris Ward
April 17th 2013

Monday, 15 April 2013

Tube Riders bargain book promo push

My bestselling dystopian novel The Tube Riders will be featured on two big bargain book promo sites today. If you want to do me a massive favour and help give it a lift up the charges, go grab 200 or so copies for all your friends. Anyone who does that can have a signed photograph of me sitting in my new Merc.

Saying that, on a more annoying note some b•••••d keyed my car while I was in a family restaurant yesterday. It might just have been a kid with a coin and douchebag parents, but it put a dampener on my whole day.

So if you want to make me feel better, go and grab a copy of Tube Riders. It's just 99c, which is 27c less than the bottle of Orangina I bought in the 7Eleven near my house this afternoon. I like Orangina.


Another good thing about buying Tube Riders this weekend - if you read at the same speed as me (a book of this length takes about three months) then you'll have finished it just in time for part 2, which should be released in the summer.

Happy reading,

Chris Ward
15th April 2013

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Miffy's Birthday!

Okay, nothing at all about writing on today's blog. This post will be a shameless celebration of my cat, Miffy, who was born four years ago this April.

We're not actually sure of her exact birthday because she was born to a stray cat and abandoned. She was found behind a temple by some monks who offered her to my girlfriend (now wife) who was working there at the time.

We took her home, not expecting her to live because she could barely walk and weighed just 200g, but she did, and now she pretty much controls our lives.

Here's the first video I took of Miffy, two days after we brought her home.

She was already very cute. Within a couple of weeks she was a real handful, as you can see below.

Within a year she was fully grown, as you can see in the next video. I'm sure you'll agree that she's very cute.

Of course, being a responsible cat owner, my favorite past time is taking pictures of my cat. Here's a few of my favorites.

Like most cats, Miffy spends the majority of her time asleep, except when I'm trying to sleep between 3am and 6am. And she had such an influence on our lives that we actually ended up getting married in the same temple behind which she was found, so here's a little wedding photo for you (it'll probably be up for a limited time only, because if the wife knows I've posted it she'll probably make me take it down! ;-) ). I'm the one the skirt and the wife is the one in the dress. That's not the temple btw.

So ...


Now stop wasting time reading about my cat and go buy my books ...! ;-)

Chris Ward
April 13th 2013

Friday, 12 April 2013

Head of Words is now available!

As of this morning, Head of Words went live on Amazons all across the world. Very proud to see this book finally out in the world. It's a lot different to my other releases so far so I'm interested to see what the critical reception will be, however I think its a good book and adds a further round to building literary canon, so to speak ...

 The ebook is available now. Hopefully the paperback will follow in the next week or two.


I'm already hitting up the promotion trail for Head of Words. You can read about me being interviewed here on the blog of my friend Robert Thomas, while I also recently did a guest post on the inspiration behind Head of Words for  the blog Two Girls Reading here. If anyone would like a copy for review purposes either for your blog or Amazon, please contact me via PM on Facebook or post a comment below.

Next up will be the edits/revisions on Tube Riders: Exile. I'm still shooting for a summer release. More details to come as I get to them. I'm also writing a new horror novel in my "spare" time, so keep up to date with my progress by checking out my wordcount bar on the right. I'm setting it at 120k because I think that's a good length for a book, but it could go up or down. We'll see.

Right, back to the grindstone. A writer's work is never done ....


Sunday, 7 April 2013

Tube Riders is on sale through April for $0.99c

Tube Riders will be on sale for the first half of April (and longer, depending on sales) as part of the build up to the release of the second part of the saga, Tube Riders: Exile, in the summer. The book is finished and is currently in revision.

The three covers - the new one, the old paperback and the old ebook 

As I've blogged about before, Tube Riders is no longer part of Amazon's Select program and therefore will not be offered for free at any time in the near future. Still, $0.99c is within most budgets and that works out at roughly six pages/cent so you're getting a good deal. Plus, its awesome. If I could, I'd lower it even more to like $0.50c, because this is all about getting readers not getting rich, but the lowest Amazon will let me is $0.99 so you'll have to handle it. Remember, if you don't have a Kindle its available for the same price on all over platforms now. The quickest way is to get it from Smashwords, but you can also get it from any major online retailer like Barnes & Noble or Kobo.

If you're new to the series and have seen the split parts London, Bristol and Cornwall on Amazon, while I'm quite happy if you buy them for a combined total of $6.97 (I'll get lunch on you!) remember you can get the whole thing now for less than a dollar. If you've bought these mistakenly thinking that Bristol and Cornwall are parts two and three of the series, then apologies for that. Remember you can refund your purchases from Amazon within a week. For this very same reason if you want to read any of my short stories I really won't resent you if you buy them, read them and then refund them, as long as you promise to tell people how great they are and that buying The Tube Riders, The Man Who Built the World or any of my forthcoming longer works is a great idea. Most of them are 2,000 - 6,000 words so you should be able to get through them in a single sitting. The reason I have Tube Riders on Amazon in three split parts is purely for visibility and marketing, it's not an attempt at a money grab, although at 65k, 68k, and 38k, the three individual parts are longer than many so-called series books anyway, so if you want to tackle them one at a time I really won't mind.

Anyway, that's it for now. By the way, check out my new progress meters on the side of the blog, just below the new releases mailing list (which you really should sigh up for!). These are partly as motivation for me and partly so you can see how I'm getting on. While I sucked at maths at school I'm a bit of a stats man (hence my love of cricket) so I'll probably update them every couple of days or so. I only have one up at the moment but look out for more!

Okay, back to it...

Chris Ward
8th April 2013

Friday, 5 April 2013

Submitting to Magazines - Why and How to do it

During my self-publishing adventures I’ve come across a lot of people who are trying to get a slice of the ebook pie through publishing only novellas and short stories. While these can be just as difficult to write, the shorter form is often seen as being less of a time investment than full novels, simultaneously giving the author more visibility. They are also popular with people who don’t have the time to write regularly or for long periods, or who don’t enjoy spending two years on each novel.

A lot of people I’ve come across are publishing short stories and novellas on Amazon at a furious pace, but is it the only option? For every Wool (which was originally a novella) there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of short pieces selling a handful of copies a month or less.

Disillusioned? Maybe, but unlike novels, which are notoriously hard to sell, short fiction can be a lot easier to market, and although you might not become a superstar, there are still gains to be made.

Prior to self-publishing, I spent fourteen years submitting and occasionally selling stories to magazines. Just to prove it, here are a few of my publications –

Ms Ito’s Bird in Weird Tales 352
Ovid’s Legacy in Flagship (the pic on the front is from my story!)
Going Underground in Noctober 
Feeding the Gulls in Written Word (pretty salty about this one because I never got paid, but it was like $15, so whatever)

 My claim to fame!

Self-publishing a short story can occasionally be profitable, but more often than not it’ll sit there in cyberspace doing nothing. Also, you can never be quite sure whether it’ll take off or not. So much depends on the title and cover. For example, after my rights returned to me from Weird Tales (after a year, I think, although magazines will buy various rights from 6 months to 2 years), I published Ms Ito’s Bird on Amazon as an individual short story. In roughly ten months it’s sold … wait for it … ONE copy.

There it is about halfway down ... see it? And the third picture down
is from my story! :-)

When I sold it to Weird Tales I made roughly $160. At the time that was more than half of my entire revenue from eight years of trying to sell short stories. And that was just the money - nothing else I have ever achieved in writing EVER has given me the confidence in my work that that sale did. Conan the Barbarian was serialized in that magazine. Getting in Weird Tales is big time.

Getting back to the cold hard cash line, there’s money to be made from selling short stories if you’re good, but here’s a few common pitfalls to avoid.

Noob Mistake #1 – Posting your story publicly and then expecting to sell it later

I see a lot of authors posting works in progress on their blogs, Facebook pages, Goodreads, forums, etc. If you ever have plans of selling that story to a magazine, this is a really bad idea. You can get away with it on a private forum or in a crit circle that requires membership to access, but anywhere it’s available publicly through a search engine it counts as being published and therefore you’re relinquishing your first world publication rights, which is what magazines will buy. Pull it down before you submit it and make sure it's got no cyber footprint. If it can still be available online it is effectively worthless. You might be able to get $5 here or there as a reprint, but any chance of selling it to Fantasy & Science Fiction for $600 is gone right away.

And trust me, the big magazines will check. Google is a powerful thing. And they won’t just search by title (otherwise you could just change it) but by chunks of text.

Noob Mistake #2 – Ignoring the guidelines

“Send us clean sci-fi with no sex or violence towards animals.” So, you send them a horror involving a serial killer who likes to have sex with elephants, just in case they want to make an exception … nope. Here comes another rejection letter. Guidelines are there for a reason. Perhaps if you’re Stephen King you could get away with it, but otherwise forget it. Trust me on this, I’ve broken them all and regretted it. The exact same goes for deadlines. If a magazine gives you a date to submit by, or says on its guidelines page that its currently closed to submissions, then it means it. Don’t waste your time by submitting anyway.

Noob Mistake #3 – Submitting to more than one magazine at once

Check in the guidelines to see if a magazine is okay with “simultaneous submissions”. This means they’re happy for you to submit elsewhere at the same time. If they don’t like this (and the guidelines will say), then don’t do it anyway. Nothing could be more awkward than having two magazines accept your story and you having to tell one of them you’ve changed your mind because its been accepted elsewhere. This kind of thing doesn’t make you any friends. Particularly at the top magazines, a lot of the editors generally tend to know each other. Of course, if a magazine is okay with sim-subs, then go for it. Be courteous though and notify the other magazines if one accepts you.

Noob Mistake #4 – Responding to Rejections

Don’t do it. Ever. Whether it’s a form letter, an “I’d rather kill myself than read any more of your crap” type letter or a “wow this was awesome but not quite awesome enough” type, just don’t respond. The editor really doesn’t care what you think. Nine times out of ten you’ll get a form rejection, but if you get comments then read them, apply them if necessary, and move on. Don’t bother to thank the editor unless they write like a page of notes (unlikely). If they gave you comments then they probably gave them to twenty other writers, and if they have to open twenty “thanks for your comments, love, random unknown” emails every day they’ll quickly stop writing them and start sending form rejections instead.

If you get an acceptance, however, then of course you should respond.

Where to submit?

You could search in Google or Yahoo, but its far easier to just use a listing site. For the most part I write speculative fiction (fantasy/horror/sci-fi) so my primary resource is Ralan. Another good once, which includes mainstream magazines, is Duotrope Digest (although I notice you now how to pay a subscription - it was free back when I was using it). There might be others, but these are pretty much the only two I used.

Now, it’s just a matter of opinion, but for anyone planning a career in writing I personally think it’s a waste of time to submit to magazines offering only exposure/token or minimal pay, basically anything less than 3c/word. I spent years submitting to and being published by tiny little magazines, and I used to get really excited, even though only six people were every going to read it, the editor, me, and the four other writers included in the same issue. I had this grand idea that I would sell novels if I only got enough exposure in small press magazines.

There are a number of flaws in this plan:

1.      No one reads small press magazines except the editor, the included writers and (if you’re lucky) your family and friends.
2.      They’re not very prestigious.
3.      Most of them are run by other unknown writers so their judgment on what is good is negligible at best.
4.      They tend to fold/disappear without warning, sometimes shutting down the website completely, so that there’s no record of you ever having been published there.
5.      They don’t always pay you or send contributors copies, regardless of what they might promise. In short, they're incredibly unreliable.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Some small press magazines are well run, always respond personally and actually pay you. They're very much in the minority though, in my experience.

However getting into a pro/semi-pro magazine is a different. For starters, the money is actually decent if you’re prolific and sell frequently. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction pays 6 – 9c/word. On a 5000 word story that’s $450, which would pay my rent for a month, and they accept stories up to 25,000 words. At 5c/word that's $1250, also known as decent pay. Plus, people actually read big magazines and they have prestige. The year I was in Weird Tales it won a Hugo Award for best semi-pro magazine. In the genre fiction world that’s a big deal. I wasn’t even on the cover of the magazine I was published in but Ann Vandermeer, the editor at the time, sent me a photo of the trophy and a note of thanks for being in the magazine. That was almost as awesome as being published in it.

Getting in a small press magazine might count as a “publishing credit”, and for years I collected them with pride, but getting in a major magazine can make you famous.

How likely is it that you’ll be accepted?

That depends on how good you are and how well your fiction fits with what the editor wants. You need to write well. If you suck, you probably won’t sell anything, which is why I’d suggest only submitting your best stuff and keeping the rest for self-published anthologies, but to be honest, if you suck you won't sell anything if you self-publish either and would be better off spending your time practicing (see my previous post about how to sell ebooks). Also, with the big magazines they’re trying to make money. If you’re a bestselling writer they’re far more likely to accept you than if you’re an unknown. However, they all frequently publish new writers because part of what they’re about is finding new talent, but your work needs to be outstanding. For that reason it also helps to keep it shorter. If you’re an unknown its way easier to sell something of 2000 words than something of 10,000, because they can slot you neatly into the back third of the magazine while saving the bulk for big name writers. In general I keep my stories in the 2000 to 6000 range. In general, though, even if you’re good, expect a lot of rejection. My average overall was about 10 rejections per acceptance, but that was for small presses. For major magazines it was more like 150-1. Those odds might not be for everyone, you have to make the decision based on how good you think your stories are.

Also, it’s worth remembering that everything the magazine selects is the editor’s personal choice. You might have written an outstanding story but it wasn’t quite what the editor wanted, so you get a form rejection. Don’t give up. Have confidence in your work and submit it somewhere else.

Is submitting to magazines a good idea for you?

That depends on what kind of person you are. For starters, you need to patient. While some magazines will get back to you within a couple of days, others will take months. Even now I get the odd rejection letter/email show up and it’s been more than a year since I submitted anything. And even if it is accepted, it might be a year before it's published. That's just the way the industry works; its very different to being published by a traditional publisher. In general, the bigger the magazine the longer you'll wait for publication. However, the bigger the magazine, the less likely they'll fold suddenly. I had no less than three pro sales never show up because the magazine - usually some ambitious small press - folded before the first issue ever reached print. THAT is frustrating ...

Also, be aware of the costs. While most magazines now allow email submissions, a few of the big ones still require paper copies. This can get expensive if you submit a lot, so make sure you think you’ve got a real chance before doing it.

It helps if you have a lot of stories. Waiting on one story can be frustrating. At one point I had over 40 stories out for submission at the same time so they were all coming and going. Keep all the info in a spreadsheet. Unless a magazine says otherwise, give them about six months. If they don’t get back to you, check they received your submission and also check they haven’t folded. This was something I found frustrating with the small presses – I’d wait several months for a response, go to the website and find the magazine had shut down. Sometimes they don’t even say why, they just go inactive. This is why Ralan is such a good site – it regularly checks for inactivity and a site that isn’t responding is moved to the Dead Markets page.

So, to summarize (because I’ve prattled on for almost 2000 words on this …!), if you’re consistently producing high quality short stories you could consider it as an option. Be aware of what it takes, though. You’ll go through a lot of frustration, but there is money to be made and prestige to be gained if you’re successful. And if you do sell something, you'll get your rights back within a year or so anyway so you can still self-publish it in the future.

As always, comments/questions are welcome.

Chris Ward
April 5th 2013

Monday, 1 April 2013

Why your book isn't selling OR How to improve your ebook sales

Today I read this rather entertaining article about some guy whose book didn’t sell, and I had to chuckle to myself. As an indie writer I come into contact with A LOT of other indie writers (we have to huddle together for warmth in the cold, cold climes of indie publishing). Some of them are super successful pros and others are journeymen picking up a few sales here and there. I'm very much in the latter category but I've seen sales gains every month since December and I sold exactly eleven times more books in March 2013 compared to March 2012 so I'm moving (slowly slowly slowly ...) in the right direction.

One thing about sales is that you can be never quite sure if you’ll get any or not. Some genres sell better than others, while some writers are incredibly prolific and literally saturate their corner of the market. However, for many people, writing a good book is the easy part. Actually selling the thing is remarkably hard and you might have no idea why.

One thing that will give you a push in the right direction is having a positive attitude. I tend to steer away from whingers like the guy in the article above, who seem to think they have a God-given right to sell thousands of copies. You might get lucky, but we’re talking 1/100,000 lucky. Otherwise you’re going to have to work for every sale you get and hope that they become more organic as your name and backlist grows.

So I’ll tell you this now:

DO NOT whine about not getting any sales. Unless you're famous enough to whine in large internet magazines like the guy in the article above, you will achieve nothing other than to make hardworking writers hate you. Speculating about why you don't make more sales is fine, that's what I do. :-) But don't start jumping up and down and screaming "I'M A FAILURE!", at least not in public. It's counterproductive. Be proactive instead.

If your book isn’t selling you can guarantee it’s for one of three reasons -

              1. It sucks
              2. It looks like it sucks
              3. No one knows it exists

Be honest with yourself. If your book falls under #1, sort it out. I’m sorry to say this, but if you regularly struggle to write a page of text which contains no spelling or grammar errors then you probably shouldn’t be publishing. I don’t mean that harshly, because I couldn't care less whether you publish your error-strewn rubbish with your name spelled wrong on the cover or not. It's nothing to do with me. I'm saying it for your own benefit. If your writing is littered with mistakes then sooner or later you’ll get canned by reviewers. It hurts. I think my work is awesome yet I’ve been one-stared, and it’s painful. I have confidence in the quality of my work, but if deep down I knew the review was justified it would hurt even more.

Here's a little allegorical story about becoming an indie writer.

Doctor A and Doctor B both went off to medical school. Doctor A was a good student, worked hard and stayed for the full five years. Doctor B got bored of studying after two years and thought he was good enough already. He went out and paid a bit of money to get a nice coat, he bought some pretty paintings for the inside of his surgery, and he put a nice window display on the front. Lastly he set his prices nice and cheap to get customers in through the door.

For a while he was doing okay. He saw a lot of clients and made a bit of money, but after a while he realised  no one ever came back. A few weeks later he saw a bad review of his practice in the local newspaper, because it seemed that once people had got past the glossy facade they realised he wasn't a very good doctor at all, and gradually his business began to suffer.

Doctor A, on the other hand, studied hard until he was fully qualified. At first, when he set up his practice, he found patients were hard to come by, but over time the same ones returned again and again, and they recommended him to their friends who also showed up to hand over their cash for his wonderful medicines. Pretty soon he was the most well-respected (and richest) doctor in the land.

The point of my little story is that if you cut the corners you'll end up getting bitten on the ass. Sure, you can pay for nice covers, editing, proofreading, formatting, advertising ... but if your intrinsic writing skill is not very high and your stories suck, sooner or later these problems will come back to haunt you.

In short, it’s best to be properly armed before going into battle. Thankfully there are these wonderful things called grammar books and this equally wonderful thing called practice. These will help you out if you put enough time into them. There are no short cuts. On forums and websites I regularly see statements such as “I have my own style” or “(insert name of famous writer) doesn’t use correct grammar”. In the first case, 99 times out of 100 it’s a case of you don’t have ANY style (except a bad one), and in the second, they’re allowed to. Famous writers are famous for many reasons, but one is that they’re a master of their art. And when you’re a master of something you can pretty much do what you like. Your job as the noob indie is to become a master. You can’t break the rules until you know what the rules are. If you do, it shows. Trust me.

If your problem is #2, this is a far easier fix. And the easiest way to do it is to pay someone. There are covers available everywhere, from custom made ones to Photoshopped ones to cheap premade ones. Can you believe that my very first cover was a screen print from Word which I used Paint to erase the ruler marks from? No, nor can I. So, if looks like I’m getting up on my high horse and talking down to people just starting out, be assured that I’m not. I’m speaking as someone who learned the hard way, and by listening to my advice you can save yourself a lot of hardship and a whole lot of time.

If you’re good with computers you can do it yourself, using Photoshop or stock images. I buy the images for my short stories from a site called for about $20 and then play around with them with Picasa on my iMac. They’re not perfect, but they look nice enough and they fit into my budget. For my novels I use Su at Novel Prevue. If you have a budget of several hundred dollars, go to Kindleboards and browse the covers in the profiles in the Writer's Cafe. There are dozens of designers to choose from.

If your problem is #3, then you have to be proactive about ways to find extra visibility.

You might not be a particularly outgoing person, but you’re going to need a social media presence.

Off the top of my head you have -

Your own blog/website

And then there’s the mighty ‘Zon of course. Amazon’s KDP Select might not be as lucrative as it once was but those five free days a quarter are still going to get you plenty of exposure if you get picked up by sites such as

Ereader News Today (free to submit to, paid bargain book listings)
Pixel of Ink (free to sub, hard to get on!)
Free Kindle Books and Tips (free to sub, paid bargain book listings)
Freebooksy (free to sub, paid advertising)
Free Book Dude (free to sub)
Bookbub (expensive but the undisputed king)
Bookblast (cheap but still growing)
and lots more (Google is your friend)

Most of the above can be accessed directly through Author Marketing Club. Some of them will require a certain number of reviews. If you don’t have any, please don’t review your own books or get someone you know to give you arbitrary five star reviews. Don’t pay for them either. Again, it might seem easy in the short term but you’ll suffer for it eventually.  Instead, put your nose to the grindstone and submit to a bunch of blogs at The Indie Book Reviewer List or join the Making Connections group on Goodreads. Don’t offer to review swap with other writers of dubious quality. Remember those teeth marks on your ass? You'll end up with gangrene and you really will be over as a writer if your ass has to be amputated (unless you can afford one of these ;-) ).

All of the above mentioned sites also do advertising and bargain book listings, which are your second best friend. Some of them are free and others are paid. You have to decide what’s in your budget. “But I have no money!” I hear you cry. Um, you can afford your computer with a net connection, your iPhone, your car, your beers on a Friday night … what you actually mean is that you’re afraid of reallocating some of your funds from a known/accepted expense towards a speculative/unknown one. As with producing your book, you will have to speculate to accumulate, it’s a given. Are you prepared to sacrifice just a little bit - say one night out a week - to chase your dream? It's your choice …

You don’t have to drop thousands of dollars, but you can guarantee you will have to pay something. I’ve cut a lot of corners in my time but these days I pay for advertising, pay for proofreading, pay for covers, etc. I make a little money but probably 90% goes back into my “business”, because I’m building for the future. If your book isn’t selling then you need to invest in it too.

Another thing you can do is increase your available formats. For paperbacks you have

and others

while for audio books you have

Work on having as many formats available as possible. My novels are available in both ebook and paperback formats and I’ll be trying to sort out some audiobooks later this year. ACX isn’t currently available to non-US authors so we have to go via subsidiaries. I’m looking into it.

Another thing you can do, particularly if you don't like using Select, is to expand your markets. You can be distributed by 

or if you're in the US you can go it alone on sites like

Apple iStore (though you need a Mac to upload)

It all comes down to being proactive and getting off your badly bitten ass. You WILL have to put the time in, and you will probably have to put money into it as well. There's no other way around it.

And before I forget, perhaps the most important thing of all - WRITE MORE BOOKS. Nothing sells a book like another good book. You might get lucky with one book, but you probably won't.

Remember, don't be a whiner, it's lame. Help yourself, and the general public will help you, by showering you in lots of wonderful cash.

Good luck!

Chris Ward
2nd April 2013