Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Gone, But Not Forgotten

I bet you thought you'd never get another notice of something new on EC Come, EC Go. Well, yes, it has taken me a long, long time, but after all kinds of excitement in my health life over the past year, I just might be ready to revisit and share information about writing, publishing and marketing, as well as a bit of back story about recent and new titles being released.

I've no intention of abandoning EC Come, EC Go. Hang with me here and maybe I can share a few things that make it worth a return trip. Give me a little more time, and I'll do what I can to make it worth your while.

Thanks for not giving up on me. Well, most of you probably have, and with good reason, but I hope I can lure you back with some useful, if not interesting stuff.

Meanwhile, our good friend and my personal professional website developer, and Fiction Writers Group member, Charlotte Townsend, will soon be taking over management of the FWG official website at Writer's Anarchy. I'm working up the plans for a second JanuWriMo 2017! (not affiliated in any way with NaNoWriMo) and soon will be developing a funding program to enable FWG to offer writing contests and other neat things. Hang onto those keyboards, pens or pencils, because things are about to get “writerly” around here.

Later,
Earl

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Self-Publishing: A Return on Your Investment?

Can I Expect a Return on my Investment as a Self-Publisher?

Can you “expect” a return? The answer to that is no. The odds are against it. But, if you focus on the following six steps you will increase your chances, and the possibility of generating an income, if not a profit, but not from one, stand-alone, title.

I initially anticipated this to be a single article, but I am convinced that it needs to be expanded into a six-part series instead. There’s just too much to share in one sitting. I don’t want you falling asleep on me, or going to YouTube and watching videos instead.

Step No. 1 — Write more. Write often. You need more than one title.

You won’t break even on one title, but you stand a chance of that and more if your sites provide more than a single title option for visiting readers and, eventually, loyal followers.

Here’s the thing. Sure, you want to publish longer stories. You desire to push past the average short story (or maybe not) and pen and publish novellas and novels in the 25,000 word to 90,000-plus word category But, assuming you have sites where you can feature your titles, even offer eBook downloads and print versions, you can do something within the next two weeks that will generate a surge of interest in your titles—feature eight to ten good, well-written, satisfying short stories.

This keeps your one longer title company and gives the impression you are a dynamic writer, a prolific writer, and that the return visitor can depend on finding new material written by you virtually every week or ten days they drop in for a look.

Come up with a 500-to-1,000-word short story today. Edit tomorrow. Generate a reasonably attractive cover for it (more on that later), polish and publish. Announce its availability on all your social sites, especially Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. As well as others. At the rate of one new title every two days, you will have effectively buffed up your backlist to seven, or more, new titles in two weeks.

No, no, no...it's totally doable. You’re a writer with lots of ideas going on inside that creative mind of yours. Take those ideas, use your muse, and generate these titles. Let them be the precursor to future, longer works, but make them complete, with the traditional beginning, middle and end.

Plan on four hours tops, to generate a 500-word short story—maybe the same for a thousand words, or an hour or two more. Editing? The next day? A couple of hours. Formatting and uploading, another couple of hours. So, you invest, say, eight hours in two days to generate a new title. Some can do this faster while others may need a bit more time. In any event, you are a writer. Write those stories with the knowledge that you are investing in a business that can bring a return provided you are willing to make it happen.

You might be more comfortable knocking out seven or eight short stories in a few days, then going back and editing them, then going back and designing the cover, formatting and uploading. If that is how it works for you, then by all mean, go for it.

MORE TO COME...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Postcards, Direct-Mail, Can Work for Authors

When folks say direct-mail campaigns are expensive, they're usually talking about paying for mailing lists/addresses, sending out a thousand or more at a time, and the sorting and grouping that comes with handling such volume. Direct-mail postcards and postage, however, can fit most any budget.

You can go to Vistaprint, GotPrint, Over Night Prints, America's Printer, Zazzle and a host of other printers and get real bargains on small- or large-run printer services for everything from business cards to flyers to postcards to book markers. You get what you pay for, but prices range from $20 to $50 to $100, depending on amounts, colors, size and other considerations. I personally have used America's Printer and Vistaprint. Both are good, my go-to printer is America’s Printer for all-around service and generally competitive pricing.

Those giant postcards are not what you want, and they do not impress me—I suspect they mostly irritate others as well. In this case, yeah, size matters, but don't consider anything more than 4x6 to maybe 5.5 x 8.5. Good enough. More on designing your postcard later in this article.

So, while it CAN be expensive, and I've not done much of it for my fiction publications/titles, direct-mail campaigns using postcards has always generated the MOST responses for me in all other marketing endeavors. I will be doing this in 2015 for all titles—fiction and non-fiction. NOTE: We’ll talk about e-mail campaigns, e-mail blasts, newsletters and other e-mailing approaches in a later article.

I did develop through Lulu.com, a postcard for my non-
fiction how-to book on making money with funeral and memorial videos. Following the same principle as I have with my video company's marketing for specific services—dance, performance, sports, events, etc.—that EVERY occupied home and address is a valid potential client, I've acquired any addresses I could without paying, and mailed out small batches of postcards.

My theory is that direct-mail doesn't HAVE to be based on a mailout of thousands, or even hundreds, of postcards. It can be handled based on my (your) budget. The effect, the exposure, accrues. The more you mail out, as often as you can afford, over time, the more visibility, linkage, and brand awareness you build. I have NEVER conducted a mailout of 20 or more postcards that I've not received inquiries and sales. NEVER!
And, I've even mailed a postcard a day for 30 days-in-a-row, knowing that by the end of that campaign I will have received responses and business. I fully intend to do this for all of my titles.

Here's my points:
1.) Your postcard doesn't ONLY get seen by the final addressee. It is seen by all who handle it en route, all those who reside at the address, and it has shelf life. People keep good looking, interesting and intriguing postcards around for a bit—mostly. Sure, we all toss stuff we get in those marriage-mail bundles, but we do scan some of it. If you've done something other than just filling your mailing piece with copy—dense, heavy copy—it will stop the eyeballs long enough to register.

2.) Postcards in small batches aren't THAT cost prohibitive, or expensive to mail. Not cheap, but small batches can be budgeted. Again, it is effective, over time, and as you continue mailing them.


3.) Postcards should include your contact information, your website and a QR code that takes people on the go with smart phones, tablets and other devices directly to your video book trailers. Or, your websites, blogs or other places where you have content you want to promote.


4.) Ah, yes, video book trailers. Combined with postcards, they are a win-win marketing program and will generate traffic to your pages and websites.

Designing a postcard, flyer, or book marker.

1.) Your book cover is your template. Other than your contact information, links to your Internet sites and that QR code, your cover and back-page blurb should be your postcard design—generally speaking.

2.) Color is no longer cost-prohibitive. Use color, unless you're making some kind of creative statement and desire to go with black and white.

3. Probably, the absolute largest postcard you want to create is a 5.5 x 8.5 and keep it horizontal, not vertical. I made that design mistake and hate it. Trust me. Horizontal.

That's it. Try some and see if it doesn’t get you positive results.

I told you my next blog topic would be "Return on Your Investment" but this one on marketing came up, thanks to my good friend and fellow writer, Ted Atoka. So, Return on Your Investment will be my focus for an upcoming article. Meanwhile, my titles can be found at Lulu Spotlight Earl and check out our posse of writers at Writers of the West.

More to come next time...

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

What You Know and What Others Tell You

What writers need is balance.

All clich├ęs apply, from the one about writing being a lonely world for the author, to the one about ... well, you know.

I want to point out a few things to those who are self-confident, frustrated, overwhelmed, or just plain insecure. You are not alone, and you are not wrong, and you are not an inferior writer, and you are not destined for failure or public humiliation. You MUST find a way beyond your insecurities—the bane of most, if not all writers—and achieve a level of faith in yourself that indeed borders on conceit and cockiness. The key word here folks is “borders.”

Truth of the matter is most of us are humble sorts. We are always a bit nervous about allowing others to read our work, knowing it is below par, primitive and perhaps stupid. Our writing is weak. Our prose is overdone. Our stories are too simplistic, too intellectual or too far out there. How do we know this? Well, beyond that person sitting at the keyboard or writing pad insisting so (yes, you) there are all those people who read the stuff and come back with 1,001 ways to improve, perfect or otherwise make readable your hard-fought story.

And, lest we forget, those who beseech us in unfriendly terms and unkind phrases to seek other avenues of creative expression.

Readers are important. Critique is important, Professional editing is VERY important. Proof reading is important. All constructive criticism and input is important. This being said...

What I find not only interesting, but revealing about this process, is the number of readers/editors who are offended when you do not use any or all of their suggestions, or laud them for their awesome insights. When you do not pay homage to their awesomeness and bow to their superior literary skills. Ahem...

I cannot tell you the number of times,
 in past years, where these people were pissed off, and even abusive in their follow-up comments, accusing me of being hard-headed, stubborn and not interested in perfecting or improving my story because I did not use some, any or all their input, or take their comments to heart.

Where I have had strong and specific responses to some of their misperceptions, I have replied, not defensively but factually, and even that sometimes has gotten me negative blowback. Usually, if I have nothing I want to clarify, I do not comment. Either way, I have frequently been accused of being defensive when it truly felt like it was the other way around.


Once you get past your worst critic, YOU dear writer, and start seeking advice, input or corrective surgery for your stories, and once you overcome this thing called insecurity, you must develop a sense of what is good for your story and what is not.

Virtually EVERY individual from whom you gain advice will give you something—a nugget perchance—you can use to upscale your story. Take that and dump the rest. Always connect with those with whom you work as readers, et al, and thank them for their input, mentioning specifically or generally what they offered that worked for you. It is not necessary, other than for factual clarification, to enter into debate or defend anything you do not use or apply.

If you cannot agree at all with something offered, don't bother arguing this point or that, simply thank them for their hard work, interest and support, and make your story the best it can be.

YOU will always be the last word in your storytelling. YOU will always be the champion of your story, what it should, or could use to be better; what it must retain of your creative endeavors to remain your story.

You cannot satisfy all the above people who offer, volunteer or are paid to provide you with their services and skills. You will never satisfy all readers. So, push comes to shove, satisfy yourself. But, let's not be stupid. Always know that while you have the choice to accept or reject what is shared by others regarding the quality, content or readability of your story, keep an open mind to how it most certainly can be improved.

Write for quality. Edit for purity. Publish with confidence.

MY NEXT BLOG TOPIC — Return on Your Investment

I've invested as much as $1,000 in editing, cover design, layout and formatting services knowing full well that I have less than Las Vegas odds at a chance of recovering my investment, not to mention the time spent creating and polishing the initial product. For those of us with commercial interests above and beyond simply writing for the joy of it, independent publication is an expensive process. You will pay for professional services for that story, collection, novella or novel. But, BUT...it only takes one to hit the pulse of your readers/followers and many of your other heavily invested titles will boost sales closer to breaking even.

So, while it is a gamble to invest so deeply in professional services. Every time you do you increase the odds in your favor of possibly recouping your costs over the long haul. MORE TO COME NEXT TIME.

My titles can be found at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Earl or Amazon, SmashWords, iBookStore, Nook and Selfy. Also, check out http://www.writersofthewest.com for a look at what is new in western storytelling. The site features a posse of penslingers who are working to revive not only The Western, but all aspects of the flavor of that era and the characters who colored it.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Time to Write, A Time to Not

I perceive four types of people who pursue writing. There may be more, but I suspect all of us who dare take on this lofty ambition will fall into one of the following four types, even if it is a subcategory.

• Those who talk about writing, but never really seem to get past all the perceived roadblocks.
— Time
— Family
— Kids
— Responsibilities
— Summer adult baseball, winter adult basketball, or youth sports, dance and other classes
— My REAL job
— I’m really busy developing my Internet social sites and interacting
— I’m in love
— We broke up
— I died

• Those who have scads of ideas, copious notes, all kinds of outlines and partial WIPs
— I don’t know how to write
— I cannot finish anything because I’m always starting something new
— I don’t have enough confidence to continue
— My last 52 starts haven’t been good enough
— I need a mentor
— I want somebody else to take my ideas and run with them, but share the glory (riches) with me
— Everybody who reads my idea tells me it’s a great one but don’t tell me what I need to do next
— My laptop battery went out and I cannot find the plug-in adapter
— I lost everything and hate to start all over
— I’m still working on my NaNoWriMo project, knocking all my other ideas to the back burner

• Those who have finished manuscripts
— I need to know what to do next
— It’s too long, I need to cut it down
— It’s too short, I need to bulk it up
— I need an editor (cheap or free)
— I need readers (cheap or free, but they need to get back to me yesterday after agreeing to read)
— I need a book cover designer (C or F)
— I need a publisher
— It’s finished, but not really, so I need to go back and read and re-read and re-write it
— I’m going to let it rest for a month, then go back and take another look
—Hey everybody! I did it! I wrote a book! Several books! Starting another one!

• Those who are ready to market, solicit, query, seek an agent or self-publish
— How do I let everybody know about my book unless I SPAM them everywhere?
— How do I SPAM everybody everywhere when I only have four e-mail addresses?
— I can’t get anyone to review my new book!
— I can’t get anyone to give me more than one star!
— I get plenty of reviews, but they all suck!
— I’m not happy with: SmashWords, Amazon, Nook, iBookStore, Lulu, CreateSpace, etc.
— I’m not happy with the contract I signed with ACME (fictitious, I think) Publishers!
— My publisher isn’t doing anything for me. I have to do it all: editing, marketing, promotion...
— I got a 5-year, 5-books signed contract, but I have no idea what to write next.
— My manuscript was accepted but here it is a year later and they’re still making me do rewrites!

Does any of this sound familiar? Ring a bell? Make your eyes pop at the pure audacity of the comments? Are you amused, confused or abused by any/all of the above? I admit, it really isn’t funny. After all, we all take our writing, or attempts thereof, seriously. Who is this blog author to abuse that?

For the many, many, many of us who are truly serious about our writing endeavors, the answers are simple. We have read them all in a billion other blogs, books, articles by successful commercial authors, at seminars and workshops. For those who simply want to play at it, all the answers are hard, difficult, impossible even, because they all require that we do something...apply ourselves.

You ever wonder why, for the most part, you cannot remember your dreams? Because they are, after all, only dreams. Nothing tangible, except for those who immediately wake up and use their bedside notebooks or voice recorders...but, hey, these people are the ones who are truly serious about writing. For the rest of us, dreams are dreams, realities are realities. But, if you are truly serious about writing, then each and every reality (Story. Your novel.) was once a dream. Not an enigma or riddle. The equation is simple: Great ideas won’t work unless you do.

It is up to each of us to keep our fires burning, our momentum going, our dreams alive. The basic formula for the first type I listed is to make the determination to write a few words, sentences, paragraphs or pages each day—whenever and wherever we manage to take the time, and regardless of how we feel mentally or physically when that opportunity arises.

The second group needs to pick a story, any story, keep a journal or voice recorder close by to jot down or record new, conflicting or more enticing ideas, and finish that story. Then peruse your other ideas and pick another. Finish it. Pick another. Finish.

There are a number of ways to approach things if you’re a third group member. If you are a writer of any size, shape or description, you must, MUST begin another project ASAP! You will stagnate as a writer if you abandon your stories for the sake of placing your finished, nearly finished, or all but finished manuscript. Yes, it needs to get “out there” and be seen in print or eBook. Yes, you need to develop a readership, gain exposure, establish yourself as an accomplished author. Unless, however, you plan to be a one-book wonder, you need to keep writing. So, if what you did is a labor of love and you wish to openly share, then upload and release it. If it is worth more to you than that, then you need to find a way to outsource some of the other services you need so you can keep writing. If you don’t, you’ll fall back into the elements of the first two types I listed, and essentially have to start the whole process all over again.

Ah, those of us in the last group have so many challenges before us. Primarily, however, we need to be organized. We need to focus on our individual Big Picture, and generate outlines, to-do lists and establish priorities for our long- and short-term goals that we believe will get us where we wish to go. There are decisions to make, to be sure, but we’ve made it into this category so we have conquered our inability to self-start, to overcome, to finish projects. All we need to do, really, is research our options, and when opportunities manifest, we need to carefully study the options and not gleefully jump into the fire with the first smiling handsome person who shows up to bid.

Hard to be logical and left-sided in a right-sided, creative brain, but we all are capable of adapting. It is important to remain positive, keep the faith, maintain hope and stay the course. Those of us who do will...those of us who cannot see how this is possible. Well? Well, you do have access to awesome friends, fellow readers and a boatload of online resources to help you get where you think you want to go as a writer. Doing something about it will move you from one category of writer-types to the next.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Writing is a Piece of Cake

Writing a story, be it drabble, short story, novella or novel, or even a series, is easy. It's a piece of cake! There it is, waiting for the knife. You slice into it, make another cut and create a wedge, then lift it off the platter and onto your plate and dig in. Everybody can do this and enjoy the results...piece of cake!

Well, before the cake you or your readers were able to enjoy, you did need an oven.

You need someplace where it can rise and bake provided you had all the necessary ingredients.

But first you would need the eggs, milk, shortening or oil, flour, baking soda, flavoring, salt, nuts for texture, pieces of chocolate or other goodies for the surprise bursts of flavor, butter, and any other ingredients (elements) that you may decide to use in order to not only make your cake as good or better than any other ever tasted, but unique perhaps. Different. Something with a surprise element like the raspberry and chocolate filler between the two layers.

You might decide to go for a butter icing, marzipan or something entirely different—perhaps whipped cream. You mix, stir, fold in, let it set or sit, or not, then preheat the oven, pour the batter into a special pan, bake it at just the right degrees for just the right amount of time, test it with a broom straw (don't worry, the heat probably killed any germs), take it out, turn off the oven, and let the cake layers cool.

Then comes the icing, and all that goes into creating the wonderful coating that melts, spreads or otherwise forms to your baked and cooled cake. Once again you might fold, mix, stir or beat an assortment of ingredients into confection perfection, or boil for just the right amount of time over just the right temperature, then apply it.

And, if all efforts fail, if you are the type who doesn't give up, who is tenacious and believes the outcome will be worth the effort, you'll begin the process all over again until you get it right. Then take a knife, make a slice, make another slice, and lift that wedge up onto a small plate and savor the results of all your hard work.

Yeah, writing is totally a piece of cake.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

How to Market Your Titles

Talking about promoting our books, about marketing, about how to do it and do it right.


Well, I personally believe the approach is threefold:

1.) Give them something
2.) Stop suggesting they buy the product or title(s)
3.) Don't overdo it

The unasked question by any and all people on the planet, as well as in the next galaxy, is: "What's in it for me?" We must reward interest, loyalty and support with genuine information, entertaining reading and/or something worth something for nothing. If we always ask of them, but never reward them, we lose them.


Hurry! Hurry! Step right up! Only four steaming piles of poop left! Well, okay, not all of them are steaming, but we quickly turn off potential interested readers, followers or referrals if all we ever do is give them kisses and promises, and constantly suggest they go to our site and buy our books. Like tuning out, or turning off the radio during commercials, fast forwarding recorded television programming to bypass the promotions, and glazing over or even closing our eyes when we flip past print media ads, this is what folks will do if the white noise of "buy me" is all that comes up out of the static we post. And, suckering them with terms like "free," "buy one, get one," or "jump this hoop and I'll pat your head" isn't going to endear them.


What will? If they've visited your site, blog, or otherwise viewed your Internet, direct-mail or other content...They. Are. Already. Sold! Cut the sales and promo, and give them a quality product. The best way to do this is via video book teasers, short stories, testimonials or interactive forums where discussions are being held by our readers, even our detractors, comparing us to other writers and authors, or those steaming piles of poop.


Even the quality content, awesome interactive forum or blog discourse and giveaways can be overdone. Pace your promos. Be consistent and dynamic, offer solid good content, but keep them wanting (panting) for more. Don't gorge them on every possible thing you can think of in a five-day period. Spread it out. Be regular, but even a daily bowl of oatmeal gets old if you eat it day in, day out.


So, offer quality content.

Stop selling and start interacting.
And keep it at once a week (sometimes daily, if you can sustain/maintain the quality and dynamic content) for blogs, twice-monthly for newsletters, and one a month or bi-monthly for specials and giveaways.

Do ask them to sign up or follow. Do invite them to comment, but do not make them have to jump hoops, provide the location of all scars, tattoos and their nose hair count in order to be a part of this awesome presence that is YOU THE AUTHOR.


This the kind of content I am going to try and provide, along with applied endeavors for promotion of my titles, and links, at my recently redirected blog E.C. Come, E.C. Go. If you like what you see and read here, feel free to follow. I will hound and not pound on you for your subscription to my forthcoming newsletter later. All my titles can be found at Lulu, as well as other popular sites like Amazon, iBookStore, Nook, SmashWords and Sellfy.


If you like western storytelling, visit Writers of the West. Watch for information on marketing and branding for popular eBook titles, independent authors from around the world, as well as a planned authorial website and major specialty titles website coming soon.