Friday, July 22, 2016

#WritingTip - Checklist to help your book sell.

Wow. The post I did the other day (#WritingTip - "Why won't my book sell?") really seemed to hit home for a lot of people.


That was kind of the point. I see so many stupid mistakes in book listings, especially by self-pubbed authors, that it's really to the point it's become ignored "noise" to most of us now.

Let's focus for a moment on some things that you MUST nail to help your book sell. And, to be honest, you might have these all perfectly crafted and still won't sell many copies.

But I guarantee you, if any of these points are lacking, you'll have a problem. Over the next several weeks, I'll put together some posts about these points individually and in detail.

1) Editing. Do NOT finish your rough draft, run it through spell check, and toss it up on Kindle. Do. Not. Do. It. There is no, "Well, I'll go back later and upload a revised copy after people read it and tell me what's wrong with it." The massive logic flaw in your thinking is that you want people to PAY YOU to edit your book for you. In other words, to do YOUR JOB for you. No. That's not how it works. The other massive logic flaw in that thinking is because people will look at the preview, see it's shit, and not buy it. Or read it, see the issues, and then never buy another one of your books again. "Well, they'll download the updated copy!" Uh, no, they won't. Trust me on this one.

2) Formatting. If you don't know how to format an e-book, RESEARCH IT, or hire it out. I write in Scrivener, and it gives flawless .mobi, .epub, and .pdf exports. Ready to go. There are other programs you can use, you can manually format it, or you can hire it out. If it looks like crap in the preview, people WILL NOT BUY IT.

3) Cover. It goes without saying that if your cover is one of the default, crappy covers built from the default Kindle cover creator, it will hurt you. You could have the next great masterpiece, and it won't sell for shit with a crappy cover. Look at other covers in your genre. LOTS of them. Scour the bestseller lists. Find the good ones for books that are ranked well. Study them. Study font type and placement for the title and the pen name. Remember that your cover needs to look good in a thumbnail size, so if it's too busy, or you get too creative with a fancy font that people can't read, you've failed. If you can't afford to have it done and you can't do it yourself, then save up the money to have it done because seriously, it WILL tank your sales.

4) Blurb. Let's list first of all what the blurb is NOT: is it NOT an excerpt, it is NOT reviews, it is NOT a lengthy treatise by the author about why the book should be bought, and it is NOT the author's bio. The blurb IS a short, succinct hook to draw the reader in. PERIOD. It should also be EDITED. Typos in your blurb lead to readers passing you by.

5) Title. The title needs to draw people in, and preferably NOT be used by about a gazillion other books already. Also, stop it with the keyword stuffing, you KU scammers. Just stop it. The subtitle space isn't so you can tell people OMG SPACE MONKEY MMMMF MENAGE HOT SEXY FIRST TIME. No. Just no. STOP IT. Put that as a top line in your blurb if you want to to quickly identify what the book is about in terms of genre and romantic pairing (if applicable) but do NOT make it your freaking subtitle. That's just farking stupid. It really, really is.

I know I hear some of you already whining, "But editing and covers and formatting are expensive..."

Um, yeah. That's because to put a quality product out there, you need to either know how to do it, or have the money to hire it out. If you put crap out there, and then complain about your book not selling, and I look and see any of these points messed up, I'm not going to feel an ounce of sympathy for you. I just won't.

Too many people treat writing like a get-rich-quick scheme. It's not. Like any other product out there, time and effort has to go into putting out the best product you can. And even then it's still a crapshoot. But lowering the collective IQ of readers by flooding the market with a cesspool of crap is not helping.

You want to stand out as an author? Put out a quality product. Yes, it takes time/money/effort to do it. But you know what? Over time, you will build a reputation for QUALITY and your readers will give you word-of-mouth praise. It will take a while to build your platform, I won't lie to you there. But get one book out, then start working on the next one. And the next one. And the next...

Pretty soon, that person who sees one of your quality books will go looking for more and buy your backlist. Or, they stumble across your backlist and pick up your frontlist at the same time.

See how that works?

If you write one book and hammer the shit out of it, you won't do very well. Forget the freaking lotto-hit/lightning-strike success stories. Most of those came after years of hard work anyway, and the few that didn't...well, buy yourself lotto tickets, because you have better chances with that.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

#notchilled Ellora's Cave vs Dear Author case settlement and contract warnings to authors

I've been holding back on posting this because I wanted to see if anything else came out of it, like an official settlement, but since it appears the settlement terms are confidential, we likely won't hear everything, so I'm not going to wait for the final to show up.

Dear Author Update on the EC lawsuit

Jane at Dear Author posted an update and a few...curiously and precisely worded "corrections." Corrections that, frankly the way I and others are reading them, are in my opinion coming off more as things to soothe a certain EC principal's ego than anything else. But there has bee NO "proof" provided to counter all the sworn filings. Contrary to what one of EC's ill-informed supporters has posted on Facebook, no, Jane was not "ordered" to make the statements. It was a SETTLEMENT. It was NEGOTIATED. There has been no court order issued on this matter. That means they agreed to the terms.

One thing to remember: Patty Marks, Ellora's Cave's CEO, reported both to the RWA and in an e-mail to the biz loop that they were behind on payments to authors and getting caught up.

She admitted to Publisher's Weekly in an interview that their sales dropped.

They had a MASSIVE staff layoff.


Deirdre Saoires Moen has an excellent wrap-up post about this.

Lisa Hendrix put together a Storify timeline of Courtney Milan tweets with excellent points.

And we are still waiting to see what happens with the Ann Jacobs motion. This lawsuit is not "finished" yet.

Now some more brave individuals are coming out and speaking about their experiences with Ellora's Cave, in additions to the ones who spoke out before and during the process.

Kate Sherwood

Kelly Jamieson

Jane Leopold Quinn

The one that will make you sick to your stomach, however, is this one by Nina S. Gooden.

I've heard one of the principals of EC lambasting the authors who spoke in this case, accusing them of lying just to get their rights back.

Helllooo, even PATTY MARKS admitted they were late paying authors. They laid off staff. Authors are reporting that e-mails go unanswered.

I saw a Facebook post where the once principal (she who shall not be named) was crowing about the things she bought for people, someone gushed over being bought a puppy by her.

Bet those authors who are STILL claiming they're owed money (follow the #notchilled tag on Twitter) wish Ellora's Cave would pay their bills.

I'm also seeing that same principal say some pretty nasty things about writers instead of admitting to the facts of what happened. I seriously cannot believe that all those people who filed SWORN affidavits in the case were risking perjury to file about their experiences. I just don't.

Law of averages.

Someone can shrilly scream as loudly as they want that allllllll these authors are lying.

Why would they lie?

Why would a LARGE group of authors and editors all say pretty much the same thing? If this is some sort of "conspiracy," why not go after them? Oh, wait, we have proof in the form of the e-mail and the RWA SWORN affidavit in the lawsuit that Patty Marks admitted they were behind.

Frankly, in my experience and in my opinion, I've NEVER seen large groups of authors speak out so vehemently against a publisher en masse.



Hmm, what do those publishers all have in common?

That's right, they imploded. And in the time before the final implosion occurred, you had authors speaking out, reporting problems.

You draw the correlation.

So forgive me and others who are willing to listen to the authors, because in the past we've seen this EXACT SAME PATTERN play out before, and the authors were always proven right. I refuse to participate in victim shaming when literally I've seen this play out before. Multiple times. With other publishers.

Will you have a couple of discontented authors at any given house? Sure. But WHY would a huge group of them start requesting rights reversions or asking people to not buy their books and be reporting that they either haven't received timely payment or they doubt the veracity of the numbers?

I, personally, have NEVER seen that scenario play out at a publisher where overall the authors are...oh...happy.

If you have ONE person screaming that a group of people are lying, and the group of people is producing evidence showing that the ONE person is wrong...who do you tend to believe?

Law of averages.

It's pretty bad when authors are ASKING readers not to buy their books from a certain publisher because they haven't been paid (or feel they've been paid inaccurately) and want their books to revert back to them. It's REALLY bad when it's because of signing a bad threshold sales level contract.

Oh, heh, here's a news flash, Laurann Dohner, a former EC heavy-hitter, is now self-pubbing a new series. Hmm. (Yes, I've already pre-ordered the first book.)

My opinion remains unchanged: I cannot in any way, shape, or form at this time recommend an author submit a book to Ellora's Cave, especially considering I'm seeing reports that they still use sales threshold contracts.

One of THE worst things you can to do yourself as an author in this day and age is sign a contract without a finite, limited lifespan, like 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, whatever. That way, there is NO way a publisher can screw around with extending the contract. They have no control over the calendar, so at least you'll know that you'll get your rights back on X date, even if the publisher goes under and you're unable to secure a formal ROR form from them.

DO NOT sign a contract that has "life of copyright" as one of its terms. PERIOD.


Also, DO NOT sign a contract that doesn't clearly specify WHEN sales periods end and when statements and payment will be rendered. For example, my publisher specifies that payment will be rendered quarterly, and that the quarters end on December 31, March 31, June 30, and September 30, and that payment and statements will be issued no later than the 30th day of the month following the end of quarter.

If there is NOT clear language in the contract specifying those kinds of payment periods, DO NOT SIGN IT.

Do I wish Ellora's Cave could turn their rep around? Absolutely, I do. But unfortunately when I see social media posts from one of the company's principals lambasting authors and people supporting those authors, instead of trying to productively work toward fixing the problems, it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. And how many times has that same person tossed the words "misogynist" and "bully" around when describing the people speaking out about what's going on? Lots of times. (We could make a drinking game about it.)

Here's the thing: Doesn't matter if the company is run by a man (Silver) or by a woman (Ellora's Cave) if a publisher is NOT living up to their contracted obligations, then they shouldn't be shocked when people start speaking out about it and warning other people.

I can tell you, the mentality some take of denning up and hoping it blows over and that they won't be affected does NOT work. Never does. The culture of silence only hurts new authors who sign on and get sucked into a bad situation. That. NEVER. WORKS. Didn't work in Silver, didn't work with Noble, not working now. I've seen assorted comments from principals at EC stating to the effect that if people would just shut up, things would be fine.

Uh, no, they won't. It just means no one's calling anyone out on the problems.

I'm sad for the few people I'm seeing who are blindly defending Ellora's Cave and when you ask them points about the lawsuit, they haven't even read the filings, the evidence. They're taking one person's word as law instead of independently doing research.

ALL the filings are available.

Important takeaways from the Ellora's Cave fiasco:

1) EC did NOT "win" the lawsuit. There was a confidential settlement (that is still not finalized with the court as of this writing) and while Dear Author had to post some "corrections" (and if you read their very particular and precise wording, you'll see an interesting pattern) but the original blog post still stands.

2) There are even MORE EC authors coming out now, in light of certain EC principals crowing that they "won" when they didn't, and reporting their experiences (some of them horrendous) with EC. Including a former editor. LISTEN TO THEM.

3) This is a VERY valuable lesson: DO NOT SIGN threshold publishing contracts. PERIOD. Do NOT sign "life of copyright" contracts. Only sign contracts that expire after a clearly set timeframe (3, 5, 10, whatever years). That way, regardless of what the publisher does (or if they go out of business) YOU have a set timeframe of when that contract expires and you can get out of it. Publishers might be able to fudge sales data, but they cannot change the calendar.

4) Make SURE the contracts specifies EXACTLY when royalties and statements will be paid. No loosey-goosey "3 months" or "quarterly." Make SURE the DATES are specified. In my publisher's contracts, they specify that the end of quarter is December 31, March 31, June 30, and September 30, and that statements and payments will be issued by the 30th day of the month following end of quarter.

And, oh, guess what? They've NEVER BEEN LATE paying me. EVER. Evvvveeerrrrr. And they have hundreds of authors.

5) DO NOT SIGN a contract you are not comfortable with. If there's something you want changed, ask for the change. If they refuse? Walk away. Do NOT be so desperate to sign a contract that you regret it later.

6) RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH. If there are ANY hints of trouble at a publisher, don't sign with them because you "really like" one of the people there. This is YOUR book, YOUR intellectual property. Don't let yourself sign it over just because someone's really nice, and, "Oh, that'll NEVER happen to me!" (Yes, it can and will.)

7) I have NEVER seen an "organized conspiracy of authors" gang up against a publisher who wasn't having problems. The ONLY time I've seen authors speak out en masse was in instances like Noble, Silver, Triskelion, and Dorchester, when they started having problems (and eventually folded). If LOTS of authors are speaking out, it means that things have hit critical mass and people are upset. You will always have a few discontented authors at ANY house, but the ONLY time you see LARGE numbers of them all speaking out is when there is a HUGE problem. Law of averages, folks. If one shrill person is screaming that EVERYONE is a liar, and everyone else is calling that shrill person a the math. Seriously. Just do it.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

30 Days of #NaNoWriMo - Day 28

#NaNoWriMo Day 28

Feeling a little worried are we, sunshine? But some darned good ideas might just be springing up for your story in the midst of your desperation, huh?

Get used to it. Sometimes, that just happens. Some people work better when under a tight and pressing deadline. However the magic has to work for you, that's what you need to do. Working under a variety of situations will help you grow as a writer and find what works best for you.

Friday, November 27, 2015

30 Days of #NaNoWriMo - Day 27

#NaNoWriMo Day 27

There's a reason we have "rules" in writing/storytelling. Wanting to break the rules is fine, but if you are clueless about the rules to start with...there's your starting point. Too often, writers want to "break rules" without understanding the true reasons the rules are THERE or how they work in the first place. Sometimes what a writer sees as visionary is, in retrospect, a pretty dumb decision that can negatively impact the reader's experience. (Not what you want to do.)

Example: There is a reason the "three act" structure works, and has worked literally for a couple of thousand years in storytelling. Because it WORKS. Trying to usurp that structure without first understanding WHY it works is like trying to build a house without understanding important principles like load-bearing walls and foundation requirements.

In other words, don't "fix" what isn't broken. Instead of trying to rewrite "rules," learn the rules and then learn how to make your writing sparkle to the point that it renders the rules irrelevant.

I mean, really, if you had a teenager who said they wanted to "reinvent" how people drive, would you turn them loose with your car, or wait until they showed enough maturity to understand that the "rules of the road" are there for a darn good reason?


Thursday, November 26, 2015

30 Days of #NaNoWriMo - Day 26

#NaNoWriMo Day 26

Instead of beating yourself up because you're "losing" NaNo and not making the word count you wanted, how about feeling thankful that you are able to do this in the first place. Perspective. Beating yourself up for what you don't accomplish does no good at all. Celebrate what you have done, and strive to keep moving forward.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

30 Days of #NaNoWriMo - Day 25

#NaNoWriMo Day 25

It writes the words upon the page, or else it gets the hose of...rage...

I know it doesn't make sense. But you're in the homestretch. It's so close you can TASTE it, right? Remember that when you finish this book, that puppy gets EDITED, NOT uploaded to KDP/Kobo/Nook/Smashwords/etc. Right?


Don't make me get the hose, kiddies. Don't make me get the hose. Writing your book is the easy part. Seriously. Don't let that discourage you, either. You've done something most people who "want" to do never even start doing.

But don't rush it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

30 Days of #NaNoWriMo - Day 24

#NaNoWriMo Day 24

Do all your characters "sound" the same? While writing in convoluted dialects is generally frowned upon because it's, well, annoying as frak to read, you can still make your characters sound different from each other. If you take away all dialogue and action tag attributes, can you tell which character is speaking from "listening" to them? No? Fix that. Remember that dialogue absolutely should NOT be "proper" English, unless that's really how the character talks. (And that can be part of their personality.) Real people speak in contractions, incomplete fragments, made-up words--they don't sound like an English Lit thesis paper.

Monday, November 23, 2015

30 Days of #NaNoWriMo - Day 23

#NaNoWriMo Day 23

Still hanging in there, aren't you? Just 7 more days. Don't panic! Remember, just because you don't get your book "done" doesn't mean you've "lost." If you got SOMETHING done, that's still more than the people who say, "I want to write a book...someday," and then never get started. You've got a start. That's HUGE. Keep going!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

30 Days of #NaNoWriMo - Day 22

#NaNoWriMo Day 22

In all the craziness that is NaNo, don't forget to take care of YOU. A car can't run on an empty tank. Take time to read, watch something on TV, take a long shower, whatever. Are you eating well? Are you drinking enough water? Exercising or at least standing and stretching? Walking around? Don't forget that YOU are the machine. Take care of it.