Free Promo: Before the Legend

#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks > Growing Up & Facts of Life > Friendship, Social Skills & School Life > Boys & Men

In case you didn’t know already, this week marks the 3rd anniversary of my debut novelette. I want to thank all my readers and fans who have read Before the Legend as well as my other stories to the series. I’m celebrating big with a free run that goes from November 21st-25th, right in time for Black Friday.

It will be free exclusively on Amazon (Worldwide) for Kindle. I’ve made some changes to my buy now page to reflect my free run. Download it while it’s free here.

 

10 Things I Learned Since Self-Publishing

It’s been three years since I self published my first book. It’s definitely been a learning experience marked by relative successes and failures. As I mark the 3rd anniversary since I self-published Before the Legend here are the top ten things I’ve learned over the course of three years in no particular order.

  1. Marketing is your responsibility. With traditional publishing companies you can expect a team to help market your book to your target audience. Even then you can’t sit back and relax. Some effort is required to reach out to your target audience wherever they may be found. This is especially important with indie writers because they have no big-name publishing company doing the marketing/advertising for you. This can be very daunting especially for new writers who know little about marketing and what’s involved in marketing a book. After all getting your manuscript polished and formatted is just the first hurdle. Getting people to find and read your book is a whole other monster. What can help is seeking advice from other experienced writers on how they market their books. This is a great starting point especially if you have no background in marketing.
  2. Don’t bother responding to negative reviews. This one is easier said then done because naturally when we get a review that we don’t agree with or is downright hateful we get defensive or angry. While my reviews have been mostly positive I have received a handful of constructive criticism on certain parts of my story. When you find yourself getting worked up over a review it’s often good to take a step away from the screen and come back to it later. This will allow you to 1) Cool off and 2) Be able to reflect on the criticism given with an objective mind. Was the reviewer being spiteful or did they have a valid point? If it was the latter you may be able to extract a gem or two from the criticism and use that in the future. Even if the review has no validity to it, responding to the reviewer is not only a waste of time but can potentially damage your reputation. How you handle the review is important because readers examine your every word under a magnify glass. Readers expect to express their opinion without fear of intimidation or that they are being stalked on cyberspace. Responding to a negative review will likely come off unprofessional and may even deter future readers. Whether you like it or not it’s best not complain online. I’m afraid writers don’t have that luxury.
  3.  Know the market you’re writing for. This point is important especially as it relates to marketing. What is the target audience in which you’re writing for? What does your audience expect? These are questions you want to ask when you first start writing not after you publish. I found out the hard way when I first published. Knowing your audience will help you to tailor your marketing/advertising to the right groups. It will also help you position your story so that it can be more readily found by those searching for your particular story. Knowing your audience will also help you to set realistic goals in terms of sale. If you’re writing a romance, you can be guaranteed there is a huge market for that genre. For other genres such as historical fiction that will have a smaller, less mainstream audience. However even genres that fall under a smaller niche can still be profitable. After all in popular genres such as romance or YA which have many competing works, there are readers searching for a specific type of book within those genres. At the end of the day if there is enough of an audience for a particular niche, you can expect relative success.
  4. Have a plan. This is a reminder from an earlier post but I think it’s worth being mentioned again. Having a plan to market your book, garner reviews, and etc will make your life much easier as you take the journey to self-publish. New writers can sometimes make this mistake of going into self-publishing without thinking everything through. Granted you can’t plan everything like how people will respond to your book. That’s out of your control. But you can control the overall presentation of the book. Focus on what you can control and be flexible when one path doesn’t work out. This will cut down on a lot of unnecessary stress.
  5. You will not strike it big the first-time around. With the exception of a few, most writers will not make the bestseller’s list the first time around. That may not even happen the second or even third time around. This is not to be negative but is the reality of the business. Even if you’re fortunate to crack the bestseller’s list, to maintain your staying power week after week is very difficult because you’re constantly competing with thousands upon thousands of books. Your sales rank can and will fluctuate depending on how well or not well other books in a similar genre are doing. This is contingent on the algorithm that sites such as Amazon use to determine your sales rank. It’s even rarer to find books to top the list and garner attention from Hollywood like Hunger Games or the Lord of the Rings.
  6. Don’t quit your day job! This goes along with point #5. Since you can’t guarantee how well a book is received it would be very unwise to quit your day job. Unless you’re J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins or the elite few you will likely not make enough money to live off your books. At least not yet. Until a writer gets high enough revenue from a consistent basis, most writers find it advantageous to still work their day jobs. If anything when you’re starting off, it will be the writing that will be supplementing your income not the other way around. To make a lot of money from writing takes skill, concerted effort, good fortune and churning out more books. If you’re expecting to be rich from writing, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
  7. People like free things. Generally I find that rule to hold true. That’s why free runs will catch people’s attention. You’re more likely to get people to download your book when it’s free than full-price. This can be a good and bad thing. From my own experience once the book goes back to full price after a free-run the downloads will dry up significantly. This is because people who may have had reservations about your book are more likely to take a chance on your book because they know they have nothing to lose (except time). That’s why some authors make their books permafree or permanently free as a marketing strategy to gain new readers who will hopefully be invested enough to buy the next book in the series.
  8. Self-promotion is your best friend. Not only is it the cheapest form of marketing but word of mouth can be effective.  This can be challenging especially if you’re an introvert like myself. If you can get enough people interested in your book, chances are they will share it with their friends or on their blogs for you. Every time people share your links, re-blog your article, write reviews, they’re giving you added exposure.
  9. People are more critical of self-published books. Although I haven’t felt the sting as other indie writers, one of the things I learned early on  is that people are more likely to be critical of books that are self-published. Unfortunately some readers and reviewers view self-published books to be inferior, amateurish, or unprofessional. While there are self-published books out there that fit that criteria, I feel that indie writers have to try even harder to prove our books are as good if not better than traditionally published books. That’s why having a polished manuscript and a professional looking book cover are very important to set yourself apart from the competition.
  10. Reviews are very important to us. I honestly can’t stress how important reviews are for a new writer especially an indie writer. Do our readers like our book? Did they get our vision? We’ll never know that unless someone tells us. Having feedback on our work is what motivates writers to keep writing. Having reviews can also be beneficial for undecided readers so they can make an informed decision. Granted no one likes bad reviews so having a bad one could dampen your spirits. At the same time if you have all glowing reviews you better hope they’re valid. If readers detect that they are biased or paid reviews, it can take away  from your credibility.

So if you can sum up these ten points in one sentence it would be: Self-publishing is not easy. In fact it’s not the most profitable route to take to make fast money. Many times you’ll actually spend more money trying to get it published/marketed than your actual profit when you factor in royalty rates. However if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to put out a solid book and have a solid plan to market your book to your target audience you have a chance of getting your book out there to the fans that will actually appreciate your book while gaining sales in the process. With self-publishing you really have to be willing to put in the work to see results. It’s a learning process that will push you in ways you never thought possible.  Even if you take nothing else from the experience, you’ll be a better writer than you were yesterday.

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Speaking of marketing, I’m overdue for a new promotion. This week celebrates the 3rd anniversary since I self-published Before the Legend and I’m celebrating big. From November 21st-25th I’m offering my eBook for Kindle free only on Amazon. To be the first to receive new releases and special offers including the latest for the paperback version sign up here.

 

How to Attract Readers?

Some books turn you off whether it’s spelling mistakes, cheesy cliches, or Mary-Sue characters. On the other end of the spectrum there are books that attract you. Some books instantly jump out at you whether you’re perusing the shelves of Barnes & Noble, or scrolling through the pages of Amazon. You just have this urge to pick the book up or click on it to see what it’s all about. What attracts a reader to a book depends on multiple factors from genre preferences to an attractive character plastered on the front cover. With so many books flooding the market you want your book to stand out, but how? What will attract readers?

Flip the Turn-offs into Turn-ons

As an indie writer, I’ve found myself asking that question even after my book was published. Obviously avoiding the three writing traps I discussed in my last post is a step in the right direction. For example, having near perfect spelling/grammar will improve the flow of the story. However it’s only the beginning. Most readers expect a published book to be well-written and error free. You not only want to avoid writing traps in your story, but you want to strive to do the opposite. For example, instead of writing a Mary-Sue character, create a character that is different. Maybe they have a quark or a different world view. Whatever it is, you want to flesh them out so that they feel like real people with real fears, desires and idiosyncrasies.

Tip: Next time you read a book filled with your favorite characters, think about why you liked those characters? An example of this was a detailed post I did on one of my favorite characters of a popular dystopian novel on what made her real and likable. If you’re a writer, set out to create the kind of characters that you would want to meet. Chances are other readers may find those characters appealing.

However before a reader can learn how interesting your set of characters are or the wonderful world you created, they have to actually read your story. At least the first page. Otherwise they will never know how interesting you think your plot or characters are. As I alluded to earlier, there’s no one-size-fit-all approach to attracting readers. I don’t claim to have all the answers. In fact if I did I would be a best-selling author by now. However after reading other books and analyzing why I was drawn to certain ones, here are the common elements I’ve learned that play the biggest role in attracting readers.

  • An interesting premise or plot – With so many recycled story lines and overused cliches, when a writer does come out with an original story line readers will take notice especially those hungry for something new and fresh. Whether you’re hearing about the book through word-of-mouth or the blurb, the premise of the story needs to fill your mind with intrigue from the questions it raises to the built-in conflict that leaves you wondering how this story is going to turn out. For more information on writing an effective blurb you can read on here.
  • Eye-popping cover – Despite the common saying: “don’t judge a book by its cover,” people do base their judgments from first impressions. Sight is one of the most powerful and seductive of your five senses. This is true of most people and if you’re a visual person, an eye-grabbing book cover can be a powerful determining factor in choosing one book over another. The imagery coupled with the font should not only be visually pleasing but should clue the reader on what the book is about. Certain imagery will attract certain readers but having attractive characters is the easiest way to attract readers. Just look at popular romance books. They play on basic human nature which is that we are naturally drawn to beauty. Granted this method won’t work for every story. This is where knowing your audience comes into play. While it’s good to be unique, it’s advisable to still follow some expectations of the given genre you’re writing in. Whether people are seeking out books in a given genre/sub-genre or subject matter, many readers tend to gravitate to what they’re familiar with.
  • Catchy title – Sometimes just reading the title is enough to pique your curiosity. Although there are exceptions, keeping it short and snappy will not only pique the reader’s curiosity but make it more memorable. In a sea of books, new writers in particular want people to remember their book.
  • Interest-grabbing introduction – Once the reader responds to the lure, whether the plot sounded promising or the book cover intrigued them, this is the part where you hook the reader. The first few lines are arguably the make or break point and in my opinion the hardest part to get right. If you fail to hook the reader by the first page, there’s a high chance the reader will drop the book and move on to something else. Even if the reader continues on to finish the rest of chapter one, something needs to happen. While you don’t have to write out an action-packed scene to keep your reader’s attention, you should be setting up the inciting incident that propels the main plot forward. Questions need to be raised. The tone of the book should be taking shape at this point, giving the reader an idea of what they can expect going forward. If the beginning fails to grab the reader’s interest soon, whatever interest they initially had will quickly fizzle out.

There are many factors that affects our choices that I haven’t touched on. Sometimes we simply base our choices on what we’re familiar with. Perhaps we have a certain author that we love so we seek out books by that author because we like their writing style. But when analyzing why I pick a book to read even if I’m not familiar with the author or the book, the four elements I mentioned earlier are what initially draw me to the story. And I’m betting that’s true of most readers as well.

If one or more of these elements are executed well, the writer is doing pretty good. Of course you want to give attention to each of the four elements. For instance you can have an amazing blurb but your cover comes across amateurish. Or you may have an eye-popping cover but your introduction fails to hold your reader’s attention and they end up dropping the book. However if you can manage to nail all four elements, you have a book too irresistible to pass up!

So what’s the most important element to initially attract readers? I’ll leave that for you to decide in the comments.

Should You Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish?

I wondered for a time whether it was better that I stuck to self-publishing or if I should have gone the traditional route. Now I know why my choice to self-publish was the best choice for me given what my goals were. This is the most insightful and objective post that I’ve run across on the subject of both types of publishing. I recommend this to every new writer who find themselves unsure of the path they want to take.

A Writer's Path

Doors

by A.G. Young

So today we’re talking about if you should Self Publish or Traditionally Publish that baby you have been working on for months or years. This of course is no easy question to answer, and also very highly personal to each writer. So I am going to discuss my opinion on the matter. And a little forewarning, because of the topic of this post, this is going to be a long one.

Before you can answer this main question, you must answer a few others first. Let’s see what those are.

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Biggest Writing Pet Peeves

Pet peeves

Pet peeves.

We all have them. That one thing that gets under our skin and ticks us off. It can be any number of things depending on the person you ask. For some people it can range from bad body odor,  unreliability, slow drivers, fake people, tardiness, just to name a few. When it comes to writing though, most of you reading this have at least one pet peeve in regards to books you’ve read.

If you were to ask a group of people what their pet peeves are I’m sure the responses would vary. Many of them though can be boiled down to three main complaints. This is by no means an exhaustive list but here are some of the top ones I’ve heard many lament about.

Overused cliches – This has to be the biggest and also broadest writing pet peeve. This pet peeve is a collection of popular clichés, from the popular-jock-gets-the-nerdy-girl to the infamous beginning: the alarm clock going off. Granted, it’s extremely difficult for writers to avoid all clichés in their writing. This is especially true in genres such as romance or YA fiction which are the most common offenders in my personal experience. Don’t get me wrong. Clichés are not bad in themselves. I’m guilty of a couple of them. It’s just that some get used so much, that the device becomes predictable and stale. If you do employ clichés, try to mix it up. So for example, the ‘hot guy with the six-pack,’ doesn’t have to be so perfect. Maybe he has insecurities he doesn’t want others to know. Or maybe he’s really smart but tries to fit in with his peers. Whatever you concoct; just changes things up. This leads into the next writing trap.

Mary-Sue – she is synonymous with a one-dimensional character that can do no wrong. For the boy counterpart you can call him be Gary-Stu. What’s wrong with having perfect characters? Simply put they’re boring. To a reader they come off being flat caricatures instead of real people with real emotions, hopes, and faults. Yes they’re fictional characters but you want the reader to feel that they’re real. Because Mary-Sue characters lack actual flaws, they’re harder to relate to. While I may not put down your book if I run into one, I would hope the main character is at least dynamic and interesting if you want me to continue reading past chapter one.

Not surprisingly, the idealistic, dreamy characters in a lot of teen fiction fall into this particular trap. If you want to find examples of this, free story-sharing sites like Wattpad are full of them. One way to counteract this pet peeve is to brainstorm your character’s strengths and weaknesses. This adds a layer of depth to the character that makes them more multi-dimensional.

Spelling/Punctuation/Grammatical mistakes – Most poorly written books suffer from this problem. The mechanics are not used correctly and the book is full of typos. Granted I’m not a “grammar Nazi” nor am I an English major so I will make blunders in this category occasionally. Because of this I try to be forgiving when I see a typo here or there in a book. When I start seeing glaring mistakes appear multiple times throughout the page that’s when the red flags pop in my head. Instead of enjoying the story, I’m now distracted by the errors the author made. As a writer you are personally responsible for editing your works. Rereading your work out loud can help you catch mistakes or awkward sentence structures. Having another pair of eyes to review your works really goes a long way to avoid this pitfall.

Again these writing traps as I like to call them may not necessarily be your pet-peeve. For example, while others may be more lax about typos some people who are coined Grammar Nazi’s may find a single typo or a grammatically incorrect sentence a complete turn-off. For me I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Glaring errors are pet peeves because poor punctuation and spelling are not only careless but sucks me out of the story.

Some pet peeves may include those outside the list I mentioned. For example I’m particular about language used in a story, particularly profanity. While others feel it’s no big deal at all, for me a f-bomb is a complete turn off. While I may let some things slide, personally a character with a potty-mouth is crude and off-putting. If you have stories littered with profanity, you can guarantee I will be quick to drop it.

Granted even with my list, I can’t speak for everyone because pet-peeves can and do vary from person to person. And that’s OK. Whether a writing device or blunder irks you depends on a number of factors from your temperament, ethics, belief systems, bad experiences, or simply personal preference. And to make things more interesting your current mood can heighten or defuse how you react to a writing blunder. If you’re a writer you can’t always predict what’s going to turn a reader off. But it’s safe to assume the three main writing traps listed earlier are things you want to avoid as much as possible.

If you’re a writer you don’t want to turn off potential readers. If anything you want to attract potential readers especially your target audience to your story. What can help in that regard? Well that’s a discussion for a future blog post.

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Question to readers: What’s your biggest writing pet-peeve?

 

 

10 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block

As a writer I’m not immune to the dreaded writer’s block. However Vincent Mars offers 10 secrets to beating writer’s block that every writer should know about.

A Writer's Path

Writer's Block

by Vincent Mars

For us writers, few things are more frustrating than to finally sit down at our desks after taking care of real life chores only to be struck dumb by the blank page or the white screen. Writer’s block can be quite disabling, a form of writerly constipation that the harder we try to overcome, the more it aggravates. It pleases me to say that I have not suffered from this writer’s malady for a long time, which I believe is largely due to the conscious defenses against it I have taken. If you have the time, I would like to share these with you.

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“The End”

One of the things I anticipate the most in a book that I’m invested in is how the story is going to end. Will things end happily with all the loose ends tied up in a neat bow? Or will things end tragically for your beloved characters? Or worse.  What if it leaves you hanging, desperate for answers?

Most all of us can think of books that fall into each of those three main categories. It’s safe to say most people like happy endings and understandably so. We want our main character to come off victorious from the conflict they had to overcome. If you’re emotionally connected to the characters you have an even stronger incentive to see your main character(s) reach their goals and be happy at the end. Who doesn’t? You could argue all books should end happy, but not all books follow that formula. However does ending on a depressing note, ruin the whole book?

Before we answer that question. It’s important to note that the ending is a very important part of your book. While a great beginning is what hooks readers into the story, for many the ending can either make or break your book. And if you are planning on writing a series, it can determine whether the reader will bother to pick up the next book. So considering how a book can be rated poorly just because of the ending  only reinforces the importance of how you end the book.

Genre

Truth is, there is no one way to end your book. There’s various approaches to take and that all depends on multiple factors. One of the main things to take into account is the genre. With the genre comes a certain amount of expectations. What is the general expectation of that genre when it comes to the end? For most romance books, there’s usually a happy ending with the two lovers finally getting together at the end. Most genres favor happy endings but especially this genre. Of course you could break the mode and end things tragically, but you are running a risk of alienating your audience.

While most genres favor happy endings, in some genres it may be boring or even unrealistic to present an ending where everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow. Typically in genres such as thriller and horror where the plot is generally more grittier, readers come to expect twists and turns throughout the story-line, keeping readers guessing right down to the end. Oftentimes you’ll see these types of books end either on a cliffhanger or the 4th option, which is bittersweet: a mixture of good and bad events to culminate the book.

Even within each genre, every book is different. That’s because each writer has their own style and approach to story-writing. So even if a group of writers was given the same writing prompt there’s many different directions you can take the plot. Ultimately as the writer, you have the right to end your book as it suits your story. When it comes to endings there’s no one-size-fit-all approach that will work for every story. However there are a number of key components I expect in an ending and it’s a safe bet that most readers and writers would agree with the following points.

Realism

Along with the rest of the plot, does the ending fit this particular story? Unless you’re writing fantasy (which can give you a creative license to make up fantastical things), the ending needs to be somewhat plausible to readers. Does the ending flow organically with the events just after the climax or does it come off forced or contrived?

Closure

This one can be tricky especially if you’re planning on writing a series. But generally almost all fiction plots have a problem or conflict that’s raised. So naturally readers expect that by the time they get to the end the main conflict is resolved. There could be other smaller conflicts or new questions that arise which can be answered in the next series (if that’s your intent) but the main conflict should have at least been addressed and dealt with. Having the main conflict or any plot points for that matter unaddressed, may leave readers feeling dissatisfied or worse, cheated. This can be challenging especially if your story is a little more complicated with multiple subplots or many characters. But the fewer loose ends your plot has, the better.

Memorable

This one is easy to overlook but in my personal opinion is one of the most important things that makes an ending successful. Just like the beginning hooked you into the story, the ending is what you take away from the story. What was the lesson that the character learned? What is the moral of the story? What was the overall impression the story left you? If you had a particular lesson you wanted your readers to take away, this is the best time to reiterate it in the minds of the readers. No, that doesn’t mean lecturing the reader. It’s much more effective if you show the lesson. For example what are some ways the character grew over the course of the story? Let his/her actions or words speak to that effect.

One of the strongest, lasting impressions a book can leave on a reader is the emotional impact. We may forget the final words the character spoke or his/her last actions but it’s harder to forget how the story made us feel. This is true especially if it was a strong emotion we felt. Did the story make you smile? Or laugh? Gasp? Cry? The fact that you felt something means the writer did something right. Even the negative emotions.

Sometimes readers may find themselves upset at the ending of the book. I’ve seen my share of reviews on Goodreads on books I enjoyed but the reader disliked or outright hated it because of the ending. Is it because the ending was truly bad (poorly written)? Or was it because it didn’t end the way they (the reader) envisioned it should? Usually it’s the latter of the two. We don’t naturally want bad things to happen to our characters unless they’re the villain. Yet whether we admit it or not we want conflict in our stories. Otherwise our stories would be very boring and pointless if everything was perfect. You want a story to engage your senses and emotions. Depending on the nature of the story that may include more painful emotions. However if we took an objective look at our reaction to a book we may find that it’s not so much the ending we didn’t like; we just didn’t like the way it made us feel.

When it comes to the end, you should feel something for the plight of the characters. If your plot and characters weren’t compelling to begin with, there’s a high chance the reader is going to be indifferent about your book as a whole. And when you get to the end of the book and didn’t care anyways what was going to happen, more than likely that book is going to join the forgettable pile. As a writer, I should be more worried about an ending that evokes an indifferent response than something that made me sad. If I can make the characters and scene come alive then I’m doing my job as a writer. If I can pull at your heartstrings then I really got you.

So what about that question I raised earlier: does ending on a depressing note, ruin the whole book?  If you’ve gotten this far, I think you know my answer by now. Even then each person is different so you may find varying responses to that question. In conclusion, we’re not all going to have the same beginnings let alone endings. Each writer has to write an ending that suits their story and feels right to them, not necessarily to please the most people. Happy endings aren’t bad. After all, reading woe upon woe can be exhausting after a while. Sometime you do need a touch of happiness to counteract the bitter and make it sweet. If you’re a writer going for a realistic ending, it requires finding the right balance of good and bad, failures and victories. Seeing the characters make those tough sacrifices and overcome challenges can make a happy ending all the more rewarding.

So while there is no one formula to follow as a writer your end goal is to keep readers thinking about your story long after the last page is turned. So the choice is yours. What’s your ending going to be?