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Two Things…

Today, I want to go over two items. One might be important to you, and the second is definitely important to me. So, without further ado, I’ll jump on item one with both boots:

Don’t Write Shit.

Yes, yes, I used profanity, so cover your eyes and run screaming like a frightened schoolgirl if you must. But for all of us in the self-publishing business, this is an incredibly important point. Perhaps moreso than anything else we can do–covers, descriptions, price monkeying, blogging, seeking out interviews and reviews–all of those things pale in comparison to not writing shit.

That’s the biggest weapon our traditionally-published peers use against those of us who have struck out on our own. Every typo, every line of insipid dialog, every clunky narrative passage, even such usually mundane slights such as slipping into passive voice every now and then or ham-fisting a POV count against us. In some quarters, you might find that splitting infinitives has as much significance as splitting atoms, or is at least as reprehensible as lighting your farts while dining at a fancy five-star restaurant. We have to pay special attention to the mechanics of what we do, because without a solid, reliably-engineered foundation, our best attempts will list to one side and eventually collapse.

And then there are the questions of plots, characters, story-driven books versus character-driven works…many of us do these things as well if not better than our traditionally-published pals, but most of us do not. It’s not because we’re not as talented, as attentive to detail, as caring as they are–far from it. But we are denied the casual resources of an army of folks inside the traditional publishing industry who have years of experience taking a written work and translating it into a marketable work. (Note I did not say publishable; there’s more than some small debate behind the notion that traditional publishing would know a publishable work from a hole in the ground.) Traditional publishing is alternately bouyed and constrained by its ability to market a piece of fiction. They have the people to do it, the collective intelligence to see it through, and most times, the fiscal capability to pay for it.

Most of us don’t.

So we’re back to my initial statement: Don’t Write Shit. Have your work read by trusted beta readers, then have it read by casual folks who don’t know jack about putting together a good story, but who know everything about buying a book and why they enjoy it. Pay an editor or proofreader to comb through your revised work so they can search and destroy the spelling errors, the kludgy prose, the faulty mechanics. This is easier said than done; in an earlier post, I lamented on how after good money had changed hands, my work was still released into the wild with spelling errors. I can only blame myself for this at the end of the day, since the buck stops here. I may not be able to make everyone love my work, but damn it, I’m absolutely accountable if typos and the like disrupt their reading experience.

So here it is again, in case you weren’t paying attention:

Don’t Write Shit.

Because if you do, you make it tougher for the rest of us in the self-publishing world. And hiding behind the discovery of a typo or two in the latest Stuart Woods book and saying “Aha!” isn’t going to help anyone. Man up, get some objective reads, and fix what’s broken in your work before you put it out for sale.

Next item on the agenda…

Time To Raise The Prices!

I released The Gathering Dead at that oh-so-buyable 99¢ price point to generate some market penetration and get my name bandied about. The low, low price was the quickest way to get people to read my work and decide if I’m worth it or not. I get some emails from folks who have read the book, and the lion’s share is very positive. While actual reviews on Amazon are still a bit Spartan, only two of the 13 currently posted are negative (complete with the obligatory “this book is so bad I couldn’t even finish it, but decided to review it anyway” assessment). And after 2,500 units sold, I think it’s time for The Gathering Deadto grow up and step into the $2.99 range. I don’t think this is an onerous price, and while there’s some risk to this, the underlying motivation is not monetary. What compels me to do this is that the 99¢ bracket is increasingly considered to be the price of amateurs.

I don’t think I’m an amateur.

Now, I may be delusional about this, but it’s getting time to put this theory to the test. I have no doubt I’ll lose sales; in fact, I expect it. But I’ll only plus-up The Gathering Dead, and to remove some risk to that title, I’ll be releasing the “bridge” novella, currently titled Left With The Dead, at the 99¢ price point. I don’t think a novella should be priced at $2.99 anyway, so the dot double-nine should be appropriate to most folks. And if folks dig it (and I’m talking new customers here, not ones who have already pulled the trigger on TGD), it could be a hook to get folks to buy the original novel…and if not, it should motivate them to buy the sequel, The Rising Horde.

Good plan or just plain ol’ tomfoolery? Time will tell, and if everything tanks, I can always go back to 99¢ and wait for new readers to discover the product. For the moment, time is on my side.

  1. May 14, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Stephen,

    Thank you for the helpful post and advice. I’m thinking about envisioning a small business type attitude towards reviews. It’s better if the reader (i.e. the customer) provides some constructive criticism towards author, since it gives you feedback into your customer base. It’s much better than the alternative, which is the reader thinks your writing sucks, and they never buy anything from you again. This gives me an idea for a post at my place.

    Also, I’m reading Gathering Dead during my daily commute out here in Bangkok. So far so good, and I’ll give a review when I’m finished.

  2. May 14, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    And I thank you for that! Glad you’re enjoying the book.

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