Monday, May 5, 2014

Beta Readers - Why They Are Important

I'd like to discuss beta readers today.  Before I started writing, I had no idea what a beta reader was.  Coming from the I.T. field, I'm certainly cognizant of the beta tester term.  In IT a beta tester would be used for testing a program to make sure all the bugs are worked out before it can be released to the public.  A beta reader basically does the same thing.

When you write a book, it is essential, in my opinion to solicit advice from your target audience.  If you think you know it all, you're wrong.  Readers can point out flaws that you won't see because of the way you think.  In my opinion, to write a book well, you need several things including: 
  • A proofreader other than yourself - Don't try to proofread your own work.  It's a good way to miss A LOT of mistakes
  • An editor, if you can afford one - Editors are extremely important in helping you craft your work.
  • Alpha Reader - This may be your editor, or it could be someone close to you who can give you immediate feedback.  They need to be tough on you otherwise their usefulness is limited
  • Beta Reader - After taking into consideration the editor and Alpha reader, you need to have other people look at your book before it's released for general consumption.
A beta reader should be someone who is well-versed in the genre you're writing.  Having a beta reader read your romance book when that person only reads sci-fi, isn't helping you.  You need someone who knows the genre and can point out flaws and plot holes, much like a good editor would.  Beta readers who already like your work AND can be critical are perfect.  They know your style and they can tell you when you get off the track. 

How should you give them your books?  I think that a lot of authors give out their books in chunks to the beta reader.  I'm different in that I want to give them the entire book.  It's not that the other idea is wrong, but I like being able to let the reader feel the entire flow.  I'm afraid if I only give them a couple chapters at a time, they may miss something because of the delay between readings.  I used my alpha reader (in this case my lovely wife, who is firm but fair) to look at various passages and chapters as I go through the entire book.  My alpha reader is also the first person to read the book in its entirety when it's complete.

So do yourself a favor, make sure you have a beta reader to check your work before you release it to the public.  It can only help make your book all that much better.

Good luck and happy writing!

On Getting Reviews

As an Indie Author, reviews are the lifeblood of my writing existence.  Reviews and word of mouth are two of the most powerful ways to get your story across to more people.  Think about it, when you look at a book on Amazon that you've never seen before, you most likely look at 4 things.
  1. Title - That's your first chance to sell your book
  2. Cover Photo - The eye naturally goes here next.  A poor cover will destroy your chances.
  3. Blurb - Another critically important thing.  If the potential reader has made it this far, the blurb is the thing that will hook them.  If it's bad, you've just lost a reader.
  4. Reviews  - Lastly, people want to know what other people thought of the book.  The more reviews you have, the better a new reader can gauge your book. 
So that means you'd like all 5-star reviews correct?  After all 5-stars is the best.  If a person sees that all 10 or your reviews are 5-stars then they are more likely to read it correct?  Well, yes and no.  You certainly want 5-star reviews, but more importantly you want reviews that are well thought out and tell you more about the book.

It's more important in my opinion to have a 3 or 4 star review that goes into detail about the book and tells the strengths and weaknesses of it rather than a 5-star review that just says the book was great.  Think about that.  If the review just says "read this book" or "I thought it was awesome" what does that tell you?  Not a whole lot.  A longer, well written review is worth ten of those non-informational ones.  Would I rather all my reviews are 5-star?  Of course, as long as I earned them.  If it's not, I can live with that.  One-star reviews that are informative can be very helpful, not only to you as an author, but to potential readers as well.  Would I like it?  No, but I can swallow my pride and take what the reviewer mentions to heart so that I can improve my writing in the future.

Other than the quality of the reviews, quantity matters as well.  Twenty 5-star reviews looks impressive, but 300 4-star reviews looks even better.  The more reviews, the more chances for people to talk about your book. 

So remember, next time you finish a book, but sure to reward the author by giving them an honest, thoughtful review.  It's the best thing you can do for them.

Good luck and happy writing!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Status Update for 4/9/2014

It's been awhile since I've been able to post anything here, and for that I apologize.  I've been working hard on finishing book 2 while at the same time preparing book 1 for release as a paper book.  Monday, I received the proof of Vacant Hearts.  My heart beat just a little faster as I held it in my hands for the first time.  There's nothing like seeing your work in book form for the first time.

After the initial euphoria wore off, I discovered that it wasn't quite ready for prime time.  It didn't even have page numbers!  How could I forget those?  That and a dozen other small things cropped up.  If you have the money, it's definitely worth having professionals do the formatting for you.  I can tell you from experience, especially using Word, that it's not easy.  It's frustrating in fact.  But eventually, it got done, I'm happy to say.  Now I'm just waiting on the second (hopefully perfect) proof before I can okay it for good.

At the same time I was banging my head against the wall trying to get the formatting correct, I was working on book 2.  Incredibly, I was able to complete the last chapter and epilogue in only three days.  I love it when things come together.  It's revision next and then I can send it off for review.  I can't wait to see what people think.  Writing one book was hard, but writing a second one, now that people have an expectation is even harder. 

It's time to get back to the revisions. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Experience with a Facebook Book Release Party

Okay, I'll admit it.  I've never really gotten into Facebook before I became an author.  I never really had a reason to.  Now that I do, I still don't "get" it.  But last week, my PR Director (my wife) thought it would be a good idea to sign up to be part of a Facebook Book Release Party on a site called One More Chapter, a site that does book reviews and promotes a lot of different books.  I had no idea what it entailed and was a little apprehensive about doing one. 

I spoke with Jamie over at the site who walked me through what it was and what I would have to do.  So I signed up for the 5-6 time slot and then plotted my plan of action.  When the time came, I was a little nervous, not knowing how I would be received or what would happen.  It turns out that I had a great time.  The people on the site were friendly and very interested in what I had to say.  They became even more interested when I told them my story.

The hour went by incredibly fast, but not before I got to chat with a bunch of friendly and interesting people, a lot of them authors just like me.  I ended up getting to promote my book and gave a way a few copies as well as an Amazon gift card.  It was a wonderful experience and I can't wait to do it again really soon. 

Because of the release party, Jamie has honored me by spotlighting Vacant Hearts on their site starting this weekend.  It's a thrill to see my work being recognized.  Hopefully it will bring about more attention to my book. 

It should be another fun experience, to say the least!  Well, that's it for now.  Good luck and happy writing.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Vacant Hearts Status Update

From time to time, I'd like to show you how my book is doing now that it's been released.  The whole purpose of this blog is to show you what a typical first time writer goes through.  It's been 10 days since my first book was published.  In that time frame, I've sold exactly 18 books.  I've given away a few as well.

Is that what I expected?  Pretty much.  I think that the one thing a new author needs is exposure.  If the book is good enough, it will sell - as long as people know about it.  I currently sit at number 426, 668 on Amazon for all Kindle Books.  I'm just a little bit away from best seller status.  That's ok.  The beauty of ebooks is that they are timeless.  There's no limit on how long it can be on a "shelf".  Perhaps it takes a year for it to take off.  Maybe once books two and three are done, readership will explode.  I think my book is good.  So far the reviews have been very good.  Time will tell the rest.

But in the meantime, I will look for ways to promote it.  I'll find ways to get the word out somehow.   And all the while, I will not give up.  Even if Vacant Hearts ends up not being "successful" I'll continue to write what I love to write.  I've got ideas for many stories.  Writing is my passion, not my job.

Would I love to have a best seller?  Sure.  Once you do, it makes selling your other books very easy.  But it won't define me.  I will continue to write if no one buys my books at all.  So write what you love, and don't worry about the rest.     

Good luck and happy writing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How Do You Write?

How do you write?  Do you have a desk in an office where you can close the door and not be disturbed?  Or do you write in a completely different way?  There is no correct answer other than you should be writing.

I write in one of several ways.  My primary vehicle for writing is Google Docs.  I use this for my rough draft before I switch to Microsoft Word or Libre Office to finish.  The primary reason I use Google Docs is portability.  I can use it on any computer that connects to the Internet.  In fact, when I'm at my daughter's gymnastics practice, I'll use Google Drive on my iPhone with a bluetooth keyboard.  It's the ultimate in portability.

When I'm at home, I use a laptop in bed.  I don't have a desk or office.  If I can, I'll put on my noise cancelling headphones and listen to my Music for Writing playlist on iTunes.  Otherwise, I'll just write while I make sure that the kids aren't fighting or destroying the house.  When I'm at work, I can sit at my desk and bang out a few sentences while I'm on break or lunch.

What do you do?  Some people need music but I've heard of at least one famous author who can't stand any noise whatsoever when she's writing.  I find it fascinating that we can all be doing the same thing but we all have different methods to do it.

That's all for now.  Happy writing!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Published My First Book! - Now What?

So on March 10, I self-published my first book.  There was the initial thrill of pressing the "publish" button, then the agonizing wait as it went through the vetting and reviewing process, then the final exhilaration of seeing my book for sale on Amazon.  The culmination of seven months of work was finished...  Now what?

Well, in my dream world, I sit back and watch my book sky rocket to the top of all the bestseller lists.  Then it's a matter of which Brinks Truck I need to deliver all that money to the bank.  In reality, it won't work that way.  Your book will have a decent first day as your friends and family (hopefully) support you.  After that, your sales will most likely be small or non-existent for awhile.

So rule number one is that after your book is published, you are not done.  You're only beginning.  You've got to get the word out to people.  Hit the review blogs, do whatever it takes to get your name out there.  Unfortunately, that book won't sell itself.

I have a theory about how an indie author ends up with a bestseller.  The answer is first, the book has to be good.  If it isn't, forget it, no amount of marketing can change the fact that a bad book is not going to sell.  Second, it takes a certain amount of luck.  Books that hit the bestseller lists, especially from unknown authors do so because of events falling into place, I believe.  It takes hard work, but if Amazon suddenly displays your book prominently for whatever reason, you can be sure that your sales will take off.  If Apple promotes your book as an up and coming author you are well on your way to being a bestselling author.  All it takes is that one break to get you going.

So while I market and wait for my chance, I'm still writing.  The more books you have for sale, the more books you can sell.  Now it's just a matter of selling enough to buy me that Tesla Model S!

Good luck and happy writing!