Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The easy road?

I'm piddling around online like I normally do...emails, Facebook, you know...the usual stuff.  I noticed that one of my new Twitter followers (side note:  thank you to everyone who has followed me so far...there's been too many to thank individually in 140 characters) is a guy whose website boasts that he can help you...yes, YOU write a book and become a published author!  If you just get his CD and his handy-dandy guidebook, he'll reveal to you (yes, YOU) the hidden secrets of not only writing your book but publishing it and making thousands upon thousands of dollars!  Yes, that's right....if you use his methods you can not only write the next worldwide blockbuster book, but you can also get it published quickly and easily whilst avoiding common mistakes almost every new writer makes.  In addition, you will reap the rewards!  That's right, you will be showered with gold!  Beautiful models will arrive at your house in Ferrari's and Porsche's.  And you get to keep both!  You will also get a monkey.  That's right, you get a free monkey to go along with your new found wealth, sexy fun-time models and sleek ass cars.  Not to mention your new full time career of being a worldwide bestselling author!

Does anyone really believe that there's a simple, inroad to getting published and making millions? There isn't.  Nope.  Sorry, there just isn't.

"But what about self-publishing?  Isn't that what you did?  Isn't that just a quick and easy way to get published and make money?"

Well, yes and no.  Yes, it's true, self publishing services like Amazon's KDP and Barnes and Noble's Pubit really do make publishing your own work as an ebook very, very simple.  Just upload, set your price point and done.  Hell, a half brain dead slug could do that much.

But there's no easy way to do all of the things this site (and I've seen dozens just like it, so believe me, I'm not picking on one person) talks about.  There's really not.  Let's take it a step at a time, shall we?

1.  First you have to write a book.  Now, on the surface, this is a really easy thing to do, right?  Think of a cool idea, put words down on paper, viola!  But as (I hope) many of you know, writing a book isn't a simple act at all.  Even the books that "seem to write themselves" pose obstacles and problems, twists and turns that you as the author have to navigate.  I'll be doing more posts on some of the ins and outs of what it takes to write a book later, otherwise this post will be War and Peace kind of long.  But there's one little thing missing from the whole "write a book" theory that these do it quick sites fail to impress.

The book has to be good.

Yep.  You can't just throw some shit on a page and call it a book.  This isn't a modern art museum where you can put a purple triangle on a wall and blow smoke up the public's ass and tell them it's a statement on the cultural impact of recycling in the Sudan or something.  No, the book has to be good.  It has to be well written, with good grammar and well thought out sentences.  It has to have characters that people believe and care about.  It has to have a plot, goals for these characters, obstacles for them to overcome...

2.  Get published.  Damn, that's just simple, isn't it?  2 words.  Get Published.  Hell, if it were that simple, I'd have done it and had a career equal to Stephen King's back when I was 9.  (This is also a subject which will spawn more posts in the future, so forgive me if I gloss over some things here.)  When it comes to publishing, you have 2 choices:  traditional publishing (think one of the big houses in New York) or self publishing.  As mentioned earlier, yes, self pubbing is a very simple route.  Click, upload, done.  There are no agents to win over, no editors sitting in a Manhattan office to convince...you just upload that bitch and you're a published writer.  But just because you have a book listing on Amazon or B&N or Smashwords or wherever doesn't mean that people are going to buy the thing, or that they'll like it (see #1).

If you're doing the self pub route (which I'm going to assume most of you reading this are), then everything that would have been taken care of by a traditional publisher now falls to you.  So, you have to edit the book.  You have to get it formatted for Kindle and Nook, you have to design a cover.  Sure, you can do all of this yourself.  There are plenty of formatting freeware things out there and there are plenty of images on the internet that you can snag and create a cover.  But if you're doing this and you really want to do it right, shouldn't you do it the right way?  I mean by getting a professional to do some of this for you?  People buy books that look professionally done.  They will rarely buy a book whose cover looks like you put it together in Paint or using Clip Art.  If you really care and really want to do this, then do it professionally.  Hire a cover designer.  Hire an editor.  Hire a good format person.  All of this takes time and money.  There is no quick and easy way to do it, I don't care what a CD tells you.

3.  Market the book.  This one, I'll admit, is probably  one of the trickier things to do of all of these.  In the ad on the website that spawned this post, I didn't see any claims to helping you unlock the mysteries of marketing the book.  I assume that somewhere in the guide and CD that he covers that information.  However, marketing is - from what I've learned (and I'll be the first to admit I don't know a hell of a lot about it) is around 30% hard work and 70% luck.  What works on some people won't work on others.  Getting your book more visible on Amazon seems about as easy and clear a path as finding a needle in a windowless, blacked out room while blindfolded and having your hands tied behind you.  Sure you can increase your web presence:  blog, Goodreads, Kindleboards, Twitter, Facebook, etc....but what it all comes down to is luck.  You get lucky if people find your book and based on the description, cover and sample pages like it enough to invest in it.  Then it all comes back to #1.  Writing a damn good book.

I don't want any of you to think that I'm saying that these kinds of web sites are hokey and are just out to steal money from you and not give you anything in return.  They probably do contain some good nuggets of information, some kernels of wisdom that may not be obvious or easily found out on your own.  Some of the things that I've done once I published the book were things I learned from other people.  It's not all 'make it up on your own.'  But the thing that chaps me the most is the blatant claim that you can - just by reading their site, or subscribing to their newsletter or seminar, or by watching their DVD - automatically know how to write a good book and tell a good, engaging story, then know how to polish it up so that it is the best it can be, THEN know how to get it in front of people so that they will happily scoop it up and spend hours enjoying the hell out of it, so much so that they just throw their wallets at you.

It's not that easy, people.  I'm sorry to have to tell you, but there is no magic CD.  There is no secret back door into writing a book, publishing it and making money.  There's only work, determination and luck.  If you've read this far, I'm willing to bet you have it in you to do what you need to do.  You CAN do it.  You CAN write a great book and get it published.  You just can't do it by subscribing to some website or by listening to a guy speak in a small conference room at the Airport Ramada.

You can only do it by sitting down and writing the damn thing yourself.

Now go write it. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Oh the humanity.....

Okay, I want to talk for a minute to the authors out there, especially the indie self-pubbed authors out there.  You non writing folk can keep reading, I don't want to discourage you from reading.  Hell, if anything, it may give you a peek into what your favorite authors may be going through.

Okay.  So....you got a negative review on Amazon or B&N or wherever.  Feels like the end of the world, eh?  Like all the time and efforts you put into that book, all the money you spent out of pocket to have a cover designed, the pages edited, the whole thing formatted...all of it was a waste.  Someone with the crazy chick magnet handle doctorwhoisyourdaddy69 wrote that your book lacked depth, or that the characters were pathetic, or that the ending was stupid and predictable and actually resolved nothing.

What to do?

Some people would tell you to just ignore the bad reviews.  Some would say never read your reviews at all.  Both have some merit to what they want you to do, but I think that - to a degree - there is a third option.  Learn from the bad reviews.

Since I put out my book The Uninvited, I have been lucky enough to get a good bit of very positive reviews.  But yesterday I actually got my first not so grand one.  It was a 3 star review, and while the reviewer said that he read the book in one sitting and seemed to breeze through it, he had 3 big problems with it.

Reading his list of issues with my book stung.  Okay, let's get this out of the way first.  If you're going to be a writer, whether you pursue traditional print or self-pub, the number one rule is that you have to have thick skin. You're going to hear from people that what you just spent hours or months or years working on - pouring your heart and soul into - is shit.  Sure, they probably won't say it that bluntly...but the underlying message is the same.  And I'm not saying this guy was telling me that my writing was shit.

But he certainly had problems with it.  Now, I don't agree with him, but I'm willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt.  He's most likely a well read dude who knows what works for him in a story.  For some reason, my book didn't quite hit on all the notes he needed it to.

So how can I learn from this bad review?  Easy.  First, I don't let it discourage me.  You can't let a single negative thing people say to you about your writing affect your writing.  For every doubter there's going to be a slew of people who support you.  And if nobody is supporting you, then fuck 'em all.  You shouldn't be writing for them....write for yourself.  It's like Stephen King said once.  (and I'm paraphrasing slightly here) "I write for myself.  I write things I enjoy.  If other people happen to like it too, all the better."

Words to live by, my friends.

So, yes, I don't let this guy's review get me down.  He didn't like that book?  That's cool.  I'm sorry he didn't, but I can't help that.  What I can do is remember things he pointed out and make sure that I ensure those aren't weaknesses in the next book.  If, for instance, he had pointed out that dialogue during action scenes came off as hokey or just a step above the Oscar caliber dialogue in a porno movie, then I'll try to remember the next time I write dialogue in an action scene to take extra care.  Read it out loud (that's a great tip regardless of the prose...) to check that it doesn't sound too stiff or "I'm here to clean your cable."

Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying that I'll try to write the next book as if this guy is standing over my shoulder telling me how to write.  But if he pointed out something, then I'll try to make sure I cover that as best I can, to the best of my satisfaction.  If someone tells you that it's stupid or predictable, the way you ended the book, then make sure you take some time on the next one to ensure that the ending isn't predictable.

I'm trying really hard not to make it sound like you should alter your writing based on reviews.  You shouldn't.  But I look at reviews - the negative ones - as tiny little reminder signs just off the highway as you're traveling along towards the completion of the next book.  That's all.  

In the end, it's YOUR book and you have to be happy with it.  If other people don't like what you wrote, then they can either not read the next one, or go write their own damn book.  What counts is your happiness with the work.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Okay, I screwed up.  I wrote the inaugural post quite some time ago and had every intention of updating the blog once a week.

You can see how well that turned out.  Oh well.  F it.

Alright, my plan was to use this blog as a way to interact with people who read my stuff, whether they like it or hate it, as well as providing an insight into the writing process.  For fellow writers, it may prove helpful to see how someone else does it, maybe to help them past an obstacle they're up against, or to give them an idea on how to....outline, for example.  For non writers, I would think this look into how a writer gets the ideas and struggles with putting words to page would be a fun look behind the curtain.

So, what have I been doing these last 5 or 6 months?

Not too much, unfortunately.   But that's changing.  I've picked up momentum with the follow up to The Uninvited (available on Amazon as an ebook right now).

Some writes will tell you that they have no problems coming up with ideas....that they have ideas falling out of their pockets constantly.  I have ideas, but....well....let me give you the background.

When I wrote and finished the early drafts of The Uninvited, I was married.  That marriage was going down the drain slowly despite my best efforts to keep it afloat.  Now, for the sake of some privacy I won't go into details.  Suffice it to say, it's hard to stay married to someone who doesn't love you anymore.

So....when the divorce happened, as you can imagine, things were really emotional for a long time.  Many people would take that emotion and pour it into their work.  I'm not one of those people.  I couldn't find the motivation to work on anything new, much less edit and revise previous manuscripts.  The well ran dry, as they say.

After a while, when the wounds had healed somewhat, I started looking back at The Uninvited.  I decided that I would do what I could to put it out there.  I'll do another post about my decision to self publish rather than pursue the traditional route, promise.

However new story ideas still weren't coming to me.  Once the book was out, I started thinking about what would be next.  I had rough notes on a few books, so as unromantic as it sounds, I just picked one.  I tossed it around in my head for several days like a rock in a rock polisher (do they even still make those?) and eventually decided it wasn't pulling my attention.  So I grabbed another, loaded it up in the ole noodle and gave it a whirl.

Finally I found one that sounded and felt pretty good.  It took me almost 6 months to find it, but it's here now.  And I think it's pretty good.  It's going to be hard as hell to do, but I think it can be done.

I'll tell you more about it next time.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Inaugural Post


My name is Jonathan Daniel, and I'm a writer.  I write fiction, mostly horror.  Although I'm sure that you could consider some of my stuff suspense or thriller.  What's in a name, anyway?

I'm writing this blog on a Monday night, in the middle of January.  My first book...well, my only book as of this writing if we must be frank, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble as an ebook.  It's called "The Uninvited."  I think it's pretty good...although there were plenty of days during the writing of it that I thought it was nothing but pure, unadulterated shit.  But it's selling copies and that's good enough for me.  People are reading the book and - if the reviews are to be believed - actually enjoying it.

So, I'm starting this blog as a compendium to my writings.  I want it to be a place where I can interact with you, the fan, the hater, the....writing groupie?

I want you to get to know me.  I'll have posts about writing, about my progress, about the thought process going into the next book (the idea for which I finally decided on last night), experiments I try with promotions.  And I'll share some personal things with you all too.  I promise, not all of my posts will sound as stuffy or formal as this one does (to my ears, at least).

If you're easily offended, I advise you to surf away.  I'm not going to filter anything I put on here.  Hell, sometimes you people will be lucky if I spell check it.

But if you like writing....if you like horror....if you even took some of your grandmother's mothballs, dissolved them in a glass of cold 5 day old coffee and drank it and in the ensuing hallucinatory state actually bought my book and read it and liked it, then stick around.  There be good times ahead.

Welcome....to the Infectious Condition.