Change of Scenery

Today my family is off to visit the Smokey Mountains for a few days.  Even if I wasn’t a nature-lover, I would be happy.  For three weeks, I’ve been stuck in my house.  Don’t get me wrong; I’ve enjoyed using the time to both write and catch up on my reading.  Still, I’m going a little crazy here.  Hopefully the change of scenery will be inspiring and spark my imagination!

Chapter 6: Marketing Strategies

This chapter is dedicated to the part of my character that you’ve yet to read about: my inner businesswoman.  I foreshadowed this event in an earlier post when I mentioned my major in Finance.  The degree required marketing classes, and as such I’ve come up with a list of suggestions for authors who choose the self-publishing route.  I should note these items are in no way guaranteed to work.

~ If a multi-book series, publish books about three months apart. This is when big websites greatly lower their advertisements of your book unless sales have done remarkably well.  Although it may take you longer to finish a novel, simply wait to publish the first until you feel comfortable that you’d complete the second in time and so on.

~ Once Book #2 sales decline past your personal desired level, donate only the first book to libraries. This will force them to buy your other books once they’ve fallen in love with your series.
* Choose cities you donate to based on the population demographic (look for your books’ target group)
* You can add more books to the library once

~ Optimal dates to sell eBook by genre:
* January-April: Romance, Self-help, Business books, Cookery
* May-August: Adventure, Fantasy, Travel
* September-November: Academic, Horror, Paranormal
* December-January: Children, Cookery, Illustrated, Quiz, Dictionaries and quirky fun books [1]

~ Every three books, offer a deal for set.
* Example: You’re selling each book for $2.99. Sales are starting to steadily
decline for Book #3.  Offer Books #1-#3 for $4.99.
* Example: You’re selling each book for $2.99.  Sales are starting to steadily
decline for Book #6.  Offer Books #4-#6 for $4.99.

~ Use every avenue to promote Publishing Date. Examples:
* Twitter
^ use trending hashtags and relate to your story
^ create unique hashtag and try to get it trending
* Facebook
^groups
* Instagram

~ Reach out to freelance book reviewers. The standard is that you give them a free copy for an unbiased review.
* Continue going back to the same reviewers each book. Build a
professional relationship with them.  They might eventually let your books
“cut lines” when you reach out to them.

~ Listen to feedback.  If your readers tweet or ask a lot about a certain character or pairing, take note. Use that popularity and see if you can create a standalone about them.
* Do not sacrifice quality to try to force a sale. This will only anger your
readers, especially since it was one of their favorite characters you just
ruined, and you may lose loyal regular buyers.

~ Create and/or utilize website. Your author persona should already have one of these, so now use it.  Post about the books.  Ask your followers questions.  Give them something to interact with where possible.
* Subscribers List. Once they sign up, you’ve got them trapped for any news that you feel is relevant about the series!

~ Hold fan art contest about book’s characters. Offer appropriate monetary rewards for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd
     * Utilize social media to promote

~ Post a serial/short stories on your website in the same world/universe as your series. Again, do not sacrifice quality.

 

[1] Rooney, Mich. “Reaching Readers: Best Timing for Book Launches.”  SelfPublishing Advice Center.  N.p., 22 Nov. 2014. Web. 31 May 2017.

Chapter 4: Wandering with No Destination

We’ve grown up hearing the idiom repeated in our ear “Don’t judge a book by its over.”  When it comes to people, I wholeheartedly agree with what it stands for.  With books, however, I’ve always been guilty of falling into its temptations.  A distinct memory in my head is at SuperCon this past year deciding between two books (of the same author) to buy and choosing the one I did simply because the cover reminded me of a magical journal.  I had literally nothing else to go off of because the sales pitch from the author for each appealed to me equally.

We’re all guilty of it.  You walk through a bookstore or library, your finger dragging against the spines of books, until you see something – a picture, a font – that catches your eye.  It’d be a lie to claim you go through every single plot summary to make your choice; there’s simply not enough time.

The exception of this is when you have a specific author or series in mind.  You make a beeline for their spot on the shelf, buy what you went for, and possibly let yourself dally around that section for anything else that catches your eye.  Personally, I’m a user of Goodreads and have found it immensely helpful.

What does this mean for writers?  After we put our heart and soul into our imagined (yet so incredibly real) world, potential readers could pass it by on a whim based on our cover.  As previously stated, I’ve never published a book, so I have little insight on the workings of how a cover gets chosen.

There’s still a different market to consider, though.  In my first post I mentioned how my sister, Kristen, is an Indie author.  That term might’ve been new to some of you, so let me take the time now to explain: When someone is called an “Indie author,” it means that they decided to publish their book without going through the conventional processes.  Instead of querying to agents and publishing agencies, the author instead self-publishes via a large distributer such as Amazon.

It’s given authors a chance to get their books out there without anyone believing in them, which I think is just fantastic.  The trick, though, is that sometimes when a book is rejected, it’s because it’s not fine-tuned to its greatest potential yet.  So, before I go any further, I’d like to encourage you to let a book rest for a while after a few rejections.  Work on a different story – or possibly several – and you’ll naturally become a better writer.  That in itself is a simple concept; practice makes perfect.  However, patience is a struggle (at least for me).

The perseverance to let a loved novel sit on your computer untouched is a feat that I’m struggling with currently.  I’m almost done with writing a completely different novel, with my first novel seemingly neglected in one of my laptop’s many folders.  Why?  Because, I want to look at it unbiasedly.  My heart has been given a six month break of getting to know those characters day after day.  I can only hope that when I look back at it, I’ll be able to truly tell if it’s ready for the world to see.

As startup authors, the idea of an eBook provides us with an advantage when it comes to the idea of becoming Indie authors.  We only have to pay a freelance editor and book cover artist (mind you, those are several hundred dollars, so this isn’t a pain-free road) and then we can put our books out in the world no matter how many times an agent told us it was a “hard sell.”

Book covers and whatnot suddenly become less important, as a lot of the major buying platforms have a “based on recent purchases” tab where it suggests other books that you’ll probably love.  The cover is still important in that moment, of course, but at the very least our stories have the potential to be suggested by a different convention from us begging our family members for an extra sale.

This might sound silly, but I would suggest reading the poorly written stories with low stars that are sold for free (usually they’ll be the first in a series) by Indie authors, and then compare those to ones that have done well in the eBook world.  Why?  It’s easy to read a stranger’s book and go “okay, well they’re doing this wrong.”

It’s nice to then go and write notes about what you don’t like.  Then, go through your own story, and be honest about yourself with possible instances where you’re guilty of the same.  There are two sides to every coin, though!  You should also take note of authors who do something really well that you struggle with.  For example, I’m working on scene description.  I’m not quite an expert yet at setting the scene and depicting it in such a way that makes my readers feel as if they’re standing there, but yet not going on and on for paragraphs without losing the pace I want.

Personally, I’m a large fan of Erin Morgenstern’s book, The Night Circus (click here or below to purchase!).  It’s been my favorite stand-alone book for a while, and upon one of my recent reads (I’ve probably read it more than five times in the last three years alone) realized one of the reasons why I’m so drawn to it – the very same thing that I personally have not yet mastered.  Morgenstern is an expert at slipping in details throughout scenes – not just giving you descriptions to paint the picture with the correct colors, but also stringing together words in a way that grasp at your emotions.  Now, I’m about to read through it again with a specific focus towards those details.  How does she describe her characters?  Scenery?  Action scenes?  Magic?  Romantic tension?  These are talents of hers that I wish to possess, and plan to gain with her unintended assistance.

One helpful hint I heard once was to focus on the five senses: the flickering of the light that has your character on edge; the first taste of chocolate on his starved tongue; the air suddenly becoming hot with tension, your character sweating as she refuses to break; the buzz of bees becoming louder, or possibly everything becomes quiet as your character’s focus is consumed by anger; how her love interest strangely always smells of peppermint.

So, what’s the point of all this rambling?  Honestly, I don’t entirely have one, but here’s my final random thought.  Utilize multiple drafts.  Dedicate one entire draft to fixing your biggest weakness.  I literally am going through my current in-the-works and just adding small details here and there where I think it’s lacking.  It’s provoking new scenes altogether, because forcing myself to be this attentive to detail apparently stimulates my imagination.  Really, I think it’s just giving me a clearer lens to this paranormal universe.  Either way, it’s worth it.

Those beta readers that you hopefully found after reading my first blog post?  Ask them what your biggest weakness is.  Don’t be sensitive.  Use what they say constructively.  Denial won’t better your book.

Chapter 1: Author vs. Finals

There’s a theory the human race invented called time, and it’s safe to say I don’t have enough of it.  I feel like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, always fretting about being late and never doing what I need to on time.   I’m always racing the clock trying to scramble things together.  The simple answer is to organize and schedule, but my brain is far too chaotic for that to be made a reality.

Take my current situation, for example.  Every college student’s greatest enemy sits at my doorstep: finals.  I just finished my first one (Cost Accounting… ew) and have one more on Thursday.  Luckily, I’m finishing out my minor in Education this semester, so my remaining classes only have projects/papers instead of exams.

So, what should a good student be doing at this time?  Studying.  What am I doing?  Writing this blog.

I imagine, even after college, part-time authors generally have a non-related full- time job.  For me, it’ll be financial consulting with an amazing company.  That’s not bad in itself, but it dictates the job that pays the bills to keep a roof over my head as more important than my literary passion.  And, there’s the little bump in the road that no one tells you: life gets in the way.

Whether it be family problems, finals week, an upcoming deadline, busy season, or anything  really – those things don’t halt just because you have a sudden burst of inspiration.  Reality bites with no guilt, and works on its own time.  Perhaps that’s why we like to write; we can escape its cruel ways, if even for a little while.

I was a freshman in college when I first learned the beauty of a daily planner.  They even had one for students specifically designed to start in August.  At the beginning of every semester, I sit down and write in my planner all of the homework assignments and tests that I have to get done by when.  For the first few weeks, I always put notes on each day reminding myself to get ahead on some big paper or whatnot.  It never lasts.

Instead I find myself in a position like the one I’m currently in.  I’m now up to my nose in responsibilities, and haven’t the slightest of clue when they even reached my ankles.  It seems like they just all flew at me out of nowhere – a surprise attack, if you will.

My parents raised me so that it’s ingrained into who I am that my grades will reflect my best efforts.  That’s never changed.  So, I’ll be that student slaving away in the library until the last possible moment.  For the most part, I’ve kept up very well in all my classes, and don’t have anything less than a B.  The fact that I’ve only written 55,000 words for the novel I’m working on since January can attest to that.

School always takes priority, and when I have a full-time job, that’ll claim the spotlight.  It’s the way life works for me, at the moment.  And, I’m okay with that.  I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to attend college, and was even luckier the moment my company extended the job offer (albeit it’s only an internship for now).  That provides me with a financially stable life, where I can still afford to take time out of my day to do what I love.   (Have I mentioned the people I’m going to work with are amazing?  The head of my office is an alum from my school, and is the most down-to-earth man I’ve met who’s been in such a high position.)

So, my lovely readers, don’t let life discourage you.  It’s okay if it slows you down – unavoidable even – but don’t let it be what stops you.  The cure might be as simple as setting a reminder on your phone for a Saturday afternoon reminding you to take time to write, or maybe you can wake up 30 minutes early dedicated solely to the art.  Do whatever you have to.  The world deserves to hear your story.

Prologue: Introductions and Inspirations

All stories have a beginning, middle, and end. As such, I’d like this blog to have the same. It seems rather logical, but the only problem is this is the story of my life; and as such, I’m only a character within a far too complicated plot – not the author. I have no idea what to point out as significant, or what details to put emphasis on as a foreshadowing of the future. Instead I’ll simply say it as I see it.

It’s only polite to introduce myself. My name’s J. E. Brand, and what those two letters stand for is a secret for only me to know. I’m in my last year at college – a full-time student trying to balance a part-time job and writing. I’ve never been the best at juggling, and it shows in the slowness of my writing. Slow but steady wins the race, I’d like to think.

My major has nothing to do with my creative passion. I’m getting my Bachelor of Science in Finance with minors in Mathematics and Education. Why? Because, aside from being a geek, I also pride myself on being a nerd. (Yes, they’re different.) I can’t quite explain what it is about the stock market that really gets my adrenaline pumping.

Why am I writing this blog? It seems to me that we only hear about failure in hindsight. “I was rejected by hundreds of agents but now I’m a full-time author living financially stable.” It’s easy to look at those moments after you’ve succeeded in your dreams, but while living them out you go through a whirlpool of emotions. This journal will be dedicated to embodying such, so that my fellow struggling authors realize that we’re not alone.

Me? I finished my first novel last year. It was rejected by nineteen agents altogether before I decided to move onto another story series. I know that number might seem rather low to some, but every single one felt like a bullet straight to the heart. I’ve completed five short stories since then, and each of them has been sent back to me with an email that begins with “Thank you for submitting ‘So and So.’ Unfortunately…” It’s all rather discouraging, but luckily I’ve a support system unparalleled by many.

First, there’s my sister: Kristen Brand. She’s an Indie author (Links to her books are below! I simply must recommend them, as is my sisterly duty. If you have ad blocker off, you might need to enable it. I promise Amazon links are the only ads you'll see.) and taught me most of what I know. I still remember the days when she was in high school, and I was in elementary school. I would beg to read her stories while I was attempting to be just like her and write something that at least vaguely could be called a story. I never could write past twenty pages before I moved onto the next plot. Now, I give her all of my stories to read, and she returns them with edits that help me give them depth, magical scenery, and basically just completely transform them into something I can be proud of.

Then, there’s my best friend Nick. He’s just an overflow of support. Whenever I doubt my abilities, he’s my own personal cheerleader. A day doesn’t go by where he doesn’t ask about my progress or characters. Whenever I’m excited about a new development, he listens with genuine intrigue and asks an overflow of questions showcasing his interest. Not only does that get my creative juices flowing, but it lets me know at least I have one person rooting for me (two if you count my sister).

I’m going to combine my final two mentions into one paragraph: Kaitlyn Lunceford and Niki Potosky. Why do I use their full names and why are they lumped together? Because, aside from being close friends, they’re also my professional co-workers that I want to brag on. You have Kaitlyn to thank for this beautiful website layout and whatnot. As for Niki, you haven’t seen what she can do yet. Soon to be added this site will be an upcoming comic book, and she’s the master behind the beautiful art. She takes my words and turns them into epic-ness, to say the least. You’ll see more of that in time! Yes, that’s your cue to get really excited.

So, I suppose my first suggestion to all of you struggling authors such as my self is this: find people who support your dream and surround yourself with their uplifting energy. When the world is only feeding you rejection and misery, it’s nice to have a sibling or friend that you can sip a cup of tea with while they remind you that you’re awesome. What’s the best way to make sure you’re not annoying them with your constant mentions of the fictional characters that dwell in your imagination? Support their dreams, too. It becomes a web of positivity, and then you and the people you care about are able to fight the odds and not give up.