Monday, April 1, 2013

So you got a negative review

I've been actively pounding the pavement, spreading the word about my novel, THE TRIP. It's been almost three months since I released the novel, and reviews are just now beginning to flow in on blogs.

The results are - well, mixed. The reviews on have been overwhelmingly positive for the most part.

A couple of the reviews on blog sites haven't been so positive, though I do have to say while I'm not being bashed, the reviews are more lukewarm. Not as good as I'd hoped, but they could have been worse.

I think part of this is the fact I wrote this as a young adult novel, and I wasn't going for the hardcore horror fan. I was trying to do something different - a thinking person's zombie novel, if you will. While positive reviews would make me feel good, I still think there's value in a not-so-shining review.

It gives me something to think about while I plan the sequel. I can apply what I've learned from these reviews and put it into the new novel. And every review is another page where my book is listed, with eyeballs hitting it and potential sales.

I'll take a less than stellar review over no review any day.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I admit it - I hate outlines

I'll be the first to admit - back in high school and college, when we'd have to sit down and write the outlines for our papers, I'd roll my eyes and fight it. HARD. I mean, I wanted to WRITE. What the hell does outlining have to do with writing?

These days I've kind of matured - in part thanks to a screenwriting class I took through UCLA. In that class we wrote what they called a step outline of the script - two sentences, scene by scene, outlining the story. At first I hated it. But I do have to admit - it's got some advantages.

Writing this way (I'll usually write a sentence or two for each chapter) forces you to think through the story. There's fun in flying seat-of-your-pants style, but I think that's better left for shorter pieces. When you're dealing with a longer piece, there are a lot of things you need to keep straight.

I'll also somewhat sheepishly admit that when I wrote THE TRIP, I didn't have a full formal outline. I would outline a few chapters ahead of where I was, so I had an idea where I was going with the story. I got a little of the fun of exploring the story without feeling locked into anything as I was writing. (Seeing as I was doing this for fun at the time, no harm, no foul)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Slow but sure

It's been about six weeks since the first batch of review requests went out, and they're starting to come back.

I'm getting good reviews. The Trip on has seven positive reviews - mostly from people that don't know me. Including one blogger out in Germany who's going to be posting the review to his blog.

I'll take a positive review when I can get them. I have to admit finding people to review the book is proving to be easy; getting them to read and post is tough. A lot (I'd say all) these people are probably doing this in their spare time. They've got lives and day jobs.

I appreciate everyone who's offered to review or written one. I just wish I could do more to get people to buy the book, but this is the reality of being an author. I'll be lucky if I sell 100 books (I'd be ecstatic to sell 101 to tell you the truth).

Like a character in a novel, that little bit of hope that the story will catch fire and become a hit keeps me going. My Survivorman - Zombie Apocalypse video on YouTube caught on. It didn't happen overnight - it was over a period of about six months, but when it hit, its hit count climbed very quickly. It's since tapered off, but it proves that I *can* do this...I've done it before, and that was before social networking existed.

Here's to hoping as the reviews come in, more people will be interested in reading the book and convert to sales.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hurry up and wait...

I've spent the past couple of weeks beating the drum about THE TRIP, trying to get myself into review queues, guest blog spots, and book spotlights. One of the things I've found is once the book is published, there's the long slog to get the word out that it's available. I'm self published, so I don't have the benefit of a marketing department (not the money to hire a publicist at this point).

The first of these should be hitting in the next week. I have to admit when I open my email and see a reply to an inquiry that someone wants to read my book, I get excited.

I got even more excited today. I had a reviewer hit my web site, download my sample chapters, READ THEM and then say she was "intrigued" by my sample. Please send the full novel, I'll get you online in March. And she has a few teen relatives who love the zombie genre and are looking for new books to read.


Seriously, anyone who's ever tried publishing a story or novel, or heck, even looked for a job knows how much effort it takes to find something. Lots of emails go out, few (if any) come back. You've got to find these little nuggets of success when you can and keep you going for the long haul in-between.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Not following anybody's lead

I had lunch with a couple of old friends last week and the topic of THE TRIP, of course, came up...

What also came up was the fact that a former classmate of ours published his own novel, through a traditional publisher. Of course, the question of how much this guy's being published factored into my decision to launch when I did.

The short answer is it had nothing at all to do with when I launched.

Let me explain a little further.

I decided to self-publish THE TRIP in 2010. Self publishing is a LOT of work. I'm the editor. The quality department. I've got to be the one to pull together everything from the marketing plan to the cover art. In short, it's all on me. It's fun, don't get me wrong, but it's not easy and it's a lot of work.

I had a couple of things get in the way of publishing, and finally set to wrapping things up in the fall of 2012. I was able to launch right about Christmas, after years of hard work. Coincidentally my former classmate announced his book being published around Thanksgiving.

The only way anyone is going to get a self-published book out quickly is by half-assing it. I hate to say it, but in project management there are trade offs between cost, time and quality. You can choose to focus on one attribute, and it will always be at the expense of the other two.

If you fix the timeframe and make it aggressive, it's going to be expensive and it's not going to be very good. Period.

I chose to go the other way - I focused on the quality of the book, and didn't worry about the time. This also helped me keep the cost down (I spent less than $1000 bringing my book to market - but that's a topic for another post).

My advice if you choose to go this route is take the same approach. Focus on the quality of the work - self-published books get a bad rap because so many people read a few books and think there's nothing to writing one. (Much like people seem to think about screenplays, which is also a topic for another post) Many self-published books are akin to swallowing glass, but I do believe the market will always make room for quality products.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Nobody said it would be easy

I just wrote a press release for my novel. My first of (hopefully) many to come.

Most of the time I'm a kind of quiet guy. At my day job I tend to keep my head down and work without a whole lot of fanfare. In many ways, that anonymity gives me quite a bit of freedom (mainly leaving work on time, and leaving work at work when I head out for the day)

What I found writing the press release - which is, really, a marketing piece - is I actually have to toot my own horn here. I need to write a piece about my work that makes my work sound like the best thing since the wheel. It's a guilty pleasure in a way. (I must be getting vices are shifting)

While I was in grad school I took a class in writing press releases. It was pretty easy for me - here's some information on a fake client, make them sound intelligent and make their product sound great. Easy. When it's your work and you're the client, and the product you're marketing is real...well, I won't lie to you. I have to admit, the game changes.

I've got a colleague reviewing the release and hope to actually release it next week. I'll keep you posted on what happens next. If things go well, it could hopefully help me move some books. If things don't go well, the world will yawn at me. Hopefully the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

That's no accident - it's the result of a LOT of hard work

Last week my wife told me a friend of ours decided to look my novel up on Google. The cool thing was the official web site for THE TRIP was the first result to come up. My wife thought this was cool, but I already knew it was going to happen. I planted some seeds in Google when I set the page up, and those efforts are now bearing fruit.

Don't get me wrong - it's really cool to know someone else can find my site through a Google search. (It's one thing with me finding it myself, but it's a totally different feeling to see someone else succeeding at it)

So how did I do this? By day I'm a web developer. I know HTML, some jQuery, but I knew absolutely nothing about SEO (search-engine optimization). I bought a really good book on the topic - SEO Made Simple by Michael Fleishner - and put his advice into action. Voila! A couple weeks after deploying my novel's site, I can find it in Google.

I need to stress here I kind of had a leg up - my personal site (accessible off THE TRIP's site) was out and available for a couple years. Rather than starting over with a new domain, I decided to make my novel's URL a subsite under my personal web site. Why spend more money on another domain that I'd need to maintain when I can do whatever I want under my own banner?

So if you want to do this on your own, could you? Absolutely. You can learn HTML from a good book (I highly recommend Laura Lemay's book on HTML). It'll take a little work, but you can probably put together a basic site within a week or so. This custom built site - if you take Fleishner's advice - will be much better for your SEO rankings than an off-the-shelf site will be. ("Canned" sites tend to limit how much you can customize, and IMHO they tend to look a lot alike)

In a nutshell, landing on the top of a Google search result page isn't an accident. It's the result of a lot of work and - most importantly - time to reach that spot. You can't put a page together Sunday and expect to be at the top of Google by Wednesday.