Archive for December, 2012

Post Holiday Recovery

Posted in The Creepers on December 28, 2012 by normandixon

I am exhausted in every way a human being can be. The holiday rush, the familial blitz, our daughter’s first, true Christmas, starting book 2, promoting book 1, Xmas eve promotion, being a husband, my day job–I feel like my head is going to cave in. Somewhere in there add a zombie short story for an anthology submission and general cover thumbnails for the Sage and Jorah series. Pretty sure I had a similar list a few weeks back but even though I’ve knocked some things off it doesn’t even feel like I put a dent in it. But I must be doing something right, because I’ve nearly doubled the first month’s sales and the promo blew it out of the water. Maybe after New Years I’ll do another two day freebie. Which reminds me I have to get everything ready to submit the Creepers for amazon’s breakthrough novel contest. Yet, I’m still a good 50 copies off my goal for monthly sales. There is a lot of work left to do, and a few days left to tack on some more sales.

Being the everything guy is hard, I’m not going to lie, it’s time consuming, grinding, and you can’t lapse or else your rank is toast. I’ve been getting a lot of direct messages and emails about what can be done to sell books, or my rank has plummeted help? My answer is simple.

Wear many hats and take each position as serious as your writing. If you haven’t been serious about the previously mentioned you might as well pack it in. It all starts there.

1: Write a good book. Don’t go for the serial gimmick and drop .99cent turds into the indie bucket. If you’re thinking, if I sell x amount of copies at this royalty percent I can make a million bucks easy. News-fucking-flash nobody is buying a terribly written self-help or inspirational memoir, or even badly written erotica for that matter.

2: Dip your toes into the traditional channels for some honest, professional feedback. It’s worth it and it will only help your work in the long run.

3: Cover art, cover art cov–I think I’ve about beaten this horse beyond recognition but it’s worth mentioning again. Your cover is more important than the book itself. When I get these kinds of emails: my sales have tanked and my book isn’t selling what do I do? The first thing I do is pull up the link and look at the cover, before I even hit the reviews, and I always find the same mess that looks like it was made in mspaint with a .gov public domain photo and times new font with no fx.

A few notes about cover resources. First, if you have no skill, but want a nice cover you can get one for around 200-300. A nice basic cover, which is already leaps and bounds over the shitty meme quality one I’m currently looking at, will add to your rank simply by drawing the eye. Check out createspace for some options and ideas, but if you live near an art school see if you can nab one for even less. Fonts can be purchased relatively cheap, and in some cases, if you’re doing your own indie publishing, they’re free. Check out blambot for some really eye catching ones. For photos check out shutter stock. You can buy usage rights for up to 250k copies for under twenty bucks. Less than ten copies sold and it pays for itself. If you need more detail or guidance drop me a line and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

4: Think about doing a paperback version. Not everyone has a kindle or nook. Plus it gives you expanded distribution options which help with exposure.

5: Exposure is key. Tell everyone, think about strategic advertising. But don’t do it all at once. Pick a site or publication, time it according to your reader base, then monitor it to see how successful it was. Start thinking about review copies and who you might send them to and be prepared for an honest review. I am almost at that stage now. Waiting for the writer copies to come in the mail.

And don’t forget to proofread. More than once and then again…

Indie Author or Master Spam Artist?

Posted in Indie stuffs on December 21, 2012 by normandixon

So I’m almost two months into this indie author thing, and all the self marketing that comes with it. It has been an absolute blast for the most part, though, I do get a bit obsessive when checking my numbers. I get asked a lot about how I’m going about marketing and the only real answer I have for that is, I’m doing what comes natural. I’m trying to build a fan base, as I’ve said before, but one thing I refuse to do is become a spam artist. I can’t even count the number of ‘authors’ that were quickly blocked after it became apparent they were nothing more than bots. So let me get this straight, you are adding other authors under the auspice that they are also readers and then spamming them your link 24/7? I’ve asked it before and I’ll ask it again, how are your sales really? Have any of you ever given so much as a single random thought? No, nothing but links.

The only thing worse is a terrible cover. I get putting your stuff out there, but how about a few times a day not every 5 minutes. I’m starting to sound like a broken record with that one, or is it skipping cd, bugged mp3… There are plenty of ways to go about self promotion. I’m doing everything myself and I imagine most of you are too. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know what I’m doing but I do know what’s working. First and foremost write the thing, edit it, edit some more, let a few people read it, edit, have someone else edit it, look it over again, start the ePub process. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people slam most indie stuff for being sloppy. And it’s true for the most part. If you’re going to take the time to write a book, WRITE A BOOK! Don’t treat this as a get rich quick scheme. It doesn’t work like that, and those that have found success took time and the process took a lot of time. We’ve all heard the stories about author struggles from King to Rowling to McCarthy. If this were easy every body would be doing. Though it does feel like that most of the time.

But the real writers, those of us who can’t stop even if we never sell another book, who keep notepads on our night stands, who dream of other worlds even when it impedes our own reality, those of us who need one more word, one more sentence, one more page, are the ones that will make this movement work. Some of us just need guidance. Mine came from a rejection letter, where will yours come from?

I don’t even know where I’m going with this, but in a nutshell respect your audience. They are paying money for your thoughts, respect the hell out of that. Don’t treat them like dollar signs. I’m so thankful to everyone who has purchased the book so far, I’m so thankful for the reviews, the tweets, the emails, and likes. I try to keep up a constant dialogue with you all and it really pisses me off when I see ‘authors’ do just the opposite on twitter or in a few of the fb groups I visit. These horrible marketing strategies reek of writing for cash seminars. If you are really interested in writing and making a go of it, then write your ass off and keep doing it. Don’t take the advice of someone who has never written a thing before. It’s an art form, not a pyramid scheme.

Use twitter to find people who like the genre you’re writing in. Follow them, interact with them, and maybe they’ll buy your book. Spam them and it’s block time. Same applies to Facebook and any of the various social media sites. That’s my ‘strategy’ if you can call it that. I write for myself, and I write for my friends, know your audience and they’ll want to know you.

This and That

Posted in The Creepers on December 17, 2012 by normandixon

So much going on in the past week. The paperback is now available from createspace and through amazon, check the link on the right. It feels good to finally have the Creepers truly done, though that statement is a bit of a misnomer, because the larger part of that world is still being written, and in a lot of ways, imagined. When I set out to write the Creepers, which started as a simple 3500 word short story, all I had was that first chapter. I had this image of the Folks and these children, these outsiders in mind my head. There was a lot of thoughts about alienation, but their, Bobby and Ryan’s, story was very much contained. I guess what I mean by all that above is … well, I never intended to write another Creepers story, but in the back of my mind something much greater than I originally imagined started to take shape.

Those of you that have finished the book, know that after the rush of the first third of the book, the middle picks up with Ol Randy’s notebook. I wrote that entire chapter in one sitting. It is raw and it’s never been edited. How it is on your kindle or in your hands is how it was written, and it is my favorite thing I’ve ever written. Other than the characters none of that was plotted before hand. It just happened. It was, at that point, the world of the Creepers really started to take shape. Flash forward to a few weeks ago, having just re-read the book for the paperback version, the world opened up. Suddenly, it just wasn’t about Bobby anymore, there were more stories to be told. There were nearly 20k words I cut from the original, other ideas I simply could not fit into the first book. So many questions about Baylor, about the strange signals Jamie hears in the epilogue, and what about those that grew up after, like Bobby? What about those that weren’t as lucky as Bobby? Well those questions are going to be answered in book 2, and light will be shed on things mentioned in the Creepers.

I am rambling a bit here, but bear with me, there is a reason. Never discount your characters, not even the most minor, most background character, keep them in mind always. There is a character that is mentioned in Ol’ Randy’s notebook that I never forgot. Howard, Doc Danielson’s son, I’m sure most of you have forgotten him, but there’s a massive story there and I can’t wait to share it with you all. Hopefully by the end of the year you’ll have that story in your hands, but I can’t promise anything yet. But those of you that have read the book know I will not nickel and dime you with some bullshit, terribly short, prepper fantasy with zombies, the Creepers is so much more than that. It is rapid evolution, it is gut wrenching, and it is desperation. Thank you all so much for your support, for your reviews, your tweets, thank you. I would love to hear from you through Facebook, twitter, or here. I promise I won’t bite and I won’t forget about Bobby either he’ll play a major role in book 2.

Thanks for reading!

Violence

Posted in The Creepers on December 15, 2012 by normandixon

I had to think for a long time before writing this. I spend my time shaping things I’ve experienced into fiction as a way of dealing with them. I won’t do that here. Rarely, if at all, will I write about something the way I am now, but as a parent how can I not? I watched the President cry when addressing the nation today. Think about that, think about that long and hard. On my way home from work I was on the verge too.

Parents always say things change when you become a parent and I’m feeling that first hand now. Things that you passed off before, affect you much more profoundly and you can’t help it. Just last week my wife and I were talking about the staggering amount of violence in our country. We asked each other how do we protect our daughter? We asked ourselves that same question today. And I don’t know the answer to that question.

Gun control, or rather, more of it, is a start. And before anyone says anything about rights, or anything else, let me get this out of the way. Your shiny collection of weapons wouldn’t protect you from the big bad government if they were coming for you. Your rights are moot, just look at the Patriot Act and all the amendments to it that followed. So spare me the rights bullshit and while you’re at, it spare me the ‘criminals don’t obey gun laws’ lines too. These are not criminals in the traditional sense. These are lone cowards that wouldn’t even know how to obtain a weapon illegally. So make it hard, make it impossible for them to get these weapons into their hands. If you really want to live out your Call of Duty fantasy then fucking do the required backflips through the hoops to make it a reality. I can hear the groans of rights again already…do me a favor and go ask about the rights of the US citizen that had a missile shoved up his ass courtesy of a drone. Again and for the last time, your rights are moot.

We shouldn’t even be politicizing at a time like this, but we love to argue and it can’t be helped. This whole horrible day should have all of us asking ourselves when will we make an effort to stop this. This isn’t going away, this is the crime of our time. Look at the wars, 9/11, or the more than 30 mass killings in the last decade alone. We praise violence, we praise aggression, breed doubt and wield fear like a club, but we rarely make the effort to educate and be hopeful. We focus on the brutal shocking mess and never the good things in life. It’s such a shame that we don’t focus on the innocent until they are gone. Their deaths propel them to stardom, get them plastered all over the news, but we never showcase them in life, before they become tragedies.

This isn’t about violence in cinema, or games, or violence in any for of media. This is about the grossness that has become American culture. Right now, as much as I want to be hopeful, I’m just not seeing it. I think people are so selfishly obsessed that they can’t see the big picture. What kind of world will my daughter grow up in?

I don’t pray, I don’t believe in a god, but I can grieve just the same. It’s the one thing as a writer that I can do all too well. When people say I can’t imagine what they’re going through, I silently wish my mind worked that way. I do know, my imagination makes sure of that in every vivid detail. When things like this happen it is emotionally crippling, horrifying, and gut wrenching. It’s what makes me a reasonable human being. I hope it’s what makes me a good father, and I hope that it can help stem this terrible tide. If we all just shifted our focus, just a little, maybe, just maybe we can push the flood back. I hope so …. for all of our sakes.

Proof

Posted in The Creepers on December 11, 2012 by normandixon

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There it is. A book born from a ten page story back in 2010. In its current state it needed a minor tune up and as I type this, those files are on their way for approval. It’s done, pending the next proof copy, but I think that will be fine. After this I will never use Microsoft word to write a single sentence. I’ll be moving on to scrivener and good riddance to word.

I think back now to working on my first real attempt at a novel and wonder. This wasn’t possible a decade ago. Thank you technology. I realize now the task of selling this myself will be a very tough one, but I don’t doubt my work for a second. I know if I waited and shopped to more agents and publishers it would have made it through, but why wait when there are so many other stories to tell. I wonder how many amazing authors died with their manuscripts left in dusty attics or moldy basements because they didn’t make it through some slush pile. Or their one page submission letter failed to impress an overworked agent?

The days of the old way are quickly dying and that is a good thing. Overall we lose a bit of quality control, but we gain so much more. It all comes down to determination and polish. Work with your work and it will work for you.

I don’t know much about the marketing end of things but I do know how to sell. It helps when this is your day job for sure. That being said there are a lot of avenues open to indie authors and a lot of them involve shilling your work to fellow authors. Which isn’t a bad thing, but we need to reach a wider audience. Have a plan of attack. It’s simple really: figure out your target audience and then find out what they like and where they reside on the web. Make a blog, make a Twitter handle and start talking to your readers and potential readers, because at the end of the day we are selling ourselves first and our books second.

But please don’t turn your twitter account into a spam bot. You know who you are. I don’t care what your sale tracker says or what some marketing guru told you. Those minor sales didn’t come from mass spam every 15 minutes. They came from people clicking the same link in your profile when they first followed you. It’s one of the first things I do when I get a follower with links. It all comes back to similar interests and back to us and selling books. Spam doesn’t belong in that cycle and it will get you blocked and un-followed. Don’t be the annoying telemarketer. I’ll drop my link in a tweet if I have a promo, share with the bigger reader groups, or as I get new followers, but 3 times a day max. More than that and you’re just being an ass. I’ve made more sales just by talking to people and offering advice . . . Building a fan base isn’t rocket science, it’s just hard work and instead of hitting the pavement you’re hitting the keys daily, trying to sell your wares and I wish you the best of luck.

Your Voice

Posted in The Creepers on December 8, 2012 by normandixon

I’ve been doing this writing thing all my life. I don’t count those early spiral notebook stories as glorious works of fiction. They were steps. So we’re those first attempts at full length novels. There is a 200k word beast of a fantasy story that garnered its share of rejection letters. But again, all part of the process. Another meaty Sci-Fi comedy followed and the rejection letters began to mount. Out of all the standard responses, and there were quite a few, I received one from an agent that actually took the time to read my work. Her words were honest and her advice priceless: keep writing until you find your voice. It took another eight years for the to happen.

Over those years I kept looking out for it, waiting, and one day it happened. I was in the middle of the very first draft of what is now the Sage and Jorah series, and by middle I mean 190k words in. I can’t turn this writing thing on and off. It just happens. But back to the story at hand. In all those words was a story, several in fact, but they lacked refinement, they lacked revision. That’s when I first heard it, or rather when it sort of took over. I picked up the tome and trashed it. Then I sat down and got to work on Panic in Brooklyn (which will be released sometime in spring of 2013). The ideas and characters were still there but they had life now. . .and most important of all, they had a measure of grammar.

So here I am all those years later, all those rejection letters later, a published author. Over 2000 people have read, are reading, or are about to read my work. In the first month since release. That knowledge is both fucking terrifying and amazing at the same time. I can’t wait to hear back. I feel two things made this possible: practice and patience. Just because companies like Amazon and Createspace offer us convenient vehicles to publish doesn’t mean everything needs to be published. Refine your work people, and for the love of all things holy do your homework. There are plenty of things I’ve written that should never see the light of day. Listen to your voice or develop one first. Take the time to shape the story, do several drafts, cut, proof, get an editor, and last but not least, don’t short change your cover. As an avid reader I will be perfectly blunt with all of you. If it wasn’t recommended by a friend then I picked it on cover first, then blurb. If the cover sucks I’m not clicking or lifting your work off the shelf. There are plenty of artists out there that will do a cover for a few hundred bucks. If you don’t have it, then save up, the sales will more than cover the initial loss if you took your time. /rant off.

Book 2 in the works.

Posted in The Creepers on December 3, 2012 by normandixon

While I’ve been working on promoting the Creepers the second book started to fall into place.  There is a ton of material that didn’t make it into the first book and I don’t feel comfortable leaving it behind.  Neither does Bobby.  I plan to have it out late 2013.  I know that seems like awhile away but in the meantime my Sci-Fi/Urban Fantasy series will debut sometime in march.  It will change the way you look at the genre.  It has sex, comedy, evolution, and one fat ass cat.  The Sage and Jorah series deals with everyone’s favorite things from vamps to zombies to aliens but in a very different way.  I think even fans of the Creepers will be intrigued once they set foot in Sage and Jorah’s world.

Right now I’m working on a million things.  I’m finishing up the cleanup work on the paperback version of the Creepers, which in turn will lead to a revised digital edition, I’m also designing a tattoo for a dear friend, trying to figure out a good cover concept for the Sage and Jorah series, and trying to be a great father and husband. And actually squeeze in time to start writing book 2 of the Creepers. Also I’m starting to plan for a book signing in Savannah, GA once I get the paperback rolling.  Now that I write that all out and think about work on Wednesday I feel faint.