Diversify to Survive

I often wonder why so many new authors put all their eggs into one basket. They are either writing a novel or they are writing short stories. They are either self-publishing or they are submitting to traditional publishers. They are either writing romance or writing speculative fiction.

Why? Where was it decreed that it had to be either or? And why do so many people limit themselves in this way?

Well, I know partly why itĀ  happens, because when you are submitting to traditional publishers they usually want to fit you neatly into a particular section of the bookshop. But what’s to stop you writing another genre under a pen name? I do.

I mainly write short stories, but those short stories aren’t all in the same genre. I write my speculative fiction under my own name, but I also write women’s fiction for magazines under a pen name. But I don’t restrict myself to short stories either – I am currently also writing a non-fiction book and a novel.

I do this primarily because I enjoy the variety – and it helps a lot with any hint of writer’s block because I can chop and change very easily – and also because I believe that diversification is the key to success. If I were only to write horror stories, for example, and overnight the horror genre went into a complete slump sales-wise, where would I be? Scrabbling around to find something else to write and not having a clue where to start, that’s where.

So, my advice would be, don’t get stuck in a rut. Try something new. You never know where that next success might come from.

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Not Everything That’s Free is Equal

There’s a lot of talk in the self-publishing world of free being the way to build an audience and drive sales and many authors put their books up for free, even if it’s only for a limited time. (NB: I’m not going to discuss here whether I think free is the right way to go, that’s not the point of this post.) There’s also a lot of talk about piracy. In both cases a book is being offered for free, but does it make any difference where the reader gets their copy from?

You bet it does.

If a work is pirated, the only person who benefits directly is the reader. Some people argue that it gets an author’s name out there and that people who download a pirate version of one book might then go on to buy the next one, but there’s no real evidence of this being true.

However, if you purchase a book that is being offered for free from an authorised retailer then, even though the author does not receive payment, they do receive a benefit. That benefit consists of a bump up in the rankings (leading to possible future paid sales), a potential verified purchase review and the satisfaction of knowing that someone cared enough about their book to download it.

Both the reader and the author benefit.

There are thousands of books offered for free each day on authorised retailer websites and there is little chance of these websites downloading a virus to your computer – the same can’t be said of a pirate site.

So, if you really cannot afford to pay for books in the current economic climate, please download your free books from the big, authorised retailers and help support authors in the process.

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A Little Bit Horror

A series of short horror story anthologies
for those who like their horror served with a touch of humour.

Competition vs Competitions

It’s about a year now since I last entered a proper writing competitionĀ  (ie, a recognised competition rather than one on someone’s blog or in a writing group). Why? Because, to a large extent, I feel like it’s money down the drain.

If you enter a competition that has a large entry (let’s face it, those are the only ones really worth entering), you could be competing against thousands of other entries and there are never more than three winners and a few highly commended entries – and not all of those will win a prize. However, it is becoming increasingly likely that one of the conditions of entry is that your story appears on a website or in an anthology (even for those who are only shortlisted). This may seem like a good idea if you’re trying to make a name for yourself, but I’m not sure that it is.

The first downside is that you cannot easily use that story anywhere else. You won’t be able to submit it to very many publications because they usually require ‘first’ rights and that means that you have no chance of making any money from it yourself unless you self-publish. Even then, you may be restricted as to how soon you can use the piece in your own publication.

And some competitions claim rights even if you don’t win! (Always read the Terms and Conditions carefully.)

So, what do I do instead?

I either write stories specifically for self-publishing or I send stories to paying magazines.

Sending stories to magazines is as much of a lottery as sending them to a competition, but there are a number of advantages:

  • You aren’t trying to second guess what they want. There are copies of the magazine you can buy to do your research;
  • The maximum cost of sending your story off is an envelope and a couple of stamps;
  • You will be paid if your story is accepted;
  • Magazines publish a lot more stories than competitions name as winners, so the odds are better;
  • If you don’t succeed at the first magazine, there’s nothing to stop you sending your story to another one.

In my eyes, there’s no competition.

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albh blog post

A series of short horror story anthologies
for those who like their horror served with a touch of humour.

Two Different Viewpoints

Last Sunday, 3 March, there were two different documentaries on British TV about the Russian meteor. One on the BBC, which you can find here and one on Channel 4 here. (NB: The BBC usually keeps this things up for about a week and Channel 4 for about one month.)

I watched the BBC documentary live. It was very detailed and gave a lot of scientific information about how it had happened, similar events in the past and what could happen in the future. It had a short segment in Russia itself, but very little. Of course, the Horizon programmes are based around science and that is a normal format for their programmes. It was interesting, but I couldn’t say much more about it than that.

I watched the Channel 4 documentary the following night on 4OD. It was very different and it hooked me immediately. Why? Because although they gave all the same scientific information, they did it concisely without unecessary detail. They spent the rest of the programme on the people and how it had affected them and showed us little insights into life in Russia in the process. They also followed a British scientist searching through the snow looking for meteorites.

It was so much better because it had the human element.

What makes a story grip you is not the beautifully described background where the story takes place, it is how events affect people. I don’t think I have ever seen it so clearly illustrated before.

If you have a chance, why not watch the two documentaries. I’d be interested to hear what you think and which one had more of an impact on you.

The Great Amazon Tag Debate

There was a lot of talk a few weeks back on the KDP boards about the demise of product tags (and to a lesser extent the mysterious disappearing and reappearing Like buttons). People were saying that this would have a disastrous effect on readers being able to find their books and, I have to say, I thought they were right.

Then, February became my best-selling month so far on KDP.

Now, I’m not talking any great sales figures here, but compared to previous months it was a significant increase and whether or not it will continue is anyone’s guess. So, what’s up?

There are several things that I can think of:

  • Tags had no effect on sales at all. This does seem unlikely, but Amazon is so secretive about its algorithms, you never know.
  • The keywords I uploaded with my books were better than those of other people. That could be true, but, once again, there’s no way of knowing the truth.
  • The amount of books I now have available is having an effect. I’m not convinced about that. I wouldn’t have thought the sales numbers were high enough yet.
  • Everything is totally random in the world of self-publishing and we’ll never know the answer. Yep, that’s the one.

Join me again for another cutting and insightful post on the world of an indie publisher!

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albh blog post

A series of short horror story anthologies
for those who like their horror served with a touch of humour.

Practise What You Preach

I have a question for all the indie authors out there who are now publishing their own work.

Do you read eBooks?

I’m hoping the answer you gave to that question is yes, because if you don’t, how are you ever going to know what works best on an eBook platform?

I have to say that back when eBooks were first mooted, I was one of those who said ‘No! Never!’ Then, one day, on a whim, I downloaded the Kindle App. I wasn’t particularly thinking about buying any books. I simply wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

After a few weeks of bumbling around with free public domain books and suchlike, I actually found that I quite liked being able to increase the text size to something that was more comfortable to read and that using my cursor keys to turn the page wasn’t nearly as annoying as I thought it would be.

It wasn’t long before I was so used to the ease of purchasing an eBook that unless it was a reference book (which aren’t so easy to navigate on screen), I only ever downloaded eBooks. Now, I even have a Kindle device which is so light compared to a book that I hardly know I’m carrying it.

All that naysaying had disappeared – I was hooked.

But my addiction to eReading isn’t really the point of this post. What I have learned from it is.

I now know many of the pitfalls to avoid when creating an eBook. I know all the things I don’t want to happen with my books and I know the things I do. I understand the points that people discuss on ePublishing fora, but judging from the responses, many people don’t.

And I do wonder – have they ever read an eBook?

 

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albh blog post

A series of short horror story anthologies
for those who like their horror served with a touch of humour.