My friend Lucinda Elliot has nominated me for the Loyal Reader Award, a singular blessing bestowed for being a good boy and showing up to read her blog posts on a regular basis. I should have asked for Air Miles! 🙂
This is the award where other bloggers get to lay their claim on you!
Seriously, I enjoy the Sophie de Courcy blog very much, and recommend it to enthusiasts of either Gothic or romance novels. A big thank you for the nomination, Lucinda. You are ever a good friend and always worth reading.
Back in January, the gothic-horror writer Lucinda Elliot nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award. I thank her sincerely for the honour. The long delay in putting up the acceptance post stems in part from a breakdown in my defences against manic-depressive illness. Things have been a bit rocky this year and the approaching equinox is only making things worse. (For those who may not know, manic-depressives are often sensitive to changes in the length of the day. This alters most rapidly near the spring and autumn equinoxes disturbing everyone’s brain chemistry to one extent or another and causing serious mood swings in the susceptible.)
Please note that material such as this is time sensitive and may vary somewhat from one genre to another. I offer what is here as a framework for your own research and thinking. Do your homework.
Confusion abounds when deciding the best price for ebooks. (Image: public domain.)
Many fairy tales surround pricing for indie ebooks. Looking over the first four pages of the Smashwords bestseller list for full length science fiction, I see only one title for sale at the often-recommended price of $1.99 – everything else is higher, most of it much higher. I have been studying the price issue for months and have concluded the following:
Some indie writers operate under a carefully chosen pen name. Is there an advantage to this? Does it increase the author’s ability to sell his or her works? When I set out to become an indie, I thought the strategy had some merit. Subsequently, I had cause to reconsider.
Mark Twain is probably the most famous pen name. A special nom de plume can make you stand out, but there are other pros and cons. (Image: public domain.)
About two months after I decided to become an indie author, I discovered that I would not have, as I confidently expected, exclusive use of my somewhat unusual surname in the fantasy genre. I finally thought to search Smashwords for “Cotterill” and found that one Rachel Cotterill (in the UK) has two fantasy novels already listed on the site. The “Cottrell” spelling of our name is common, but “Cotterill” is much rarer so this seemed a bit of bad luck. It is not that I begrudge Rachel Cotterill the use of the name, naturally, but I had the idea that a unique surname would give me an advantage in making sales. After all, a search that brings up only your books must be better than one that brings up a whole list of books by people with the same name; right?
After finding the public domain artwork, I made this cover in fifteen minutes using a donationware application called PhotoScape.
As an indie writer who has not yet made his fortune it does not pay me to have ebook covers made by professionals. This is especially true for short stories. That being the case, I learned – like most indies – to make my own covers. I manage my ebook collection with Calibre and since that stellar application allows me to add covers to public domain ebooks, or even replace covers on DRM-protected works, I set aside a little time each day to create covers for the assorted ebooks that most needed them. It does not take long to get reasonably good at this.
The biggest headache for the ebook cover maker is the infamous copyright issue. Luckily, as long as you are only making the cover for personal use this is not a problem. That happy situation means just about everything on the Google image search is up for grabs. Once you have decided on the subject matter for your ebook cover it does not take too long to scare up a suitable candidate or two.
Fantasy author Brian S. Pratt is an excellent example of an indie writer who has achieved remarkable success.
All writing is a kind of art. The most popular forms (fantasy, for instance, or horror and vampire novels) are examples of folk art. They are to literature what country music is to classical. (That is, unless you happen to be Bram Stoker!) Indie writers can be rough around the edges, but they are artists nonetheless. If you are an indie, seeing yourself as an artist can help you take yourself – and your work – more seriously. Writers who take themselves seriously become better writers.
Writing about art has always been a popular pastime for artists of every kind, and a few philosophers as well. Younger indies, however, may not yet have seen much of this, so I will put a few choice tidbits on the table.
Tolstoy writes, “The business of art lies in just this, – to make that understood and felt which, in the form of an argument, might be incomprehensible and inaccessible…” For writers, this means the dramatizations of fiction can make clear what real life discussion, or even the carefully worded arguments of non-fiction, cannot. Fiction can arouse our emotions in just the right way to drive the point home.
This blog is now three weeks old. In the beginning, I took some advice from a slick how-to-blog website and just plunged right in, opting for WordPress as the blog host and choosing the 2011 theme used to illustrate the article. Definitely a monkey see, monkey do scenario. As it happened, the advice was pretty sound.
How it feels to be a 62 year-old blogger with three weeks experience under his belt! (Image: WPClipart)
I had been dithering over blog hosts for a couple of weeks and probably would have dithered over a lot more blogging aspects if not for that gentle shove. Instead, I’m now up and running with a real live blog, and while I’m not doing anywhere near as well as some others who got started around the same time (I have been looking over the fence at their greener grass), I am making progress (unlike some quickly abandoned blogs I have come across). I have a few likes, a handful of followers, and even a comment or two. Things are picking up.
The thing indie writers lack more than anything else is honest feedback. In the traditional publishing industry, all but the biggest-selling authors are subject to the opinions of their publisher’s various editors. Stories deemed too long or excessively rambling earn requests for cuts and rewrites before publication. Poorly drawn characters must be made more vivid. Perceived defects in the plot must be remedied. The use of words not suitable for the novel’s type or period also comes under fire. Copy editors rework spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Some companies even change works to fit their notion of what a book of any particular genre should be like; and so on.
C. S. Lewis (of Narnia fame) depended on editors to clean up his shaky spelling and clumsy punctuation. (Image: public domain)
A lot of struggling writers are still hoping to break into print. They see self-publishing as a humble temporary stop on a journey towards grander things. Their ebooks are merely practice runs as they whip themselves into shape for their real careers as print authors. It is easy to see why they might have this attitude. The old publishing paradigm has been around for centuries, an awful lot has been written about it, and it is still surrounded by a powerful aura of tradition, respectability, and substance. Even the least literate know a little something about the lives of a famous print author or two. Many such authors are positively draped in glory, with reputations that span the globe. Some of them have even become very wealthy. What up-and-coming author would not want to join them?
Print is now ancient and definitely on its way out. Your local bookshop probably fills space with new kinds of merchandise. (Image: public domain)