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How to Get a Custom Book Cover for $5 Using Fiverr by JP Medved

| Posted in Guest Posts, Tips and Tricks |

29

I’ve got a few thousand things on the plate for February (as usual), so I was glad to accept a guest post from a fellow steampunk author for this week. J.P. Medved is going to talk to you about how he got some nice covers made very inexpensively, by using talent found on Fiverr. I’ve paid for a couple of book-promotion gigs on Fiverr (only one was even worth the $5), but I wouldn’t have thought to look for cover artists there. I can see where it would make a lot of sense for an author without much money to spend and especially for an author publishing serials or short stories that aren’t likely to earn back the cost of more expensive artwork.

Anyway, enough from me. I’ll pass you off to J.P., so he can explain how he found good designers and how the process went.

How To Get an Awesome, Custom Book Cover for $5

covers banner cropped

First off I want to thank Lindsay for hosting me here.  Her blog is one of the main resources that inspired me to get into self publishing.

For this post I wanted to walk through my strategy for getting several, high quality covers made for $5 each.  I’ve done it for all of the books I have for sale on Amazon, and I’ve gotten numerous compliments on the covers from readers and fellow authors alike.  I’ll include images throughout the post so you can judge their quality for yourself.  This method is ideal for authors putting out a high volume of shorts or novellas, who don’t have the artistic ability to design their own covers.

To get the covers I used Fiverr.

Fiverr is a website where you can hire people to do services for $5.  There’s a whole section of the website for designers offering to do eBook and print book covers.  It’s a great way to get quality-looking book covers for cheap (given that most outside designers charge $100 and up for a single custom cover).

However, there’s a lot of dross on Fiverr, and if you’re not careful you could end up paying for an amateurish-looking product, or one that doesn’t fit your book at all.  To avoid that problem I follow three careful steps.

Step 1

Browse the book cover section of Fiverr for artists and click into the job postings (‘gigs’ in Fiverr-speak) of several of them that look appealing to you.  Look at the samples of their work, and their reviews.  Ideally you want artists with at least 20 reviews, and a 4.5-5 star average, with art you like and think fits your book.

fiverr ebook page

You’ll find that most artists will include “extras” with their gigs.  Things like “provide a fully editable PSD file of your cover” for an extra $10 or “purchase a stock photo” for an extra $5 etc.  I highly recommend springing for the stock photo option where possible, since this greatly enlarges the range of professional images you can get for your cover.

Select at least three of the top designers you like (remember, you’re saving a lot of money with this option, so it pays to compare) and order their gigs.

Step 2

You’ll get automatic messages from most artists asking for what you want on the cover.  Here’s an example I got from one:

Please provide the title, subtitle (optional) and author name.

Upload your stock image here if you’re supplying one, if not please give me an idea of what you’d like on the cover. Please remember if you’re not supplying a stock image I will do my best to find a suitable free one.

If you have any examples of covers you like you’re welcome to post links!

All covers are 1000px longest side unless ordered with a gig extra.

You should send the same response to all three (or more) designers so you can really compare apples to apples when you get their work back.

Here’s an example response I sent to three different artists:

This cover is for a steampunk short story. Here’s the details and an uploaded image as a guide:

Colors I would like to be earthy/subdued (dark reds, khakis, muted browns).

Text/headings should read:

Main title: To Rescue General Gordon

Subhead: A Clockwork Imperium Short Story

Author: J.P. Medved

Style: Old timey, Victorian, steampunk

Graphics/images on the cover: Ideally an airship/zepplin with the British flag on it

Examples of covers I like: I’ve attached a picture of essentially how I’d like the cover to be laid out, with the airship image going into the top circle.

Other details: The story is about British soldiers in 1895 stealing an airship to rescue a famous General in the Sudanese desert, so anything evoking the desert, the time period, or airships works well. Also, I’d like to use this style for future stories, so an easy way to change the main background color in the PSD/AI file would be a plus.

Fiverr allows you to upload files in messages to artists, and I’ve taken advantage of that ability multiple times to showcase examples of covers I like, sample layouts, or design elements I’d like to include.

In this case, I’d found an old Canadian Pacific Railway menu from 1910 that was laid out in a fashion I though perfectly illustrated the steampunk/Victorian vibe I wanted to capture, so I uploaded that to give the artists a rough idea of design.

canadian pacific menu

With this message and direction, I got several initial options back from artists.

rescue

trgg

Again, I only paid $10 for those two covers (I did opt for the PSD file for both, which added another $10, but the covers themselves were only $5 each).

Step 3

Fiverr cover artists typically allow one free revision, and I recommend using it wisely.  Show the cover drafts to friends, family, or others you trust with an eye for design to get their feedback.  Don’t take it personally if they actually provide it and suggest changes!  Almost always they have the necessary distance to recognize issues with the designs that you, as the author whose baby the artist is bringing to life, may not.

In this case since I vastly preferred one artist over the others, so I only asked her for revisions.  Here’s the email I sent with revisions:

Love it! Wondering if you could use this airship picture instead (perhaps cropped to get rid of the buildings): http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-105576374/stock-photo-the-oil-painting-with-the-airship-flying-above-the-old-style-fantasy-buildings-my-artwork-oil-on.html

Also wondering if you could use a slightly heavier, more Victorian font, this one looks a little too pirate-like. A couple examples I like are:

http://davidadriansmith.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/victorian_upload.jpg

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-mh4BztHUB2s/T04-r1amNBI/AAAAAAAABFQ/VfrrlcwleFY/s1600/stbkcv008.jpg

And perhaps add some color to the top title-text to make it stand out in a thumbnail (a light/gradianted red like this? http://www.colourbox.com/preview/4727539-696209-vintage-background-antique-victorian-gold-ornament-baroque-red-frame-beautiful-old-paper-card-ornate-cover-page-label-floral-luxury-ornamental-pattern-template-for-design.jpg)

Thanks!

You can see the final cover here:

rescueedits1

Advanced tips

If you know you’re doing a series with branded covers, make sure to get the PSD of the cover image, so you can manipulate the image for future covers, or pass the file on to another designer to do so if your chosen designer disappears from the site or becomes too busy.

I did this with the cover above, and have been able to use the same template to create a series of branded covers myself for cheap:

Clockwork series covers

Switch up cover designers for different genres, as often an artist good at one type of genre will be only so-so with another.  Here are some covers I got across multiple genres, almost all using different cover artists:

Other covers

Hope this was helpful; any other tips you have for getting great covers on the cheap?

~

J.P. Medved has just released the third novella in his steampunk, Clockwork Imperium series, called Airfleets Over Ostend.  The first novella in the series, and the one bearing the example cover described in this blog, To Rescue General Gordon, is now free at Amazon, so pick it up for a fun, quick read!

Sign up for his newsletter at www.JPMedved.com to learn about new steampunk stories in the works, and to get a free short story as well.

Using Pubslush to Fund Your Next Book

| Posted in Guest Posts |

13

There are quite a few crowd-funding sites out there now, if you’re looking for help financing your first book (editing, cover art, etc. can easily run you a thousand dollars or more). I did Kickstarter early on in my self-publishing career to help pay for the production of the first Emperor’s Edge audiobooks. It’s not for everyone (and it’s hard to get enough backers if you don’t already have at least a small fan base), but it can be a viable solution in some situations.

I haven’t used Pubslush, a crowd-funding site specifically for authors, so I invited fellow author Ilana Waters to talk about it today.

Using Pubslush to Fund Your Book

Hello there! First, let me just thank you Lindsay—so much—for having me on your blog. I eagerly follow your adventures in self-publishing, and think you are an all-around very cool person. No lie—it really is an honor to be here.

Anyway, for those who don’t know me, my name is Ilana Waters, and I’m also an indie writer. If you’re into fantasy books for kids and teens, you can check out a few of mine at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and I-tunes (and two of the short stories are FREE!). Since I’m looking to branch out into books that are more for the teen/adult market, I thought I’d try Pubslush, which is what I’m here to talk to you about.

What is Pubslush?

If you’ve never heard of Pubslush, you’re not alone. I hadn’t heard of it either until I started looking into crowdfunding options for my book. Basically, it’s like Kickstarter, but for literary projects. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform where people ask for help financing various endeavors. If enough awesome people donate, the project moves forward. All the donators have to do is select their rewards along with their pledge amount. Folks may remember the incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign Lindsay did for the Emperor’s Edge audiobooks.

How does Pubslush work?

Pubslush isn’t all that difficult to set up. You log onto the site, make an account, and it walks you through the process of entering information about your book, your campaign goals, etc. The campaign itself is where the hard work comes in. You have to get people excited about it, the same way you would with any fundraising effort. On the plus side, it’s a great way to gauge potential interest (i.e., readership) in your project, say, before you write Book XXI of your Games of Thrones fanfic anthology. 😉

Tips for a successful campaign

–Set a reasonable goal. Donations to pay for editing, formatting, print-runs, etc. are reasonable. Funds to pay a personal masseuse to rub your shoulders while you write . . . not so much.

–Create (and promote) cool rewards. I’ve seen authors come up with out-of-the-box ideas, like letting readers give input on future books (Lindsay did this with her Kickstarter).

–Keep supporters updated and thank everyone. A lot. 🙂

–Have a book trailer to go with the campaign (I went ahead and had a mock cover done too). Studies show your campaign is more likely to be successful with some type of video. Ditto for having your manuscript complete, so if you’ve been looking for extra motivation to go with the upcoming NaNoWriMo, now you have it!

My personal Pubslush

My own Pubslush campaign has just gotten underway, but I hope to post a quick update in the future about how it went. Until then, go here to support The Age of Mages, my urban fantasy, and earn cool rewards!

In addition to getting a copy of The Age of Mages if the campaign is successful, my reward levels contain goodies like a mention in the dedication, social media promotion for your book or business, and newsletter sign up. But best of all are the heavily-discounted manuscript critiques. If you have a writing project, and would like a professional set of eyes to look over things like plot, characterization, structure, etc., I’m your gal.

I’m even running a special deal—the next three people who donate at the $25 level will get the $50 reward, and the next three who donate at the $50 level will get the $100 reward.

If you have any questions or comments, shoot me an e-mail me at ilanabethwaters[at]yahoo[dot]com. Here’s where I am around the web if you feel like trailing after me:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Wattpad

Thanks to everyone for reading. Double thanks if you check out the campaign and donate. TRIPLE thanks to Lindsay for having me on her blog, and for continuing to be awesome.

Blurb:

I know a mage should be able to handle anything, but really, the circumstances are getting quite ridiculous.

What do you get when you cross a vampire with a witch? The vulgar might call it a half-breed or misfit. But the result is actually a magical creature with untold powers and numerous enemies.

In other words, a mage.

Joshua’s witch mother has been missing and presumed dead since he was a teen. Years later, when he learns she might still be alive, the only thing he can think of is finding her. His antagonistic vampire father agrees to help, but Joshua fears he may have ulterior motives. The situation becomes even more complicated when they discover the reason for her disappearance: she possesses a mysterious crystal whose powers remain a secret.

Unfortunately, Joshua and his father aren’t the only ones interested in the crystal. As their search leads them from New York to Las Vegas to Rome, they’re pursued by the Paranormal Investigation Agency, the High Council of Witches, and yet more vampires. In the process, they uncover a plot to wake the deadliest vampire who ever lived.

If Joshua can find the crystal, he might find his mother — and stop a massacring blood-seeker from rising. But that involves not fighting with his father long enough to hold off adversaries both human and supernatural.

It might just be more than one mage can handle.

How to Create, Publish, and Market an Anthology (and why you’d want to) with J.M. Ney-Grimm

| Posted in Guest Posts |

23

Hi, I’m J.M. Ney-Grimm. I write fantasy with a Norse twist. I love writing novellas, but I also produce short stories and novels. This year I edited – and contributed a story to – the indie anthology Quantum Zoo.

I want to thank Lindsay for hosting me on her blog. I’m a big fan of her Emperor’s Edge series. No, I’ll go farther than that. I’m a big fan of Lindsay’s writing. All of it! Whenever she releases a new book, I buy it and read it. That simple!

So, why am I here on Lindsay’s blog? To share exactly how two indie writers collaborated with ten other indie writers to create an indie anthology, along with what we learned from the whole process.

My co-conspirator in the anthology project was D.J. Gelner. He’s a gifted writer who enjoys splashing into just about every genre known. Okay, I exaggerate! But thus far he’s written science-fiction, mythological fantasy, non-fiction, time travel, and a sports tale. All of these stories have two things in common: powerful drama and “gotcha” kickers at the end. It’s been great fun to tackle Quantum Zoo with him.

When I consulted with Lindsay on the scope of my post, she encouraged me to dig into the nitty gritty specifics. To present all the how-to’s (and how-not-to’s) that would make my account really useful to other writers, whether they intended to create their own anthology or not. So that’s exactly what I’ve done.

First off…

Why Create an Indie Anthology?

Building Quantum Zoo has been a lot of fun, but it’s also been a lot of work. Why did we do it? What did we hope to achieve?

D.J. and I had three goals from the very start.

Cross-pollinate reading audiences

We figured that some of my readers would become his readers. Some his readers would become my readers. Some of our readers would go on to read the works of the other writers contributing stories to the anthology. And vice versa. All of us would increase the size of our audience.

Experiment with new marketing techniques

I’ve been following the more conservative approach recommended for writers with patience and a desire to be frugal with time and energy: write the next book! I write, release, announce, and repeat. Yet I’ve harbored a secret yen to try some bolder and more direct promotional techniques. This would be my chance to approach vast numbers of blogging reviewers and hold a Facebook launch party. 😉 D.J. has always been quite open about his desire to experiment with different marketing projects.

Learn from the project and report back to the indie community

We hoped to learn more about what kind of promotion was effective and what wasn’t. Naturally we’d use that knowledge to better guide our own publishing careers, but we’d also share what we’d learned with other writers. We envisioned our anthology project as benefitting many, not just ourselves.

Before You Start, Take One: Choose Your Partner Wisely

I wouldn’t have wanted to tackle a project like this alone. But pick your teammate carefully! D.J. and I were members of a small and active online writing group for more than a year before we hatched the idea for Quantum Zoo. We admired one another’s skills. We knew that each of us would contribute a high-quality story to the project. We had complimentary strengths.

I have two things for you to consider in this first “before you start” phase:

Compare your skill sets

D.J. calls me a “front woman with the smarts, tact, and grace necessary to communicate with all sorts of folks online” and “a crackerjack cover designer.” (Blushing a little as I copy & paste that.)

D.J. has experience in law, business, and entrepreneurship, plus a real gift for seeing the big picture and identifying exactly what needs to be done now to make everything fall into place.

I created Quantum Zoo‘s cover, a website for the book, a Quantum Zoo Pinterest board, and a flyer for contributing authors to distribute at conventions. D.J. wrote the contracts and selected the accountant who will handle the money earned by the book. Between us, we could do everything.

Assess your working styles and personalities

The only ego D.J. and I permitted ourselves was a dedication to putting out the very best possible finished product. We didn’t indulge in turf battles or power struggles, and didn’t take anything personally. Any of that could derail a cooperative project like this. We worked as members of the same team with our eyes firmly on our goal.

TIP: Chose someone you know well to be your partner.

Before You Start, Take Two: Genre & Theme

Decide the genre and theme for your anthology

How easily you manage this will tell you something about your partnership right off the bat!

Readers generally don’t want a random assortment of stories in an anthology. Would-be anthology builders must decide what the unifying principles for their collection will be.

Genre was easy for us. We both enjoy speculative fiction, reading it and writing it. Quantum Zoo would be science fiction and fantasy.

Selecting a theme was a little more challenging. D.J. and I held several brainstorming sessions. We wanted a prompt that would be fun to write about, had a broad range of applications, and would work equally well for both sci-fi and fantasy authors.

TIP: Be flexible and don’t lock in on a theme right away. Play with ideas for a while.

I’ll confess that I had a story I was longing to write that stemmed from the concept of living exhibitions. But D.J. agreed that “zoo” was an excellent prompt when I suggested it. I’ve never asked him when the inspiration for his “Echoes of Earth” arrived. Now I’m curious. Was it when we were brainstorming? I’d love to know!

Before You Start, Take Three: Contracts, Expectations, and Other Messy Business

First of all, have a contract! Without some kind of baseline agreement between yourself and the authors in the collection, no one will know where they stand, and things can get messy quickly. At the bare minimum, you should have an independent contractor agreement with each of your authors; it simplifies taxes and any legal problems should they arise. (D.J. can dig more deeply into this in the comments if anyone has questions about the specifics.)

At the same time, it was important to us that the contracts for Quantum Zoo be very author-friendly. There are too many horror stories these days about authors who sign unfairly one-sided contracts just to be “accepted” by a publication.

By contrast, we wanted Quantum Zoo to be a collaborative effort that authors could join without feeling “railroaded” by the goal of the process. To foster that collaborative atmosphere, having fair, author-friendly contract terms was absolutely necessary.

Be sure the terms of your contract protect the rights of the contributing authors

Our authors retained their rights. They can submit their stories to magazines that accept already-published material. Their stories can be included in other anthologies, such as Year’s Best SF. Each author may also indie publish his or her story.

TIP: Make sure to have signed independent contractor agreements with all of your writers with terms that are fair to the writers!

Anthologies have a strong history in traditional publishing. The usual framework is that a publishing house or a magazine decides to publish an anthology of stories, often reprints, sometimes new titles. The publisher puts out a call for submissions, selects the stories, issues contracts, pays the authors, and puts out the book.

We would be following a similar path, with one important difference: this would be a collaborative effort similar to the book bundles that some indies are now creating and selling.

Be very clear about the nature of your project

It was important that we communicate accurately what we had in mind. That it was a collaborative project. That our focus was audience expansion and marketing experimentation. That this was not a traditional anthology primarily consumed with making money. Although we do hope to make money, the proceeds from sales will initially be plowed back into marketing the book until we reach a relatively high threshold, at which time we’ll all split the loot, one-twelfth each. 🙂

We wanted to be sure that the indies who chose to submit knew what we intended and what to expect. We included all this information in the detailed guidelines we sent to interested writers who emailed us. Which leads me to my next topic.

How Do You Find Authors?

This is the issue that stopped us for several months after we first conceived our anthology project. We couldn’t put out a call for submissions in the traditional places, because this wouldn’t be a traditional anthology. Plus we wanted indies (or hybrids), not folks traveling the legacy route exclusively.

Writers who are members of really large online writers’ groups might seek interested writers there. But neither of us were in one of these groups. How could we make this work?

Eventually we decided to go ahead by posting a call for submissions on our own blogs. D.J. gets quite respectable traffic on his, a couple hundred visitors a day. Mine is more modest, a mere twenty to thirty a day. Still, we figured those relative “trickles” of traffic just might be enough.

As it happened, we’ll never know. We caught a lucky break.

There’s a lesson there, I think. Sometimes you just have to dive in, even when you don’t have all the pieces in place.

What was our lucky break? The Passive Guy decided to run my “Calling All Indies” post on his massively popular blog: The Passive Voice.

D.J.’s words about that: “I think it’s pretty clear that Jessica’s thoughtful comments on PG’s blog, DWS’s blog, Kris’s blog, and others contributed to her standing in the community, which in turn led PG to run the post. Without that, we may have had too few submissions to bring together something as special as QZ.”

TIP: If you’ve got 90% of what you need to do figured out, consider trusting yourselves – trusting that you’ll use your smarts and savvy to figure out the other 10%.

Whatever the cause, we were definitely out of the starting blocks from that moment.

We received many, many fine stories for consideration.

How Do You Pick the Right Stories?

D.J. volunteered to read the stories first. His idea was that he could weed out the ones that weren’t right for Quantum Zoo, thus saving some of my time and attention.

As it happened, the vast majority of the stories were so good that he couldn’t definitively rule any of them out. So we both ended up reading all the submissions.

Read as a reader, not an editor

Editors read with an eye to what is wrong with the story, looking to see how to strengthen it. That’s not how readers read. Readers let the story have its way with them. If it doesn’t pull them in, doesn’t hold their interest, they stop reading.

D.J. and I read through the stories the first time as readers, merely noting which ones drew us in most strongly, held our interest without letting go, startled us or moved us or both. Those are the stories we chose.

We had to consider one other thing. Several of the stories focused on humans held captive in alien zoos. No matter how good they were, including six stories with the same premise was never going to fly. We picked two: D.J.’s own – an intense twist on an old pulp classic, and a humorous piece by S.E. Batt that goes in a completely different direction.

What about deadlines?

We had them. Both for the writers: submit by January 31, 2014. And for ourselves: decide which stories to include by early March.

TIP: Give yourselves some wiggle room with your own deadlines. Do have them. You need them to coordinate well with one another. But say “early March” rather than March 4. This is a huge project and you are fitting it in around the rest of your responsibilities.

Once the decisions were made, we sent out emails all in a batch. D.J. drafted the letters: one to inform the writer we were passing on the story; one to say that we’d like to include the story if the writer were willing to make certain, specific revisions; and one to say that the story was exactly what we were looking for. This allowed us to ensure that that the authors were “on board” with making changes to their stories before moving forward – again, we tried to be as author-friendly as possible throughout the entire process.

All of that work was before even starting the actual editing!

How Do You Edit Stories?

Once again we divided things up, but this time we did it very subjectively.

We both liked all the stories and were wholeheartedly behind each one. But certain stories really spoke to D.J., and he chose to edit those, while others really spoke to me, and I selected them for my purview. We described ourselves as being the “captain” of a story. At the start of the process, we just hoped we could guide each one safely into harbor instead of crashing the story on the rocks! Fortunately, all of the authors were very accommodating through the entire process, and I think this method worked well for everyone.

After the captain completed his or her work with the writer, the story went to the other editor for review. This kept one set of eyes fresh for finding the little things that escaped correction.

What about the stories that spoke to both of us? As it so happened, those were the ones that needed the least revision. It was feasible for both of us to review them as “captain” and then simply send a compiled list that combined our suggested revisions to the writer.

What about our own stories?

D.J.’s went to a first reader from our writing group for feedback and then came to me for editing. Mine went to one of my usual first readers and then to D.J. for editing. We didn’t give those stories a “pass” or a leg up on anything; they had to meet the same standards as the other stories that ultimately made it into the anthology. We both had revision work of our own, just like every other contributing writer.

TIP: Let the writers know that some time will pass before you get editorial feedback to everyone. There are ten (more or less) of them and only two of you. Some writers will get feedback right away. Others may wait several weeks.

The stories fell into three distinct states of readiness for publishing.

About half were in great shape. They needed no structural changes, perhaps half a dozen small changes for clarity or consistency, and a smattering of typos corrected.

The other half needed more work: an important character given more “stage time,” repetitious word use fixed, verbal tics corrected, a more emphatic final sentence devised, and so on.

One story was perfect! The author found and corrected the sole error – a noun that read better as singular rather than plural – before D.J. and I got to her. We focused on the stories that needed the most work first, to give the authors time to make the necessary changes.

In our revision requests, we were careful to emphasize to the writer that we loved the story – in all honesty, we wouldn’t have picked the story if we hadn’t! As writers ourselves, we know it’s easy to give extra weight to criticism and less credence to praise. My emails started with some of the things I loved, then listed the changes I wanted (with mention of a few specifics that I loved), and closed with more things I loved. I should ask the writers if I got the balance right! 😀

When Should You Start Marketing?

As soon as possible! In a weird way, this was the “meat” of the whole project: we wanted to try out all kinds of “off the beaten path” ideas we had, but in order to do so, we had to nail down the basics first.

The Cover

Covers are (obviously) some of the most important passive marketing you can do. They glow on the book’s web page, enticing readers to give them a second look or to click Amazon’s “Look Inside” button.

We had several options for creating our cover. D.J. is modest about his design abilities, but he’s built some eye-catching images for his own books. I think he could have tackled the cover for Quantum Zoo. One of our contributing authors is also an excellent designer. (Check out Morgan Johnson’s Skipdrive, published solo with a fabulous cover, as well as included in our anthology.)

But we wanted the contributions of all the authors (except D.J. and me) to be exactly equal: one story. Since I have more design experience than D.J., I got the job. (Gotta say it was fun to do – I enjoy playing with Photoshop!)

I finished the cover roughly a month before our release date. Cover reveals tend to generate a lot of interest among fans, so they’re a good way to start buzz. And one of the authors was headed for a convention: we wanted a flyer ready for her to distribute there. The flyer featured our cover.

The Website(s)

The instant the cover was complete, we created a website for the book.

I had been resistant to this step. My thinking: we all have blogs, so why try to drive traffic to yet one more page on the vast, indifferent web?

Then I looked into our overall web presence across all 12 of us.

Turns out I was wrong to think everyone had a blog. One new author who submitted an absolute gem of a story had no web presence at all. This would be her first story published! One author had a Facebook page, but no website. Another author was starting a new pen name, so his existing web presence would help Quantum Zoo not at all.

Our book did need a website.

It ended up having two!

I’m going to explain the pros and cons of WordPress versus Blogger, which is the only way to understand why we have two websites. Crazy, I know!

WordPress

My own author blog is on WordPress. Over the last two years, I’ve learned how to make it do what I want it to. I didn’t want to learn another system. WordPress has a free version we could use – important to keep costs down. WordPress has more design templates, giving more flexibility for the visual look of the site.

So I created a WordPress site for Quantum Zoo.

When I tried to place a newsletter sign-up form on the site, I ran into trouble:

It couldn’t be done!

You can place such a sign-up form on paid-hosted WordPress sites, but not on the free ones. Only a link to a sign-up form works on a free site. So we did that, but we weren’t terribly happy with the result.

Blogger

What about Blogger? Blogger’s free, like WordPress. But as with anything, there were definitely trade-offs. Not as many template options. No slick, off-center designs. And a different interface from WordPress.

But it will accept a MailChimp newsletter sign-up form.

That was crucial; with every extra “click” that you put readers through, it’s one more place along the chain to lose their attention and interest. We were starting to build buzz before the book ever appeared on Amazon. How would we let readers who were interested now, pre-publication, know when the book launched? We needed those email addresses so that we could keep in touch with them, and we needed signing up to be as easy as possible.

So D.J., who is familiar with Blogger, got a Blogger site up. Then I came in and started tinkering and learning and making it reflect our vision for Quantum Zoo. You can check it out here. I’m very happy with how it came out. And we did get some readers signing up. Not a lot – perhaps a dozen – but enough to help on release day.

TIP: Be sure to feature your book cover on its website and use images from the cover as elements on the website, especially the header bar and the background – Quantum Zoo‘s web presence is all the better for it. Plus, it’s just good, old-fashioned, consistent branding.

We decided to leave the WordPress site up. One more page blowing in the internet breeze and potentially attracting a reader who missed the main site couldn’t really hurt anything. Since we intended these to be static sites, with just a few updates, keeping both would not add much to our workloads.

Review Bloggers

We fell down on this one. We should have asked our authors to start rounding up bloggers who reviewed books much earlier in the process. Most bloggers have huge TBR lists and work at considerable lead time. Finding bloggers to read and review Quantum Zoo needed to happen months before release date, not mere weeks, especially given the “fluid” nature of a lot of review sites these days: the site that was thriving and vibrant only a few short months ago could have an owner who’s totally swamped with reviews, or worse, utterly burnt out now. It’s challenging to dig through all of the lists of book review sites and blogs given that they’re constantly going out of date!

The problem was that D.J. and I had so much on our plates with reading submissions, managing communication with the authors, and editing that we simply couldn’t add one more task.

By the time I tackled the rather daunting task of combing the lists to find bloggers, it was much too late.

TIP: As soon as each author turns in his or her final draft, ask him or her to start seeking book reviewers.

I checked the science fiction & fantasy list of the Book Blogger Directory with 35 entries. Eleven of them were still in business, accepting submissions, and suitable for Quantum Zoo. (A few accepted only fantasy or YA books for review, so they wouldn’t work for QZ.)

I searched “science fiction” on The Indie Review, which narrowed 352 entries down to 57. Of those, many were predictably not accepting submissions or no longer in business. I found 13 suitable for Quantum Zoo and followed their submission guidelines.

As of now, none of these bloggers have read or reviewed Quantum Zoo. However, it is likely that some of them will eventually do so. Which will (I hope) give sales a boost when it happens.

Ask Your Authors to Help

Fortunately, Quantum Zoo‘s authors are all go-getters! They were busy talking with their own connections long before I said, “It’s time to make some noise!”

Several found readers who promised to read the book and post a review soon after its release. A.C. Smyth knew a very influential Goodreads member – many readers follow his lead in order to find their next read – who has already posted a very positive review. He’s a tough reviewer and didn’t give us a free ride anywhere, including the typos that were present in the e-ARC he read, but not in the final ebook. But his conclusion was: “Quantum Zoo is a collection of good writing… While I had some quibbles with several of the stories, there weren’t any that I outright disliked – not the case with several of the pro anthologies I’ve read recently – and some of them were very good indeed.”

Morgan Johnson educated us about Fiverr and a promo package there that he’d used successfully to bump his sales. This Fiverr campaign is likely one of the main reasons that QZ continued to sell enough to remain on several genre top 100 lists almost a week after release.

John Hindmarsh was beta reader for a popular indie who was willing to mention Quantum Zoo on his newsletter, which reached hundreds of his SF fans.

One of the benefits of publishing an indie anthology is that you don’t have to shoulder the marketing alone. Use the extra reach you have by encouraging all the authors to connect with their friends and fans.

TIP: It’s smart to plan your promotions in waves rather than all at once. Steady sales on Amazon will put the Amazon algorithms to work much more effectively than one huge (but lonely) sales spike.

From 12 Stories to Completed Anthology

D.J. built the ebook in Scrivener using his own custom template, then exported a .mobi file for Amazon, an .epub file for the other e-tailer sites, a .pdf file for reviewers who require that format, and a .doc file that I will use when I create the trade paperback edition of Quantum Zoo.

D.J. exported more than ten early versions, fixing all the errors that he saw, before he passed it to me for my review. My eyes were fresh at that point – I’d been working on the cover and marketing, so I found many of the problems that were hiding from him.

My process went like this:

First, more typos jumped out at me. (Ugh!)

D.J. corrected them and sent me a new file.

Then the major formatting issues became apparent.

D.J. fixed them and sent me a new file.

Then the more subtle formatting problems became obvious.

Not only that, but there were some late nights throughout the process debating (always very civilly 🙂 ) how punctuation should be standardized, obscure (but important) rules of grammar, and even things like how to end each story. (“The End” seemed too old-fashioned – we ended up using proper asterisms, which are three asterisks in an upside-down triangle.)

The point of all of this is to say there were plenty of spots along the way where we could’ve wasted time arguing about who’s right and who’s not, but as we mentioned above, we didn’t let our egos get in the way – we always had the highest good of the project in mind.

And, as D.J. adds, “Jessica was right most of the time, anyway…” 😉

(Naturally, I solicited D.J.’s feedback on this post. His revision suggestions were excellent, as always. And he added that sentence about my rightness. LOL!)

Again, pick your editing partner wisely!

D.J. made the last corrections to the ebook file. And then we sent it to all the authors to get really fresh eyes seeking errors and issues. Good thing we did, because they found another dozen typos!

At that point, after 19 versions of that file(!), it was ready to upload.

We chose to start Quantum Zoo in Amazon’s Select program, with plans to use those promotional tools. We’ll place it in Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple (iBook), and Smashwords 90 days after its release.

We uploaded Quantum Zoo to Amazon. It was an exciting moment when it went live – cheering was heard in Casa Ney-Grimm!

How Do You Market an Indie Anthology?

One of our goals at the very start of this project was to experiment with different promotional techniques. I summarized many of our marketing efforts under “When Should You Start Marketing” (above), but we have plans for much more.

This is an adventure that should persist for quite some time, and one that we’re delighted to share with the rest of the indie community!

One of our authors is a frequent visitor to the Writers’ Cafe on the Kindle Boards. He started a thread there that eventually garnered more than 2000 views. Did we get any sales from it? At least one – the reader posted to tell us so. But I suspect more than one buyer saw the thread.

Several writers who showed early interest in Quantum Zoo, but don’t have a story in it, followed our progress as we went from the idea to the collecting of submissions to the release of the book. They kindly emailed us messages of congratulations. Emboldened by their warmth, I ventured to ask them if any of them would like a free e-ARC to read and review. Two of them said yes!

TIP: Consider all the people interested in your anthology as part of the community that you’ve created by building the book. Some of them will be happy to help you.

As I write this guest post, we’re planning a launch party, to be held on the Quantum Zoo website. It will take place after I finish this post, but before this post goes live.

You can be sure I’ll blog about it after we have results. Indeed, D.J. and I plan to blog about all of our marketing experiments. We want to share what we learn. His blog is At Wit’s End. Mine is JMNey-Grimm.com. Check in with either of us from time to time to see our latest reports.

How Did Launch Day Go?!

I’ve always soft-launched my own titles, so I had no idea of what to expect for Quantum Zoo‘s release day.

It started quietly, with Quantum Zoo creeping softly onto the science fiction anthologies bestseller list at #84 or something like that.

But the news just got better and better as morning turned to afternoon and then evening.

By midnight, we were at #4 on science fiction anthologies and #11 (I think) on fantasy anthologies.

The next morning, Quantum Zoo was #3 on science fiction anthologies and #1 on Hot New Releases for the genre.

Wow! I’d never dreamed we’d get to #1 in anything. It felt great!

Much as we like the fabulous launch, our focus is long term. It will take time for our readers to read all the stories in the anthology. More time for them to decide to seek out other titles written by the authors of their favorite QZ stories. More time for Quantum Zoo to reach its full audience. Yet more time for that audience to buy novels by R.S. McCoy or Bridget McKenna or Sarah Stegall or any of our other wonderful writers.

But that is what we ultimately hope for: ripples going out for many years, that eventually become great tidal waves of sales for all of us…

…or at least let us set up house somewhere near the same zip code of the indie world where Lindsay resides! 😉

What About the Book Itself?

quantum-zoo-anthology-sf-fYou’ve just read the detailed saga of how Quantum Zoo was born. I’d like to tell you a little bit about it.

From a ghost park to a time-travel penitentiary of murderers to a menagerie of Egyptian deities, Quantum Zoo presents 12 compelling stories involving 12 very different living exhibitions. Including a wonderfully atmospheric tale by Hugo- and Nebula-nominated Bridget McKenna.

Visit 12 exotic worlds on a thrilling ride through Quantum Zoo!

Amazon.com I Amazon UK I Amazon DE I Amazon ES

Lindsay, thank you so much for hosting me here!

Anyone with questions, feel free to ask them. D.J. and I will check back from time to time and do our best to answer. 😀

How To Win Followers and Influence Readers on Wattpad

| Posted in Guest Posts |

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I’ve had a few folks write guests posts about Wattpad in the last year and I keep running across news stories on Wattpad authors getting picked up by publishers, so it must be the place to be right now. At the least, it’s a place where you can offer samples (or full books) of your work for free and build an audience.

I’ll say from my own experience (I have the complete Emperor’s Edge Book 1 up over there and part of Book 2) that it’s working to sell books (I’ve had Wattpad readers send me notes saying they picked up the rest of the series). As with a lot of ebook marketing strategies out there right now, it seems to favor those with series — hook them with the first book and hope they’ll go on to buy the rest when those ones aren’t available for free. I might go more into my own experiences there at some point, but I’ve got a meaty guest post for you today from an author who’s been on there longer and has a lot more page views than I have on my stories. I chat with David Alastair Hayden on Twitter, and I’ve started to think of him as the Wattpad pro! So, without further blathering, here’s his advice:

How To Win Followers and Influence Readers on Wattpad

Storm-Dragon-Kindle-EmbedBy now most people here know that Wattpad is an online community for reading and sharing stories. It has a highly active base of readers/writers and allows them to build reading lists, vote for and comment on individual chapters, “follow” their favorite authors, and interact with other reader/writers via both public and private messages. For me, Wattpad has been a wickedly fantastic way to connect with readers, sell books, and build toward that holy grail of 1,000 true fans.

Currently, I have a healthy 1.1 million reads on Wattpad for The Storm Dragon’s Heart and over 900 followers. That doesn’t make me the biggest name on Wattpad, but it certainly ain’t too shabby either. For a fantasy adventure book aimed at the lower end of the YA market, I’d say my numbers are excellent. But I didn’t earn readers and convert them to buyers by accident, or by simply spinning a good yarn.

I used a system.

My Wattpad Technique

Step 1) Post Regularly

I post one chapter each week, every week. Choose a day, let everyone know (see author notes below), and stick to it. The reason for this is two fold.

Once readers find and become fans of your work they will know when to come looking for more. They will descend in mass on your newest chapter and the burst of reads, votes, and comments will shoot your book up the hotlist for your genre. This will give you increased visibility similar to that of appearing on a bestseller list on Amazon. As I released the later chapters of The Storm Dragon’s Heart, the first book in my Storm Phase series, each one would rocket me into the Fantasy Top 5 and the Teen Top 50.

Also, Wattpaders are avid readers and they will consume your latest literary offering far faster than you would imagine possible. Because they want it now, all of it. So, if they know when to expect your newest post, it will dampen the urge to make impatient comments.

A Note on Timing: While posting The Storm Dragon’s Heart, I experimented with different times and days. I found that the best time to post chapters for maximum impact on visibility was on Friday or Saturday.

Step 2: Post Lots

On Wattpad, “reads” is the number of times any particular post has been viewed. So if your book has 10 chapters and each chapter has been read 10 times then your book has 100 reads. Readers can also vote on posts. Votes work and are tallied similarly, except where reads are passively gained as people open up a chapter, votes must be intentionally activated.

Obviously, the more chapters your book has the more opportunities you have to gather reads and votes. The more reads and votes you have the more visible your book will be on the site and the more new readers are likely to discover it. If you don’t write short chapters already, then I strongly advise that you break the book up by scenes. In fact, the wriggling of hooked readers on Wattpad affirmed my belief in short chapters for building tension and keeping the virtual pages flipping.

The Storm Dragon’s Heart has 54 chapters out of 85k words. That’s a huge plus because one hooked reader will give me 54 reads by the end. This is a distinct advantage. Make the chapters worth it and be prepared for the pestering of readers desperate for more story.

Short chapters is also a great way to turn impatient readers into book buyers. Book 2: Lair of the Deadly Twelve has 70 chapters and I am posting one each week. But both it and Book 3: The Forbidden Library are already available for purchase on Amazon and the other booksellers. Readers who just can’t wait will go ahead and buy the book.

Step 3) Link to Your Book

When you post or edit a chapter, there is a spot to add tags and such, like keywords on KDP. If you click on the “Advanced” tab in that section it will let you add pictures and videos and and external link. This external link is where you can enter the link to your book on Amazon. It is very simple to do but not obvious. It doesn’t have to be an Amazon link. It could go to B&N or your book’s page on your website. If you do link to Amazon, the link will say “Amazon.”

That link is insufficient. It’s a tiny link. No one will see it. No one will click it. Trust me on this. Despite having that link from the beginning, I had readers message me over and over telling me my book was wonderful and that I really should get it published. I got tired of answering this and had a little stroke of genius. (See Step 4.)

You can and should post active links to all your sales pages in your Wattpad profile. But you cannot put links in the chapters you post. Wattpad will automatically strip them. You can put a direct link as a comment though. So when readers ask you where they can get your book or suggest that you get it published (and they will, no matter how clear you make it that the book is available for purchase) feel free to respond with a link.

Step 4) Add Author’s Notes

At the start of each chapter I put the following note:

You can buy this book and the rest of the STORM PHASE series at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords.

And at the end of each chapter I put this note for a finished book:

You can buy this book and the rest of the STORM PHASE series at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords. You can sign up for my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, or like my Facebook page. For more information, see dahayden.com. Your support is appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Or I will put this end note for an ongoing book:

I will post one chapter each week, but there are 70 chapters, so this may take a while. If you just can’t wait, you can buy the complete book and the rest of the STORM PHASE series at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords.

You can sign up for my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, or like my Facebook page. For more information, see my website dahayden.com. Your support is appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Once I added the notes and started peaking into the Top 10 on Fantasy, I started getting steady sales. And it was pretty obvious that Wattpad was the cause. As I would release each new chapter and the book popped onto those popularity lists, I got an immediate bump in sales on Amazon and other booksellers.

Of course, once the book was nearly finished, this boost trickled off. Readers could see the end in sight and were more patient. I’d estimate that before Book 2: Lair of the Deadly Twelve debuted, I generated about 200 sales off of Wattpad for The Storm Dragon’s Heart which was priced then at $5.99. (At the time my sales were in a huge slump. Not having a sequel to the first book in a series can do that.) Now, I’m getting steady follow-through sales on Book 2: Lair of the Deadly Twelve and Book 3: The Forbidden Library as well from impatient readers who don’t want to wait two years to get the rest of the story. It has become impossible to judge how many, but I’d say quite a few. Storm Phase Book 2 actually outsells Book 1 on Kobo and iBooks.

Step 5) Be Sociable

Wattpad offers loads of opportunities to interact with people and promote yourself. Some people have had success with the forums, sometimes called clubs, and such. I wouldn’t know. There is, however, one thing you definitely should do on Wattpad. It doesn’t even take much time or energy.

Reply to all the comments on your chapters. Be friendly. It only takes a few minutes each week. If someone posts a rude comment to one of your chapters, you can delete the comment. I had one over-eager young fan who sometimes got too aggressive and needed moderating. Eventually my fans started reporting his comments and I didn’t have to do anything anymore.

At the bottom of your profile page is your message board. Readers can post messages just like they were posting comments on a chapter. And you can respond in kind. Or, if you click the checkbox that says “broadcast to followers” under the message box, that message will be sent to all of your followers. Depending on how they have their notifications set up, you message will appear on their Wattpad newsfeed and be sent directly to their email. This is a great way to announce new projects just like you would with a newsletter. Beside that checkbox is a button that lets you post the message to Facebook as well.

Step 6) Get Featured

The only promotion I have done on Wattpad is participating in their  Writer Partnership Program which allows select authors to “feature” their completed book on the site. Being “featured” brings in a mass of readers through the advertising exposure by the powers-that-be on Wattpad. Your book will appear on the “Featured” page in the discovery section of the site and on the rather ubiquitous “Books You Might Enjoy” banner. They also allow you to write a guest post for their blog.

There are two ways to get “featured” on Wattpad. You can simply post your entire book and then ask to be. This is the path I most often see indie authors take. If I had known it existed when I first started on Wattpad, this is probably what I would have done, too. I’m glad I didn’t. That’s not to say that you can’t or won’t get results with this method, you will.

But by posting a chapter a week, I slowly built up a list of followers before the Writer Partnership Program contacted me. It allowed me to cleverly time up my “featured” promotion with the release of Book 2: Lair of the Deadly Twelve. My numbers exploded. Waiting to tap that Wattpad promotion helped me reach a much broader fan base than I would have if I had used it earlier. I saw the same huge spike in readers others see after being “featured” but that was on top of my original followers.

And that’s it!

Ok, I lied. Wattpad is a big, complicated social network. So as you wade in, there are a couple of other things you should note and or consider.

Sequels

Most published authors put up sample chapters to the sequel as an excerpt and leave it there. If you do this, I strongly advise marking it as an excerpt in the title so no one will be mistaken.

I’ve chosen, however, to serialize Book 2: Lair of the Deadly Twelve as well. It won’t all be posted on Wattpad until early 2014. Barring the unforeseen, Book 4 and possibly Book 5 will be out by then and dedicated readers will have to soldier on or dive into their lunch/latte/iTunes money. Will I post Book 3 on Wattpad? I have no idea. I’ll figure that out when I get there.

I also have a complete posting of my adult fantasy novel Wrath of the White Tigress on Wattpad, and I’m serializing Chains of a Dark Goddess which is in the same series. I don’t think Wattpad has boosted or harmed the sales of those two books because …

Rated R Books

If your book is Rated R it will not appear on the charts and will, apparently, be difficult to find by searching. It also won’t be eligible to become featured. This cripples the promotion of such books and is why Wrath of White Tigress has far, far fewer reads than The Storm Dragon’s Heart. It’s not just because YA is a stronger category. You will, of course, find books with Rated R material that are not marked as such, but I do things the right way because … Well, you can’t be evil all the time, can you? I think Captain America taught me that. Well, he probably said something along the lines of “do the right thing” and “be a good person,” but I have my own interpretations.

Peer-to-Peer Critique

There is a lot of fan fiction on Wattpad. A whole lot. If you don’t know who One Direction is already, you will find out. (A boy band. I’d give you analogies, but doing so would reveal my true age.) Teens writing fiction for other teens, especially fanfic, can succeed (get TONS of votes, reads, and fans) with subpar writing because they’re writing things their peers will like and enthusiastically support. Peers support their peers, and they critique them. The interactions between peers are very different than those on publishable writing. You cannot and should not compare your numbers to the numbers for books like this. You might, however, want to check out these books to see what teens are into if you write YA.

The Real Reason to Use Wattpad

But here’s the one thing you must accept: Most Wattpad readers are not going to buy your books. It’s just not going to happen for myriad reasons. I’ve had readers with low incomes thank me for posting quality fiction for free (for this I’ve been blessed by the names of strange gods). I have many young readers, too, who maybe don’t have the money or allowance, or live in nations where wealth isn’t so plentiful. I had one reader tell me that he was planning to buy my books after he finished saving up for a guitar. The hope is that they will share their love of my work with friends who do have money to spend on books with boy wizards, Asian settings, fetches that turn into diaries, and cat-girl ninjas.

Many Wattpadders who buy my books message me to let me know they’re supporting me, which is touching, and I always thank them profusely. I have a few fans who’ve bought my books yet still drop by to vote on new chapters and leave me comments on what they liked in the chapter. You really cannot get that kind of feedback anywhere else. I have had dark days brightened by my Wattpad fans and their enthusiasm. The comments on the chapters they love, the begging for more chapters when they know I’m only giving one each week, pestering me because I forgot to post … these are things I cherish.

How Fanfiction Made Me a Better Author with Carolynn Gockel

| Posted in Guest Posts |

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In the Emperor’s Edge world, I’ve sent the final manuscript in the series off to the editor. It should be ready to publish by the end of July. In the blog world, I haven’t been getting many posts up. So, what’s new? Today, though, I have something for you, a guest poster to talk to you about a topic I don’t know much about: fan fiction and using it to improve your writing skills and build a readership.

50 Shades of Spock/Uhura: How fanfiction made me (an accidental) a better author

My name is Carolynn Gockel. I write stories about myths, modern and ancient.  I got my start writing fanfiction. And I am not ashamed.

The word fanfiction generally conjures one of a few reactions in people. The first is, “What is that?” The second is, “Like 50 Shades of Gray? Like porn?” And lastly, “Errr…isn’t fanfiction just really, really bad?”

To the first, fanfiction is stories written about other stories–whether movies, tv shows, books or comics, games, and occasionally real-life people.

As to the second, is it porn? Errr…a lot of it is, yes.

As to the question of quality, I don’t like to think of most fanfiction as bad; I like to think of it as immature. Most of the authors are in their teens or early twenties. They don’t have a lot of experience with life, let alone with writing. But it’s not bad that they are trying to explore life and writing through fanfiction…even if the result is sometimes “immature” porn.

Get to the part where it made you a better author!

Right. Well, first, understand I’m not someone who ever thought I’d want to write fiction. It happened by accident. I was captivated by the romance of Spock/Uhura in Star Trek 2009. I loved how it tweaked the notion of destiny. I liked how it combined one of my favorite genres, sci-fi, with just a little more romance than usual. Trolling the intertubes for Spock/Uhura, I first discovered fanfiction. I found some amazing stories that didn’t fit the description of porn or immature writing.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find enough stories to sate my appetite. So I started writing my own. It was a game at first. Just as most fanfiction authors are young, so is the audience. I wondered if a story that showed Spock and Uhura behaving in a professional manner, rather than gobsmacked on the bridge, could ever get traction. So I typed a short story up one evening, posted it, and waited. Almost to my surprise, the reviews I got were great. And then I wondered what else I could get away with. Specifically, if a story that snuck big philosophical ideas into a romance aimed at a general audience–most of them young–could ever get traction. (‘Cause big philosophical ideas don’t seem to get me much traction in casual conversation).

I wrote Descartes Error, a Spock/Uhura fanfiction that took its name from Antonio Damasio’s Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. Despite being a bit rambling, in the fanfiction world it was a hit.

I was hooked. I discovered I loved poking fun at our modern myths, and I loved playing with big ideas: philosophical, scientific, psychological and political in the context of a story that could be action packed, emotionally moving, and fun.

In the end I wrote more than 50 novels, novellas, and short stories. In the process I made fans, and more importantly, made fans who enjoyed my work but could be honest and critical. They helped me keep my characters true and my stories humming along. As deep and as meaningful as I’d like my work to be, the last thing I want is to be boring.

Big deal! You could have gotten that from a writers group

Well, maybe. I would argue that my work which combines action, romance, fantasy and science fiction might have been hard to find a writers group for. By writing fanfiction in my chosen genres–sci-fi and fantasy–I was able to meet like minds.

But there is one thing that writing and posting fanfiction can get me that a writers group can’t– stats. That’s right. Numbers, Baby!

I can see how many people are reading my stories, what stories they’re reading, what chapters in the stories perked their interests, and when I let them down. I can tell which stories are well read, but aren’t getting a lot of reviews. Different fandoms (i.e. fan followings, such as for Star Trek reboot, Star Trek TOS, Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc) are more responsive than others. This is important when making the transition from fanfiction to original fiction. People who don’t review still buy stories.

Click on the image for some more blow by blow analysis of a recent “novel” I wrote for the “Thor” fandom, called Blue.

StatsforLindsayB
Stats don’t just let me see the mind of other authors, they let me see the minds of everyone.

Fanfiction is my sandbox

Fanfiction is a great place to see just how far you can push ideas in your stories and how you can maintain your readers’ interest. It is great place to test out plot devices you may encounter while writing original fiction.

What fanfiction is not

Part1Fanfiction is not the best way to market your original fiction. I’ve gotten perhaps 100 solid customers from my fanfiction writing, and about six editors whose opinions I trust. But most people reading fanfiction are reading it because there is a world they are interested in exploring. They aren’t interested in your world. (A bit of advice: if you write for different fandoms you’ll pick up readers in each genre who will like your writing so much they’ll “follow” you into fandoms they don’t care about–those readers will read your original stories with gusto. If you are going to write fanfiction, writing a variety of different story types in a variety of different fandoms is best).

Still, as a fun, inexpensive way to gain experience writing, without leaving your house, it is great.

The outer limits of fanfiction

When I started writing fanfiction I was preoccupied with ideas of love and logic. Spock/Uhura was perfect for that. But that perfection began to break down when I was interested in exploring other types of love beyond romantic. My first original short story, Murphy’s Star explored logic and other types of love.

Another issue with fanfiction is that the fandom you write for has expectations in their fiction. Most fanfiction audiences are female.  They may like action in their movies and books, but they’ve already gotten that from the source material. In their fanfiction they’re usually looking for an exploration of romances that were not the focus in the plot of the original story. I like a little more action with my romance, and that can be a harder sell. (Which isn’t to say it can’t be done!)

Finally, writing for a fandom, you’re confined by the characters and situations in that fandom. After a while it becomes too restricting.

These reasons are why, after approximately 3 years, every fanfiction author who has been writing consistently goes professional–whether through traditional publishing or self-publishing.

After love and logic I became enamored with chaos–probably because I have children. At first I played in Marvel’s universe with Loki, “God” of chaos, but Marvel’s Loki is an emotional wreck with daddy issues. He is supposed to be the embodiment of chaos…I think chaos is much more than that, and I also think chaos can be wonderful.

My latest original fiction series, I Bring the Fire, is based on Norse Mythology’s Loki. It is a romp through the realms, antiquity and the modern era, and a wink at myths ancient and new. It’s also, covertly, a celebration of chaos.

One last thing fanfiction taught me

If you keep writing, you will get better. And each time you stretch your wings–or fingers–to try a new genre, you’ll pick up more readers. I Bring the Fire hasn’t let me quit my day job, but my fans love it, and I love writing it. I don’t know that I’ll ever be a best selling author–I’m too quirky–action, adventure, fantasy, romance, humor and Rhyle’s refutation of Descartes’ mind body dualism with a dash of quantum physics on the side? It’s not Twilight. But if I keep at it, I’ll find more and more like minded quirky readers.

About the (Accidental) Author

C. Gockel makes a living designing and coding. The first book in her series, I Bring the Fire is available FREE at: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple. Her short story, Murphy’s Star, is available here: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. She can be found on Tumblr and writes as Startrekfanwriter on fanfiction.net.

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