Tag Archives: Authors

Do Facebook Ads Work for Independent Authors?

Facebook seems like a perfect advertising platform for independent authors. Ads are relatively inexpensive, simple to produce and can be targeted in a Facebook environment, where you know readers are spending a good chunk of their quality time.

But there are challenges and pitfalls to Facebook, with no guarantee that the return-on-investment will be any better than traditional advertising vehicles.

Fortunately, Facebook advertising is one of those topics that is discussed in-depth in the independent publishing community. There are plenty of resources and case studies available to help authors weigh the pros and cons.

Author consultant Sandra Beckwith recently published what she calls a “Quick Start Guide” to dealing with Facebook ads. It provides a nice overview with plenty of links. Beckworth acknowledges she is a paid affiliate of one education program named in the report, but there is still plenty of useful information and resources. It can be found here.

Publisher’s Weekly offers a nice primer on the basics of Facebook advertising, “Facebook Ads: A Guide for Indie Authors.” Facebook’s huge user base makes it “an ideal destination for self-published authors looking to market their books and build their readerships,” the authors say. Find that article here.

Over on Digital Book World, author Mark Dawson refutes the premise that Facebook “cannot help you sell books.” He saw a “massive spike in business” when he started using Facebook. Read his experiences here.

Good Reasons to Avoid Author Services Companies

bull-keep-out-1390792The self-publishing industry is awash in companies offering authors the chance to produce their books for hefty fees. The quality and usefulness of the services typically runs from adequate to straight-on rip-off.

Sadly, these author services prey on authors who know little about the industry and simply dream of publishing a book. Most of the companies charge exorbitant sums for simple tasks, such as obtaining an ISBN, writing a press release or setting up a Good Reads page. The quality of their work is marginal, often producing the type of book that gives self-publishing a bad name. And once the book is finished, they leave the author alone and floundering, with no real support.

Two lawsuits against noted provider Author Solutions, the Penguin Random House company billed as “the world’s leading supported self-publishing services provider,” were recently dismissed on legal grounds. But the charges will sound familiar to authors familiar with the business. In Indiana and New York, Author Solutions was accused of running “a fraudulent scheme” to sell worthless marketing services to unsuspecting authors, according to coverage in Publishers Weekly.

The cases pressed similar claims against Author Solutions and argued for class action status. Author Solutions deceptively promoted itself as an independent publisher and profited from an array of fraudulent practices, including “delaying publication, publishing manuscripts with errors to generate fees, failing to pay royalties, and up-selling ‘worthless services’ to authors,” the suits alleged.

The cases dissolved on the complexities of class action status and intricacies of the law, disappointing many authors, who have liked to have seen the issues aired in open court.

“Moving forward, we soon will share our broad-ranging future plans as we fulfill our mission to help authors reach their publishing goals and achieve the widest impact with their writing,” Author Solutions president and CEO said in a statement.

Whatever the outcome of the legal wrangling, the cases should serve as a cautionary tale for authors. These author services companies must be approached with a large dose of skepticism. Authors need to be clear about their expectations from the company and what they hope to achieve.

If nothing else, the news about Author Solutions served as a reminder of a recent blog post by new author Trinity Robert, who detailed many of activities she label scams. Her blog is appropriate titled, “Self-Publishing Traps Are Sucking Authors Dry.”

These packages are dressed up to look glamorous to new authors. However, these “special features” are not worth the money that you are spending… A little research goes a long way. The stuff I have found online is horrifying.

There are many of these stories out there. Authors can report a wide variety of experiences. But, at the very least, it is important for authors to focus on the dangers of sending money to a company that may not be looking after their best interests.

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing Your Book

question-5-of-5-future-1525616Most authors struggle with tough, fundamental choices these days, as they approach the idea of publishing their work. They know their book is ready for the world, and now, more than ever before, they have a variety of choices to make their dreams a reality.

But it’s not easy to decide how to approach the business of book publishing. Pounding on the walls of traditional publishing seems like a wasted effort, especially since there is little gold and minimal support behind the walls. And then there are the author service companies eager to drain bank accounts for marginal product, books that scream “self published.”

Self-publishing may not have the same negative connotations, but it’s still difficult to achieve the level of professionalism sought by most writers. These writers have loftier goals, beyond simply the satisfaction of seeing their book in print. They want to reach an audience and, in their hearts, they know their work is good enough to resonate with readers.

On Huffington Post, “writer, model, yoga instructor” Abby Rosmarin recently wrote a nice overview of the emotions and challenges faced by a first-time writer committed to publishing a book. In “What I Learned From Self-Publishing My Book,” she captured both the reservation and exhilarations of the experience.

But more than anything, Rosmarin nailed the real motivation any writer needs in order to find success:

All kidding aside, I write because I can. I write because I have to. I write because there have been times where I’d be at a red light, scribbling something furiously in my notebook, angering the people behind me as I fail to notice the light had turned green.

I write because I am desperate for my voice to be heard, for my stories — whether they are fictional creations or a revealing of my own — to be out there. I am desperate to have even one person read what I wrote and go, “Wow, I can relate.” Or, “Wow, that made me think.” Or, even better, still: “Wow, I feel a little less alone in my feelings and experiences.”

That sums it up. Writers commit to a book because they have no choice. They feel compelled to write. But once they reach that point, the question lingers: Now what?

Like many writers, Rosmarin decided to go it largely alone, a challenging course. But it’s an understandable reaction for anyone who has dealt with the over-priced, snotty author service companies or the closed doors of traditional publishing.

But there are alternatives. Some publishers are willing to share the load, working with authors as talent, rather than annoying clients. You can keep your copyright, work with top editors and artists, and keep control. The publisher is your partner, there to provide help, support and a professional environment. To learn more, contact us.

Tips for Writers Moving from Non-Fiction to Fiction

FaceWriting fiction is a strange and mysterious concept for most media professionals, who are steeped in the style and rules of non-fiction writing.

As a journalist, you think writing fiction will be easy. You are freed from worrying about all those messy facts. What could be easier than making up a story?

Instead, fiction is a daunting mix of annoying obstacles and daunting challenges. The story is percolating. The ideas are there. But the words don’t flow. Structure, plot, characters–fiction writing is a morass of the unknown for a journalist.

But non-fiction writers have advantages in the fiction game. Real world skills can be translated into the realm of make believe. Old habits can be broken; new ones created.

Here are a few tips for non-fiction writers on how to turn those obstacles into opportunities:

::Figure Out a Style: In journalism or non-fiction, the style and voice of a book is usually fair obvious. It’s about telling the story in a factual way. But a great work of fiction create its own style and voice, a consistent tone and vocabulary that brings the reader into the fictional world. Finding that style. It’s worth taking a moment to step back and consider what kind of book you are writing. What is the genre? Who are the authors I admire in that genre? Don’t copy, but learn from those authors. Take special note of the pacing and dialog. Focus on the elements that fit your vision.

::Use Reality: Non-fictions writers are experts at reporting what they see. That works for fiction, too. Look for people, places and events that you know. Let the details of real life create the nuance of your fictional world. Those details are the key. Remember the old adage, “show, don’t tell.” Don’t stretch your imagination; mine your memory and the interactions and settings of everyday life.

SD Press Club::Think in Scenes: Many fiction newbies become trapped in the timeline of the story, letting it roll out in a set chronology. But stories are collections of moments, scenes that tell the story in dramatic fashion. Rather than recapping the daily lives of the characters, think of scenes that really illustrate the story. Focus on those moments. These scenes have beginnings, middles and ends, just like the larger story. You can always bring in other elements through flashbacks or dialogue. But the action in the scene moves the story forward.

::Don’t Forget the Drama: In the non-fiction world, a writer is simply reporting the facts. Fiction requires the writer to take on more responsibility. Scenes need to be created that revolve around some sort of conflict, threat or dilemma–either moral, physical or imagined. It doesn’t matter what kind of conflict or if it’s supposed to be a funny scene or a romantic scene. Every chapter needs an element that makes it compelling, rather than simply “moving the story along.”

::Create a Great Lead: Every journalist understands the concept of a great lead. But it’s even more important in fiction. Those first 50 pages are everything. Every writer should take an extraordinary amount of time and energy to create a gripping first 50 pages. Think of the opening scene of a movie, except in this case everybody can walk out after 15 minutes. You need to grab them.

::Leave Stuff Out: This can be a tough one. Media professionals are trained to tell the story along a tight timeline, offering information as it appears. But in fiction it’s essential to not tell the reader everything. Tease them. Leave gaps that will create questions to be answered later in the book. Drop hints as foreshadowing. In non-fiction it’s the writer’s responsibility to be true and honest; in fiction the writer’s responsibility is to engage readers, to play with their emotions and fears.

::Don’t Organize, Just Write: Every writer has their own methods. Journalists and professional commercials writers tend to like organization. Outlines. Note cards. A clear, logical path to follow. If that works for you, great. But fiction is not about arranging facts. At a certain point it’s about letting it flow, releasing the imagination to go free range. Don’t worry about where it will fit in the story or if it makes sense in the scene or if it’s appropriate for the character. Just write.

At a certain point as a writer, you can’t get hung up on the vagaries of fiction and all the rules and traditions of fiction. You just need to write. There is no substitute. It takes hard work and hours staring at a computer screen, which is something every non-fiction writer understands.

Kevin Brass is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world of celebrity journalism. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Ozy.com. This article is excerpted from his presentation, “Going Fiction,” for the San Diego Press Club.