1. Stop complaining about print publishers
You may think your writing is amazing and deserves to be published by one of the majors, and that they are all a bunch of numbskulls for overlooking your genius, treating you badly, not promoting your work properly or generally doing a terrible job. Well, get over it. The fact that you think they have failed you presents an amazing opportunity to forge an alternative path into an amazing future. So stop wasting your energy badmouthing them, hating them, etc, and instead channel that force into something good. Yourself.
2. Have talent
This sounds obvious, but the volume of badly conceived, badly written, badly designed, typo-ridden ebooks by unknown authors is incredible. Anyone with ambitions within ebooks should have at least one hard-nosed, smart book person in their life who loves them enough to read their material and be brutally honest about whether it is a work of genius or whether you need to consider a job at the post office. If you don’t have any such individual in your life, paying a freelance editor to do it for you is money well spent. Anyone who self-publishes without showing his or her work to a single living soul will probably fail.
3. Be multi-skilled
The days of the writer who only knows how to write books are totally, totally over. Any budding author who wants to publish digitally needs to know how to do a range of tasks, particularly in areas such as design and marketing. Basically, all the tasks that a publisher once did for you, you now have to do yourself. The alternative is to pay for someone to do them, but who has that money when they’re just starting out? Better to force yourself to learn through necessity; then you become more powerful and less dependent, which can only be good.
4. Have more than one ebook already written
Amanda Hocking, Stephen Leather, John Locke and many of the first wave of self-published eBook millionaires all had a number of titles ready to go at the same time. More ebooks means more chances to sell, and more chances for a reader who likes one of your titles to seek out the rest, thereby multiplying your revenues. “Having five books available at the same time is probably the best thing I did,” said Locke in The Mail On Sunday. In fellow ebook novelist Joe Konrath’s case, in January of this year he posted on his blog that he’d banked a cool $100,000 in Amazon sales for that month alone — but this was from a total of FIFTEEN ebooks. Writing three or more ebooks before you even think about publishing is a mammoth task, which requires ninja-like patience, perseverance and planning. Most self-publishers are too eager to get their stuff out there, and so they publish too fast and without any strategy. Better to carefully plan your sequence of titles, and to take the time to write well.
5. Get the genre right
Of course, write what you love, first and foremost — but if you have your eye on money, the most popular ebook categories are thriller, mystery and romance novels. An episodic series, with heroes or heroines that readers can follow through successive releases, is a good strategy. John Locke created the character of Donovan Creed in his series of seven best-selling crime novels. Aside from this the other categories showing rapid growth are educational and self-help eBooks.
6. Write shorter books, more often
The average novel is approximately 80,000 words long, but ebooks lend themselves to shorter formats, some even the length of extended essays. (Amazon call them Kindle Singles). The cold fact is, ebooks by definition are cheap, and however many words you write, you will only be able to charge a small amount for it online. There is little point in writing a door-stopping 200,000-word opus, if you can only charge $2.99 for it. Rather than spending a year or more producing one full-length title, it may be better to spend that time writing a sequence of three or four shorter eBooks of, say, 20,000 words each. In marketing terms, publishing four times in a year is better than publishing just once.
7. Price doesn’t matter — quality matters
Some disagree with me on this. Many sell their ebooks for as little as 99 cents or less, which means they shift in bulk. But most people who can afford 99 cents can easily afford more than that before they start to get twitchy. I have bought terrible ebooks for five and ten dollars apiece and ended up disappointed — not at the price, but at the low quality of what I bought. In tests people tend to equate poor quality with cheap prices, so a low priced ebook may not always be the best thing.
8. Social media marketing is the only way to promote.
I have read posts by many of the first wave of ebook money-makers, and they all say the same thing — that conventional PR and advertising didn’t sell their ebooks. (Most first timers can’t afford the latter anyway). It wasn’t until they started blogging and doing the other forms of social media that things really took off. Lady GaGa presents an amazing example from the world of music. With 50 million Facebook fans and 20 million Twitter followers, she owns her own database of customers, and so selling becomes that much easier; crucially, she no longer relies on conventional PR. Of course, writers can’t compete with GaGa’s numbers, but the principal plan of action is the same.
9. Create your own selling platform
Amazon, iTunes and the like provide a good platform for independent e-publishers, but let’s be clear — as long as they provide the sole outlet for your ebooks, all the promo work you do drives traffic to their websites, not yours. More importantly, they then own whatever database of customers you create from your sweat. As far as possible today’s writers need to own their own customer bases (see no. 8). For the ebook author, this means building your own blog or website and connecting with an independent digital fulfilment house, who will distribute your downloads on your behalf, and give you your database, all for around 10-15 percent, rather than 30-70 percent. This route is difficult to set up, but worth it in the end. It won’t replace Amazon or Apple, but it will at least give you some skin in the game.
10. Have no social life
Make no mistake, self-publishing is seriously time-consuming. On one of Joe Konrath’s recent blogs he talked about the fact that promoting his books takes even more of his time than actually writing them. “If you want to have extraordinary sales, it means devoting an extraordinary amount of time to it,” he says. “That means sacrificing other aspects of your life, like leisure, sleep and family.”
It’s a sobering thought. But, after reading this, if you still want to take the plunge and self-publish digitally, be prepared for the long haul, for hard work, but also the joys of being autonomous. Go for it, and good luck.
Cookbooks have been around for well a long time now, dating back to time immemorial. The earliest cookbooks started from lists of recipes, currently known as haute cuisine, and were for recording author’s favorite dishes. Others were for the training of professional cooks for noble families, which made them short of content as peasant food, bread and vegetable dishes that were considered too simple for a recipe.
When it comes to Mediterranean foods, just know you are getting yourself into one of the healthiest diets in the world. A 2015 release of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines proposed this diet, besides its recommendation by several researchers too, with Ancel Keys, Ph. D being the first one to promote this diet after Second World War. According to a study by Keys and his colleagues, people in areas such as the Mediterranean where this eating style was popular had higher cardiovascular health than those in the US. Twenty awesome recipes are included in this book. Surrounding the Caribbean and Mediterranean Diet.
Table of Contents
Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Cookbooks
The Mediterranean Example; Grains, Veggies and Fish Diet
Mediterranean Chicken Stew with Cinnamon Couscous
Grilled Shrimp served with Garlic-Cilantro Sauce
Easy Seafood Paella Recipe
Jamaican Fried Snapper Recipe
Jamaican Steamed Fish Recipe
Classic Potato Salad Recipe
Mexican Rice Recipe
Spaghetti Pasta Carbonara Recipe
Greek Potatoes Recipe
Simple Baked Chicken Drumstick Recipe
Chicken Cacciatore Recipe
Table Of Contents Continued:
Balsamic Glazed Chicken Recipe
Cajun Jambalaya Recipe
Lemon Cream Pasta with Chicken Recipe
Sea Bass Cuban Style Recipe
Skinny Turkey-Vegetable Soup Recipe
Vegetable Lasagna Recipe
Cilantro Lime Shrimp Recipe
Greek Sorghum Bowl with Artichokes and Olives
No self-published author should publish their work without paying a professional to edit it first. But what if you don’t have the money to pay for an editor? Or what if you want to keep your costs down by doing as much editing on your own as you can?
Before you spend money on an editor, work your way through this 25-point checklist. Because the better you can make your novel on your own, the better your editor can help you make it together. Think of it like football: Get the ball as far down the field as you can, then pass the ball to your editor. Together you can go for goal.
SELF-EDITING TIP #1
Does the world need this book? If so, why?
Every year, millions of books get published. Most get ignored. Ask yourself: Why does the world need your book?
This is not an argument to self-censor. Rather to think about what you’re publishing and why. Talking to hear the sound of your own voice may be amusing, but does little to attract an audience. Talking, writing, speaking—it’s all about the audience, not about you.
Sharpening your focus at this stage will make self-editing much easier. Because if you don’t know what you have to say or why you’re saying it, then how can you sharpen your prose to achieve those goals?
SELF-EDITING TIP #2:
How’s Your Hook?
Readers have short attention spans these days, and an ocean of ebooks to choose from. You need a strong hook in your opening pages to persuade readers to cross your palm with silver.
Pretend that you’re a reader, and ask yourself: Why should I care? Why should I invest my money—not to mention my time, which is even more valuable—in reading your novel? I could be watching Game of Thrones. Are you telling me your novel is more entertaining? Make me care!
And hooking the reader doesn’t end after the first five pages. There is no point at which you can relax and rest on your laurels (either within the pages of a book or during a literary career). Every word sells the next. Every sentence sells the next. Every paragraph sells the next. Every chapter sells the next. Every book sells the next.
Because as a reader? I owe you exactly squat. Zilch. Make me care. Make your writing so irresistible that I can’t help but want to read on.
That’s how you write a book. That’s how you build a career.
SELF-EDITING TIP #3:
Who’s Your Hero?
Reading a novel means donning an avatar’s skin. When we enter the pages of your book, we become, in our imaginations, at least, your hero. And we’re not going to be very comfortable if your hero is a jerk.
Your hero needs to be someone we can relate to, who we can understand. We don’t necessarily have to like him, but we have to care. This doesn’t mean your hero should be a goodie two-shoes, because that’s equally irritating. Instead, write flawed heroes and complex villains. Hannibal Lector may be a cannibal, but boy can he keep me turning the pages!
SELF-EDITING TIP #4:
What Does Your Hero Want?
A novel is just this: Who is your hero? What does he want? What’s stopping him from getting it?
Character is just another word for what the hero wants. Give us a sympathetic hero with a goal we can relate to, and the strength of will to pursue that goal at all costs, and you’ve got the makings of a great story.
SELF-EDITING TIP #5
Who’s Your Villain?
You needn’t go all Hollywood here, but your hero needs obstacles. If your hero wants a ham sandwich, and all he has to do is go to the fridge and make one, that’s not a very exciting story, now is it?
Note that by “villain” we mean the opposing force working to prevent the hero from achieving his goal. The villain and hero are sometimes the same character—for instance, a story of an alcoholic or drug addict fighting to get the monkey off his back. Or it could be nature—sailors fighting to stay afloat during a hurricane.
If you go with a human villain, be sure to give the character a touch of goodness. Evil is not cartoonish, but rather a misguided attempt to do good. Melodrama went out of fashion when the last vaudeville hall closed its doors.
SELF-EDITING TIP #6
Structure, Structure, Structure
The human brain digests story in a certain form, and stories that do not satisfy that form will drive your audience away.
To wit: Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end; thesis, antithesis, synthesis; boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl; Act One, Act Two, Act Three.
There are many books on structure out there, and varying theories about the precise form story structure should take. But you must have the basics down, or your novel will not be successful.
For further reading on structure, you may like to read Three Uses of the Knifeby David Mamet and Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. These are just my personal favorites, there are hundreds more out there.
SELF-EDITING TIP #7
Yes. No. But wait!
Good stories must have suspense. When we go to a ball game, we don’t want to watch our team trounce the opposing side, run up the score, and then go home. How boring would that be?
We want to see our hero struggle, to succeed, to fail, the end goal always in doubt. We want to watch the ball game come down to a nail-biting, edge-of-our-seat, who-is-going-to-win, oh-my-God-can-he-do-it thriller.
Not that your book has to be a thriller. It could be a story about cats. But if the cats were sympathetic, wanted something we could relate to, and faced sufficiently interesting opposing forces, then the yes-no-but wait! formula works just as well.
SELF-EDITING TIP #8
Knowing where to begin and end your chapters is an art. Every chapter should begin with a hook. Every chapter should end with a cliffhanger.
Some of you at this point are probably thinking, “But I’m not writing a thriller! This doesn’t apply to me!”
Um, actually, yes it does. If you want people to read your work, you have to make them want to read your work. Readers owe you nothing.
Do I need to repeat that? Readers owe you nothing. Your job as an author is to make them care. My job as an editor is to help you make them care.
End of story.
SELF-EDITING TIP #9
Whose Head Are We In?
A common mistake some authors make, especially those that come to fiction from the theater or film, is omitting internal monologue. The strength of the novel is that we spend the book inside people’s heads. We don’t just watch the action. We are inside of the action.
Fiction is a window into someone else’s soul. A good author gives the reader an intimate personal experience not possible in any other medium. This experience can be deep or shallow, depending on the needs of the genre. But it must be there. A dry account of some events that happened may make a fine biography or history, but the goal of fiction is to connect with your readers at a subconscious level.
SELF-EDITING TIP #10
Have you ever seen prose that looks like this?
“Oh my goodness, what a giant turtle!” exclaimed Martha. I do so love turtles,she thought. They remind me of my dead grandmother.
Jake harrumphed. Can we go home soon? I’m sick of the beach. And none of the girls are wearing bikinis.
Do you see the problem here? We’re jumping from Martha’s head into Jake’s head from one paragraph to the next. This jars us out of the story. If your story requires you to use multiple POVs (Points of View), then the easiest thing to do is to separate POVs into separate chapters. A more advanced technique is to separate POVs using section breaks:
[… several pages of Martha POV …]
“Oh my goodness, what a giant turtle!” exclaimed Martha. I do so love turtles,she thought. They remind me of my dead grandmother.
Jake harrumphed. Can we go home soon? I’m sick of the beach. And none of the girls are wearing bikinis.
[… several pages of Jake POV …]
SELF-EDITING TIP #11
Authors with experience in theater or film tend to write better dialogue. Why? Because acting and writing dialogue are one and the same craft.
What do I mean by that?
Well, why do characters speak? They speak because they want something from someone else. Remember our definition of a story: Who is our hero and what does he want? And what’s stopping him from getting it?
The conflict in a scene could be a sword fight. Or it could be two people fencing with words. Think of writing dialogue as though it were a fight sequence: parry, thrust, advance, retreat, attack. This will give strength and verve to your dialogue, and make your characters pop off the page.
If dialogue is a struggle for you, consider taking an acting class or two. This will dramatically improve your dialogue-writing skills.
Every day we get up, drink a gallon of coffee, and head to the computer to see if today is the day we’ll actually accomplish something. Spoiler alert, the answer is usually “not as much as we hoped, unless you count number of cat photos Liked.” Between Facebook notifications, tweets, and tantalizing daily deal emails (not to mention actual coworkers), there’s no shortage of distractions to—oh, hang on. Gotta update my status.
Right. So, for most of us, getting things done is easier said than…done, but there are always those outliers who seem immune to this very real phenomenon. Take, for example, the six authors below, who managed to churn out hundreds or even thousands of published works during their careers. True, some of them had the advantage of being alive before the internet existed, but their collective output is still enough to make the checked-off items on your to-do list look positively insignificant.
The London-born writer put pen to paper at a very early age and never set it down. Historians estimate he wrote a total of around 100 million words, most as short stories for magazines. If you divide that word count by the length of an average novel, old Charlie published the equivalent of about 1,200 books. That earns him the gold crown as the most prolific writer in history.
It’s often difficult to attribute work directly to Hamilton since he used over 20 different pen names throughout his career. Does Cecil Herbert ring a bell? T Harcourt Lewelyn? E.S. Turner? How about Frank Richards? That last one was Hamilton’s most-used nom de plume, and it’s also the one associated with his most famous creation, Billy Bunter. “Famous” if you were a boy between 1908 and 1940, anyway.
If you’ve ever read a romance novel, chances are you’ve heard of Barbara Cartland. The author produced just over 720 novels in her career, many of which were nuzzled into into her specialty niche: Victorian-era romance. She holds the Guinness World Record for most novels written in a single year: a healthy 23, or two per month. Kinda makes NaNoWriMo participants seem, I don’t know, lazy. Cartland’s publishing credits didn’t end after her death in 2000. Several manuscripts were released posthumously as the Barbara Cartland Pink Collection. Go ahead, try to stop her from writing.
One of the “Big Three” hard science fiction writers of his era, Asimov is credited with over 500 published works covering almost the entire Dewey Decimal System. He’s best known for sci-fi classics like I, Robot and the Foundation series, but he also wrote history books, screenplays, mystery short stories, and “explainer” columns in magazines to introduce complex scientific concepts to the masses. Basically, you name it, Asimov probably wrote it.
María del Socorro Tellado López, who wrote under the name Corin Tellado, published over 4,000 works in her lifetime. Like Barbara Cartland, Tellado worked in the romance genre, only her stories weren’t as steamy. She lived in Spain and needed to keep erotic content out of her tales to avoid censorship, resulting in a stories of characters in modern-day settings who could only hint at the passion that boiled in their loins. Despite the relatively tame content, Tellado sold over 400 million books, so she was certainly doing something right.
While he may not have numbers as high as the others on this list, you can’t ignore the writing force that is Stephen King. Since his 1973 debut novel, Carrie, King has released over 60 full-length works of fiction and almost 200 short stories. He’s created screenplays and written both comics and nonfiction. Just about every idea that comes out of his brain is eventually adapted into a movie. All he needs to do is live long enough, and he’ll have a comfortable spot with the other insanely prolific writers of the world.
R. L. Stine
Most of us know R. L. Stine as the author of Goosebumps and Fear Street, the long-running horror series aimed at tweens and teens. They’ve been going strong since the early ’90s and make up the bulk of Stine’s 400-million career sales figure. At one point, he was writing new installments at the rate of one every two weeks. One book. Two weeks.
Okay, so if you haven’t heard of the Twilight franchise by now, you’ve either been dwelling under a rock or sleeping in a coffin. Vampire novels, movies, and tie-ins have exploded. Some say the vampire trend is dead (or undead, if you’ll forgive the pun).
But vampires have fascinated numerous cultures for thousands of years—long before Dracula saw the light of day (groan). And there are some folks, like myself, who will read/watch/drool over anything vampish.
But how can you make your vampire novel different from all the others on the shelves? Read on to see what I did to make my vampire romance, House of Cards, stand out.
Make your vampires more than just vampires
When I set out to write this book, I knew I wanted my vampires to be more than just strong, beautiful, bloodsucking immortals. I wanted to give them histories. Personalities. They were human beings before they were supernatural creatures. Naturally, part of that humanity would carry over and create motivations for their present-day behavior.
I think a lot of paranormal books focus more on the “para” than the “normal.” But take away the supernatural abilities, and what should you have left? The complex character interaction that fuels any compelling novel.
So that’s what I really strove for in House of Cards. My male lead, Lucas, is a vampire. But he’s also much more than that. He’s an artist. He was part of a close family. He is a caring, frustrated, sensitive soul. It’s these characteristics that draw the female, human lead (Sherry) to him. They are also what helps save her life—not his “vampire” abilities. Ultimately, they’re why she falls in love with him.
Make the story about more than just vampires
Boy meets girl. Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. Boy or girl turns out to be a vampire. We’ve all seen this before. Some vampire novels are just regular love stories with blood-guzzling thrown in.
But I think the best books are ones with deeper, layered meaning. Interview With the Vampire wasn’t just about an eighteenth-century plantation owner who gets vamped. It’s about love, hopelessness, and humanity’s place in the universe, among other things.
While never explicitly addressed, reading about these issues lets us walk away from the book with the notion we’ve really felt or thought on a deeper level. Weave them in, and the novel feels weighty, substantive. Leave them out, and the story seems trite.
In House of Cards, Sherry and Lucas both suffer significant losses before they even meet. Both are prevented from living their lives to the fullest by an unnerving villain known as “The Master.” In Sherry’s case, even surviving is not guaranteed.
So I tried to address how we cope with death, futility, and expressing our true selves in the world. Odds are, readers have dealt with some—or all—of these issues themselves.
Reverse stereotypes and give readers the unexpected
I don’t mean to criticize the many excellent vampire novels out there. But I see a lot of them falling into the same pattern: 300 pages of boy-rescues-girl. Now, there’s nothing wrong with an old-fashioned love story. But it seems that no matter how strong, how skilled, or how powerful the girl, it’s always up to the boy (usually a vampire) to save her in the end.
Personally, I’d like to see a little more of the kick-ass heroine in these vampire books. This was partly my idea when I developed Sherry’s character. Timid and terrified at first (as she should be—she’s trapped by serial killers), she gains power and strength as the novel progresses.
‘Why did he only write a novella?’ was a comment on an otherwise favourable review we had a couple of years ago. A fair question and one we took as a back-handed compliment. We’ve been debating novellas and short novels recently, when as indie writers and avid readers, we note trends in the publishing world.
In the last few years we’ve noticed that novellas are becoming increasingly popular among indie authors. It’s interesting to think about why fashions change in publishing. A cynic might say novellas are quicker to get on sale – that’s true and an important factor – but far from the only reason.
Demand is driven partly by readers and most authors try to write books that will sell in the current market. Unfortunately, demand is also manipulated by the big publishers. For instance, in the 1960s and 70s, historical fiction was very popular. Later, it almost disappeared from the shelves with publishers not wanting to take that genre. It’s hard to believe there were some years when readers went off historical novels when you look at their resurgence today, led by authors such as Hilary Mantel and Philippa Gregory.
Novellas and short novels are an old literary form which is making a welcome come-back for various reasons. It’s worth taking a closer look at what is generally meant by the terms. There are no hard and fast rules. From the writing guides I’ve read, leading indie author commentators mostly suggest that 20,000 words is the starting point for a novella.
I’ve no quarrel with this, though we feel that a 30-35,000 word-count is right for us. In the two novellas we’ve published, that space was a natural length to produce a well-rounded story, neither padded nor truncated. We felt it was a length to give good value to our readers, which is important to us.
A short novel is hard to define, though it’s currently suggested that 80,000 words is the minimum length for a novel. I guess a short novel is what used in Britain to be called a ‘novelette,’ anything upwards of around 40,000 words. This is an atmospheric old word that is reappearing in indie author’s book descriptions and we’re pleased to see it back. ‘Novelette’ conjures up nostalgic thoughts of garish covers and exciting yarns like Leslie Charteris’s Simon Templar – The Saint – and hard-boiled Chandler and Hammett. Fast-moving adventure stories used to lend themselves to shorter fiction – perhaps until modern publisher-pressure.
Some authors do use the terms novella and novelette for as little as 25-30 pages. This seems an unwise strategy. Though their work looks longer on the sales page, I’ve noticed angry reviews where readers’ expectations are misled. To pre-empt complaints of being short-changed by a short story, it’s worth making the length eye-catchingly clear in the blurb.
So, why write a novella? The main reason surely is because a writer wants to explore an idea that doesn’t lend itself to an average-length novel but is beyond the limitations of a short story. A story has its own natural length and far better to offer that to your readership than pad a plot in order to charge a higher price.
It’s natural to perceive larger goods as being better value but some of our most iconic fiction has a surprisingly short word count. Think of Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet (135 pages) and The Sign of Four (154), John Buchan’s The Thirty-nine Steps (138) and The Power-House (108), Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male (180) or Stephenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, only 65 pages.
This doesn’t apply only to detective novels and thrillers. One of my favourite novels, J. L. Carr’s A Month in the Country has 85 memorable pages. Ghost stories too, often work better at medium-length. Incidentally, few speak of these superb stories as novellas or even short novels. We’re simply glad we have them – and many writers intersperse shorter works between longer novels.
In the world of classic crime fiction, the majority of Agatha Christie’s novels are around 190-220 pages. Several written during or shortly after the Second World War are 160, perhaps due to paper shortage. Their quality is certainly no less, they include the much-loved The Body in the Library. Simenon’s Maigret novels are known for their slim volumes. Both writers had a high output.
A quick look along the shelf at many crime novelists writing from about the 60s will show that their early novels were shorter. You can see this in the canon of Ruth Rendell. Fellow Rendell fans will know that she decided to incorporate themes of social ills in her later Wexford novels, doubling the length of her early titles. I loved them all and it’s a joy to know you’re getting a thick novel from a favourite writer. Yet I’ve come to think that Rendell’s early mysteries are stronger. The plot of a murder and its detection has a natural progression which is often better for not being expanded. Another of my all-time favourite detective novelists is Emma Page. Her titles are often 180-200 pages .
Don’t get me wrong – I love to curl up with a fat novel. Two of my favourite writers are Trollope and Wilkie Collins, who average 500-700 pages. Trouble is, I rarely get time to re-read them these days and I’m not alone in that. I’ve also seen – again in the last few years – that many new crime novels look satisfyingly thick until you open them to find an unusually large font and wide line spacing. Do the big publishers think readers won’t notice? I imagine this trend is to justify the staggeringly high price of new hardbacks – and possibly to recoup going on a table display in Waterstones’?
Readers’ expectations seem to be changing in ways, especially relevant to indie authors who deal mainly in ebooks. We’re living in an over-worked, stressed, time-poor society. Reading – thankfully for our mental health – is as popular as ever. Maybe even more so with people who weren’t drawn to books, finding they enjoy reading on devices. Many people now want a medium-length read they can enjoy on their phone while commuting. Others want to relax with a novella over an evening or two. Sadly, fewer have the time to commit to a lengthy novel.
Another factor in the rise of novellas/novelettes is satisfying the readers who expect frequent titles. Again, this phenomenon only applies to indie authors. Traditionally, readers have expected to wait for a yearly treat from favourite authors, or even a couple or more years. Especially if they’re longing to follow a series and the author has more than one on the go or fancies writing a stand-alone.
These days in our frantic-paced culture, the received wisdom is that readers expect more than a single ebook a year from authors they like. Industry trends strongly suggest that ebook readers’ expectations have gone haywire. We’re told that standalones won’t sell well and we need to get a series on sale fast or our name will be forgotten by readers who enjoyed our first title. And we all know, some readers expect our carefully-crafted months of work to be handed over for 99p! Publishing shorts does go some way towards retaining readers’ interest.
We will always love writing novels but have really enjoyed working on two novellas so far – one for each of our main detective characters. It feels refreshing and fun between the long-haul – maybe like running a half-marathon. Many indie authors are interspersing their fiction with novellas and short stories. It can be a great way of trying out an idea for a spin-off series or exploring a secondary character in greater depth. This is something we’re considering with our historical adventures and Victorian thrillers.
And we’re not alone. In traditionally published crime fiction, famous names such as Alison Joseph and Lesley Cookman have started novella series between their novels. I’m looking forward to Lesley Cookman’s second novella in her The Alexandrians Serieswhich is out on 31st Jan (now on pre-order). She’s had the inspired idea of taking the Nethergate seaside theatre featured in her wonderful Libby Sarjeant series and using that as an Edwardian setting.
Between all these factors, I think we’ve only seen the start of authors producing novellas and short novels. Thanks to technology, writers now have a freedom to write as they choose. An opportunity unseen since the nineteenth century when small presses abounded and individuals sold topical chap-books in the street. It’s exciting to think that indie authors are leading the way.
What do you think? Don’t be shy – we’d love to hear thoughts from other authors.
1 Are you serious about this? Then get an accountant.
2 Read Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. Then do what it says, including the tasks you think are impossible. You will particularly hate the advice to write first thing in the morning, but if you can manage it, it might well be the best thing you ever do for yourself. This book is about becoming a writer from the inside out. Many later advice manuals derive from it. You don’t really need any others, though if you want to boost your confidence, “how to” books seldom do any harm. You can kick-start a whole book with some little writing exercise.
3 Write a book you’d like to read. If you wouldn’t read it, why would anybody else? Don’t write for a perceived audience or market. It may well have vanished by the time your book’s ready.
4 If you have a good story idea, don’t assume it must form a prose narrative. It may work better as a play, a screenplay or a poem. Be flexible.
5 Be aware that anything that appears before “Chapter One” may be skipped. Don’t put your vital clue there.
6 First paragraphs can often be struck out. Are you performing a haka, or just shuffling your feet?
7 Concentrate your narrative energy on the point of change. This is especially important for historical fiction. When your character is new to a place, or things alter around them, that’s the point to step back and fill in the details of their world. People don’t notice their everyday surroundings and daily routine, so when writers describe them it can sound as if they’re trying too hard to instruct the reader.
8 Description must work for its place. It can’t be simply ornamental. It usually works best if it has a human element; it is more effective if it comes from an implied viewpoint, rather than from the eye of God. If description is coloured by the viewpoint of the character who is doing the noticing, it becomes, in effect, part of character definition and part of the action.
9 If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.
10 Be ready for anything. Each new story has different demands and may throw up reasons to break these and all other rules. Except number one: you can’t give your soul to literature if you’re thinking about income tax.
1 My first rule was given to me by TH White, author of The Sword in the Stone and other Arthurian fantasies and was: Read. Read everything you can lay hands on. I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt.
2 Find an author you admire (mine was Conrad) and copy their plots and characters in order to tell your own story, just as people learn to draw and paint by copying the masters.
3 Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel.
4 If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction.
5 Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development.
6 Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution.
7 For a good melodrama study the famous “Lester Dent master plot formula” which you can find online. It was written to show how to write a short story for the pulps, but can be adapted successfully for most stories of any length or genre.
8 If possible have something going on while you have your characters delivering exposition or philosophising. This helps retain dramatic tension.
9 Carrot and stick – have protagonists pursued (by an obsession or a villain) and pursuing (idea, object, person, mystery).
10 Ignore all proferred rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say.
1 The prerequisite for me is to keep my well of ideas full. This means living as full and varied a life as possible, to have my antennae out all the time.
2 Ted Hughes gave me this advice and it works wonders: record moments, fleeting impressions, overheard dialogue, your own sadnesses and bewilderments and joys.
3 A notion for a story is for me a confluence of real events, historical perhaps, or from my own memory to create an exciting fusion.
4 It is the gestation time which counts.
5 Once the skeleton of the story is ready I begin talking about it, mostly to Clare, my wife, sounding her out.
6 By the time I sit down and face the blank page I am raring to go. I tell it as if I’m talking to my best friend or one of my grandchildren.
7 Once a chapter is scribbled down rough – I write very small so I don’t have to turn the page and face the next empty one – Clare puts it on the word processor, prints it out, sometimes with her own comments added.
8 When I’m deep inside a story, living it as I write, I honestly don’t know what will happen. I try not to dictate it, not to play God.
9 Once the book is finished in its first draft, I read it out loud to myself. How it sounds is hugely important.
10 With all editing, no matter how sensitive – and I’ve been very lucky here – I react sulkily at first, but then I settle down and get on with it, and a year later I have my book in my hand.
1 Decide when in the day (or night) it best suits you to write, and organise your life accordingly.
2 Think with your senses as well as your brain.
3 Honour the miraculousness of the ordinary.
4 Lock different characters/elements in a room and tell them to get on.
5 Remember there is no such thing as nonsense.
6 Bear in mind Wilde’s dictum that “only mediocrities develop” – and challenge it.
7 Let your work stand before deciding whether or not to serve.
8 Think big and stay particular.
9 Write for tomorrow, not for today.
10 Work hard.
Joyce Carol Oates
1 Don’t try to anticipate an “ideal reader” – there may be one, but he/she is reading someone else.
2 Don’t try to anticipate an “ideal reader” – except for yourself perhaps, sometime in the future.
3 Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!
4 Unless you are writing something very avant-garde – all gnarled, snarled and “obscure” – be alert for possibilities of paragraphing.
5 Unless you are writing something very post-modernist – self-conscious, self-reflexive and “provocative” – be alert for possibilities of using plain familiar words in place of polysyllabic “big” words.
6 Keep in mind Oscar Wilde: “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.”
7 Keep a light, hopeful heart. But expect the worst.
1 Proceed slowly and take care.
2 To ensure that you proceed slowly, write by hand.
3 Write slowly and by hand only about subjects that interest you.
4 Develop craftsmanship through years of wide reading.
5 Rewrite and edit until you achieve the most felicitous phrase/sentence/paragraph/page/story/chapter.
Millions dream of quitting the grind and replacing their income through a rewarding, creative endeavor.
And what could be simpler – and more glamorous – than writing a bestselling novel?
After years of not knowing how the next month’s bill would be paid, thriller writer Mark Edwards is among a new and growing elite of high-earning authors who broke away from traditional publishing routes and self-published online.
His seventh solo book, The Lucky Ones, realized this week, comes five years after he walked out the last in a succession of dead-end jobs that included manning customer complaints line for a rail company.
The average British author earns just £12,500 a year, according to the Society of Editors, while Mr Edwards now takes home a comfortable five-figure income.
And the advent of ebooks played a major part in his success.
“When I started writing at 23 and trying to get published, no-one had heard of Amazon”, says Mr Edwards, now 46.
“I wrote four or five novels over the next five years and spent all that time trying to get an agent. The internet barely existed. You had to buy the Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook and write to every agent with a synopsis and the first three chapters with a stamped address envelope.
“You be constantly getting these brown envelopes coming back, thudding onto your doorstep with rejection slips.”
Then, as today, writers need agents to put their work in front of the publishers who hold the keys to bookshops. He eventually got an agent in the late Nineties but it was the first of many false dawns. By 2001 he still didn’t have a book deal, had been “dumped” by the agent and was back to square one.
But his luck looked to have turned when the BBC bought the “option” on Killing Cupid, a new novel he’d co-written with Louise Voss, a long-time collaborator. This meant the broadcaster had the rights to turn the book into a television drama.
“They paid us a small amount, about £2,000, but it was the first money I’d ever earned from writing”, he says.
“But the BBC option never came to anything, as happens to 99pc of these things.”
All this time Mr Edwards was juggling writing in his spare time with a full-time job. First at the Child Support Agency – a now defunct Government body that dealt with child maintenance – and then at Connex, the predecessor to the South Eastern rail franchise.
“I was working on customer services, it was dreadful”, he remembers.
“I was on the phone all day being shouted at by commuters and answering complaint letters which always contained the phrase ‘beyond the wit of man’”.
“But the thing was these were the kind of jobs where you didn’t take it home with you. When I finished for the day I didn’t think about it. I was able to completely separate work and writing time. It also drove me on, I thought there must be something better than this.”
Eventually he got a job he actually liked, at a publisher in London, which presented another problem. More happy at work, he was quickly promoted and spent gradually less and less time writing.
“By 2007 I’d pretty much given up on being an author. I had a career and started having children and I didn’t have the mental energy any more. My day job and family took over my life. I thought ‘well I’ve given it my best shot, it didn’t work out’ but I could go away with some pride at having tried.”
How ebooks changed the game
Then, in 2010, Amazon launched its successful ebook reader, the Kindle, in Britain. Hundreds of thousands of new book were suddenly available far cheaper than traditional paper and hardback copies. Over a million out-of-copyright titles could also be purchased, often for pennies.
The launch fuelled a boom in self-publishing. For the first time there was a route for aspiring writers to circumvent agents and publishers and release their work at minimal cost.
Kindle Direct Publishing, the best known, gives authors two royalty options. Ebooks priced for a minimum of 99p, and less than 3 megabytes in size, earn a 35pc royalty. Or you earn 70pc royalties but the minimum price is higher, at £1.99. (See box for details).
“I read about how American authors were self-publishing and have quite a bit of success. Louise and I decided to publish Killing Cupid, the book the BBC never did anything with.
“I bought a cheap stock image and got my sister-in-law, who’s a graphic designer, to make the cover and I formatted the books myself.
“We priced it at 99p, which meant we got about 30p a copy. On day one we sold two – one to my mother-in-law and one to my boss. I spent all my spare time trying to get people interested, I was using social media and blogger, and completely neglecting my family.”
Eventually the book got into the Top 100 on the Kindle charts. At the same time the pair published another book, Catch your Death, which took off, quickly selling 1,000 copies a day. In a few months, the books were number one and two in the best-sellers’ list.
They were the first self-publishing British authors to get to the top spot on Amazon. Self-publishing was big news in 2011 and TV appearances followed. This led to a four-book deal with HarperCollins, one of the world’s largest publishers, and an advance of roughly £50,000 each.
It was then that Mr Edwards decided to take the plunge. He quit his job for good and moved out of London, to the West Midlands where property was cheaper, to focus on writing. But again the dream was derailed.
‘The bookshops were full of erotic novels’
“The summer of 2012 was probably the worst possible time to bring a book out. Bookshops were full of erotic novels trying to replicate the success of Fifty Shades of Grey and the London OIympics were on.
“The books came out and disappeared without a trace.”
By the time the third book, All Fall Down, was ready to be released the deal had turned sour. HarperCollins told them no shops would stock the fourth book; Edwards doesn’t think they’ll ever sell enough copies to pay back the advance.
His big break in tatters, Edwards was having sleepless nights.
“I had a mortgage, two children and one more on the way and had maxed out my credit card and overdraft limit. We really were one unexpected bill from disaster.”
In one last throw of the dice he updated a book he’d started a decade a go but never finished. He calculated he needed to sell 20,000 copies of The Magpies at £1.99 to clear his debts.
“I remember lying in bed on Good Friday clicking ‘refresh’ and realising that it wasn’t working, I wasn’t going to get anywhere near the number of sales I needed”, he says.
“But suddenly things turned around. A couple of hours later I hit refresh and I could see sales coming in really fast. The book started going up the rankings. I dropped the price to 99p and it kept climbing until it was number one. It was such an incredible relief.”
At its peak, the book sold 3,000 copies a day for two months. Amazon’s own publishing company approached him and signed him to its crime and thriller brand Thomas & Mercer. Since then he’s had six solo books published and sold over two million books.
Now earning over £100,000 a year, Edwards has bought a bigger house and begun to save into a pension for the first time. He gets monthly royalties from the first four books published by Amazon but says it’s difficult to know how much he’ll be earning beyond the next year or so.
He worries that the public’s appetite for the thriller genre may be waning.
“I never feel like I can rest on my laurels. I’ve seen it go wrong before so I’m determined to keep working, hopefully for ever.”
Mark Edwards’ latest book – The Lucky Ones – is published this week. A psychological thriller set in Shropshire, it follows a detective on the case of a serial killer whose victims die smiling.
Research other titles in your book’s genre among books that are on the Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store list. To find a Kindle book’s sales rank on Amazon – scroll down and look for “Product Information.” If the book is in the “top 100” it will be given a sales rank for its categories. If it’s not in the top 100 no sales rank will appear in “Product Information.”
Notice whether the top books in your book category all contain the same “keyword” or phrase. Use the Amazon “type ahead” feature (the search bar on their site) and type in your key word or phrase and you’ll notice how it “types ahead” suggesting book titles for you. “Type ahead” phrases result from many people searching for a particular title. Incorporate that phrase or keyword into your title and your book will be found more easily on Amazon.
2. Have your book professionally edited.
Books full of typos, awkward sentences and grammatical errors are returned for a refund more often. Amazon rarely questions a return so do whatever you can to avoid that. The money you spend on professional editing is well worth it.
3. Pay to have your book formatted properly.
Amazon Kindle books look best with “Mobi” formatting. While you can upload a book to Kindle in a Word document it may not lay out properly, so do not skimp on paying to have your book formatted.
4. Create an attractive cover.
People do judge a book by its cover. When you go on Amazon the first thing to attract your attention is the cover. To create a good cover, spend some time browsing books in the same genre as your book. Pick the top 10 or 15 selling books and study their covers. Look at the typography, the layout and the color choices and take notes. You’ll come away with some excellent ideas for your own book.
5. Choose the right category for your book.
Categorizing books lets readers search for the topics they are interested in. Amazon leaves it to you to categorize your book when you upload it to your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account.
To help readers find your book ask yourself this question, “If I were looking for my book, what categories would I look under?” Then list all the categories you think your book might fit into.
Next, research the top ten to 20 books selling on Amazon which are like yours. Check out how they categorized their books under “Product Information” and categorize yours similarly. Amazon allows you to choose two category paths. Make sure you take advantage of this and fill in both.
Drill down on the categories so that your book will stand out among its competition. For example, if you write a self-help book – don’t end the category path at “self-help.” What else is your book about? Add another related category sub-path beyond “self-help” to your book and then another until you’ve covered every possible sub-genre to your book might be searched for under.
6. Pick the right keywords.
When you upload your book to KDP you are given up to seven keywords or phrases to use for your book. Do your homework by researching keywords and phrases that people might search under to find your book. And do make sure to use all seven!
Use the type ahead feature on Amazon to see if any of the keywords or phrases you have in mind come up. Use the ones that come up on Amazon as they directly relate to on-site searches for books.
Check out popular keyword searches on Google AdWords too but, use these only if necessary after you’ve exhausted all the keywords and phrases you found on Amazon first. Amazon is its own search engine so when you identify a keyword or phrase on Amazon it is showing up because it is a popular search – so use it. (You can also go back and change keywords. This allows you to experiment with what works best for finding your book.)
7. Write a good description.
Amazon gives you up to 3000 words to write a description. Use as many words as necessary to write a compelling description for your book. This is your book’s “sales page” so put on your copywriting hat when you write it.
8. Price it right.
People will not buy an overpriced digital book unless you are a famous author. If your book is less than 100 pages don’t price yourself out of a sale by listing it at the top price range ($9.99) for getting a 70 percent royalty on Amazon.
After playing around with the pricing on my books I found that, “less is more” in terms of book sales.
9. To give your book away or to not give your book away – that is the question.
Amazon has a program called Kindle Select. You enroll your book for 90 days at a time. You cannot be selling this book on any other websites including your own during the time your book is enrolled.
Enrolling your book in KDP Select allows “borrowing” of your book for free by Amazon Prime members. It also gives you the option of choosing 5 days out of the 90 days your book is enrolled to give your book away for free.
I enrolled my second book in KDP and gave away 464 free copies over two days. The book also rose to #1 in Free books in the Kindle store but, as soon as it wasn’t free it quickly sank right off the best-selling list. Before I gave it away for free the book was selling just fine and consistently ranking between #10 -20. It took nearly two weeks for it to rise back up again and to re-appear on the best-selling list.
My theory is that I saturated my market too quickly. I’m not likely to give my book away for free again. You may feel differently though and you should experiment with this. Some people love it and rave about it. If you are using your book to develop leads for your business and not to create passive income then definitely go for it. “Free” does sell.
10. Get reviews.
Give your book out to people and ask them to read it and please put a review on Amazon. Amazon reviews do help sell your books. Never ever pay for reviews. All reviews must be genuine and come from the heart of your reader.
11. Promote your book!
Display your book prominently on your blog. Write posts related to your book’s topic where you can showcase the book. Link to your book on Amazon and put that link in your posts. Start a fan page on Facebook and promote your book there. If your book is selling – thank buyers by tweeting on Twitter and a posting on Facebook. If your book hits the best-selling list – announce it on Facebook and Tweet about it. You’ve got to create your own buzz.
Organize a virtual book tour where your blogging friends can interview you about the book or review the book. Write guest posts related to your book’s topic and mention the book in your post.
Always keep your eyes open for ways to get publicity for your book. Offer to giveaway the PDF of the book to a reader who leaves the best comment about why they want to read the book and has shared the book on social media.
These are the strategies I use and they are working – and with a little effort and planning they can work for your book too. Here’s to seeing your book on the Amazon Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store List!