Being a Better Writer: What to do While Waiting for Feedback

Welcome back readers! I hope you had an enjoyable weekend! It was (mostly) a quiet one for me, though I did have family over to make enchiladas on Sunday (so nice and hot) which was an absolute blast.

So, what’s new with the news real quick? Well, we had the sale last week, and that went pretty well. Hopefully those of you who wanted to fill out your collections took the chance! Other news? Well, the first draft of Starforge is almost at 100,000 words, and once the latest chapter is done, I’ll be taking a day or two to blitz through the Beta 1 of Axtara – Banking and Finance and get that one step closer to publication. As well as take care of a few other things … But I’ll hold on news about those bit and bobs until they arrive.

So then, that’s the news and—wait, I almost forgot something. This post? It’s the last topic from Topic List #15. I’ve noted for a few weeks now that we’re running up to the end of this list, and that one should make ready their topic suggestions for list #16. That post will drop Wednesday, so definitely be ready!

Okay, that’s it! No more news! It’s time to talk writing! Or rather, what to do when you’ve stopped writing for a brief moment. Because today, readers, we’re tackling a long-requested reader topic and talking about what too do while waiting for that fickle beast of fickle beasts.

Feedback.

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Being a Better Writer: Selling the Vision

Today’s post is going to be more about editing. Sort of. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So first, welcome back readers! I hope you all had a good weekend! Especially with Episode 12 of Fireteam Freelance having dropped on Saturday. Was that a ride or what?

Now, I’d like to say there’s more news, but at the moment … not yet. There have been some interesting developments on my side of things, but at the moment they’re still in the formulative stage, so I’m going to hold off talking about it as of yet. There’s still time for things to go one way or the other.

Which means we’re going to dive right into today’s Being a Better Writer topic. Also, the quicker we dive in, the quicker I can get to work today on Starforge, which is WHOA. Patreon supporters know what I’m talking about.

So then, let’s talk about selling the vision.

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Another Project Complete! The News Rolls in Again

Most of you can probably guess what this post is about. Yesterday, I put my fingers to the keys one final time, and wrote the last line of Fireteam Freelance.

That’s right. The whole thing is now complete. All episodes.

Do I have thoughts on it? Oh yes. I’ve noted from the beginning that an episodic story like this was definitely an experiment. I won’t say what those thoughts are at this juncture, because you readers haven’t finished the story, and I don’t want to inadvertently color your expectations. Though I will say some of the episodes coming up have some of my favorite scenes I worked on through this series, and I don’t feel at all that my time was misspent.

Naturally, of course, this means that there will be another episode this Saturday. Episode 9, Apatos, will be live at 8 AM mountain time, and after the events of the last episode, you absolutely will not want to miss it.

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Updates, Queries, Facebook, and More

Hey folks! Who’s ready for a weekend?

I certainly am. This week has been, no mistake, all over the place. I’m looking forward to some relaxation when the weekend hits, that’s for sure! Not too much, though. I’ve still got work on Stranded to think about. Slowly but surely, that story grinds forward.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. Well, outside of reassuring some expectant readers that it’s still coming. No, today’s post is a bit of a grab bag post, talking about everything that’s been going on. Such as Fireteam Freelance.


Last night I put the finishing touch on episode #9 of Fireteam Freelance, and it was a good one. I’m not going to spoil how, or why, but I think it may be one of my personally favorites in the series to date.

You readers, of course, are still on episode #6 (Mandatory Takeout). So I think it’s safe to say the backlog is building up pretty well right now. Today I start episode #10, which marks a noted shift as, well, it’s near the end of the season. Again, no spoilers, but with a name like Swift Tilt, those of you invested in the universe can probably make some good estimates. And if you’ve been carefully hording your puzzle pieces so far, trying to piece together everything … get ready. That’s all I’ll say.

Granted, you’ve got some time yet. Tomorrow’s update will be another interview, the second-to-last, this time with the team’s close-combat specialist, Ursa. The Saturday after that will see the release of episode #7, Missing Persons, and you are not going to want to miss it. The week after that? You’ll have to see, but I think many of you will find it worth the wait.


Now, that’s not all the news I have on Fireteam Freelance. For those of you readers here that are familiar with the website SpaceBattles, I’ve begun considering posting episodes of Fireteam Freelance there on their fiction boards. Why? Well, I’ve noticed a few other posters of original fiction posting material that has come from their work elsewhere, and it could be good publicity. Those of you here who hail from SpaceBattles, what say ye? I know you’re here, since I see the link-trackbacks from time to time. And I am on SpaceBattles myself.

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Quarantine Chat: Finances, a MacMillan Backpedal, and April Apocalypse

Hey folks! This is a bit overdue, but quite honestly my plate has been full of other things, like getting episode three of Fireteam Freelance ready for this Saturday, which will then be followed by Alpha editing A Trial for a Dragon and the Beta. Plus the whole pandemic thing which …


Well, I’ll lead with finances. As most of you might expect, I’m one of the many people that’s been adversely affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic. So things right now financially aren’t the best.

I’m not losing my housing, thankfully. Not in the next week, anyway. But … things for the next few months are definitely going to be difficult. My part-time job furloughed myself and everyone else there until August at the earliest, and while we might get unemployment, that’s a maybe. Sands, my being an author may disqualify me from it entirely, despite the pandemic and the fact that it isn’t enough to be entirely a sole income yet (as for the why there, it’s because America hasn’t really been a good place for the small business for a few decades, slaved instead by “go big or go home” mentality).

Basically, things are looking rough for the next few months. The roughest they’ve ever been. The smooth waters of February vanished quickly with this latest storm.

That said, there are ways you can help, ways that don’t involve simply sending money via Patreon (I mean, you can do that, but I understand many are in a similar situation to my own). Quite simply: Talk about my stuff. Share.

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The Uncertain Future of Amazon (and Indie) Advertising

So this one’s been on my list to write about ever since Jungle launched. Things have been … pretty busy, which is why it’s taken this long to get to it. But no matter where I’ve been, or what I’ve been doing, this topic has weighed on the back of my mind (even when sick, lol).

Why? Well, because I think it may have a lot of impact on the publishing future going ahead.

Look, let’s all be on the same page here: Indie publishing is the juggernaut change that the book industry is dealing with right now. Traditional publishers are fast falling out of favor, doubling down on archaic models and methods that haven’t made financial sense in two decades, while authors jump ship to newer, smaller indie pubs or just go completely independent on their own. And right at the middle of this swirling maelstrom is … Amazon. The world’s largest bookstore. Who basically looked at publishing and said “Oh, how cute and quaint. Well, you keep doing that, but we’re offering the future.”

Okay, what they really did was throw their doors wide open, say “Hey, anyone can sell a book here, and here’s your 70% royalty,” and let logic do the rest. Because few authors were going to stick with a traditional publisher model where they owned nothing and worked for a royalty so small they’d need to sell a hundred books just to make $10 when they could instead keep all the rights and sell two books to make $10.

Anyway, that’s ancient history by now, and the market is well on its way through the reactionary shift to this change, with traditional publishers struggling to stay relevant through all sorts of questionable actions like cutting author royalties even further or attacking libraries.

But this isn’t about that. Well, sort of. That’s all background to bring us up to speed so I can get to the real meat of today’s topic: Amazon’s Advertising system.

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The Power of Word of Mouth

So before on this site, I’ve spoken about how studies have found that the most effective way to get people to check out a book (and buy it) is not reviews from websites (though those are some of the most effective, hence why so many sell reviews), and not advertising on web-pages and other places, but word of mouth.

Well, yesterday there was a chance to put that idea to the test. If you swung by the site yesterday, you saw a blog post asking readers to swing by a Reddit subreddit discussion looking for good indie Sci-Fi authors and books. I brought it to the site’s attention and asked readers who enjoyed my work to head on over and say something.

Some of you did, and all I can say is THANK YOU.

Okay, I can actually say more than that. Because I can also tell you how impactful that was. See, I can see sales in near real-time. Within an hour of a few of you dedicated, awesome fans posting recommending Colony, sales for the day quintupled.

That’s right, they went up by a factor of five.

That, readers, is the power of word of mouth. Of someone telling someone else about a book. Word of mouth is quite literally the most powerful way to get a book out there.

Advertising? It’s expensive, and worse, gauged so that the return is just barely worth it (look for a full post on that soon). If you want to make $100 in book sales, you’re going to need to spend at least $50, often closer to $90, ending with a net gain of $10. This isn’t an exaggeration, by the way.

Reviews? They might bring in viewers, but a lot of places charge for the privilege (despite it being against a lot of terms of service with booksellers) and people know that on some level. Reviews from big outlets help, but at the end of the day?

It’s people talking about a book that really make it work. We’re surrounded by advertising of all forms, and we’ve gotten really good at tuning it out. Paid commercial for something? We shrug and move on.

But someone else talking about something and how they liked it? That’s not a paid ad: That’s another person talking about something they enjoyed. The more casual the interaction is, the more weight we put behind their words. They’re not being paid to tell us about something. They’re telling us because they enjoyed it.

That’s the power of word of mouth. That’s why yesterday, when a few of you headed on over to the subreddit and posted (three that I could see), sales quintupled over their daily average for this week, and within hours.

That’s the power you readers have, simply by talking to people about books. On social media. On forums. In person.

Word of mouth is the most powerful advertising there is.

I (and any other author) can pay for advertising. And it’ll show a small but simple return. We can beg places to review our books, or buckle under and pay them for one (I still refuse to do that). But at the end of the day, what has the biggest impact on whether or not we succeed or fail is you. The readers. If an author cannot make a big enough impact on their reading base that their readers talk about their work … they’re very likely doomed to failure.

So again, thank you to those of you who headed over and recommended my works. As I said, quintupling. Five times the daily normal. Within a few hours.

Readers, you hold a lot of power in your hands. The books you talk about, the books you choose to tell others about … It plays a heavy part in determining whether or not an author sinks or swims.

Please use it well.

What Can You Do For Your Favorite Authors?

Apologies for this post being a little late today, but I wanted to get some other writing stuff done first. This week has been … chaotic.

But now it’s here. So then, what’s that title all about?

Well, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a bit of self-serving logic behind this. Because, after all, I am an author, and yes, I do like to see support!

But it’s a question I’ve not just heard from my own readers, or mused on my own about. I’ve heard folks in person talking about their favorite book saying “Well, I read it, I bought it, so I don’t know what else to do.”

It’s a legitimate question! After all, unlike musicians, authors don’t go “on tour” in the same way, doing “writing concerts” and mosh-pitting. And when they do go on book tours, they’re something that is free to attend. At most, people buy a new book to get it signed, but many of the people that show up already have a book they want signed.

Same with panels or conventions. The authors that come to those do so out of their own pocket. They may sell items in a vendor hall, but no one pays them for paneling or putting in appearances. It’s all voluntary.

The point I’m making here is that authors aren’t like a lot of other celebrities or purveyors of the arts. They don’t get paid for public appearances, they don’t get paid for gigs … They make money from their books, and their books alone. Maybe some movie rights if they get lucky. Or merchandising. But you’ve got to be big for those to happen. Big enough that the money is just extra on top of a very stable income.

They’re not like musicians where you can buy an album, then a t-shirt, then go to a concert … Authors, basically, just don’t have the same avenues of support other artists have.

Sands, we’ve almost come to expect that too. It’s just become  the culture of our society. Who would pay money to see an author in person? For that matter, just look at this site. No ads, each Monday a new article on writing going up, all for free. Because that’s just how authors are in society.

Okay, I don’t honestly want to delve into that too far. The point I wanted to drive home was, as I said, that authors are kind of in a tricky space, insofar as fans “funding” them. There’s not much to it but book sales and merchandising.

This is why, I think, you have so many people who read a good book, enjoy said book, and then think to themselves (or say aloud, as I’ve heard it before) “I really liked this author, but what else can I do besides enjoy them?

Again, this makes sense. If you read something you enjoy, chances are you’d like to read more of it. Which means you want there to be more created, so you want to support the creator and let them know “Hey, this is good, make more of it!”

But with authors, those avenues are slim. So, how then, do you support an author you enjoy?

Well, there are ways. Let’s look at a few.

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The Escalation of the Advertising Game

So I came across something interesting in my feeds the other day. This one on a Facebook feed. Facebook, for those of you who don’t use it, is a social networking site ostensibly about linking you up with friends and family to share pictures and goings on, but really more about collecting and selling your data while funneling ads at you (I get, on average, about one message or e-mail a day from them urging me to give them money to advertise this website). So, if you’re like me and attempting to use to to keep up with the goings-on of friends and family, that means that you end up seeing a lot of ads.

One of these ads I usually shoot by caught my eye, because it was a Science-Fiction movie trailer. Which you’d think Facebook would have figured out is the kind of ad I don’t mind seeing, but with their usual “show them how to think” mantra, most of the movie ads I see tend to be for films my interest rating is around zero in.

I digress. So hey, Sci-Fi movie ad! I’m game! So I started watching it. It looked a little low budget, and I don’t recognize any of the actors … But I’m not very in tune with Hollywood stars anyway (save a few) and it could be a SyFy flick.

Plot sounded … interesting. Not super attention grabbing, but at least decently interesting. A spin on the “last man” trope, one of those stories that opens after everything has fallen apart and the survivors have picked up the pieces, only to have someone come along and disturb the apple cart again. You know, familiar enough, but constantly on the rebound because it is a solid trope.

So I’m watching people run with desperate looks on their faces, shadowy figures raise guns, etc … and the accolades start popping up on screen. You know, the kind of thing where critics who have seen the film already or been given previews deliver quotes to make you excited for the film?

Except … these weren’t film critics. And my brain did a sudden, jarring “Wait, what?”

They were book reviewers. I wasn’t watching a movie trailer. I was watching a live-action trailer … for a book.

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Colony Keywords and Patreon Rewards

Hey readers! I’m making a quick news posts on two topics of interest before diving back into editing work on A Game of Stakes. Read through them both! I promise they’ll be short and one comes with cool feedback potential!

First, since it’s quickest, the October Patreon Reward is live on Patreon. If you’re a supporter of $1 a month or more, you’re getting a sneak peek at … the first two chapters of The Dusk Guard Saga: Hunter/Hunted! That’s in addition to the prologue teaser that went up two months ago. All you need to do to see either of them is be a supporter ($1 or more), so if you are, head on over and check the preview out!

Now, that other topic. Colony keywords? What am I talking about? Well, I’ve got a bit of a request of you readers of Colony.

Amazon Advertising works by lining up keywords with folks’ interests and searches. Things like “Sci-Fi” for example. Or names of similar authors. The more keywords a book has that are representative of it, the better and more focused your advertising is.

Now, I’ve gone through and given Colony‘s advertising a decent list of keywords. But I’m curious, what keywords would you readers choose to describe Colony? Post a comment and let me know what comes to mind. I’m curious to see what keywords you guys come up with that my own view missed!

And with that, it’s time to edit!