Being a Better Writer: So Make Your Own

Welcome back readers, to another episode of Being a Better Writer! This week’s entry is a bit of an odd one. In fact, I almost tipped it over to an OP-ED piece initially, but upon thinking about it realize that yes, it was an important writing topic, if a little more unusual than normal. So we’re talking about it for this week’ Being a Better Writer.

But really quick (and I do mean quick, no worries) I do want to issue a heads-up to all prior Alpha Readers: the pre-Alpha for Axtara – Banking and Finance will like finish up today or early tomorrow morning. So this week, Alpha invites will go out!

That’s it! I did say it was quick. It’s also really good news. The last I’ll say on it is that I have immensely enjoyed my time prepping Axtara for Alpha. It’s a lot of fun.

So then, with that bit of excellent news spoken for, let’s get down to today’s topic. Which is, again, a bit weird, even if the title is anything to go by. So for a moment, to explain, let’s talk about some of the weird social climates around the process of creating.

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Artificial Fans?

On April 1st, 2014, one of that year’s most unexpected video game hits released: Goat Simulator. “What does this have to do with writing and reading?” Just trust me.

Goat Simulator was not what was described in the title. Yes, you were a goat, but “simulation” was more a play on the janky, not-simulation nature of so many other titles around that time claiming the term but being little more than soulless, broken cash-grabs. Goat Simulator played that for comedic effect, and ended up being a hit.

Later that year, it was a added upon with an expansion: Goat Simulator: MMO Simulator, which carried the joke even further by purporting to turn the game into an MMO, or massively multiplayer online game.

Which of course, it wasn’t. It simulated all the online aspects. But for a lot of players, that was enough to fool them into thinking it was, and shortly after the expansion’s release a lot of players who hadn’t read the farcicle fine print were shocked to discover that the “people” they’d been playing with were just AIs.

At the time this was a clever joke. Some chatbots filling a “global” chat, combined with some player-like behavior. People laughed, and the world moved on.

Just … not in the direction we thought. Because as people have discovered (here’s the comic they made about this, by the way) this idea that people could be fooled by nothing more than some lines of code pretending to be the “crowd” that the audience goes along with, well … it hasn’t left.

People are, by nature, social animals. For most, as long as they hear enough voices backing it up, they’ll go check it out. One person says “Hey, you’re good at this?” That’s nice. Ten? A hundred?

1000? Well, you’re probably pretty good at it, right?

Even if 979 of those 1000 are little more than bots?

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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.

The Mountains

Writing a book is like climbing a mountain. A long, arduous trek, with ups and downs, flat easy bits, and hard nearly vertical portions that require all of your skills and tools. And there are moments when it feels like you’re never going to reach the top, like the book will never be done and you’re just endlessly ascending a slope for some purpose you’re not even sure of.

Now, once you get to the top? You bask in the view, take it in … and look at the next mountain in your path, because if there’s another book, there’s another mountain. A career in writing? Well, it’s kind of like making a commitment to hike each individual mountain in the Rockies.

And some of them will be great hikes, and some of them … are going to try their best to break you.

One of the hardest bits then, I think I’d add to this, is that these hikes are done, for the most part, completely solo and without much in the way of external input until the very end. Only in that final sprint to the top, when the editors and Alpha Readers begin looking over your work, do you interact with others. And then after the book comes out, when there’s a flurry of recognition that flashes by for a week or two … and then it’s gone. Just like the news stories of the first conquest of a mountain, it’s announced, but very quickly the world moves on, and it’s on to the next mountain for that author.

So, why am I talking about this? Well, a number of reasons. I’m in the last third of another mountain right now, and so far it’s been a far more arduous experience than was planned. Longer, too. I’m working to get it done, but the snow is deep and thick (this is actually a more accurate analogy than you might think) and it’s made things a bit of a slog most days.

I’m not stopping, mind. I’m going to finish this mountain and start the next. That’s how the job goes. But it can be (and right now, is) a slog.

Which makes the number of people who’ve gathered around just to tell me to give up, call it quits, or lambaste me about how it really isn’t all that hard all the more grating.

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Being a Better Writer: Good Sources of Positive Interaction

Hello readers, and welcome back to another Being a Better Writer Monday usual!

Yeah, I know. I need to think of some new greetings. Regardless, I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Mine was both invigorating and enlightening. Twice a year my faith holds a church-wide, televised conference over Saturday and Sunday, and this weekend happened to be it, so I had a lovely weekend relaxing in my recliner listening to said conference and doing self-discovery and examination.

In any case, that doesn’t have too much to do with today’s topic, though if I wanted it too, I likely could find some application. Actually, now that I’ve typed that, I think I can already see some application, but it remains to be seen if they’ll come out in this post or not.

So … Good sources of positive interaction. This is kind of an interesting topic, one that has to do more with the tangential bits of writing than the straight act of putting your fingers to a keyboard (or pen to paper, if you’re that old-fashioned). You could probably write an entire book—no, you could—without ever finding a need for this particular topic. But as you write a second? Or a third? Or start to edit that first one?

Well … this topic suddenly becomes a lot more valid. As solitary as writing can be at times (which is very, just ask my friends and family, some of whom occasionally see me come up for air), it’s also an act that cannot exist in a vacuum. Not just socially (we as human beings need interaction with others) but for the good of our writing as well. We need feedback. Responses. Interaction.

So how do we find good interactions that will improve our craft? And how do we avoid those that will harm it?

Well, that is the topic according to the post title, isn’t it? So let’s dive into this.

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What Are You Looking For, Readers?

Weekend post here. A tiny bit of update, but mostly a question for those of you poking around the site.

What are you looking for?

I’ll explain what I mean by that in a second. But first, the news. Hunter/Hunted is coming along, though I did spend a good part of this week (and last weekend) working on another short story for that anthology. I’ll be sending out Alpha invites today to prior alpha readers, but my weekend project now is polishing it up for the book.

And that’s the news. So, the question! What are you looking for? More specifically, what else are you looking to get out of this site? Being a Better Writer is, no surprise, a draw to many, if not most who frequent the site, as is news about my books. But that news isn’t nearly as regular as the Monday Being a Better Writer posts are.

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Being a Better Writer: Haters

The moment you create something worthwhile, someone out there in the world will start to hate you. I wish this wasn’t the truth. I wish I could say that people were always going to be rational and capable of thought, but that’s not how it is.

Welcome to Being a Better Writer, where this week we’re going to discuss one of the more asked-after topics since I’ve been writing BaBW, one which I only in the last year decided it was time to tackle. This doesn’t have much to do with the act of writing, but it is about dealing with what comes with it. And, I think, all other forms of art and expression.

Haters. It’s a topic many of you wanted to see. Well, today you do. So … let’s talk.

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Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast #4

Welcome back, readers, to yet again another Monday Being a Better Writer post that has obviously been relegated to Tuesday. Someday I’ll make enough money from my writing to be able to give up my part-time job, but right now … if they want me on Mondays, they unfortunately have me.

So, this week we’re doing another Micro-Blast! New? Wondering what a “Micro-Blast” is an what it has to do with writing? Thoughts already jumped to something non-writing related already, like those tiny fruit snacks with juice in them?

Okay, maybe I’m just hungry. Anyway, a Micro-Blast is something that usually happens as I near the end of another topic list. This being a real, physical list that I keep on my desk and consult each week to select a topic for the upcoming post. The topics on this list are collected from a variety of sources, usually anything that makes me think “Hey, that would be a good BaBW topic,” but also from readers that write in with questions and requests.

Anyway, these topics can often vary in the amount of effort needed to address them. Sometimes it’s simply a topic where I’d be better suited saying my piece and pointing readers elsewhere, other times it’s just a quick answer that isn’t really deserving of a full break-down on it’s own, but at least merits a paragraph or two, and sometimes it’s just a topic I haven’t done much thought about, and therefore needs more research before I can weigh in one way or another. And then, of course, there are the topics that don’t have any of those issues, and I can write a full post on.

But at the end of a list, what results is often a small collection of leftover topics, a hdgepodge of tiny summaries that, for whatever reason, never got posts on their own.

Micro-Blast BaBW posts are the answer to these small collections of topics. A way to “finish off” each topic list by rapid-fire tackling each remaining issue with a small posting of its own.

So, this said, it’s time to finish off, once and for all, Topic List 8 so that next week, I can start anew with Topic List 9! Which also means you can expect a post later this week asking for suggestions for the list. I’ve got a bundle of my own from the recent LTUE conference, but as always, reader suggestions are a welcome way to add topics.

Anyway, enough rambling! Let’s clear this list!

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