Maintaining ebook motivation

fuel-2741_640So I have to admit I went into a bit of a funk lately. After the high of releasing by sci-fi robot ebook, Robot Awareness, my motivation came crashing down after slow sales.

What happened? It wasn’t sudden. A number of things slowly added up. First off, new authors have a hard time getting noticed. It takes time, and effort, and willingness to stick to it. Even the famed Hugh Howey didn’t sell many books until he had quite a catalog of titles stacked up.

To date, I’ve sold about 35 copies. Not bad. Not enough to pay for the cost of putting the cover together, but at least people bought it.

I think the more difficult part was the lack of response. Even among the people who bought the book, I’ve heard little. I’ve gotten two 5-star reviews, but other than that, I’ve heard nothing. Even among people I know were reading it, I’ve not heard anything.

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Writing an ebook: It requires discipline

child-360791_640Back when I was first getting started in writing, I took over the editor role at my college newspaper. I was excited: who wouldn’t relish the thought of shaping and re-imagining an entire publication, giving advice to young writers? The previous editor had basically made a mess of things, so I had a pretty low bar to jump over.

I quickly learned that new writers joining the staff could be categorized into two types: People who genuinely wanted to become writers, and those who joined because they thought writing or being a writer sounded cool, or that it was an easy A.

The latter category typically failed the class associated with the newspaper’s production. It often came as a shock to them, when they hadn’t turned in a story the entire semester, that they earned an F.

I always wondered why this was. Surely they would have expected a failing grade if they didn’t turn in any math homework or taken any tests. Why did they assume they could do nothing in a writing class?

I think a lot of people don’t realize how much work and discipline writing actually takes, whether it’s writing an ebook or writing for newspapers. I’m often mentally exhausted at the end of a day working as a reporter. The exactitude required taxes my mental concentration, so I often have to spend time zoning out or doing something either physical or something that requires little to no mental effort.

I find fiction takes that same requirement. Instead of gathering facts from the real world, I’m gathering facts from the universe I’ve imagined. But there are facts – once that world is established, it requires accuracy and attention to detail. I have to both choose a reality and then stick to the facts within that reality. At least in journalism, I have one truth to stick to. In fiction, I have to stick to the truth that I’ve established. There isn’t anyone else I can ask for the back story. I have to find it in my head or re-read to find what I said earlier.

And don’t even let me get started on the concentration of editing. I can’t imagine how editors complete entire days editing. I can handle maybe an hour.

I was a little surprised at some of the reaction to my “Why Writing Every Day is Bullshit” post, in which I admonished advice that says people have to write every single day or you will fail. Instead I talked about the principle of 80/20, being 80 percent perfect is still pretty good. (And no, I didn’t claim to invent the idea, as one commenter suggested. It’s in use by a lot of different people in a lot of different disciplines, including money, as evidenced by the post I linked to.)

What surprised me was that a few people said I was advocating laziness, that you wouldn’t succeed without a sincere effort. But let’s be clear: 80 percent is still a pretty strong effort. It’s still discipline. The point I was making, is that each writer has to figure out how to fit that discipline into her own life. For some people, that means writing every day. For others, once per week.

For myself, I typically work on my fiction 3-4 times per week. Sometimes less, but that means I make sure to stick to that. I might miss a day or two, but I try not to let my writing output drop below that.

Will I make as much progress as someone writing every day? Of course not. But I do make progress. And I’m working at a rate that I won’t quit.

But it also means I still have to be disciplined. That means forcing myself to sit down and get to work. It means telling myself to get started on days in which I might not feel like it.

My novel, Robot Awareness, Part I is out, and Part II is being edited and will be complete by fall. So I’d say it’s working. But make no mistake: It still requires discipline.

NPR article about indie publish good, if not a little misleading

Working on my novelNPR published a short piece about the rise of indie publishing. The article highlights two of indie publishing’s giants, Michael Bunker and Hugh Howey.

You can read the article here: NPR Indie Pub

The potential to “make it big” is nice and all, but to me, the real benefit of self-publishing is that you DON”T HAVE to make it big. In self publishing, you bet on yourself – you decide how much money and time you want to put in, and how much you want to get it out. You can aim to be the next Hugh Howey, or you can be happy with 10 sales per year.

With traditional publishing, it’s sink or swim. If your book doesn’t sell, you’re out that advance money, and likely out of a deal. The stakes for my book? I’m out a couple hundred for cover design and editing, if no one buys it (though, happily, some people bought it). I easily spend that on other hobbies (not that I consider writing a hobby).

The point is, I can keep writing whether I have five loyal readers or 5,000. And even if I only have five, I have as much time as I need for those five to become 5,000. There’s no rush. And it’s not a huge deal if it ever happens.

Want a free advanced review copy of Robot Awareness? You got it!

ebook, robot awareness, robot, sci-fiWant a free copy of Robot Awareness, Part II? Great! You’re just one email away from getting an advanced review copy of the next part of this series!

Here’s how it works. Send me an email: dr.applezoid[at], and I will send you a copy of Robot Awareness, Part II before it releases. Free of charge. The beginning of Part II will have an explanation of what happened in the first part of Robot Awareness, but just ask and I will happily send you a copy of Part I as well. Just specify in your email what format you want, or tell me how you plan to read it and I will send you the appropriate format!

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The relatable ‘Working on my Novel’ ebook

Working on my novelThis week in i09, the blog looks at a book of compiled tweets authors such as myself might have typed before and after working on our novels. As i09 put it, the results are sort of funny-sad (and maybe a little dull? From the post:

Working On My Novel is a book by artist Cory Arcangel featuring 127 tweets from authors who are, you guys, seriously so busy working on their novels that they barely have time left over to tweet about their novel-writing process. Which is something I suspect none of us can relate to. Nope. Not at all.

It’s sort of an interesting experiment, but paying more than $10 for some tweets? I mean, you could do a Twitter search and get similar results. And you could continually get different results. On the other hand, there is a sort of artfulness to it.

I guess I can’t decide if it’s an interesting work or a lazy way to make a buck by copying over some tweets. Thoughts?

Loving the response to ‘Why writing every day is bullshit’

I started this website only four months ago, so my traffic hasn’t been terribly high as of yet. But like anything, the key to running successful websites is to stick with it, keep putting in the effort, and the results will come.

I thought when I wrote the post, Why writing every day is bullshit, I thought it would get a response – but I didn’t think it would be positive. I thought I would get flooded with negative comments from those pushing the write every day mantra.

Instead, the opposite happened. It turned out, there were a whole lot of writers sick of hearing this line of bull. Sick of people telling them they’re failures because they’re not writing every single day, not making writing some form of self-inflicted torture. There were a lot of writers who read this post and said “thank you.”

Well, allow me to say that back to you: Thank you.

The post sat without much attention until it was shared by Kelsey Nelson on Twitter. I opened my Twitter account one day to a ton of retweets, favorites and @ replies. The post was viewed nearly 200 times, which has made it my most-viewed post since I started the blog four months ago. Very cool.

More cool is that I was able to reach out to people and assure them that yes, you can still be a writer and only write a few days per week. You can be a writer and only write once per week. As long as you’re happy with the speed of your progress, that’s all that matters.

I hope that you all will continue to follow my blog, and even check out my first book, Robot Awareness, Part I, if you get a chance. And I hope you all will keep writing too.


Time to start revisions on Robot Awareness, Part II ebook

The painful, but necessary process of revising, editing, and tweaking a sci-fi ebook for indie authors

ebook, robot awareness, robot, sci-fiI gave myself a little breather after publishing Robot Awareness Part I. I wrote a short story, Memory Drift, and finished up the rough draft of Part V. That’s right, Part V! That’s how long I’ve been sitting on Robot Awareness before finally publishing the first part.

But now it’s time to get to some editing. This is not my favorite part. Other authors, you know what I’m talking about – tediously going through each sentence, trying to make it into something that reads like a sentence a competent author would write.

If there’s any solace to be had, it’s that every author has to do it. Every writer has to go back through, grimace and hastily written lines, wonder “God, am I really this bad?” and “Oh man, that’s just awful.” Unless you’re one of those rare writers who just spins out genius wordsmithery like the sun its warm rays. But most of us, including the best writers in the business, have to trudge through our work over and over before it becomes decent, let alone good.

And so it begins: The painful but informative process of revisions. At least I have a vacation from work to get started!