Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Guest Post by Richard Fox

This post is for the soon-to-be author. I was just like you, until I hit that terrifying 'publish' button. It took me a long time to overcome the 'I can't' that was holding me back. I spent a lot of time reading Joe's blog, sponging off his knowledge and twiddling my thumbs until I overcame the resistance to finishing the book. I know there are lots of people who read his blog who were just like me, waiting for that final push to get it all done. My final push came from a comedy blog and the knowledge that success was possible as a self-published author (Thanks, Joe!)

What can I do to help the soon-to-be authors out there? Not much, I'm afraid. "Based on my experience," are the most terrifying words an Army 2nd Lieutenant can say to his Soldiers. I do feel like a 2nd Lieutenant again, I've got the authority (the book is published), but none of the credibility (the market hasn't decided if the book is any good). So here are a few things I've learned:

-- Write a detailed outline. My outline helped me see which characters did very little and could be combined/removed. My outline had three (three!) flashback sequences. I hate flashbacks, and because of the outline I saw that I could remove them all and turn them into a short story prequel for the novel. That short story became The Caliban Program. Plus, the outline showed me where I could combine characters and which slow chapters needed to be cut.

-- Write the book that only you can write and what makes you excited. I have a long list of novels I want to write, but I got excited about what became Into Darkness. I'm a two tour combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I could boil down those thirty miserable months into a  thrilling war novel. I can get more out of my time downrange than a bunch of war stories and a nagging case of PTSD. As a reader, I'm always interested when an author can draw on wartime experiences for their works. By my logic, perspective readers would be interested in an Iraq War novel written by an Iraq War vet. Yes? No? What is it that you, soon-to-be author, can write? You're the only person in the whole world that can tell that story! Get cracking!

-- Don't be in a rush to publish. When I finished The Caliban Program, Into Darkness was nowhere near done. A work-mate talked me out of putting the short story out months before the novel was ready, and he was right. It is a lousy tease to get someone interested in a story, then promise that story at some point in the future. If someone likes what they see in the teaser, the novel is available.

Do I still have lots to learn? Yes. The whole marketing angle is something I have to work on. My next book should come out faster and smoother. Independent Publishing is a tide that raises all boats and if you don't believe me go read what Joe says on this blog and Michael Bunker has to say.

Into Darkness is available now, and I enrolled it in Prime. Smart idea on the Prime enrollment? I don't know yet, I'm still learning.

Thank you, Joe. If it wasn't for your wisdom I don't know if this book would have ever seen the light. 

Thanks for showing me where I could aid Alzheimer's research and for the chance to darken your door with this blog post.

Stay Safe,
Richard Fox

Joe Sez: Thanks for serving our country, Richard, and thanks for the guest post.

I agree with your points, but I'd like to expand on one. No one should be in a rush to publish. But if you have something that's ready to go--even if it as a short story or a prequel--I advise you to publish ASAP.

I know it's hard to send your work off into the world. I know it could always be edited a bit more, tweaked a bit more. But the days of waiting for book release dates are in the past.

I can't think of a single reason, if your work is ready to publish, to wait. If it's a true teaser--meaning it's a cliffhanger without a beginning, middle, and end--try to make it free and say what it is in the product description. But if the story functions on its own, release it when it is finished, even if it is a prequel to a larger work.

Ebooks are forever. Every day you don't publish something is a day of sales and readers you missed. Maybe you'll find them later. Maybe you won't. Make your forever start as soon as you can.