New Trends and Indie Writing – how to make a difference in today’s publishing world

Happy Friday! Many authors, including myself, dream of breaking big sales, turn into a J.K. Rowling overnight and live off of writing exclusively for the rest of their life. If I don’t aim for the stars, why write at all? At least, that’s the question my mother and fellow authors will ask me. They’re right. Why aim low when you have the potential to reach high?

The publishing industry nowadays is not what it used to be. No need to elaborate on that. Self-publishing has exploded, and will continue to explode, and any aspiring author out there knows they can publish a book, and they don’t need anyone’s help to do that. Heck, looking for books on Amazon and similar platforms has turned into a treasure hunt. If you don’t have an author in mind, and are simply looking for a new story to fill your head with, that search can take hours. That’s why Amazon and its fellow competitors have established the star rating system, the sales rank, and the promotional thumbnails to help the reader with their quest. And the same question keeps popping in my mind: how do I become more visible? How do I increase my sales rank? How do I become a best-selling author?

Great books may stay in the dark for years before a breakthrough. If the marketing is low, and the topic unconventional, these great stories might never break at all. We, as authors, are bound to having an audience. And finding this audience is key. During a writers’ conference, I asked publishers what they were looking for and they gave me a very simple answer. They want something that will sell. They provided me with details about what they thought would pop the readers’ cherry, but given they were no psychics, their assumptions were as good as mine.

“American Psycho” was a bestseller along with “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games” or “Twilight”. Sure, we have entered this YA/NA era where everything revolves around fantasy and paranormal genres, and as long as this pot of gold isn’t dry, the trend will live on for a while longer.

But how, as an indie author, will you know what to write so you can sell? That’s the one million dollar question right there. Many have tried to follow the steps of Grisham, King and Cornwell, or E.L. James and Meyer, for what result though? Erotica will always sell. Romance too. Psychological thrillers, and stories about crooks, gangsters, attorneys, dirty cops, and nurses – airport books I call them and that’s how I bought my first Stieg Larson’s “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” copy – that stuff reads well, and fast, and keeps you busy and distracted for a few hours. You might not consider the book a milestone in your reading career, but you will have fun reading it, and that’s the most important part of writing and selling books in the first place. So that the readers can enjoy themselves.

Once you try to tackle touchy topics, like necrophilia, pedophilia, rape, cannibalism, drug addiction, and so on…you’re appealing to the minds that find horror exciting. And horror sells as well, especially in the context of serial killers, zombie, and vampire tales. Same goes with deep psychological novels.

There are tons of bestsellers out there that prove that any genre can break huge – so following trends might not be a safe bet after all. You can try to ride the wave, and catch the next big fish, but your attempt might fail dramatically. It’s very difficult as an author to write stuff that has never been written about before. Sci-fi and fantasy allow writers to push boundaries, but main themes always remain the same.

At the end of the day, you’re basically back to square one. You got your manuscript and have no idea if the story will appeal to a multitude of readers or not, and then you have your marketing strategy, which might be super advanced or amateurish, depending on how much time you can devote to market your book, and money to advertise as much as possible. And still, you can do everything in your power to attract readers, your book might not sell much.

After this long monologue, you might be asking yourself, what is the best way for me to still make a difference? There must be a light at the end of the tunnel here.

Well, consider your competition a few millions books, and many more to come. Sub-genres that burst within sub-genres. Niches within niches. Word of mouth works wonders – it’s actually the most efficient marketing strategy. And…promoting your book doesn’t stop at writers’ conferences, book signings, and blog hops. Radio shows, podcasts, YouTube, and naturally, Twitter and Facebook, help tremendously. Like I often say, not only do you sell your book, you also sell a brand. Don’t think a trailer is useless. Freebies help and sometimes they don’t. An attractive book cover can take your book a long way, without you even realizing it.

The natural order of things will do that certain authors reach the top, and others stay stuck in the middle. If you’re in the middle now, remember, your book might reach the top someday. It’s never too late. But you have to keep trying. What goes on with writing, happens with indie filmmakers, artists, and pretty much any solo entrepreneur next door. A product is a product. If it’s good, people will buy it. If people hear about how good it is, they will buy even more of it.

Follow a trend, or don’t. Pour your heart out, stay true to your writing, and stand behind your product. Aiming for the stars isn’t crazy. Giving up is.

#Realism in #Fantasy and #Supernatural stories – World building

Happy Monday all! Fantasy and supernatural stories need to follow a set of rules in order to be as realistic as possible. Dystopian tales do the same. Whatever environment the characters will roam in has to make sense, and if a rule is broken, a good explanation has to be given, otherwise the whole world building falls apart.

But I’ve come across a lot of stories that broke rules, or invented new ones, without giving the reader enough foundation to justify such a plot shift. The author will focus on the characters more than on the world they live in, and all of a sudden, things change, and I get confused. I start asking questions while reading the story, and ultimately lose interest if too many of these new unexplained rules get thrown into the mix.

I made the same mistake. I thought writing a fantasy story allowed me to do whatever the heck I wanted. The truth is – if your reader is older than five years old, the world building will have to be tight and structured. I lose my marbles when I watch a TV show or a movie, and rules are being broken so many times, I’m pissed, and stop watching the show. The characters can be the most compelling folks, if the world building blows, I’m done.

Many authors won’t give as much attention to details to the world they create, and their story, just like a house, won’t have a strong foundation. Therefore when plotting, think of the world or worlds before the characters, and set up rules. For trilogies, or series, keep this set of rules handy. If the characters have superpowers, they will follow their own set of rules, and these rules can’t clash with the world rules.

Who thought that writing a novel would be so scientific, huh? I certainly didn’t. I wrote without plotting, and after 95,000 words, considered the job done. What a hassle it is to rewrite 75% of the story because of rules. And many authors learn that the hard way, because let’s be honest, unless you work in the publishing industry or attend a few writers’ conferences, you know squat about rules. All you think about is how you want to write this awesome book since you were a kid, and bam, now you have to set up a whole strategy in order to successfully do so. Rules are one of the main elements that will fail a book. Another reason why readers don’t trust self-published authors. Good editing will usually fix that problem, but often, self-published folks don’t use the services of a professional editor to review their work. Sad really.

To make your dream come true, don’t ask your best friend or your mom to review your book. Ask them to read the ARC, but please edit the story first. Create rules, brainstorm, rework the rules and plot accordingly. Writing the rest of the story will come easy once this step is completed, and editing will be smoother too.

Hospital for Souls #SaturdaySong #32Seconds

I love the song Hospital for Souls by Bring Me The Horizon (yes, that’s the actual band name, I didn’t make this one up.)

The beginning starts with these words:

And then I found out how hard it is to really change.
Even hell can get comfy once you’ve settled in.
I just wanted the lonely inside me to leave.
No matter how fucked you get, there’s always hell when you come back down.
The funny thing is all I ever wanted I already had.
There’s glimpses of heaven in every day.
In the friends I have, the music I make, the love that I feel.
I just had to start again.

It’s easy to forget the good and focus on the bad. No matter how effed up my day or my week can be, the silver lining always appears in the cloud that looms over my head. I cannot fail. I will not fail.

The days are a death wish
A witch hunt for an exit
I am powerless…

The fragile, the broken
Sit in circles and stay unspoken
We are powerless…

Because we all walk alone on an empty staircase
Silent halls and nameless faces
I am powerless…

Everybody wants to go to Heaven
But nobody wants to die
I can’t fear death no longer
I’ve died a thousand times

Why explore the universe
When we don’t know ourselves?
There’s an emptiness inside our heads
That no one dares to dwell…

Throw me to the flames
Watch me burn!
Set my world ablaze
Watch me burn!

How are we on a scale of one to ten?
Could you tell me what you see?
Do you wanna talk about it?
How does that make you feel?

Have you ever took a blade to your wrists?
Have you been skipping meals?
We’re gonna try something new today
How does that make you feel?

This song expresses everything that’s going through my head. I couldn’t have said it better. These times of gloom, when I thought it was me against the world, and the world against me, when I stood tall and powerful, taking a swig of booze to show everyone how strong I was, are gone. I’m left with feelings, and these feelings suck balls sometimes. But more often than not, these feelings are wonderful. I am not afraid of who I am anymore. I’m not trying to change to please anyone. Time heals my pain, and helps me see the silver lining even when I convince myself there’s no silver lining anywhere for me to see.

I am only human. And life is beautiful.

My MC Julie Jones (upcoming release 32 Seconds) feels the same way. And she can’t wait until her story is out. Soon I tell her, the editing is still ongoing. :)

Have a good weekend!

Do it, own it, live it #WW

Happy Wednesday! Here, it’s a happy rainy day, hopefully where you are, it’s sunny and nice out. Not too cold, not too warm, you know the drill…One of these days where you don’t have to sit in an office, and can lounge and do whatever you feel like doing.

Writing was my favorite thing to do as a kid, besides building castles out of legos, and playing with my cat. I hated school. I still do. LOL I love to learn, but on my own terms. Once, I told my first grade teacher how much I admired her because I thought she knew everything there was to know about life. When she said she didn’t, I didn’t believe her. Today, I do. No one knows anything aside from what they learned by reading a book, or experienced in life. The rest is unknown. The unknown can be scary to some people. I love not knowing what comes next. The challenges of life keep me going. I learn something new every day. And every day, I realize I was better off not knowing. LOL

Being an adult sucks balls. True fact of life. I like the independence but hate the responsibilities. I haven’t found a magic trick yet to cruise through life without worrying about bills, and the job, and myself, and people I love, and crap that piles up on my plate when I expect it the least. If I worry all the time, I don’t get to enjoy my day. That’s where writing comes in. Writing helps me feel like a kid again. No worries, no responsibilities. I put words on paper and dream. It’s a really nice escape.

I get to be a superhero in my stories. I get to talk about the city I live in, and the people who annoy the heck out of me. I commit crimes, or do the next right thing, and the dream ends exactly like I want to. It’s like going on vacation without buying a plane ticket. I like my imaginary world.

Writing is my therapy. Writing is the air I breathe. Without it, I don’t know what I would do. Probably stupid stuff. Writing helped me become the person I am today.

If you’re struggling as an author, and don’t know if writing is really your thing, ask yourself that simple question: do you feel different when you don’t write, like a limb is missing? If yes, then, keep working on it. Do it, own it, live it. Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but it helps improve skills, and who knows, in a few years from now, you’ll maybe publish a few novels, and gather a nice following.

Someone said no one reads anymore. Why write? Because somewhere on this planet, someone will still want to read the words you wrote. And these words can change their life. I grew up reading books that turned my world upside down, and made me want to write my own stories.

Writing is a gift. Share it and not only your life will be better, but other people’s too. I believe in the power of words. No matter how technologically advanced we are and will be decades from now, writing will always matter. When everything is gone, and all you have left is a pencil, words will still flow.

So do it. Own it. Live it. Don’t be afraid.

A lil love goes a long way – Promote your thoughts, not just your product

Happy Friday to all! Recurring topic of conversation I’ve had with fellow authors – what to blog about? Is blogging even necessary? Aren’t you supposed to write and promote your work when all is said and done, and the awful marketing process starts? And when you’re not promoting your book, write another book, and don’t waste time blogging about today, and how you feel, because no one cares.

Well…If you want to establish a brand, you will have to sell not only your books, but your personality too. If readers know nothing about you, what chances do you have to stand out among the millions of other books available?

Here’s my take on this. If you disagree with my opinion, more power to you. But if you’re looking to establish yourself as a brand, maybe my words of advice will help you.

Social media and blogging help tremendously with building your brand. I don’t believe in the “I’m a recluse and all I do is write” type of deal, because as a recluse, you will remain a recluse. No one will come and look for you (besides family members). And yes writing is important – DUH! – but blogging and posting on social media is equally important. You will sell more if you advertise more. And when I say advertise, I mean sell your personality, not just coupons.

I will read your book if I like the perception I have of you. You can be a complete dickhead in real life, I won’t start an investigation to figure you out, but the simplest, funniest, corkiest posts on your blog or Facebook or Twitter account can take you a very long way. No need to be selfish, and claim you don’t write for free. WTF is that anyway? I don’t write for free? Really? Writing is about writing, money comes next. If you don’t love the art for the sake of the art, and your sole objective is to make money, well, choose another career path. Seriously. I can’t tell you how many tweets I see that are only about selling a product, but what about your thoughts, huh? Your objectives, your fears, your struggles…Oh I get it, you want to keep all that stuff to yourself, you selfish lil bastard.

Because why share the love? Why? Love is free to give, so where’s the point?

Well, I don’t stick to that standard. Trust me, I tried. And I felt like a salesman. Writing became a chore because my main objective was to promote my book. Look at me, I published something, yay! Now buy it. Go buy my book. Go. I’m telling you to go buy it, darn it. Why don’t you buy it?????

Pulling hair and grinding teeth, drinking way too many caffeinated drinks and not sleeping, wondering when I’ll sell a book, I told myself – just telling people to buy your book won’t make them buy it. You gotta sell more than that. Share the love – FOR FREE!!! – and watch your following grow, slowly, but surely. And then someday, someone will buy your book and review it – 5 STARS!! I’m gonna pass out – and maybe the sales will drop again, but guess what? Money is not my main objective.

I want to have fun. Writing isn’t supposed to become a chore. Don’t take me wrong, I love writing, and wish I could write all day. Reality told me I couldn’t because my dream – and my $5 in sales – won’t pay my bills – yet. I still need the day job. I’ve accepted that fact, and learned to enjoy it. And I admit I didn’t push very hard my marketing. LOL

Even bestselling authors struggle with low sales. It’s a fact. Once you’ve made the top of that NYT list – or any kind of list – bask in the light for as long as you can, but return to your desk and computer pronto, and write more. Promote yourself more. Keep sharing the love, keep entertaining people. And if you feel like it, give away coupons and swags too. Heck! Whatever works for you.

Give, give, give. You’ll get so much in return. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but down the line, you will. It’s true. I’m not delusional. ;)

That’s it for today. Have a good weekend folks!

When dreams die (and when they resuscitate)

“Resurrection of Dead Dreams” is actually the title of a book that belongs to a series authored by a dear friend who’s been through a lot physically, emotionally and spiritually. I got to know her gradually at my workplace, as my office was located right behind her cubicle. When we started sharing thoughts and ideas about writing, our friendship blossomed into an extraordinary collaboration of two crazy minds meant to undertake a beautiful journey. Because of my selfishness while I was still out there drinking and feeling sorry for myself, our friendship took a toll, and I didn’t expect forgiveness. Our journey through life and the writing world was meant to continue, and today, I am privileged to count her as one of my closest friends, and she is a great source of inspiration.

Dreams and reality don’t really work well together, except when the stars align perfectly, and a dream comes true. Often though, a dream remains a dream, and reality does a fine job making sure we stay on track paying bills, taking care of our family, and acting as responsible adults. Childhood dreams die as we grow, to be replaced with other dreams, that may die also. Out of all my dreams, most of them died somehow. New dreams were born in my frantic mind, and they followed the same path. The death of a dream can be discouraging, heartbreaking, and may lead to feeling jaded and bitter about life.

I’ve felt jaded often. I didn’t look at positive things, only focused on the negative. I dwelled on all my bad experiences, and learned from them by promising never to dream again. Of course, I’ve failed. I’m only human. Without dreams, I am dead inside.

A dream may die, and another may come to life to die again, but sometimes, dead dreams resuscitate, and give me the incentive I need to start a new project and follow through with it. Writing was a childhood dream of mine that died when I finished high school and started college. I pushed writing away and focused on being an adult. What I learned from this experience is that killing my dream was like killing a part of me, and I never truly mourned that loss. Writing went into a coma for ten long years, before being resuscitated after talking for a few minutes with my friend, and exchanging ideas about her book, “Resurrection of Dead Dreams”.

Since then, writing has been a part of my life stronger than ever. My writing style is far from perfect, as English isn’t my mother tongue, but I keep trying because this is what I was meant to do. I swallow my pride and ask for help from my editor. We all need a good editor in our back pocket!

Dead dreams don’t really disappear. They stay buried in the cemetery that is our mind, and it is our choice to resuscitate them or not. I believe that with enough willingness and hard work any dream can come true.

I made writing my daily reality, and certainly couldn’t live without it. When everything feels out of place, the writing bug remains. It is the best disease to have, and I’m blessed to be infected by it.