Recently, I was contacted by Ken Picard of Seven Days VT who asked my insights into the seedy underbelly of indie publishing. (Ok, there’s really nothing seedy or underbelly-ish about my gig. Unless you take into consideration the dust bunnies under the desk in my office.) Check out the article here.
What do you think of the article? I’d love to hear from you.
Recently, I was interviewed for the Rocking Self-Publishing podcast by the charming Simon Whistler. (The podcast should air on 3/30. I say should because I’d like to give Simon an easy out in case he realizes what a spaz I am.) This was a fantastic experience for me. Not only was it lots of fun chatting with Simon, but he asked some excellent questions. During the interview, I had the chance to discuss my personal philosophies on being an indie-author and ran through my Top 5 Elements of Middling Success or How to Fail Upwards. (I’m still working on the title.)
One of the elements on my list (#5) is “Don’t give up.” I think it goes hand-in-hand with the concept that you can’t judge your success by the what you see around you. Success is an internal measure. I think that’s where a lot of folks fall down. It’s easy to find reasons to give up when your self-pubbed book is not an overnight sensation like The Martian or Wool. Let’s get real. Before these two books became best sellers, they started out as ideas. They’re the result of a lot of hard work. They were not magically generated overnight. That’s crazy-think, right there. It’s pretty bricky to think right out of the gate you’re going to have a best seller on your hands without having to get those hands dirty.
You have set realistic goals. Ambition is great. It gets your motor running. But know where you’re motoring. If you continue to establish unrealistic goals, you’re heading for a cliff. So, there’s a method for figuring out your goals called the SMART technique. (What can I say? I’m a sucker for clever acronyms.)
Specific – Be specific about your goal. If you’re never written and/or published a book, instead of saying “I’m going to become an author”, a more specific goal would be “I’m going to independently publish a science fiction novel by the end of the year.”
Measurable – Decide on a way you can measure your success. For instance, “I’m going to write for 30 minutes a day.”
Attainable – Here’s where you ask yourself what’s actually physically possible. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to write 5,000 words a day when you know you struggle for the time to even write 500. Aim for what you know is possible for your steps along the way. Don’t say “I’m going to sell 100 books this week.” when you have no control over what other people will or won’t buy.
Realistic – Be honest with yourself here. It’s easy to say something fantastical like, “I’ll write a book a month.” (OK, I know there are people that really do that, but I’m pretty sure they’re cyborgs or genetically enhanced.) Try saying, “I’m going to self-publish on Amazon at the end of October.”
Timely – Making a deadline keeps it real. You’re making an appointment with yourself, be it 30 days or 300 days. Make yourself keep that appointment.
So, Murphy, you say, what’re your goals if you’re such an expert on this?
First of all, I’m many things, but not an expert. I only know what’s worked for me.
My goal is easy. Aim low. Well… not low, but I’m realistic. My motto: “Mid-list, at best.”
It was easy to get caught up in the excitement when my first book, Allies and Enemies: Fallen, caught some good traction. I never thought I’d be the next Weber or Scalzi. But my books have (temporarily) shown up on lists with their books which is/was pretty awesome. It’s also quite humbling. It made me realize how much harder you have to work to stay there.
And I’ll likely never receive a Nebula or a Hugo. But I am now a member of SFWA which was a goal I’ve had for quite some time.
Be real with yourself. Know what you can do to get to what you want to do. It’s not going to happen overnight. But, hang in there, kitten. It’ll happen.
I’m very happy to say that the third book in the series Allies and Enemies: Exiles is going to be available very soon. My stalwart editor is hard at work doing her thing to my manuscript. Before long I should be hard at work putting her edits into action. Then it’s ebook city, baby!
There are other authors out there that seem to churn out a book a month. I am not one of those, try as I might. However, in my defense, I will say that my first book took ten years to write, so I think I’ve shown incredible improvement if you’re judging current me against my prior glacial record. I have learned a valuable lesson when it comes to writing a series: Finish all three books first.
Here’s a sneak peak at the cover art created by the fantastic Alex Winkler. Look for pre-order on Allies and Enemies: Exiles in the days ahead exclusively on Amazon.
It’s not too late to sign up to receive an advance reader copy (ARC) of Exiles a week before the book is released into the wild. All I ask in return is your honest feedback on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Click here to sign up.
You stare at the blank screen. The little cursor is blinking away—you swear it’s mocking you.
You have to be witty, charming, appealing. You have to write your author bio.
Sure, you can talk about your book for hours, but when it’s time to talk about you, your muse clams up and slinks off to a desolate corner of your little mental cocktail party or maybe goes to bury herself under the thick pile of winter coats in the master bedroom.
You need a good author bio. It may seem unimportant: why would anyone care if you live in Montana? You write about Vikings for cryin’ out loud.
Believe it or not, there are readers out there that actually want to know about you. It’s your chance to make a connection with your readers. Also, you need one for your website, your book jacket, and your Amazon author page (and don’t forget Goodreads). It doesn’t have to be an arduous task. You can have a bit of fun with it. (And, it’s ok to make stuff up—kinda. Just check out Peter Clines’ bio. You’ll see what I mean.)
There are few tips on writing your bio. Maybe they’ll help you come up with a really entertaining one:
Keep it brief. It doesn’t need to be War and Peace. Aim for 200 to 250 words. Some spots limit you to 50 (ie a by-line).
Use third person to talk about yourself and present tense whenever possible. ( ie. “John likes to scavenge thrift shops in his spare time for vintage bowling shirts.”
Be relevant. Try to zero in on facts about yourself that make your expertise relevant to the subject matter of your books. For instance, if you write about genetic engineering run amok with killer species of watermelon, you might want to share that you’ve got a Ph. D. in genetics.
Here’s your chance to tell people how awesome you are when it comes to writing. Were you a finalist in a literary contest? Did you book rank in the top 100 on Goodreads in the “underwater basket-weaving category”? Great. Throw it in there.
If you’re still not feeling it, here are some great author bios that may inspire you:
Arisia, “New England’s Largest and Most Diverse Sci-Fi & Fantasy Convention” has just announced its programming for 2017 and I am delighted to be on two panels. Taking place from January 13 – 16, 2017 at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel, this con seems to grow bigger every year. I’ve been attending religiously, but this is my first chance to be part of a panel as a legit author (the second panel is about costuming).
This year’s Guest of Honor is Ursula Vernon.
If you’re attending Arisia, why not stop by and say hi?
Marketing Your Book in a Digital Age
Faneuil (3W), 8:30am – 9:45am
Anna Erishkigal (moderator), Timothy Goyette, Constance Burris, Amy J. Murphy
Ebooks now constitute 30% of the book market, with some genres (such as romance) approaching 89%. How do you market these books? What opportunities does digital provide? What’s a reader magnet? And how do keywords make your book more visible? Come learn how to use MailChimp to build an email subscriber list, leverage your website, and reach out to readers without appearing spammy.
Like many folks, it wasn’t until adulthood that I was diagnosed as an adult with ADD. With this discovery, a great many mysteries about my childhood (especially high school) were suddenly resolved. It explained my ability to “hyperfocus” on certain projects, becoming completely absorbed to the point of obsession while my attention would drift about erratically when it came to day-to-day events.
To this end, I believe it’s why it took me nearly 10 years to finish my first book. It’s why I can recall verbatim all the dialogue from movies or TV shows (that I like) after one viewing, or recite an article I read while in sixth grade about a tribe on Borneo. (They eat a soup made from soaking bird’s nests.) Those things landed in my “hyperfocus” window. (Not always exceptionally useful information, I admit.)
By the time I’d learned about my ADD, I’d already had a lot of “work arounds” for life in general. I used lists and “rituals” for daily living to make constant distraction easier to combat.
This past month while recovering from a workplace-related injury, I had a lot of time on my hands to write. However, I wasn’t getting it done. I’d write a few paragraphs and then disappear down some rabbit hole, only to re-emerge hours later wondering where the day went.
I discovered a method to help me train my focus on writing called the Pomodoro Technique. I first saw it referenced in one of the many, many ebooks I’ve purchased about increasing writing speed. I can write quickly—that’s not the problem. My problem was actual “butt in the chair” time. It’s SO easy for me to leave my desk to get a coffee only to end up wandering around my home as I ping from distraction to distraction.
Honestly, I was not avoiding the act of writing. I’d was dying to sit down and tell a story, but my brain (or rather my attention span) had a vastly different agenda.
The Pomodoro Technique is pretty easy. The name just sounds fancy (and possibly expensive). As it turns out—it’s Italian for “tomato”. This is because the person that thought it up had a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato and was Italian. Go figure.
It works like this: (*disclaimer: this is my version of how it works)
Set your timer for 20 minutes (For me, it’s 23 minutes. That’s about as far as I can park my attention.)
For those 20(ish) minutes, you sit in your chair and write.
The timer goes off and you get a 5 to 7-minute That’s when you go grab a coffee, do sit ups or chase the dogs around the kitchen table.
When the break is up, you do another 20-minute interval of writing.
At the end of four of these 20-minute sessions, you can schedule a larger break (like 10 to 20 minutes).
The goal of this method is to train yourself to be productive in a shorter span of time and is meant to promote “mental agility” through frequent breaks.
How did it work for me? Pretty well, for the most part. I had some two and three thousand word days there. The result was the final draft in the third book in my Allies and Enemies series. I felt that I had better focus because I could tell myself that whatever distracting thought that bubbled up in the middle of my writing stent (How many seasons of Supernatural have there been anyway? Is house paint flammable? Did I order more contact lenses?) could wait until break time. It was exhausting because I did it for four days straight, which I might not repeat unless I’m under a tight deadline.
Even if you don’t have an actual diagnosis of ADD, the technique might be helpful if you’re trying to make the most of the writing time that you have. I used a customizable app called “30/30” that I found in the Apple store [here]. It’s pretty nifty. If you’re interested, you can learn more about the Pomodoro Technique [here].
(And, in case you’re wondering, I used the technique to finish this blog entry.)