Tag Archives: decision making

My Self Publishing Journey: Second and Third Guessing

As I’ve been revising my blog posts into a book about my first year of independent publishing, I’ve found a significant amount to revise. Mostly its because I’ve learned more about the process since I first wrote various posts. Usually I know what changes I need to make, but on the topic of self promotion my choices are less clear.

As I’ve written before, there are many who say that the use of social media networking is the author’s friend. At first this seemed like a no-brainer to me. It’s FREE, and provides a means to connect with readers and establish a relationship with them so that they’ll be more interested in buying books. It’s important to be genuinely friendly and not just say, “Buy my book,” over and over again. One method to do this is to find a topic you really enjoy and discuss that, not your book. It’s a pretty well established principle that people prefer doing business with people they like, so all this makes sense.

Except there are people and surveys that suggest that spending time on social media networks isn’t really very productive, as measured by sales. Joe Konrath reports that after watching his sales very carefully in relation to when he did blog tours or gave national interviews, he found that his sales barely moved. Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch both recommend spending your time writing the next book rather than promoting the last one. In a survey done by Bowker and Romance Writers of America, readers reported that they were not influenced to buy by reading an author’s Tweets, Facebook, or their blogs.

I know I’m not. But even knowing this, I still find the the idea that using social media is the author’s ticket to big sales seductive and hard to ignore. It suggests that we have some measure of control, that we have a way to directly influence buyers. If even traditional publishers expect their authors to get out there and hustle, it must work, right?

So what’s an indie author to do? Does social media work, or not? How do we tell the world our book exists? How do we find our audience?

I feel a little disingenuous telling you that social media doesn’t work when I haven’t given it the full court press myself. Even though various surveys’ data suggests it’s not much use, I use Twitter occasionally for a brief announcement that a book is free (not what social media experts say you’re supposed to do), and Facebook a little more because it amuses me. But does it help my business? I think a few people have found my books because of it. Is that enough to justify the time spent? That’s harder to say. When you’re starting out every sale is a singular and special event. An author friend says she notices a small spike in sales when she occasionally mentions her books. Two others have used Goodreads’ contests to good effect.I blog because I read advice two and a half years ago that said I should build my online platform before I publish. I enjoy the blogging, but has it helped my sales?

I can answer the last question with a qualified yes. I’m pretty sure I’ve made sales because other writers found my blog. That led to me being invited to guest post to a wider audience because, and to teach a class on indie publishing. So that, at least, has been worth the time invested.

I’ve also used price manipulation to attract readers. At various times I’ve made my books free on Kindle Select. (You can make your books free without being exclusive to Amazon, but it’s a little more complicated, and you won’t have as much control over the dates. I use KS because Amazon has, for the moment, the biggest share of the online market by far, and I like making money from Amazon Prime borrows.) I firmly believe that many, many more people have discovered my books because they were free than would have through social media, and it took up much less of my time.

What I’ve concluded from reading various points of view is that authors need to use different tools when they’re at various points of their careers. A brand new author with no publishing history most needs to write and publish multiple books, but they also need to do a little social media to at least let their friends know they have a book out. Once a writer has a few books out, then it might make sense to spend a little more time promoting, like soliciting reviews. But even then, writing should be the top priority. I, for one, am not a fast writer, so the best use my time is to create the books that my fans are asking for. Later, when an author has an established following her need for social networking diminishes again, as word of mouth is her primary and most effective promotion.

That’s the plan I’m using for now, until I see data that convinces me to change course. Because in the end, it’s our books that readers want most, not our Tweets.



Filed under Publishing

My Self-Publishing Journey: I am the Decider!

I just got the 2nd pass edits on LIGHTBRINGER back from Edits that Rock. One of the questions Rochelle raised after the first round was whether I wanted  to discuss religion quite as much as I did. In much of today’s paranormal romance, the big questions of religion are carefully skirted so as to not offend and lose readers. This isn’t as true in science-fiction and fantasy. A significant number of authors in those genres have tackled religion head-on, but not so much in romance.

I had what I think is a fairly average Christian upbringing, colored by an early love of science-fiction and fantasy.  In SF and fantasy it’s often acknowledged that in building a new world, religion is an integral part of  what motivates people. So for me, if characters have a conversation about life after death (VEILED MIRROR)  or angels (LIGHTBRINGER) it doesn’t make sense to pretend religion doesn’t exist.

And yet . . . I am paying Rochelle for her expertise, and I do want to actually sell my books, not just decorate Amazon’s website with my listings. So I thought pretty hard about her advice. I was free to take it or leave it. As I mentioned in a previous post, unlike an editor at a traditional publisher, Rochell has no leverage — the decision was all up to me.

I’m pretty good at catastrophizing. I can worry that a minor misstep can doom me to utter darkness and failure with the best of them. Interestingly, as I’ve progressed on my self-publishing journey, I’ve felt less of that. Where I used to worry that if I didn’t write the perfect synopsis I would be exiled to the outer reaches of writer purgatory, now a decision about editing is just that, a business decision.

In the end I decided to trim a few sentences from LIGHTBRINGER for the sake of the larger story arc of the Celestial Affairs series. And that’s the point of this post: It’s all about the story you want to tell. Every story has its audience. Don’t worry about that. In my opinion, the priority should be what works best for the story, not protecting the author’s ego and not potential sales.


Filed under writing

My Self-Publishing Journey: Getting The Word Out

One of the things I love about where I’m at in my journey is that I’ve come to accept that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. By that I mean, I accept that I’m going to make mistakes, but almost anything can be recovered from. That’s one reason I enjoyed Roni Loren’s blog “Writer Under Construction: 10 Things I’d Do Differently.”  It’s a long post, but I recommend you read it.

I really liked her points that there is NO ONE RIGHT WAY.  As we grope our way toward publication, we’re going to hear many voices offering contradictory advice. That’s a good thing. You WANT to take in a variety of information. How else will you know what your options are?

With regard to getting the word out to the reading public, Roni mentions the disparate advice that you should:

  • Wait till you’re published to start a blog or get a website
  • Start a blog at least two years before you intend to publish, so you have a following when your book comes out.
  • Write about what you know: writing
  • Appeal to non-writing readers
  • Blog consistently and frequently
  • Blog occasionally and only when you have something to announce.
  • Use every form of social media you can
  • Just write the next book. It’s your best advertising.

There are so many options for self-promotion, choosing can be overwhelming.  But choose we must. And in some cases, (as in selecting a name to write under) it’s best to choose early so you avoid a lot of “do over” work. Here’s what I did/am doing/am going to do:

  • I chose to write under a variant of my maiden name because my married moniker didn’t say “romance.”
  • I bought my domain name as soon as I chose my pen name and put up a decent, though not fancy website.
  • I started blogging almost two years ago. Building an audience has been slow, but leaped as I learned better how to let people know the blog was out there, and how to use the technology.
  • It took me some time, but I found a visual theme that represented my “brand” of Romance, Mystery, and Magic
  • I aimed my blog more and more at other writers.
  • I reduced my frequency of blogging to twice a week so I could be more consistent.
  • I decided to add posts that will appeal both to writers and to non-writing readers. (More on this below.)
  • I’ve decided to redirect my website URL to my blog, where I can do the same things. (Soon.)
  • I may spend actual money on advertising, but it will be very cautiously spent. For the most part I’ll use free social media to get the word out. (Always ask yourself if the advertising you’re buying is likely to result in more sales — either directly or through increased word-of-mouth —  than you have to make to pay for it.)
  • I made up my mind to try new things. (That was a big one for me. I tend to be cautious.)
  • I accepted that everything takes more time than I expect it to. Fortunately, that’s one of the benefits of self-publishing. My books won’t be pulled and stripped if the sales don’t reach a certain level within three months — or less. I have time to try different approaches to build sales.

One of the things I mentioned above is that I want to draw in more non-writing readers. Most of my future fans won’t be writers after all.  So once a week beginning Thursday, I’ll be posting excerpts from VEILED MIRROR,  which is coming out September 21st in digital format, and a little before that in POD format.  If you enjoy what you read, I hope you’ll share the link with your friends.  Mondays will still be about various aspects of writing and publishing.

Thanks for reading! I enjoy writing this blog and sharing my journey with you!



Filed under writing

Self-Publishing — The Emotional Component, Continued

My last post discussed some of the emotional baggage we carry that can hold us back from self-publishing our work. I’ve thought of a few more things I’d like to say on that topic.

I’m really interested in how the mind works (or doesn’t) and one interesting tidbit I’ve collected is that no matter how rational we like to think we are, our decisions are affected by our emotions.  No matter how much rational information you have, until the emotions line up, nothing happens. The funny thing is, this often happens under the covers. For example, I collected information about self-publishing until I was comfortable taking the next step.  I had to reach a tipping point where I wanted the opportunity presented by self-publishing, the potential, more than I valued the opinions of the nay-sayers. I decided that moving forward NOW, having control, was worth the additional work,  worth sacrificing some of the traditional markers of success like being recognized by professional writing organizations.

For those who haven’t also sold to advance paying publishers, chosing the self-publishing path results in exclusion from “The Club.”  No large professional writing organization that I know of (RWA, SFWA, MWA, HWA) recognizes self-published work.  Some specifically exclude it. (Disclosure:  I’m a member of RWA and despite not recognizing self-published authors, I highly recommend it.) If you’re self-pubbed you can still join some of these organizations,  but you won’t be recognized as published.  You can’t even attend the Ninc. conference unless you’ve had two books traditionally published.  Potentially losing the respect of the people I admire, of never being seen as a peer slowed me down for a while.  (Maybe I should submit to just one more agent, one more editor. . . .)  I didn’t even realize that wanting to be a member of “The Club” had been a part of my desire to be published until I thought about losing it.

Through  my research, I learned that there’s another club composed of knowledgeable and accomplished  people who have succeeded by going their own way, and they are not all the looser-wannabes that proponents of traditional publishing paint them to be. (It’s not superficial to need community.  We’re social animals, after all.)  Through my research I realized that the issue is not all one sided.  There are pros and cons to every choice — but for me, now, self-publishing provides a community I want to be part of.

I’m sharing my journey with you so you’ll find your comfort zone more quickly than I did.


Filed under writing

Who Do You Believe?

I’ve been writing a lot about various aspects of traditional and self-publishing lately, and pointing you to the blogs of several other people who are in the camp that believes that digital self-publishing is a vital part of the future of publishing.

Obviously, I think these folks are sharing important and useful information or I wouldn’t be encouraging you to read them.  There are, of course, intelligent people out there saying the opposite, and often saying it quite eloquently.

So who do you believe?

We face this decision every time one doctor prescribes one thing, and a second doctor recommends a different course of treatment.  We face it every election. Climate change: natural cycle or man caused? Evolution or Creationism?

Who do you believe?

I recently read “Made-up Minds” an article  by Chris Mooney in the May 20th issue of The Week. (A longer version of the article is available here.) Basically, the article talked about how new discoveries in neuroscience have demonstrated “how our pre-existing beliefs, far more than any new facts, can skew our thoughts and color what we consider our most dispassionate and logical conclusions. This ‘motivated reasoning’ helps explain why we find groups still polarized over matters where the evidence is so unequivocal. It seems that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, you know, the facts.”

This certainly can apply to the debate about the relative merits of self-publishing.

The point is not to assume that whoever doesn’t agree with you is being emotional and irrationally refusing to accept facts.  The point is that we all are influenced by our emotions.  “Left or right, conservative or liberal, we all wear blinders in some situations.” New information that conflicts with our values (i.e. how we see the world and ourselves in it) is not easily taken in or acted upon. Is it really rational to “discard an entire belief system, built up over a lifetime, because of some new snippet of information?”  Especially if those facts are myths or half-truths.

Even with an avalanche of information people resist facts that contradict what they “know” to be true. There is still a significant percentage of Americans who believe that Saddam Hussein and al Qaida were collaborating.

Clearly, the only people persuaded by facts alone to adopt a new position are those who haven’t yet made up their minds or who have no associated emotional investment in the subject.  If you want to convince someone to accept something counter to what they believe, make sure to present it in a way that won’t trigger a defensive reaction.

Fortunately, the question of whether to traditionally publish or self-publish is not an either/or question. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and both can have a place in any author’s career.


Filed under Life, Uncategorized, writing

Who Are You? Really?

One of the books I’m reading at the moment is Decisions, Decisions by Randy W. Green, PhD. There are two main premises to the book.  The first is that we have trouble making decisions because we have listened too much to external input and are out of touch with our internal guidance systems.  Green proposes that the main reason we are dissatisfied, that many of us self-medicate with alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and food is because we have submitted our will to those who want us to make choices that fit society rather than our own needs.

The second basic premise is that we approach the decision making process from one of two biases.  Either we feel strong, capable, and excited, and see the world as full of possibility, or we focus on the limitations and problems that exist — often because we have listened too much to, and incorporated the voices of those who taught us we should do what they wanted us to do.  What we focus on we tend to get more of, so by focusing on limitations, we continue the work of the voices and box ourselves in even more.

I see a resonance in this idea with two books I’ve referenced here before.  Tim Ferris in The 4-Hour Work Week wants us to choose our path based on what excites us.  He says that should determine our priorities.

The other book is Healthy at Every Size by Linda Bacon, PhD.  Bacon’s argument is that diets of every stripe (external control) have failed to produce consistent weight loss, and that the only healthy approach to food is to understand nutrition and to listen to our internal cues.

So obviously, in order to be true to ourselves, we have to learn to recognize our internal voices.  Many of us have very successfully integrated our parents’, teachers’ and other gurus’ dictums.  “Don’t touch that!  You don’t know where it’s been!”  “Work now, play later.”  “You’ll never make a living at that.”  “Clean your plate.”   Society largely works because we’re using similar guidebooks.  It’s hard to know if a particular belief is our own or one that someone else engraved on our brains (though Green says our body’s posture is a dead giveaway).

I haven’t finished Decisions, Decisions yet.  Maybe Green will tell his readers how to find that authentic voice that’s been gradually buried under “shoulds” and “ought-to’s” for decades.  But what it comes down to, for all of us in every context, is the question:  Who are you?  Really?

I remember reading (source unknown) that we can’t really know who we are outside of the context of how we interact with our environment.  It’s our relationships that define us.  Who we are is an accumulation of what we’ve done, just as who we’ll be tomorrow is the result of what we do today.  You can decide to do all sorts of things, but until you act (interact with the world) by at least telling someone what you’ve decided, that decision is only potential.  It’s unrealized.

So, is there a unique person within us that is separate from the collection of things we’ve done and said over the course of our lives?  There are people who have made huge course corrections, who have chosen to pull themselves back from lives dominated by addiction and executed that decision, so there must be, I think.  They didn’t do it just because someone told them to.


Filed under Life

Well Meant Advice: When to Listen, When to Ignore

A member of an online group I’m in recently shared this:

“Without doubt, the most common weakness of all human beings is the habit
of leaving their minds open to the negative influence of other people.” –

Napoleon Hill

While very true, this statement is also problematic for me.  It’s easy to interpret someone’s comments as negativity if they disagree with you.  Or conversely, negative comments can appear to be well meant advice.

How do you distinguish good advice from bad?

My inclination is toward the rational. (And yet I read and write romance — go figure.) I’ve read books and articles that recommend understanding and setting priorities, goals, and values in order to overcome procrastination and facilitate decision making.  I’ve even given talks on this subject.  But when push comes to shove, what are priorities, goals, and values except emotions dressed up in rational clothing?

So how in touch are you with your emotions?  Pretty much every decision we make, no matter how rational we think we’re being, has an emotional component. In fact without emotions, decision making is often impaired. Apparently reason without emotion is like a rider without his horse — he’s not going to get anywhere.

Still the horse needs the rider too.  Alone, emotions will urge us to take the course of least resistance, the advice that we like best, and that won’t always get us where we want to go. No Olympian enjoys all her workouts.

And when we’re given conflicting advice, or advice we don’t like?  What then?  Which chooses, horse or rider? Some consciousness researchers might argue there is no such thing as conscious choice. That the neural network that makes up our “self” processes input, and the result is a conditioned response that another part of our network labels a “decision.”  These researchers say there is no ghost in the machine, there’s only the machine.

This may be true, but the “ghost” is too useful a concept to discard.  Sifting through advice and making decisions may be difficult, but I’m not yet ready to throw out the idea of free will, and the choices and responsibilities that go with it.

So how does your “ghost rider” decide where to go?


Filed under Life