Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Thinking Through Self-Publishing

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to write posts on the benefits of self-publishing and working with a traditional publisher -- whether a large one or a small press. All methods to reach readers can work, but the author's work (when you have your best draft) is different.

This piece deals with the advantages of self-publishing. 

Self-publishing permits an author to control book content and production, as well as how a book or other product reaches readers. It is a weighty responsibility, though if you share it with others – critique groups, an editor, a cover designer – you are not working alone.

Don’t think of it as what to do if you don’t find a publisher. You may want to find one, but I suggest that you set a time limit on your search. You decide when to stop looking – not your spouse or best friend, perhaps not even your agent. 

If you have an agent, listen to them carefully. They know the markets.

Though you want to be aware of available books on a topic, you have an advantage a traditional publisher or small press does not. You are not comparing your work to twenty proposed manuscripts on their desks. 

You present your idea or story directly to readers who will be interested in it. You won’t have invested tens of thousands of dollars in market research, printing costs, or advertising. It costs little to no cash to self-publish – even paperbacks. (You do want an editor -- hold a rummage sale if you don't have the cash.)

The final point in your favor is that the income from your books will be yours. You’ll do some extra work at first, but it will be worth it over time.

Always keep in mind that you don’t want your book in print, whether digitally or on paper, before it is polished. You worked on your book, article, essay, or short story for a long time. Let it be a quality product.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

The next article will deal with some of the work involved in self-publishing. The one after that will talk about advantages of working with a publisher.

Don't stop writing!

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Shortening Web Addresses

Web address are long and who wants to look at a 50-character (or longer) link in a tweet or email? You can now use one of several services to shrink them.

I use Bitly - https://app.bitly.com/

Another good one is https://tinyurl.com/app

There are others, but most authors I know use these two.

Both have a free option. At Bitly, you can pay to tailor your Urls so they have your name or publishing company in the shortened url. In fact, if you create a Url for a book listed at Amazon, the tiny url will start with amzn. Others (for your free Bitly account) will be a mix of letters and numbers, though all with start with bit.ly.

 The basic steps are:

1)      Create an account

2)      Click something that will say “Create” or “Add long Url.”

3)      Enter the long url.

4)      Press something that will say “Create Link” or “Continue.”

5)    Copy the link and enter it in a tweet or save it to a document on your computer.

6)      Edit the link name if that is an option.

I edit all my shortened Urls so the list that Bitly automatically creates for me is easy to use. You could name them so they all start with the name of a site (Nook Least Trodden Ground) or start with the book name (which you would likely abbreviate (Least for Nook, Least for ibooks).

It may seem like a pain to create a separate document to store these when they are stored at the site where you make them. I don't, but what I do have is a list of tweets I will reuse. That way I don't have to retype them. Those tweets store the shortened urls.

Anything to save time. 

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Thursday, December 30, 2021

A Picture Can Lead to 1,000 Words

 I often take pictures of scenery similar to that in my fiction. Grain elevators feature in Demise of a Devious Suspect, and I have dozens of single and multiple silos.

Because I could not travel to Garrett County, Maryland as I wrote the Family History Mystery Series, I'm especially thankful to have photos of that area. Even more so to have captured images from the trains, since they traverse areas I can't travel by car.

Some of these are in Maryland, others may be in West Virginia. There are no state line signposts among the trees.

Early spring in the Appalachian Mountains.
Note the Dogwood trees.

You can't jump out of a train for close-up photos of flowers. My guess would be this is a form of clover or perhaps sulfur cinquefoil, a perennial almost considered a weed.

This gives you a sense of how close the railroad tracks are to the rivers.

I'm still hopeful that 2022 will let me travel to Maryland as I write book four of the series.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Musing About Advice

Every now and then, readers will ask the common question about where I get ideas, or another author will ask how I publish several books each year. The answers are relatively simple:

1) My brain follows whatever thought comes to it, and my thinking is a tad warped.

2) I regard writing as a job and put my fanny in a chair and work, even when I don't want to.

No secrets.

However, I occasionally think about things I've learned in life that I wish someone would ask about. Or at least not roll their eyes if I suggest something. None of my thoughts are earth-shaking. For example: 

1) When working in the kitchen, keep the drawers closed. It's easier to wipe sticky stuff off the floor.

2) If you tie socks together before putting them in the washing machine, they are less likely to end up in the hozone (that part of the atmosphere where vanished socks hide). 

3) If you make a list, you get more done. If you lose the list, forget it.

4) Friendships may occur naturally, but retaining them takes effort, especially if you move away. It's worth the effort.

5) If you want to be remembered for something, do it well. Then draft your own obituary.

6) Write down family birthdays. They may be on the same date every year, but your brain wavers as you age.

7) Don't try to memorize any information you can easily look up. 

8) Learn to take and organize digital photos. They can bring you joy.

9) Every dime you save in your twenties will turn into at least a dollar when you're sixty. Lose the password to your savings account so you aren't tempted to take money out early.

10) It isn't worth it to go to bed mad. If you must, take a sleeping pill or you'll be awake for hours.

Aren't you glad you read this list? If you aren't, keep it to yourself.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Mildred Mistletoe Adjusts to a COVID Christmas

Several years ago, I wrote about liking to have pets in my books but never writing a story from an animal's point of view. Over the next couple of weeks, I kept thinking, "Why not try?"

That led to Mildred Mistletoe, a black cat born in the manger under the family Christmas tree. I just completed the third story. I started it in 2020, but just couldn't get in the spirit to finish it. I certainly didn't think that in 2021 I'd publish a story called "Mildred Mistletoe Adjusts to a COVID Christmas."

But here we are, and it didn't feel right to ignore the stupid virus. At the same time, I wanted a story that offered at least a little encouragement without being syrupy.

And I do like Mildred. She's always a paw ahead of her humans.






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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Can Income-Earning Authors Take a Break?

Can income earning authors take a break? The short answer is "no." The longer answer is "it depends." The more you earn, and can thus save, the longer you can take a break between books. 

It also depends on whether you used income from well-earning books to buy items (such as houses or cars) that require regular (high) payments.More expenses, higher earning threshhold required.

I make enough to pay many of my normal expenses. I'm fortunate, but I do work hard. 

I had a slow publishing period a couple of years ago and learned that my income does not stay consistent without at least three genre-fiction books per year. No complaints.

To reaffirm this premise, I recently downloaded sales and income data from Amazon and Smashwords (an aggregator that handles sales of most of my books for ibooks and Nook). 

I learned several things.

1) I do need to publish consistently or income drops quickly.

2) If I lower the price or give away the last book in a series before issuing the new one, sales of the new one are highter.

3) If I give away books on Amazon via Kindle Unlimited, it makes little difference in sales.

4) If I give away non-KU books on Amazon because of a price match with other sites, it not only helps sales but I get a lot of Amazon reviews.

5) If I keep the first box set of a series free on all sites but Amazon (via Smashwords), succeeding box set sales are very good. The moral here, for me, is to leave the first books free all the time. (The next two box sets are always in the top ten of box set sales, and have been number one or two at times. Other authors' sets come and go. My Jolie Gentil series stays high.)

6) Better to write some every day rather than try to crunch out three books at the end of the year. That's kind of a big 'duh,' but worth noting.

It's a good idea to pull historical data every year. You can obsess by examining data weekly or monthly, and it works better if you use that time to write.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Sunday, November 14, 2021

A Look Into the 'Real' World

When revising my website this year, I spent time considering how to describe my writing. Not in terms of genres, but how to put forth broader perspectives. This is what I came up with:

What makes Elaine’s fiction different from other traditional mysteries? Some might say the dry humor (only a few say lame), but she thinks it is the empathy her characters show to others. Fiction can’t ‘lecture’ readers. But it can contain people whose paths we cross every day — whether we know it or not. The bright colleague or grouchy neighbor who’s actually in severe emotional pain, the families struggling to provide enough food for their children, the vet with PTSD. 

While characters solve crimes or plan silly fundraisers, they can tacitly let us know there is a world beyond those activities. And maybe they can make it a little better.

I don't "have" to embody these ideas in stories, but they seem to arise naturally for me. The challenge is to convey the daily world in a way that fits in with the stories without implying that people should behave in a certain way.

Fiction offer the chance for characters to move beyond their routines. It's not every day a person falls in love, finds a body, or saves the world. While they're they're solving a crime, maybe there's a chance to show a little kindness. As long as things stay interesting.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter