Marketing as a Self-Published Author

To get attention, one must be loud. To get recommendations, one must be worthy. Being loud enables the potential for impulse purchases. But earning recommendations is worth more than any impulse sale. And so I must wonder, does being loud degrade a reader’s opinion of an author from being worthy?

But the lack of recommendations drives an author toward gimmicks, promotions, and generally just being loud. So how does one rise above? How can a self-published author earn the respect of his readers without surviving the gauntlet of traditional publishing? The answer seems simple: Write a really good book. But then we’re back at the beginning. How is the self-published author supposed to make the masses aware of his/her really good book? This is the vicious swirl that independent authors have to deal with.

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If you’re a reader, look above at the photo. Do you like any of it? The internet is a wealth of information – too much so – and websites are now filtering the content to our own individual preferences. This means that we are getting even less exposure to things outside of our “preference-bubble”.

I’ve recently submitted The Soul Smith for consideration to be promoted on Humble Bundle and BookRiot. My goal is to spread awareness, but marketing doesn’t come with a recommendation. Readers do that. We need more readers to give and write book recommendations these days. It’s the only way that a self-published author can come “alive” in this day and age.

What are your thoughts?

The Soul Smith is Available Now!

My debut fantasy novel, The Soul Smith, made its worldwide launch today!

You can obtain a copy (paperback & ebook) through any one of these retailers:

The Soul Smith, epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, Adrian Diglio, The Blacksmiths

How to do a Kickstarter

Professional Appearance is a Big Deal: I thought I had put a great amount of effort into making my Kickstarter look like a quality production (and I did put a lot of time into it), but there are some others out there that clearly put mine to shame. Having skills with graphics tools to generate quality artwork for your Kickstarter is critical (this usually comes in handy when making banners for your section headers).

The Message in Your Video Has to Be Powerful: When I created a video, I just wrote an outline of what I thought I should say and then winged it. I don’t recommend this. Put lots of thought behind exactly what you want to say. Also, I had to find a friend with Final Cut Pro X in order to help edit my video.

Choosing the Minimum Funding Goal is Important: If you don’t reach the minimum within the defined timeframe, then nothing happens. No money changes hands and all you’ve achieved is lost time. I’ve also learned that if you choose Indiegogo instead of Kickstarter, they have a “flex funding” option that lets you keep the money you raised even if you didn’t reach the minimum. Some people will tell you that’s a sure sign of a scam, but I don’t know.

I should have chosen $3,000 as my minimum (instead of $3,500) and I’ll tell you why. My editor is my largest expense at $2,500. Then, you must keep in mind that Kickstarter charges 8-10% (including fees for processing credit cards) which would have been up to $300. That would have left me with only $200 to pay all the printing, shipping, ISBN, and formatting costs – which is nowhere near enough. So I chose $3,500, but as it turns out, that goal was a bit high. Assuming that you are okay with putting in a few bucks of your own, it would have been better to aim low and ensure a funding success, and then hope that you receive pledges above your minimum.

Two things I didn’t know: You can have a Kickstarter employee review your page and give you feedback before you start your campaign. This takes about 2 business days. If you want to do this, be sure to plan in advance because it is best to let your Kickstarter begin on a Monday morning. Secondly, you can make a preview of your Kickstarter and share the link with friends and family to get their feedback. I didn’t know about this feature either, but in a way, I think it was better to just launch my Kickstarter without their involvement.

Reasons my Kickstarter was a Success: Having people with major influence tweet about it. Additionally, here is a list of sites that I used to market my Kickstarter

Additionally, to state the obvious, I think my project was a success because I had been writing for a number of years, which clearly showed my commitment and determination. Also, I had already written the book and had cover art designed. I’ve seen some authors go on Kickstarter without having a completed work. Ensuring that you are far enough along in project where you can’t go any further without financial backing is a good sign that you are ready for launching a Kickstarter campaign.

Writing a Coming of Age Novel

coming of age, novel, young adultMany coming of age novels span across target segments by appealing to both the teen fiction (10-15) and young adult (16-25) audience because the characters are usually close to the same age as the reader. Instinctually, people will connect to others better (even if its a fictional character) when they are of similar age. My novel, The Soul Smith, is a coming of age novel, but the protagonist is 19 and turns 20 during the course of the story (as opposed to the more popular age range of 15 or 16). Setting my character at this age means that the teen fiction target segment might potentially be alienated as a result. But is that truly the case?

I chose to make my main character 19 for two reasons. 1) I wanted his society to determine adulthood by a different age than our own. Their society deems those that turn 20 to now be an adult. 2) I knew my story would have a love scene (nothing graphic), and that the female would be slightly younger than the male. Since our society deems 18 year olds to be adults, I wanted the characters in the love scene to at least meet our society’s standards so that no one would balk when they read the scene. Otherwise, how would the masses have reacted if I wrote the scene with a 16 year old and a 15 year old? I can only believe that it wouldn’t have been well received.

In addition, I’ve had a literary agency suggest that because my protagonist is 20, that it should be more of an adult fantasy. Then the reviewer from the agency even added that alternatively, I could make him younger. To me, it’s strange that the age of the main character is the single determining factor for how the book is marketed/categorized. In my mind, regardless of his age (which is just a number), my character still goes through all the frustrations of being treated like a child, just the same as any other coming-of-age novel. You would think that the teen fiction and young adult segments could relate to the character’s experiences regardless of the age.

What are your thoughts? Would you read a novel with a character that turns 20?

Adrian Diglio’s Blog, 2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 57 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

NaNoWriMo 2013

Two days in on National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I’m making good progress!

This year, in order to prep for NaNoWriMo, I spent the two days before working on nothing but the outline for my novel. I was able to flush out more of my story, but there were certain details that eluded me. Those were points where I wasn’t certain what the character would do. And now, that I’m deep into the writing, I guess I will have to develop my novel more organically when I get to those decision milestones.

I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo, but I don’t want to ‘just play the game’. To me, a writer can get lost by the goal of 50,000 words and might just write for the sake of a higher word count. In those cases, the quality of the writing can degrade. I still try to maintain a certain level of quality, which hinders my speed, but saves me time from editing on the back end. I’m trying to force myself to write differently this year, so we’ll see how that goes.

Working with an Editor

Do you want to get inside the mind of an editor? To know what they might look for? To know how they think? I recently had lengthy exchanges with my first editor, Derek Bowen, and would like to share my lessons learned from working with him on revising my short story, The Ravenous Flock.

After completing his first read through, he wanted me to consider renaming one of my races and my monster. They striked him more as descriptions (adjectives) than names, so I had to spend some time brainstorming on the topic before I finally arrived at appropriate names.

In general, the majority of his edits were opportunities to delete unnecessary words to improve flow. Here is an example: Before: “Grindor took hold of the hollow yak horn and guzzled the last of the water as it poured down his chin.” After: “Grindor took hold of the hollow yak horn and guzzled it dry.”

This all may sound rather simple, but once we began discussing substantive changes to my story, a whole other level of analysis was presented to me. In discussing my monster, Derek made me think about its entire ecology – always comparing to known living organisms to be able to bring familiar elements into the creature’s description. For example, extending tongues are normally sticky rather than prehensile (with a few exceptions like giraffes and ant eaters). But what really needed consideration was the day-to-day life of my monster. What (and how much) does it normally eat? How often does it live in water? How far inland does it travel? Basically, he wanted me to put as much thought into this monster as I do with my main characters.

Derek also introduced me to a new form of outlining after you’ve finished the chapter/passage/etc. He reduced an entire battle scene to 6 bullets. All he did was capture the behavior/reactions of a tribe of fighters during a fight to evaluate if their actions in battle were warranted or not. He claims this style of outlining is most effective to “do it by going back and constructing it from what you’ve actually written, not what you’d planned to write at the outset. It makes it very easy to discover whether you’ve put everything in the correct place—especially important in the age of cut-and-paste, where things can get moved with a couple keystrokes, and it becomes altogether too easy to separate items or leave one thing stranded after you’ve moved another.”

In addition, I have a dramatic reveal at the end of my story, but I had a difficult time making it feel as dramatic as I had intended. Derek commented that, “what you need is to convince the reader it’s that important to the character(s), whether it would be that important to anyone else in a similar situation—so it doesn’t need to be high melodrama.”  I ended up suggesting a new reveal, and together, we were able to craft it to a much better ending to my story about the forming of a unique friendship.

He was very impressed by my openness to his proposed revisions and so I thought I should share this one last quote from Derek: “In my experience, there are two main kinds of writers: the kind who are defensive about what they’ve written, and the kind who care enough about their writing to want to improve it and are willing to learn. The former are rarely successful.”

While these are the larger lessons learned, there were many subtle nuggets of wisdom that I captured from this experience. If you have any further questions, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.