The devil’s in too much detail.

     On several different occasions in my life, I’ve attempted something that, to this day, frightens me: I’ve attempted to read fantasy fiction.

     It’s…not working out. The only one I’ve ever made it through is “The Fellowship of the Ring,” and I only did that because I was in the Air Force and guarding a plane for twelve hours a night. Continue reading


No glory in an ebook world.

Let me say straight off the bat that I know this post is on dicey grounds, and if we had more than five regular readers of coffeeshopdaily, could potentially offend or irritate self-published/ing authors.

Okay, now down to business.  I hate the idea of self-publishing.  I love it, and I hate it.

See this Post by J A Konrath.  (Please note that I’m not saying Konrath wants the following to occur, but it’s a possibility he hinted at in that article and others).

Yes, please, let’s all self-publish and “democratize” the world of books.  Let’s get rid of those pesky bookstores, and make everything digital.  Let’s get rid of publishers.  Everyone knows they’re mean and they don’t pay us well.

Because you know, real writers are in this for the money.

So according to Konrath Continue reading

If You Can’t Find the Starting Line…

…You probably won’t win the race.

     Whether we’re talking short stories or novels, it’s crucial that you start your story in the right place.  The first chapter or first hundred words really set a story up.  You have to give enough background information to let the reader know what’s going on, but you can’t give too much.

     There seems to be this balancing point between too much information and too little.

     Going too far one way or another can often prove disastrous.

     To be clear, there are about three different places you can start a story.

Continue reading

Write what you don’t know.

     90% of writing books and advice columns use the same old phrase “Write what you know.”  I understand the general thought behind this cute little trope, but it doesn’t hold water for me.  When I read a book or watch a movie, I don’t want a sermon, I want an adventure, an exploration of the human psyche.  I want to go on a journey with the author, not be lectured on some subject on which the author is an expert.

     I’m not saying that every writer should suddenly write about rocket science simply because they don’t understand it.  I’m saying that every writer should discover something about the world when they write their stories.  When I write, I’m constantly on Google-

“What kind of hats did they wear in the 1930’s?”

“What’s a role in the military that is open to women that requires a lot of intelligence?”

“Are there wheat fields in Northern California?”

“When did the Germans bomb London?”

“What’s the minimum sentence for first degree murder in California?”

     -these are all real searches I’ve done on Google (only one of which was not for writing, I’ll let you guess which… awk-ward!).  These aren’t long hours of research into a subject, which I’d like to do but I’m not entirely sure where to start on some things.  But while every search pulls me away from the word document for ten to fifteen minutes, I always come away knowing a little more about my world and often find more interesting things to include in my writing than simply what I’d set out to know.

     I suppose in reality, I should recommend writing a combination of what you know and what you don’t know.  There should be a part of you and your life and your experiences in everything you write, that’s simply how you relate to the stories you’re telling.  But I often find the best stories are the ones where I feel like I’m watching the author’s own journey, not just the characters’.

     So what do you think?  Write what you know?  Or learn what you want to write?

Why you need betas.

*Disclaimer* I’ll be honest: I’ve apparently been interchanging the terms “Alpha reader” and “Beta reader” for years now. I guess that, technically, Alphas give you quick feedback about the main elements of your story (plot, pacing, characterization, etc), and Betas go over your work with a fine-toothed comb. Here’s a good explanation.

Whatever. You just need readers who aren’t you. Don’t think otherwise. Now, back to your regularly-scheduled post… Continue reading

How much do I charge for this thing, anyway?

So you’ve written your ebook, formatted it exactly the way it’s supposed to be, and are ready to make it available with the various big players in publishing.

But how much should you, the wildly talented but completely unknown author, charge for it?

I’ve been following the dialogue for a little while, and there seem to be two main camps. The first believes in getting the maximum return for each copy they sell, because of the hard work that they’ve put into writing their novel. The other is more interested in just getting their books in front of the most readers possible and will price it accordingly.

The first approach seems to be wholly counterproductive to me. Charging a reader the same fee for your work that the international bestselling authors do for theirs seems to be an exercise in futility. I know that there is a zero percent chance that I would shell out $10-15…or more…for an unknown author. For most of us, that’s a decent chunk of change to spend on a literary nobody. I’d wager that some of these authors who insist on being “properly compensated” (a direct quote from several writers whom I’ve spoken with about this issue, by the way) have yet to sell a single copy.

On the other hand, allow me to present two examples out of several in the low-pricing camp: John Locke and Amanda Hocking. John Locke (unfortunately, not the guy from Lost) occupied seven spots on Amazon’s Top 50 and made over $126,000 in March alone. All of his novels are priced at $.99. Amanda Hocking is believed to be the first to become a millionaire entirely through self-publishing, and her novels range from $.99 to $2.99.

This business is all about getting your name out there, and the worst way I can think of to do that is to scare your readers off right out of the gate. But what might happen if you give everyone a low- or even no-risk look at what you have to offer? If you’re good, motivated to market, and patient, you’ll probably do well.

I’m not sure if an author’s prolificness (It’s a word, I swear!) has anything to do with a higher price point, but I’m not sure it doesn’t, either. After all, if an author feels that he or she only has one or two novels in them, they may be more likely to price higher than someone who has more ideas than they’ll be able to write in their lifetime.

I’ll use yours truly as an example. By August of 2012, I will have published a short story collection, a novella, and three novels (I’m not a speed writer by any means; it’s the cumulative result of the writing I’ve done for the the last five years or so). The short story collection, to be released by the end of June, will be free until I publish the first novel at the end of July, at which time I might bump it all the way up to $.99. I have absolutely nothing to lose by keeping the price on my books low; I would gladly give one away free for eternity to get a reader interested in buying everything else I write. There’s a reason that companies will give you some of their product for free in the beginning. It’s all about the hook. Every dollar you don’t charge might lead to several dollars of profit. Repeat after me: If you’re in it for the long haul, you have nothing to lose.

As far as the standard full-length novel pricing goes, the current consensus seems to be that the sweet spot for sales and, therefore, profit, is $2.99-$3.99. Three bucks isn’t much of a commitment or risk; it’s an impulse buy. And in a reading market that is becoming dominated by a hand-held gadget that has the capability to instantly download the next beach read, the impulse buy is the upstart’s best friend.