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Posts tagged “publishing

Now Coming to You in Atomic Soundwaves from Space!

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I got my first taste in publishing when I was in high school. Some short story of which I have long since forgotten the title for and have long since misplaced the letter of authentication. Given my moody teenagerism, it was probably something dark and depressing. It would be another 15 years before I’d publish again. In 2014, I put out my second short story, Hobo, and followed it closely with Are You Hungry, Dear?, and then released my first novel, Reinheit. In that very short span of time, I’ve been able to launch 4 more novels in a continuing series called The Subdue Series (Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging), 2 solo shorts, contributed to 7 published anthologies (the 8th to be published later this year), including a serial short story exclusive to the 13: An Anthology of Horror and Dark Fiction series, my first collection called The Hobbsburg Horror, AND 2 novellas,  Lanmò and Feast.  That’s what? Some 20 published works, most of which are shorts. I’d say I was simply prolific, but I know more authors that do way more than my meager sum.

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No, the aim (for me) cannot be about out producing the competition. I’d go nuts trying to keep up. What I can aim to do is provide quality entertainment in the vein of horrifying reads. I want to tell stories, plain and simple. I don’t want to out do anyone. I want to tell tales and get them out there to be read. Easy enough, right? What’s interesting, in this current era we find ourselves, is the constant development of technology that allows schmoes like me to publish our works. Amazon wasn’t around when I was a grump moody teenager. Self publishing was unaffordable. And traditional publishing took knowing someone who knew someone who knew someone. If you didn’t have that connection to your father’s brother’s uncle’s cousin’s former roommate, you were SOL. And the BIG 5? Forgetaboutit.

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But now? Man, the entire system has expanded exponentially. With the development of eBooks (and its popularity) which later gave rise to print on demand (I use CreateSpace), publishing became insignificant. Not to belittle it, just that anyone can and many do. In fact, its not uncommon to stroll into a cyber writers group and read at least a dozen complaints about how saturated the market is. Its a favorite word to toss around that makes you sound more knowledgeable than what you really are. Saturated. Saturated. Saturated. Martha. Martha. Martha. And its true, the market IS super saturated. Personally though, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. Now readers have more of what they want. They have options outside of what they thought they could only get from the BIG 5.

But there’s a trick.

You cannot just put something out there and expect readers to flock to you. That’s just insane. Unless you have a known name, readers are not going to flock to you. Connections help; making connections is even better. What I’ve found most appealing with how this publishing world has evolved is how much of a community it has become. Embrace it. There will be some who try to take advantage. Don’t let a few turds keep you from making lasting connections. If people are willing to not only share your stuff, but also interact and maybe even give advise, those are the connections worth holding on to.

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Experiment. 

Experimenting with marketing can lead to surprising results. Ever heard the phrase, “Put your money were your mouth is?” The same applies to marketing your wares. I think “nut up or shut up” also applies, but its a tad cruder to tell your 80 year old grandma who wants to self-pub her book of recipes. In lieu, sometimes you gotta take a risk. Just don’t bet the farm. Play it smart, ask and listen to those connections, share what has worked or hasn’t worked. A word to the wise, among small press folk, BookBub is a known book promoter that lives by the slogan, money well spent.

 

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Above all this noise, the most important thing publishing schmoes can do is keep writing, keep publishing, keep moving forward. And if you want those quality stories to reach more readers, you need to be willing to adapt to new technology. Last year, I was introduced to a little thing called Audiobooks. This is not new, per say. The spirit of audiobooks has been around a long time, back in the land before TVs and cable networks. Audio entertainment is not a new idea, but the tech behind it has come a long way since The Shadow and Little Orphan Annie broadcasted to delighted listeners gathered around a cherry red cabinet Philco radio. Cassette tapes came, followed by CDs. Nowadays, we’ve got digital recordings. At first, it was new and I didn’t want anything to do with it. I turned my nose up at it. But then Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) made everything so bloody simple its almost scary. I jumped in and released 4 titles on ACX last year and have released 2 titles thus far in 2017.

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The idea here isn’t that your putting out even more stories (though you ought to be working on that). The idea is to use the technology available in order to put your work on as many platforms as possible so you can reach readers on the format that suits them best. And you’d be surprised. Audio is a expanding market for books. And the more this tech develops, the more affordable it becomes. Readers are now listeners, tuning in while driving to or from work or school. City and urban consumers plugged into YOUR book from their phones or tablets while they ride the train or bus or even airplane. Times are a-changing, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing unless we let it, right?

Thomas S. Flowers is known for his character-driven stories of dark fiction ranging from Shakespearean gore feasts to paranormal thrillers. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, his debut novel, Reinheit, was published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Apocalypse Meow, Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, and FEAST. His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, including Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he reviews movies and books and hosts a gambit of guest writers who discuss a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can follow Thomas by joining his author newsletter at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.

Now Available for YOUR earbuds!!!

The Hobbsburg Horror Audiobook

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REPENT…THE END IS NEAR…for the Hybrid Publisher Formally Known as Booktrope

Despite my overzealous title for this article, I am not jumping for joy over the recent news of the downfall of the hybrid indie/small press publisher known as Booktrope. I’m not exactly surprised either. Let me be clear about at least one thing, I’m not going to pretend as if I known all the answers when it comes to the business of publishing books, such a business has existed well before my time on the playing field. I can share only my own experiences and what I’ve seen regarding general popularity in marketing and consensus among a few like-minded writers. After reading a few other articles on this similar subject matter, and also seeing how some were reacting on social media and groups on Facebook, I felt perhaps someone out there somewhere would like to know what I thought of everything. And by everything, I mean not just Booktrope, but also the underlying causality of the fall of Booktrope, AND the even more under-underlying causality, the writer. The best way I can explain my understanding in the failure of both Booktrope and writers is to go about this point for point. Shall we get started?

The fall of Booktrope as a whole is actually best explained by my good friend, Duncan Ralston in his recently published article on Ginger Nuts of Horror. You can find that post here. Basically, to sum, Booktrope created a system with little to no quality control. They wanted to create an enormous backlog. Good. Great. Best thing, really. Except for one thing. Pacing. Backlogs are great, but the faster you create one while paying little heed to the actual quality of books for letting in, well then…we all know now what happens. The system collapses. If you’re an author going to back to indie basics, yes, build that mother-f-ing backlog. But you better make sure each of those works on your catalog are of good quality. Why? Seriously…? If all you publish is shit, and word catches on all your work is shit, who is going to want to buy said shit? No one. Now, is this what happened to Booktrope? In a way. They also over stretched themselves and faltered on to-little-to-late marketing. They also put a lot of assumption into one particular basket…cross-promotion.

Before I dive into this, I know this article is not going to be very popular with many who may or may not read this. What follows is my opinion, and just that.

Since I first started this precarious journey known as publishing, there has been one gleaming/glaring ugly side of it that is more nefarious than any other aspect and failure in most publishing ventures. For whatever reason, even when writers deny feeling as such, they have this preconceived notion that other writers are somehow their competition. They’ll “like” a post like nobodies business, but they’ll hardly ever share anything. Some might comment, “Way to go!” and other such other bullshit. They build websites but never showcase anyone but themselves, they join groups but never respond to any other post but their own, etc. etc. You know what they call such behavior in the adult film industry? I don’t know either, but I assume its the equivalent to what’s known as being a “fluffer,” just enough to get it up but never to bring to culmination. Such individuals I’ve found to be poisonous, cantankerous, and everything wrong with small press, independent, publishing. Such writers get into publishing and they have BIG stars in their eyes and sticks up…(I won’t go there), needless to say, they publish their shitty (or perhaps even decent) book and think they’ve hit the big times, they’ve become the next Stephen King or Ray Bradbury or Sylvia Plath or Kurt Vonnegut or Clive Barker or  J. K. Rowling (yes I mentioned her, I love those Harry Potter books, don’t judge!!) or Neil Gaiman or Maya Angelou or Hunter S. Thompson or Shirley Jackson.

I hate to pop your bubble buddy, but…you’re not the shit, you’re just plain shit. You haven’t hit the big times. You’ve published a book, and yes that is an achieved in and of itself, but its not the end game. You haven’t reached stardom, and you may never will. That doesnt mean you need to stop dreaming. Dreams are wonderful, so long as you keep them in perspective. Cross-promotion is the lifeblood of small press and independent publishing. That other writer beside you in the trenches is not your enemy OR your competition. You are both soldiers on the front line of publishing. I’ve seen this hesitancy toward cross-promotion so much I’ve got shell shock. Not just with those in Booktrope but also in other small presses (of which I will not name for fear of being burned at the stake). And I don’t get it. Do these fluffer writers really believe that if they cross-promote another writer people will start buying the other persons books over their own? Who are you sharing these posts with? Family and friends, right? Do you think YOUR family and friends will stop buying YOUR stuff? No, you big dumb idiot! The point of cross-promotion is to breech the “family and friends” bubble on social media.

And this bring us to the nitty-gritty.

If you’re one of the fluffer variety of writers out there, do you honestly think/believe that other writers are going to want to share your stuff if you are in fact unwilling to share theirs? I’m not going to name names, you are who you are and God willing you’ll know at least that much. I know one (more than one, really) writer in particular who jumps on to these writer/publishing groups I’m in and always asks for people to help share their stuff but yet never NEVER reciprocates. Some call these folks trolls. Me? I call them turds. Cause that’s all they are. Floating nasty little turds. It boggles my mind, it really does. It never fails. I’ll see these fluffers bitching about why their stuff never sells, or sells poorly. Now, this could be for other reasons, such as crapper quality or if you’ve only published one damn book. Mostly, it boils down to breaching outside your family-friend bubble on social media. They’ll moan and complain yet never think it that by maybe helping out other writers and cross-promoting, those other writers will likewise reciprocate, and then maybe by doing such consistently, sells might just pick up.

Ugh!!!!!

Well…this article has certainly turned into a sort of vent/therapy session for me. I know many will not agree with what I’ve said. And that’s okay. Were fluffer-writers, non-cross-promoters, the causality for the fall of Booktrope? Not entirely. They sure as shit didn’t help matters. Booktrope as a company should have slowed things down and focused a little more on marketing and quality control. Their recent venture with Hubble-Bubble pulled in some big numbers for sales, or so I’ve heard, but sadly it was a little to late. Much too late. It is my strong opinion that for small presses and independent publishers to thrive, there must be a strong urgency toward cross-promotion. Writers within said spheres need to stop acting as if they’re on their own private island. It takes a community to grow and prosper. Do you know what happens to people on remote islands? No, they don’t lounge in hammocks drinking coconut rum on the beach, they die, miserable and alone.


Know Your Audience

Do you have a clear picture in your mind of someone reading your books? Of who makes up your audience? Can you see them? Are they lounged out on a hot summer day by the deck by a pool, sipping mojitos, or are they cuddled on a plush couch during a cold blizzard covered in Afghan blankets sitting beside a roaring fireplace, or are they urban on-the-go chaps, sitting on a city bus, flipping through a tablet as they commute to work? I think we all have an idea of our readers. I do. Given my genre, I’ve always kinda pictured the demography of my readers to be predominantly male, 20-30 age range, eccentric perhaps. White, non-Hispanic on average. I’m sure you have your own ideal reader. But when fiction faces fact, we often find we’ve got it all wrong. Our audience isn’t who we thought they were. A couple of weeks ago, I did my first book signing with Barnes & Noble, you can find the result of that event here. But, I’ll say it again, I was more than nervous. Not just with meeting strangers, but that my perceived audience would not be in attendance at a nice looking place like B&N. I think my glaring mistake was what lit majors call, a hasty generalization, one of the more common fallacies people make. I’m sure you’ve seen your fair share on social media. As authors, as writers, if we plan on taking over and putting on our marketing hat, we need to know our audience.

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Now, let me be clear about one thing. I’m not talking about writing for your audience. You write what your gut tells you, and be honest with your writing. Don’t placate, that’s not what I’m saying here. Don’t write for your audience; write for yourself. Okay? Okay. What I’m getting at here is when we change hats, from author to marketer. Marketing is something I’m still getting my bearings on. And everyone has something to say about marketing. It should go without saying, any one pitching you a “formula” should be suspect. The best thing I can recommend at this point in my writing career is for you to experiment. Especially when it comes to spending some of your hard earned income. Don’t burn $500 bucks on a gimmick. Start slow. Learn. Test. Develop methods. Be scientific about it. And if you’re the kind of lass who has no issue burning $500 bucks, what are you doing here? Go get you a PR or HR or something. And if you’re getting upset because nothing seems to be working, come to find out you’ve only got one book on the market…I’ll need to ask you to leave this page now and go and start writing. I heard a marketing “coach” once use the analogy regarding marketing being the donkey and the book (or product) being the cart, stating, and I’m paraphrasing here, “writers often put the cart before the donkey.” Clever, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think a majority of writers are riding that ugly hay chewing donkey out into town without a cart. My own two cents on that.

Before we chase this rabbit farther down the rabbit hole, let’s get back to the subject at hand, knowing our audience.

Let me step back.

Remember that book signing event I mentioned before? I had thought, at the time, my audience was mostly men, 20-30 age range, white, kinda maybe a little strange, perhaps. Well…I was dead wrong. The majority of folks coming to my table and who actually bought books were women, between, I’d say, 25-35. Gothic, dark dressed weirdos? Nope. Average, modestly dressed. My favorite was this elderly African American woman who came to the table looking for a good scary story. I hope she liked it. What I liked most about her was, not just that she bought both of my books that were at the signing, but her grandmotherly appeal. She was a grandma looking for some dark fiction. A demography I would have never suspected were into my particular brand. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with Facebook ads. These are fun and low risk, well…depending on how much dough you’re sinking into the ad, I should say. Since I am experimenting, my budget isn’t anywhere over $30. But even with that low setting, I’ve seen the numbers, the data is confirming what I noticed at my book signing. More women are reading than men, and not just romance, but dark fiction too.

Recently, I wanted to check and see if Pew Research Center had done any polls and surveys into who was reading more nowadays. And they had. Back in 2013, they did a survey on “Who’s Reading and How.” Basically, summing up in percentages, between male and female, we read more and on what, as in paperback or eBook. Also, they looked farther into who, as in white, black, Hispanic, etc etc. I don’t put too much stock in the “race” demography. My interest is between men and women, and format. Marketing paperbacks is a whole other monster, I think, then marketing eBooks. eBooks are by nature, cheaper, and supposedly more convenient. There are still those dinosaurs, such as myself, who prefer paperback over eBook. But I’m not selling to myself; thus, I need to understand who is more likely to purchase my work.

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As you can see, some of these %s are kinda huge, not to sound like Trump or anything. Just look at the jump between men and women. Men are clocking in at 69% and women are at 82%. As the red wigged beast would say, “That’s huge!” I don’t care much for the ethnicity bracket, nor would I know what the difference is in marketing to various ethnic groups. The age though, I think is also important. While 18-29 is a larger %, the next to largest, the 50-64 age range, I find to be interesting. 50-64 is what I’d probably group generationally as “Baby Boomers.” The highest % are of course, millennials. There is some bleeding between groups, obviously, but for a snapshot, not a bad poll to reference when designing a marketing strategy. What’s also interesting to note is the still popular print & over eBooks. And the growing trend for audio books is also something to keep an eye on.

So, what do you guys think? What has your research shown you? What does it tell you? Well, again my post here has nothing to do with what or how you write. This, for me at least, has to do with how I market, or where I should be focusing my marketing towards. Moving forward, I’ll be doing my best, keeping in mind who’s actually buying my books. And how to get my books in their hands easier. Polls, surveys, data, and research are all great avenues to understanding out audience, but I think its also important to remember, these are tools, not gospel. If you’re visiting the blog today, I’d love to hear what you think, either if you’re a reader or a writer or both.

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Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of terror. He grew up in the small town of Vinton, Virginia, but in 2001, left home to enlist in the U.S. Army. Following his third tour in Iraq, Thomas moved to Houston, Texas where he now lives with his beautiful bride and amazing daughter. Thomas attended night school, with a focus on creative writing and history. In 2014, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from UHCL. Thomas blogs at machinemean[dot]org where he reviews movies, books, and other horror related topics.


The Lonely Struggle of Indie Authors

Good day my blogger friends! If you guessed by the title, I’d like to share a few thoughts regarding Indie Authorship. As I, myself, am one, perhaps I can add to the discussion my own perspective and the things I’ve learned thus far and finally how I’ve learned to cope with the sad reality that is indie authorship. If you’re worried this post is going to be a downer, don’t. Its not. Though, I will be absolutely frank and honest. And sometimes honesty is not all rainbows and teddy bear picnics. No, the reality of indie authorship is hard, but likewise, it is not entirely bleak, nor is it entirely hopeless. As the title suggests, the road of indie authorship is indeed often lonely and it is most certainly a struggle. But sometimes, often really, the best things are those that are hard fought. So sit back and take note. If you’re old to the game, you may nod your head. If you’re new, be patient. That is all I ask.

From pen to paper to MS Word to Amazon Kindle:

The very first book I ever published on Amazon Kindle, I eventually had to go back and utterly remove from the site. Why? Because it was so God awful I did not want future publications to be tainted by its impurity. This action is both a blessing and a curse for indie authors. We can always go back and “fix” the blemishes. In fact, its often encouraged. And while its a blessing to be able to do this, it also highlights one of the first hard realities for indie authors: editing. We’re not signed with some fancy publisher that will “take care” of our unsightly editing mistakes. Its all on us. And from personal experience, no matter how often you read and double read and triple read, you will not catch every mistake. Hell, even editors with decades of experience will not catch every mistake. The problem with indie authors is that we get so excited about getting our work out there for someone to read, anyone really, we forgo one of the most important aspects of publishing. You’ve heard it more than you’d probably care to, but I’ll say it again. Editing is critical. While its true you will not catch everything, still, you do not want to use that as an excuse for ignoring the most important step in publishing your work. That first chapter, first paragraph, first sentence, first word, MUST BE PERFECT. Consider the first page or paragraph your hand shake to the reader. “Hi, my name such and such, and this is my story.” The hand shake must be firm. In control. And confident. You don’t want to shake a potential sale with sweaty clumsy hands, do you? And while this is important for all authors, its more important, I think, for indie authors. Why? Have you ever noticed that little tab beside the picture of a book on amazon? The tab says, “Look inside.” This is how future readers of your book will get a “sneak peek.” What will they find? Chances are, if they find a bunch of misspelled words, broken sentences, grammar mistakes, and just plain old sloppy writing, they will close the window and move on. you’ve missed a potential sale.

What’s the solution? Slow down. As hard as that sounds, because, trust me I know, its true. We get super excited about finally being done with the book we want to toss it out there. As much as we loved writing the book, it was taxing all the same. But, because we are indie authors, writing the book is only part of the job. We’re also editors, marketers, publishers, bloggers, etc etc. So, slow down. Take your time editing. Consider editing the work of a sculptor. The unedited book is our unshaped clay. Editing cuts and pastes and shapes the overall story. Editing, as hard as it may be, is the most important part in publishing and writing. It is also the most frustrating. Because, as I’ve stated before, you will not catch every mistake. And when you see it, when your story is already published, you’ll want to rip your hair out! Some indie authors end up paying folks to edit their work. If you’ve got money to burn, by all means. Just be careful with who you pick. And remember, when it comes to pricing, typically you get what you pay for. If you have trusted friends who can help you out, that would be the best option to go with. No only do you get “advanced readers” that way, but they can show you were things/words/structure did not work as you may have intended.

From author to publisher to promoter:

Okay. The next thing I’d like to mention has to do with formatting. I’m not going to tell you how, whatever platform you are publishing on will give you sources that will show you how. I just want to make sure you read it! Read what the sources say. I publish on Kindle. Super easy nowadays. Read the notes. Read the sources. Take note. If your editing mistakes did not turn off a potential reader/sale, your formatting issues most certainly will. So again, read what your platform has to say. Its there to help you. Read it.

Okay, moving on. So now you’re published! Awesome!! You made it, right? Excuse me…I wasn’t laughing at you, but with you. No. I’m sorry to say, you have not “made it.” Now comes the most frustrating, most infuriating part of indie authorship: bringing in potential buyers and making sales. Someone tweeted out recently a 140 character lament regarding this same issue that I so happen to respond to because I completely agreed with what they had to say. The tweet had to do with making steady or constant sales of books. Apparently, this particular indie author was not making many sales. And I totally understand their frustration. We’re writers, not promoters!!! Alas. You need to learn. And the best way to learn is to see what other people are doing.

First off: get on twitter. In my personal opinion, when it comes to social media for writers, you need to get on Twitter. Build a following. Follow and follow back. It’ll take time, but eventually you’ll build a descent size group of folks that’ll see whatever you post and re-tweet your stuff on their feed. Now, you do not need a unfathomable number of followers in order to get your promotions seen. But what you will need is to learn the hash-tag language. Hash tags are annoying and yet interesting at the same time. The feed on twitters runs so fast, if you only post regular promotions without the use of hash tags, chances are, no one will see it. Hash tags are annoying because its hard to tell which one works best. Hash tags evolve. You’ll need to pay attention to trends and what other folks are using. Consider hash tags a type of search engine. An example would be the hash tag #horror. If you type #horror in a search box you’ll see a horror feed with other folks posting #horror. If someone is looking for horror, chances are they’ll use #horror to find whatever it is their looking for. It could be your book.

Search goggle or Bing or whatever search engine works for you. There’s all kinds of information on promoting your work. Personally, I like to create creative flyers and post them on twitter. Anything that will grab a prospective readers attention. Book cover art and quick read blurbs. Be creative with your book blurbs. Be creative with your book posts. Please, do not just post: “Buy my book. Its really good.” You’d be surprised how many people actually post something similar. Give a little taste of the mood or theme or characters in your book. give a 50-100 character blurb. Its seems daunting, but it works. And again, use proper hash tags with these posts. Basically, in the space of a single moment, you’re making a pitch, telling the reader why they should read your book. Not just because YOU think its good. Inspire the reader, draw them in.

And lastly: find someone to review your work. Especially on Amazon, you need review. The number of reviews is still up for debate, but lets say somewhere in the ball park of 3-10 reviews is decently healthily. Potential readers will not sift through 100 reviews. Just like when I’m looking for a new book to buy, I’ll read maybe a few positives and most certainly one or two negative reviews. The point being, you do not need a million reviews on one book, but you do need at least a few. Even if your blurb catches someones eye, without a review to confirm, chances are your potential buyer will skip on to the next one. And yes. There will always be another book for them to buy.

From promoter to paying it forward:

In the end, after all the hard work and time you’ve dumped into getting “your name” out there, you still will struggle. Recently, I’ve come to the understanding that I cannot force people to buy my book. Nor should I. Its not the point of writing. The point in writing fiction is to tell a good story and by doing so, promoting the genre in which you work. Period. I write horror, occult, supernatural stuff, so naturally my ultimate goal should be promoting the genre in which I write. The best most karma induced way in promoting our genres is by promoting other indie writers who work in those particular fields. Follow fellow writers on Twitter. Promote their work from time to time. Use commonsense. Be ethical. I don’t want to slap you with the Ten Commandants or anything, but don’t brag, don’t boost about helping someone, just do it. Be honest and keep the other writer in mind. Trust me. Karma will come back. Some of the best most helpful and promoting tweets or emails that has ever happened for me has come from fellow writers. This what I call: Paying it Forward. Simple, right? Pay it forward. Find someone to promote. Keep to indie writers. The big guys can take care of themselves. They have big name publishing houses to get their name out there. Indie authors only have each other. Remember that.

Remember that after all the hard work and time consuming promotions and editing, that in the end, its all about the craft. It always comes back to the writing. Telling the tale, so to speak. At rock bottom, the best quality for indie authors is humility. We know were no one; we’re telling a story.

Well. I think i’ve made this post long enough to have put you asleep. If you have any questions or comments about your own journey as an Indie Author, please share.

Thanks!