The Art of the Juggle… — Derek Barton

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“Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.”
—George Singleton

 

“A writer writes.” 

Okay… This adage is a very old and a very easy piece of advice to spout, but how does this really guide us?  I suppose the practical message means that in some form or some way, you need to get writing done as much as possible.  Stop letting the poor excuses or the multiple obstacles get in the way.  Like any other craft, as you practice or perform, you will hone your skills and find it gets easier and better.

But, we only have 24 hours each day to get the millions of distractions to ignore, objections to overcome, questions to surpass, phone calls to return, emails to reply, careers to succeed in, family to care for and finally extract a small window of time out of the day for a writer to write (MAYBE) before we collapse into bed.

I have here a few techniques which I have garnered through experience and research and used to find that elusive window of opportunity.

First, take an inventory of your life – a snapshot of your day and then your week.  By understanding just what you want to accomplish, what has to be done each day, what is a common issue, then you will be able to spot trends or patterns that you can take advantage of.

Using me for example:   I work the late shift as a sales supervisor (the day job) Sunday through Thursday 11:30 to 8 pm (the “has to be done” part).  I know myself – I am not a morning person; more of a night owl.  I have a large family and a list of household chores like everyone else.  I like to write when it’s quiet and I can focus (my “common issue” part).

My routine is thus:  During the week — Wake an hour before work, get ready and then rush off (after fitting in a couple chores, Ha!).  Then after work, come home, eat dinner, watch maybe an hour of television with the family, then go walk (the “what you want to accomplish” part — I am putting in a nightly effort at walking to reduce my weight).  When I get back, the household has settled down and the family has gone to bed.

Now is MY TIME…

Much like my routine for the week, during the weekend my routine is to spend quality time with my loved ones, get the rest of the chores completed, walk after dinner and then write in the evening.  That is really all it takes.  Track down what you are doing consistently during the week with work and outside of work.  Know when you are the most creative/focused and then make that YOUR TIME.

Second, make this a habit and a part of who you are.  Invest in yourself, commit to your career and take to heart the idea that you are a writer.

It has become second-nature to me.  Not only are you being more productive, the established time let’s everyone know that this is when you are writing.  It’s your signal that you are working.  Now, if I haven’t actually written that day, I find myself getting restless and I toss-and-turn in bed.

Third, take advantage of even the little windows of time.  Some writers have found success by slipping in writing on lunch breaks at work, writing while waiting for the kids coming out of school, writing after dinner before putting the kids to bed.  Even two or three fifteen minute blocks combined in a day can really add up.  If you don’t need a long period to accomplish a bit of writing or if you don’t need a startup period to get your creative juices flowing, then this might be the best option for you.

Fourth, remove all internet and phone distractions when you write.  It’s super easy to “just check on that post” on Facebook or maybe see what Trump said this time on CNN.com.  Also if you leave your email up, you will get notifications that will detour you or pull you right out of your writing mode.

Same goes with having your cell phone next to you.  It takes only one notification bleep to derail you.  Best way to make good use of the little window you may have is to remove all these possible distractions.  I only keep one site open that plays classical music in the background – the music helps me focus.

These four steps have really assisted me in understanding what I needed to do and how to find a time to write, market and/or research each and every night.

Hope this helps you!  NOW go write, writer!

Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.”
—Henry David Thoreau

 

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IN FOUR DAYS: Horror Suspense Novella… Now on Sale!!!

My newest work, In Four Days:  Horror Suspense Novella is now on Amazon Books and Kindle!

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Mysterious disappearances suddenly plague the Philadelphia area. A demonic force with an unending appetite hunts its streets and collects lost souls as trophies.

A young accountant encounters an unrelenting stalker and details her terror upon the internet…

A troubled youth finds that even with new surroundings your troubles can still burn you…

A cab driver with ties to European organized crime soon regrets his own violent actions…

And a pair of brothers with a deep secret plunge into an abyss that threatens to swallow them whole.

IN FOUR DAYS is a collection of chilling stories of intense dread, buried dirty secrets and twisted fates that will leave you guessing up to the very end!

*** Includes bonus short story, SEYDE IN BLOOD (Prequel to Consequences Within Chaos)***

 

Get your copy now and let me know what you thought of it on Amazon Book Reviews!

Lost Within the Trees… — Derek Barton

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Are you ready to step out of the inky shadows, march down the twisted path and stride boldly into the shining sunlight?

In other words, your first novel has gone through a dozen  rewrites and you’ve made all the adjustments recommended by your book critiques (either from professionals or beta-readers) –  so what exactly is your next move?

Well, be prepared!  Not only will you have to sell your work of art, but it is now time to sell YOU!

M A R K E T I N G

Ugh… That word alone causes an immediate case of cold shivers down the spine to most of us new indie writers.  I know that I had no real idea what to do.  Even up through today, I am still looking out for new ideas, original techniques or alternative options to get my book and my name out there.

Now questions you will need to ask yourself are:

  • what are your expectations with the marketing?
  • what are your resources?
  • what are the outcomes that you want and are they realistic?

If your expectations are to get immediate sales and fame, that’s not too likely.  I am seeing that many writers have to play a slow game of “If I write it, the readers will come… eventually.”

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Word of mouth and a variety of original works will gain you a loyal fan reader base.  If you appeal to different types of readers that can also help grow your share of readers.

What about your resources?  Are you financially able to invest in your work?  Can you afford to market or advertise?  Everyone’s budget varies of course and there is no set answer on that.  Just because you throw a ton of money at the wall will not guaranty success, but on the other end if you don’t put anything into getting your name out there, you run the risk of being obscured in the blur of thousands of new published books every year.  Another new name among a mountain of new names.

The outcomes or the payoff for all this marketing can bring you readers or it can also bring you some new opportunities.  I haven’t seen any true financial boost (yet!), but that could be an option.  Marketing is a gamble and it’s a gamble on you and your writing. When you decide what you want to do, you also have to decide what is going to satisfy you.  You are investing time, money and your own name for the sake of your story. On what level do you say that your marketing has been successful and fulfilling or at what point do you stop, redirect your efforts?  Those are answers you will have to work out yourself.

Personally (and I always try to share with you the avenues I took that worked or didn’t work for me), I researched a lot online, read a ton of blogs, bought multiple books for marketing and strived to figure out what I felt I could do, afford and what I wanted from all of this.  Sure I want thousands of readers and the life of a famous writer (why not?!), but that is a lofty goal for a lifetime not a goal for just one book from a first-time indie writer.

I don’t have the money for commercials or making Youtube ads, but maybe you do and that can be an option for you.  Again, investing and marketing is a unique path for each person.

By the way, the biggest mistake the experts are saying that newbies make is paying to have their book reviewed by a site or company.  There are tons of ways  to get your work reviewed for free — just means you will be doing a lot of emailing or posting (begging) readers, family or friends to write them for you. Or you can make arrangements with beta-readers — send them a free book for a promise of a book review.  Why big push for review and feedback?  Reviews will sell your book on Amazon and other sites.

The best advice and the most stated advice I have seen is to utilize Social Media outlets and make sound uses of them!

Get your name, profile, bio and blurbs about your books on each of these sites:

  • Facebook (business author page)
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
  • Goodreads
  • Amazon Author page
  • AND MAKE YOUR OWN AUTHOR WEBSITE/BLOG

These will get your name, face and books in front of thousands of readers.  Will these viewers all immediately want to read every word you have written?  No, of course not, but it will reach a lot more than you’d be able to do on a daily basis by yourself.

Make good use of them by posting often about your work, give samples for readers to read of upcoming work or from published works already available for sale, share inside views of what it takes to produce your writing and be sure to announce where you are going to be for book signings.

One tip I followed recently that has paid off pretty well for me was Book Giveaways.  On Goodreads.com, I posted a Goodreads Giveaway for a few signed books and this has generated a ton of interests in not just readers wanting free books, but I have over half the contest entrants placing my book now on a “want to read” list.

Another outlet for me will be book signings and comicon appearances.  This is a fantastic way to get media on you (nothing is more exciting than seeing your name on an event website as a “guest appearing author”!) and it’s an easy way to meet fans and build an honest and lasting fan base.

If reaching out and sharing your story is the most important goal for your writing then you have to do the hard work of getting that attention.  The amount of effort you put into your marketing will be a key factor in your own success.

Likely you went down the road of self-publishing like I did because you didn’t want to waste any more time waiting for some literary agent or traditional publishing house to give you, “an unknown”, a chance.  In these times, it probably just doesn’t make “business” sense for them to market you…  Is that fair?  NO!!  Is it the world?  Yeah… at least for now.

And because you have decided you aren’t going to wait for them, that means that you are the Marketing Department.  You are responsible for it all.  Now get busy!

Hopefully, I have cut down on some of your own marketing research and given you some helpful direction.  Some of this may be obvious or maybe some of this might be the spark you needed.  Either way, I wish you all the luck and blessings in your endeavors into the Murky Forest of Marketing!

 

One Thousand Questions… — Derek Barton

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As I stated in my last blog, After You Have Climbed The Mountain…, I wanted to share some of the lessons I have learned about self-publishing and some factors to watch out for and consider how to deal with.

You finally have gotten your manuscript to its glorious, untouchable near-perfect state with edit after edit, beta-readers and even professional reviews (if you have taken my advice and gotten a professional copy editor).

Now what?

At this point you have to decide what direction you will want to take and who you are going to involve with your great work of art.

You may not realize just yet, but you will have a lot of questions ahead that you must take some time with and you will need to make some definite decisions. There are many paths you can take, but the good news is, I didn’t find that there are “wrong” answers to the following questions. I found that there are just different experiences and outcomes you can have with your various choices.

Here is the list of some of the critical questions that we can get into and work through together:

  • Who is going to design your book’s cover art?
  • Are you going to seek out local artists?
  • Are you going to seek out professionals?
  • Are you going to do it yourself?
  • What do you want as a cover?
  • Are you going for an actual scene from your book?
  • If so, which one and which one do you use that won’t give away too much of your story and/or mislead the readers?
  • Which publishing site am I going to use?
  • Do I want to use more than one?
  • Am I going with Amazon/Createspace first?
  • Or am I going with Nook (Barnes&Noble) first?
  • Do I sell my work through Kindle?
  • Do I want just ebooks or do I also want actual hardbound or paperback copies?
  • If I want the actual product in hand, how much do I order?
  • Do I have the money to invest?
  • Do I have a place to keep the inventory?
  • How do I sell my work?
  • What price line do I shoot for?
  • Do I give my work away free at first?
  • Do I do contests, advertising and/or giveaways?
  • What are some of the best ways to market and get my name out there?

I didn’t lie to you when I said that you have many considerations ahead. And NO, I do not have all the best answers and the best techniques. I just have my own experiences and results to share with you.

So going in order of the questions presented I will share my experience and what I decided.  Hopefully, this will give you even more insight and information to which you can make your own choices.

Who is going to design your book’s cover art? Are you going to seek out local artists? Are you going to seek out professionals? Are you going to do it yourself?

I really lucked out here. My cover art for Consequences Within Chaos was designed by a good friend Daniel Thomas of Dark Art Komics, who is also a professional comic book/graphic novel artist. You can check out his work here: Daniel Thomas — Dark Art Komics.

Before Daniel reached out to me, I went with a site you might have heard of called Fiverr.com.  I won’t say outright that this was a bad idea. For anyone who is not familiar with it, the site is set up to offer low cost solutions for editing, cover book art work and many other services from all over the world. Most of their representatives offer $5 packages or higher value deals for their work. I tried it as I am always dirt poor and wanted to see just what $5 cover work I would get.

The artist that I selected asked in email for what I was looking for. I detailed that my novel centered around a royal family in a medieval fantasy prepping for an oncoming war. What I got back was comical if not tragic. She sent me a cover with three soldiers silhouetted in black in a field holding what I am guessing were sub-machine guns. Insert #faceinpalm here! As I stated above, this site I am sure works for some and I am sure if you went with a higher value package you could “get what you pay for”.

Anyway, I know that not everyone knows an artist or has that sort of connection that I just happened to have. In my own research, I found some articles on the web that offered some other possible good resources to find your own cover artist. You could check out the local colleges to search for student artists that might work with you on a cheap basis. You could also go on to websites like Craigslist and advertise for an artist. Or you might go on web forums and speak with other writers to see who might be able to offer you a direction or a lead.

One thing to keep in mind is that you need to be flexible with what you are looking for, be patient and take some time to know what you would like to use on your cover.   The more details you can offer the artist the better. Having several options in mind would also be a good idea. Remember that your cover is your “first impression” with the reader and it definitely has to be eye-catching and stand out, especially when you are competing with thousands of other new books that come out each year.

The biggest lesson to learn for new and first time writers is that there is still a lot of work to do with the novel after you have completed writing it. I have only scratched the surface of the questions I have presented to you, but I will go over more in my next blog.

I will submit to  you as a self-published novelist, that this ride is so worth the work and effort. Take the time to think of your options as this is your baby.  Dress her up nice!

You are in for a helluva ride and an exciting experience. And it will get even easier the next go-around. PROMISE!