How to Break in as a New Author Today?

I had someone ask that question in a Facebook group I'm in, earlier today. Here was the advice I gave. It's not new advice. It's old, but still sound and solid. Check it out:

The steps haven't really changed. They're still the same as they were when Michael Anderle took off, a year and a half ago.

Step 1: Imagine a Venn diagram, with two circles. One circle is things that people like to read. The other circle is things you like to write. Where they overlap? Write that.

Step 2: When picking your genre, be prepared to write at LEAST six books in that specific sub-genre before moving on. If you move on that early - move to a closely related genre. For example, writing six space opera books and moving to military SF is fine. Moving from SO to epic fantasy is likely going to damage your brand and slow your growth. There are tons of exceptions to this, authors who have crossed genres and killed it anyway. They did that *in spite of* the cross genre work. You maximize your success by building a brand within a single type of book. Expand later, after you have a dozen or more books out.

Step 3: Write a great story that people want to read. To do this, you need a deep understanding of plot structure (or you need to get very lucky). Study structure and form. Understand the Hero's Journey. Read McKee and "Save the Cat" and Libbie Hawker and every other major type of plotting and structure tool. Study them, especially the renowned ones that have stood the test of time. YES, even if you are a "pantser"; in fact, it's even MORE crucial that pantsers grok plot and structure, since they're flying by the seat of their pants and need an intuitive understanding of those things.

Step 4: Get a great, GENRE SPECIFIC cover for the book. The one, primary thing every cover must do is tell any prospective reader precisely what sort of book this is. Ideally, it should look a lot like bestselling books in your sub-sub-sub-genre. You want a cover that tells the readers immediately what they are getting, with no questions or doubts.

Step 5: Publish. Then market. Your job as publisher is first to put out a top quality product (well edited however you make that happen, with a great cover and good blurb). Then it's to get eyes on that product. That's all the book is, once you upload it: it is a product that you must show to potential consumers to get them to buy it. Facebook ads, AMS ads, Twitter ads, Adsense, and anything else you can think of. Drive readers to that book page in enough numbers, with good enough targeting, and you will move copies.

Step 6: While you're marketing, be writing. Same genre. Same series. Get more books out. What I am seeing today is four books a year is the bare minimum to have a decent shot at financial/career success. Less than that and you're losing momentum too fast. The good news? Four books at 75k words each is only about 800 words per day. You can pound that out on lunch breaks, if you want this badly enough. If you don't want it badly enough, you won't do the work and it won't happen.

The question will usually come down to this one: how hungry are you?

The people who work the hardest are generally the ones who are succeeding the best. They're not always the best writers. Nor are they always the best marketers or publishers. But over time, the simple application of effort has a multiplicative impact on one's march toward success.

The Writing Advice Not Taken

Also known as "The writing advice I wish I'd had in 2011." I ran into someone on a Facebook group today, asking for help. This person had a bunch of books out, and none of them were selling. I went and analyzed the writer's work, and recognized a familiar set of problems. The writer was doing a bunch of things wrong - most of them, the same things *I* messed up, early on. Hey, these are easy mistakes to make. There's no guidebook. (Well, there are, but the advice is often conflicting and confusing.)

After assessing the writer's work, I wrote a reply. It was a public group, and a lot of people wrote nice replies offering counsel. I wrote a veritable essay. Not shocking for those who know me! I'm a writer - I saw someone in trouble, facing a lot of the problems I had to overcome the hard way. I wanted to help. The writer turned down my advice, which is sad, but some people have to go their own path and learn in their own way. That's certainly how I managed it.

But a number of other writers suggested I save the essay anyway, as it had a lot of value for other people as well. Here's the essay, for posterity. If you're a struggling newer writer in this crazy modern era of publishing, give it a read. You might be facing none of these issues, or all of them. But if there's even one bit in there which might help you, I'll be happy. Not ALL of the advice below is going to be correct for EVERY writer, mind you! Read it through the lens of your own experience and situation.

I'll pitch in a little here. This is going to sound harsh, some of it.

You're making all of the classic blunders. Welcome to my world.  I did the same thing - made most of the SAME mistakes that you are making. As a result, I made virtually nothing from my writing for five straight years of publishing.

I have cleared four figures a month every month since last August. I did so by turning things around. By not making the same mistakes. You can too.

1. Classic Blunder One You're ALL OVER THE PLACE in genres. You have mysteries, urban fantasy, and science fiction. Stop that shit now. PICK A GENRE. ANY GENRE. Now write your next 10-12 books in that genre alone. No hopping around. Just do the work.

2. Classic Blunder Two Your covers suck. With the exception of the mystery covers, which more or less meet the minimum standards for the genre, your covers range from badly targeted (the UF cover looks like a middle-grade novel) to horrible (the SF covers just need to go) to no cover at all (why do half your books have a blank white page?). Study the genre you pick, and make your cover look as close to the bestsellers in that genre AND sub-genre as possible.

3. Classic Blunder Three Too many series. Stop. Write ONE series until the series is done. Make that series at least three books long. Ideally, make it 6+ books long. Again, you're all over the place and this is killing any hope of building momentum.

4. Classic Blunder Four You are overpricing your books. Drop your prices to $2.99. Yes, there is a difference between $2.99 and $3.99. You are a new writer. You want people to take a chance on you. Dropping price early on will help. Raise them later when you're better known. Once you have the third or fourth book out in a series, drop book one to 99c as a loss leader.

Less Obvious and Less Classic Issues:

- You're misusing Instafreebie. There are two ways to drive traffic to your IF books. You need to either run Facebook ads targeting your target market which send people to the IF book - OR - you need to join group promotions *which target your genre*. You should be getting about 500-1000 new subscribers a month just from joint promos. If you're not doing that, join more joint promos until you are. These leads are not the best; you will need to offer them samples of your writing to hook them. But they can be hooked. Again, part of maximizing IF use and even mailing list use in general is STICKING TO ONE GENRE. If your reader signed up for police mysteries, and you send them a SF book, they're going to unsubscribe.

- Your blurbs need help. Your blurbs are too short. Well written, but not enough meat there. THIS IS WHERE YOU CONVINCE THEM TO BUY. You need to sell the book with the blurb. Really key.

- Edit to add: You're also not publishing fast enough. Two books a year will result in a VERY slow build even if you follow the guidelines above. Bump up your speed to four+. Write the next book. Nothing matters more than the next book. Write in one genre, in a series, and get the next book done and out to readers. THIS IS A MOMENTUM GAME. You're either BUILDING momentum, or you are losing it. ALWAYS. Write in a new genre? You're building momentum there, but not where you were building it, so you're likely LOSING momentum there unless you're writing a book a month.

Accord of Valor is out! Final Accord series book hits the store!

Whew! Not a lot to add about this one. Folks have been waiting on this for about a year now, and the book is finally available. This story finishes the tale of Nicholas Stein and his son Thomas as they fight for independence of Mars from the hegemony of the United Nations of Earth. But there are deeper secrets involved than either of them know, and once again the fate of humanity will rest in their hands. Grab a copy today! : https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XZPSR6B

 

And....we're on Patreon now too!

What's Patreon? It's a service designed to help people patronize artists, writers, and musicians that they like. For a small fee (the user gets to decide how much they want to spend), the patron gets certain benefits or rewards back, and the artists get a steady income from people who enjoy their work.

Why Patreon?

In my case - patrons will get first dibs on new books, BEFORE they are available in any store. Different levels will give ebooks, postcards of the cover art, or even print editions. Again, all before people buying from stores actually get to see the books. This is my way of reaching out to you directly and giving special bonuses to fans who love my stories.

It lets me drop a copy of my book into your mailbox - in any format you want. People who support here at the $3 tier or higher will get a copy of the ebook format for every new book I produce, and they'll get them earlier than ANYONE else. That will almost always be at least one new book per month. This is also the ONLY way to get my books in ePub format (but you'll get the Kindle format too, if you prefer that!).

I've got awesome rewards for the higher tiers as well. From postcards to signed paperbacks, I've set things up so that readers who opt to pitch in at those levels will all have something cool as a benefit.

I've wanted to tell stories for a living since I was seven. That's when I wrote my first short story. I've come a long way since then, with over a dozen novels available. I've got many more stories in me, though, and I look forward to sharing them all with you in the years ahead.

This one's for the special fan, who loves my books. It's a bonus, basically, for the folks who read everything and don't want to miss anything. If that's you, I hope you'll consider joining me on Patreon! Enjoy the stories!

https://www.patreon.com/KevinMcLaughlin

Pushing for Amazon Top 100 on Dark Legends!

cvjwamjwgaao-drHi! Big news: I've got a book in a big boxed set of urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels. With authors from the USA Today and NYT bestseller lists, this ebook "boxed set" is a the collected work of talented writers from around the world. It's an honor to have been included. The set is full of some incredible books. I can't wait to read them all myself - and yes, I have already pre-ordered a copy so I can start reading the other books as soon as it's out!

We're shooting for the stars with this boxed set. With a little luck, it will break the USA Today bestseller list (a bunch of the authors in the book have already had books on that list). With a lot of luck we might actually break the NUY list, I'm told.

But we need your help. We're doing a big push right now, trying to break the top 100 on Amazon. Every pre-order counts!

Thanks, and wish us luck!