The best Advice

I’m not the kind of person who “hates” anything, really. Especially people.

I believe in killing people with kindness, and being nice even to those people who don’t deserve it. “Hate” is a strong word, as is “love.” I’m very careful when I use either.

The thing I hate most in the world is wasted time. Time is a precious commodity, more precious than money to me, and any time I spend doing something unproductive truly angers me.

I started self-publishing close to a year ago, before I knew there was any money to be made. I just wanted to write.

I had no idea that – only one year later – I would be sitting here in the middle of an afternoon on a random Tuesday in September, writing a blog post about something that happened to be on my mind. No idea. I had a real, professional job, and I was mostly content.

A lot can change in a year.

I won’t go on about my own personal struggles. It would be a horrible, time-sucking endeavor, and I hate those.

I know a lot of you are just now entering the self-publishing arena. I interact with you daily, mostly because of my blogs (which have a brand new submissions process that saves me hours of precious writing time – click here!).

You have no idea what you’re doing most of the time when it comes to marketing. It’s all so new and confusing, and there are a lot of blogs with a lot of advice. Some of it’s useful, some of it isn’t. Some of it sounds optional to you – but it’s not (these are not optional: create your Facebook page and get your 25 ‘likes’ and a unique Facebook URL, make sure you have a website for your pen name, if you’re on Amazon get an Author Central profile NOW!, sign up for a Twitter account with your pen name even if you hate Twitter and never use it).

There is one trap I fell into that I kick myself for, daily:  I spent way too much time in online writer groups, listening to other writers bitch and moan.

I tried to help when possible. Tried to provide encouragement, advice, sympathy… and even though I’m a nice person, and I’m still a nice person, I now write for a living. Time is more precious to me than ever. Wasted time has never been more hated by me than it is now.

Don’t make the mistake I made. Just shut up and write. You know why?  Because more people are entering self-publishing than ever before. And yes, we are moving to an ‘eBook-only’ society. I truly believe that. It’s happening much the same way the photography industry fell victim to digital cameras.

I don’t know if it will happen as swiftly as others seem to believe, but I refuse to waste my time writing worthless theories about it. In the past eight months I’ve seen shifts in both the supply and demand curves for eBooks, and it’s all fascinating to me. I just wish I had spent more time writing between January 2011 and today, because I’d like to have a bigger piece of the pie than I have, currently.

The people making money in self-publishing have a lot of books in their inventory. Some call this inventory a ‘back list’ but I prefer ‘inventory,’ probably because of my accounting background. Regardless, if you have just one book – no matter how hard you worked on it, or how much money you invested in polishing it – if you are an unknown author, you will not make money from that book.

You don’t have a company behind you that’s going to take out an ad in the New York Times to announce your debut novel to the world. Self-publishing means, “you do it all yourself.” One book is not enough to get you circulated through the Amazon system, where you end up in “Recommended For You” lists based on the amount of sales you make.

No – you get noticed and make more sales by having a large inventory. It’s true. Also, having a free book at Amazon is a true blessing. I don’t have time to talk about it right now… if this happens to you – even if you end up with 200 reviews and an average star rating of 2 – count your blessings.

You may surf around Amazon and complain about how horrible the writing is… but why does that horrible writer have three books in the top 20,000′s while your piece of literary delight lingers down around 360,000??  I mean, you’re obviously the better writer, aren’t you?

We live in a world where people don’t know what bad writing is, and teenagers’ main form of communication is the text message.

Heck, some of my favorite authors are BAD writers, and I didn’t know it until I did some Googlin,’ and the other writers of the world told me how bad those writers actually were. Wow. And to think… I thought it had to do with how many books that writer sold? Huh. How naive of me.

Anyway, here’s my point… more people are self-publishing, daily. Some have published traditionally; others have not. Some are unemployed people who have never written a thing in their lives and they’re desperate to make money; others are not. Some edit their work; others do not. Some know how to pick a book cover that will sell their hideous attempt at a story; others do not.

None of that matters. If you want to find your audience, the time is now. The year 2011 is the time to write, write, write your butt off. Build up your back list / inventory.

Here’s a brilliant blog post from Konrath’s blog a few months ago. I suggest you read it. I have nothing original to say, but I would like to add my two cents because it’s bugging me. I need to finish a few books, and until I let go of this one issue and get it out there, my mind will not quiet down enough to write fiction. So there. This blog post isn’t the time-sucking hypocritical evidence you may think.

Bottom line – time is money – so shut up and write.

Have you spent more than ten minutes in a Facebook writers group, doing nothing but complaining about your lack of sales?  Shut up and write.

Did you surf around Goodreads looking at all of your good and/or bad reviews, only to end up questioning why you even started writing in the first place? Shut up and write.

Have you logged in to KDP, Pubit, or Smashwords more than once today to check your sales amounts, then gone to a Facebook group to ask if anyone knew if one of those retailers was having technical difficulties, because you just can’t believe your sales are so low today?  Shut up and write.

Have you read messages on a self-publishing forum (Kindle boards or something similar) that made you doubt yourself in some way?  Shut up and write.

Did you get a bad review, then go to an online group to tell everyone about it, hoping for sympathy, or trying to plot revenge? Shut up and write.

Stop spending your time worrying about things that are beyond your control. You can not control who reads your books, who buys your books, or what they think of your books. Just keep on writing!  You’ll find your audience. There’s even an audience for bad writing. Like, really bad writing. All kinds of people are reading eBooks these days – even the functionally illiterate. That horrible pile of crap you saw at Amazon might just be someone else’s favorite book.

Here’s an interview with successful author Maya Banks.  I found it incredibly inspiring. She doesn’t look at reviews. I know for a fact that her best-selling series is one that is openly hated by many outspoken readers.

What does it matter?  Controversy sells!  Don’t sit around and cry over bad reviews!!!  That is, unless you’re going to give in to the haters and just stop writing.

Personally, I think you need to look at your sales figures, and make sure you put your email address and website at the beginning and end of your books so your fans can write to you. Reading fan mail is much better than stewing over bad reviews.

So – in short – SHUT UP AND WRITE!!!  NOW IS THE TIME!!!

Ignore the haters!  Focus on cultivating your readers – the ones you love your work, and buy it. You’ll find more of these people if you publish more books. Don’t waste your time bitching and moaning with a bunch of other writers. Just write, okay?

- Shaina

This post originally appeared at Shaina’s  blog for writers, Devoted Novice , under the title “The Best Advice“.

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