Thursday, October 1, 2015

Authors, Please Beware of the Leeches

Being an independent author or self-publisher (whichever term you use) is a entrepreneurial adventure really. There are quite a few things to learn how to do. Let's make a list.

1) Writing a short story or novella or novel. I recommend Steven King's book "On Writing" mainly because he has sold millions of books. You can pick it up at Amazon or your local library. James Patterson has a training course out called the Master Class. I'm not a fan of Patterson's books because I have never read anything by him. But he has sold millions of books so his course which is only $90 may be worth checking out. My advice is don't buy books or training courses from anyone who hasn't sold over a million books.

2) Get your masterpiece edited by a professional editor. I used Elance now known as for hiring a professional editor. You describe the job and the editors bid on it. Many of them will edit a sample of 3,000 words.

3) Get a great cover designed. I used 99Designs to design covers for my novel. With 99Designs graphic designers from all over the world compete to be your cover designer. I had people at my Facebook page vote to choose their favorite cover. I simply chose the cover with the most votes.

4) Get your eBook formatted properly for publication at and Amazon because it is the biggest distributor of self-published books and Smashwords because they will get your eBook or short story into iBooks, Barnes & Noble and a lot of other smaller distributors. If you are doing a print book, you will need to get it formatted properly for Createspace. I used Quantum Formatting Service for the print version of my novel.

5) Lastly, and most importantly, you have to market your book. Marketing, marketing, marketing. And then more marketing. One of the best ways to market is to write more books and stories. Once you have about ten properties out people will not be able to ignore you if you are a good writer. This blog publishes free advice on marketing. Bottom line is you have to contact and communicate with individuals and groups of people to market your book. A good free resource is Mark Coker's free eBook "Smashwords Book Marketing Guide." Also, Joanna Penn is a self-published author who actually has been successful at self-publishing so I recommend her book entitled, "How To Market A Book."

It is my belief that the above links are the most professional and inexpensive way to do self-publishing and to become an independent author. Don't do editing for yourself. That is the single biggest mistake a self-publisher can make. I would say it is okay to make your own cover if it is just for a short story. But if it is for a novel or a collection of short stories hire professionals for the cover.

Formatting is easy to learn. Amazon and Smashwords have help or tutorials on formatting for eBooks. But if you are putting out a print book as well you should get a pro to help you. A pro will know how to work with Createspace's template.

Above is the most inexpensive and professional way to publish your book. The above will cost you under $1,000. Hopefully, you want a professionally produced product.

Now for my warnings.

First warning: If you decide not to take the above advice, you're on your own and you will not be able to say, "No one told me. I didn't know any better."

Second warning: Self-publishing today is like the California gold rush of 1849. The independent authors are not the ones making the gold. Very few independent authors are getting rich. The reason is simple. They either aren't very good writers or they can't market their work. If they can't write well enough they should study Stephen King or James Patterson and continue to write stories and books and continue to publish. Someone who wants to be a real independent author continues to write and publish.

On the other hand, a person who thinks only of money and riches sells training and books on how to be a successful independent author. They are called leeches. The people who got rich in the gold rush were the people who sold the shovels and pans and pick axes. The miners did not get rich. The leeches got rich off the miners.

The self-publishing industry is loaded with leeches. Stay away from the leeches. You can watch their free webinars, listen to their podcasts, and give them your email and receive their spam but don't buy anything from them. Don't waste your money. If they were selling millions of their own books they wouldn't be trying to sell you a course on how to write, market or sell your book.

Ask yourself this: If they know how to make you into a bestselling author, how come they haven't sold millions of books themselves?

Enough said.

There is a lot of free and helpful information out there if you look. Google it. These leeches Googled it and now they are selling it back to suckers. Don't be a sucker. Write, write, and write some more. Persevere. Market, market and market some more.

If you persevere then sooner or later you will be a bestselling author. That is if you follow my one rule. Remember what it is from past articles? DON'T BE BORING.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I'll Buy Your Book

Most people you talk to on a one on one basis will tell you, "I'll buy your book." But the truth is more like a meme I saw on Facebook the other day. Said meme is below.

The meme literally made me laugh out loud. Yes, not just type LOL. Actually do it. Because that meme is really true. You wouldn't think that parting with no more than one pays for a pint of ale would be such a big deal. Certainly a book with dozens of 4 and 5 star reviews is worth taking a chance on. Right? Hmmm. You still have to actively market your book.

Earlier I wrote an article entitled "Cheer Your Success!" I literally cheer every time a person buys my novel or one of my short stories. I cheer even louder when they write a review. I can't really describe how I feel but it's damn good.

Readers are a special bunch of people. They are rebels. They aren't glued to a television set or to social media. They have a longer attention span than a tweet on Twitter. They go to libraries.

Libraries are a good way to market your book for the long run. However, opting for library distribution through Createspace will raise the price of your print book and you won't make as much in royalties off of it. So I advise against it. Not many libraries, if any, are searching through the hundreds of thousands of self-published books.

Here is a better library strategy. When you are talking about your book with someone and they say, "I'll check it out." reply by saying, "Thanks. But instead of purchasing it, try calling your local library and asking them if they will carry it." Then make sure you give the person your business card so they will remember to call the library. Hopefully, you have had the foresight to put your latest book cover on the back of your business card and you have remembered always to carry some cards with you.

This way they have two ways of getting access to your book, the library or by purchasing it themselves. So when you check back with them and follow up you can always just ask them if they got their library to carry it. That sounds better than asking them if they bought it yet.

Most libraries have a budget for acquiring books. I had a reader who requested my book, The Sacrifist, be carried at the Manatee County Library in Florida. So the library purchased a print copy through Amazon and I got the full royalty. A good marketing strategy is to get as many of your friends as possible to request your book be carried in their local county library system.

The library will be more inclined to buy it if there are already a dozen or more good reviews and the good reviews are in the majority. Especially if the reviews are by professional book critics who are well-known. Remember, the more your book gets read the better your future sales it will be, providing you've written a good book. Good books generate good word of mouth.

Urge your readers at the end of your books to write a review at and also at the retailer where they purchased it. The more reviews you collect the better. However, you will need to continue to ask people to write a review and be prepared to nudge them at least half a dozen times.

Be creative on how you draw attention to your books and short stories. The key thing in marketing is to continue to put your writing products forward and remind people that they are available. For once you stop talking about them, they cease to exist.

Until next time, don't be boring.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Start Marketing Today

Most writers have been writing for years in one form or another. Before I wrote novels and short stories, I wrote about fifteen screenplays. Before the screenplays, I wrote jokes and comedy sketches. I prefer writing the novels and short stories because of the big advantage of all the tools of self-publishing. 

Of course, if you have checked out some of the quality of the writing, you will see that just because people can type doesn't mean they should call themselves writers or authors. The marketplace sorts those people out though. It has been written elsewhere that 95% of self-published books don't sell more than a hundred copies. Less than a hundred!

There are only two reasons for that. The writing is boring or they do not know how to market their non-fiction book, or novel. Those are the only two reasons. For the purposes of this article we will assume you are not boring. So how do you market?

Let us start out with the definition of the word "marketing."

Merriam-Webster defines marketing as 'the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.'

Marketing is an 'action.' It is something you do. Promote your product (book). That means communicate about it. What should you communicate? You can communicate anything as long as you aren't boring. In other words, the same rule I have for writing a book (Don't Be Boring) applies to your marketingdon't be boring. 

One of the best and newest ways to promote is to do a book trailer video or videos of any kind. You could do a video of how you came up with the idea for your book. Anything. The videos don't have to be long. A video of a couple minutes is fine. Just don't be boring. 

Get yourself on Make an author bio page and set your book up as a pre-order today. Even if you haven't written the first word yet. Then start to tell people about your book as you write it. Take them on the journey. Get them involved through social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Google, blogging, etc. 

Promotion is getting your writings well-known to people. The best way to do that is by being funny or interesting or both. Do something that will rivet their attention. You could do it by being just plain weird. Anything that gets people's attention will do. 

Here is a book by Mark Coker that has a lot of information and it is free: SMASHWORDS BOOK MARKETING GUIDE

Download it today and get started. The only thing I would add to all the suggestions in that book is BE CREATIVE in carrying out Mark Coker's suggestions and, of course, DON'T BE BORING.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Writing a Really Good Book

Most self-publishing gurus have this as their first rule in becoming an independent author and self-publishing your own books: Write a great book. 

That is not my first rule. My first rule in self-publishing your own work is: Start marketing. TODAY. Believe it or not, you can begin marketing before you have even written the first word on the first page. But that is not what this article is about today. I'll write about that next time.

This article is about writing a really good book.

I say really good, not great. Great books are few. A book like Shogun is great. Many books get described as being great when in actual fact they are just really good. There are various schools of thought about how to write a really good book. If you have read my article, "Writing Groups: Good or Bad?" you know I have only one rule in writing a really good book or story that I myself try to adhere to no matter what else is happening.

The first and only rule to writing a really good book is: DON'T BE BORING.

I was going to use an exclamation point with that but I think caps are sufficiently loud enough for you to hear the admonition. Yes. No matter what you are writing you should not be boring. What is boring? Well, different things are boring to different people. A romance book will bore me to tears but the woman next door to me will not be able to get enough of them. If you write suspense novels don't worry about boring the romance fans, and vice versa.

Personal preferences aside, some things are boring to everyone. One thing that I think a lot of people find boring is the overuse of adverbs and even to a lesser extent adjectives. The intricate and detailed description about the embroidery on a 17th century nobleman's coat sleeve that takes up several sentences is a bit too much.

The reader just wants to know if the nobleman is going to strangle the scullery maid or have sex with her while his conniving wife is spying on him through a peephole in a secret room that only she has discovered in the new opulent manor estate that the nobleman has recently purchased.

Here's some advice on how not to be boring: Get to the point!

Exclamation rather than caps this time. Yes. Get to it. Embroidery may be really interesting to your grandmother in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. But the housewife in Beverly Hills (and in Sheboygan for that matter) is hoping you get to the sex or killing part. (They probably want it to get to the sex part unless the killing part is going to be done by the scullery maid stabbing the nobleman.) Either way embroidery description is being skipped by your reader unless she's a seamstress in her seventies.

I wrote jokes and screenplays for about ten years prior to writing my first novel. Neither has much description. I actually did not think I could write a novel because I hated reading novels for the most part for the precise reason that I hated reading unnecessary description.

Consequently when I do rewrites on my books and stories I end up having to add some necessary description rather than take it away. I think this is the opposite of most writers. But they were not screenwriters or joke writers prior to being novelists.

Plus, most writers loved reading books as children or teenagers. I always hated reading books. I have only taken up reading books within the last two years since I have been writing them. Michael Crichton and Stephen King are probably my favorite authors but I had never even read a Stephen King book until September 2014 when I finally read 'Carrie.' Now I have read eight of them. I'm currently reading Cricton's 'Timeline.'

Of course, now that I'm a novelist, I find that I love reading. That also is the reverse of most novelists. I know. I'm weird. Deal with it. But this is probably the reason I don't use unnecessary description. And you shouldn't either.

So remember, unnecessary description is boring. How can you tell if it is unnecessary? Well, in your own work that may be hard. But in other author's work you will notice that you start to skim over it. You want people to read your books. Don't you? Then don't overly describe things.

That is the first step in putting into practice my only rule to really good writing: Don't be boring.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Cheer Your Success!

Today I have hit a milestone. Merriam-Webster defines milestone as "an important point in the progress of development of something: a very important event or advance."

And today I hit a milestone. My novel, 'The Sacrifist,' hit the Amazon Bestseller list in the U.S. for Horror. Here are two screenshots to commemorate the event and just so I never forget it.The first one is where I entered the Top 100 at #66. And the second one shows where I rose to #25.

Checkout who sits above me and to the right of me on the second screenshot. The man himself. Stephen King. Awesome. I feel honored to be on a list with one of my idols. 

Here's my advice for this blog post: Cheer your successes. Never forget to cheer them. Writing can be a lonely struggle, so you have to cheer the successes when they come.

Now I think I will go out and celebrate. Until next time, have fun writing and don't be boring.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Writing Groups: Good or Bad?

There are a lot of Writing Groups out there and some people swear by them. Personally, I'm against them. I am going to explain why.

First of all, let me say at the outset that I do belong to some Writing Groups but I use them for the specific purpose to socialize and network, not to help me with my writing. The only people that I want helping me with my writing are Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Robert Heinlein, and any other writers who have sold millions of books.

If a Writing Group is not made up of bestselling authors, I don't want to be advised on my writing by anyone in it. I can make friends with the writers in it and we can have fun and brainstorm for new ideas on how to market our books. But that would be the extent of our relationship.

There is a reason for this and the following is a fact: Critical remarks tend to affect most people in the same way. The way they affect most people is by slowing them down. In other words, they start to spend less time writing. When these critical remarks accumulate over time they can have the effect of stopping the writer (or you could apply this to any other artist) from writing anything further.

I'm not saying that the people making the critical remarks are bad intentioned people (although there may be a few of those in any writing group). I'm just saying that the effect of critical remarks is to slow artists down and blunt their purpose and will eventually stop them from pursuing their dreams.

You may well ask why this is so. The reason is that a critical remark is almost NEVER 100% correct and true. If it were 100% true it would be helpful because the truth is always helpful. Anything less than 100% truth to that degree becomes an untruth, which if accepted by the writer receiving it tends to stick him in his tracks, precisely for the reason that it is an untruth. Untruths are never helpful because they cannot be applied, being essentially (in greater or lesser degree) a lie.

The chance of a critical remark being 100% true is impossibly remote.

I would NEVER solicit critiques from people who have sold less than a million books. Why would you? The chances of them helping you are extremely remote because they are not you and your process for writing is unique. However, the people that have sold a million or more books must have learned a few things. Some of those things might be helpful to you. But even their advice is only advice. You don't have to take it.

For advice on writing read Stephen King's book 'On Writing.' I have a link to it at the right and if you click on it from this blog you will support this blog. There are other books on writing by bestselling authors but Mr. King's is the one I personally like the best.

The above is why I don't believe in attending Writing Groups to help me with my writing. I have only one advice that I give for writers. This is advice that does apply to everyone. You can break every writing rule in the book if you don't violate this rule.

The rule is: DON'T BE BORING.

Until next time, have fun writing and don't be boring.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why Marketing Is Number One

I used to publish stories and poetry and random things about my trek to self-publish my first novel, The Sacrifist. Along the way I have learned and accumulated a lot of knowledge about the self-publishing process. So I decided I would change the direction of this blog to help others.

From now forward I will be offering free advice and resources on becoming an Independent Author and self-publishing your own work. There is a tremendous amount of free or cheap information about the self-publishing industry and how to do it.

However, there are companies (and individuals) who seek to take financial advantage of would-be authors and "help" them with the publishing process. Stay away from these scams. My friend Dave Bricker has an excellent article called Self-Publishing Scams: Keep the "Self" in Self-Publishing warning new and even old authors about these companies and/or individuals. Please check it out and gird yourself so that you don't end up doing something you will regret later.

The orientation of this blog will be three-fold:

1) Marketing Yourself and Your Book

2) Writing a Great Book

3) The Self-Publishing Process

I have put the above in what I feel is the order of importance. Most people who advise on self-publishing put #2 as the first order of importance and don't get me wrong it IS important. But a literary masterpiece that never gets enough readers fails as a book product. Most authors want to have their books read by other people.

Here is the problem with putting "writing a great book" ahead of "marketing yourself and your book." Most writers are not marketing people. In fact, writers generally are introverts, introspective thinkers, and imaginists (this last word is mine and means 'a person with a great imagination'). Few writers are out-going people who have no back-off on putting themselves out there and talking to strangers.

Because of this, when writers see an authority on self-publishing giving advice on self-publishing and the person giving the advice says, "The most important thing that you can do as an Independent Author is to write a great book," writers use it as an excuse to spend most of their time writing which, of course, is the most comfortable thing for them to do.

I have met many writers who spend a lot of time writing but never put anything out for people to read. They are constantly working on 'getting their book just right.' They don't say that, but that is what they are doing. Sometimes I wonder if they are scared to put it out because they know then they will have to market their book. I think they are even more afraid of marketing than they are of getting panned by critics or readers.  

Let's face it. Marketing makes most authors feel uncomfortable. This is how they fall for the scams Dave Bricker writes about in the above linked article. And scam artists play on the one thing that most writers hate doing--marketing. This is another reason why writers try to seek out a traditional publisher. Traditional publishers (writer's think) will do the marketing for them. No, they won't. Not unless you have a big name like Stephen King or Dan Brown or James Patterson.

For these reasons, I put marketing as number one. Numero Uno. Target #1. YOU NEED TO PUT YOUR ATTENTION ON IT. NOW.

Yes, now. You can start your marketing even before you start writing your book. What?! That's right. Start now. Go ahead start. Create yourself an Author page on Facebook. Get your friends to start liking it. And then start sharing your self-publishing adventure with your friends and others who find you. That is what I did at T. Mason Gilbert. Click my author name and you will get some idea how to involve your audience. (Like the page while you are there!)

And I have only scratched the surface. You can hold contests and do many other marketing actions. One of the things I do is I involve my audience in my "Ten Random Sentences Series" where I write a short story based on ten random sentences submitted by my readers.


To that end, I'm going to recommend two self-publishing marketing books. I own both of them. The first one is by Mark Coker owner of Smashwords (which I will write about in a future article) has a lot of resources for Independent Authors. Mark's marketing book is free. Here is the link to it: Smashwords Book Marketing Guide Go pick it up. IT'S FREE. And start marketing.

The second book is by Joanna Penn. (Her blog is also an awesome resource.) Joanna is one of the most successful self-publishers around today. Her book entitled "How to Market a Book" is a comprehensive and up-to-date book on how to market your self-published (or even traditionally published) book. There is a link to Joanna's book in the top right corner of this page.

So marketing is #1. Get started on it and come back here bi-weekly for more information to guide you through the process of making your dreams come true. Next time I will write about something that is controversial. Writing Groups. I'm against them. Find out why.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Why March 5th?

Many people asked me if I had a specific reason for choosing March 5th for the release of my novel, "The Sacrifist," which is an adventure about the discovery of the yeti (Bigfoot) in the Himalaya. I hinted at the time that I did. Let me explain it to you now.

In the beginning of my book there are two quotes from the Buddha. Both quotes foreshadow two of the themes in the book. Here is one of the quotes:

“Monks, even if bandits were to savagely sever you, limb by limb, with a double-handled saw, even then, whoever of you harbors ill will at heart would not be upholding my Teaching. Monks, even in such a situation you should train yourselves thus: ‘Neither shall our minds be affected by this, nor for this matter shall we give vent to evil words, but we shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and we shall not give in to hatred. On the contrary, we shall live projecting thoughts of universal love to those very persons, making them as well as the whole world the object of our thoughts of universal love—thoughts that have grown great, exalted and measureless. We shall dwell radiating these thoughts which are void of hostility and ill will.’ It is in this way, monks, that you should train yourselves.” ~ Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha

So a major theme in the book is compassion, despite what evil has befallen a person. It is an often used trick by people seeking to dominate others, to get those others to hate. People in power often use this device to sway public sentiment to agree with their own hidden agenda. If Bill hates Bob and he can get others to hate Bob, it bolsters Bill's position. Don't let others manipulate you by getting you to hate. There is nothing constructive about hating others, no matter what they have done. Hating Hitler did no one an ounce of good. It only made the people feeling their own hate upset. Their hate didn't hurt Hitler one bit. Of course, when there are people like Hitler running around it may be necessary to do something about them, but there is no reason to do it with hate in your heart.

Evil exists in the world. Don't let it affect you by hating it. 

Buddhism has a major role in the book too. On page 1 of the book there is an ancient Tibetan myth which I found while doing my research for the book. If you have downloaded the free sample you have read the myth. In the myth, the Bodhisattva (person who has attained Enlightenment, but who postpones Nirvana to help others on earth attain Enlightenment) Avalokitesvara is mentioned. Avalokitesvara is the Bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. This particular Bodhisattva is variably portrayed in different cultures as either female or male and is often considered the second most important Buddha after Siddhārtha Gautama.

There is a Buddhist festival that celebrates this ideal of compassion for one's fellow human beings. That festival is celebrated on Avalokitesvara's birthday which is calculated to be on the first full moon in March. In this year of 2015 that day falls on the date of March 5th. 

Now you know the significance of why I chose that date for the release of my book and I sincerely wish peace and love to all of you who took the time to read this post.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Big News for My Novel

I have big news for my novel. I just got confirmation from a representative of England's National Trust for the inclusion of my references to Barrington Court in my novel, "The Sacrifist." One of the main characters is named Sir Randolph Barrington.

Most writers make up places and businesses because they fear getting sued. I thought I would go the other way and just get written authorization from each organization or business I used fictitiously.

I currently have gotten the following authorizations for businesses or products referred to in my novel:

Stone Ruination IPA

Canine Training Academy

Barrington Court

I am waiting on two more and then the book will be off to the editor.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Title of My Book

This is the update for the title of my novel that was voted on by you the future readers. The winning title was overwhelmingly "The Sacrifist." The novel is about the discovery of the yeti and solves the mystery of why it remained hidden for so long.

Thanks for your help. If you wish to receive a discount on my book when it comes out, go to my Facebook page here: T. Mason Gilbert  Be sure to "Like" the page while you're there so you will receive the posts with a coupon code.