My writing – I’m going back to basics

bookexchI admit it, my books are not selling. 

Well not many anyway.  On my latest novel ‘Bleak – The story of a shape shifter’ I’ve spent some money on promotion but it is not even coming close to paying for itself.  I know this is common for self-published authors and I’ve ready many times that it can take five, seven or ten books before you finally start to see a return.

Am I disheartened?

Yes, well a little anyway.  I’m not expecting to have that best seller, but it would be nice to sell a few more to cover those costs and maybe show some profit. And it’s not all about the money.  I enjoy my writing and as an author I want people to read and appreciate my work.  Those that have read my books tell me they have enjoyed them, even that they couldn’t put them down.  I have had some positive reviews.  All that’s great and tells me that I have something even if I’m not the finished article (If you ever are?).

So why back to basics? 

Because, although I think I’ve got a good product, so have many thousands of other self-published writers out there.  Also, clearly, for whatever reason I am not capturing the attention of readers.  Now I know that can be for a variety of reasons, such as marketing, advertising, covers, cover blurb, reviews etc. etc.  However, I also have to be big enough to take a long hard look at the product I’m selling, my books.  I need to make those as good as they can possibly be.  And it’s no good blaming everything else if they’re not.

Why now? 

Well I have just completed the drafts of books two and three in the trilogy starting with my first book ‘Ancestral Dreams’ which was quite an undertaking.  Also, I have always intended to go back and look again at the original book, just because it was the first one I published and I’ve learnt a lot since then.  I’m also been working on another book and after about 35,000 words I’m starting to question it, in so much as I’m not sure where the plot is going, does it make sense etc. So put all that together with lack of sales etc. and yes I’m having doubts, which I know is not unusual for an author.

So what am I doing about it, what’s the plan?

I’ve seen the ads for a masterclass by a best-selling thriller writer and wondered for a while what it could do for me.  I read the blurb and it sounded interesting, thoughts around plot, characters, hooking your readers and more.  All topics that could help any of us.  What persuaded me was an article (follow this link) by an author who obviously had the same doubts as me.  So I have finally taken the plunge and signed up.  I am also going to go away and read Sol Stein’s book ‘Solutions for Writers’ which is recommended by many.  Perhaps, I’ve been a little afraid of taking this step for craftingfear of finding out that I’m not as good as I hoped I was, that there are some fundamental flaws with my writing.  But if there are I need to know that.  And what have I got to lose? Other than that several hundreds of thousands position in the Amazon listings?

And then?

It’s back to those drafts, crafting that story.  Follow the advice, plot, revise, rewrite.  Even if it delays publication by another year.  As I say above, I write because I enjoy writing.  However, if I can sell a few more books then I’ll enjoy it all the more.  And at least I’ll know I’m giving it my best shot.

So, I’ll keep you posted via this blog as to what I think, what conclusions I come to, what I’ll change etc. and ultimately if I sell any more books.

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Ian Martyn

My writing – going back to basics 2)

My writing – going back to basics 3)

My writing – going back to basics 4)

My writing – going back to basics 5)

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

13 thoughts on “My writing – I’m going back to basics”

  1. I have been following you, Ian. And not in a stalker way. 🙂 And I can’t tell whether you need master classes in writing or not because I haven’t been drawn to read any of your books, although I love SF. Why? Because your covers don’t send the message I need to hear. This is exciting and different! This is professional read!

    Now I’m not going to call myself any kind of expert and I’m struggling even more these days than I did a few years back. But that’s not because I’m not good at my craft. It’s because there is so much more competition out there for all of us. When I started getting serious about publishing my books back in 2011 I paid a PR person $5 on fiverr to get my book on the free promo sites. I had 16,000 downloads in 5 days and my sales and reviews were phenomenal. After that things changed and I had to struggle to keep a steady income from my books. I spent more on promotion but at least I was consistent. Then I lost even that. I have over 30 books now, I get great reviews, I have loyal fans, but I am making less than half of what I was making a year or so ago.

    So maybe its not about not being a good enough writer for you, maybe its about not having covers that grab readers like me or a blurb that draws me in, or maybe its just the competition. Before paying someone for a masterclass find out if you need one, please. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment. I guess at the moment I need to look at everything and if I can improve on the writing that’s a good place to start. I know what you mean about covers and the blurb etc, and those will be looked at as well.

  2. Be interested to see what conclusions you come to – I’ve just signed a contract for my third book, non-fiction/memoir – and I went with trad publishing because I’ve been told by early readers in the business it’s award-worthy, and the publisher has the connections to get it considered. I don’t. But my fiction work is all going to be self-published

    I’ve stockpiled four novels (3 done and one about a third written) – and a huge backlog of “advice” web pages and emails —- I personally think a lot of it is shite. It reminds me of gold – a simple game, and you can spend million son books, courses, tutorials and etc all guaranteed to help you master it.

    Somewhere in there is usable advice and I suspect it boils down to a couple of pages in total

    Good luck, I an

    1. Thanks for the comment. Like I guess most writers I’d love a contract with a publishing house, but you’ve got to get an agent first. Got some nice comments back, but no-one wanted to represent my novels. But I keep trying. And that’s part of the reason for trying this master class i.e. they’re cynical bunch and you need to hook them early (as well as readers). The guy has sold millions of books so must be doing something right. Having just started I admit there is some good advice there on developing a plot, outline and characters (as far as I’ve got). It at least makes you think critically about what you’re doing.

  3. I hope the course proves worthwhile – I’m sure it will be a great learning experience for your craft, but in this over-populated world of ebooks, getting the marketing right is as much if not more of a challenge. Granted, you need the best product, and the best covers and blurb (yes, I think different covers might help), but then it’s down to continually plugging away at getting reviews and keeping your books in the reader’s awareness by marketing, and that changes year on year. What worked 3 years ago, doesn’t work now. The latest thing is building your email list, and using facebook ads to do that.
    Who knows what it will be next year, but at least with an email list you have a ready audience on tap, even if another marketing ploy takes over, so I’m going with the flow just now.
    I don’t make a huge income, but I more than cover my costs and get a small income each month from the 3 books I have out so far, with another due this summer. And don’t for a minute think that getting an agent will solve your problem: I’ve had 2 of those, and neither of them managed to place my books.
    I went directly to a publisher for my non-fiction, and sold those with no problem and no agent to take a cut, though few fiction imprints will deal directly with authors. Some of them (SF and F publishers) do, however, hold open submission periods if you keep an eye on their websites.
    I’ve decided to continue with indie publishing, as I’m not looking to become a full time writer and I now know I would struggle with their deadlines, but I do understand your disappointment with how it’s gone so far for you.

    1. Deborah, thanks for the comment. I know it’s not the sole answer and that I need work harder at building my-mail list etc. This, for me, is part of looking at all aspects of my writing, so starting with the writing, story construction etc. itself seemed to be a logical place to begin. So far there are some good takeaway messages and a more logical process of plot building is helping me with a story that I had written into a bit of a dead end (after 35,000 words!).

    2. Deborah – sorry for the second response, but I keep getting an error message when I reply. Please can you do me a favour and just confirm if you get this. Thanks, Ian

  4. Thank you so much for posting this latest one. I did read your others. I am fascinated with the process of becoming a skilled whatever. I’ve done lots of reading on thinking about how that happens. With myself, it started with being a better psychotherapist, and now a better writer. I’ve discovered that the process is the same. The key to becoming better at any endeavor is constant practice but with a very deliberate focus, and decided on beforehand, before you even pick up the golf club or put your fingers on the keyboard. Your focus, as well as mine, is: How can we make our writing more engaging to the reader? That decision primes your brain for action. Our brains do many things on its own, but learning a skill isn’t one of them. All it needs is a conscious signal from us to line up its resources. The more conscious focus/interaction we have with whatever we are struggling with to become better at is crucial. The results will appear when you next pick up where you left off, after the brain has time to process the experience. The brain is our best ally, despite how it might feel otherwise at times. I’m certain that the detailed analysis of each chapter as you’re doing will pay off. Please continue to keep us posted on your progress.

    1. Many thanks for this comment and the encouragement. Some times I feel just getting another point of view or seeing how someone else works can spark so much new thinking. Also, we all need help in whatever we do from time to time. That reminds me I must sign up for a few more golf lessons.

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