A Non-Fiction Self-Published Author Success Story with Ryan Biddulph

Ryan Biddulph, Bestselling Non-Fiction Author on Amazon

4 measly eBooks.

In 4 months.

I was floored.

After becoming overwhelmed with a sense of excitement about writing and self-publishing my first eBook, I failed miserably.

A good friend nudged me to write an eBook. I had resisted my own inner pull and advice from friends for years.

I bought a domain, churned out the eBook and sold 1 each month before I trashed my site and eBook in a fit of complete frustration, anger and anguish.

3 years later I have written and self-published 126 bite-sized non-fiction eBooks. A few of my eBooks became Amazon best sellers. I even ghost wrote an Amazon best selling ebook which netted tens of thousands of dollars in sales.

How did I make the transition from struggling self publisher to rocking self-publishing machine?

I followed a few basic steps to right myself.

1: I Got Clear on Why I Wrote and Self-Published eBooks

I honestly saw my first eBook launch for what it was: I primarily wanted to make quick money.

I did self-publish a helpful eBook. I also chose a relatively unknown platform through which I sold the eBook.

I was heavily focused on getting profits so I gave little thought to the eBook title, my marketing strategy and the problem I solved through the eBook.

Worst of all, I had no specific reader in mind before I brainstormed, outlined and wrote the eBook.

I learned my lesson for the Blogging From Paradise eBook series. I wrote these eBooks mainly because I enjoyed writing. I also visualized a specific reader in mind before contemplating eBook titles and outlines.

Get hyper clear on why you want to be a self-published author. Tie the reason to something fun and freeing. Get your energy right to build your self-publishing campaign on a solid foundation.

2: I Wrote What I Knew

I’ve had self-publishing success by writing 6,000 to 15,000 word, short and punchy reads on topics I know inside-out. I address specific problems suffered by my blog readers to match my passion and know how with reader pain points.

Unless you are writing an in-depth, heavily researched eBook I suggest you cover familiar topics to confidently self-publish eBooks.

My creative process: I brainstorm eBook titles based on reader problems, create titles solutions to address those problems, outline eBooks and write the eBook chapter by chapter.

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3: I Became Comfortable Writing in My Distinct Voice

Purists may cringe after reading my blog posts and eBooks.

I am not a polished author.

But I also have circled the globe over the past 6 years as a world traveling blogger and Amazon bestselling author.

I feel comfortable writing how Ryan Biddulph writes. Even if this means turning off writing purists.

My eBook How to Find Your Writing Voice is the top ranked eBook from its category on all of Amazon.

All 49 customer reviews are 5 star reviews because I give readers permission to write best sellers on Amazon in their own unique, authentic voice, even if this writing style is unpolished.

Write 1000 words daily in a Word document for practice. Trash the document after you reach your daily word count. Feel comfortable with your writing style. Position yourself for a successful non-fiction self-publishing career.

4: I Found My Niche

My readers would become bored reading a 30,000 word eBook on blogging.

They prefer a 6,000 to 15,000 word pillar style blog post masquerading as a pillar style post.

My readers also enjoy shopping from a wide range of eBooks on a variety of blogging and travel-themed topics.

I wrote 126 eBooks to follow James Altucher’s advice: “The best way to promote your current book is to write your next eBook.”

5: I Built a Community

Struggling self-publishing authors tend to worry about how or where to find readers.

I decided to embody this quote well before I considered self-publishing.

“The wealthiest people on earth look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for work.” ~ Robert Kiyosaki

I patiently and persistently built a friend network of blogging tips and travel bloggers by promoting them, endorsing them and featuring them on my blog.

My patience paid off.

Since I looked for and built a friend network my blogging buddies help to build momentum behind my eBook promotional blitzes. Many of my blogging buddies purchase and review my eBooks too.

Build your readership by promoting top authors in your writing niche. If you are an author blogger, promote top bloggers in your niche. Co-promote one another to build large, loyal, supportive communities.

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6: I Built a Blog and Email List

I helped people with their blogging problems through my blog.

I built strong bonds with my readers through my email list.

My readers expect a helpful blogging eBook delivered to their email inbox every other Friday.

Start blogging through a self-hosted WordPress blog.

Grow your email list to stay in touch with your readers.

Use these 2 tools to help folks for free and to announce new eBook releases.

7: I Used Free Promotions to Boost Sales and Reviews

I sometimes use free promotions to increase eBook sales and reviews.

Giving eBooks away gratis is a generous way to increase your exposure.

Create a buzz around your eBooks by giving your creations away for free on the release date.

8: I Created Authentic, Rough and Ready eBook Covers

When I think of how much money I paid to design my eBook covers I have probably spent more than James Patterson, Lee Child and George R.R. Martin combined.

I personally photographed every one of my eBook cover backgrounds in exotic places like Fiji, Bali, Thailand and Costa Rica. Add up my plane ticket costs and you quickly see what I mean.

I chose to be ruthlessly particular in all things branding. The Blogging From Paradise logo graces all of my eBook covers. Factor in my pictures from paradise and you have an authentic experience for any of my eBook readers.

These rough and ready, simple, clean covers deviate from normal eBook cover design but I always intended to differentiate myself and my brand from the average eBook author.

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My #1 Piece of Advice for Aspiring Self-Publishers

You need to love writing to get through the ups and downs of being a self-publishing author.

If you feel passionate about self-publishing an eBook write 1000 words or more daily for practice. Make writing as habitual to you as breathing.

Have fun writing. Even if you’re a non-fiction author let your imagination run wild. Develop a daily writing habit.

Hone your skills, enjoy the ride, build your reader base and you too can become a successful non-fiction writer.

Amazon eBook Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Ryan-Biddulph/e/B00MWC59RS/

Website: https://www.bloggingfromparadise.com/

© Ryan Biddulph 2017

An Overview of Story Creation

Award-Winning Author Hank Quense

Let’s assume you are a new (or inexperienced) fiction writer.  You probably know that creating a story requires a great deal of work and thinking.  You may not know that the work involved is the same whether you are creating a short story, a novel, a play, a script or even a memoir.

“How can that be?” you ask.  Simply because a novel, a script, a memoir, a play, a short story are all stories.  And no matter what type of story you have in mind, each requires a number of common elements such as characters, plots, scenes, settings, character arcs and more.

The only difference between these types of stories is the output.  What the manuscript looks like, in other words.  The manuscripts for a novel and for a play will look very different, but the process of creating those manuscripts is exactly the same.

Let’s put that issue aside and discuss a different topic.  Stories are the result of three separate creative processes:

  • Ideas
  • Story design
  • Storytelling techniques

Let’s discuss each one of these processes.

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1. Ideas

A mistake many rookie writers make is to start writing a story when they have only a single idea.  While a single idea can be the genesis of a story, no story can be written from a single idea.  A short story needs perhaps a dozen ideas while a novel requires many more than a hundred ideas.  The writer needs ideas about the character development, plot events, the setting, the character arc and the scene designs.  To gather all these ideas requires time and a great deal of thinking.  This is where a notebook (a real one or a digital one) comes in handy.  You never know when a great idea when pop into your head.

2. Story Design

What is story design?  It’s the process of developing all the story elements such as characters, plot events and so forth.  To put it another way, story design is the where the writer incorporates all these ideas into the story.

I’m a planner (as opposed to a panster) so I spend a lot of time on story design before I attempt to write the first draft.  In most cases the story design process for a novel consumes three months or more.  A major portion of this time is spent on determining the scenes I need to get the characters from the start of the story to the climactic scenes at the end.

3. Storytelling

No matter how great your ideas are and no matter wonderful your story design is, if you don’t have the storytelling skills to hold the reader’s attention, your story is doomed.  Storytelling involves the use of a number of techniques that include point-of-view, foreshadowing, show-don’t-tell, stimulus & reaction, dialog vs exposition among other topics.

One storytelling skill that isn’t discussed much in writing books is the development of a writing voice.  Writers can’t tell a story by using their speaking voice: they have to develop a separate and distinct writing voice.  The reason for this is that our speaking voice tends to be boring.  Very boring.  Want proof?  Eavesdrop on the conversation between a few strangers.  I’ll bet you it won’t hold your interest for long.  So imagine trying to read a story written in a speaking voice.

I believe that once a writer understands the creative processes required to produce a story, the work can go forward more easily and more smoothly.

This article is based on material in my book Creating Stories.

© Hank Quense 2017

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Common Formatting Issues in Microsoft Word: Four Easy Tips for Authors

Lynette M. Smith

Basic formatting knowledge will serve you well throughout your writing career. If you perform some types of basic formatting on your manuscript, you’ll not only prevent distractions as you focus on quality writing, but you’ll likely save money too. Here’s why.

Formatting errors and inconsistencies that remain in your manuscript will distract your copyeditor from performing high quality work while reading. A smart copyeditor scrubs (basic-formats) the manuscript before starting to read, but you’re billed for that time. Even if you tell your copyeditor to disregard the formatting, your book-layout professional will have to resolve these problems later on, and you’ll still be billed for that time.

Figure 1

Here are four common manuscript-formatting issues and how you can address them.

1. First-Line Paragraph Indents

The wrong way: Use the tab key or type a series of blank spaces.

The right way to change only one paragraph indent: Go to the Paragraph window (see Figure 1), click the down arrow, and select First line from the resulting pull-down menu. Then use the vertical arrows to select your preferred amount of indent (either the 0.5” default or something smaller, such as 0.3”, or manually type in a more precise measurement, such as 0.25”).

Figure 2

The right way to change all paragraphs that use the Normal style: Click on the Home ribbon tab. Right-click the Normal style and select Modify to open the Modify Style window (see Figure 2). Here, you can customize the font and font size, and many other options.

When you click the Format button in the lower left corner of that window, you’ll see a pull-down menu with several options; left-click on Paragraph, and the familiar Paragraph window will appear; there you can select First line indent and the amount of indent, plus change other settings, like type of Justification (left vs. full), line spacing, points of extra space below each Normal paragraph, etc. When you finish customizing the settings in the Paragraph window, click OK to return to the Modify Style window.

Once back in the Modify Style window, make sure the radio-button “Only in this document” (located just above the Format button) is selected; then click OK to close the Modify Style window.

Note: In your document later on, you can override this indent for an individual paragraph, such as the first paragraph of a chapter or the first paragraph after a hiatus in a novel. Simply click once in that paragraph, access the regular Paragraph window, and change “First line” to “None.”

Figure 3

2. Spacing between Sentences and Words and after Colons

The wrong way: Type two spaces between sentences, after colons, or anywhere else.

The right way: When you finish your final draft, go to the far right-hand side of the Home ribbon tab and click Replace (within the Editing section) to open the Find and Replace window (see Figure 3). In the “Find what” box, type two spaces (press the space bar twice). In the “Replace with” box, type one space (press the space bar once). Then click Replace All, as circled in Figure 3. Repeat as needed until no occurrences of two spaces remain. (This process also corrects the accidental typing of two spaces between a pair of words.)

Figure 4

3. Horizontal Centering of Titles

The wrong way: Use a combination of spaces and tabs to horizontally center text.

The right way: Left-click once anywhere on the line or paragraph or graphic you wish to center. Then, on the Home ribbon tab, click the icon circled in Figure 4 to center what you’ve selected.

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4. Starting a New Page

The wrong way: Press the Enter key repeatedly until the desired text is forced to the top of the next page. The problem with this technique is that, if you later insert or delete text on an earlier page, then the line of text you intended for the top of the new page with will have moved either further down the page or to the bottom of the previous page, forcing you to spend extra time making adjustments—and you’ll likely have to adjust every subsequent chapter too!

The right way: Instead of inserting all those blank lines, insert a manual page break between chapters and/or sections. Here’s how: At the end of your chapter or other major section where you want to begin a new page, strike Control-Enter to insert the manual page break. Your cursor will then be at the top of the next page, where you can type your next chapter heading and content.

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When you follow these tips, your formatting will be clean and easy to work with, you can focus better on quality writing, and you can reduce your costs for copyediting and book layout.

________________________

Lynette M. Smith works with book authors on their manuscript copyediting and book-layout proofreading in her long-established business, All My Best Copyediting and Heartfelt Publishing (AllMyBest.com). She is also the published author of the popular 40-page handbook, 80 Common Layout Errors to Flag When Proofreading Book Interiors, as well as the award-winning comprehensive reference book, How to Write Heartfelt Letters to Treasure: For Special Occasions and Occasions Made Special. Contact Lynette through her copyediting website, publishing website, or email , and follow her on LinkedIn and Facebook.

© Lynette M. Smith 2017

Ten Things I’ve Learned Writing Novels

Award-Winning Author Trace Conger

I published my first novel, The Shadow Broker, in October of 2014. It was a fascinating experience. Since then, I’ve published three additional novels and numerous short stories. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things about the process of writing and marketing.

Your mileage may vary, but here are a few insights to noodle:

1. Writing a novel is only as intimidating as you make it. Starting a novel is like holding your newborn for the first time. You’re a bit freaked out thinking about your newfound responsibilities of raising a living, breathing human being. Taking on a novel can feel the same way, but it’s only as bad as you make it out to be. Take it one word or one page at a time, and one day you’ll wake up with an 80,000-word novel.

2. Outlines make the process easier. Other writers will debate this, but for me creating an outline kept me on track. I create a brief outline for each chapter, including no more detail than can fit on one side of an index card. After I have the story fleshed out, I sit down with my stack of cards and write each scene or chapter. Yes, the story changes. Yes, you’ll throw away some of your ideas or characters, but having a roadmap will help you get to your destination, even if you take a few detours along the way.

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3. It takes time. I’ve heard countless stories of indie authors pumping out three or more books each year. I don’t/can’t do that. While I’m not going to insinuate that these prolific authors are sacrificing quality for quantity, I will say that if you rush the product, your quality will suffer. Focus on creating a quality product. If you can write multiple quality books per year, fantastic, but if you can’t, then don’t.

4. Your worst critic is you. I can’t remember a time in my life when I experienced more self-doubt than when I was writing my first novel. Every author has that voice in their head that tells them they’re a hack, their work isn’t any good, they’ll fail miserably, or they’re wasting their time. I haven’t figured out a way to silence this inner critic, but I have learned to tell him to get lost.

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5. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. It’s all bull. Writer’s block is an excuse authors tell themselves when they can’t produce. Maybe it’s a slow idea day, or the words aren’t coming as fast as they did yesterday. Doesn’t matter. Put your butt in the chair and write. Even if you feel like you’re walking through quicksand. Move forward, one step (or word) at a time, and you’ll make it to the other side. I promise.

6. Marketing is hard. You think writing a novel is hard? Wait until you have to market it. Even if you sign a big deal with a publisher, you’re going to have to promote your book. Get comfortable with the idea, even if you aren’t. Get comfortable talking about it, contacting the media, researching book blogs, responding to readers, hosting signings, doing interviews, and writing blog posts (like this one) to support your work.

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7. You’ll become obsessed with metrics. You’ll spend hours Googling yourself, watching your sales, scrutinizing your Amazon author ranking, and stalking your reviews. Then one day you’ll realize you’re wasting your time and you’ll get back to work.

8. Your friends won’t buy your book. Some of them will, but most won’t. Most of your friends don’t read. Maybe because they prefer to spend what little free time they have binging on Netflix. Or maybe you just have crappy friends. Either way, don’t expect them to buy your book but do expect them to lie and say they will.

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9. You have to field lots of questions. Once people discover you’ve written a novel, they’ll throw every question imaginable at you. Who’s your publisher? How did you get your agent? Did you get an advance? What’s your book about? How long did it take you to write it? Where can I buy it? Where do you get your ideas? Can I be a character in your next book? Listen to every question, even the stupid ones, and answer with a smile. Everyone is a potential customer.

10. Authors are an incredibly supportive bunch. Maybe it’s because they’ve been in your shoes or understand your struggle, but authors are some of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. Two huge authors, Joe R. Lansdale and Jonathan Maberry, gave me incredible advice (even if they don’t remember doing it). Don’t be afraid to reach out to authors you admire. Ask questions and listen to their advice. You’ll be surprised at how accessible and helpful they can be.

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Bonus insight: There is a ton of horrible advice out there. I stalk the popular forums from time to time and am always amazed at some of the horrible advice that I see. One of the worst pieces of advice I’ve ever heard was to publish your first draft to “get it out there” and then use reader review comments to identify weaknesses and revise your next draft. Are you kidding me? Scrutinize all advice and carefully consider who is dishing it out. I’m not advocating only looking to best-selling authors for advice (there’s great advice out there from authors at all levels) just make sure it passes the sniff test before you stake your reputation on it.

Trace Conger is an award-winning author in the crime, thriller and suspense genres. His Mr. Finn series follows disgraced private investigator Finn Harding as he straddles the fine line between investigator and criminal. Find out more at www.traceconger.com.

© Trace Conger 2017

Finding Forrester

Michael LaRocca of MichaelEdits.com

The existence of a movie — any movie — about the topic of writing is surprising enough. But for it to actually be a good movie? Wow.

I taught Advanced English Writing in several universities in China from 2002 through 2006. Showing this movie became an integral part of those classes, because so many of its themes are identical to what I was trying to teach. I was happy to watch it over a dozen times with my students, and lecture about it in a style more Robin Williams than F. Murray Abraham.

But all these years later, will I still think it’s a good movie? Let’s find out.

We begin by meeting Jamal, the student who hides his intelligence in order to fit in. Fair enough.

Jamal is also a writer who hides his writing. Do they still exist?

Sean Connery is William Forrester, the reclusive genius of a writer.

Jamal is writing all the time. By hand. He’s constantly practicing his basketball. He’s constantly practicing his writing. That’s how a person gets to be the best he’s able to be at either pursuit. Or any pursuit. So if you’re not writing every day, listen to Sean Connery and Rob Brown. Write every day. You’re never going to write like Shakespeare or shoot hoops like Michael Jordan, but if you write every day, you’ll get better at it than you are now. Unused potential is worse than lack of potential, because the former is a choice.

Jamal and Forrester are both obsessed with reading. As writers must be. Jamal snoops in Forrester’s shelves both to learn about him and for suggestions. I already know you’re reading every day. Aren’t you? How many times have I said it? If you don’t enjoy reading, you can’t write something that somebody else enjoys reading.

Jamal: “You read all these?” 
Forrester: “No, I keep them to impress all my visitors.”

Amusing because Forrester’s an agoraphobe whose only visitor is the guy bringing his royalty checks and his groceries. (Wouldn’t you love to be an author living well on royalty checks for something you wrote 30 years ago?) But also a chance for me to riff on people who keep all the books they’ve ever read shelved at home. You know how much I love the written word. But Goodreads tells me that in the past three years alone I’ve read over 1000 books. Why would I keep them? I’m not going to read them all again. (Just the five-star books.) I do love a library, but I choose not to own one. I know where they are.

Jamal gets his writing notebooks back from “Window,” that strange old dude who we don’t know is Sean Connery because we haven’t seen his picture on every movie poster ever made. And what has this man of mystery added to the notebooks? Honest feedback. It’s not all kind. Not even close, actually. Brutally honest. That’s what we all need. And if we’re mature, it’s also what we want, because this helps us improve. Jamal’s first reaction was negative, but the next day, he’s knocking on the door. He says: “I was wondering if I could bring you more of my stuff.”

Finally, Jamal reads a book by Forrester. When Forrester gets the book back, he says, “Christ, you’ve dog-eared one of them. Show a little respect for the author.” I say screw the author. Have a little respect for the next reader. Don’t vandalize your books.

In the film, Forrester wrote one book. It won a Pulitzer. He reacted to a mix of critical praise and personal tragedy by not publishing another one. I don’t think you have to be an author to enjoy the pot shots he takes at critics.

Forrester: “I know what it is. The last thing I need is another person telling me what they think it is.”

I know the feeling.

Forrester: “Critics spend a day destroying what they couldn’t create in a lifetime.”

True.

Jamal: “What’s it feel like?” 
Forrester: “What?” 
Jamal: “Writing something the way you did.” 
Forrester: “Perhaps you’ll find out.”

I like that little exchange because, while I remember what it felt like to write at my very best, I’ll be damned if I can explain it to you. Write your own books and you’ll find out for yourself.

Jamal: “Did you ever read your own writing?” 
Forrester: “In public? Hell no. I barely read it in private.”

I used to say things like that all the time. But I did finally reread all fourteen of my published books last year. In private. Not bad, Michael. Not bad at all. Oh, and they’re better “inside proper covers and everything,” just like the author’s wife noted in the second Robert Galbraith novel. Don’t act like she’s weird for waiting.

[It’s eighteen books now. When the hell did I write this movie review?]

Forrester: “A lot of writers know the rules about writing, but they don’t know how to write.”

We know it’s true. But let me add that the writers who don’t even know the rules are screwed. You need not obey the rules. But you do need to know them. I break writing rules all the time, but never out of simple ignorance.

Clever dialogue about starting a sentence with a conjunction. Who knew such things were possible?

Forrester just sits at a manual typewriter and immediately starts writing. Jamal likes to think first. So do I. Hell, I’ve even used an outline once or twice. Also, I start with pen and paper or (more often) computer keyboard. Not a typewriter.

Forrester: “No thinking — that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!”

I’ve used freewriting in class and given it a spot in my textbook. It’s a good technique, and I’ve seen a lot of students surprise themselves with the results. But I’ve also never written anything publishable that way. Blogable, perhaps. I do agree with the heart/head thing, of course.

Using other authors for inspiration can be a complex issue. Plain old stealing is wrong, but even the most original thinkers seek inspiration. The movie finally moves its dramatic conflict into high gear by examining all that. It was probably a bit predictable the first time I watched it. It was certainly predictable the fifteenth or twentieth time I watched it. But it still works. It’s still powerful, moving, and five-star all the way.

Enjoy!

Technical editing since 1991. Business editing since 2006. MichaelEdits.com

© Michael LaRocca 2017

Steve Scott’s Six-Figure Success with Non-Fiction Books

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

I love author success stories! And the minute I decided to focus on finding success stories to share with you on this blog was the minute I started finding more and more of them for you.

Several recent posts on this blog have focused on authors who have seen massive success selling fictional novels and children’s books such as Amanda Hocking, Mark DawsonLiz SchulteTimothy Ellis, and Sheri Fink. Interestingly, posts such as these led to comments such as this one: “An important difference in Fiction Writing as opposed to non-fiction — Readers buy for entertainment, not to solve a problem, so you can successfully sell multiple products to the same reader pool.” This comment seems to suggest that it’s somehow easier to sell multiple fictional products to a single readership than it is to sell multiple non-fiction books—that it’s easier to build up one’s readership based on entertainment genres rather than self-help/problem-solving genres. I’ve also since received a similar comment from another local “author marketing consultant” that echos this person’s presumption: “…our particular audience is business (in many ways a tougher market than fiction) and business types rarely write more than one book. … Writing a book and getting it published are the easier parts. Making enough money to live on or even to cover the time invested in the writing of the book, let alone make a significant profit on book sales is extremely difficult.

Of course, you know me by now. You know what I had to do next, don’t you? I had to go in search of a non-fiction success story to prove that it is, indeed, possible for non-fiction authors to enjoy the same success as the above-mentioned fictional authors, and I quickly found one such success story in Steve Scott. (You get what you focus on!)

I won’t cut and paste the entire post from The Creative Penn here. I’ll let you click on the link to visit their site and read it for yourself. But I will list a few of the commonalities that I see with all of the successful authors I’ve personally interviewed or read about or invited to guest post on this blog.

  1. All of these authors are prolific writers. They’ve all written several books and are releasing them one after the other, strategically, in order to leverage the success of each previous book’s release-date traffic. In other words, the best advice an “author marketing consultant” can provide to one’s business clientele is, “Don’t just write one large book. Break it down into topics. Create a series and release several smaller books within this series one after the other within six to nine weeks of each other. This will get you more bang for your buck by keeping the momentum of your release date going.”
    .
  2. All of these authors build meaningful relationships with their readers. These authors stay in regular touch with their growing readership. They maintain regular communication with them by replying to each and every comment they receive from their fans. They build a more personal relationship with these people by doing so, which really cements their fans’ support. Some of these authors even use their top supporters as “focus groups” or “beta testers” by sending out manuscripts to them ahead of time to inquire whether or not they like the book’s content or have recommendations on how to improve it before it is officially released to the masses. In other words, they get additional free help with substantive editing from the people that matter the most—their buyers.
    .
  3. All of these authors use email marketing and/or blogging to promote the release of new books. For authors, building an organic email marketing list or blog subscriber list is equivalent to building a near-guaranteed readership. This allows them to let their greatest supporters know when to expect the next book in a series which leads to more sales of all their books. And this increase in sales raises their online profile which, in turn, attracts more and more new traffic to both their back list and front list titles.

If it can work for one author, it can work for you. If it can work for fiction, it can work for non-fiction.

Yes, you have to work at it. Nobody said it was going to be a quick and easy fix. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you get what you focus on. Focus on success.

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Amanda Hocking: Another Fascinating “Rags to Riches” Success Story

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

I’m always on the lookout for author success stories to share with my blog subscribers because this is a tough business that requires a lot of inspiration to keep oneself motivated. It takes motivation to get yourself to consistently take the types of actions you need to be taking in order to achieve the success you desire.

I believe you get what you focus on. You can focus on the difficulties and heed the warnings of business advisers who insist that 90% of authors will never see the kind of success that authors like Amanda Hocking and Mark Dawson are seeing, and that you should therefore set your goals much lower in order to avoid disappointment. Or you can focus on the possibilities by going in search of the proof, all around you, that what you desire is indeed achievable … whether you write fiction or non-fiction.

The fact is, many authors are earning fantastic livings writing books nowadays. Wouldn’t you love to read an article that tells you exactly how they’re achieving this? If the answer to that question is “yes” then you’ll enjoy reading this: What Makes a $100k Author: 8 Findings Every Author Should Know. What I appreciate most about this article is that it provides relevant data about the realities of this business while also showing authors what is possible if they’re willing to put in the time and effort. It encourages authors rather than discouraging them.

I created the “Author Success Stories” category on this blog as a place where you can read about the possibilities. The purpose is to encourage you rather than discourage you because, at the end of the day, if even one author can accomplish something that means it’s achievable. It’s possible. Focus on that, and you may just be the next success story that is inspiring others to do the same. You may become one of the pioneers who steers others in the right direction so that, perhaps one day, it will be 90% of authors enjoying massive success and only 10% who will never achieve it.

Which brings me back to Amanda Hocking, an extreme success story that first appeared in The Guardian back in January 2012, who went from obscurity (and essentially poverty) to bestselling status within 18 months of publishing her first book online. Amanda is now a self-made millionaire. Granted, there were several years of writing and work beforehand … as it often is with these “overnight success” stories. Amanda makes sure to emphasize that in this interview which I highly recommend you read. It is eye opening and inspiring. And most importantly, it shows what’s possible even after several disappointments.

Keep writing. Keep working. Keep the faith!

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STORY: How to Weave the Thread of Theme Into Your Writing

Mel Menzies

Story has existed since the beginning of time.  It is endemic to human nature, and is evident in cave-art (yes, it may be painting or carving but it’s there to tell a story), legend, folklore and mythology, the Bible, fairy tales and biography, drama, newspaper reports and novels.  But I wonder whether those of us who seek to write either fiction or memoir, truly understand the importance of its effect on human behaviour?  Let me explain.

THE EFFECT OF STORY ON READERS

Shortly before starting my Evie Adams’ series of mystery novels, I woke one morning with the following statement ringing in my head: Entertain your readers so that they will absorb truths they might otherwise resist.

Think about it.  Morality and duty to society are stated as key themes of Jane Austen’s novels.  True to the era in which she lived, she could have written on these subjects in a didactic, non-fictional manner, with the aim of teaching her readers how they might better behave.   Had she done so, however, I somewhat doubt that her books would have survived the twentieth century, let alone the twenty-first.  Yet survive – no, thrive – they do.  Precisely because she chose to convey these themes through the actions, dialogue and inner stream of consciousness of her characters, in response to the circumstances they encountered.

THE NATURE OF THEME

So what, exactly, is theme?  And how do we go about choosing it?

  1. Theme is the one word, or sentence, which characterises the reason for the book having been written, and its narrative.
  2. Theme might thus be described as the motive for your book; the message you wish to convey to your readers.
  3. Theme, for example, may be expressed as: forgiveness; destruction wrought by ambition; unrequited love; repentance; turning a self-centred life into a life which serves others, and so on.

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Thus, the story of a marital breakdown might focus on forgiveness as its theme.  Husband shoves wife aside and marches from room.  She falls and is injured.  The physical and mental trauma she experiences in hospital would be portrayed as a battle of will and emotion, in which pain, bitterness and anger would, naturally, rise to the surface.  Compassion, understanding, and empathy for the protagonist would be the obvious response in readers, whether or not they have shared similar life events themselves.

Adding to the conflict of the events the victim has experienced, and the feelings they’ve aroused, her sister is insisting that she takes legal action against her husband.   But what if the wife then searches her inner self and realises that she had some part in provoking the argument?  What if she catches herself out by recalling a similar event in her childhood, when she was, in fact, the perpetrator?  How, she asks, can she live with herself, harbouring bitterness and hatred, when she knows herself to be fallible?

As she goes through the inner arguments, and conveys them to her sister through dialogue, so, too, does the reader.  The story and theme play out in his or her imagination.  Until a decision is reached.  The denouement – the wife’s forgiveness of her husband, plus his remorse – leads to reconciliation.  To mutual happiness.  And to hope for a better future.

STORIES THAT DO MORE THAN ENTERTAIN

Your reader finishes the book feeling more than entertained.  His or her future attitude and actions have been influenced by osmosis.  You will have aroused questions in his or her mind; stirred up memories of relevant past events; perhaps, even, a determination to right a wrong.  They will have no need to be instructed in morality or clemency.  They’ve seen it for themselves.  And hopefully, they will have taken it on board.

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The story you have written, whether biographical or fiction, will have left your readers with a lasting impact.  Lives, behaviour and attitudes will have been changed.  Just think!  You’ll be more than simply a writer or an author.  As a lady who read my novel, Time to Shine, said to me: ‘That was a life-changer.’

***

Twice a wife, three times a mum, and seven times a grandma, I’ve been a multi-published author (under several nom de plume) since the 1980’s, with a Sunday Times No 4 Bestseller published by Hodder & Stoughton.  I’ve been a keynote speaker at conferences, led workshops, and taken part in radio and TV debates, panels and phone-ins.

My latest series of novels – family dramas with a page-turning mystery solved, not by a detective but by a counsellor – are set in Exeter and Dartmouth, and are available from Waterstones or any good bookshop, Amazon,  or at discount via PayPal, from my book page www.melmenzies.co.uk/books.  All proceeds are for charity.

‘This novel not only entertains, it inspires,’ says author, Pam Rhodes.

What I like about Mel’s writing,’ says Devon Life reviewer, Annette Shaw, ‘is that she explores issues and problems we all face.’


© Mel Menzies 2017

NEXT TIME: Story: Planning Your Plot

[From Pen to Print] Advice from the Author of ALLERGY BOOKS FOR KIDS!

Michelle Nel

I recall as a child wandering the library stacks, the pile of books in my arms growing steadily, teetering ever precariously. Author has been a title I have yearned for since childhood. Albeit not for lack of trying, each attempt to write was quickly foregone as frustration would ensue. I wouldn’t call it writer’s block as much as an underlying lack of direction or purpose. A turn in life’s path brought forth my passion to write as well of what to write. Navigating life with my son’s multiple anaphylactic food allergies has inspired my journey of ‘author’ … an entrepreneurship penned from passion.

In search of a creative manner in which to share allergy awareness, my mind began to reel with an unremitting onslaught of rhyming words. Penning each phrase before forgotten, I would frequently jump from bed or stop mid-street to scribble on a scrap of paper or the palm of my hand.

Once my stories were written, I then faced the challenge of bringing them from pen to print. With most publishers only accepting submissions from pre-published authors a scenario is created similar to that of ‘chicken before the egg’.

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With time and the test of patience, I was unwavering in my belief that all would unfold as it should. Dismayed, but yet determined, I posted an online plea with an allergy parent support group. In my search for an illustrator (or anyone with an artistic inkling), unbeknownst to me right there amidst my allergy moms was Jennifer Terry, artist and graphic designer from Colorado, USA.

For five years now, Jennifer and I have worked together, our partnership as seamless as our vision. Jen and I have never met nor video chatted and we have seldom texted (as I do not have US data on my phone). It has been with only intermittent emails that we have created this series solely by sharing a passion, one fueled by the purpose found in sharing allergy awareness.

What advice may I offer? You must believe in the purpose of what it is you write, be mindful to measure your success only against yourself, allow openness for constructive critique (thank you Kyle Dine), and finally, follow your heart! As the dedication in my fourth books reads “ For my friends, who have been ceaseless in their support, offered kind critiques, as well graciously gifted me their time, talent and technical abilities. To pursue one’s passion requires an intrinsic belief in its plausibility and purpose; to know others recognize your journey’s worth is validating as well abundantly humbling”.

There is much in life I am unsure of but I know this to be true, navigating life with my son’s allergies, autism, language and learning delays has allowed me the opportunity to grow into a better and more empathetic person. He has shown me the beauty in viewing life not just outside the box, but that there is no box. And the rewards, financial gain will come, what is priceless has been the friendships found and that the books are being embraced.

It would be an Ottawa allergy dad/businessman who after reading my first 2 books (then print-on-demand) offered to pay for a full print run of each. With both high-quality work and winning customer service I have returned now four times to the same family run printers, Sotek Graphics, in Orleans, Ottawa. Last month, in order to help me hand in my book 4 printing file the owner met me at a gas station on the side of highway, an hour from his business!

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During a time of single mom struggle, my gas and hotel were paid for by the owner/editor of Allergic Living Magazine, Gwen Smith, so I might attend the Canadian Anaphylaxis Conference three years ago. Gwen went as far as to allow me a corner of the A.L. Magazine table from which to share and sell my books.

I met Peter Ausland, editor of Ottawa Parenting Times Magazine through attending the Parenting Times Children’s Expo. Peter allowed me such an act of kindness I am still in awe. And when technology has had me in tears, many a time others have stepped in to offer not just a tissue but tech support.

There is no right way nor a singular road, be true to yourself and never lose sight of the passion that brought you to begin your journey with ‘words’. Along with his allergic lessons, I have instilled in my son that allergies and autism are what one has, they do not define who one is nor will they determine what one does or may become. I do not believe in disabilities only in the beauty found in different abilities.

With a love of reading bound by my fondness of books themselves, I am equally excited and honoured to sit as a new board trustee for the Augusta Township Public Library. This historical gem welcomes with its stone structure, red door, and the warmth found by stacks of books placed upon wood shelves.

Nestled near the St. Lawrence River, the Old Algonquin School was built in 1833 and was Ontario’s longest active schoolhouse at 133 years. The Augusta Township library began its conception inside the schoolhouse in 1896. Incredibly, in sharing of heritage and house, should you wish to read or hold a reception the Augusta Township Library welcomes rentals of the schoolhouse.

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What has been the biggest benefit? Having others share how much the books have been enjoyed, that they instill equal laughter as lessons learnt. But the greatest reward has been watching my son as he reads ‘his’ books, for this journey, an entrepreneurship penned by passion, is one we take together.

I smile to think that wandering the library stacks, a pair of little arms will embrace a pile of books, mine sitting on the top teetering precariously.

Michelle and Jennifer are honoured their books are housed in the resource library at CHEO (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario). Michelle has participated in the CHEO open doors event sharing her experiences as a parent navigating allergies.

Michelle was nominated top five food allergy books by BAAAB – The (San Francisco) Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board.

Allergic Living Magazine has published a review for each book as well Michelle has several published articles in A.L. Magazine as well on the BAAAB webpage.

Michelle was interviewed on CBC radio ‘All In A Day’ by Giacomo Panico also she has participated in the Parenting Times Magazine/Ottawa Children’s Expo. 

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Michelle is a member of the AOE, Ottawa Arts Council as well is a board member for the Augusta Township Public Library.

ALLERGY BOOKS FOR KIDS! Michelle and Jennifer have aspired to create books which not only engage children who have allergies, but that they might also be used as resources to aid with allergy education. Michelle and Jennifer are pleased to share the upcoming release of their final two books thus completing the Allergy Books For Kids series of six.

Michelle was born in 1972, Gravelbourg,Saskatchewan although her parents’ home was in the neighboring village of Hodgeville.  From this small prairie community Michelle’s family moved to Saskatoon, then again to Kitimat, a coastal city in Northern British Columbia. A final childhood move, taken by ship, brought Michelle to the home where she grew up in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby.

In 2007 Michelle moved from Langley, B.C. to Canada’s capital, Ottawa, Ontario. Most recently Michelle now calls home to Augusta Township, a picturesque piece of rural Ontario.

WEBSITE: www.allergybooksforkids.ca

TWITTER: @allergybookmom

LINKEDIN: Michelle Nel

FACEBOOK: Allergy Books For Kids – Author Michelle Nel

© Michelle Nel 2017