Hello… I hope you are doing well.
One of my followers wrote and asked me some questions.
“How do you take an idea, to a published novel, that people will wait in line to buy?”
I tell people all the time to write for the passion of writing, not for fame and fortune, as the latter is a road fraught with frustration and disappointment. Since I started this journey, I have taken learning this craft to heart.
Years ago I used to play golf. I sucked at it. However; business executives complete many business deals on those green stretches of land. Needing to be ‘acceptable,’ I had to get my average score, 100 or lower.
Put another way, I had to be less sucky. It didn’t hurt for them to win, but I needed to at least be a contender.
Finding a pro, I spent hours learning the game, body mechanics and so forth, until I identified my weak points, and I had a target. Once I had an aim to shoot for (in this case my five iron), I went to a ‘par-three’ course and only used the five iron. I drove, pitched and putted, with that five iron until it went from my worst club to one I was not afraid of using.
I take the craft of writing, painting, playing the guitar, and what have you, with that same raw determination.
I feel like a broken record when I say the following. The novels I have written were fishing expeditions to see who bought what.
I enjoy writing, but after reading what I have over the years; I thought to make money with this talent was not a bad idea. How? How do you turn a passion into dollars? I would argue that you follow the path I have been on. Supply to the customer what they want.
E.L. James, author of 50 shades is worth 80 million. In this modern-day, what author does that and how?
I read her books as if taking apart a watch, which I must put back together. What could I learn from her books? Why are people buying them?
One of my twitter followers described herself in her bio as a “cyber slut.”
“What the hell, why does she do that?” I researched her, to find that she models on a webcam for men (or women) who will pay to watch her.
There is a somewhat darker side to this which I hesitate to mention. Some people will pay per minute, to have the model watch them… perform… I find this disturbing on the #metoo level of disturbing but… I am not judging them. I don’t understand that behavior but again…deny who you are, and your behavior can skew from your programming.
“Did I say programming…? Another blog for another day but, yes I did…”
That is an underbelly of the internet I was unaware of but, it was also a story. A story I wrote called Cyber Subs. Cyber from the world of the internet, and Subs from the world of BDSM. (50 shades stuff)
Yes, that novel sells well, and it sells in the UK more than any other place. “Why?” If you folks know, give me a hint. I suspect that it has something to do with our Puritan heritage, but I might be all wet.
The material sells it but, why the UK more than the US? That is still a mystery. That novel has been pirated, and you can find it on web sites in countries, which I cannot make heads or tails of the language.
Always write under a pen name as your neighbors and friends might take objection to what you write. You need to keep your private life, separate from your writing life until you are E.L.JAMES rich, then you hire security guards. With that kind of money, your family will be in your back pocket…LOL, Those that still judge you, or who are jealous of you and speak poorly of you, are toxic, and you don’t need them in your life. True with me, your mileage might vary.
My passion is Science fiction. Knowing physics and science, I can write a story that people will want to read. My best-selling novel is The Saga of the Starduster. That novel sells well around the world. I incorporate modern-day issues, as our characters cannot have it too easy, or everything is lovely. That is boring. They must have challenges to overcome, and they must have flaws. It is also a wonderful way to “arc” your characters and your story.
*Of all the books you have written which one do you like the most within each style?
Knowing I do not stay away from controversial subjects, in fact, I gravitate toward them in my writing, my favorite novel is a book about falling in love with another woman.
Donna lost her husband at a young age and withdraws from life and hides her emotions. She conceals them behind her work as a tough bitch English professor until fate plays a role. Diamond Joe is by far my favorite novel, of the over thirty on the market today. If you can handle two women loving each other, I recommend reading that one. I am working on the cover art, so I will also offer it in paperback shortly.
Saga of the Starduster is wonderful in the science fiction genre, and I love Kelly McGuire in my action genre as Presidential Assassins. While Diamond Joe is YA, the rest are Adult reads.
Many of you have discovered others that I thought were wonderful including The Girl Nextdoor. With well over 30 novels and that number grows quarterly you have plenty of choices to choose from.
*How many books have you written?
Well over 30, I am not even sure at this point. When assessing who you are, “enlightenment” figuring out your gifts, and your shortcomings are paramount to growing as a human. One of my gifts is, I write fast. In the literary world, I am known as a pantster. Literally, it means I write by the seat of my pants. I can do this as I write fast. Those that are much more pragmatic, or dogmatic in their writing might be known as plotters, which means, they might want to use a program like Scrivener to keep their thoughts together as they write.
*Do you have a literary agent?
No, I have spoken with several, and I have friends that are agents. From the query letter process to a contract is a long road, again fraught with peril.
There are people in this trade who we call predators. These people cannot make it as writers, so they use their craft to “assist others” for pay. ‘Those who can do, those who can’t teach.’ I would remember that adage as I sought to purchase help. If they are worth their salt, why are they trying to earn money from you?
While I paint this picture with a broad brush, even the most skeptical among you know that there is more truth to that statement than fiction.
- With an agent, it is all about “who they know.”
- Do they know an editor that will take a chance on your work?
- Does this editor know a publisher that when refined, will buy your manuscript?
- Who have they published before?
- An author should never have to pay anyone to get their work published. That rule is one worth remembering.
Not all that offer to assist you for money are predators but, buyer beware. The horror stories I have heard could fill a large book about what not to do.
Why do we call them predators?
They have us at a disadvantage. Sitting through my first critique session I was coy knowing what to expect. Other writers want to prove their prowess by ripping your shit apart. Not all, but many. Especially if you are successful, they want to prove to themselves that they are better than you are.
(Think I am wrong? I found a typo in Robert Mckee’s book Story. For a few seconds, it thrilled me, and then I was ashamed of myself for feeling that way. We all do it.)
I know this about human nature. On a return flight from California, I saw under me hundreds of wind turbines. Creating a short story in my head called Tipping Point, that evening I wrote a ten thousand word short story in about three hours, created the cover art in another hour and published it that night before I went to bed.
I gave it away on Kindle unlimited for the value of the story, not the literary genius. Yes, I did the basic edits but, not the fine detail one might do before submitting to an agent or publisher.
Many of you read it, and nobody said too much. It was a lunchtime read. I got some science geeks that read it, picking my story apart on the scientific claims, but nobody said anything about the literary constructs.
(Yes, the wind is a product of weather and from the sun, mostly, the jetstream is not, science geek people.)
I handed it to my cohorts in that format, not touching it. Days later, they all looked like the cat that ate the canary as they approached the table waiting to pounce. I knew what was coming but, this was a learning process, not so much for me, but for them.
Critique partners must be synergistic!
Creating a group of people who you can trust and work with takes time to build those relations.
One of them scolded me for publishing something so crude. Another did not like so much of it, the paper was red. FFS!… I chuckled to myself as this was not unexpected. Drawing the ire of one, pleased me as the writing evoked emotions which all of your writing should, unless you are not writing fiction.
One of the others upon leaving the table said and I quote…”I thought they were far too nice!”
This was what I hoped for. This person allowed their feelings to be exposed, and this is what needed addressing.
During this process, you do not want to tear down your fellow writers, but build them up. I always look for what they did correctly before I even think about making suggestions which I think would be helpful. This is what any of your fellow readers, critiques etc. should be doing. This is what you should do when you assist a fellow writer.
A few of them were not in the “how shitty is this?” camp, and offered some salient advice. These people earned my respect that day. Since then, the rest have but, it has been a procedure. One advised me that the story deserved to be more than a short story. Now you can read Earths Tipping Point on Kindle Unlimited for Free and it is almost 100,000 words if memory serves. Enjoy it!
Now, back to the main question of predators, we as the creators of our story don’t have the objectivity we need to discern our trash from our treasure. If we wrote it, then it is gold. We know with the help of this person, we will be on the NYT bestseller list. PFFFT! Don’t fall for it.
Folks, I did not need the humbling by my friends at that table, what I needed was honesty. I know that my work could use a fresh perspective, and that is why I offer you the reader the ability to communicate with me through the website, or this blog.
*Do you do your own marketing?
Yes, I had to teach myself everything about it which, again if you read the first part of this response you know that it was from trial and error. Social media is a critical part, and that is something you should be all over when you first think you want to write.
Marketing involves much more than social media. They did not ask about cover art, and that is a subject tied to marketing and needs to be addressed, as it is paramount, your cover is of a quality that will sell your work.
*Are you self-publishing through Amazon or anyone else?
Yes, Amazon gets the bulk of my business, but I also do business with Smashwords. Smashwords will upload your work to multiple different vendors including Apple, Barnes & Noble and the list goes on. Smashwords is a booger bear to work with. Their interface (meaning your book formatting) must be perfect, and that can be tough.
The process is arduous, and their method of allowing your work into their “premium catalog” adds to the difficulty. If I were them I would spend the money and time to fix their “meat grinder” as Draft to Digital has. If you want to capture the market share, your interface must be easy to use, while friendly to the non-programmer. Amazon and Draft to Digital understand this.
We are writers, not programmers. This again sets us up as targets for the predators out there who know how to format your novel to pass by the meat-grinder. I am a capitalist, but I don’t want to pay for services that I can do with a little time and patience.
I now use a program called Vellum, which by far is the best way to create and format your manuscript. Vellum only works on MAC which makes it an expensive proposition if you are a PC person like me. I now own two Macs and several PC’s.
*Who does your editing?
Editors charge around $30 an hour, and there are several kinds of editors from line editing to compositional editing. You could drop over $1000 to get a professional editor. I would ask for references before I plunked down that kind of money.
There are multiple respectable tools on the market, starting with the grammar checker built into word. From there, I like Grammarly, and there is also a tool called ProWritingAid.
Nothing makes up for talent, and that you must gain from doing, and learning. If your passion is writing, then prepare to be humbled as you forge your way through the valleys of despair and rejection, while looking for that one good phrase to encourage you to push forth.
Yes, that is a golf analogy…One good shot keeps you returning for more humbling, again and again.
I try to get friends and family to read my work and comment. Realizing they are not editors and might fancy themselves as grammar Nazis, there is a fine line between proper punctuation and your voice. I would rather hang a participle than lose my voice.
*Are any of your books on audio?
Not yet. If I find someone who can read well, with plenty of inflection, I might try to work a deal with them. I know a lady who does voice work, and she and I are friends. “It is not what you know but who. Connections in this industry are vital.”
*Did you get your ISBN numbers on your own?
No, they are expensive through Bowker. Amazon and Smashwords will provide them, but there is a hitch. Well, there are multiple hitches. Smashwords will give you an ISBN that is only good on the Smashwords distribution channels. Amazon will just provide you with one when you offer a paperback. Again that ISBN number is only viable through Amazon sales.
*If I remember you have three types of books – what are they and which do you like the best?
- Science fiction
- Action Romance
- Adult, or what I affectionately call, Naughty Nighties
https://www.AuthorTWScott.com will take you to what they are, and where to find them.
I love them all but, the naughty novels are the most fun to create. Science fiction is the most difficult to write but, the most satisfying, as I love to use my physics and scientific prowess to make sure that what I am putting forth, is not the “flux capacitor,” but actual science that might work. As you know, some Science facts of today, started out in the minds of science fiction writers like myself. The Geosynchronous Satellite is one.
*When you refer to the masses – who are they? Whose lives do you desire to touch?
The masses are those of us who still read, vs. sitting in the front of screens while having their minds ripped from them through the dissemination of garbage, which impedes the thinking centers of the brain. Even in my naughtiest of novels, I speak of enlightenment. Who is that person looking back at you from that mirror? Do you know him or her? Together, we explore that in story format.
I can write adult novels because we are all sexual beings, and we all have those desires that need to be sated. Those that deny them, are the people are in danger of doing something terrible such as pedophilia or accosting Page Boys. Vows of celibacy, in my humble opinion, are setting them up for deviant behavior. Some cultures deny human sexuality to where bestiality is ok, but acknowledging who and what you are is not. They created us to procreate, period. Our brains are wired for it, and to deny it is foolish.
One young lady was telling me she only dated Christian men… “Why?” Because they don’t think that way…! “Where do you think little Christians come from?”
Hormones and other chemicals like endorphins drive us. Those that read my novels learn many things about themselves while enjoying a story that takes them to another galaxy, or perhaps a stranger’s bedroom, or possibly over their lover’s lap. With a fair warning and a free percentage of the novel for their perusal, I offer no apologies.
The masses are your audience which each writer must identify. Who are you writing for? We have an idea who E. L. James is writing for but, how about Clive Cussler? What about Agatha Christie or even Hemmingway?
If Hemmingway or even Shakespeare were to start out today, in this world of competition you and I have, would we ever learn of them? I would offer to you that there are many great writers out there, languishing in the millions of novels on Amazon that will never be discovered because they don’t understand marketing.
These same authors might also sit in slush piles waiting for an agents twelve-year-old to put down the smartphone long enough to read the query letter.
While some agents troll Amazon, and other e-sites looking for the next new voice, their inboxes are engulfed with query letters, and pitches from teenagers, to senior citizens who now have the time to write. It is neither a good nor a bad thing; it is a fact. You must stand out from the rest. ‘How,’ is the question…
*What type of feedback do you desire from your readers?
Honesty… If there are clear flaws, I would love them to contact me via the contact page on the website which many do, and visit with me. In Diamond Joe, for instance, I had some severe age discrepancies I had to deal with. Feedback is paramount to making any writer a better one.
I know an author who would not alter their work as they loved it. The agent said, “next.”
The Saga of the Starduster had its first review which was one star. Reading what the person wrote, it became clear he or she never read it. They were, in fact, flaming it, as it offered too much competition for something they were writing. Very sad! The next review was five stars, and it looked like something I might have instigated, but I did not. I have far too much integrity for that. Since it is still my number one seller years later, speaks to its validity as a contender in the field of science fiction, I think we can assume what I have stated is correct.
I would never pay attention to anyone who posted a review under a pseudonym. I would also never flame another writer’s work, no matter how bad it is. I offer the reader a large part of the novel to read for free before they buy it. If it were as bad as he or she alluded to, why would they buy it after reading 20% for free?
In the About the Author, after the Epilogue, I ask people to consider leaving a review if they liked it. Contact me via the website if you hated it and tell me why. While we never stop learning, we must strive to improve what we do.
*Do you have a group of people that support you in your writing – to read your drafts, to make suggestions, to encourage you when in doubt or feeling good at what you have written?
Yes, there is a group, but I did not always have that. The feedback from readers was all I had to nudge me in the right direction. Forging alliances with fellow writers has been the single most important step I have made regarding the craft of writing.
This is a two-way street. Many forget about this, which is the downfall of so many groups. We think about our needs first, and in such a group it is the needs of the many. When I assist other writers with their projects, it is not only gratifying on a personal level but strangely enough; I see things they are doing I also do but don’t see it in my work.
While this is a two-way street, I love the group, the writers and I enjoy our time together. I also blog about things like this to reach the writing community around the globe. A rising tide lifts all boats or ships, and that is something I find worthy of my time, talents and energies.
If there is enough interest, I will write about character arcs in a future blog. You need to let me know if that is something that interests you, as these blogs take hours to produce.
My novels are inexpensive. If you are of the mind to, read them. Feedback is critical to the process. I have a day job, not rich from sales but I am humbled that many of you purchase my novels and read them.