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Phil Sanderson’s Indy Author Toolbox!

Me

Several times during my long stint as a writer, I have often been asked:  “What does it take to become a published writer?”

These days, all it takes is Microsoft Word and an internet connection.  And that is it!  This being said, it is a lot easier than it used to be.  The only way to be published before Amazon and other pioneering online booksellers paved the way for self-publishing was that of traditional publishing, which still has not changed very much ever since the start of the industrialization of book printing.

So let’s look back at the original question:  “What does it take to be come a published writer?”

To me, any writer worth their salt should not want to become a PUBLISHED writer, but more so a distinct and seasoned one.  Grant it that no writer is perfect by any sort of means, but writers should still at least attempt to do everything to strive toward that perfection.  They shouldn’t be too scared to PAY THE PRICE and EARN THE TITLE.

Anyone can put together some literary turd, put any image on it that will come to be known as the cover for said literary turd, and call it a published book, thereby claiming the status as published writer.  All that serves is to discredit the whole movement of indy authors everywhere the world over.

So my chief advice to writers everywhere who desire to be self-published authors is simple:  Bring something solid to the table, something that will make traditionally-published authors look over their snobby shoulder with even the vaguest of worries.  In doing so, here is my advice:

First, Pay the Price!

  1. Read a grammar book cover-to-cover the same way you would a novel written by your favorite author, not only READING it, but ABSORBING the knowledge like a Bounty paper towel.  If you choose not to make it through, it is clear that you do not have the true desire to be a prolific author.  Why even bother attempting it?  If you find that you become truly fascinated by the rules of the road, then this is a true sign that you may stand a wonderful chance of becoming something more than the author of a literary turd.
  2. Read many, many different books by many, many different successful authors.  I myself have started reading several classic works.  This past Christmas, I read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  And a couple of years ago, I read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving just before Halloween…and one of my most favorite classics, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one I will never forget!  These classics and many, many more paved the way for successful literature all over the world.
  3. If you desire to write fiction, read many, many different books about the craft of writing, plot development, creating memorable characters, creating conflict and tension in your stories, and all other elements that may be essential in creating a story that people will remember through the ages.

Next, Stay True to The Craft!

  1. When it comes time to sit down and begin your book, set a rigid writing schedule; and do  not let anything come between you and it.  Work diligently to complete your first draft.  When you finish, work diligently to complete your second draft paying close attention, looking out for errors in grammar and punctuation.
  2. It’s not a bad idea to obtain a subscription to Writer’s Digest if you can afford it.  You can learn so many valuable lessons and great tidbits of information from this one terrific magazine that has been around seemingly almost since Jesus Christ was a little boy.
  3. Let anyone and everyone you meet know about your project.  Be excited when you tell them about it.  It is the only way you will be able to get them excited about it.  If they see the thrill on your face, it may be contagious enough for them to want to experience it directly as soon as it is finished.
  4. Disregard the Nay-Sayers.  If anyone, at anytime , tells you:  “Why do you even bother?”  You look them in the eye and say:  “Fuck you!  I try, because I know I can.”  And you keep sitting back down at the chopping block, prepared to hammer out your best writing fueled by the words of the punch-bowl turd you just heard.
  5. Finally, through the entire writing process, do not write to become rich and famous.  I hate to tell you that this will probably never happen.  But write because you love it!  And content yourself with knowing that your writing will still be around long after you are gone.  For this one extreme reason, this is why it is so important to not have a literary turd survive you.  Do you really want your name to be associated with such a piece of shit long after you are gone?  This is where paying the price literally pays off!
  6. If you can afford it, DEFINITELY hire an editor worth their salt.  Also, if you can find an agent who is LEGITIMATE (…and you can tell those by the ones who say to you: “I don’t make money until after you make money”…) then you better jump on it!
  7. Don’t be scared by the advice I’m offering here.  Because even a turd nugget can be turned into a priceless gem after the editing process is completed.  Look at this as a challenge that you know you can overcome.
  8. Also be sure to avoid organizations out there which prey on new writers.  I fell into a trap of using AuthorHouse as my first publisher.  I’ve yet to see my very first penny of royalty from this organization.  They do, however, provide an excellent product…but they WAY overcharge for it.

And Finally!  The Tools of the Trade!

With all of this said, every writer should have some tools at his arsenal.  These are the tools I recommend:

  1. Good Laptop!  You can use a typewriter, word-processor (if they still make these dinosaurs!), or a desktop computer.  But I personally prefer laptops.  Because sometimes you can do some of your best writing in a coffee cafe!  Nothing like a ravenous stream of caffeine to wash away the old writer’s block!
  2. Laptop Bag (I use a messenger bag that holds my reference books as well!)
  3. Memory Stick or USB Drive (Keep Your Manuscript Here for Backup!)
  4. Decent Internet Connection
  5. Good Dictionary & Thesaurus (You Can Also Use http://www.dictionary.com )
  6. Good Reference Books (Some of Which are FREE!)  I’ll even include links where you can get them!
    1. Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing
    2. Building Your Book for Kindle
    3. Book Cover Secrets and Shortcuts
    4. The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need
    5. Crafting Novels & Short Stories (for those wanting to write fiction!)

These are the more important tools in my writing arsenal.  I hope you may find them to be just as vital as you carry them along on your writing journey.

In this article, I hope I’ve successfully conveyed the importance of paying the price to be a good writer and staying true to the craft, as well as also having provided you with what I feel are some very good tools to get you started.

Well to those who have asked me the question,  “What does it take to become a published writer?”, I hope this successfully answers it.  However, I DO urge you to start asking yourself:  “What does it take to become a SUCCESSFUL writer?”

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Erotica, Anyone?


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I’ve have never come right out and asked anything exacting from my friends, family, and followers, but I really need your guidance, if you do not mind.

I am almost halfway through the first rough draft of my novel The Girl on the Highway, and two of the main characters have just encountered their first romantic moments.  I basically let loose with the emotions and physical components of this new turn in their relationship.  But — in my humble opinion — it reads like erotica.  Part of me looks at the Filthy Shades of Gray trilogy and reassures myself that all will be well.  But the other part of me does not necessarily want to become associated with erotica and was quite honestly tempted to take a cold shower after having written that steamy scene.  So what’s a man to do?

This is what this man has done.  I have duplicated the almost hard-core scene (which is probably only about half as mild as what you would see in the erotica novel I mentioned above); and I have taken all description out that describes the activity of the lower anatomy (though I did leave just a small hint of suggestiveness.  My goal is to stir the emotions of the readers and maybe their loins just a tad bit.  But my story was meant to be a horror story with bits of drama, humor, romance, and — now — suggestiveness.  So my intention is that my readers recognize the name Phil Sanderson first as a horror and thriller author more than one of erotica.

I plan to attach a poll to this article.  Please participate, so that I can get an idea of how you guys feel about erotica.  Or maybe you would rather or also wish to leave some helpful comments.  Thanks in advance for any help you are willing to give.

 

New Author Lessons Recently Learned

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There are so many lessons that I learned from writing, 2018: An Uncivil War, my very first book.  So, to list all of them probably cannot be done in just one sitting as I may remember some now and then remember more later after I posted this article.  Thus, I figure the best way to do so is to take the steps of being published and then list my valuable lessons in that particular order.  So here it is!  I hope you enjoy it and may feel informed if you are writing, may write, or even may have written a book:

Before Writing the Book:

  1. Decide Why You Are Writing the Book:  I had no problems with this one.  After seeing many attacks upon the Second Amendment from ignorant people and traitorous politicians, I knew that somebody had to write it.  And hopefully I beat every other writer to the punch!  Regardless of why you are writing the book, the most important advice I can give is to be sure that you are writing it for YOU!  Sure, you also want to consider your audience.  But your material has to be something that will keep you committed the entire time it takes to write and release your novel.
  2. Spend As Much Time As Possible Working Out the Plot:  I slipped up here when I wrote my first book.  But I learned an extremely valuable lesson that I am not about to repeat from my first book.  I was so excited about getting started on 2018 that I did not scrutinize every scene in my book the way I should have.  As a result, I ended up having to make all sorts of revisions to include removing a whole section of text and replacing it with something else.  And on top of this, I had to do other revisions that were affected by this change (e.g. references to the event in question, etc.).  Unfortunately, the edit that I made somehow left the last sentence of the chapter unfinished and not punctuated.  When a reader informed me of this, I was so embarrassed!  What makes it even worse is that this very same error made it into my printed books.
  3. Take Plenty of Time to Research Your Material:  This is one that I did not do, but mainly because I had already been doing it all along.  Because I was an avid watcher of Fox News, I was well aware of all the recent events affecting the Second Amendment.  So the only research I had to do was on Drone Technical Details and Modern Weaponry.  I actually did all of this research during the writing of my book.  It would have been better to have done it prior to the writing of the story…and even better if it had been done prior to finishing my plot details.
  4. Don’t Be Shy!  Interview Key People Who Can Make the Biggest Difference:  I had no problem with this whatsoever, having been a journalist for almost five years of my life.  However, this is another thing that would be better to have done prior to writing the plot of my book.  In a sense, interviews are a type of research.  You come out of it knowing more than you did when you first went in.  Many writers are scared to step out of their comfort zone and talk to key people who can make the greatest difference by lending their authenticity to your published work.  And readers love a story that comes across as realistic!

During the Writing of the Book:

  1. Don’t Worry About Editing Your Work Until After the Book is Written:  This was a huge mistake that I made.  And I’d be a liar if I said I did not remake this mistake with my current body of work (The Girl on the Highway).  The reason why it is best to wait is because most people’s minds are easily confused when they read the same thing over and over again.  Not only that, blatant errors become engraved into your brain, making it more difficult to notice them in later edits.  Finally, it is good to allow a story to breathe awhile before going back and editing it.  By “breathe”, I mean baking away from the project for awhile and maybe concentrating on a little bit of marketing before your book is to go through its second revision.  Most importantly, it is best to approach the story a second time with a fresh mindset.  That way, it is much easier to catch mistakes than if you had done it several times already.
  2. Don’t Be Shy!  Make Any Necessary Phone Calls You May Need to Make:  This is another one that requires writers to step out of their comfort zones.  Naturally, writers sometimes realize when they start writing their story that they should have asked a particular question of one of their technical advisers that should have been asked.  Don’t worry!  Be Happy!  Call them up with a very joyful tone to hear their voice and let them know how good it is to talk to them again.  And then ask them if the time is right to ask one (or more) questions that you did not think to ask during their initial interview.  You will probably be surprised to see how enthused they may be to hear back from you!
  3. Don’t Use An Editor Until After the Book is Written:  This one walks hand-in-hand with number one listed above.  Editors edit, just as writers write.  Therefore, it goes without saying that if the writer is not supposed to edit until after the book is written, the same thing goes for the editor.
  4. Go Ahead and Start Marketing Your Book:  You cannot start marketing too early.  There’s just no way you can do this.  All marketing is beneficial.  You are really in the zone when you have various people talking to their friends about your book.  I’m not just talking about mentioning it in passing, but actually being so enthused they literally cannot wait until it comes out.  For 2018, I started my marketing on my website and on Facebook in a group I had created specifically for my novel.  However, I did learn that I should have just created my own author page instead of a group for just my first novel.  The bottom line is that it is a lot easier when you have fewer places for readers to find out about your work.  If you neglect even one of those places, then you will have already failed in marketing.  That is why it is best to limit the number of places where your readers can keep up with you and your works.  Every bit of excitement that you can create earlier on will have the potential to mean extra book sales even before the book is released in print or digitally.
  5. Don’t Be Scared of Social Media:  An author without social media is no different than a hamburger without meat.  Very few people will appreciate that author and he or she will miss out on many, many sells!  How many people do you think actually order a hamburger without meat.  (Believe it or not, I have a stepdaughter who used to order burgers this way!)
  6. Don’t Reveal Spoilers:  By revealing a spoiler while getting people excited about your book, you are doing them a severe disservice in the future, when they decide to read your book.  It’s no different than giving someone a gift, and then taking it away from them directly afterward.  Don’t do it!
  7. Don’t Worry About Putting Your Book Into Print Until the VERY END!:  One thing I found out the hard way is that many newspapers out there do not respect self-published authors.  It doesn’t matter that hugely popular authors (like Vince Flynn) were self published before they got discovered.  Not only this, but it usually takes a wealth of money to pay for having your book printed.  I used AuthorHouse only to find out after the fact that they are known for exploiting new writers.  Yes, they did a great job of putting my book in print.  But their heart simply is not in it.  I mentioned a mistake earlier that made it into print.  You cannot tell me that no one at AuthorHouse did not miss such a blatant error.  On top of that it ended up not being enough that I invested almost $1,500 into having my book put into print; they only allowed me 20 free corrections and wanted to charge me for each additional one.  They also wanted money to publicize my book on their website, when this would make them more money than it would make me.  So it is clear to see how AuthorHouse and AuthorSolutions (their brother company) exploits us new writers.  I later found out that I should have used Create-Space, Amazon’s brother company for their authors who want their e-books in print.  The reason why I say leave this for last is because you have a big enough task making sure that you are getting everything done for your e-book / rough draft.  Why add to the stress this early on?
  8. Don’t Release Your Book Until You Are SURE It is Finished:  I made a HUGE mistake with 2018!  I over-promised the release date.  I started my work on it in January and promised it would be done by July 4…therefore, I apologized to everyone on my social networks and website and set the new date for Labor Day.  Even though I finished my book by Labor Day, it was riddled with errors!  But because I promised it on that date, I refused to delay the release a second time.  Not only friends and family were excited about my book, but I was too!  So once again, impatience bred a book in dire need of a vast amount of polish.
  9. Don’t Have More Than One Draft Going at the Same Time:  I thought it would be wise to start my book on my desktop computer and keep it on my removable memory drive at the same time.  There certainly is nothing wrong with keeping a back-up of your text.  But I highly advise against trying to maintain both of them at the same time for the simple fact that I ended up getting both of them confused and forgot which one was the latest copy to be edited.  All this does is create a lot of confusion for you.  If you choose to keep a back up copy of your book elsewhere.  Make sure that you only save the original work onto this backup after you finish each COMPLETE revision!  Trust me, you will be thankful that I told you this if you follow this piece of advice.

After the Book is Written: 

  1. Focus Like CRAZY on Marketing!:  Before, you were actually working on writing your book.  So you had a valid excuse for not marketing (even though doing so was a bad decision if you will kindly read # 4 in the previous section).  But there is absolutely NO EXCUSES for not marketing your book after the writing is finished and the book is published (except maybe fore the fact that you are working with a publisher to get your book into print; but even then, you should market after both copies of the book have been published).  Every bit of marketing you do at this point should translate effectively into sells.  Eventually, your sales will stall (just as mine have recently).  It is at this point that you need to be thinking about releasing your second (or other) book (unless you have somehow decided that the effort for the first or previous book(s) was not worth all the effort it took.  
  2. Don’t Be Scared of Doing Book Signings and Public Readings:  These events are — for the writer — what manna is — for the Christian.  Even if you sell only one book during a book signing, this is one more person who may love your work enough to tell all or most of his or her friends about it!  As for book readings, this is your chance to show off samples of your greatest passages from within the pages of your literary work!  So choose wisely which scenes from your story you wish to read!
  3. While Doing All of This, Continue to Think of Concepts for Your Next Book:  For some strange reason, I had trouble with this.  Every time I narrowed down a concept, I found something wrong with it and could not commit to it.  But finally, something clicked!  And then my new concept was born as I am still working on the plot of my forthcoming horror story, The Girl on the Highway.  As far as whether or not to write a sequel, I suggest letting your book’s sales determine whether or not you should do so.  I’m not exactly happy with how well my first book has sold.  But who knows what the future holds?  Maybe my next book will garner me enough interested readers who may want to try out my first book.  After my first book catches on, then I may very well choose to do a sequel.  But in the mean time, I feel I just need to try different things in order to see what ends up clicking with readers.  You may choose to do differently, however.  
  4. Be Very Mindful and Watchful of Your Print Publisher:  AuthorHouse, the publisher who claims to help new writers, offers a much smaller royalty for their published copy of my book.  At $3.99, I will only get a 10 percent royalty for any books sold there (including e-books).  That’s only a measly 39 cents!  So I lowered the price of MY published copy of the book (under the name Phil Sanderson) to $2.99, and it is a win-win for me and my readers.  The readers pay less money, and I get more money back from my royalty (Amazon awards a 35 percent royalty to authors who publish directly through them).  $1.05 is a hell of a lot better than 35 cents!  But I’ve since lowered my price to 1.99 because I am trying to get my name out there.  I care a lot more about that than getting higher royalties at this point.  So 24 cents is not as good as 39 cents.  But I will be able to net a lot more sells than AuthorHouse!  😉   
  5. Consider Whether or Not to Seek a Traditional Publishing Deal:  Traditional publishing has certain benefits that are much better than self-publishing (different teams to help you achieve different aspects of your book simultaneously; better distribution; etc.). And there seems to be much more fame that can be had with authors who take the traditional route of publishing.  But self publishing has its own set of advantages as well (usually, higher royalties; more creative choices; etc.).  So don’t take my word for it. Do your own research to see what way is a lot easier for you.  One thing is for certain:  An author who takes the self-publishing route has far fewer bars keeping him from being published!

Anyway, these are the lessons I’ve learned from my very first self-publishing adventure.  I hope that if you are a writer, this will help you avoid a lot of the mistakes I stumbled into.  I wish you the very best of luck and fortune in any publishing endeavor in which you pursue.  Always remember, God sometimes answers prayers in ways we cannot imagine!