Tag Archives: self

Phil Sanderson’s Indy Author Toolbox!

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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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How to Get 250 Pounds of Shit into a 10-Pound Bag!

fat ass

Some people need to be really honest with themselves.

…really, really, really, REALLY, REALLY honest with themselves.

I have nothing against people being overweight.  After all, I am more than 50 pounds overweight myself.  I have sense enough to know that I cannot fit into the same clothes I used to fit into when I was 25 years younger, and a studly Marine at that!  The image I would convey in that clothing would be laughable at best…just like the picture I have posted above.

I shared this picture on my personal Facebook page (philsanderson1967 for those of you who wish to befriend me on Facebook); and some of the most hilarious comments started rolling in.  The purpose of this article is to share the humor.  And if you happen to be the poor, ignorant soul in the above picture, please forgive me for having a little fun at your expense.  But you kinda brought this one on yourself when you literally squeezed miraculously into those hootchy shorts.

I originally posted:   Oh! So THAT’S how to get 200 pounds of shit into a 10-pound bag.

My wife posted:  Omg! And I was about to eat breakfast! Barf!

I replied:  How can I maintain my composure as I helplessly shake that image of that poor example of poor fashion — tramp-stamp and all! — out of my poor noggin’?

My friend, Jason, stated:  That took a lot of butter to get those shorts on.

My friend, Mike, simply posted a pic that couldn’t have conveyed his feelings.

family guy

My friend and loyal reader, Pam, commented:  I would have had to called the police for indecent exposure. That is just nasty. Some people need mirrors that will tell them not no but hell no!

My friend, Robert, typed, “Ha” and posted the following picture:

moist

My friend, Sean, posted:  Dang…. one good fart and those shorts are gone!!!!!

As you can see, this post managed to gather some pretty interesting remarks from a bunch of Facebook friends who clearly were not impressed at all by the lack of fashion sense of our unknowing customer.  My wife also posted the same photo and got quite a bit more remarks, too many to actually list here.  Here are some of the funnier ones:

  1. And to think she’s ordering food.
  2. Those poor shorts.
  3. You mean, this doesn’t make you want a muffin?
  4. biscuits
  5. Walking behind her should warrant hazardous duty.
  6. It’s a commercial for the world’s strongest zipper!!!! Or button!!!

So if you are a person of questionable fashion capability, please keep all these comments in mind before you show more of your body than you REALLY need to.

Note:  No cotton was utterly destroyed during the writing of this article; though it most certainly wished it had never come into being!  

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!

Gone: The Good Ole Days!

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It is NOW OFFICIAL!  Gone are the good ole days!

You’ve probably heard many of us middle-aged, old-timers, and middle-aged old timers say:  “Gone are the good ole days!”  And if you were never around during these good ole days, then you probably haven’t the foggiest to that which we are referring.

  • Days when stamps only cost 10 cents a piece
  • Days when you could leave the doors unlocked in your house and automobile
  • Days when you could safely drop money and an honest person would see it and give it back to you.
  • Days when you could see a movie for less than $5.00; these same days, you could get a movie-ticket, a regular-sized soda and popcorn for under $10 (now you are lucky if you can just get a ticket for under that same price!)
  • Days when you could watch television, and the worst cuss word you heard was “hell” or “damn”.
  • Days when you could actually go to work knowing that your boss actually gave a crap for his / her employees instead of the money they brought in to the business; now it seems to be the other way around:  They care more for the money employees bring into the business and could care less what happens to the employee.  If worse comes to worst, they’ll simply just hire another one without batting an eyelash in most cases.
  • Days when politicians punished corruption instead of engaged with it.

I could actually go on and on.

You may be wondering what brought up this longing for the good ole days.

Unfortunately for me, personally, gone are the days when a writer can expect support from his local community.  Two days ago, I contacted the Montgomery Advertiser and found out from the dank, rotten mouth of Allison Griffin that self-published writers are in a subclass and do not “rate” the coverage that traditionally-published writers are often afforded…at least here in the Montgomery, Alabama metropolitan area.  This opinion is likely shared by WSFA, the local television station here.  I sent in my press release and called to confirm its receipt, and the fellow to whom I spoke sounded as though he would have had more interest sitting on a toilet after guzzling one of those quart-sized bottles of Texas Pete.  And I do not understand this lack of community media support.  Somewhere, I missed the damned memo that we are pariahs to the writing community!

I can name several instances of EXACTLY why we self-published writers arguably deserve MORE local support than traditionally-published writers:

  • First of all, and foremost, we NEED it more than the traditionally published writers.  In most cases, we have limited funding and do not come from money the way many of your most successful traditional writers do.  Money seems to travel in certain successfully unfair circles.  Those who have it seem to be a magnet to others who have it.  The opposite could be said as well.  Those who do not have it usually repulse those who have it.  Maybe you guessed the best definitive word for this:  SNOBBERY!  Here in the Montgomery area, it is alive and well!
  • Self-published writers have to work a hell of a lot harder and invest a lot more money to become successful.  And in most cases, this investment comes at a large cost being that we self-published writers mostly do not come from money.  Traditionally published writers have teams to handle each separate aspect of the writing business (e.g. printing, publishing, marketing, etc), whereas the self-published writer has to either handle each aspect himself or pay someone to do it.  As a matter of fact, when I dreamed of being a writer as a teenager, I erroneously thought that writing was 80 percent writing, and 20 percent marketing.  Now I realize that it is the other way around.  At the rate I am going, I will have to spend four times marketing my book that it took me to write the damned thing in the first place…and this is only to see a “reasonable” rate of return for my investment of time and money, which were both at a premium to begin with!
  • Many traditionally-published writers no longer live in the community for which they ask for support.  For example, is it unheard of for a small-town writer to move to the big city and land their first and subsequent book deals from a huge-named publisher?  I think not.  And this is because most of us self-published writers have loyal and unbreakable ties to the place we call home.  We refuse to sell out in the name of the almighty dollar.  And for this reason alone we UNDENIABLY deserve public support.

Please do not get me wrong.  I am not saying that traditionally published writers do not deserve public support from their hometowns and / or anywhere else for the matter of that.  After all, I’m not the one who put them into a subclass and spoke looking down my nose into the telephone receiver.  You have to talk to the Montgomery Advertiser’s Allison Griffin about that…but good luck getting in to see her.  I waited more than 15 minutes in the lobby of that god-forbidden news-rag in an effort just to see ANYONE about journalistic and book promotional opportunities.  I was finally given the number of one of their executive editors and told to call.  I guess gone are the days when you can go into a business and actually be seen by that whom you originally asked to speak.

As I said before, SNOBBERY IS ALIVE AND WELL in Montgomery, Alabama!  And the first chance I get (after my Mom passes away here in Alabama), I’m taking my ass (along with the rest of me, of course!) back to Memphis, Tennessee!

My day will come.  And I may end up getting picked up by an agent who will realize that I know my fecal matter.  And I may end up becoming published by a traditional publisher.  But it will certainly not be because I came from money…hardly the case!  I could never have been so fortunate.

But when that day does arrive, I will remember the kind people I met along the way, like Bryan Henry of WSFA (who has really tried to help me but found that certain decisions were out of his hands).  I will remember them and give them courtesies that I feel they earned long before I ever was able to say:  I MADE IT!

Note:  I proudly stand by everything I have written here today.  If you wish to contact Allison Griffin and / or the Montgomery Advertiser to condemn their behavior, to tattle on me, or whatever other reason, I encourage you to do so.  Here is their number:  334-261-1580.  The snobbish Allison Griffin can be reached at algriffin@montgome.gannett.com by email.