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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?”

Raw, Raving Review: 50 Shades of Grey

Fifty-Shades-of-Grey-Official-Movie-Trailer

I read 50 Shades of Grey several months ago.  And I did not read it, because I’m a pervert (though I do not disclaim being a pervert — LOL!).  I actually read it, because everywhere I looked and listened, I could not seem to get away from that very intrusive title…that title that seemed to somehow find its way into conversations and discussions.

The story was a huge hit, and no one could dispute that.  The author of this mega literary hit, E.L. James, no doubt, knocked the ball out of the park!  She achieved the very same literary success that I am currently trying to achieve.  So I wanted to know how she did it.

First, I researched the title.  I found out, strangely enough, that the original story was written as fan fiction for the movie Twilight.  And if you watch the movie and / or read the book, you can clearly see some interesting parallels between certain characters in both stories.  Okay, so the writer created an X-rated version of Twilight, and the snowball rolled downhill from there, getting bigger and bigger, until it hit the reading public, leaving all of us feeling all but cold, wet, and shivering…probably more like hot, wet, and sticky!

Next came the hard part, reading the novel without getting a boner or two.  Geez!  This was the first full-length erotic writing I ever brought myself to finish.  Sure, there was enough filth in that novel to possibly make even Paris Hilton blush.  And God forbid the person who suggested the book to anyone in their Sunday school class (if lightning didn’t come down and strike the person then and there, turning them into Sunday lunch!).

But the story, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, is very alluring.  A huge reason for this is because of James’s ability to craft such wonderful characters, whether from her own imagination or just mimicking certain characters from the Twilight story.  We have Anastasia Steele, a love-starved virgin; who meets a mega billionaire, Christian Grey, who is normally very stand-offish to most individuals he meets.  But somehow, he finds himself drawn to her and pursues her relentlessly.  He draws her into an extremely lustful existence, but she finds herself wanting more and more from him.  He seems to hint that he can give her more, so long as she is willing to give in to his wild and extreme lifestyle of kinkiness so bizarre that he has her sign a non-disclosure agreement to not reveal anything about it.

Yes, 50 Shades is a love story that has no love shared between the characters, at least not mutually anyway.

I’ve probably already revealed too much about the story already for those who have not yet read the book and may or may not have been planning to do so.  So I will go ahead and conclude this review.

My wife and I just recently went to see the movie for our 14th Anniversary.  I have to say that the movie was laughable when compared to the book.  Not because of any particular actor or director’s ability to perform their craft with the utmost precision (Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson did an amazing job of acting out the characters of Anastasia and Christian respectively!); but mainly because of the fact that there were so many deeds and misdeeds left out of the movie that had blatantly stood up between the pages of the book like an Irish hard-on in the middle of an English church sermon!  It is clear that the makers of this film wanted to maintain an R-rating.  In order to make this film exactly as it was in the book would create another type of movie altogether…a porno film!

I personally liked the film better than the book due to my Christian sensibilities (though I’m sure some of you are questioning that sensibility being that I read the book in the first place, knowing that it was extremely erotic!).  If I felt as though I needed a bath after watching the film, then I certainly would have needed to be carbonized like Han Solo after reading the book!  I strictly read the book as homework to see how the writer had managed to become so successful with it.  I learned she did it through witty characterization and through lavish use of sexual content.  After all, sex sells in today’s entertainment industry, be it movies or reading!

I’ve even decided to seriously consider using erotic scenes in An Interstate Ghost Story: The Girl on the Highway, the novel I am currently writing.  But it was written in honor of the American state trooper.  So I will only do so if it can be done in a manner that does not cheapen the honor offered them by this novel’s writing and publication.  If I DO decide to do so, it will only be in a couple or a few scenes.

But — back to finishing my review!  I give the novel 3.5 out of 5 stars, and the film 4.  Fifty Shades of Grey is more or less the love story that never was.  I’ve heard that the next two novels have possibly different outcomes.  But these are not my types of books to read as I prefer action and horror over romance and eroticism.

Greenville Haunted Firehouse or Bust!

My daughter and I, volunteering at the Greenville Haunted Firehouse.
My daughter and I, volunteering at the Greenville Haunted Firehouse.  My costume looks as if someone scared the living chitterlings out of me!  

 

Nothing beats scaring the hell out of other people…

Just ask Stephen King!  I’m not exactly how sure my upcoming horror novel — An Interstate Ghost Story: The Girl on the Highway — will be at doing so, but I am going to great trouble to make sure it will hopefully do the trick.

In the meantime, I guess I will just have to content myself with volunteering at the Greenville (Alabama) Haunted Firehouse.  The two producers of this community effort, Les and John, came up with this annual event in the year 2003 and have kept it going strong ever since.  The proceeds go to the Muscular Distrophy Association and the American Cancer Society.

Working in a haunted house is right up my alley for a variety of different reasons.  First of all, I was born on Halloween and have always been very fond of celebrating this holiday from the very day I was born.  My brother and sister never let me live it down either, being that I kept them from being able to go trick or treating the night that I was born (just kidding, Steve and Terri!).

Secondly, I found many years ago that I am not a bad actor at all.  I had volunteered for a Community Playhouse when I lived in Millbrook and got to act in a play called “The Belles of Horsefly Gulch”, a melodrama.  I couldn’t help but notice great and positive feedback from the audience when I delivered my lines and created funny facial expressions.  So why not act the part of a crazed chef in the Greenville Haunted Firehouse!

Lastly, being in such an environment naturally gives me more fuel to write future horror stories.  As a writer, I need to embrace anything that can help me overcome writers block.

My daughter and I first volunteered for the Firehouse a year ago, and my wife started joining us this year.  And we all have a blast when we participate!

As for me, I work in a small corridor with blood splatter all over the walls; these two creepy holographic picture frames that feature two different guys that look normal at one angle, and horrific at another; a human head that has been nailed to the wall; and finally, a human torso on a lift-up counter that — when lowered — blocks the path of visitors, allowing me to give my terrifying rant in a maniacal English accent:

I jump out at visitors from behind a curtain as prompted by my partner, Van,  who remains hidden through almost all of my routine, but has a better view of the visitors from his hidden position.  

“Welcome to Hell’s Kitchen!”  I then act as if I am examining the group of individuals prior to making a horrible discovery.  “Bollocks!  More amateurs…why do they keep sending me amateurs?  I tell them I need professional chefs for the unique cuisine I prepare here, and all they send me are bloody wanna-be’s.”

I then gaze down menacingly enough at the torso in front me, the head of which has already been severed, but is positioned at an angle that — I hope — the visitors cannot see.  I then say:  “This was an amateur…he came here several months ago.”  I then take my mock meat cleaver and make chopping motions right there at the neck and lift the head up for all to see.  Then I look it right in the eyes and say:  “You’ve been chopped, mate!”  This usually elicits laughter from the more brave folk coming through, at least giving them some kind of amusement for their money.

At that point, I raise the counter, allowing them to leave while my buddy finally jumps out — with cleverly-applied make-up simulating that his eyes are no longer there in his sockets, but gouged completely out, leaving two soulless holes in their stead — startling the living crap out of several of them at the same time.

Working at the haunted house is not only fun, but it gives me and my family a feeling of honor and commitment.  I feel as if we are part of something truly more important than myself.  Knowing that the money paid by these sometimes bold, sometimes scared, oftentimes curious visitors is going to two different great causes…one of which has claimed the lives of two people very close to me, my father — George Quezon Sanderson — and my grandmother — Donna Walls Cook.

That way, I think more about the fact that we served our community well and can look ourselves in the mirror without feeling guilty for all the little kids and some of the less courageous adults we may have terrified in the process.

So now I pose this question to you:  What’s not to love?

Note:  Please feel free to leave comments on fun volunteer activities you have participated in.  It is my hope that some readers will see this article and the comments you leave in order to get some great ideas as to how they can make an honorable difference in their own communities.  For those of you who volunteer, God bless you always for your selfless efforts!  

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!

Social Survival on the Internet Highway!

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The internet reminds me of some of those freaky-looking dudes in the Mad Max movies who tried to kill, steal, and plunder gasoline from anyone and everyone who crossed their paths.  And, like Mad Max, we have to survive the day for a hopefully even better sequel!  All of this has to be done on a slightly different interstate:  the Internet Highway!  But instead of using guns, crossbows, spears, and all sorts of other weaponry, we have to use our personality and various social sites and various social tools along this mysterious and adventurous stretch of treacherous roadway.

My goal as a writer is to develop a social following on the internet more so than to write any certain number of books by any given certain date.  This may sound a bit off the mark, but there is a method to the madness.  

I’ve learned, after self-publishing a book, that it is not enough for an independent author to (hopelessly!) market the hell out of his book.  The author has to do everything in his power to establish a loyal following.  And for this, I am truly thankful for the opportunity to have the ear of everyone who has subscribed to me and my activities (and sometimes lack of).  

You may be asking:  “Why is this more important to you than getting a substantial amount of writing on the market?”  Saturating the market with everything Phil Sanderson is definitely important to me.  But at the same time, finding the means to accomplish it more effectively is of higher priority.  One reason is that there is no point in coming up with a large quantity of material when there is not that many people interested in doing anything with it.  Secondly, one of the main things agents look for, when trying to find a good author worth her salt to represent, is just that:  a huge following!  

Yet I am really quite surprised with how everything has turned out.  I’ve been established on Facebook now for more than five years and only just recently started getting really involved with Twitter.  But strangely enough, my success with the little tweety bird is phenomenally greater than it is with with the big-blue “F”.  I plan to break 1,000 followers next week on Twitter.  But I don’t even have anywhere near 100 likes on my personal Facebook page.  

I am also quite pleased with my success here on WordPress.  If you are receiving this article, then I largely have you to thank for this success.   I am really starting to develop quite the following on Goodreads as well.  And I’m not entirely sure why.  Maybe it is because I run my WordPress blog through Goodreads.  So, thank you all so very much.  On the other hand, I am also encountering slow starts with Google+ and Pinterest.  And I only barely exist on Authors Den.  

But I have a pretty cool strategy that I believe may help me out.  Since I’m encountering leaps and bounds on Twitter, I plan to market all my other social sites through that medium.  It’s not rocket science, just good, commonsense advertising.  And I am hoping that this article will help give you guys some ideas as to how you may be able to boost your own social campaigns (in the even that you have need to do so).  

So please remember to take a lesson from Mad Max when it comes to successfully reaching your various social media marketing destinations:  As your trucking along in your day-to-day tasks — be it creating art or music, or writing books — the most important thing to remember along the journey is to not run out of gas.  And we do this by making sure that we have an active, captivated audience who actually gives a damn about what we are doing.

Until my next article, be blessed!

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.

The Busy-ness of Writing!

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Since I was a teenager, I’ve always DREAMED of being a writer.  Little did I know just how much work was involved.  I thought to myself, after becoming a journalist:  “Certainly being a book writer can’t be much busier than this.”  Man, was I wrong!

Shortly after I got out of the Marines, I researched what it took to become an author of fiction books.  I found out that it involved sending hundreds, if not thousands, of query letters to publishers and agents in order to either secure a book deal, or at least representation for such.  But those were the old days.  

Then came the dawn of self-publishing!  

I suddenly realized it was a brave new world for anyone who wanted to make their dream come true.  Unlike regular tradition, anyone who possessed enough money for the investment could pay to have their book made into reality.  There were no letters to send out.  No one you had to impress.  

The good thing about this was obvious.  Talented writers, who had previously not received a fair opportunity, and who had a great story to tell, could now get it out there and share it with the reading public.  Unfortunately, the downside of this was that some people who had no business writing a book would put — what many avid readers would consider — complete garbage on the market.  And then you had everything in between.  Thus, readers found themselves becoming much more selective and careful when making their purchases; and they found themselves publicly sharing their opinions (via the internet mostly) freely and liberally with any who would listen.

Just when it seemed that the writing revolution had played its last card, then came the ebook revolution.  Now anyone could suddenly write a book for free!  And the same thing as above happened once again, only this time in a new electronic format.

The main thing that all of these methods of publishing have in common is the writing itself.  And, if you do this correctly, this will keep you super busy in the very beginning.  Effective writers conduct research and schedule and keep interviews with key people who can give them helpful information for the books they write.  So here you have only three vastly time consuming duties in the single duty of writing.

As for the various ways of becoming published, there are advantages and disadvantages to each avenue.  I’ve never traditionally published myself, but I’ve heard that, the advantages in this classic way of publishing far outweigh the disadvantages.   For example, most traditional publishers will pay you up front to begin writing your book.  With the investment being made on the front end, the publishers make their money as your books begin and continue to sell on the market.  If they end up receiving a return on investment, then you can almost bet they will offer you another book deal.  If not, then there is always flipping burgers or dancing topless (or maybe both simultaneously…though I would not much recommend this!).  

As for the disadvantages of traditional publishing, many stories abound about how writers suggested a certain look to their cover and were totally blown off by the production team.  It is sad there is little creative control unless it is somehow written into the contract beforehand.  

As for self-publishing, it is about totally flipped upside down as compared to traditional publishing.  No one produces your book until you pay them.  Usually they will give you a lot of leeway in creativity.  Because of the usual steep investment required in self-publishing, most companies give you a lot of creative controls for your money.  

When it comes to ebook publishing, it is basically the best of both worlds, but without the final proud moment of holding a physical book in your hand.  You have complete creative control over everything.  And it costs basically nothing other than time (unless you pay someone to design your book cover) to produce your book and publish it to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and various other publishers / booksellers out there.  

The biggest thing I have discovered about both self-publishing and ebook publishing is that in the end, writing the book seemed to be the easiest aspect of the process.  The hardest part, that which I never bargained for, lay in the marketing required for making any sort of profit.  I’m totally new to the process, but I am becoming very savvy very quickly as I post constant updates on Facebook, Twitter, and other various social media websites out there.  With traditional publishing, this is one headache that many writers are thankful to avoid.  And for this, I am very jealous of them.  

Many of you probably ask:  Was it all worth it in the end?  I cannot honestly answer this, because I haven’t yet reached the end…whatever the end happens to be.  Hell, maybe I end up doing an imitation of the King of Rock and Roll and end up dying on the toilet — not exactly the end I’m wanting, but okay.  Or maybe I become the next best thing to Tom Clancy.  Now, there we go!

What I can surely tell you is that quite a bit goes into writing a book, no matter how you do it…especially if you want to make any kind of money for doing so.