2 Ways to Stop Sharing A Most Annoying Quality

I love indie authors and right now I’m annoyed. Aggravated. Disappointed and sad. I’m not sure what is worse — the feeling that I’ve wasted time and money on poor quality books or my current reluctance to pick up another book written by an indie author.Two Ways to Avoid Sharing That Most Annoying Quality

When Nancy, D-M and I decided to start Amelia Indie Authors, we had two goals in mind: to protect indies from over-priced industry predators and to help raise the quality of what indie authors are publishing. The reading I’ve done over the past few weeks was disheartening. And, with any luck, motivating. Hopefully, it will make me even more passionate about the success of other indie authors.

Like many other authors and publishers, we attend book festivals. We often trade titles with others in attendance. We no longer look at the festivals as a place to sell books, but, rather, an opportunity to connect with readers and other authors –and, of course, spend too much money on an armload of intriguing titles.

Hopefully, it will make me even more passionate about the success of other indie authors. Click To Tweet

In the last ten days, I’ve read several of the books from two festivals just past. Two fiction, three non-fiction. Two for the little people in my life and three for the grown-ups. It was a nice cross-section but the quality made me very unhappy. Instead of writer’s block, these five works may have given me reader’s block.

Instead of writer's block, these works may have given me reader's block. Click To Tweet

I am not a snob. I make my share of mistakes. Besides, I love indie authors and, quite obviously, am invested in their success. But this is the sort of thing that makes the rest of the #WritingCommunity look bad. I could not finish the novel written entirely in the passive voice but got all the way through the two skinny non-fiction efforts that were half story and half filler. The major first-page typo in the next selection was almost enough to make me put it down. I’m glad I didn’t: while it’s got some spots that could benefit from an experienced editor, it’s a hella good story. And the last juvenile fiction is of a quality that could compete on any best seller list.Two Ways to Avoid Sharing That Most Annoying Quality

So, then, why so grumpy?

Because they were all good ideas. Some were great ideas. Their authors put in their own measure of blood, sweat, and tears to bring them into being. Unfortunately, some of these titles are likely not going to do anything but sit in a box in the author’s closet — until he or she gets tired of the business and gives them all away.

That doesn’t need to be. But how does a writer get the kind of feedback they need to write in a way that gives excellent voice to their wonderful ideas? And what’s their responsibility to do so? Part of it is to keep the implied promise to readers: that the book they hold in their hands represents the writer’s best work.

Writing a book -- any book -- takes guts. Click To Tweet

Writing a book — any book — takes guts. Authors face rejection each and every time they ask someone to give it a read. Eventually, their names are emblazoned on the front cover and, if the release is poor quality, readers may never give them another chance.

  • The first line of defense can be as simple as a grammar program — not just the spell check that comes with most basic writing software by something a bit more sophisticated like Grammarly or ProWritingAid.
  • Second? How about using some beta readers who are not family and friends? People who don’t normally read your genre or are unfamiliar with your topic? If you ask, they’ll tell you where they’re lost and confused — that’s where the author needs to do more work. After all,  anyone who picks up the book to be able to understand it, right?

'you got this' chalked onto roadAn author willing to accept some hard feedback from strangers and take the time to work through multiple drafts can produce something anyone can be proud of — something of such high quality that it could compete on any best seller list.

 

 

 

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Indies: Does a Personal Brand Help Reach Readers?

How can you create a personal brand and use it to your advantage?

Just as corporations build brands to promote specific products, you can build a brand based on what do you love, why do you do what you do, and the values and aspects about that connect you to your audience.

Your Personal Brand Communicates a Strong Identity

The structure of a personal brand is much the same as corporate branding. First, a strong identity is developed that represents the entity and suggests black and yellow ringed target with dart at the centerthe value a customer would want. If the entity commits to that value and consistently delivers it, customers learn to recognize and trust the entity. Over time, the symbol of the entity can by itself trigger a feeling of trust. And trust, in turn, generates more business.

Corporations typically generate many products. They may have whole families of brands that fall under one overarching brand, like Microsoft or Kraft. As an author, you also may be selling multiple products, but in truth, you are always selling yourself—who you are. You are the creator, the manager, and the face of your brand.

As an author, you may be selling multiple products, but in truth, you are always selling yourself. Click To Tweet

How can a personal brand help you?

Selling books is not easy for independents. You need to reach a lot of people. As much as you might want to or try to, you can’t physically meet thousands of customers and talk to them directly, right?

Your personal brand helps communicate who you are more quickly, broadly and efficiently to the people you do meet. It also makes it possible for your brand to go places you cannot: a poster in a window, an ad in a magazine, your business card, your website and all across the various social media accounts.

When readers approach you at a book signing or book festival, they won’t ask about your book so much as they will ask about you. Maybe they’ll ask why you chose your genre or settings, what led you to write, what is your work style, your inspiration or heritage. They may try to find something quirky in your personality. This is your brand persona, and what readers are looking for to make a personal connection.

Selling books is not easy for independents. You need to reach a lot of people. Click To Tweet

On the basis of your values and personality, and the qualities you bring to your work, readers might give one of your books a try. If they like it, they may buy anything published in your name to continue reading your voice, your style and your command of storytelling. The next thing you know, they’ll be asking you when the next one’s coming out. It’s the consistency of quality that will keep them coming back because they trust that you will deliver.

Personal Brand: it’s not about a logo

Personal branding does not mean that you sit down and design a logo for yourself. I know, designing a logo seems like the fun, easy part of branding. But believe me, good logo design is not easy. What makes a logo effective is the meaning that is embedded in it. The design comes only after the meanings are clearly defined, understood and supported.

The imagery of your brand should be based on serious soul searching and groundwork. Click To Tweet

The imagery of your personal brand should be your last consideration. When properly developed it will be based on serious soul searching and groundwork. Once that is done, the rest of your brand elements fall into place more easily and naturally. You will have a basis on which to make solid decisions and follow them consistently.

And in truth, for an author, your name is your logo. You may choose a pen name, and you may choose a special typeface to consistently show your name in a recognizable way, but remember, it is always yourself you are selling.

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Nancy Blanton’s award-winning handbook, Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps, will guide you through the process of creating your own personal brand. She also provides occasional author workshops and presentations.

Author Winfield Strock Releases Long Shadows

Author Winfield Strock smilingWe recently had a chance to catch up with Amelia Indie Authors member, science fiction author Winfield Strock. And of course we couldn’t resist the opportunity to turn a celebratory cup of coffee into a bit of an interview. We’re pleased to introduce you to Win.

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AiA: With publication of your new book, Long Shadows, you have produced five science fiction and steam punk novels. What drew you to these genres? Do you have a preference for one over the other, and if so, why?

Strock: As a fan of history and science fiction, steampunk came naturally for me. Both offer an escape from normal life. Dystopian sci-fi serves as a warning about dangerous trends taken to their extreme. Characters have to fight against the world to make it a better place. Utopian sci-fi offers hope of what’s to come if we manage to get our act together. Characters have to save their world from those who would corrupt or destroy it.

Utopian sci-fi offers hope of what’s to come if we manage to get our act together. Characters save their world from those who would corrupt or destroy it. Click To Tweet

AiA: Long Shadows features an intergalactic conflict between two civilizations that could not be more different. Where did you get your inspiration for them, and how did you come up with the detailed descriptions? Were they purely from imagination, or was there some research involved?

Strock: Beginnings aren’t what comes to me first, so I have to retroactively create one from clues in my concept. The Salei and Alkir had to be at odds but willing to cooperate, so a cold war made sense. Each side’s goals defined the kind of creatures they needed to be. The Salei are like locusts: they ravage resources. The Alkir are herd-minded herbivores who fight only when cornered.

Cover of Win Strock’s new novel Long Shadows. AiA: The hero of this book, James, is a teenager coming of age, trying to find his abilities and purpose in life. He is in love with a street-smart, red-haired girl who works in a bar. She seems familiar, like someone most people would recognize from some point in their lives. Most fictional characters reflect the author’s experience. What relationships or people from your own past have informed these characters?

Strock: As a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome (before anyone knew what that was) interacting with other kids didn’t come easy. I think that’s why I became such a sci-fi fan. I imagined myself an alien that looked like the other kids but remained very different. There was a girl named Glenda in my childhood. I had a crush and she was pretty harsh. Not much of a story, but that kernel of personal connection made writing that part of the story easier and more real for me as I wrote it.

As a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome (before anyone knew what that was) interacting with other kids didn’t come easy. Click To Tweet

AiA: Like your previous work, Touching Butterflies, Long Shadows features a male friendship that is important to the hero’s journey. How is James’ friendship with Matt different from Neil and Roland’s relationship in Butterflies? James learns from his friend in unexpected ways. How did you see this relationship developing under very difficult circumstances? How did you manage to keep both friends on equal footing, when one gains such tremendous power?

Strock: For the most part, Matt’s character grew from James’s weaknesses and interests. Prior to the first scene, James (like me) has just made a big move. In a new neighborhood, at a new school, he sees a chance to react differently to the world hoping to gain better results. He’d been timid and shy; now he means to speak his mind and waste little time meeting the world head-on. Matt’s caution and logic are the guardrail that keeps James from tumbling to his doom.

Neil and Roland from Touching Butterflies were a case of role reversal. Neil had been the awkward geek and Roland the popular athlete in high school. Now with Roland’s football career destroyed and Neil’s computer skills at a premium, it’s Neil’s turn to have power and prestige go to his head and allow him down a dark path.

AiA: In Long Shadows, the warring civilizations seek power, and the real prize is in the form of telepathy. Tell us a little about your interest in telepathy, and what drew you to feature it in the story? And because science fiction is often predictive, what potential do you see for telepathy to actually gain the kind of power you describe sometime in the future?

Strock: Telepathy served two purposes in Long Shadows.

For the Salei, telepathy threatened their civilization, where secrets and hidden agendas kept the powerful on top.

For the Alkir, being part of a global mind meant they were unable to come up with new ideas because negativity of the collective mind about anything risky or untried magnified their fears.

If humanity becomes telepathic the upheaval is inevitable. Everyone’s a liar on some level. Sometimes they lie for a ‘good reason.’ Imagine going to a car salesman or to court knowing that your thoughts and memories are like a book on a shelf.

Everyone’s a liar on some level. Sometimes they lie for a ‘good reason.’ Click To Tweet

AiA: Long Shadows ends with an open possibility for a sequel. Do you intend to follow up with a series, or are you thinking of something different for your next book? If so, what can you tell us?

Strock: I always have ideas for sequels but I seldom act on them. Currently I’m working on The Kitten’s Apprentice. It’s a story about a sorcerer who tries to pass his powers on to a younger man. During the ritual, a cat interferes and the magical powers are shared between the man and the cat.

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