This post is brought to you by listening to and reading awful books. Please feel free to read and comment (politely) your own thoughts and experiences.
First things first – I am human. I make mistakes. I try to fix them when I find them, even months or years after the fact because that’s who I am. I like having a good product to offer. I’ll pull items offline because I no longer like a story. I’ll kill a pen name if I no longer like what’s published under the name.
Next – I’m ranting because I am stunned. Let me explain a little. It’s really hard to get enough sales to make it into a certain newsletter to which I’m subscribed. When I see something in there for free, sometimes I won’t bother reading the reviews (this is my bad) and download it. I expect something that has had this many sales and is ranked this high to be well-written, well-plotted, and be full of characters I’m either going to love or love to hate. I read part of this book only to cringe at the bad grammar and the beginning started with a rape scene that wasn’t explained (hardly at all) much later in the story.
I finally went online and read the reviews. The 5* reviews left me stunned all over again. I couldn’t fathom how these people were in love with this error-riddled holey-plot story. I read the 1* reviews to find out the story doesn’t even have a real ending. It’s a cliffhanger. Want to piss off your readers? Charge them $2.99 for a story that has a cliffhanger. I guarantee they won’t be buying your next piece and will probably raze you in the review section.
So you want to be a writer? Yeah, me too. Want to know what writers do? They write. Then they edit. Then they revise. Then they proofread for the next edit or the next revision. If they’re lucky, or have enough extra money, they’ll pay someone to edit and proof it and another person to create their cover. Not everyone can afford that and so we make do with what we can. We try to offer a good, well-created product for our readers. That is your goal. Provide a good product. That’s what every business needs to strive to do and that’s what writing is – it’s a business. Yes, it’s also fun if you’re writing what you truly enjoy – but in the end it’s a business.
If you want to write a serial (different definition from series or saga) then don’t charge $2.99 for a handful of chapters. You’ll get dinged in the reviews like the author I mentioned above.
Most advice you’ll see about self-publishing is to publish as soon as you’re done writing. Please don’t follow that to the letter. You need to edit and revise for grammar, plot, and more. Do your characters appear to be talking heads because you forgot to describe the setting? How do they feel about that setting? Does it make one person queasy while the other doesn’t care that there’s a cockroach crawling around their overflowing trash bin? What does it smell like? Is the one person crinkling their nose, while the other is used to it and doesn’t notice?
My advice if you’re writing a series? Finish the series while writing other stand alone stories. Why? Because then you can release one new book for that series every week or every month while writing other stories. I wish I had done this with the Fix-It Fast Series. I feel that there were long periods of not publishing between them because I threw up 5 at once.
Cover design.. there’s so much you can do. The Fix-It Fast covers I did kind of like what you’d find on a magazine with the way I did the title, my author name, and the ‘Fix-It Fast Satisfaction Guaranteed – Story #’ text. I also have this insane need to use half-tone on my cover. I can’t help it. I love the way it looks. So, I use it. Find a program that works for you and learn it. Whether it’s an old copy of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (which can do almost as much as Photoshop, fyi), or Gimp, or Canva. Learn it. Watch videos. Save yourself money and make your own covers. If you are completely incapable, then put money aside, find a designer that has good covers displayed. Look on Amazon and other sites and see if the cover designer is listed in the credits. See what they charge. It may be worth it. Converse with the designer first. Get to know them. Find out if they have any issues creating a cover for your genre. Make sure they’re aware of the limitations with Amazon if you publish there (why wouldn’t you unless it’s bannable content?) so that it doesn’t get banned or thrown into the dungeon (aka adult filtered).
Read the Reddit board for Erotica Authors. Do not ask any questions until you’ve read everything marked with [FAQ]. Got a specific question? Search the board first. If you can’t find an answer (meaning, no one has asked that question – if there is already an answer, unless it’s a couple of years old, the answer isn’t going to change – ie: bannable content on Amazon only increases, never decreases) then you can ask. When you ask be polite. You will definitely attract more kind answers with honey.
While I haven’t participated in the Critique Monday and Blurbsday Thursday (and I think I’m forgetting another weekday tag) they are definitely worth getting your first few covers, blurbs, etc in there. The people who have experience will help you. Some might not appear kind, but remember, this is the internet. Don’t apply tone to someone critiquing your work or you may take it the wrong way. Constructive critiquing is always the goal.
Read. Read and if you have an Audible account, listen. Read whatever is free. Read the stuff in the top 25 of your genre and niche. Use the 30-day Kindle Unlimited Freebie period so that you can read voraciously before you start writing. Think of it as a research project. Go back to your college years or high school years you had to write research papers.
What did this character do? How did it turn out? How did it make you feel? Did you care? Did the author include all 5 senses while writing? Did you pop out of the story world for some reason – if so, write down why you were suddenly thrust into reality. Grammar error? Plot hole? Did they somehow start writing a completely different story somewhere in the middle? How’s the pace? Is your heart racing constantly and you need to take a break just to remember how to breathe? Do you like that racy feeling and want to write that way as well?
Writing is a job. It takes time to get comfortable with yourself. You have to write freely in order to learn how to write well. Use all of your senses and all of your emotions. Put them onto the page. Embrace your heart and all its grisly mushiness. Then use your logical brain to put it together well, wrap it cleanly, tie a bow around it so it’s pretty and release it to the world.