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Hard Lessons Learned-My Experiences as an Author

Writing, like anything worth doing in life is challenging and filled with daily lessons.  One lesson became painfully obvious despite my many attempts to ignore it. I am on my own when it comes to marketing. I research quite heavily on how to market a book.  Many people suggested outsourcing marketing such as hiring bloggers to share or review your work.  There are an innumerable amount of people and “companies” on Twitter who are willing to Tweet books and/or put you in their email list to their “many” followers.

Like most authors trying to build a brand, I’ve had a hard time with marketing.  The feedback I’ve gotten on my books from people I trust has been largely positive.  However, giving out books for reviews rarely produces any reviews at all.  So many people say they would love to write a review but when it comes to committing, they simply don’t show up to prom.  To further that metaphor, I’m left alone on the dance floor without a date that swore to Heaven she would show.  This is even after treating her like a princess and picking her up, she just slips away quietly right after we enter the school.

I feel like everything I’ve done as far as marketing is concerned is met with similar results.  My wife and I tried to hire a marketing team, but even with the prospect of paying company several hundred dollars they still took weeks to respond and never met their deadlines.  It’s beyond infuriating when I’m told I will get a response by Friday of this week and I don’t hear anything until four weeks have gone by and I contacted this person’s boss.  After this I felt depressed.  I am still learning how to find my audience.  I need someone to come along side me and work with R. Michael Books long-term.  I also got desperate.  Desperation never results in good judgement.

I decided to reach out to a blogger who writes book reviews who initially contacted me.  I researched this person and could not find anything bad about her and her site was professional and looked legitimate.  I did research on whether authors should pay bloggers and one site suggested it is a good way to get exposure as did a few others.  In my desperation I became convinced and decided to hire this blogger. She seemed professional and was always kind in her emails, so I ignored my reservations.  She did produce a review on her blog, but it was obvious that she hadn’t read my book.  It was just a bunch of flowery platitudes that were carefully crafted to stroke my ego, most likely in order to win a repeat customer. I decided to dig deep into Google and try to find ANYTHING I could about her other than what her website says.  Lo and behold I found a KDP thread where a few authors detailed a similar experience with this blogger.  I then carefully read through her blogs and they were all the same.  Overly flattering to the author, she was reviewing.

I tell of this experience because I learned a few things.  NEVER pay for a blogger to review your work.  No matter how reputable he/she may be.  The blog I purchased wasn’t technically for a positive review, and the site owner claims to only charge to help her family.  I also know as someone who has a few websites that they are expensive to keep operational.  It is frowned upon to pay for reviews in the literary world.  I honestly didn’t realize that until it was after the fact and I did more reading on the topic, which meant going more than a few pages into Google.  This review is utterly useless due to the nature of how it was designed to flatter me more than actually giving an honest look at my book.  Initially I justified this in my mind because there are large companies that review books for several hundred dollars.  Well-known companies and I found it odd that paying them is considered professional but not a blogger.  Honestly, I don’t think either are all that helpful.  As authors when it comes to getting reviews and selling our books it is based on time and hard work.  Throwing money at the situation doesn’t solve the problem.  I’ve learned my lesson, and if you are an author too, learn from mine as well.

Titles

Have you ever written a paper in High School or College that you feel was excellent, but the title was an elusive monster that just would not reveal itself? I have, especially on those assignments that allowed me to pick my own topic. Worse yet, when I was required to do a creative assignment, it had to have an engaging title. What is an engaging title? That seems rather subjective … well sort of.

Obviously, being a novelist, I love creative writing. Writing is in my very soul, but titles on the other hand … titles are hard. I’m not here to say that I have become an expert at it either. Just know that if you struggle in this area, you are not alone.

As an author, it is my responsibility to grab a reader’s attention. The first things a person sees on a book are the cover and the title. These are two of the most important elements of a book. If a cover or title is not attracting attention, no one will care to read the summary. If the summary isn’t read, the book probably won’t be read either. There is a lot of pressure to get the titles just right, and that is something I am still trying to figure out.

One thing I have found helpful is to bounce ideas off a friend or family member. Often, they help me come up with ideas I had never thought about.

Nature is an Author's Friend

I have written previous blogs on inspiration, and in some ways this is a continuation of that thought. One of the most powerful sources of inspiration for me is nature. The inherent beauty of forests or grasslands, the night sky, and a beautiful sunny day are inspiring in and of themselves.

Nature is pure and raw beauty, and a glimpse of an even greater beauty, one that is not fathomable. One of the richest experiences for me is walking through the woods at night. There is such awe and wonder in this that it fuels my creativity in ways movies, television, and even books cannot. If I am in an area where I can get a good look at the night sky, I like to ponder the vastness of not only our galaxy but of the universe itself and all the mysteries we have yet to discover or will never know.

It is this wonder and awe that I find so easy to translate into speculative fiction. There is always something more for humanity to learn, and nature reminds me of that every day.