Ten Things I Learned in 2014 as a Writer

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To strengthen my writer’s resolve, I’ve been looking back on 2014, particularly the period since April when I published The Case for Killing. Here are the top ten things I learned as a writer.

Manage expectations. Writing for fun is, well, fun. Expecting to have a broad readership is a recipe for anxiety and depression.

Success starts with great content. A writer who writes an entertaining book will get some readers.

Discoverability is the hard part. However, it is difficult to be discovered by a broad readership. The competition from other books and content is hair-raisingly stiff.

Self-pub writers must invest a lot upfront. See my blog on this. At least at the beginning, for most writers, self-publishing is like an expensive hobby.

Many, many people want to sell stuff to self-pubs. Beware writer.

Perseverance is key. Perseverance doesn’t guarantee a broad readership but it sure raises the odds.

A writer must promote. Speaking for myself, I’m built to look inward but, unfortunately, there’s only one reader there. When you talk up your book to others, good things happen.

Word of mouth is the best promotion.

Blogging doesn’t sell books. So far, I don’t have any proof that blogging sells my book. I now see blogging as a way to establish an online presence and brand.

There’s great fun in meeting people. I have connected or reconnected with many people in 2014. That’s been as satisfying as the praise for my book.

Best wishes for 2015!

Copyright ©2014 Peter Fritze

Where to buy The Case for Killing.

Hey Santa

Blog 37 ImageSanta, I know your focus is gifts for girls and boys, but this year, can you also give to this middle-aged writer? BTW, I’ve already bought you milk and cookies with the proceeds of my book sales this year.

To help you decide, I’m forwarding you my wish list. Right up front, I acknowledge that there are a lot of intangibles on my list. Nothing like, say, a gaming console, though that did cross my mind. But I believe in your magical powers and, really, any two or three of the following would do.

  1. A bit more attention: I had a good start this year with The Case for Killing. But it would help if you installed a copy of my book on all the digital readers and tablets you hand out.
  1. A remedy for shyness: I love it when readers say they like my book. However, I blush, which interferes with my alpha male projection. Is there something for that?
  1. Less writer’s envy. When I read a thriller, I say, “Well, I could write that.” I’d prefer if that happened at the end of the book, not every page.
  1. More perseverance. In pill form, to go with my morning vitamins.
  1. Some new similes. I’m only on book three and I’m running dry already. Metaphors are good, too.
  1. Simplified social media. Why are there so many platforms? Can’t they be combined?
  1. Data. There’s a lot of discussion in the blogosphere whether writers earn more if they’re traditionally published or self-published. But the folks who sell books never give us the proper data to decide. Can you put it on your website?
  1. A minimum wage for writers.
  1. A Stanley Cup for the Leafs. I’m toying with you now.
  1. Amendment to wish #2. Just change me into an extrovert.

Good luck with the holidays, Santa.

Copyright ©2014 Peter Fritze

Where to buy The Case for Killing.

When is a Book Ready to Publish?

Blog 36I have a confession to make. I said that my second book, False Guilt, would be available this fall. It will be the first quarter of 2015 instead.

I really did think I would make the original deadline. One lesson I’ve learned is that, when talking about a future book’s release date, it’s better to say “soon”.

But there are other lessons, too. My book’s delay has some very good reasons, which I’ve decided to collect under the general question: when is a book ready to publish? These comments are geared toward indie authors.

When the Writer’s Gut Says So. I didn’t become settled with False Guilt as soon as I expected. Now I’m ready to stand tall beside the story and characters and see what feedback I get.

To me, this really is a gut decision, because dastardly voices speak in the writer’s head. One says, “Another rewrite won’t make any difference. Get the thing out there already.” Another says, “This book needs to be perfect. Plan on 2017.”

I think that the more a writer writes, chances are he becomes better at assessing when his book is ready for publication. His sense of plot, pace and character development grows keener. He understands better when more research is required. He learns tricks like allowing enough time to pass between drafts to bring a new perspective to his work.

Several Drafts After Beta Readers Have Read The Book. My last two blogs discussed how useful beta readers are. I’ve learned that, after beta reader comments come in, I need to do at least three drafts of a book before it goes to the editor.

When the Editor Says It’s Ready. A good editor will be clear with a writer if and when his book is ready for public eyes. Some of what delayed False Guilt was my editor questioning character development and interaction. An editor’s structural, stylistic and copy edit comments can take several drafts to sort out.

It’s possible a writer and editor will disagree on some points. So, really, the idea is that a book is ready to publish when the editor says so, setting aside carefully considered points of difference.

When the Writer Has a Marketing Plan. Discoverability is a huge challenge, so writers must actively promote their books. Better yet, a writer should have a marketing plan. Mine for False Guilt, including a Facebook and Twitter presence and upcoming pre-release reviews, is coming into shape.

When a Compelling Cover Design is Done.  Book covers can make such a powerful statement, it’s better not to rush them. I like the direction the cover for False Guilt is heading in.

Not Too Soon After the Last Book. I won’t pretend to know when the optimal time is to release a second book. I’ll just say that I think The Case for Killing, published in April, still has legs.

When Readers Have Time. An indie author needs to think about the time of year when he’s releasing a book.

Initially, I thought releasing False Guilt in the heart of the holiday season was a good idea. I hoped it would be a digital stocking stuffer. But then I decided people will be too busy to give the book any attention. Now I’m hoping that False Guilt will help with the February blues.

Copyright ©2014 Peter Fritze

Where to buy The Case for Killing.

Beta Reader Feedback

Blog35 ImageLast week, I blogged about using, finding and preparing beta readers. In this post, following my experience with The Case for Killing and False Guilt, I’m sharing my thoughts on what to do with their feedback.

As I mentioned last blog, I give beta readers a decent draft of my manuscript and a list of questions to address. I ask if they were entertained by the book; what they found worked and didn’t work about the plot, characters and settings; and where they encountered weak writing. I also ask them to circle typos and grammatical problems.

The form of the feedback varies a lot among readers. Two report verbally. A third enlarges on hand-written comments over coffee. From the last, I get a lengthy email. I don’t find the form matters much. All comments are useful and all readers make time for follow-up questions.

I consider comments from beta readers as carefully as those from my editor. However, the processes of handling the comments are different. The editor is a single voice speaking from a broad experience with manuscripts. Beta readers provide more diverse comments and have varying backgrounds. Their comments can differ and conflict. That can make for some tough decisions.

How do I approach this? Obviously I fix the typos and factual errors that readers find. I also assess grammatical problems, not only where the readers identify them but for similar instances across the manuscript. And I work hard on upgrading writing that readers say is weak, though it seems I re-write the manuscript I give beta readers at least three times anyway.

More challenging is feedback on whether the readers found the manuscript entertaining and on points about plot, characters and settings. The basic truth is that no writer pleases all readers. However, this can also be a dangerous rationalization for not improving a manuscript. So I try hard to refine my manuscript to handle all comments. If, however, beta reader comments conflict, I judge what to use according to my instinct and the consensus I see among the readers.

For example, pace in thrillers is very important. So, if one reader says a portion of my manuscript’s plot unfolds too slowly, I’ll try to improve it even though the other readers don’t complain. I’m pretty sure the book will be better as a result. However, I may end up keeping a plot point that one reader dislikes if the other three really like it.

Beta reader comments about characters’ makeups, motives and reactions can be especially challenging. Since my goal is that readers suspend their reality when reading my book, I can end up agonizing over these comments. Sometimes, though, after a lot of considering and tinkering, I’ll stop pounding the laptop keys and say to myself, “That’s who the character wants to be and not everyone will like or understand her.”

It’s true that no writer pleases all readers, but a writer who uses the feedback of beta readers wisely will definitely please more.

Copyright ©2014 Peter Fritze

Buy The Case for Killing here (Canada) or here (U.S.).