BLOGNews, Fiction Updates & General Musings
Okay, so that title might’ve been a little clickbaity. I apologise. Blame the state of the internet.
But the truth is, I believe there are four tasks that can be carried out each and every single day that ultimately lead to writing success, and probably success in a whole bunch of other fields too.
A bit of back story first. I’ve been writing seriously–as in writing as my primary vocation–for around two years now. In those two years, I’ve dabbled with things like KDP Select, BookBub, tried different editing methods, different covers, followed and abandoned various idols before following them all over again.
But over those two years, four things have stuck.
Four things have got me to where I am today.
And sure, the writing business might be going well now. It might not be going well tomorrow. I might wake up tomorrow and see my sales crumble. I might never sell another copy of my books.
And yet I’ll keep on following these four daily steps because I have the utmost confidence in them. I believe in them because I’ve seen what they can do for a writing career, regardless of how successful or poorly it’s going.
In fact, I’d argue these steps are even more important when you are selling. Because when you’re selling, it’s easy to take your foot off the gas. To assume that’s just the way it is, that things are never going to change.
Well, no. They do change. Sometimes in a drastic way. So never get complacent. Always follow the damned steps.
Here they are, without any further ado.
Okay, a nice and simple one to start off. But it’s true. You need to write a significant amount every day. If not every day, then at least five days a week, or enough in a few writing sprints to add up to a lot of words. I’d suggest 2,000 words a day is a nice target to shoot for. Personally, I ignore that and aim for 4,000-6,000 words. I take weekends off. And yeah, it still adds up.
I used to be of the opinion that a little here and there all adds up to a lot. 100 words one day, 50 the next, maybe 750 at the weekend. But seeing how this landscape works, seeing how quickly the traditional system is now working to keep up with the rapid independent publishing release schedules, I’m not so sure anymore. The big bestsellers are suddenly publishing three books a year instead of one. Or six instead of three. And that’s all because of the new world of publishing.
For what it’s worth, I think that new world is a wonderful place to be for both writers and readers. More quality stories = win for everyone.
So it goes without saying that you need to write. I think a quota can work, but try it for yourself as they can be a little restrictive. I personally find a set quota quite stressful, hence my range of words.
Oh, and I always hit that range. Even if I take a day off for whatever reason in the week, I make it up on other days.
Because I’m a writer. It’s what I do.
I owe it to my readers to put in as much effort as I can every single day of my life.*
*excluding weekends. Sorry.
What happens when you stop writing?
Well it’s self-explanatory really. Stop writing and you stop producing new words. Stop producing new words and you stop writing books. Stop writing books and you stop releasing products.
Stop releasing products and you lose readers.
So keep on writing. Above anything else, keep on writing.
And don’t stop for anyone. Not even yourself. Especially not yourself.
My second step in the four steps of writing success (lol) is quite broadly and ominously titled “business.”
What is business?
Well, business is everything related to your books as a product, or your author image as a product. It’s marketing. Social media. Advertising. But also replying to emails, formatting, designing covers, writing blogs… everything to do with getting your books out there and making them more visible.
A lot of writers are allergic to words like promotion and marketing. I was, for a time. A time when I wasn’t selling shit.
And then I swallowed a bit of pride and accepted I wasn’t selling enough by my own personal standards and forced myself to ask a simple question every single day. Including weekends.
What can I do to make my books more visible today?
Again, broad. But liberating. It could be a tiny task like submitting to an ad site. Or no task at all–a day when an ad is running anyway so you don’t technically have much to do.
Or it could be something more minor. Tweaking formatting. Fixing a typo a reader spotted. All these equal more positive word of mouth, which in turn equal… yep. More visibility.
So please don’t be afraid of business or marketing. Put your publisher hat on (they’re really quite something) and ask yourself that question every single morning.
What can I do to make my books more visible today?
If you don’t know, you’re doing something wrong. Even if it’s learning about what you could be doing (like reading this post), well that’s just killer because it combines task two and three here.
What happens when you stop “doing business STUFF”?
When you stop doing business stuff, your books become less visible.
Sure, you might still sell well. You might sell very well. But you’re hitting fewer eyes, which means less word of mouth will spread. You’re ignoring things like weird formatting niggles and abandoning your website which makes you look less professional.
All of this adds up. And it will catch up with you.
Speaking from experience, business is the area I neglected the most in my earlier days of writing. I was in the school of thought that readers just “found” my books, that I had to trust the algorithms, that Amazon were my friends.
Well, I trusted them all for a while. And then I started doing a little bit of business every day and sell a shitload more as a result.
So sure. Ignore business. Ignore marketing. At your own peril.
PS: For what it’s worth, I don’t recommend doing business tasks for the sake of it. Don’t go too far, like reducing one book to 99c one day then another to 99c then next then another free… and so on.
Just be wise about it. Sometimes, you can simply answer your question with, “well my first book is perma-free… so I’m making my books more visible today.”
And that’s totally fine.
It’s something. Which is better than nothing.
Ah, the most neglected area of all.
When people ask me why the hell their books aren’t selling, often it simply–and unfortunately–boils down to this.
The covers are great. The blurb is good.
But the writing just isn’t.
Grammar issues and typos aren’t all that “study” entails (so bear with me). And sure, typos happen–they happen all the time in books from all publishers and the most esteemed of authors. But look, readers are intelligent. They know when someone hasn’t hired an editor. They know when someone struggles putting sentences together. They just know.
And they won’t buy any follow-up books from a writer who is clearly lacking in the study department.
So if you know your grammar and spelling aren’t great, please please please do some research, or at the very least hire a proofreader. They’ll help you and train your subconscious to write better in future. Honest.
That said, there’s way more to study than just grammar and typos. Study is everything. Study is reading other works of bestselling authors. Study is watching hit, Emmy winning TV shows and marvelling at the writing. Study is reading books on craft and taking business workshops and trying new things.
Study is tearing out the pages of your favourite book and pasting them on the wall to work out how the hell the author did it.
Newsflash: Yes, you’ve written a book. Maybe you’ve written thirty books. But you’re not perfect. And if you think you don’t need to learn anymore, well good luck down the road.
We always need to challenge ourselves. We always need to hold ourselves accountable by learning new methods and techniques. Because if we don’t, we just settle into a boring safe state of typing along, doing our potential selves a great injustice.
So get a book out and start reading it. Get a Netflix subscription and watch all of Orange is the New Black and figure out why it’s so damned brilliant.
Then, apply that study to your own work.
Or don’t. And don’t get any better. Just like a weightlifter who sticks to the lightest weights because they know they can lift them instead of training a little harder to lift the next ones up.
What happens when you stop studying?
Explained above, but briefly: you stop flexing your creative muscles, and therefore your writing career stands still.
Or, you don’t challenge yourself to learn proper grammar and spelling because you’re too stubborn to… and your writing career never gets going.
Harsh, but it’s a harsh world. And I’m sure you’d rather hear it from me than, say, a reviewer vowing never to read your books again. Right?
4. Enjoy yourself
Yes! The final step in the conundrum is… wait, what?! Have fun?!
Well, yeah. Because if you can’t enjoy yourself, what’s the point? You’re a writer. You’ve got the best job in the world. You imagine things and write them down for a living.
From the comfort of your bed.
Or at the other side of the world.
And that’s the refreshing beauty of it. No two days are the same. Or if you prefer them to be, they can be.
Do whatever it takes to keep writing fun. And that includes sleeping properly, exercising properly and socialising properly.
Take weekends off. Ignore the bullshit about having to write every day. You’re allowed to take some downtime. I give you permission. Go on–go out and get royally pissed. All in the name of writing success, right?
I hope these four steps helped. They’re the only four things I’ve stuck with over the years, the only four things that consistently work through the good times and the bad.
Now, it’s the weekend. Where’s that beer…?
I’m delighted to announce that the gripping sequel to Infection Z is now available to buy! Infection Z 2 chronicles the next stage of Hayden and co’s post-apocalyptic journey as they attempt to survive on the road in a harsh and unforgiving zombie world.
It’s everything you’d expect from my zombie apocalypse works with nail-biting suspense, thrilling action, deep and dark characters and twists and turns that’ll leave you breathless and begging for more.
Hope you enjoy reading Infection Z 2. It was a hell of a lot of fun to write!
I’ve always been a little sceptical of pre-orders when it comes to ebooks.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that Amazon and co opened up pre-orders to independent publishers and authors. It creates a level playing field with the big boys, and while I think some of Amazon’s terms are a little strict when it comes to delivery dates, it’s a start, and something I was told multiple times to take advantage of when the option launched last year.
So I did. And my results sucked.
The first book I made available for pre-order was Sunlight, a standalone post-apocalyptic book I released last October. I got a total of fourteen pre-orders, meaning my pre-release visibility was nil and my launch day ranking already low. A missed opportunity, basically.
I tried pre-orders again with the fourth book in the Brian McDone series. I figured a series instalment would garner better results.
Nope. In fact, I only got seven pre-orders for this book. And while the book has sold well since, it was a nail in the coffin for pre-orders where I’m concerned.
Or so I thought.
Last month, I released Infection Z, the first book in a new post-apocalyptic series. I immediately made the second book available to pre-order as I’d already finished it some time ago. I set it to launch in a month, so there was somewhere for readers to go right after they’d finished the first book.
I just now looked at the pre-orders for IZ2.
They’re in the hundreds.
So for me, it’s immediately clear how to make the most of pre-orders. First, you have to write a book. Then write another book. And even better, write another.
Then, release that first book and set the second book available for pre-order a month later. This way you’re on the HNR lists for book one, and have a second book ready to launch which’ll boost your HNR ranking for another month. And for a third, a fourth, so on.
I’m not suggesting you churn out a second book for the sake of it. This only works if you a.) have a series and b.) are willing to hold back a couple of books initially to take advantage of the pre-order system–and the visibility that comes with it. But the way I see it, I could’ve launched all those books on day one. Sure, I’d probably have sold lots in the first month.
But after that month, after those thirty days, visibility is gone.
I drop out the HNR lists.
With a pre-order, there’s the best of both worlds: visibility in the HNR list for a month, a follow-up already available to pre-purchase, and then an extra thirty days of visibility when that book launches. And so on.
So ultimately I just wanted to share my experiences with pre-order and give you a few ideas of how it can work for you. If you release standalone books infrequently, I don’t see much point holding them back. If you aren’t willing to write a few books, hold them back for the purpose of releasing one every thirty days, then you might as well just release to your own schedule too.
But if you have a system, have a little patience and structure your releases into thirty-day patterns–whether you write a book a year or a book every three months doesn’t matter, just hold them back until you have more than one ready to go–then pre-ordering can work for you.
I realise this goes against a lot of common logic and advice. Most advice says to just release everything when it’s ready. Well I tried that and I sold less when I did that than I do now. But your mileage may vary.
Hope you’re all enjoying Infection Z. That book is still just 99c for a very limited time, so hurry up and grab it now if you haven’t already.
If you have read it and you happened to enjoy it, I wanted to give you a quick heads-up that the sequel, Infection Z 2, will be available on the 24th April and is now available to pre-order.
Writing Infection Z was a lot of fun. Writing the sequel was an absolute blast. It’s darker, more intense, and if you loved the first book, I think it’s a given that the sequel will be right up your street.
If you judge a book by its cover — which we all do, for better or for worse — then this piece of art should tip you over the edge.
So what are you waiting for?!
Hope you enjoy it!
Unless you’ve been sleeping in a cave for the last few months, you’ll be well aware that I’ve been working hard on a brand new series called Infection Z, a new post apocalyptic horror that fans of Dead Days are sure to enjoy.
The first book in the Infection Z series chronicles the journey of Hayden McCall, a layabout waster in his mid-twenties who is thrust headfirst into a dangerous and violent world where all that matters is survival. Forced to give a shit about something other than his overdue rent, Hayden must step up for the first time in his adult life on a treacherous journey. As he meets new friends and encounters dangerous foes, Hayden is forced out of the comfort of his bedsit and onto an unpredictable adventure of survival and self-discovery.
Infection Z is a new zombie series in a different “world” to the Dead Days series, packed with twists, turns, character dilemmas, heightened emotions, page-turning suspense and nail-biting horror. Oh, and zombies. And gore. Plenty of it. I foresee it as a long journey and a series I’m going to spend a lot of time on, with four books scheduled for release in 2015 alone, the next of which will be out next month. Yep, IZ 2 will launch just a month after the first book, and is already available to pre-order. Don’t say I don’t ever treat you…
Infection Z is available right now for Amazon Kindle. As a special treat, it’s only 99c for the first week or two on sale, before heading back to its RRP of $3.99. Kindle Unlimited readers can pick up the book as part of their subscription. Other platforms will launch later in the year.
And here’s the covers for the first two books. I absolutely love them both. They capture the essence of the series so well. And how damned unique are they?! Amazing. I love this series and I know you Dead Days fans will love it too. As much as I adore Dead Days, I wanted to stretch my creative muscles (yep, us writers do have ’em) in a completely new world with slightly different rules. Plus it’s even better for you readers as it means you have two zombie series to keep up with instead of one, both of which evolve from similar roots to be very, very different…
And for a sneak peek of the first Infection Z book, click here to check out the first couple of chapters. Just try putting it down. I dare you…
Wow, it seems like forever ago that I was last on this blog posting an update about new stuff. But here I am, out of my writing cave and… well, typing away some more. Thank God for my new ergonomic setup or my wrists/back would be ruined by now.
In an attempt to restore some order and routine to this blog, I figured it would be a good idea to do some updates every month. Info on what I’m working on, what’s coming in the next few months, and general musings on the writing life. I realise I’ve neglected my blog these last few months, but truth be told, I’ve had good reasons. Namely, working bloody hard on all kinds of new projects.
The first new project I’ve been working on is Infection Z. It’s a new zombie apocalypse series unrelated to the Dead Days books. Now I know, I know — I already have one zombie series, so why am I bothering with Infection Z? Well, Dead Days has grown into something completely different. I won’t spoil the books in case you’re yet to read them/still making your way through them, but it’s safe to say that there’s much more to it than just surviving in a zombie apocalypse world now. Rules have changed, the story has twisted and turned, and it will continue to do so right up until its final season (which I currently have planned for the eighth).
Infection Z is a back-to-roots zombie horror. And at the same time, there’s some unique twists on the genre. Some interesting developments from the very start that set the book apart from its colleagues. And while Dead Days hurtles towards an end goal, Infection Z is very much an ongoing tale of survival in a decaying world. Central to that is humanity, and how it adapts and responds to the changing landscape.
Basically: if you love Dead Days, you’ll love Infection Z. If you haven’t read Dead Days, you can read Infection Z anyway. It’s different stories, different characters, and very different direction–even though they both ultimately start with the same concept: a world falling apart under the weight of a zombie infection.
It’s a twist filled ride that I think you’ll really enjoy, and that I’m very proud of. It’ll be out in March. Cover reveals and stuff like that coming soon.
I’m also working hard on a brand new series that I don’t want to talk about too much just yet. Yeah, I know, teasing and all that. But all I can say is that it’s new territory for me. A combination of my mystery and my horror sides of writing with a whole new sprinkle of literary depth on top. Mostly, it’s a lot of fun. I’ll share more about this in the coming weeks, but rest assured, I think it’s the best book I’ve ever written. And I’m a real harsh critic of my own work.
Anyway, time for me to get back to the madness. January and February were very, very good months–two of my best in writing. So thanks very much for all who picked up one or two or however many of my releases in 2015 so far. Hope you enjoy what you see, and it’ll be great to have you on board for many years to come.
Cheers. More soon.