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Self Write is Reborn


Time to write a blog! I’m ignoring all those unfinished, overly complex novels hanging out on my computer to write a simple post for the masses.

So how do I make this worth our time?

Here is some helpful, if maybe a bit self-apparent, information: Self-publishing is hard. If you want to sell more than four books a month, you need an audience. To do that writers must forge a fellowship with other writers and with readers. We all long for community.

Doing this alone is crazy making.

I’m not new at this. I’ve already written a novel, hired an editor, made a cover, got a review on a horror website, and self-published on Smashwords and Amazon. While people liked the book, it never really got any traction. In some ways, especially economically, the book was a failure.

Failure is part of the learning process.

My next chance is coming up fast. I will be finishing another book this year, House of Cabal Episode One, a speculative fiction thriller. Three other novels are in the pipeline. I will be self-publishing again on Smashwords and Amazon.

I want to make the most of this second chance. To do that, I’m going to need your help. Thanks for reading, now get back to writing. We’ll get through this together.


Tough Love, Blog

Almost a year and a half ago, I started to focus on strengthening my “media platform.” That included this blog and my twitter feed. I wrote:

With the rise of the internet and our virtual lives, an established platform is a must for any writer, even those going through the channels of traditional publishing. Readers want to connect, and connected reads buy books and spread the word. A writer is nothing without excited fans and followers.

So how is my media platform creation going? Let us check in.

Jamal Afzal

Jamal Afzal 2007

Views to my blog haven’t really gone up since the first few months, despite the fact I now have a book available. Currently about twenty people a week visit my blog. I have more than a thousand people following me on twitter, but only a few respond to anything I tweet. This leads me to believe that maybe about twenty people pay attention to my twitter posts, if that. Not great.

After posting a code on this blog to download a free copy of my new horror novel, only two people used the code.

So where have I gone wrong? I have a few ideas.

My brand is an undefined mess. Most of my readers have very little clue as to what kind of writer I am. I also haven’t identified my audience. Horror or thriller readers? Joss Whedon fans? Clive Barker fans? White gay guys? Anyone and everyone is not a target audience.

My posts are too sporadic. I post whenever I feel like it and with no respect for any predictable schedule.

Many of my posts are self-indulgent and not all that helpful to my readers. Are my blog posts my random thoughts, self-help for self-publishers, or thinly veiled advertisements for my book?

I’m tempted to start from scratch. My blog has fifty followers. Not bad, but how many of those people are even reading my posts, and more importantly, finding my posts worthy of their time?

It’s time to try a new strategy.

Onward and Upward

Here I am, trying to get my first novel into your hands. I’m now more than a writer, I’ve published my novel, and now I’m focused on marketing, and for the first time, I’m realizing that’s kind of amazing. Before this is all over, I’m going to know the whole ebook business, inside and out.

I’ve changed the look of my blog to reflect my new book. Less people are visiting, but I guess I’ll just keep posting stuff and see if things pick up.

You can buy my novel on Amazon here, and if you want it in some other format it’s on Smashwords here.

When I figure more things out (find something that works), I’ll post more advice updates. Right now, new people are reading my stuff, so I am grateful for that. I’ve already received some positive feedback from readers who aren’t close friends.

I’m still trying to figure out the next step. Onward and upward, as they say.

The Horror Genre

If you have read my first novel, The Forgiving, you will notice that there is a preview of my next novel, House of Cabal, at the end.

I should focus on getting my first novel in readers’ hands, but at the same time, I need to get more than one book on the market. From what I’ve read, each book you release helps sell the others. Plus, I’m first and foremost a writer. That means I write. Book after book after book.

House of Cabal is a tricky beast. It has horror elements, but it is more than horror. It is unrestricted speculative fiction. I like fiction without boundaries, having grown up on Clive Barker, and I want to write what I love. It could be argued that The Forgiving isn’t exactly straight forward horror either, but it plays in the genre enough to fit into the category comfortably.

This is the question: Should I classify The Forgiving as horror? Is that a wise marketing decision? I don’t usually seek out horror to read, but I love fiction with horror elements. The horror label might make people assume it’s about gore, or depravity, or sadism. The book is actually about love.

People who have mixed feelings about horror can still enjoy The Forgiving. I would consider it dark general fiction. But is that a good way to market a book? The goal of the book isn’t a feel good ending, and I want that clear to the reader upfront. But hopefully, my book is more than just fear.

Obviously, not the questions I was thinking about while I was writing the book.

Self-publishing means I’m more than a writer. As you may have noticed, I’m floundering a bit under this new mantel of publisher/marketer, but this is what I signed up for. I didn’t expect to be an expert in the beginning, and now I get to find out I was right.

The “Official” Release

Hello everyone. The official release of my horror novel is a little more than a month away. But I couldn’t really wait and so I’ve been telling people to buy-buy-buy it anyway.  It’s on Amazon and Smashwords.

I’ve sold seven copies so far. Which of course isn’t many, but these are the first books I’ve ever sold, so I’m still excited. It took me a day to realize that it is less exciting that I’m selling books and more exciting that people are reading my work. I’ve been writing for more than fifteen years and my first book is finally available to the public. I’m taking a moment to be happy about this.

I’ve put up author pages on Goodreads and Amazon. I’ve made a blog, just for The Forgiving. I’ve tweeted about it and posted on Facebook. Here is the link to the book on Goodreads. *Click*

As I’ve mentioned, over the next few weeks I’m going to be contacting as many ebook review blogs as I can to get the word out. The nice thing about an ebook is that it’s not going away any time soon. I can market it until the end of time. I can tweak the blurb and the cover and continue to spread the word. Once my second book is released it can help the sales of my first. As they say, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

I’m still working out the kinks. Smashwords seems to be having some formatting issues. Nothing too bad, but I think it makes the book look less professional than it could. The Amazon version looks pretty good, and that is the one that is selling, so I’m not too worried about it.

I’ll be posting regularly over the next two months to keep all of you up to date on how the release of my novel is going. If you have any question or advice just leave a comments.

Thank you for your support, whether you buy a copy (it’s only $2.99!) or you just read my blog.

How to Market a Horror Novel

Now I need to figure out how to market my horror novel, The Forgiving. This is going to be tricky.

Step one: write a kick ass book. I’ve done that (including hiring a proofreader).

Step two: the pre-publishing work of writing this blog and interacting on twitter to create a platform. I’ve done that too, though not very successfully. My blog traffic is relatively pathetic and few people respond to my twitter posts.

Step three: release The Forgiving on Smashwords and Amazon. I’ve done Smashwords (you can buy the book here), with only Amazon to go. This step included making a professional looking cover and writing a brief pitch:

Three lovers, as a way to save cash, seek out a real estate agency that specializes in poltergeist activity. What they find in their prospective house will test their faith in God and their faith in each other.

Now the path is getting a little fuzzy. I know I need to get blogs to review my book and that I should have a release event, and that the reviews should be timed so that they line up with this magical release date, but how do I do that?

Getting blogs to review my book is exactly like querying agents and publishers: it sucks. I’m not a salesperson. But I am, because I’m self-publishing and that means every job is my job. All I can do is politely ask, and if anyone wants to review my book they can. There are a lot of blogs. It’s a numbers game, and I’m going to win if I contact enough of them.

How much time should I give reviewers to review my book? I guess I’m just going to pick a random date and go with it. How about Sunday, September 1st? That sounds like a good release date to me. I just need to get as my reviews as possible to go up around that time. Simple enough.

One step at a time.


The Year is 2013

Welcome to Self Write in the year 2013.

Let us look back at last year’s goals from my first post back in March of 2012:

“I have a long, hard road ahead of me–if you want to sell more than four books a month, self-publishing is not easy–and it would be nice to have some company on this journey. There are a lot of writers out there (seriously a lot) and there is no need for us to do this alone. I’m going to need help, and I also want to help others if I can.”

This goal of building a community of like-minded writers using this blog was mostly a failure. I don’t think I posted regularly enough. Thank you to the readers I do have though. You are appreciated.

“I have two books I will be finishing this year, House of Cabal Book One (speculative fiction thriller) and The Forgiving (horror).”

Neither is really finished. Most of the progress has been made on The Forgiving. It’s very close at this point.

“First step, ‘finish’ my books. Second step, find beta readers [and incorporate their feedback]. Third step, repeat steps one and two.”

These steps have been more successful. I’ve had five people read The Forgiving. The reactions have been very positive.

“Fourth step, find a good copy-editor. This means I’m going to need to pay someone to edit my book, costing me somewhere between five hundred to a thousand dollars. For me, that’s a lot of cash… and I’ll need it done for two [books].”

I still don’t have the money for this, though I think I can do it for a little less than I thought. I’m breaking up House of Cabal into episodes, which should make the cost a little easier to handle.

“Fifth step, make (or pay for) a kickass book cover. It must look as good as anything on the market.”

I made my own cover for The Forgiving that I like. I can always give it a new cover after it sells for a while. I’ve been painting more to up my skills.

“Sixth step, make sure I have a ‘platform’ and a wealth of book reviews to coincide with my ‘release date.’ This is less of a step and more something I’ll be working on from now until the publication.”

I’m not even close to finishing this step (though I could get some good reviews from my beta readers), which means the next three steps are also a long way away.

“Seventh step, start the actual self-publishing of my first book. Eighth step, keep promoting until the release of my second book. Ninth step, use my new fan base to support a Kickstarter for House of Cabal Book Two.”

I’ve made some progress last year, but still have a long way to go. How was your progress last year? What are your writing plans in 2013?