Writing: Love or Money

Not so long ago, Kahlen Aymes had an article appear in Indie Author News entitled Writing … for Money or Love?

Ah. That is the question.Woman-Pulling-Hair-out

Which writer hasn’t dreamed of writing that ONE book and thinking of it as a winning lottery ticket? I have.

Writing: the urge to write, the need to write, to tell a story, to express myself, flows through our veins. It’s part of our DNA. It’s what we live for.

And I’m not ashamed to say I want it to not just be profitable, but make me rich.

But is that a realistic expectation?

Kahlen says writing is hard and publishing is harder. How true. Who hasn’t spent years on their book, their baby, only to have it rejected by the gatekeepers of traditional publishing? I remember the day I said “I can do this myself.”

Boy, was I in for a surprise. The editing. The marketing. The social media. The business side of being an indie author. I wake up mornings knowing my book is ranked  about 1,200,000th on Amazon because I haven’t sold a single copy for over a week. Or a month.

Where is the love? Where is the money?

I believe it has to be inside you. I write because I love it. It’s as simple as that. Whatever anxiety I feel about the writing, or business of writing, the overwhelming need to be an indie entrepreneur when all I want to do is sit in my pajamas and drink tea and write — well, that’s life.

There are two sides to everything. For every moment writing, there is a moment of reckoning that comes down: if I want anyone to read this, if I want to have an audience, I have to do something about this. And that’s where art meets commerce.

Or as I like to call it, living on the corner of Creativity and Opportunity.

And that’s why to answer Kahlen, it’s both. Love and Money.

What about you? Which is it?


To get a copy of my latest ebook mystery “The Gangster’s Son” click here . To get the latest news on my Shig Sato Mystery series, visit my website  www.josephmarkbrewer.com and sign up for my monthly newsletter.  See you soon!






I am an indie publishing noob

This is my confiteor:
When it came to wading into the pool of indie publishing, I did everything wrong.head_inmonitor
I had all the typical resources available to newbie author: great people are out in social media to help folks like me get started. Lots of good information. Really.
I just didn’t get it.
What I had in mind was launching my first book by a certain day in 2013. I read up on book marketing and indie publishing and came away with something I thought I could deal with. I had a book – the first in a series. Most of it is mapped out. Some it is written. I had it edited (not very well, either). I had an idea for a book cover a friend whipped into shape. I had no money for advertising.
I had no advance print copies – it’s an ebook – and I didn’t really reach out to bloggers and reviewers nor take advantage of some promotions offered at some web sites. I had both the second book in the series and the third book in the series half-written when I realized the third book should be the second book – big u-turn there.I released the first book during the holidays with no marketing plan other than playing around with free/99c. I have this blog that sometimes I really think is a waste of time. I have a website I put together (and don’t like). I created a Facebook pageand a Goodreads page.
But I had no budget for anything: editing, covers, marketing, no advertising, no membership to any groups or services to promote the book, and no email list.
I had no plan to have a print-on-demand copy or an audiobook until ‘sometime in the future’ – I had a plan that it might happen in year 2 (but the plan is very flexible).

Here’s what happened:
Had an advance order period of about three weeks – no orders, lots of downloads to check out the first few chapters of the book.
Heard from a dozen friends/readers who point out over 30 typos in the book.
Sought out some reviews – I got a few, mostly positive.
Did not know until two months later, after I made some corrections and raised the price of the book to $2.99, I had about 800 free downloads and about 80 sales at 99c. I didn’t monitor sales at all. I was busy writing Book 2.
On one vendor’s site I read reviews – mostly good – that I did not know I had. So I wasn’t tracking any response to the book.
On another site I had sales number less than a dozen throughout 2014 – at any price.
I did not finish Book 2 in time to take advantage of anything positive from book one. Book 2 remains unfinished, no cover art. Book 3 is half finished.
I still don’t have an email list.

What I learned:
For me,  writing every day is essential – I lose whatever momentum I have if I skip more than one day. Marketing sometimes can be more important than writing – pay attention to it, but remember to write every day. Social media is essential, but it’s no substitute for writing the stories or marketing. I now understand the value of an email list: I could have begun finding out who my readers are and sharing more of my stories with them. And I understand the value of promoting the book several months in advance, getting advance reviews, joining websites to promote and to find readers. Even $40 a month for marketing is better than nothing, and a lot of the free stuff out there is good, but limited. And social media is what you make of it: I found some good author-centric support and advice groups who want people to succeed. Curiously, I saw my sales rank rise 700,000 spots on Amazon if I sell just one book (image what it would be if I sold two, or five, or 10). Equally, that my sales rank can fall from 800,000 to 1,200,000 pretty fast when I don’t sell any books – as of this writing, it’s at 1,258,792.

Budgeting time is more important than budgeting money. But mostly, that being an indie author means you are an entrepreneur, that everything is on you. Get the help you need, pay for it if you can, do the heavy slogging and learn.

I have faith in my ability to write. What I don’t have is the marketing know-how. I have no marketing chops whatsoever – all of 2014 had been one gigantic cram session. I still have no confidence in what I’m doing, but I’ve learned a lot. Treat is seriously, and good things happen. Treat is like an afterthought, and that’s what it will become.

So as I tidy Book 1, finish Book 2 and 3, and begin writing Book 4, I know I have a lot of work to do. But it’s worth it. Why? Because shortly after I wrote the first book, I received this surprise, via Facebook:

“Just finished your 1st book and Chapter 1 of book 2. Bravo Sir, I’m a fan of your work. Love the characters, love the plot lines. Cannot wait for more!!”

Back to it, then.



Ready, set, WAIT! Blogging?

Road leading to the ocean with 'slow' painted on itJeff Goins.

Darren Rowse

Jeff Friedlander.

Michael Stelzner.

That’s just four of the great people giving great advice about blogging. They appear in my email weekly, if not more often. Blog blog blog.

A person can get sick of it.

I know you do. I do. I write fiction. I work at a newspaper. I’m writing and editing all the time. Why do I have to blog? Who has the time?

All good questions.

I don’t have the answer. These folks listed above, and many others, have plenty to say.

As for me, I’ve been wondering what to offer my readers. I started this blog six years ago in the fashion of a weekly column: my travel down the road to publishing. I’d had several novel-length manuscripts rejected dozens of times, and this thing called self-publishing still had the faint odor of ‘desperate’ to it. Ebooks were in their infancy. Writers like me who couldn’t even find a publishing gatekeeper, much less get past one, were sitting up and noticing. What ABOUT ebooks?

Well, here we are, October 2014. I took one of my novels, took a character from it and turned it into a mystery series. Since THE GANGSTER’S SON came out last November I’ve done EVERYTHING wrong when it comes to marketing and promotions — but I’m learning as I go. Much like blogging.

Going back four years when I began to think of this blog as something other than an amusement, I’ve wondered what it’s purpose could be. Thanks to Jeff Goins’ recent Intentional Blogging series, I’ve been giving a lot more thought to the blog’s purpose.

It’s not really about my journey to publishing. It’s about everyone’s journey. One thing I’ve learned since embarking on this trip as an indie author entrepreneur: We’re all in this together. Some of us will do well, some of us will do the best we can. But we can all have each other’s back.

The reason I decided on sticking with the indie route is what I’ve witnessed among my musician friends – Play gigs, connect with the audience, build a fan base, sell some merch, but DO YOUR OWN THING and keep doing it. Support local indie artists.

That’s where this blog is heading. There will be some trips to other destinations, but it’s all about supporting indie authors on the road to publication.

See you down the road.

The Worst Kind of Month

Despite all good intentions, getting through the second draft and rewrites of the second book in my Shig Sato mystery series has  been much more time-consuming than I expected

Such intentions led to a writing schedule, churning out 1,000 words a day, monitoring my (still very) anemic marketing for book 1, keeping track of meager sales, but the main thing I realized: getting it all done was a lesson in itself. I’m still learning, still striving, still adjusting to the fact I have to put in A LOT more hours than I am right now. Full-time job? Who cares. Home? Kids? These aren’t problems, they’re excuses. Everyone has things in their life that must be dealt with, If creating a writing life was so easy, everyone would do it.

Then came a death in the family.

The moment I knew I had to stop my life and go be with my family, travel from home for a week and tear my attention away from my job and my writing, was when I realized it should not take a death to sharpen my focus and get the job done. Every moment I spend with my family is precious, and I am glad for the time I spend with them. I wish I could spend more time with them. These thoughts made me think about time, and how I wasted it – days, months, years wasted when I didn’t put in the hours to make my dream a reality.

Being away from home to deal with a family tragedy forced me to realize that despite not knowing how much of it I have, time is the one thing I can choose how to spend. So how will I choose to spend my time? Watching a ball game on TV or staying up late and watching a movie on my tablet? I know I don’t read enough, write enough, spend nearly enough time on my indie author business. It’s the irony of our lives – time is the one commodity we have control over and yet we don’t know how much of it we have. That’s why it’s such a crime to waste it. When I arrived home, I realized I didn’t know how much time I have — but I know how many hours there are in a day, and what I do with them. So I must use them wisely, and make every hour count.

This writing life that I embrace has been a mixed bag of writing, stopping for years, writing some more, sending work off to magazines and agents, getting rejected, stopping altogether, then writing some more. It’s only been in the last seven years that I’ve put in the time to warrant saying ‘this is what I do’ and go flat out.

I’m not worried about the marketing, the sales — I know I will get into that more in the months to come, and that will come along eventually. For me, right now, the writing is the thing. Putting in the time is the thing. Focusing on getting the job done is the thing.

My goal for this year was to write and publish two more Shig Sato stories. One is nearly complete and may be out by December. The other is half-written, and needs a lot of work. I did not put in the time to meet my goal. I know that now.

So now I need to manage my time better, and get some more writing done.

How about you?

2013 and the Start of Something Big

With the holidays over, the big writing push is on. I want to finish the second book in a detective series before summer. In the meantime I’m trying to find an agent or a publisher for the first book. Depending on how that goes, I’ll have to decide by summer what to do with the project: keep flogging or go independent.

I’ve spent the last eight months learning about social media and marketing, independent publishing and e-books, forcing my mind to make the transition from “unpublished writer” to “unpublished writer welcoming the idea of having to sell one’s own books” to “unpublished writer on the verge of becoming an entrepreneur.” The concept didn’t frighten me so much as, with most things, it forced me to wrestle with the fear of the unknown, always a poor starting point.

One thing I know for certain: There are more options than ever for writers who want to get published.  Which may be why Vantage Press is no longer with us. I know nothing of the company and its situation, other than when I was 14 years old and had the beginning of the writing bug I still have today, I sent for information about the company and found it it was a vanity press. In a an episode of the television series “The Waltons,” John-Boy, the fledgling writer, chooses to publish with such a company, to find out that what he got in the bargain is a box of books and not much else. This steered me away from the whole idea of self-publishing for many years.

But of course things are different now, and the demise of Vantage may prove it. With the new year, I can see hard choices coming my way. My being 14 was some time ago. My desire to be published hasn’t abated. But the core of that desire has always been writing. Some will argue that a person isn’t a writer until they are published. I don’t know that that is necessarily true. But I understand the  point. There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing your words in print that cannot be found elsewhere.

So much too look forward to in 2013!

Happy New Year — what are you looking forward to?