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!






Social Media and Me

Once upon a time a friend of mine was putting tons of music onto his MySpace account. He said I should get one. I did. I had no idea what to do with it. I didn’t understand social media – having a place on the internet for people to find me, to see and be seen, share interests, whatever.Social-Networking-Sites

About the same time, I began shifting my thinking about writing and getting published from traditional to indie. I knew indie musicians, and I liked the model: play, connect with fans, sell some merch, move on, create some buzz, focus on the art without the nonsense of a label taking 98% of your earnings.  Talking to other writer friends who ghost-wrote and self-published, I heard their praise for indie. Made sense to me.

What I knew nothing about was marketing. Ah, they said. Write something good and use Social Media.

Huh? How does that work. MySpace disappeared into the Internet’s great void. What am I supposed to do with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest? “Make yourself know,” I was told. “It’s like a cocktail party. Circulate.”

That was 2009. I was on Facebook because that’s where members of my family decided to post pictures – if I wanted to see them, I had to go there. I dipped my toe into the waters of Twitter, and have come to find it useful for may things, in my career as a journalist and as an indie author.

I’m not a very visual person and don’t take many pictures, so I haven’t got up to speed with a site such as Pinterest. But I’m told that’s a good place for any indie entrepreneur to go.

And then there’s blogging. I’m no fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I can tell  you, I’m convinced of the value of blogs and blogging. As a longtime newspaper reporter and editor, I know the value and drawbacks to writing a weekly column. In essence, that’s what a blog is. This post, really, is a column.

My conclusion regarding Social Media: it’s never going away. It’s a vital tool to reach like-minded people, and essential for communicating information to customers, friends and fans.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

To sign up for my monthly newsletter, visit my website www.josephmarkbrewer.com and get the latest on my Shig Sato Mystery series and other stories. See you there!


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.



About This Social Media Thing

On the second day of the New Year my Twitter followers list hit 1,500. I have been engaged in Twitter in earnest since early May. For a year or so before I began this engagement I had heard of Twitter but ignored it, until I read what literary agents had to say about finding an agent and getting published. Aside from the usual ‘write a compelling, interesting book’ or words to that effect, again and again I read words such as ‘develop an author platform’ and ‘engage in social media.’

I am of an age where nothing related to computers, the Internet, World Wide Web, social media or anything else is as normal and familiar as breathing for some other folks. My career journalism dates backs to paste pots and blue pencils, radio beeper reports and “film at 11.” Writing a short story and submitting to a magazine consisted of many hours at the typewriter, many envelopes, a small fortune in postage, subscribing to the small press, and living for the mail delivery to see who was rejecting me that day.

So, needless to say, the events that have unfolded in the publishing world over the past dozen years have not only been a shock, but trying to catch up with technology that runs counterintuitive to the way my brain works had been nothing short of miraculous.

So there came a day when I said, “OK, I’m going to use Twitter for something other than following comedians, use Facebook to find writers I find on Twitter, share my reading interests on Goodreads, and develop a social media platform that, hopefully, won’t get me laughed out of the cool kids club.’

So far, meh. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met (digitally) lots of cool people and read lots of interesting stuff, stuff I would never would have read before delving into this world. But I wonder what it all has to do with writing.

But here I am blogging about my journey through the writing life, such as it is, and the further I get into all of this, the more I think JAKonrath is right when he says at the end of his excellent blog on resolutions: “Let it all go. Spend your time working on your books. That’s the only thing that really matters, and the only thing you have control over.”

After seven months of dipping my toe into the social media waters, I have to agree. Not that I’ve ever had a publishing contract, had a book tour, a speaking engagement, anything like that. I’ve yet to have any of my fiction published. But I am standing on the corner of “What If” and “Why Not” and the traffic whizzing by me seems to be noisy with marketing and connecting and quiet about craft. I recognize the need for entrepreneurial acumen, but I am concerned that storytelling and writing gets lost in all this.

There is no doubt that the publishing world is changing, and it is a great time to be a writer. I’m looking forward to riding this wave for as long and as far as I can.

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?

Building community of readers and writers

After having a Facebook account for 3+ years and connecting to family, friends and former coworkers, I wondered what I really could accomplish with the thing. I knew it would come in handy when the day came I actually had a book published, but I didn’t want to use my own site for that. I plan on having a separate site for anything that has to do with writing and publishing.

But something happened as I delved deeper into social media and waded through the many sites that offer all types of advice on going legacy, going indie, becoming a brand, building a following — jeez. All I wanted to do was try to get a handle on this stuff.

And Facebook. One of the things that intimidated me when it came to ‘friending’ on Facebook was, heck, I don’t know these people. Why would I want to friend them? And they friend me?

And then Twitter came along, and I realized that becoming a citizen of the Web meant introductions were in order. So how was I going to introduce myself? As a journalist? An editor? A traveler? A veteran? No: I got into all this because the time had come to get my fiction published. It was time to introduce myself as a writer.

And then it all clicked: I was following writers on Twitter, making friends on Goodreads, so when I see that those people have a Facebook account, how about ‘friending’ them on FB, and …. what?  They don’t know me. I don’t know them.  But there’s one thing we have in common: a love of reading and a love of writing.


So I started the process of finding friends, and the really cool people who accepted, found out the reason why I was contacting them when I was ‘invited’ to write on their ‘wall.’ This is what I write: Thank you for helping me build a community of readers and writers.

And now I am friends with novelists, poets, writing instructors, all kinds of people who care about words and reading and books, and it’s not for the purpose of selling, for getting a review, for reminding folks of a buy-it-now sale. Now I feel like I’m friends people from across the country and around the world who love writing and ideas and are helping me build a community of readers and writers. To share stuff. To get turned on to new stuff. To remind folks of good stuff already out there.

And I think that’s pretty cool.

If you like this idea, just find me at https://www.facebook.com/joe.brewer1
and if you like, follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/JoeBrewer1

Hope to see ya soon.

Another stop along the way

This has been a pretty cool week on the journey. I discovered two amazing things:
A place to let folks know about me and a place for folks to read what I write:
about.me and wattpad.com.
About.me is a site created by the folks at AOL as a “free service that lets you create a beautiful one-page website that’s all about you and your interests. Upload a photo, write a short bio and add your favorite social networks to show the world the big picture of you.”
Speaking for myself, sharing me is weird on so many levels, but the point is, in sharing our stories we share ourselves, don’t we?
I have read over and over the notion that writers cannot work alone any more. It isn’t enough to live in one’s world and then anonymously send out one’s stories to the world — if that was ever the case.
For better or for worse, engaging with the world, at least the world of like-minded storytellers and readers, is part and parcel of life in the world we now live in.
If anyone had asked me to accept such notions only a few short years ago I would have blanched and pull the covers over me head. “Writers are introverts,” I would have shouted. “Writers live in their own worlds. We like it there! That’s why we’re writers!”
But then I realized I had to embark on this journey, this journey into a life I thought I was living, a writing life. And now that I’ve embarked on this journey, I know pulling the covers over my head is only useful for sleeping.
In fact, I discovered wattpad because I decided to engage with the online world, a part of which is Twitter. I knew I was on the right path when I discovered writers such as  Margaret Atwood engaged in social media. It was one of her tweets that lead me to wattpad. And what a great idea: a place to share stories.
So I hope to meet you on the internet and read your stories there, too. I think these two sites will improve my chances of doing that.

The Letter is the Thing

mailboxThe other day, after an especially good phone call with someone whose friendship defies time, the notion of writing a letter to this person proved irresistible. But I waited several days, mulling over the intent, what to write, the right tone, all the things absent in this world of emails and texts. Writing a letter requires time, thought, patience, and a good pen. I wimped out and grabbed a Bic and my trusty legal pad, but that’s not the point. Good stationery is fine, but the letter is the thing. And after writing a good warm-up letter to my parents — my mother loves getting letters — it was time. And it was written before I realized I was signing my name.
So into the mailbox it went.
I just learned of its reception, satisfying to the other party, which is the aim of a letter, isn’t it? As with all things these days, its mention on a social website elicited comments such as “I remember letter in a mailbox, they still do that, huh?” and “saving the envelope and keeping the letter, we should all try it” and “Oh good June, they can put it right next to the dinosaur display (at the Smithsonian)… I can’t wait to see.”
I used to write lots of letters to lots of people all the time. Then came the 21st Century. I’ve decided that phenomenon isn’t a good enough reason to stop writing letters. But finding a stamp could prove problematic, given time.