Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why I Set Fire to My First Manuscript.

If you are wondering if this is a joke, I assure you on my grandmother's grave, it is one-hundred percent the God honest truth - I set fire to my first manuscript.

Here's the deal...

I wrote my first manuscript in 2007. The book was a non-fiction called How to Succeed in the Handyman Business. It was excellent. It covered all details one would need to start and operate a successful handyman/home maintenance business. It had charts and graphs and details that helped me win 75% of my bids, among many other critical points to craft and customer service.

The book was great as far as the content was concerned.

I wrote the book by hand, because I had a job at the time that allowed a little time to write but I couldn't have a computer at my bench. I later typed it into a doc file. So unlike any of my other works, I actually had both a digital and hand written copy.

I was very proud of it. But then, I threw it in the fire and deleted the digital copy… forever.

Why? Long story short; I ran a home maintenance business called Home Pro Handyman for over four years. We did everything right, had top-notch service, and a professional, clean look. We even had up to seven employees at one point. I loved my job. I loved being the boss. And I loved the freedom, if you want to call it that.

So why burn my baby?

As I said, we ran a tight business… only problem, we had a few jobs where things went wrong and that caused some animosity between my wife and I. One job in particular caused so much stress financially that we never recovered. This was a BIG job we did for an apartment complex. We had several guys working, by the hour, for over a month. I kept paying them, but when it came time to bill the apartment complex, they told me that there home office in San Francisco had put a hold on all their payables across the country. The didn't pay any of their contractors! Me included.

We received some of the money over time, but from that point forward things sort of went down hill and my wife was left with a bad taste in her mouth in terms of that business. Only thing good that came from that job is that we mastered the art of writing contracts.

All to say, I found a great job a couple years later and when I had time to reflect on those years, I wrote the book, How to Succeed in the Handyman Business. Sounds funny compared to where I am now. I've written a bestselling novel for crying out loud! But the truth is, I knew my shit, and I watched many handymen screw up. All I did was watch what the other guys did wrong, and did it right. It was a pretty simple business plan.

Anyway… back to the burning.

After presenting my masterpiece to my wife, I watched her eyes fill up with tears. She didn't say much but I knew that the book brought back memories, and hurt, and I just didn't want to see her cry. Seriously. Although the book had tons of good information, tips, etc, it just stirred up a bunch of old doo doo. So, being the "fix-it-man" that I am, I stood up, threw my hand-written manuscript in the fire. I handed her my memory stick and asked her to delete it. She took it, reluctantly, but I insisted. I didn't want to write something that would be at all hurtful to her… so I canned it.

No big deal now. I've moved on. That was before the indie author movement kicked in anyway. And the point isn't that I wrote a book and burned it, poor me, blah, blah, blah. The point is, we all have a story about what led us to start writing. Some of you, fortunately, have broken out with a bestseller. Others have not been so lucky. But we all have a story. And we all have a trail that led us to where we are. Mine started by burning my manuscript. And it burned so well. It kept us warm for a few minutes actually.

But what about you? You started somewhere. You may have burned a few query letters, or penned ten novels before you published one. I've got a feeling you didn't set your first book ablaze, but you might have a story just as interesting.

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. If you'd like to hire me, see my Author Services Page.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Common Lies Self-Published Authors Believe.

As an indie author I have to confess that I am guilty of believing a lie -- not just one, but many. They are the same lies I see self-published authors fall for all the time. I see the lies in tweets, in emails, in DM's and blog posts. The lies run rampant. The lies are deadly. The lies set writers up for failure and they are like a disease that has the potential to thin out the indie author population within a couple of years.

Let me explain.

Lie #1
When I first "self-published" in 2009 I had a serious case of cognitive dissonance regarding the quality of my writing. Some call it narcissism, but in most cases I think it is a curable case of false expectations. Psycho babble? It really isn't. In my case, I read and re-read my manuscript to the point of exhaustion back in 2009 -- a very common experience for most writers. I had others read and edit and as a group we thought, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the book would become a bestseller. Seriously.

In all honesty, I didn't want to tell myself that I'd become a bestseller for fear of sprouting arrogant wings, but in the deepest part of my mind I truly believed that it could happen with that one book -- a common phenomenon for first time authors.

I have since pulled that book off the shelves. I'm embarrassed by it.

I now know that I believed a lie. Many believe the lie that their book will become a bestseller. If they just spread the word about their book, readers will flock to their prose by the thousands.

My remedy to lie #1:
  • The cure to this disease is, of course, time. Time heals all wounds and it also teaches us the truth about our writing. Just because you can publish doesn't mean you should…yet. Not slamming anyone here; I believed the lie myself. Fortunately, I found the cure: plenty of 1-star reviews and no sales. The medicine went down with a bitter taste, but it did the job. 
  • Another cure is humility. Instead of trying to bolster review ratings by soliciting better reviews at the expense of your integrity, try listening to your critics and make improvements. 
  • Spend less time marketing your first book and study, read more, and write as often as you can.

Lie #2
I meet writers all the time that get frustrated with marketing. They write blog posts. They tweet. They post on Kindle Boards and yet there is no increase in sales, hitting one or two sales a week at best. They are frustrated because they thought indie publishing would be easy. They thought that they could give a shout out to their Facebook and Twitter friends about their book and the ball would start rolling. This is a lie.

The first lie writers fall for is that writing a book is easy. When they finish, they discover that editing is harder. Then when they publish they discover that selling is the hardest part and nearly impossible, especially if you only have one book. This lie is perpetuated every time a new author hits Amazon's Top 100 with their debut novel. What many indies do not realize is that authors like Darcie Chan are rare… very rare.

Writing one book takes determination and many qualities that the average person lacks. But writing, publishing, and marketing one book, let alone several, will absolutely consume your life. You will not have a free minute. The life of a published indie author, who is selling, will not be the same as it was before he or she chose to enter the world of publishing. If you think you can write a book, publish and sell without changing your lifestyle, you are believing a big fat lie.

My remedy to lie #2:
  • Adjust your expectations. After consulting with authors who feel overwhelmed, which is not uncommon, most handle the job much better when they change their expectations. When indies realize how much work is involved, and that a writing career requires a slow-boil mindset, they can relax, write more, and look forward to future success. This attitude can generate a healthy home life, and relieve first-book-sale-slump stress. 
  • The bestselling indie authors say, "Books sell books" but many first time authors have a hard time accepting that reality. They want to believe the lie because it satisfies their expectations. But the longer you believe the lie, the more painful your reality will become when you learn the truth. Self-pubbing is like your diet; eat junk and you will crash; eat well and you will experience balance and longevity. I recommend spending about 8 hours a month planning your next months marketing (30 days in advance) and spend about 1 hour a day with your social media. Spend the rest of your free time writing.
  • Sometimes we spend all our profits on marketing trying to make our dream a reality, when in fact, all we need is time and an adjustment in our expectations. Look to the future, my friend. Relax your expectations and let your sales grow with time and with more titles rather than expecting that rare bestseller.
So what do you think? Have you believed the lies? How have you adjusted? What caused you to break free from the darkness and into the light?

If this post was helpful, just wait until you read The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. You will learn everything you need to know about becoming an indie author including pricing and marketing strategies, cover design, and much more! 

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. If you'd like to hire me, see my Author Services Page.


Monday, May 21, 2012

KIRKUS REVIEWS Bennington's Twisted Vengeance

There are a lot of authors out there scrounging for reviews. I know, I was one of them.

I get emails asking for review swaps (Which I don't do. That's why I created The kindle Book Review), and I see authors trading "partial read throughs" for a fair review. Yuck! Honestly, I think the process and validity of reviews in this day and age can be a little underhanded at times. And I hope you never go that route.

But as you may know, a review is not truly a review in the eyes of many readers unless it's an editorial review. Knowing this, and yet fearing the worst, I took my chances and sent Twisted Vengeance to Kirkus Reviews to see what they thought. And yes, I've been crossing my fingers and walking with my butt cheeks squeezed a little tighter ever since.

Well the results are in. Thank you Kirkus Reviews, I'm glad you enjoyed Twisted Vengeance, book one in my Rick Burns, Twisted series. Here's what they had to say… very encouraging.

"Bennington’s simple yet forceful style will keep readers guessing as the investigation takes Rick from the clean streets of Circle City to the darkest corners of the human heart...A brutal, emotional thriller that earns its stripes." ~ Kirkus Reviews

Here's the full review:

"In Bennington’s (Twisted Vengeance, 2011) latest supernatural thriller, Detective Rick Burns has spent a lot of years on the Indianapolis police force, but he’s never seen anything like this. When a man is found gruesomely murdered in his own home, it’s just another case in a two-year streak of unsolved homicides afflicting the Indiana capital. One more case, one more headache for the troubled detective. Without any clues, leads or anything to link the cases together—except for the particularly brutal ways they were carried out—it’s getting to be more than Rick can handle.
Propping him up are his father—a retired cop moonlighting as the station’s janitor—and Rick’s plucky sister-in-law, Stella. Together, they form a pretty good support group, or so they think. What they don’t realize is that they’re half of Rick’s problem: Rick promised his late older brother, Roger, that he wouldn’t let Stella remarry a cop; that’s getting to be a problem, seeing as Rick is falling in love with her. And while it’s nice to have Pops nearby for help when the going gets tough, Rick’s dad is just as likely to remind him that his brother was a better detective.

Pops has a point; Rick is often willing to let good police work and common sense take a backseat for the sake of dramatic plot twists. Although that unprofessionalism makes it hard to strictly classify the book as a gumshoe novel, it doesn’t make it any less compelling as a mystery—thanks, in particular, to the appearance (and subsequent disappearance) of a young boy. Rick spots the pale, sickly youth at the scene of the latest crime. Driven by the desperation of only having one lead, Rick decides to follow it, no matter where. Bennington’s simple yet forceful style will keep readers guessing as the investigation takes Rick from the clean streets of Circle City to the darkest corners of the human heart. The truth leads Rick to places he never would have expected—and to questions he might not want answered.

A brutal, emotional thriller that earns its stripes." ~ Kirkus Reviews

**Literature is definitely subjective, but having a good "editorial" review at the top of my product description gives me a shot of confidence and credibility that I think every writer is looking for. Something to consider when budgeting your 2012 marketing plan.

For more info on how you can get your work reviewed by Kirkus, go HERE.

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. If you'd like to hire me, see my Author Services Page.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

VOTE FOR Indie Authors: They Are Creating Jobs

With all of the political rambling going on as the 2012 election nears, I want to point out a fact that very few politicians are aware of…

Indie Authors are creating jobs

Politicians don't seem to be doing anything to actually help the economy, and in a free society we shouldn't expect them to. Writers, however, have every tool they need, right now, to create jobs for themselves and for others. And honestly, I'm just sick over hearing the same old rhetoric about job creation, and other social and economic issues that our politicians talk about every four years. Their words are meaningless to me--nothing but empty promises.

It takes action and it takes ingenuity to create jobs. It takes risk. It takes hard work and there isn't a single pundit who will do that on your behalf, unless he's guaranteed re-election, or a silver coin in her pocket. And even if we send him or her back, what is their track record? Not very good.

No one creates jobs quite like the self-employed, and after all, indie authors are business owners. As authors, we can make a difference. We can create jobs. We can not only succeed in the world of publishing, but we can also do something that our idiot leadership in DC cannot seem to manage no matter how many times we re-elect them, or how much money we throw at them, or how many times they "promise" job creation. Yet the humble indie author is busy generating work.

Here are a few opportunities the indie author movement is creating:
  • Authors (obviously)
  • Freelance Proof Readers
  • Freelance Editors
  • Book Cover Designers
  • POD (print on demand) publishers.
  • Book Bloggers
  • Book Marketers
  • Author Consultants
  • Actors/Audio recording artists
If you are an author or a "wannabe", you should know that you are part of the answer to our struggling economy. You have within your grasp, the power to employ and the power to change lives. There is obviously a demand for ebooks, and as more Kindles and Nooks and Sony eReaders are sold, the more your services and the services of those who can help drive your success are absolutely needed.

If you are a one man or one woman show, doing everything on your own, you may find that you just can't get everything done at a professional level. Your editing may be lacking, or your cover may look cheesy. If this is you, perhaps you should invest in a professional editor, or cover designer. Creating jobs by hiring these pros will not only help create a professional product and likely drive more sales, but can also have an economic impact that we indie authors are quietly producing.

If you are new to self-publishing, please do not think you can create a quality book without spending any money. You can do a lot of things for free or on the cheap, but it takes a team, it takes cash, and it takes a plan. The demand for our ebooks is growing. So why not hire a pro, give the economy a shot in the arm, and show the world that indie authors are making quality products equal to or surpassing traditionally published ebooks.

Creating jobs takes imagination and no one has a better imagination than writers. We create everyday. We take our dreams and make them reality through our books. So forget about the false promises of those sneaky politicians; all they want is your vote. Instead, write more. Publish more books. VOTE for INDIE AUTHORS. You'll be glad you helped build our economy and your readers will, too.

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. If you'd like to hire me, see my Author Services Page.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Anything is Possible for The Indie Author

If you have had the slightest success as an indie author you can attest to the fact that anything is possible in this new publishing environment.

I like to watch what's happening like an eagle, perched above the indie landscape, watching authors and readers stroll past, observing patterns and collecting data. But there are some things an eagle sees that cannot be documented, but rather, known, like a natural instinct.

One of my instincts is telling me that this indie publishing thing is going to grow stronger. And one of the patterns that gives me that impression is the increase in success that I am seeing by the "lesser published" as the trad publishers see us… like plebeians in Rome.

Looking at the current Amazon TOP 100 in the paid (5-4-12), there are many indie authors who are living the dream.

Here are a few current examples of indie success….

#11. On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves. Tracey is self-published and this is her first book. At the #8 position she is selling hundreds of copies a day, if not thousands. 

#31. Bad Doctor by John Locke. I think you all know who he is and what he's about.

#58 The Marriage Pact by M.J. Pullen. This is M.J's first publication listed with Amazon. 

#63. The Plan by Bernard Jacobs. This is Bernard's first fiction.

#84 Turn to Me by Tiffany Snow. Tiffany is selling many books.

There have been other successful indie title like Cheryl Kaye Tardiff's Children of The Fog, Scott Nicholson's Fear Series, Hunter by Robert Bidinotto, Brain Rush, Big Lake,  Reunion, and on, and on, and on. It seems that 2011 was definitely the year of the indie author and I think 2012 will be as well.

But there is more to publishing success than hitting Amazon's Top 100. There are other opportunities.

Some authors like James J. Kaufman, author of the Amazon bestseller, The Collectibles, has not only sold nearly 100,000 copies on Amazon, but it has also garnered the attention of Barnes and Noble. They are now ordering boxes of his book at a time, and he is receiving many speaking engagements as a result of his success. 

Indie authors like Scott Nicholson, and Lia Fairchild have been picked up by Amazon's Encore imprint. There are others who have been sought after by publishers and agents alike. Some authors like Melissa Foster have had their books optioned for movie deals.

So if you are new to indie publishing, or considering joining the troops, know this; although nothing is certain or guaranteed, indie publishing may become the means to the end, rather than a detour in your writing career. This is where the action is. Indie authorship is where you create your platform…yes that dreaded word that you tired so easily of when writing all of those queries. This is where you prove your salt, earn your stripes, and find your audience. 

The lack of these publishing "badges" is probably what kept many of us from getting deals before indie was popular. Funny how independence brings out the best in us!

As an indie author, I would like to maintain my independence and sell over seas, snag an agent, or publish in multiple languages. These are all possible and happening to independent authors every day. And with a little luck, and plenty of hard work, who knows what doors will open next. So I nest up here in the pines, watching, calling, eying my prey. And the more I see readers scurrying below, collecting their books on the cheap, I am beginning to think anything is possible for indie authors like you and I.

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. If you'd like to hire me, see my Author Services Page.