Tag Archives: Advice

On Self-Publishing

Last week I put my book A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw out for Kindle on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Since it has been an entire week since my book’s debut and since a number of people who are not my mom bought the book, this means that basically I’m an expert now.

Okay, so maybe that’s stretching things a bit, but you’d be surprised how your perspective on things can change in a week. With that in mind, I’m going to give you the top (whatever number I get to before I run out of material) things I have learned from and about being self-published.

1. People Are Awesome

You think you’ve gotten a sense of this through blogging and tweeting and such, but trust me when I say that nothing you’ve experiences will match the outpouring of support from people who desperately want to help you sell your book. They may not actually buy it, but they’ll jump off a cliff for the chance to retweet your announcements.

This is part of what I love about the writing community. Everyone wants to see everyone succeed. There’s no jealously, no sense of snobbery. If one of our friends puts out a book that we like even a little bit we’re gonna promote the crap out of that thing baby.

So even though I’ve said this before, I’m saying it again. Thank you. To all of you.

2. Being Self-Published is Hard Work

I should clarify here. The actual state of being self published does not require any effort on your part at all. You’re surely welcome to toss your book out into the cold dark digital world and hope that it maybe can get somewhere on it’s own merits. But if you want to have anything like a realistic chance of success you’ve got to promote that puppy.

Over the past seven days I’ve been on a number of different social media platforms, some of which you’ve probably never heard of getting the word out to all my online acquaintances and asking them to help me spread the word. I did my first blog interview. And then there’s all the questions to answer: the “is it out for the Nook yet?” people, and the “I don’t have a Kindle will you send me a PDF?” people. (And for the record, yes I totally will, just shoot me your email, and we’ll make that happen.)

I hope this doesn’t sound like whining, because it’s really been a blast, but all this promotion does take extra time out of your day.

3. Interviews are Awesome

I did my first interview ever with Cynthia Stewart, which should be going up on her website sometime later today, and let me tell you something, that was fun. Maybe it’s just my oversize ego talking here, but I really got into answering her questions and talking about the things that have shaped me as a writer. I really hope I get to do more of these in the future.

4. Self-Publishing is Not a Get Rich Quick Scheme

When I was growing up one of the things my dad told me over and over was this: “There are no honest get rich quick schemes.” And self-publishing has proved to be no exception to that maxim.

In spite of the fact that I’ve had some modest sales, the bottom line is that it isn’t easy to get people to click that “Buy This Book” button. I know this because I’ve been on the other end of that transaction with my wallet in hand thinking, “Do I really want to spend my three dollars on this?” And a lot of times even though I may like the premise and the author’s writing style the answer is still no.

Overall, taking into account the money I spent on the cover, I’m still in the red with this thing. I hope to change that in the coming week or so, but the bottom line is that I’m not gonna be quitting my job tommorow or the day after that.

So yeah, that’s the rundown. Sorry to end on a down note there, but I hope that something I’ve said has been useful to those of you who hope to tread this path someday soon.

Also, if you haven’t bought my book yet, you totally should.

Peace out ya’ll.

A Room Full of Psychics and Nobody’s Rich

I don’t know. I just don’t know anymore.

All the noise, all the advice, all the bloggers hashing over whether print is dead, epub vs. traditional; the whole thing is just starting to sound like a cacophony of chaos.


Because nobody knows anything. I mean, of course people know things. I’m not saying we’re all a bunch of quaking airheads out here. But nobody can answer the BIG questions. Questions like, “How do I succeed?” and “Why do some books succeed, and some books of equal or better quality fail?” and “How do I stand out enough from all of the other authors who may very well be as good or better than I am?”

Everyone’s got an opinion. Everyone’s got their spin on the matter. But you know what? If they really knew they’d get out there and do it.

We’ve got a room full of psychics here and none of us has hit the lottery. And the guy that has hit the lottery? You can’t listen to him either. I mean look at this guy: he was living in a trailer park before he blew his child support payments on beer and the one ticket that changed everything.

Maybe I’m stretching that metaphor a little, but I guess what I’m trying to say is this.

There are no experts. Sure there are people out there who have good advice, even great advice. But nobody has the magic bullet. Nobody can tell you, “This. This is what works. Do this and you will succeed.”

Why? Because success isn’t a formula.

Well it is in a way, but it’s not a formula anyone wants to hear. The formula is, as far as I can tell, Hard Work + Luck = Success.

The first term is easy. Well okay, no it’s not easy. But it’s simple. There are plenty of people willing to get out there and do the work. But it’s the second one that’s so infuriatingly elusive. And it’s just as important.

We don’t like to think about luck. We like to believe that if we succeed it’s because we’ve done something right. We look to successful people for counsel and advice, and we follow their words as if they were gospel. On the other hand, we tend to look at a bum on the street and we think, “That guy is probably just lazy. If he got a job and stopped drinking he’d have a better life.”

We don’t like to believe that it’s possibly to succeed simply because you were in the right place at the right time. And we don’t like to think that we can work and work all our lives and not do anything “wrong” and still fail to find the success we’re chasing.

And please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying hard work isn’t important. It is possible to miss life’s opportunities because we were lazy or unprepared. We should always strive to learn and improve and be the best at whatever it is we want to do.

But sometimes it’s not enough.

We’re not all going to be the next Amanda Hocking (as she so humbly points out in this fantastic and eye-opening post.) We’re not all going to make it big.

It’s nobody’s fault. It’s not because we’re losers.

Losers are the ones who give up. Losers are the ones who say, “I could never write a book.” Losers are the ones who look at the Amanda Hockings of the world and think, “I could never be that successful.” Losers are the ones who look at the long odds and go home.

So don’t be a loser.

Because I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t know anyone else that does either. But I have to believe that someone within this blog’s limited reach is going to hit it big one day. Somebody is going to turn out to be that person that everyone looks at and says, “That guy started out in some trailer park, but one bright day he went to buy beer with his child support payment and the rest is history.”

Maybe it’ll be you. Maybe it’ll be me.

To tell you the truth, I’m really kind of hoping that it’s me.

This Title Is Really Long, Which Is Ironic, Because The Post Is About Brevity, So You’d Think The Title Would Be Short Too, But Nope It Just Goes On And On And On Until It-


Yes, I’m going there. Because I think it’s important

1. This is your blog, not your magnum opus.

You got something to say, go ahead and say it, but do you really have enough substance to fill up a thousand words?

And don’t get me wrong, the answer may be, “Why yes as a matter of fact, I do Albert.” Which is fine and all, but there’s no actual obligation to give us the epic version of whatever it is you want to say. You may think, “Oh, but all this stuff is really important” and it may well be important. So split it into more than one post. Why? Because…

2. I have ADD.

Well, that may be a bit misleading. I haven’t been diagnosed or anything. Lets just lay I’m easily distracted, yes?

You’re expecting an “Ooh, shiny object” joke here. This is me subverting your expectations.

Something specifically about reading off of a computer screen is incredibly difficult for me. I know not everyone suffers from this problem. A friend of my can read through entire books on her computer screen. I can’t.

Should you cater your blog just to me? Well no. That’s what this blog is for. But I’m pretty sure not the only one who doesn’t want to read massive text blocks on his computer screen.

3. No one cares.

Seriously no one is impressed by long blog posts. Back when I first started blogging I was still learning this principle, and I had some posts that stretched on for upwards of a thousand words. No once, not once, did anyone comment and say “Woah, Albert, congratulations on writing such a long post.”

And now that I’ve started writing short posts, no one has said, “You know, Albert, I really miss when you used to go on and on and on. Your shorter posts aren’t nearly as good.”

Longer posts are not better posts.

4. Don’t listen to me.

Remember yesterday, when we talked about finding your voice? That applies here too. If you’re in love with writing long blog posts, don’t let me try to change who you are. That may be part of your identity as a writer.

Then again, It may not be. I only ask is that you consider it.

All I can show you is the world as I see it. I’m certainly not the only perspective in town.

Writing Advice for Non-Writers

Last week I received a lovely comment from reader Lady Di on my Lost Love and the Art of Editing post. Work and family obligations ate up my time that day, and I wasn’t able to reply to it then, but today I want rectify that situation with this post. Why take up a whole post replying to one comment? Two reasons.

First, Lady Di offhandedly brought up one of my favourite pet peeves: the difference between English and American spellings. Because, really, what is the deal with that? Do we really need to spell words differently over here in America? Is it some kind of linguistic chest beating over the fact that we won the revolutionary war? Because if it is, I have news for my fellow Americans. Linguistic chest beating is the worst kind of chest beating ever.

It woudn’t be so bad if our spellings were better, but they’re not. There is a tiny part of me that dies when I see the word “harbour” spelled “harbor.” Was it really necessary for us to kill off that poor little innocent “u”? What did it ever do to us?

But second, and more importantly, Lady Di mentioned that she reads my blog even though she’s not a writer. Why? I’ll let her own words answer that question.

I’m not a writer, but I enjoy your perspective and the observations are applicable across a broad range of endeavours.

This is something I’ve been mulling over in one form or another for a while now, and Lady Di’s comment gave me the perspective I needed to finally condense it down into it’s basic parts.

We writers tend to think that we’re different from other people, creatures of the aether, magical souls that inhabit the realm of the story where mere mortals dare not tread. Well maybe we don’t all go that far with it, but we do tend to think of ourselves as different. Only we’re not as unique as we like to think.

The truth is this: the keys to good writing are basically the same as the keys to good living. The “advice” I give on this blog is aimed at writers, but for the most part almost anyone can put it into practice in their everyday lives. Work hard; don’t let your feelings stop you from doing what you need to do; practice practice practice; make your passion your habit; strengthen the places where you’re the weakest; good things take time to grow. These are the kinds of things I talk about on a daily basis, and they’re not just good for writers. I don’t care if your life’s calling is to be a plumber these same principles are going to help you excel.

Now please, don’t get me wrong, I’m not in the process of transforming myself into a self-help guru, but I do think it’s important that we realize that at some core level we writers are not so different from from the rest of the world. If we want to succeed we’re going to have to do what everyone else does to succeed. We’re going to have to work hard and study and be willing to learn.

And who knows? Maybe we could learn as much about achieving our dreams from a plumber as a plumber could learn from us.

[Insert Impractical But Awesome Title Here]

I’ve got some bad advice for you guys. But it’s good bad advice. So, you know, do with it what you will.

This is the thing. I’ve seen several articles and blog posts advising us bloggers to only stick with literal unimaginative titles for our posts. For instance, if your post is about forty-seven new ways to make tuna casserole, these people say your post should be titled Forty-Seven New Ways to Make Tuna Casserole.

To this I say, “Baloney!” Heck, lets throw in a couple of slices of “Ham” and “Cheese” and maybe a few slices of “Bread” and make ourselves a “Sandwhich”! Um, that didn’t have anything to do with anything, I just felt like being silly.

To be fair these people have a point. Literal titles are great for search engine optimization. So, for instance, if someone is looking for a post about forty-seven new ways to make tuna casserole, your post will be right there waiting for them.

Here’s my problem with it: there is more to life than SEO.

Sure, I’m here blogging to build a platform. One of these days I may actually try to sell something to all of you wonderful readers out there. But this blog is not just a long term sales pitch.

I am also here to have fun. I want to get silly, I want to tell stories, I want to enjoy myself. I want you to enjoy yourself. And part of that is coming up with crazy titles for my posts. Sometimes the crazy title even comes first, and I think of a post I can fit around it.

I’m not bashing authors who choose to follow this advice. I read after some good people who follow the “Forty-Seven New Ways to Make Tuna Casserole” formula of naming blog posts. I even gave it a try myself for a while. But if you’re on the fence about this issue then I want to encourage you to be yourself and have fun with your blog.

Maybe you’re more comfortable with literal titles. That’s fine too. Just never forget that first and foremost your blog and your platform is a reflection of you, with all your little quirks and eccentricities. So go out and have fun with it.

Because if you’re having fun, chances are your readers will be having fun too. And that’s what it’s all about.

How to Ignore Perfectly Good Advice in Three Easy Steps

You are not alone.

You ever notice how often that phrase pops up in commercials? Do you ever feel a little creeped out by it? Maybe you look around the house to make sure that there’s no one there with you. Well if you do, then you are not alone.

But all silliness aside, as a writer you really aren’t alone. There are hundreds and thousands of other writers out there, from all different levels of the skill spectrum, and many of them are eager and willing to help you out on your journey toward the fun and lucrative world of being a published author.

This is a good thing. Sometimes.

But sometimes it can be overwhelming. There are lots of great people out there with tons of knowledge, and lots of great advice to give out. They’ve been there, they’ve done that, and they know all the mistakes you’re going to make if you’re not careful. You’d be a fool to ignore them.


Except sometimes their advice doesn’t work for you. And sometimes it might actually contradict other advice you’re getting from equally credible sources.

This is something I’ve thought about quite a bit recently because it happened to me in a big way. Let me explain.

I started blogging seriously solely because of the influence of one Kristen Lamb, media expert and all around awesome person. Her blog is an invaluable resource on how to leverage social media as an author, as well as having great tips on plotting and structure.

(Also she has a book entitled We Are Not Alone. How’s that for your freaky coincidence?)

She encourages writers to do things like start a regular blog, get on Twitter and Facebook, and for the love of Bob use your writing name wherever you can.

As you may be able to tell, I’ve taken most of her advice to heart. But one of her bits of social media wisdom is this: Blog about what you write about.

You may be noticing that I am in fact blogging about writing. I do not write about writing. Except now. Which doesn’t count.

But I didn’t make the choice to pass on that particular piece of advice at a whim. I went through a process of thought and introspection which I’ve boiled down into three steps.

If someone’s giving you advice you’re not sure about maybe this will help.

1. Listen

This is very important. Sometimes a piece of advice might not be for you, but if you dismiss it out-of-hand then you’re doing yourself a disservice. At least give the person the benefit of the doubt that they’re not just blowing smoke. They want to help you. Don’t ever ignore that.

When I first read Kristen Lamb’s advice, I didn’t just snort and say, “Well that’s stupid. I’m not doing that.” I listened. I gave the idea room to take root in my mind.

2. Think

Now that you’ve got the bit of advice in your head, mull it over, do your best to understand it. If you can, try to incorporate it into your process. Even if it doesn’t feel natural at first, give it a try. If it doesn’t work for you try to understand why it doesn’t work. There may be some deeper kernel of truth within the advice that may be able to benefit you.

“Blog about what you write about” is really a great piece of advice. Kristen’s deeper point is this: we need to connect with our potential readers not just other writers. And that’s something I’ve tried to keep in mind as I’ve slowly expanded my writer’s platform.

3. Decide

Because hey, you can really do whatever you want to do. Ignoring advice isn’t wrong. If it doesn’t work for you then fine. If it does work for you and improves your craft, even better.

Obviously, I decided not to follow Kristen’s advice. I made my decision mostly because it’s hard to blog on topic when your work-in-progress is a horror story about a monster mulch pile.

I’m gonna talk about what? Organic gardening?

But for someone writing a more conventional genre, say legal thrillers, blogging on topic could be a fantastic opportunity to connect with readers.

The bottom line is that one size does not fit all. You need balance. You shouldn’t reject advice simply because you don’t feel like doing it. But neither should you feel obligated to go on following advice that just isn’t working out for you. You have to use wisdom and discernment, and consider which path is best for you.

And that’s my advice. You know what to do with it.

What To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Doing Anything

Today’s post is going to be a tad short, but I don’t need a lot of words to say what’s on my mind, which is this: life isn’t always happy-happy-joy-joy-super-fantastic-funtime. Sometimes you’re not going to feel that great, emotionally speaking.

It may not even be anything in particular that’s bringing you down. Sometimes you just get into the blues.

This is perfectly okay.

Life is about ups and downs. There are going to be some days from time to time when you look at that things that you have to do, or ought to do, and just don’t want to do them.

I’m saying this because I’ve been going through one of those times lately and I know how they can bring me down. I think I’m on the upswing side of it right now, but in another month or two, I’ll probably be headed back into the dumps again.

If you’re having one of those times, I have two pieces of advice:

1. Give yourself a break.

I’m not necessarily saying to turn your back on your responsibilities, but don’t let yourself get depressed about feeling depressed. You are not obligated to be happy every day.

2. There’s a nap for that.

Oh, it feels so good to get that out. You have no idea how long I’ve been wanting to use that pun on this blog.

Anyway. Most of the time when I’m feeling like crap I can trace it back directly to fatigue. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it. Lately My schedule has simply demanded that I get up early and stay up late. But the amount of rest you get can affect really your mood, so if you get the chance to slip in a few winks here or there, do it. You’ll probably feel better afterwards.

And that’s all I’ve got for today. It didn’t stay quite as short as I first intended, but…whatever. I hope it helps. I know it makes me feel a little better just to write it. Then again, I just took a nice nap, so that might have something to do with it too.