Thursday, July 12, 2012

Is Anyone Out There?

by D.R. Shoultz

Okay, I launched my website last week and my book title went live on Amazon on July 2. I carefully entered well thought-out keywords into my Internet source description and registered my website with the key search engines. I even tried to learn HTML, albeit unsuccessfully.  I’ve sold 10 books and have only slightly more visits to my website in the first seven days.
What I’ve learned is that website preparation alone is not a foolproof marketing plan for selling a new author’s novel. I had been na├»ve enough to think if someone entered DRShoultz Books on the search line of Google, it would at least position my website in a prominent place in the search results. After all, that’s the name of my website. Boy, was I wrong.  What pops up first is the question, “Did you mean Dr. Schultz Books?” Before even looking, Google assumed I had entered the wrong name!Under this question was the top search result which pointed to Dr. Schulze’s herbal dietary formulas. I don’t even know if Dr. Schultz is related to Dr. Schulze, but it doesn’t matter. They both did a better job of getting Google to highlight their sites… even when I entered my name and not theirs.
I kept checking my website statistics, hoping this dismal situation would improve and somehow someone would eventually find their way to my site. But over the week, most of the site visits identified in the reports were generated by me in the process of enhancing and correcting my site.
So, what is a first-time author to do? I thought about changing my name to Donn Schultz and writing a book on herbal male enhancements, but that would be a cheap trick just to lure traffic to my site. Besides, I don’t even eat salads, let alone use herbal supplements, and I clearly don’t need male enhancements. Well maybe, but I don’t think so. 
Not willing to spend big dollars to pay the search engines to put my website in the queue ahead of Drs. Schultz and Schulze, I decided to find other ways to direct readers to my site. As a first step, I started this week delivering press releases to newspaper editors.  I decided to target papers with circulation in cities where I currently live or have recently lived. I utilized a standard press release format and followed the recommendations I had found on several websites. I particularly found this site’s download useful -- Probusinesswriter.  It also helped to work directly with someone who has experience reading and approving press releases -- my wife. 
Hopefully I’ll have press releases printed before the end of the month, at least some of them. I’ll monitor the clicks, the website hits, and skyrocketing book orders, and then I’ll move to my next marketing tactic. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 2, 2012

What Made Me Think I Could Write a Novel?

by D.R. Shoultz

The short answer is I didn’t know if I could. I had often thought about trying. I had read many articles about first-time authors, explaining their starts, their stops, and their restarts. It seemed a frustrating process and I wasn’t sure I had the time, patience, or ability to even begin.

One day, I was reading excerpts from books that had been submitted to a peer review web site by first-time novelists... and it hit me. For the most part, the would-be authors were well-educated and well-read, yet most of their submissions will clearly never be best sellers, or even reach distribution much beyond their family and friends. But that was not the point. What interested me was they had done it. They took the time and effort to produce a book and to bare their work for others to read and critique. While they may never be able to pay their bills with the commissions from their book sales, they had written a novel. By definition, they were writers.

Motivated by their efforts, in July of 2011, I decided to give it a try. I read as much as I could on how best to begin, concentrating on the words of wisdom from authors I had read and admired. I also found copious websites, blogs, as well as self-publishing and how-to instructional sites directed at first-time authors. As you might expect, the advice was as varied as the sources. But fortunately, there were common recommendations that provided a solid base for me as I began:

  • Learn from what you read. Reading is the best preparation for writing.
Admittedly, I had never been a voracious reader. Not until I retired a few years ago did I read more than a few books a year. But now, I read more in a month than I previously read in a year. I've found knowing who and what you like to read helps direct your writing style.

  • Write about what you enjoy and know. Your thoughts will flow.
My first novel draws on my 32-year business background. My current work is about growing up in the Midwest in the ‘60s. Both are subjects I am comfortable writing about.

  • Know your target audience and keep them in mind as you write.
It is important to know who would best enjoy or benefit from your book. It keeps you focused on common themes and a consistent writing style. After you have written your book, it will be too late to define your audience.

  • Outline or storyboard your novel.
While some authors say just dig in and start writing, I found I came to a dead end quickly unless I could see the next scene on the horizon. While I continually revised the outline, having a start, middle and end in mind before I began, kept me moving.

Once I began writing, there were several other recommendations that I found beneficial as a first-time author:

  • Describe -- don’t tell.
This is not easy and it’s something I must continually remind myself. It is important for the reader to see the character, the scene, the story in their mind as you describe it. If you tell it, their imaginations are inhibited, and so is their enjoyment. Let the action speak for itself; don’t interpret it for the reader.

  • Develop your characters through their actions and dialogue.
Rather than writing, “Bob was cheap and a casual dresser,” the readers could better form their image of Bob by writing, “After thinking twice, Bob pulled two dollars back from the luncheon tip he’d just placed on the table, stuffing the bills into his well-worn blue jeans.”

  • Read your writing aloud. It helps you create believable dialogue and interesting descriptions.
If it sounds believable, it probably is. If it sounds dull, it probably is.

 Well... it’s a year later, and I have written, re-written, edited, and re-re-re-edited my first novel, CORRUPT CONNECTION. It was self-published on June 27, 2012. I am also well into my second book, UNINVITED VISIONS, with over 50,000 words down on paper... or actually, on my hard drive.

So, where does this put me? It puts me right in the middle of those other first-time authors who motivated me a year ago. I have done it. I’ve written a novel. I may never pay my bills with my book royalties, but I am out there for you to read and critique. Please do.

The initial response has been favorable (but family and friends will lie). I appreciate your feedback... everyone's feedback. I am encouraged and plan for my second novel to be published by the end of this year.