Why No One Talks About What Makes Self-employment Difficult

Do you mind if I confess something right now?

Sometimes it's really hard to be self-employed.

And though it hurts to admit it out loud, there were things about working for a company that really rocked.

Steady paychecks, predictable tax rates, only having to do one job.

Research and development, sales and marketing, and all things technical were handled by departments other than mine. It was great!

Wasn't it?

Self-employment is definitely a much bigger challenge because of the lack of guarantees but on any given day I'd prefer to be in control of all those other things because it means I carve out my own success.

And what's more fulfilling than that?

Limited potential to grow as an employee

As an employee I didn’t have to worry about much other than the general state of the economy. On the other hand, when I found a decent position with a company it became almost impossible to move up.

And therein is the real reason I went out on my own. As an employee I wasn’t really in charge of my own destiny. I had no say if the company stayed open for business. If they went under, I did too, no matter how good I was at my job.

Being self-employed means never having to be limited by anything other than my own drive to make my company as successful as I want it to be.

However, that's the thing that no entrepreneur likes to admit. The thing that no self-employed person is supposed to acknowledge because it might make us sound whiny or weak.

But I don't care about that because it's high time it got out there.

Sometimes, finding the drive to work is the thing that’s most difficult to find.

Sure ambition is key to success but, is it just me or do you struggle with getting the gumption every single day too?

In a company you only get so many sick or personal days, you had no choice but to show up. Being self-employed means setting your own schedule and sometimes that includes time off.

And time off is one of the reasons most of us wanted to work for ourselves in the first place, right? So taking a day here or there when you’re just not feeling it is perfectly fine.

The key is not taking too much time off.

Keep pushing even when you don’t want to or risk losing all drive

Yes it’s true that there’s freedom in being on our own. However, that freedom only comes after a good deal of hard work.

Don't feel like writing your book today? Write a blog post. Don't feel like writing a blog? Write some tweets. Don't feel like writing anything? Do research on a character, work on something else creative (helps open creative channels) or get out of your environment for a while.

Then come back and start writing.

Because in the long run it might seem really attractive to abuse our powers of freedom and flexibility but it's way tougher to get back on track when you fall off in the middle than it is to just keep rolling down the tracks.

No matter how slow you go.

Image courtesy pakorn on freedigitalphotos.net

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Self-publishing Versus Traditional Publishing - A Guest Post

Today's post comes to us from Lorna Riley, a self-publisher of children's books and a fantastic informational blogger for children's self-publishing topics.

You're in for a great read, enjoy!

• • •

Why Self-publishing is Better than Traditional Publishing
by Lorna Riley

Self-publishing – the gaping wide mouth that swallows up lost and weary authors, adrift on the sea of rejection.  Like the Kraken, it wraps its tentacles around them, pulling them down and down, deep into the murky waters; never to be seen or heard of again.  Except, when the mist draws in, it is said that disembodied voices may be heard drifting across the twittersphere: come buy, come buy, my free books do try…

But, is it really all that bleak?  Is it possible to make a success of self-publishing?  I hope so!  But it doesn’t happen by magic, you have to work at it.  Do you have to work harder than a traditionally published author?  Not necessarily, but you do have to be more self-motivated and make your own opportunities. 

That’s not such a bad thing, though.  Is it?  Actually, when you really think about it, going it alone could be the best thing that ever happened to you.  But, just in case you’re not entirely convinced, here’s why…

1) Editing your Manuscript

So, you don’t have an army of professional proof-readers to go through your work and pick out all your mistakes and correct them all for you.  That means you’ll have to do it yourself.  The problem is, you never did quite get to grips with when to use a semi-colon, and the rules about when and where to use commas seem to change depending on which book you read. 

Well, you know what, now’s the perfect time to figure it out for yourself.  And the lovely fellows at the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Arts are here to help, with some fabulous exercises to straighten out your grammar and punctuation. But be warned, you will become one of those annoying, know-it-all grammar nerds that sighs at every comma splice you find.

However, once you’ve given it a good once- / twice- / thrice-over yourself, you really should get a professional to look at it, too.  Research shows that those earning the most from self-publishing are those that have gone the extra mile to make sure the product they’re offering is the best it can be.

But, when you’re in the midst of wrestling with your work-in-progress, don’t assume the traditionally published author has got it so much easier.  First of all, they will have needed to edit and polish their work to get it accepted in the first place.  It’s only then that it will be subjected to the scrutiny of lots of different pairs of eyes.

Sounds great doesn’t it?  Not necessarily.  Because, with lots of different people comes lots of different opinions, and the next thing you know your book’s got a few extra sex scenes and your main character is doing things you hadn’t originally envisaged.  Maybe they’re right and it makes your book all the better for it, but would it still feel like it was yours?

2) Marketing you Book

Fair enough, editing your own manuscript may not be such a bad thing.  But, surely, as far as promoting your book is concerned, the big publishing houses hold all the cards?  Right?  What do we mere writers know about sales and marketing? 

Well, if you’re anything like me, not a lot.  Yet.  But there are plenty of lovely people out there, in the same boat as you, who know a whole lot more and are willing to share their pearls of wisdom with you. 

Like Jenn, for example.  And, with the rise of social media, we’ve got a much better chance of engaging with our readers than ever before. 

So, go on – get out there and set up your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your blog, your website and whatever else floats your boat.  Let the world know that you and your book are ready and waiting. 

If you are willing and able to properly engage with your customers, they will develop a sense of ownership, a sense of loyalty, and start promoting your book for you.  That’s when your sales will really start to grow.

It may be a long hard slog, but it’s all on your own terms.  You get to choose how your book cover looks (but do get a professional to design it for you!), you get to choose how to pitch your book and where it fits best in the market.  You get to write the blurb on the back of your book - making sure that it entices, without giving too much away. 

On top of that, you get to choose when, how and where you’ll travel to promote your work.  Want to go to one book fair, but not another?  Fine.  Don’t want to travel at all?  Fine.  Want to take some time out to write the next one?  No problem.  The only person you’ve got to answer to is yourself.  

3) Sales Figures

Now this is where you’ve got me.  Of course the big publishing houses are going to be able to generate more sales than a single author all by themselves.  I’m not going to argue with you there.  However, do you know how much of the sales revenue actually filters down to the author themselves? 

Well, this can vary, depending on the author or whether it’s a hardback or paperback, but you’re looking at around 10% of the cover price.  Although it can be lower, particularly if you’re a picture book author splitting your royalties 50:50 with the illustrator.  eBook royalties are usually around 25%.

But, when you’re self-publishing with a print-on-demand publisher like CreateSpace, for example, you’re looking at about 25% of the list price of a paperback and 70% of the list price on an eBook.  So, whichever way you look at it, it’s a much higher percentage when you go it alone.  Roughly three times more than what you’d get through a traditional publisher. 

It can’t really be that lucrative, though, can it?  Surely, self-publishing is just vanity publishing under another name.  If the big publishing houses aren’t interested, then it’s because it’s just not going to sell, is it?  If you don’t believe me, then check out the research and see for yourself. 

It is possible to make a decent living as a self-published author.  You’ve just got to make it all happen yourself. 

Images courtesy:

About the Author

Lorna Riley was an average mother of two… until one fateful day when The Stories, mischievous little creatures that they are, crept into her brain whilst she was sleeping.  And she’s never been the same since.  Sir Nibbles, The Famouse Cupboard Raider Extraordinaire, is Lorna’s first foray into self-publishing and, with the help of the fabulous illustrator John Balsley, it should be ready later on in the Spring.

If you’d like to say hello, here’s my website and I can also be found twittering here.  Sir Nibbles is on Facebook and is due to have his own website later on in the Spring, too.

Just a Little Something Funny for a Happy Friday

Good morning folks! This week has been a busy one with a bunch of work, both paid and personal, so my brain is having trouble processing a really great post today.

Instead, please enjoy this fun little bit of writing advice I came across somewhere online. This one's for all the writers who love irony! Enjoy!

Sign up for my monthly newsletter here for fun fiction and self-publishing tips. You'll get a copy of my eBook Does My Book Suck? - a self-publisher’s guide to finishing your book - free just for signing up!

What do Blogging and Fiction Writing Have in Common?

Here are two undeniable facts:

1. Blog writing is a specialized skill.

2. Fiction writing is a specialized skill.

These two facts might make it seem like the writing in question must be worlds apart. But the truth is, the need for a special talent isn’t the only thing these two seemingly different writing styles have in common.

Can a blogger write fiction and vice versa?

A couple of weeks ago I posed a question in one of my Google+ groups:

How many of you bloggers also write fiction?

I asked because I wondered if there were others like me who had an interest in writing both styles.

My question was answered with mixed responses. Some do, some don’t, a few want to start but have trouble finding the time. I was also introduced to a few professional writers who seem to tackle this duality with ease.

Back in 2012 I self-published two fiction books. I love writing fiction; something I started doing before I was even teenager.

However, opening the question to a group of freelance bloggers had me thinking about what made me start blogging in the first place.

Suddenly, I had a revelation. Blogging and fiction writing require the exact same skills.

Wait a minute, isn’t this a contradiction to the opening facts?

At first glance it might seem like I’m a crazy person because as I already said both of these styles require specialized skills. So how can those skills be exactly the same?

First let's look at the ways they're different.

A blog and a book are worlds apart in their structure and content. Plus, the information presented in a fiction book is a lot different than a blog (usually, I'm not referring to blogs that are written as short fiction stories, I mean blogs like this one with advice and articles - info blogs).

In a blog, a writer has only so many words to get their point across. Fast and informational is the name of the game. In a book, sometimes it can take thousands of pages to get to the crux of the story. Lord of the Rings, anyone?

Now, let’s study the various techniques of fiction writers

  • Maintaining a consistent voice.
  • Writing old topics from a fresh perspective.
  • Keeping it simple.
  • Staying on topic through outlines.
  • Writing to engage – pulling the reader through the book with dialogue and narrative.
  • Using writer’s license when applicable.
  • Pitching Agents or publishing houses.
  • Marketing and social media savvy.
  • Writing, editing, re-writing, more editing, scrapping and sometimes starting over.

Now, let’s study the various techniques of bloggers

See above.

Because here’s the secret…

An info blogger knows there are certain elements to include in posts that help move the information forward; help push the reader to the end of the post.

So let’s look at how all of those fiction techniques compare to their blogging counterparts.

Maintaining a consistent voice. Whether you write for your own blog, ghostwrite for clients, or spend your time guest posting, the most important thing you can do as a blogger is to become an authority. Authoritative writing is the same as keeping your character’s voice throughout a book. Think of it like this - you’re the character and the blog is the book. Like a fiction writer needs to use a vocabulary inherent in their genre, a blogger will use a voice that speaks to their niche.

Writing old topics from a fresh perspective. Everyone and their grandmother has written about how to make money online. Everyone and their grandfather has written a murder mystery. So you have to find a way to say it so it reads like it’s new. Using creativity to conceptualize is just as important to a blogger as it is to a fiction writer.

Keeping it simple. Basically, only include info integral to the story. Same goes for blog posts. Readers don’t have time to follow fractured tangents. You can do this by…

Staying on topic through outlines. Setting a structure for your posts, like with a book, will keep the writing tight and easier for the reader to follow (and for you to write!).

Writing to engage. Though, like I said above, fiction writers pull a reader through with dialogue and narrative, the concept is the same for bloggers. A lot has to do with your voice and staying on point but giving the information in the right order is critical to a successful blog post regardless of length or topic. Make it fun to read!

Using writer’s license when applicable. Applying creativity to factual situations is another good blogging device that fiction writers use all the time. Including a story about someone we “know” who has been there and done it can help a reader believe it’s possible. Now I don’t mean to say we should lie (never) but sometimes the fish only looks that big because of the angle of the photograph. You dig?

Pitching. In blogging the pitch goes to other bloggers or Marketing Managers, but developing expertise in the craft of queries can mean the difference between a pitch being accepted or denied. This goes for books and blogs.

Marketing and social media savvy. Sharing our posts with a wider audience gains readership and helps establish that authority in your niche. Learning how to market is key for fiction writers and bloggers.

Writing, editing, re-writing, more editing, scrapping and sometimes starting over. Do I even need to explain? A blog isn’t ready when the words first go on the page just like a book’s first draft is never likely to see the light of day. All writers need to self-edit.

In the end there isn’t a lot of difference in the approach of a blogger and a fiction writer. The words may line up differently and appeal to different markets, but the techniques used to get ideas out to readers are almost always the same.

Are you doing both?

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Self-Publishing Tip #8 – Review Everything and Reassess Your Book

You wrote a great book, finished editing it, released it, and have been marketing like a crazy person.

Family and friends love your work. You're even getting reviews from people outside your personal circle.

There's something to be said for this surge in early sales!

So what happens when all those people already have your book and you're not seeing new people connecting on your networks or buying your book? Are your sales doomed to flatline forever?

Not if you take charge!

Mistakes happen but they can be fixed

If your sales have sputtered out, you should reassess everything and make any changes necessary to rev the sales engine again.

Ask yourself the following question and be prepared to answer it in total honesty:

Is there something about my book that doesn’t fit, something that doesn’t feel right, that I need to change so it connects with a bigger audience?

If sales and traffic have stalled despite consistent marketing, chances are, even though it may be really hard to admit out loud, the answer to the question will be yes.

Despite how hard it was to admit it to myself, I got there with my book. I got there so hard with my first novel that I actually removed it from the market entirely.

No lie.

If you get to this point, stop worrying about it because many self-publishing authors go through this reassessment. Hell, even traditionally published authors release second and third editions all the time.

Changes are made to better fit with this ever changing book market and they get a resurgence of interest.

What do I need to fix?

As self-publishing indie authors we're the only ones who can decide our books need something new. Admitting what that is might be tricky so here's a list of few things you can look at while you contemplate:

Price. Is your book 125 pages of fluff but listed at $19.99 as an eBook? Sure you can make up to 70% of the royalties on some sites but listing a short eBook at $20 is unlikely to bring too many readers. It might be time to do a little more market research and adjust the price to reflect your findings.

Layout or format. Those pages didn’t organize themselves and poorly formatted pages can kill even the best of stories. Make sure page numbers, chapter order, headers/footers and font are correct and consistent throughout so readers aren’t confused or put off by inconsistencies.

The host of your book. Is your book for sale on some obscure site that only you've heard of? I made that mistake with my first book and it cost me some early sales. Look into the biggies – Amazon / CreateSpace, Lulu, Smashwords – to determine your best positioning. You might need to reformat the document to meet the new site’s guidelines (or for a pdf if you decide to sell on your own site) but the time investment is always worth it if you can garner more readers.

Jacket copy. I always think of the movie Forces of Nature. Sandra Bullock’s character calls Ben Affleck’s character a "blurboligist" because he writes jacket copy for a living. His character has made a career of writing this type of copy. Why? Because getting a 300 page book synthesized down to about 100 words that hook a reader is a true art form. Should you hire someone who specializes in this style of writing to write yours?

Cover art. Perhaps the most critical of all elements of a book is the cover. Everyone says not to judge by this piece but let’s be honest, we all do it and with good reason. Historical shouldn’t feature modern technology on the cover. And if your book is about a murder the cover should tell that story too.

Your story. I apologize in advance for sounding harsh but, does your story suck? Do you have plot holes? Do all the characters sound the same in the dialogue? Is the writing stiff, grammatically challenged or full of spelling errors? Pay attention to your feedback and then go back to read your own book. Redline anything that feels wrong or reads poorly. Rewrite and re-release if need be. That's what I had to do and my book is still down because it just doesn't feel right yet. 

Your marketing efforts. Don’t waste time talking up your book in the wrong places. You’re not going to connect with your audience if you go somewhere they aren’t. Research in this area is highly underrated and should be started the moment you have a draft. Connect and network in the right places for you and your book.

This is the last tip post but it isn’t the end for you and your book

It’s hard to believe how much information we’ve covered over the past 8 posts! I hope you’ve found this series useful and that these tips help you to get your book together and ready to sell.

Check back in when your book is going live, I'd love to hear all about it!

Image courtesy Stuart Miles on freedigitalphotos.net

In the meantime, sign up for my monthly newsletter here for more fiction and self-publishing tips. You'll get a copy of my eBook Does My Book Suck? - a self-publisher’s guide to finishing your book - free just for signing up!

Earlier posts in this series:

Tip 1 - Write the Book

Self-Publishing Tip #7 – Marketing Never Ends

We’ve all heard of the big names – King, Patterson, Roberts, Rowling, James.

As an author who plans to self-publish is there one name on that list that makes you cringe?

If your answer is yes, I bet I can guess which one it is.

But here’s the catch: despite the alleged less than perfect writing – she built a huge circle and never stopped marketing.

This isn’t a question of “good” writer vs. “bad” writer

At the end of the day what makes a writer “good” or “bad”?

In my opinion the answer lies with the reader of the book. The subject matter, plot, scene and characters have to resonate. If I don’t feel it I don’t want to spend time in that world.

But there are plenty of people who will love it. Maybe your book is similar and targeted to a broad but specific group of people. Only market research will tell you.

I will admit, I never read the trilogy by E.L. James, simply because that genre doesn’t resonate with me. It had nothing to do with what I heard on the writer grapevine about the writing itself.

But…and this is a biggie…many, many, many people read this trilogy after it took over the world simply because, well, it was everywhere and like a train wreck, people had to know what all the buzz was about.

Which is the reason I even heard of her books. Because Grey wouldn’t ever end up on my ‘suggestions for you’ list. But it was the luckiest word-of-mouth marketing campaign I've ever seen.

She’s sold a bazillion copies but that begs the questions: does that make James a better writer? Or: because a bazillion people read it and flamed her writing does that make her a bad writer?

The answer to both questions is no.

Results not typical

Not everyone is going to write something that blows up the reading world. Millions of books are released each year and 99.999999999% of them will do okay if marketed right. To go viral I believe you need a bit of luck on your side.

Timing really is everything. The time was right for (primarily) women to read these books that this previously unknown indie author wrote.

But I'm here to say that you have to let go of worrying if your book is going to blow up.

Like I said, some could, most don’t. Mine certainly didn’t but it didn’t stop me from organizing a blog tour, promoting on social media and writing relevant related articles that helped keep my book’s title out there. Kept my name out there.

You’ve heard the saying…

There’s no such thing as bad publicity.

In the case of self-publishing authors there has never been a truer statement uttered. The reality is that, just like with James, there will be people who both praise and blast your work.

But keep in mind that means people are talking about it.

Now I’m not saying to set out with a goal of getting bad reviews but the more they talk, the more you’ll likely sell. Talking about it is word of mouth marketing and that’s what will push you into the next level of book sales.

And even popular authors need to market

A good example is another huge name – Stephen King. His most recent novel, Doctor Sleep, was released last September. For a few months before and at least a couple weeks after the release date, King was everywhere.

Talk shows had him on and he started writing regular features in magazines. He kept his name out there and relentlessly talked about the novel to come.

It might seem strange that a guy like King would have to make a round on the circuit; that his hoards of fans wouldn’t just know it was time to buy his book.

In truth, every Author has to market, even if they’re as popular as King because there's always a potential new reader right around the corner.

Staying in the public eye is critical, especially for an indie. James originally self-published all three of her books.

When the books took over and sales went wild it would have been crazy for a house not to pick her up. There was money to be made and deals to contract.

All those people talking about how awful the books were, helped to propel her into a new income bracket. Bad reviews or not, the woman could smile all the way to the bank.

Your ability to market well is what will keep your name out there and keep your book selling.

The last post in this series is coming up next and we’re going to cover why you need to go back to the start when you get to the end. The time to reassess everything has come.

Image courtesy Stuart Miles on freedigitalphotos.net

Sign up for my monthly newsletter here for more fiction and self-publishing tips. You'll get a copy of my eBook Does My Book Suck? - a self-publisher’s guide to finishing your book - free just for signing up!

Earlier posts in this series: