Wild West
Publishing, Writing

How country and western songs can help you write your novel

From time to time an author will email us and ask, ‘How long should my novel be?’ Usually, they feel that they haven’t written enough and want to know how many more words they should add. But word count isn’t what you should be aiming for.

The most important thing about your novel is that it tells a story. And you can tell a really effective story in as little as six words. Here’s a really sad one:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn [1]

Pretty effective, huh?

But let’s go a little longer – you’d probably like more than one page in your book, right? Here are some country and western songs which are really effective at setting a scene, creating a mood, depicting characters and telling a story:

High Noon in Kilville by Angry Johnny and the Killbillies

This song has drama, violence and romance all rolled into one, played out with clearly defined, believable characters. The story is told, all done and dusted, in about six and half minutes:

 

The Guitar by Guy Clark

If this song doesn’t give you goosebumps, you’ve got no soul. Aside from the incredible guitar work by the late Guy Clark, the lyrics reveal a clean, linear story which has a wonderfully punchy ending. There’s also a spooky ‘feel’ to this one – rather than the violence and romance of High Noon, this one is almost a ghost story and it takes just shy of four minutes to tell.

 

Sad Song Teddy Bear by Red Sovine

If you want to really move your readers, this is the song to help illustrate how to do that. Again, believable characters, a great narrator, and a wonderful, uplifting ending – all in five minutes.

 

As you can see (or hear), each song told its story in a very short space of time, yet the longest took 50% more time than the shortest to tell. So each song, each story, was only as long as it needed to be.

So how does that equate to your novel? Well, it should probably be a little longer than a six-minute read. 😀  But don’t go writing words for the sake of it.

Does it have to be a novel?

If your story comes in around the 30-40,000 word mark, you can call it a novella and market it accordingly. And as a novella, you can charge less for the ebook, which will encourage more people to buy it. If it’s a hit, you can increase your ebook price $1 and see what happens. If it’s still a hit, increase by a $1 again. But remember, it’s better to sell 100 ebooks at $1 each than 10 ebooks at $10 each – more readers = more (hopefully positive) reviews = more sales. And then they’ll be queuing up to buy your next publication!

Genre plays a part

Length will also depend on genre. For instance, fantasy novels are generally expected to be longer than, say, young adult or humour. A fantasy novel could be expected to have more drama and a more convoluted plot-line, thus requiring more words to tell all the inter-woven stories of the characters and their various (and sometimes nefarious!) worlds. Compare that with a romance which wouldn’t have as many characters or such detailed worlds, and so wouldn’t usually require as many words. So if you’re writing a romance, you don’t need to be aiming at 100,000 words – not unless your story spans generations, say. But a fantasy reader would likely expect something up around the 100,000 word mark.

I know it’s an old, sexist saying, but in writing, the main thing isn’t length, but quality. To ensure your quality and an appropriate length, here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  1. What main genre are you writing in? E.g. young adult, humour, romance, adventure, fantasy? Research books in your genre for a guide as to the usual length – but don’t feel bound to it if you need to write more or your story is punchier with less.
  2. Does your story have a beginning, a middle and an end? Even if the book starts with a passage from later in the story, or the timeline jumps around, the story itself still needs to start somewhere, finish somewhere and help the reader travel from one plot point to the next. If you can’t see the trajectory of your story, your plotline, then you might need to write some more, and/or possibly cut some, to make it clear.
  3. Does your story have characters with individual and family/genetic personality or physical traits? They can be likable, unlikeable, honourable, weak, courageous, cowardly – pick a character trait – or more! But they must be people the reader can have some sort of feeling about, form some sort of opinion about, a connection with or a dislike for, and you’ll need at least a couple of characters in there that the reader will care about enough to find out what’s gong to happen to them. If your characters are all a bit bland, you might need to give them a bit of, well, character!
  4. Do your characters have to face challenges or intrigue as they go through the story? They may not beat the challenges they face, but they have to be presented with something that makes the reader turn the page to find out what happens. And whether they win or fail, it needs to move the story line along, and also help them become more self-aware, otherwise you can cut it out.
  5. Finally – look at your story and see if you can retell it as a country and western song. If you can do that and it stands strong, then you know your bones – your plotline and characters – are all good!

So, how long should your novel be? The short answer is that your novel should really only be as long as it needs to be. The most important thing is to create a well-written story for your reader to enjoy.

[1] This has been attributed to Ernest Hemingway, but no one knows for sure. For more, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_sale:_baby_shoes,_never_worn

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Sales vs Marketing
Marketing, Publishing

The difference between sales and marketing

When you first release your book, chances are as a first-time author, you’ll get a few sales. Excited friends and family will generally buy, as will a friend of a friend who trusts their friend’s taste. But unless you’ve actually put some sort of marketing plan into place, sales will soon stop. So … what is the difference between sales and marketing?

Let’s say you’re thinking about buying a new car. You’ve done no research, but you know you want an automatic sedan with four doors. You know roughly what colour and engine size you want, you know what extras you want, and you know roughly how much you’re prepared to spend.

Your purchasing path could work one of two ways …

Path 1

You go out one Saturday morning and visit a car yard which sells the type of car you know you’re thinking about. The salesperson tells you all about the model you’re looking at, encourages you to take it for a test drive, answers all your questions and then does their best to get you to sign buy it before they let you out of the showroom.

If they succeed, then they’ve sold you a car.

Path 2

You see an ad on TV for a car which matches the sort of thing you’ve been toying with in your mind. The ‘from’ price is advertised and it’s in your ball-park.

The next day you see an ad for the same car while you’re reading the news online. You click through and read a bit more. As a result of clicking that ad, you see more ads for the car over the following days, and eventually find a review page where you read about the things that other people do and don’t like about the car, all of which help you realise that this is probably the right car for you.

You go out one Saturday morning and visit a car yard which sells the type of car you know you’re thinking about. The salesperson talks to you a bit, but you already know most of what they’re telling you because of what you’ve already seen and read in the media. You take it for a test drive and it works for you, so you tell the salesperson you’re going to take it.

You’ve just bought a car. They didn’t sell you one.

In short …

Sales is the art of selling – it’s getting people to exchange their money for a product or service.

Marketing is the art of raising awareness of a product or service. If enough awareness is raised, then when the ‘prospect’ is in the buying zone (mentally and/or physically) there’s a much better chance of a sale being made.

So what does this mean for my book?

In simple terms, it means, don’t try to sell your book – it’s too much like hard work for too little return, and it won’t necessarily lead to good reviews. You want people to want to buy it. Those who want your book are more likely to leave good reviews which will help others know that your book is likely to be right for them.

Try to focus on marketing, on raising awareness, where those who are likely to be interested might see your book and consider it, and you’ll have a better outcome. This means blog posts relevant to your subject matter, or articles in newspapers or magazines (in print or online) which are relevant to your book, or suitable press, radio or podcast interviews. For example, if you’ve written a book about deep sea fishing techniques, you wouldn’t be looking to get an interview in a haircare magazine, would you?

In other words – think about who your likely buyers are and where you might find them. And then try to get news of your book in front of them.

Case study

Author Fred Wilkinson released My Life in the Ragtrade, an account of his many years in leading sales roles during the heyday of Australia’s clothing industry. Although he used email and the internet, Fred didn’t have a website or social media, and so had no way to actively promote his book online. However, what he did know was who his readers were likely to be and where he could find them.

Fred rang up ABC Radio and managed to get himself interviewed by ‘Macca’ (aka Ian McNamara) from ABC Radio’s Sunday morning show, ‘Australia All Over’. Macca interviewed Fred who, as a salesman, knew just the right things to say to push the listeners’ buttons, and when we came into the office on the Monday morning, the phone was already ringing with orders for his book! Eight months later the book was still selling based on the flow-on word of mouth from that one radio interview.

 

In short

Selling is hard work and doesn’t usually result in many sales.

Marketing takes the long and wide approach, but when done with the potential reader in mind, targets them so that you’re more likely to find buyers.

So flip the coin and don’t be a seller – encourage people to be buyers!

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Marketing, Publishing

IndieMosh author successes in the 2021 Global Ebook Awards

Well it’s that time of year again when we get to celebrate our authors’ successes in the annual Global Ebook Awards! This year’s congratulations go to (click on the author’s name, book cover or title to find out more):

John Heyworth

Gold in Popular Literature Fiction for The Cowrie Shell

The Cowrie Shell by John Heyworth

Luke Morphett

Gold in Best Illustration in Adult Fiction for From Earth

Gold in Fantasy/Alternate History for From Earth

Silver in Best Ebook Cover for From Earth

Silver in Science Fiction for From Earth

Dan Poynter Legacy Award
“Best of” Category for From Earth

From Earth by Luke Morphett
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Look for a book you've never heard of by an unknown author
Publishing, Uncategorized

Why you don’t want to sell your book in bookshops

Many of our new authors ask the same question when they’re near to releasing their first title: ‘How do I get my book into bookshops?’ The simple answer is, ‘You don’t.’

I realise this is counter-intuitive to what many of us have grown up with, and for people over a certain age, having their book in a bricks and mortar bookshop means it will sell – but it doesn’t! Getting it into bookshops doesn’t guarantee sales. Think about this:

When was the last time that you walked into a bookshop and bought a book you’d never heard of by a writer you’d never heard of? How often have you done that in the last six months? And how many books and authors in your local bookshop have you never heard of?

Now flip the tables – how often do you think other people have walked into your local bookshop and bought a book they’ve never heard of by someone they’ve never heard of in the last six months? And if they did, what would the chances be that they’d buy your book when there’d be so many other books and authors in that shop that they’ve never heard of?

But what if you really, really want to get your book into bookshops? Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Buy a stock of books – so tie up money in unsold books.
  2. Get at least one or more bookshops to agree to take your books on.
  3. Negotiate a number that you can supply to them. This will likely be less than five (5) books unless they know you and know that you can ‘sell’ these books for them.
  4. Negotiate a retailer discount for them. Most retailers are going to want an average of 50% off – some will want as much as 60% off the RRP (recommended retail price, also known as the list price).
  5. Negotiate a payment arrangement – will they pay you in advance and then ask you to collect the unsold books and you refund them the money on those that haven’t sold? Or will they take them on consignment and only pay you if the books do sell? And how long will they keep them for?
  6. Raise an invoice to the bookshop – you’ll need an ABN to do that. But you won’t be registered for GST unless you’re likely to earn more than $75,000 per year from your writing, so your invoice will be without GST in it – and you need to make it clear on your invoice that you’re not registered for GST and that the price doesn’t include GST.
  7. Arrange for the books to be delivered to the bookshop, or take them there yourself. (Delivery/postage expense vs your time and transport expense.)
  8. Monitor how many books have been delivered to which bookshops and under what arrangements.
  9. Collect unsold copies and potentially refund the stores six to twelve months down the track if they don’t all sell.

Seriously? Why bother? Why do all that work to take such a financial risk?

If you’re publishing your book the smart way – the 21st century way using print on demand technology and the internet as your distribution chain – then you don’t need to rely on bookshops to sell your book. All you need to do is raise awareness of your book and let the systems take care of sales, printing, distribution and paying you your royalties.

And if bookshops start getting enquiries for your book – they can stock it buy contacting the print on demand supplier for your book, and you don’t even have to lift a finger! Sure, you may wait a couple of months for your share of the deal to flow through to you, but that’s economically smarter than tying up valuable funds in printing and distribution in the hope that your copies sell.

So do it the easy way – focus on raising awareness of your book (i.e. get marketing!) with blog posts, interviews, social media posts, library talks, giveaways, connecting with others who might benefit from or enjoy the content in your book – and let the distribution chain take care of supplying your book for you.

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Publishing

IndieMosh author successes in the 2020 Global Ebook Awards

It’s a good job helping people publish their books, and it’s wonderful when you see them achieving success and winning awards. For many years now our authors have been entering the Global Ebook Awards, and in 2020 we’re thrilled to announce that seven of our authors have managed to snare ten awards between them! Our congratulations (in alphabetical order) go to:

GJ Busiko

  • Silver in Science Fiction for The Destiny Stones

The Destiny Stones by GJ Busiko

Dianne Cikusa

  • Gold in Poetry for The Rain Sermon: Le Sermon de la Pluie
  • Bronze in Best Ebook Cover for The Rain Sermon: Le Sermon de la Pluie

The Rain Sermon by Dianne Cikusa

Nina Paine

  • Silver in Popular Literature Fiction for Sophie’s Sister

Kenneth Pakenham

  • Silver in Psychology/Mental Health Non-Fiction for The Trauma Banquet

The Trauma Banquet by Kenneth Pakenham

Allyn Radford

  • Gold in Popular Literature Fiction for The End of Forever

Allyn Radford

Natasha Simon

  • Silver in Best Ebook Cover for My Story Isn’t Over
  • Silver in Autobiography/Memoirs Non-Fiction for My Story Isn’t Over
  • Bronze in Psychology/Mental Health Non-Fiction for My Story Isn’t Over

My Story Isnt Over by Natasha Simon

Lachlan KW Stonehouse

  • Gold in Sports/Fitness/Recreation Non-Fiction for A Passion For Cricket

A Passion for Cricket by Lachlan KW Stonehouse

Congratulations again to all our winners! It’s great to see independently published books being appreciated for the value and diversity that they bring to readers across the world.

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Circles of Fortune by Helen Laing
Publishing

What’s in a cover?

If you search the internet for tips on book cover design, you’ll be inundated with blog posts telling you how important the cover is and why you have to spend good money on it yada, yada, yada. Sure, a crap cover will likely turn people off from investigating your book further, but I don’t care how fancy your cover is – if the book isn’t a good read, it doesn’t matter how much you spend on the cover, you’ll never save it. So, first things first, write a good book! Then, when you’re thinking about your cover, don’t just focus on something glitzy and eye-catching. Consider your genre and the reader you’re trying to attract.

One of our authors, Helen Laing, has given us permission to re-use her name and book title to help illustrate what’s really important about your cover – and that’s conveying the message of what your book is all about! Helen’s book is called Circles of Fortune, and here’s the cover here:

Circles of Fortune by Helen Laing
Circles of Fortune by Helen Laing

What do you think Helen’s book might be about? If you’ve got good eyes or can zoom in, you’ll find the subtitle will probably give you a clue, but at first glance you’d get the idea that it’s about something historical. If you’re into history and of a time period suggested by the gentleman on the cover, then you’d possibly investigate more closely based simply on the cover, right?

So, what if Helen’s cover looked like this?

Circles of Fortune by Helen Laing alternative cover 1
Circles of Fortune by Helen Laing alternative cover 1

If you were interested in history you’d skip straight past it, right? But if you were interested in a little romance? Or a bit of an adventure with a female lead? Again, a cover like this would encourage you to look a little more closely, wouldn’t it?

But … what if Helen’s cover looked like this?

Circles of Fortune by Helen Laing alternative cover 2
Circles of Fortune by Helen Laing alternative cover 2

Now, that’s my kinda book! Something probably business-y or finance-related. I’d skip past the first two covers and look more closely at this. How about you? 😉

Don’t try to attract the wrong readers

So the most important thing with cover design is not spending a fortune, but making sure that your book ‘speaks’ to its potential audience.

And a word of warning here – please don’t try to attract a different type of audience by cheating with a cover which mis-represents your book. This will only backfire on you. I have actually had an author ask for something which was unrelated to their book because they wanted to expose their thoughts to a different type of reader. Not on, not going to work, nope. You’ll only antagonise them even if you can get them to buy, and – the stupid thing – you’re missing out on an audience who probably would be interested in your book!

Compare the meerkats

When you’re thinking about your cover, hop online and see what other covers in your genre look like. You don’t need to copy them, and please be careful not to use the same stock image as every other cover in your category (there’s a certain man out there in a purple kilt who pops up on soooooo many romance covers … must be a busy fellow 😉 ), but do try to do something original that still communicates what the other covers in your category or genre are communicating.

~ ~ ~

Helen’s ‘real’ Circles of Fortune, is the fictionalised story of Thomas Braidwood Wilson who made nine voyages as a naval surgeon on convict ships before settling down as a pioneer farmer in the southern highlands of NSW. It’s available from your favourite online retailer or The MoshShop here: https://themoshshop.com.au/products/circles-of-fortune-by-helen-laing

 

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IndieMosh profile
Publishing

Traditional vs Self vs Vanity publishing

In this new world of self publishing, it’s important to understand the differences between traditional, self and vanity publishing. But first we should start with a simple definition: What exactly is publishing?

The simple answer is: project management. The slightly more complex answer is: project management with a view to making a profit.

In the past, ‘traditional publishers’ would license a manuscript from an author. They would project manage turning that raw manuscript into a published book and as part of that process, they would also wear the cost and the risk.

In today’s world, there are less and less traditional publishers and it’s getting harder and harder to secure a publishing contract, leaving most people to self publish. Ergo… if you self publish, you’ll be managing the project and you’ll be wearing the financial risk!

So what is vanity publishing? This term was applied to most self publishing ventures until around 2010 when a separation began to take place in the public’s minds. With the advent of the Kindle, iPad and print on demand, the Ordinary Joe began to have access to great (and not-so-great!) books well outside the traditional publishing industry’s catalogue. As the public began to consume more and more self-published books, they also began to understand that just because something had been self published that didn’t mean it was crap. On the contrary, the public began to realise just how much they’d had withheld from them because so many stories and authors just didn’t fit the ideals of traditional publishers.

And as more and more self published books were consumed, the reading public also began to notice the differences in quality between those books which had been published with care by the author (having been edited, proofread, properly formatted or laid out, cover professionally designed), and those which hadn’t had the same level of care applied. Consequently, those books which get released without certain standards being applied by the author are referred to disparagingly as ‘vanity publications’.

To publish a book with some level of care is costly – hence the void traditional publishing houses played in the past. But in today’s world, less and less traditional publishers can afford to take the risks they used to, so if you can’t get a publishing contract, it doesn’t necessarily mean your book is crap, it just means the publishing house can’t see a way to make money out of it. And while I have seen people riled up about not getting a contract, they seem to forget that these publishing houses are in business, and if they don’t make money, they’ll soon be out of business!

But at least today you have affordable options as far as self publishing goes. You don’t need to print 2,000 copies and try to ship them to bookstores – you can use print on demand supply chains with retailing via the internet, worldwide. Or you can skip the print part and just release an ebook. Or add the print version later if you find the ebook making money for you.

And you don’t have to go it alone. With businesses like IndieMosh you can have people do as much or as little as you need help with.

So welcome to the 21st century and to what I hope will be your self publishing journey, and not a vanity publishing one! 😉

~ ~ ~

Self publishing for Australian authors
Self publishing for Australian authors

Jenny is the author of Self publishing for Australian authors: What you need to have, know and do, which can be purchased from your favourite online retailer or The MoshShop here: https://themoshshop.com.au/products/self-publishing-for-australian-authors

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