Blog Archives

Views From The Captain’s Chair! Episode Six: To Free Or Not To Free?

Captains ChairBlog

Ahoy, Mateys!

Today’s voyage takes us to the land of the free. No, no, we aren’t going to Sweden. Sorry. Nope, we are going to be talking about giving away work for free. Specifically, the idea that if you give your work away for free it will build your audience and create sales when you finally have something to offer for sale.

Easy topic, right? Yeah…not so much.

How about a little backstory?

*Cue wavy lines and doodleoo-doodleoo-doodleoo sound effects*

One night, as I was riding home from the Contessa’s party, I came upon a horribly disfigured man. This man… What? Oh, wrong backstory. My bad.

I started my novel writing career by giving my fiction away as a free podcast. It was an easy choice for me since I was listening to a lot of free podcast novels. I learned a lot from the trailblazers like Scott Sigler, JC Hutchins, Mur Lafferty, and the other amazing writers in that community.  I was introduced to Evo Terra and Podiobooks.com. There was a sense that something revolutionary was happening with publishing and I wanted to be a part of that.

With the support of some of the above mentioned authors, I was able to get the word out about my podcast novel and soon I had a serious following. It was amazing and I’ll always be grateful to those that gave me a helping hand when they didn’t need to at all. Their help put me on the map.

And my goal, from the start, was to turn the momentum and success of my podcast into a publishing deal. I was able to do that with a small horror press. It was great.

Then ebooks hit.

Wow. The game changed. Everything changed.

I watched the podcast community crumble. Podcasting was no longer the “only” form of distribution for an author trying to break into the publishing world. I watched authors that had been on top, having millions of downloads, hit brick walls.  Some quit, informing their audiences that they were no longer going to give their fiction away for free. They were skewered. It’s the internet, right? You skewer people if they don’t hold up to the expectations you have imposed on them in your brain. That’s what the internet does.

I wasn’t any better. I skewered. Why? Because I had gotten wrapped up in the “cult” of free. That it’s more important as an author to give your audience what they want instead of getting what you want. That your audience has “made” you and you “owe” them free content FOREVER! Okay, okay, I’m going all hyperbolic and exaggerating. It wasn’t that extreme. Well, except that it was, in many ways.

I made a lot of claims, I said a lot of things, I opened my mouth and stuck both feet in. Why? Because I lacked experience and the perspective that comes with that.

So, ebooks. Let’s get back to that.

They hit the world and all of a sudden authors such as myself could immediately publish our novels without waiting for “Big Publishing” to knock at our doors. We could go from podcast novel to published ebook (and print since POD expanded as well) in the blink of an eye. Amazing!

Yeah, not so much. You see, free does not translate into sales. It doesn’t even follow the basic tenants of marketing which is a 10% return on investment (ROI). Let’s say I had 10,000 subscribers per month, which was my estimate at my podcasting peak, then it would stand to reason I’d be able to sell 1,000 ebooks. Right?

Hahahahahahahahaha!

It was more like a 1% ROI. If that. But, hey, maybe I wasn’t marketing well enough. Maybe I wasn’t getting my message out there since so many new writers had entered the podcasting sphere. Maybe I was getting lost in the noise.

Okay, so write the next novel that the listeners are hungry for and get that out there. Bam! Bam? Bam…

Plenty of downloads, almost no books sold. Poop. This free thing was starting to get a little suspect.

So I took a break for a bit. I concentrated on writing ebooks under a pen name in a certain gold rush genre. I sold El Shit Ton of books. It was amazing. Then the rules changed and Amazon screwed up the party. Kinda like back in the ’80′s when the California real estate bubble burst and everyone realized that coke was burning holes in their sinuses. Party over.

Time to dive right back into podcasting! Get that new novel out there and sell, sell, sell! I decided that I’d release the ebook first then podcast the novel to build interest in the ebook. Good strategy. Except it didn’t work. What I was hearing from fans wasn’t, “Great novel! Loved reading it”, but instead I heard, “Are you going to podcast it?” and “I like listening better than reading.” Or “You promised to podcast everything”.

My personal favorite was “By not podcasting this first you don’t give your fans a chance to decide whether they like it or not. I don’t waste money on books I haven’t listened to first for free.”

That’s an honest to God quote.

Huh.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I had TONS of dedicated fans that bought my novels. THOSE FANS ARE THE BEST! I still chat with them on my website, on Facebook, on Twitter. Many have become actual friends. Seriously. I won’t list names, but if we’ve interacted in the last week then you are on the BEST list. You know who you are.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, completely the opposite. I am very grateful. For all of the exposure, the friendships made, the connections in the industry, the hard lessons learned. All of it. So very grateful.

Yet, podcasting wasn’t my end goal and I realized it was getting in the way of said end goal. That goal? Get published and be a full time, successful writer. Not a full time podcaster. Podcasting doesn’t pay the bills.  So I quit.

A year ago I walked away from podcasting. It was noticed in the community and I got skewered, just like the others that had quit before me. Many people wrote blog posts, or recorded podcasts, about me quitting and turned that into a rally cry to keep up the FREE! Free, free, free! Anything else but free was treason! TREASON! Again, being hyperbolic here. The treason comments were from a vocal minority. But they were vocal. And they had/have the right to be vocal.

Oh, well, no worries. I now had the time to dive into writing and not worry about podcasting. The shift in focus changed everything. I was no longer a “podcast author”, but a writer. I was no longer beholden to download numbers that meant absolutely nothing. My time was all about words on paper, not words in Garageband.

Why write this huge, rambling post about this?

Because this weekend I cleared out my podcast feed of all free fiction. Wiped every single post away. Instead, my feed will now be dedicated to offering samples of my audiobooks (which fans can buy on Audible, Amazon, iTunes), essays when the mood strikes, and also other offerings. There could be interviews or readings or whatever. I do like the audio format, but it is now a compliment to my writing, just like my Facebook page or my Twitter account or this blog. Another way for me to interact with fans and readers, but not the only way.

I am now a full time writer with contracts in place with two publishers. I crank out a novel a month. Yep. I am a writing machine. And I credit a lot of my success to quitting podcasting and getting my head out of the free model. Not because free is bad, but because it clouded my vision of who I was as a writer and where I wanted to go.

Some of you have been reading this and are saying, “Oh, yeah? Well so and so turned their free novel into a huge publishing deal!” And “Blah blah author is now selling BILLIONS of ebooks a month after giving their work away for free!”

Those are outliers.

In fact, all success in all forms of media are examples of outliers. Let that sink in.

The entertainment industry as a whole is not made up of successes, but of failures. Only an estimated 1 in 400,000 make it in entertainment. That includes agents, grips, editors, cover designers, extras, chorus line dancers, make-up artists, writers, gaffers, etc. You think you’ll be one of those lucky ones? Could be. But there are 399,999 other people that think so as well.

Now, with that all said, am I condemning giving your writing away for free? Hell no! Seriously, I think it’s a great idea! You can build an audience, you can hone your craft, you can meet others and strike up life long friendships. Giving away your writing for free is a fine solution if you are just starting out. Way better than publishing straight to ebook. Don’t do that. Learn first. Get your shit in gear. Get feedback. Become the writer you want to be, not the writer you are trying to be. There’s a difference.

So if you are going the free route, bully on you! Just understand that it is a step and a tool, not a career. And not a cult. Develop a plan for your free works. I have my Friday Night Drabble Party each week. I give away a 100 word story every Friday night. It’s easy to do and it helps me work on ideas I otherwise would let sit or forget about. I dig it. But it only takes up an hour of my time each week. Does it bring new readers/fans? Not a clue. That’s why I look at it from the practice/exercise perspective. It’s as much for me as it is for any readers out there.

And there you go. My experience with free. It won’t be your experience, that’s for sure. We all live individual lives. We all have to choose our paths. Find yours and own it. Own it as in buy it, because nothing in this world is truly free, and if you own that then no one can take it away from you. Or something profound like that.

Cheers!

Oh, shit! I totally forgot to take us out of flashback mode!

*Cue wavy lines and doodleoo-doodleoo-doodleoo sound effects*

Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.

Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.

A professional writer since 2009, Jake has a proven record of innovation, invention and creativity. Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.

Friday Night Drabble Party!

KAPOW!

FRIDAY NIGHT DRABBLE PARTY!

Let’s see, what mood am I in tonight? Scifi? Horror? Fantasy? Pulp crime? Hmmm…

Guess you’ll just have to read the drabble to find out!

But, before you get all drabble-reading and shit, how’s about you go get yourself some Mega? It’s on a Kindle Countdown Deal all weekend long! $.99 FTW!

And now, on with the show!

Enjoy!

***

A Violent Precursor

By

Jake Bible

 

 

The baton slowly slid from out of Hester’s sleeve. She watched the men around her, waiting for them to notice the threat.

 

But none did; they never do. Why would they take a woman seriously?

 

Hester’s eyelid twitched, a violent precursor, but once again this was something the men didn’t notice. She was only a young female, dressed in a tattered, mud-covered dress, her hair in tangles, blood trickling from her brow where she was smacked by one of the men.

 

“You’re pretty,” a man said.

 

“You’re dead,” Hester replied.

 

The violence began.

 

They really should have taken her seriously.

***

Cheers!

Disclaimer: Seriously?

Views From The Captain’s Chair! Episode Four: Professionalism!

Captains ChairBlog

Ahoy, Mateys!

Time for some more Views From The Captain’s Chair!

This week’s post will be short and sweet. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I have been slammed with finishing the manuscript to Z-Burbia 3: Estate Of The Dead. I’m in the final edits and should have that off to my publisher by Friday. Yay!

Why has that held up getting a blog post in? Because I usually write on Monday morning, edit on Tuesday, then publish on Wednesday. But this week I needed to finish first round edits of Z3 as well as listen to audio and approve that for the audiobook of Z-Burbia. That has eaten into my time.

But there has also been something that has eaten into my time and that’s this crazy little internet spat going on regarding a blog post by Chuck Wendig. First, let me say I agree with Chuck 100%. Why? Because I read the whole post and actually understood what it meant. I didn’t see it as an attack on anything other than sub-par publishing. It wasn’t an attack on self-publishing, that’s for sure. The beauty of being a writer is I know how to read and understand what I read. Those that got all bent out of shape over his post? Yeah, not so much.

Yet, this post won’t be about self-publishing/traditional publishing/author-publishing/1,000 chimpanzee publishing (working on that one). Nope, this post is about professionalism.

Like I said above, this will be short and sweet, mainly because the more words I add in here the more words some folks will try to argue with. So let me spell this out clearly:

If you write then you are a writer.

If you make any money from your writing then you are a professional writer, as opposed to being a hobbyist or amateur. But, that doesn’t make you a professional.

The only thing that makes you professional is holding yourself up to certain standards. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, architects, etc. These are professions that have minimum standards to ensure quality work done within each profession. The problem with being a writer is it is also an art. Who’s to say what the standard for art is? You can’t. It’s the very nature of art that makes it impossible to set standards. Eye of the beholder and all that jazz.

Yet, we can have minimum standards for the work itself, if not the artistic merit. For a writer this means: edited and proofread copy, quality book covers, and behavior becoming a professional. Anyone that can’t live up to those simple standards should find a new profession. Those aren’t hard standards, they just takes work. And if you aren’t willing to put in the work then you aren’t going to be considered a professional.

That’s it. No more details, no metaphors, no bullet points. Act like a professional and you are one. Act like a petulant three-year old that wants it NOW and you’re just an amateur. Argue sales all you want, but money just makes you a professional writer, not an actual professional.

And there’s a difference. A big one.

And that’s it, folks. Short and sweet.

Now, I have to get back to editing Z-Burbia 3: Estate Of The Dead as well as listen to eight hours of audio. And plot out my next novel. Plus, plot out six middle grade novels. That’s called work; work I do because I’m a professional.

Cheers!

Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.

Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.

A professional writer since 2009, Jake has a proven record of innovation, invention and creativity. Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.

Views From The Captain’s Chair! Episode Three: Genre- The five-lettered four-letter word

Captains ChairBlog

Ahoy, Mateys!

Welcome back aboard the Good Ship Jake! Today’s voyage will take you through a much maligned subject: genre!

I know, I know, it’s been talked about. There’s the whole Literary Vs. Genre war going on. Which, to me is bullshit. There is no war. Never has been. There have just been egos flailing and screaming and crying and…well, you get the picture.

Here’s the deal folks: Genre and Literary are the same thing. The only difference is where they are housed in the bookstore. And did you notice I said “bookstore” and not “library”? Yes, because librarians (or media specialists, as they are called today, and rightly so) are the fucking EXPERTS on books! Not bookstores, not colleges, not publishers or editors or professors or even writers. Librarians. And how do they classify books? Fiction and non-fiction.

It’s that simple. There are fiction books and non-fiction books. And within fiction there is only one distinction: the alphabetical listing of authors’ last names. When you walk into a library you don’t go to the horror section or the WWI  angst section. You go to fiction and look up the author’s name and find that row of shelves. Boom! Books found, books grabbed, books checked-out.

So simple, right? Sure, if you live your life in a card catalog. Uh, you do know what a card catalog is, right? Never mind. But we don’t live our lives in a world that is classified or defined by listings such as “F Bib”. We live in a messy world of opinions and double opinions and marketing and perception and inception and “Oh, you read that?” bullshit. We live in a world of egos.

Let me give you an example: My son is on the high school debate team and I was recently a judge at one of the away tournaments. I met some other parents that were judging and we started chatting. They learned I was a writer (I didn’t just blurt it out, I actually dodged the subject for a bit, but that’s for another post) when I said that my wife and I help my son edit his cases. This turned into a conversation about how editing by another person is essential to good writing (which it is). Then the subject changed, we were called to our next debates, and on the day went.

All peachy keen, right? Not so much. Later, when we got onto the bus to head back to Asheville, one of the parents asked what I write. I replied, “I write genre fiction. Horror, scifi, thrillers, adventure, pretty much whatever comes into my head and I can get a contract for.” Big smile on my face, ready to elaborate or not. The “or not” was quickly apparent as the parent’s face clouded over and she muttered, “oh” then turned around in her seat. WTF?

It was strange because we’d had some great conversations earlier. Now I was persona non grata because it was revealed I write that “genre” stuff. Now, it isn’t a case of misinterpreting the response. I had a feeling I would get that response by at least one parent because of the way Asheville is. It can be a bit snobby when it comes to literature. After all, Asheville was the birth place of, home of, and inspiration to Thomas Wolfe. Plus, it’s where O. Henry is buried and Carl Sandburg lived. It was also a temporary home to the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Zelda died here), Henry James, and Edith Wharton. Not to mention the area is currently the home to Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain), Sara Gruen (Water For Elephants), Gail Godwin (Father Melancholy’s Daughter), Ron Rash (Serena) as well as many acclaimed poets and essayists. That’s quite a pedigree for a small, southern city.

So that experience went around and around in my mind until I decided to write this post. Why? Because I want others interested in being genre writers to not worry about the negatives and focus on the positives. Such as the fact that the most successful writers of our day are genre writers.  Stephen King, James Patterson, JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Danielle Steele, Dean Koontz, and many more! Some of you will scoff at that list, but that’s your problem. I would kill to be on that list! [For future reference, I am kidding about the killing. I'd never do that. Plus, I have an alibi.]

If you are a writer that wants to write the next “Great American Novel” then awesome! Bully for you! But, in this country, you already get validation. This also isn’t a post to validate current genre writers; y’all are already doing it and I applaud you! No, this post is for those writers that struggle with their true feelings and feel guilty for wanting to write stuff that’s not driven by an alcoholic protagonist depressed because he constantly gets a urinary infection after cheating on his wife. [Aside: Yes, that is an actual novel.]

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some literature that is all intellectualized and whatnot. If the story in your head is about a woman dealing with the struggles of childbirth in rural Indiana while also flashing back to the past and her failed dreams of being a corporate lawyer then go for it! I just lean towards her also being a psychopath that kills off her competition at the local community college.

And I could probably write a novel that has critics creaming in their corduroys, but that’s not me. I can’t spend years agonizing over my prose and worrying that my use of metaphor will be misunderstood. I write novels filled with explosions, blood, gore, guns, monsters, heroes, villains, zombies,  post-apocalyptic cannibals, and all that jazz! That’s what revs my engine and gets me sitting down in the ol’ captain’s chair!

And if that’s what you love, what makes you laugh or smile when you read it, makes you hide under the covers or jump into your spouse’s lap, then don’t ignore those feelings. In fact, embrace them and take that energy and put it on the page. Let that passion drive your words, drive your characters, drive your story!

Be the writer you are supposed to be, not the writer you think you’re supposed to be!

Don’t worry about what others think; ignore the turned up noses; walk away from the snide remarks, the condescending snorts, the pretentious falderal. If your muse comes equipped with an AK-47 or happens to see dead people then that’s what you should be writing. The worst thing a writer can do is hide from her muse or ignore her gut. You are the writer, it’s your story, it’s your career, and it’s already hard enough without second guessing yourself!

Don’t believe me? Then find an example you want to live up to. Neil Gaiman, Edgar Alan Poe, Dylan Thomas, Cormac McCarthy, Roald Dahl, Theodore Sturgeon, JG Ballard, Shirley Jackson and many more. I’m not saying you should emulate their lives since many of those writers had less than stellar endings. I am saying that you can aspire to be great and still be yourself.

Personally, for me, I have no ego when it comes to my writing. I know what I write, I love what I write, and I only give a shit if my fans and readers love what I write. I know not every novel I write will be for everyone, and not every novel will be great, but I write what I’m inspired by and I don’t look back.

So ignore the stigma that may come with “genre” writing. Give that shit the finger, a long raspberry, and show it some ass cheeks. At the end of the day all that matters is that you had fun writing what you wanted to and your readers had fun reading it. Write what you want and do what I do: don’t look back!

Cheers!

Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.

Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.

A professional writer since 2009, Jake has a proven record of innovation, invention and creativity. Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.

Friday Night Drabble Party!

Another Friday is upon us and I bring you a mighty, mighty Drabble!

To the Drabble Party machine!

No extra words tonight except that if you are one of those people that love thriller/adventure word crack then you should check out Mega! It’s one sweet thrill ride of a novel! And leave a review if you have read it! It makes a HUGE difference!

Enjoy!

***

Build It

By

Jake Bible

 

“Build it and they will come” is a phrase that’s bounced around popular culture since that one movie back whenever.

 

So, being a curious bastard, I decided to try it out.

 

I wanted to build something spectacular, something that would create awe in my friends/family/neighbors. It needed to be impressive even if after the building was done they didn’t come.

 

I spent years in the barn perfecting the machine. My  two-story, battle mech.

 

They were all impressed.

 

Oh, and did they come, you ask? Yes, yes they did.

 

So if you’ll excuse me, I have some kaiju to deal with.

***

Cheers!

(And don’t forget about Mega!)

Disclaimer: Please check with your local zoning ordinances before building mechs in your backyard.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,657 other followers

%d bloggers like this: