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Independent Genre Fiction Writers
Fire on the Highway
Advice for Genre Fiction Writers
My advice for independent genre fiction writers, for what it’s worth.
I wrote a novel and self-published it as an ebook. Okay, stop laughing. I learned a lot from that experience and have since written and published more ebooks.
The available advice for new writers as it concerns marketing is to run around the internet making an ass of yourself. The advice is compelling. They say, “Get noticed, get your name out there.”
“Start a blog,” they say. “Set up your own web page!” and “Get on social media like ‘tweeter’ and ‘F-book’ and ‘read it’ and ‘bumble upon’ and such.”
Tons of horrible advice.
Sure. I wrote one book. I’m a celebrity? Do readers really care that much about me? I don’t think so. Just complete the ‘About the Author’ section of the distributor of your ebooks and leave it at that. It’s plenty of info for those who would want to know something about the author. Really they just want to see your picture.
I do remember the attitude I had toward authors of the hundreds of genre fiction novels I really enjoyed. What I felt about the authors was, “Those lazy f*kn *ssh**e writers need to get off their f**kn a**es and put out some more d**med books!” The consensus among my friends was about the same. Tough audience.
The best thing is to craft a good book cover, an honest book description, and produce a well-formatted and edited story. That’s marketing, all you’ll ever need.
I don’t say “properly edited” or “properly formatted” for a reason. There is no right way to do it. Grammar? Sure, grammar. The three most authoritative style guides in America can’t agree on something as simple as punctuation. Readers outside the US certainly have their own expectations. Send a manuscript off to be professionally edited by a reputable service and it’ll likely come back chock-full of ‘action verbs’ and devoid of anything resembling passive voice.
A novel is neither a newspaper article nor an academic paper. AP and Strunk &White can just go… go guide some non-fiction somewhere.
Book length. Don’t worry about it. Write the story in your own style and voice and when the story is finished, stop. Plenty of experts emphasize book length in terms of word count. “They” say, perhaps, that it depends on genre. “They” may insist that sub-mariner Argonautical Urban Fantasy Novels MUST be AT LEAST two hundred thousand words long to be worth 99 cents.
No. Book length and word count mean nothing. It’s a matter of skill and style. I could take Steven King novels and reduce them to pamphlets and still get the whole story told. But King’s readers love King’s style and that means using a whole crapload of words. Which is fine. Just not my style.
Oh, and use a pen name. Readers deserve that. The pen name helps set the tone of the novel and it also sets expectations for the reader. Names mean something. Choose wisely. Were I to write a novel about a cowboy who enjoys fishing, the author name Jed Fisher would be fine. Otherwise, a pen name serves the reader better.
Ignore reviews. Sure, we all want tons of sales and we know that glowing 5-star reviews boost ranking to increase visibility which leads to more sales…
But the book has to stand on its own. Big hype and high ratings may sell snuggies and pet rocks, but not novels. Readers are smart. They will find what they want and they know what they like. If we let the hype and high rankings lead a reader into a book they can’t love, the repercussions will be vicious.
The book is there to satisfy a specific group of readers. Imagine a science fiction convention marketed to Trekkers that has only Star Wars stuff. Disaster!
A book blurb that panders to Harry Potter fans is not good for a book that is more like Lord of the Rings. Not good at all. Be honest when marketing. Better yet, don’t market. Leave it alone. Readers will find what they want. Just have a cover that depicts something in the book. Simple as that.
I’m full of more detailed nuts & bolts advice about self-publishing ebooks, but this, I think, is enough to point a determined genre fiction writer in the right direction.
Literary critics respect contemporary authors the way art collectors respect contemporary artists: not at all.
They’d rather see us live in obscurity and cut off our ears, all the while admiring Van Gogh paintings and Emily Dickinson poems.
I pay them no mind; they don’t deserve it.