Indie Authors Versus The Money

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Right now you want to sell your books.  Maybe it’s a future career.  Maybe it’s a hobby that pays (like mine).  Maybe you’re just trying it out.

Either way, you want to sell.  As I noted in There’s No Honor In An Unread Book, your goal is to reach the right people.

And to do that, you’re up against many things, but one of those things is money.  Namely money other people have and spend to sell their books.  If you have a lot of money, well then good on you, but this isn’t for you (except to say, hey use that cash to help out others too).

You may think “wait, I’m up against other indies and self-publishers” with cash and worry about that.  Let me ruin your day further by noting it’s also you being up against publishers and marketing departments and everything else companies large and small have at your disposal.  When you’re trying to promote your works, you’re up against organizations older than we are.

It sounds overwhelming.  But we’ve all seen and heard of success stories out there.  Sure there’s a ton of survivor bias there, but there are people to learn from.  People who inspire us and give us hope.

Right now I’m not going to focus on that inspiration, I’m going to focus on what people are throwing money at to sell their books and such.  You can either throw money at those things, or if you’re like most folks coping with the world today, how you work around your limits.  Forewarned is forearmed, so roll up the sleeves on those forearms and get to work.

Here’s where money is getting spent.

Advertising

It’s easy to throw money at advertising on Google, Amazon, and More.  You can, with dilligent research, at least break even at advertising if not make a profit.  It’s just other people and companies can buy advetising at a loss if they need to in order to drive up sales and get reviews.

Advertising also has a feedback effect.  If you advertise your book or product and people buy it then it gets into reccomendations.

My cheap suggestion?  Study up on advertising and aim to get to the break-even point at least to get your book out there.

Book Tours

Publishers can send people on book tours.  It’s a great way to get attention on authors.  Other authors can send themselves and do their own book tours at indie book stores, conventions, and more.

Book tours are mixed bags in my experience – some sell some don’t.  Do them if you want.  It’s just to do it cheap, you’ll want to line it up yourself with local stores.  I like the idea, but I’m also the kind of person that likes to meet people.

The only challenge is that a lot of Indie stories are fussy about what they carry – usually amazon print books are a no-no.  That leaves Ingrahm Spark or Lulu for print.

I also do a lot of public speaking at conventions and libraries.  I use that to meet people and network.

Covers

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a good book cover can wrap many, many more up in a single image.  Good covers sell, as I have found the hard way.  People can throw money at a good book cover.

If you’re not going to do that your options are to learn to do it yourself (which is useful), get someone to help you (which is nice but can be exploitative), or use a premade cover service (like GoOnWrite, which I adore).  I find you can do pretty well with these if you’re careful.

Giveaways

You’ve probably seen newsletters like Bookbub that promote book giveaways – for a fee.  I can’t speak directly to how effective they are, but they keep going and I hear good thing.  It’s just they cost – you guessed it – money.  Also they usually only promote if there’s a discount.

It’s hard to top these for sheer volume.  You can of course give away books to friends and newsletter subscribers, or use things like ProlificWorks.com (which still costs but not as much).  It won’t get you a huge blitz, but still.

Reviews

Book-wise you can pay for reviews.  This may sound unethical (and there’s debate about it), but the model is simple – companies or publications keep a staff of reviews around and farm out entrants to them if they’re interested.  Similar models have existed for decades.  I’ll leave you to decide on the ethicalness of the situation.

But people are using this.  You can throw a few thousand dollars at a review service and get a lot of reviews.  So guess what, you compete with that too.

The cheap solution of course is to get as many reviews as possible.  Ask friends.  Ask family.  Ask fellow authors.  Go to sources of reviews and review sites and ask for reviews.  Offer free copies of your book.

Some people are throwing money at reviewers.  If you can’t or won’t, it’s time to get tactical.

In Summary

People are going to throw money at promoting their books.  If you don’t want to do that, can’t do that, or disagree with some of the approaches, you need to work around that.

One thing I can definitely suggest is to team up with your fellow authors.  Share tips.  Promote each other.  DO giveaways together.  One thing that’s free is friendship.

You’ll probably make some pretty awesome friends and you can plot together.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 5/13/2019

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Here’s our latest sprint roundup! Definitely prefering these two week sprints.

So what have I done since last time?

  • Way With Worlds: The Fashion Book close to completion! I hope to get it to the editor next week with a drop in early January.
  • Seventh Sanctum Book: I’m through the toughest part, and am on to the rest of the book. I think I’ll have it in editing mode (for myself) in June and to the editor in July.
  • Seventh Sanctum: Working on the eventually python migration and completed the Fantasy Romance Generator.

What’s next?

  • Way With Worlds: Finishing up the Fashion book and getting it to the editor (and maybe starting the next)
  • Seventh Sanctum Book: Writing as usual!
  • Seventh Sanctum: Launch the fantasy romance generator!

Steven Savage

There’s No Honor In An Unread Book

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

We write for many reasons, but almost always a writer wants someone to read their work. The reader may be themselves because it’s pure self-expression. The reader may be given a book as a gift, as the writer had targeted an audience of friends and family. The reader may be “whoever may like it.”

But either way, writers want their book read, even if it’s just “hey someone liked it.” That means we have to make books findable, it means we have to market them, it means making sure the right audience gets them.

I meet people who avoid marketing their books – not for the lack of time or money (which I understand). Some feel it “lowers” themselves, or is less artistic. Others fear turning into self-promoting jerks or being obsessed with marketing (fears I myself have had before). There were people I’d meet that had these fears about marketing, often a mixture of misguided principle and fear.

I have come to this conclusion.

There is No Honor In An Unread Book.

Books exist for reading. A book’s goal is to record, inspire, interest, help, thrill, whatever. The purpose of a book is to be read by someone.

Your goal is to find the someones and make sure they get it. It could mean buying a hundred copies for your friends so they have your memoir. It could mean a sophisticated marketing campaign. It could mean just throwing money at Amazon ads. But the goal of a book is to be read, and you do yourself no favor as an author not trying to get it into the right hands.

There’s nothing to be afraid of in marketing. Trust me, if you’ve seen what gets published “professionally” you’re probably better than you think. In fact, a book may be not-good but still right for some people.

There’s nothing gained from avoiding marketing, no principle embodied or morality followed by avoiding getting your book into people’s hands. There’s terrible methods, bad ideas, but the basic idea is fine.

I want people to read my books. To be helped, to be thrilled, to learn, to grow. I want to reach out to them and help them. If my writings have flaws, I want to learn.

There’s no honor in an unread book. There’s plenty in reaching your audience.

Steven Savage

You Ain’t Getting Rid Of Politics In Media: Part 2

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Last column I discussed how getting politics out of media was not just a fool’s errand, but was literally impossible. As an example, I used the guy-from-our-world-in-a-fantasy-world take on Isekai – one that, to do well, would require one to acknowledge politics.

The Isekai ‘transplant” genre would require addressing politics of the world and the “savior-from-another-reality” elements for it to make any sense. Else one is merely stringing together tropes – which is a politics all of it’s own (namely the politics of pandering).

Leaving politics out of something is basically bad worldbuilding. That’s something that, as you obviously noted, I’m very much against. It’s not just a personal thing, but that good worldbuilding leads to good fiction, and expands our horizons – even if our horizon is just “hey let’s have some fun.”

But what happens if you’re dedicated to certain tropes? What if you want to explore them? What if you have audience expectations? What if you like a good sword-swinging fantasy or space opera that has a lot of common beats? How do you explore those – and their politics – while still keeping some of the beats you want?

I am actually all for working with tropes (but not stereotypes) and exploring them. Some of the best work out there, like Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld or Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence starts with certain assumptions – then runs with them. Those series are remarkably political – which is why they’re so good – yet have so many recognizable elements.

And that’s the key, whether you’re a hopeful Pratchett (who is one of my major influences, I won’t lie), or you just want a space opera with lots of explodey drama. Take the tropes and elements and things you want to work with and run with them. It may be obvious in the case of people like Pratchett and Adams, or it can be more subtle (I’d point to Grant Morrison’s work on Doom Patrol and his twists on superheroes).

Want to have space opera with all sorts of human drama while not getting bogged down into too-much technospeak and fiddly economics? Then maybe your universe has so much automated manufacturing economics is an afterthought, and the human factors matter more than shipments of uranium. In fact maybe the universe is so automated that politics has become almost petty . . .

Maybe it’s time for a good sword-swinging monster-mashing fantasy, with elves and dwarves and kingdoms. But we all know that fantasy politics grafts romanticism on top of some honestly crappy medievalist and occasional D&D murderhobo derivations. Then why not do your story where all these tropes collide, so big-hearted adventurers are trying to cope with inbred royalty and the inevitable disappointments of finding how awful everything is? It becomes both real and inspiring.

You don’t do good fiction and good worldbuilding by avoiding politics. Instead you jump in with both feet, wide awake, and start the balancing act of expectations and extrapolation.

And yes this will be surprising. This will take one’s work in unexpected directions. Good – that’s when you’re really writing.

That’s also when your audience gets to be surprised as well as getting certain plot beats you want.

Sure, some people might get angry that you didn’t check every checkbox of what they want or do exactly what they said. But those people are going to be angry anyway. if they’re not angry at you, they’ll be angry at someone else.

At least, because you’ve been honest in your writing, they’ll look stupid being angry at you – and they might just see how good your work is and enjoy it and learn a bit.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Current Book List 4/30/2019

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Here’s a complete list of all the books I have available for folks interested in creativity, geekery, worldbuilding, and careers.

Fiction

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: A Tale Of Dead Gods And Living Stories – KindlePrint

Culture

  • Her Eternal Moonlight: Sailor Moon’s Female Fans In North America, An Unauthorized Examination – PrintKindle

Worldbuilding – Core

Worldbuilding – Specific Subjects

Creativity

Job Search And Careers

Geeky Careers

  • Focused Fandom: Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers – PrintKindle
  • Focused Fandom: Fanart, Fanartists, and Careers – PrintKindle
  • Convention Career Connection – PrintKindle

Free Stuff

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 4/29/2019

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Here’s our latest sprint roundup! Definitely prefering these two week sprints.

So what have I done since last time?

  • Must Read: If you’re familiar with Agile and any of my work. Check out this article on the infamous Five Whys, and why it’s actually not that good a technique. Heck, if you have to ever review work or like to ask what happened, read this.
  • In General: Well caught a cold, then re-hurt my back. But things aren’t quite as bad as it sounds. Though man, I have got to do more stretching exercises.
  • Way With Worlds: The Fashion Book continues. I’m upping the pace slightly, because I don’t always write every day. Still expecting 5-6 a year depending. This one is going great, and I hope to have it out start of June.
  • Seventh Sanctum Book: I am grinding through the examples section which is, ironically, the least fun part of it. It’s a good section, but having to tie it all together is really a lot of effort.
  • Seventh Sanctum: I did a lot more tech review for the future rewrite and had a real breakthrough with the Python. Feeling far more confident. Now I just have to finish that romance title generator (I need to budget time better).

What’s next?

  • Way With Worlds: As you guessed, keep writing!
  • Seventh Sanctum Book: The Example section should be done soon (hopefully by next Sprint). Then I get on to a few more sections on construction.
  • Seventh Sanctum: Keep u the Python practice and . . . hOK maybe really finish that generator, darn it . .

Steven Savage

Making Friends As An Adult

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I saw this fascinating Tweet thread when @itsashleyoh asked how people make friends as adult. This is something that’s often troubled me after college, and is an issue in ever-busy Silicon Valley.

Its hard to make friends past a certain point. You get busy with work. Some of your friends have kids and some don’t. Some of you are married and some aren’t. So I read the Tweetstream and added a few suggestions of my own. Think of it as my own way of combating some issues of loneliness all face.

Most of these are face-to-face, but a lot of this applies to online.

Here we go. Please add your own.

Hobbies

  • Have a hobby and follow it. This is good for you personally, and of course makes you more interesting.
  • Use that hobby to meet people with similar interests and go to meetups, drinks, dinner, etc.
  • Help people get into the hobby.
  • Hobbies also keep you from being boring and work obsessed.

Clubs

  • There are all sorts of clubs out there you can find via meetup, game stores, hobby stores, etc. Find some and go try them out.
  • When you can, help out at your club.
  • Take a position at a club.

Causes

  • Get involved in good causes, and help out. This is also good for you mentally and emotionally.
  • If you get involved in a good cause, you may want to be “on staff” – that means reguarly meeting people.

Conventions

  • Go to conventions and socialize.
  • Speak or run events at conventions.
  • Get on staff at conventions.

Go to places and hang out

  • Start hanging out at coffee shops, the library, gymns, etc. other places people gather. Sure you can write and read, but also its a chance to meet people.
  • Many places have regular events, bands, etc. Look for those.
  • Places you hang out may also have event boards, where people post different things going on.

Events

  • If you go to events, go early so you can meet people in line, getting drinks, etc.
  • If you go to events reguarly, help out.
  • Go to events people you know throw and make new connections.

Specific events and organizations

  • Many pubs and places have trivia events and other great social opportunities.
  • Game nights are popular at various establishments, including game stores, bars, and meetups.
  • Libraries have lots of events, including book sales that you can go to or help out with.
  • Museums have events and need volunteers.
  • Writing groups and various creative groups often do a lot of events.

Throw events

  • Throw open houses, writing meetups, etc. If necessary, used Meetup.com.
  • Do events for your club, church, work to nextwork with people you know.
  • Start your own Meetup.
  • Try doing “creative jams” at your place or nearby, where fellow writers/artists/musicians socialize.

Work

  • Your job may have events that connect you with others, not just those at work.
  • Find people you like at work and hang with them if you’re comfortable.
  • Places of work often have charity connections that you can get involved in.

Pets

  • Pets are a common shared interest. There’s parks for animals, clubs, and more.
  • There’s often social events for pet lovers.
  • There’s charities focused around pets to get involved in

Be prepared

  • Have business cards or “social cards” to connect with people.
  • Choose the social media you use to connect with people so you can network.
  • Meetup.com is invaluable.

Psychology

  • Be ready to reach out to people.
  • Rejection is OK. It happens to all of us.
  • If you’re seeing a therapist for whatever reason, they may have advice.

Be a good friend

  • Take an interest in others. It’s not all about you.
  • Help people out (don’t be used, just lend a helping hand)
  • Invite your friends to things. even if they don’t always show up, it helps.
  • Remember some people are in the same boat as you.

I hope this helps out.

Steven Savage



You Ain’t Getting Rid Of Politics In Media: Part 1

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Raise your hand if you ever had someone tell you that they want people to “keep their politics out of books/comics/games/tv” and so on. Now, put it down. I can’t see it, so it didn’t help.

But despite the fact that I can’t see if you raised your hand, I’m pretty sure you did, if only spiritually. It’s a plague of modern media (at least as I write this in 2019) that people complain about politics in their hobby media. Complaining seems to be it’s own form of media, which is quite an overload of irony, but i digress.

If you, like me, have been curious about this phenomena, you’ll notice most of the complaints are not about politics in general, but certain kinds of politics. In short, most complainers are people not against politics, but against politics about anyone not like them, and politics that might disturb their sense of the world. I could go into the various demographics of this but let’s go to the idea that politics can be left out of media.

It cannot. It is impossible.

Politics is about how humans interact, make decisions, conflict, identify, and so on. If your story involves people there will be politics, even if its of the smaller personal kind.

Politics also is about how we understand the world, from hard-edged ideologies to general assumptions. We all drag those into our works – if we’re aware, they become informed decisions from our lives. If not, well . . . you get the idea.

Politics will be in everything, even if they’re awful ill-informed politics.

Because I’m a fanatic for good worldbuilding, I feel confident in saying every work of fiction created will have politics. It’s just a question of they’re thought out, explored, extrapolated, and understood by the author. Any attempt to leave them out is a failure of creativity – because they will be there, they’ll just be unexamined.

Let’s give an example. I’m going to take a common genre/trope popular in anime and videogames. Isekai – the whole “person from our world sent to another.”

Specifically, let’s go super-tropey. We want to do a story which has the usual generic Demon Lord attacking a fantasy realm, and people from our world for some reason are yanked in to fight him. If you’re not familiar with this setup, you’ve somehow managed to avoid wide swaths of anime, manga, and some video games.

At the same time, how can this simple setup involve politics? It’s sort of escapsim/wish fullfillment slathered on top of tropey but fun fantasy.

So let’s see why it’s political.

First, let’s talk the Demon Lord. Just how does one being become a threat to this entire planet? How are his armies arranged? Why is he followed? Why is there only one? Yes, even when you’re designing a generic Demon Lord you have to ask questions that verge on the political – how is his life and armies organized to even be a threat?

Now, as this is a fantasy world, the fact there’s a Demon Lord tromping around immediately brings up supernatural politics. What are the various gods, deities, other demons, ancient wizards, and so on doing to stop this Beelzebubian Bozo? I mean, you’d think they’d get involved. In short, to design a world like this in detail you have to give some thoughts to . . . supernatural politics.

On top of all of this there’s the regular people caught trying not to get killed by the Demon Lord. Why are they threatened? Why can’t they stop him? How are their societies coping – in fact, what societies do they have? Their politics, pre-Demon Lord and current require some fleshing out to make sense of this all.

Once we figure out this world, you have to then figure out just why people from our world end up in this world fighting evil. I mean be it a goddess or some crazy wizard or the Currents of Destiny, “let’s throw an office temp at the Demon Lord” is not the soundest plan out there. If any people (or human-like gods) were involved in this decision, hopefully they had a good reason and worked it out with their fellows – in short, politics.

Before your hero or heroine even ends up in the first adventure in a story like this, you have a huge amount of political questions to ask. We might not think of them as politics because they don’t involve the various parties and politicians we know, but they are political. They’re the politics of the world you created.

Finally, once your hero(es) and heroine(s) arrive, how does the world recieve them? Are they ready for those that will save them? Have they been burning through chosen ones like someone with a big bag of chips? How did any recent heros/heroines do and are people ready to trust them?

All this doesn’t even deal with other fantasy politics. Are there non-human sentients like elves and dwarves? Do species crossbreed? How do people cope with various generic Fantasy Monsters? WHere do all these damn dungeons come from? You get the idea.

Now one could ignore these questions and the others generated by this discussion. That’s a decision – a political one to avoid the repercussions of one’s worldbuilding choices. A save-the-world fantasy Isekai that goes by the beats is a political act – the act of excluding extrapolation to hit a series of chosen beats. Those beats are . . . political, because they reflect certain tropes and assumptions. They’re just not thought of.

Politics will be in your media. If you embrace it, you get great media. And if you decide to take things in a certain direction, at least you know why you engineered it the way you did (I’m a big fan of exploring tropes by taking them to certain extremes that make sense). It’s good writing, it’s good worldbuilding.

Of course doing this may force you to face uncomfortable questions. Which may just lead to better writing . . .

Steven Savage

Need An Idea? Take An Idea 4/20/2019

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

In honor of my book on Brainstorming and ideas, Art Of The Brainstorm Book, I wanted to start posting ideas I’m not going to be using. I’ve been using the Brainstorm Book idea for over a decade, so I’ve accumulated a lot of great ideas, inspirations, and so on. More than I can use.

So time to share them! Here’s a few I’d like to see people run with.

Chose Your Own Instruction: With things like Twine and Ren’py, what if we were to create instruction manuals and such like Choose Your Own Adventure and Visual Novels?

Where In The World Is The Game: I’d love to see a site or book about where various games and video games take place. How many are in New York? Which cities in Europe? It’d be fun to see where they are.

That Damn Truck: How many anime shows/LNs/etc. have a protagonist hit by a truck, die, and end up in some afterlife/reincarnation adventure? Well what if there’s some kind of Truck Of Destiny driving around hitting people?

Enjoy. Let’s see what else I post in the future . . .

Steven Savage



Farewell To Overwatch

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I stopped playing Overwatch. For those of you that know me, that was hard. It was my go-to relaxing game, lots of fun, great FPS.

What changed my mind was watching the layoffs at Activision Blizzard. It was unnecessary and it felt like I was somehow supporting that. I thought about how the company could be focusing on making the game better, wondered about how much of management pay should go to employees. It started to make me ask “why am I playing this?”

Then as I watched the Anthem mess and others, I began to realize I really needed to go back to more and more indie games. I needed to support people who were innovating. I needed to support innovation. I needed to ask where my money was going.

Something felt “off” among a lot of big games and big companies lately. Oh sure, I’ll play some AAA games, but I’m going to be more selective. But I’m also going to think about who I’m supporting and where my money and time goes.

After a week or two, I didn’t miss Overwatch. I rediscovered some Early Access Games I’d let slide, and I found new ones. I explored more weirdness and fun at itch.io.

I felt like I appreciated games again. I appreciated the diversity of the many indie games I played. I realized how fun Early Access was to connect with people. It was kind of like if you eat the same thing a lot, you remember what it’s like to taste different things when you change.

I’m sure there will be more experiences to report, but this made me think. I do miss Overwatch, it really is a well done game (that deserves more), but it’s nice to taste diversity again.

Steven Savage