Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Review - The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success

The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success is a collection of tips on how indie authors can give their books the best chance of success. Success can have several meanings for authors. For some, making tons of ebook sales is what counts. Others may be satisfied just having people read their books. For others, just the act of actually putting a book out there is reward enough. Except for the last type, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success can help you get your book into the hands of more readers.

The author, Mark Coker, is the founder of Smashwords, a website that helps authors publish their works as ebooks. He's been named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the "Eight Stars of Self-publishing" and he's also a contributing columnist for The Huffington Post. An author himself, Mark put together results of research, experiments, and experiences of other successful authors into a 36,000+ word book and offered it to readers for free. Uh huh, you read that right, the book is free. So, is the book any good? Let's find out.

Content-wise, Mark gave 28 "secrets." Some of them are pretty obvious to anyone but a few seem to run counter to common sense. For instance, he advises authors to give some of their books away for free. It would seem strange for anyone who wants to make money selling books to give away a title or two. Experience, however, shows that it can work. If you write a great book (that's another secret, by the way), marking it free makes it easier for readers to discover you. Once they know you're a good writer, there's a better chance they will pay to get your next books.

The book is written in a conversational style and it's easy to understand and digest. Personally though, I think 28 secrets is too many. I'm not saying that some of the secrets aren't valid. I just think some of them could have been lumped together. When I was  learning public speaking, one of the lessons we were taught was to limit your discussion points to between three and five. The reason was that most people won't remember more than those numbers. Maybe that "rule" doesn't apply to the written word but I still believe the book could have been simpler.

Is there anything wrong about the book? Not anymore, at least none that I can see. When I first downloaded the book, it had a lot of errors. I got the impression the book had been pushed into publication without proper or not enough proofreading. It seemed Mark had slipped with one of his own pieces of advice.

However, one of the nice things about publishing your work as an ebook is that you can make corrections easily. I downloaded Mark's book again recently and found that a lot of the errors have been corrected. You can't afford to do that with a traditionally published book. If you make an error in printing or editing, you may need to reprint them. If the error's really bad, you may have to recall the books from the bookstores and that is going to be very expensive. With ebooks, you just upload a new version.

In conclusion, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success is a good resource for indie authors. It's a great adjunct to another of Mark's free books, the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide. No matter what success means to you, you can't go wrong with following these "secrets."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Writing Semi-Fiction

Is there such a thing as semi-fiction?

When I first came up with it, I doubted there was such a word. I had never heard of it. Most articles or blurbs just say "based on a true story." Maybe it's just clearer to say that rather than calling it semi-fiction. Or it's a psychological thing. Who'd want to read semi-fiction? It sounds like it's half of something.

Anyway, there is such a word and I'm working on one now. Sorry, 'can't tell you what the story is but it's based on a real historical event. In fact, I've been doing so much research that it's eating into my writing time. That's okay though. Nothing's too good for an author's readers. So what's the lessons for this so far?

If you want to do semi-fiction, it would probably be better if you get every piece of information you can about the event before you write the story. There is a real problem here though. How much research is necessary? How do you know if you have enough information to begin writing?

Right now, there's no definite answer. Other authors may have begun writing with just the basic information they had at hand. Still others probably began writing and just added or revised portions of the story as new information came in. I guess it depends on what's important to them. Just come out with a story that the reader will like or be as faithful to the real story and just hope the reader will like it.

The reason may even be personal.

Have you ever read about a historical event that touched you in some way? Were you so riveted to it that you read it from start to finish in one go? Or maybe you knew about the event but didn't care so much until you read someone's personal account? Someone who was there and gave his story in such a way that you want to rewrite it so that everyone will look at it in a new light?

In my case, it was a little of everything. I had an idea for a story which was going to be fiction. Technically, it's historical fiction but not based on any real event. Then, while doing research on something technical I needed to know, I stumbled on an actual event. It had little in similarity with the original story in my head but I found the story so interesting that I began looking for more information. After several weeks, I decided I'd base my story on this actual event. After several months, I'm ready to start writing.

The additional lesson I obtained from this exercise is how to find information on the internet. The story about the actual event had links to other sources. Some were just repetitions while others gave some additional tidbits. Then I began using the search engines. I googled names, places, and dates. Right now, I've got so much information I could write another book just to recount the actual event. I just might do that too.

A historical event is a time-frame intensive story. Keep extensive notes and make a story outline based on the sequence of events. Get your names and locations right and show connections (how one event in the story affects another event). Don't forget the human element. The story may be about history but the characters were humans with their own thoughts, emotions, memories, and principles.

The most important element, however, is telling the story in such a way as to have the same effect on the reader as it did on you. In the end, a story is only worth reading if the story is interesting to you.