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First time fiction writers

If you are a first time fiction writer, trying to get published, or simply thinking about that first novel, then this page is for you.

Lulu.com website

www.lulu.com is a good vanity publisher, it is not a “sales” website unless you have another website driving traffic towards it. Some people still like paper books to run their fingers over, and lulu is a cheap and effective way for a writer to self-publish and to “publish on demand” at low cost and with no set-up costs. Many budding writers have put a book on lulu and seen it in their hands a week or so later, and it’s a great feeling to have your novel looking like a professionally produced book – it will impress your friends.

Unfortunately, a typical small paperback on lulu will have a production cost of GBP 6-8 pounds (not including delivery of another GBP 6 pounds), and once you have put a pound or two on top for yourself you have an expensive book with a small margin. A large novel could have a production cost of GBP 12 pounds, and delivery of 6 pounds, so your audience better be very keen on you.

Where lulu does do very well is the printing of small numbers of technical or specialist books, non-fiction, where people don’t mind spending GBP 20 or 30 pounds. As a tool for the mass sales of your first small novel – forget it. The one advantage of lulu, and the advantage of a new novel that actually looks like a book, is that your friends and colleagues may be tempted to read and critique rather than attempt a ring-binder of 300 A4 pages. If it looks like a book, and is professionally produced, people will read it.

Note. Lulu.com now sells your list books or ebooks on iBookstore, and sells many more than might otherwise be sold through the lulu.com storefront! 

Storiesonline.net website

If you take a quick look at SOL, don’t be put off – not even by the fact that some of its amateur contributors should be arrested by the FBI for shocking acts of depravity. It does host some stories of an adult specialist nature, but they can be ignored. It has a very large membership, and it has excellent uses for budding writers. If you are writing adult material, horror stories, or stories that would shock grandma, then the site is definitely for you.

SOL will allow you, as an author, to create an account quickly and easily – it’s free – and will then let you display your story for its 100k members to read. You cannot, however, put up part of a story, because readers don’t like that. You can place a story on the site and get feedback within an hour or so, and within a few days you may have a thousand people voting on your story – and without bias.

If the story is any good you will get a high score, and you will then receive comments from the readers, which is very valuable stuff for any budding writer. Instead of a handful of friends and relatives commenting on your novel you could have a thousand strangers commenting.

SOL will also allow you to post a blog that asks for volunteer editors. Some of those who read your story will offer a critique whether you like it or not, and many will spot typos and send them to you – whether you want them or not! You will not get harsh words from the readers, since they know that it’s an amateur story site, but also because some of the material on the site will be way below the quality of your work if you have a serious story. You could, quite quickly, build up a readership of thousands of people, and create a small army of editors. That readership may then buy your books in the future.

SOL may also make you money, thousands of pounds. You can, if you wish, put a request for donations via Paypal at the end of your story: “if you liked the story, please send me $1”. Many people will donate, and some will donate far more than a dollar, much more. I made thousands of dollars from my first story on SOL in this way.

SOL is a site that charges its members for the full service. If you place a story on the site, then only a small and limited slice of the book-buying public will read it, and you can still sell your story as a book or approach publishers in the usual way. You can also take-down your story from SOL after a while. You may also consider putting one of your stories on SOL for free whilst charging for others. Those readers who like your work will search for your other works on Google.

I get referrals from SOL every hour of the day. If you scan SOL you may be put off by some of the material it hosts. If you want to start to make a name for yourself then use the site, it is very useful for budding writers. Your own “sales” websiteA “sales” website is one where you showcase your work, offer free sample chapters downloads or free eBook downloads, and then offer your books for sale. You put up a picture of your happy smiling face, give away some of your life story, and display nice cover images of your books. Such a website need not cost much. This website costs GBP 25 pounds a year, plus a little time.

You could spend more money and have a professional website created, but then you would have to recover the costs by selling more books. Such a site is completely useless unless you have a way to drive traffic towards it, the dreaded aspect of “marketing”. Paying Google is not an option for a budding writer, don’t even try. There are a million writers’ sites out there, professionally done, nice images, and you would be lost in the detail – and never found. See “marketing” on this page.

Just about every writer has a website these days, and many writers that were unable to get published have sites. Those writers that did get published, and made very little money – which is 99% of them, also have sites that try and sell their books. Waiting for those books to fly off the shelf will not make you any money. But it’s a growing modern trend to sell eBooks, for traditional paper book writers to start to sell more eBooks than paper copies, and for established writers to say “sod off” to their publisher after many years and go it alone, selling their own eBooks online. What you must consider is that a paper book makes the author about 60pence a copy. If you sell your eBooks at GBP 6 pounds then you are doing well, and you get to keep all the profit. You have no boss, no staff, and very little in the way of overheads.

When I tell “proper” paper book authors how I do it they are amazed. Then they do it for themselves. Many established writers are making a good living from selling eBooks online, but many budding writers are also starting to make a living by selling their eBooks online. Some live on tropical islands with just a laptop, website and Paypal account. And probably a cold beer as well. But the one interesting fact about budding writers selling eBooks online is the difference to traditional paper publishers.

A book traditionally takes a year or two to get through an editorial decision, a year or so to get into print after legal checks and editing. The author then gets paid once or twice a year in arrears, and is expected to do what they can towards marketing. If you produce an eBook and it has a few typos, the odd technical error - and it was not checked by the legal department – no one gives a crap. You may find the odd reader complaining about a typo, or the fact that your secret agent’s gun is the wrong caliber of bullet, but besides that they simply buy and read. You could put an eBook up on your website and make your first dollar inside an hour, the money in your bank account two days later – not a year later! With a few hours of posting a new eBook I am making money.

Marketing

This is the important bit for a writer who has decided to go the self-publishing route, eBook or paper. First, forget Google Adwords; you will spend a fortune and get nowhere. The trick is easy. Get your friends, and your first few fans from sites like SOL, to place a link to your website on a forum or another website, especially if the site is about books. But, oddly enough, my largest referrer is from a site that has nothing to do with books. There is a link: “I read this free eBook Magestic and its great”.

Someone, a happy reader and loyal fan, made the comment genuinely, and others click on the link. Some will then download the free eBooks, get hooked, and buy those eBooks that are not free. This type of advertising is free, and superbly effective.

You can also put your free eBooks on various sites - and they will be read. Having been read, the reader may then “Google you” and find your home website, and buy some books. Such readers come back every month to see if you have written anything else - and then complain when you can’t turn out a new book every week! There is only one effective marketing tool for a self-publishing writer, and those are the words of people who have read your stuff. If your stuff is any good, you need only sit back and check your Paypal account every day, the rest will be done for you.

Family members as editors

Having written a book, you should try and avoid family members and friends as people suitable to comment. Many will say it’s good when its crap – so as not to offend you, and some will say it’s crap because they are jealous. One of my close friends, a former close friend, said: “it’s crap, you’ll get nowhere, give up now.” Another said: “it’s racist, sexist, violent, and reads like it was written by a ten year old”.

I then put the story on SOL, and countless thousands of people read the same story, and they loved it, soon voted to the top slot. No one thought it sexist, racist, or crap. If I had listened to the friends and relatives camp I would have given up. Instead I listened to thousands of complete strangers, and they inspired me to write more, and now a hundred thousand people have read that story.

Every person has a particular genre of book that they like; if you write horror stories you won’t get a good review from grandma. That just means that it’s not grandma’s type of book. If you put a story online you will get people reading your book who look a hell of a lot like the type of people that would go looking for your type of book. Horror fans read horror. Do not show your book to family and friends!!!!