What to do when the Internet goes down





Guest blogger: Martin Crosbie, author of My Temporary Life

This guest post from Martin Crosbie originally ran on my Blogger blog in 2012, and it’s well worth reading again.


Martin’s excellent self-published book, My Temporary Life, achieved a great deal of attention in the major media for hitting number 1 on Amazon. Here, Martin explains how he did it. This topic became the basis of a subsequent book from Martin, How I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle: An Easy-To-Follow Self-Publishing Guidebook.

Martin also interviewed me about my first novel. That interview is on his blog—but read Martin’s tale of hitting number one first.

Pirates, karma, and my unlikely rise to #1

In early February 2012, two months after publishing it, I enrolled my first ebook in KDP Select. Did much happen because of it?

Yeppers, in three weeks I experienced more personal accomplishments than I ever could have imagined. First of all, My Temporary Life became available as a free download in an Amazon promotion. The idea is that folks download it for free and with the momentum that builds, when it becomes a paid download, it sells. Well—IT WORKED! It became the most downloaded ebook in North America for one day, in March 2012.

My Temporary Life built up momentum like a rocket taking off. There was nothing gradual about it at all. By the second day, it was second overall in free downloads. On the third day, well you know what happened, because you heard me. Yep, doesn’t matter where you were, you probably heard me. We hit #1 overall.

So, then, “paid” day happened. It changed over at midnight on Sunday and paid sales slowly started to trickle in. The next morning I expected to see 15 or 20 sales. We had over 200. Over 200 folks pulled out their credit cards and took a chance on my self-published book, which over 120 publishers and agents had turned down. (Oh, did I forget to mention that part?)

Sales continued all day, and the days after. We peaked in the overall rankings at #9, but it didn’t stop there. An independent website emailed to tell us that we were the #7 most downloaded independent ebook of the week; we did a bunch of online interviews, emails and reviews stacked up like crazy, the momentum was deafening.

We hit 60,000 downloads, 51,500 of which were free. There were so many requests for information that we issued a press release. Yep, we issued a press release talking about the book that I wrote in the spare bedroom of my house. A Dallas, Texas television station ran the story. They were interested in the fact that over 120 agents and publishers rejected “My Temporary Life,” yet all these folks were downloading it. We were on the Movers and Shakers list. We were one of the top 10 self-published ebooks on Amazon. We were #2 in Romance/Suspense. We were #2 in Mystery/Thriller. And more 5-star reviews came in every day.

At dinner one night, Jacquie and I sat and read the newest reviews. Two of them made us cry. It’s an amazing experience to read about how your work can touch another person. The sales figures really are amazing, but the almost overwhelming part is that you have an opportunity to touch so many people.

Helping things along


Now, while all this momentum was happening, it was also getting a little help: I was spreading the word. You see, although I do trust in Amazon, I was helping it along. I was posting interviews, sales figures, anything I could. I was on Amazon discussion boards, Kindleboards, KDP’s Community site, Facebook, Twitter, even Craigslist! All I wanted to do was tell people about my book. And, in doing all of this, not a lot of other things were happening, including writing. And, you see, there are a couple of things that I have to do in my life to function. One of them is sleeping, and the other is writing. I was sleeping a little bit-four or five hours a night, but not writing at all. That was the first problem. The second problem was the pirates.

My Temporary Life showed up on a piracy site. Someone had taken my work, changed some things, and was giving it away. So, we quickly sent a letter to them, and the owners of the site were kind enough to take it down right away. I remember years ago, sitting in front of my computer and playing with Napster, and I felt karma kicking me solidly on my rear end.

The next thing that happened was we started receiving a lot of emails from other authors asking me what I’d done, or more specifically what I did differently. There are two things that I can definitely recommend. One is Bob Mayer and Jen Talty’s The Shelfless Book. This is it: https://whodareswinspublishing.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=164

The book is actually the contents of their course that I took just before my epbublishing adventure began.

My other recommendation is to do everything you can think of to spread the word. I can tell you that it truly does make a difference when you have a Facebook event or tweet it, or come up with some other novel and original way to reach readers.

Currently, over 90,000 people have downloaded My Temporary Life. Our sales have tapered off a little bit lately, but we are still high in the rankings and we have over 80 five-star reviews now, too, and, oh yes, the sequel has been published. My Name Is Hardly is out. So, thank you everybody for Facebooking, and Tweeting, and emailing your friends. Every time you’ve told someone about my book it made a huge difference, and the book that over 120 agents and, oh never mind, that doesn’t matter now, the word is out there, and people are enjoying the book. Thank you all, it’s truly appreciated!

Martin’s interview of me is on his blog, here.

My Temporary Life is excellent. I recommend it. You can find it on Amazon, of course.

Do you like the new look? 

Wordpress logoHave you noticed the new functionality?

Written Words has moved from the worthy Blogger platform to WordPress. Along with that, as you can see, it sports a new, cleaner look and new functionality. I like the white space, the categories for blog posts and the ability to search through the blog. I hope you do, too.

Why make the change?

The most important difference now is, the Written Words blog is an integral part of my revamped Written Word Communications Company website, writtenword.ca. Since I started the blog years ago—in 2006!—I have wanted to integrate into the website. But mostly because i wasn’t willing to invest the time into figuring out how, I never did—until now.

A couple of months ago, I began an effort to update the writtenword.ca website. I quickly found that cheap or free web layout programs usually are not that easy to use, and worse, are not reliable. Freeway Express, for example, is free, but it inexplicably changed the names of all my image files. If all I wanted to do were to create a nice website that sat on my desktop computer, it was great. But when it came to uploading it to my domain host, well … I’ll tell you about that in a future post, where I review the software in detail.

Finally, I took the excellent advice offered by many colleagues, some of whom I hope are reading this post now. I decided to move to WordPress. Instead of trying Mailchimp logoto link the blog to an existing website, with WordPress, you create a website with the blogging interface. Then, you upload files to the domain host that essentially link the browser back to the wordpress.org platform. WordPress takes care of most of the grunt work of keeping track of file directories, and there’s no need to use an FTP uploader. I don’t have to wonder whether Host Name is the same as Server Name. And I don’t have to learn how to write Cascading Style Sheets, either.

WordPress also has a lot of other great features, like comment spam filters, galleries, sliders and carousels for images. MailChimp is integrated into the system, too—not that I’ve used it, but others tell me it’s quite powerful.

But the most immediate appeal was the range of layout templates WordPress offers.

How I did it

I knew that if I were to try to make this change completely on my own, I’d spend weeks chasing down blind alleys and making all sorts of newbie The Book Blogger Platform by Barb Drozdowich cover errors, so I turned to blog expert extraordinaire, and author, Barb Drozdowich of Sugarbeats Books. She’s also the author of The Book Blogger Platform and several other guidebooks for authors, and a founding member of BestSelling Reads. In the next post, I’ll explain all the details on how I made the transfer, along with some key pointers for anyone else who wants to try a self-hosted WordPress site themselves.

But for now, I want to encourage you to explore the site. Click on the house icon at top left for the Home page, and explore the four different service pages: Creating, Polishing, Publishing and Training. Check out the work that I’ve done: Books written, Books edited and Articles written. Explore the blog categories and leave comments.

Don’t ignore those social media sharing buttons. Please, if you like the look, Like it on Facebook, Plus One it on Google+, Pin it on Pinterest and all that other stuff.

Or just go to the Contact page and let me know what you think by email or any other medium.

Thanks for sharing!


A lovely award

Every time this blog gets one of these spontaneous, friendly “awards,” I’m surprised and delighted. It still makes me happy not only that people read Written Words, but like it enough to give it some public recognition.

Thank you, Rosalind Burgess and Patricia Obermeier Neurman of the Roz and Patty Write blog for nominating Written Words for the One Lovely Blog Award.
Roz and Patty are co-authors of the Val Kit Mystery series, which includes The Disappearance of Mavis Woodstock, The Murder of Susan Reed, Death in Door Country and LethalProperty. Follow the links and check them out.

The One Lovely Blog Award is one of those award chains. Now that I have gladly linked back to the writers who nominated me, it’s my turn to nominate some of my favourite blogs.

But first, I have to share seven things about me. Here goes:
  • I like my coffee black, and after all these years, I’m still searching for the ideal ratio of coffee grounds to water.
  • I am enjoying this cool summer. It makes it so much easier to ride my bike to work when the air isn’t hot and muggy. On the other hand, it’s been windy most days, and for some reason, the wind always seems to be blowing exactly from the direction I need to go.
  • I have more ideas for stories and books than I believe I will ever have time to write down, even in rough form.
  • I once tried starting my own religion, but it’s really hard to rally fanatical followers with the phrase, “Think for yourselves, you self-deluded fools!”
  • I used to do book paste-ups using waxed galleys. I also used actual glue to do rough paste-ups of a magazine I used to work for.
  • I hate pomegranates. Just hate ’em.
  • I love the prairies, and wish I had more time to visit them.

Now it’s time for me to nominate the blogs I think are lovely. Remember, nominees: in accepting this award (you have no choice), you must follow through by acknowledging your nominator (me), confessing seven facts about yourself, and nominating 15 “or so” other bloggers. And you have to let them, and me, know about all this!

It probably won’t surprise you that most of my favourite blogs are about writing and writers. Here you go:
  • BestSelling Reads—a collective of authors whose books regularly hit the best-seller lists—not because of a huge marketing push, but because they know how to appeal to an audience.
  • Rachel in the OC—the blog of Rachel Thompson, bestselling author and one of the driving forces behind BestSelling Reads. There always something to get out of this blog.
  • Van Brown’s Journal—Van is one of my first fans, an actor, writer, funny guy and all round good person. I haven’t found I disagree with him, yet. Except maybe about motorcycles.
  • Seb Kirby’s New words for new times—Seb is an excellent, best-selling writer, author of the Take No More series of thrillers as well as the sci-fi book Double Bind (which evokes my favourite old-time science fiction author, Philip K. Dick).
  • WriteHook by my brother from another mother and father, Scott Morgan—one of the best writing stylists I have ever found.
  • Cinta Garcia de la Rosa’s many blogs, like Indie Authors You Want to Read, I Can’t Stop Reading and Cinta’s Corner. I don’t know how she manages to produce so much every day.
  • Guild of Dreams—a collective of independent fantasy authors who always produce something worth reading.
  • Rob on Writing—the blog of my friend and bestselling author in his own right (grrr…), Rob Guthrie.
  • Because Life is a Reallly Good Story—the website and blog of writer, designer and photographer David C. Cassidy, author of Velvet Rain, Fosgate’s Game and the upcoming The Dark, and designer of some terrific book covers (including two of mine).
  • Author Unplugged— Frederick Lee Brooke’s blog about writing and life.
  • Ms. Cheevious—the blog of “Ms. Cheevious,” Lisa Jey Davis, Hollywood publicist, author, health speaker and personality. Yah, I know I’m not the target audience for this blog, but it’s fun to read and educational, too.
  • The Thoughts and Opinions of a Writer on the Rise—Bruce Blake is one of the most original fantasy authors out there, and someone like me who doesn’t seem to want to be constrained to one genre. I just wish I could be as successful as him!
  • Indie Universe—Gary Henry is an excellent writer, and he’s a proponent of indie authors, to boot!

These blogs are all more than worth your time, so click on the links and spend a few minutes every day.
Creative Commons

Progress report: The state of the blog — and a thank-you

I’m excited: pageviews on this blog broke through the 200,000 count a couple of days ago.

In other words, people from literally around the world have clicked their way to at least open their browsers on Written Words over 200,000 times — most of them in the past three years.

I like to think that viewers come back frequently — and with under 40 email subscribers who have signed onto the feedburner, and 247 Google “members,” I think I’m safe to say that the same people come back repeatedly.

A slow launch

This picture of the all-time history of pageviews looks like a cross-section of Alberta, looking south: the prairies almost perfectly flat until BOOM! a steep rise that really look like mountains.

I launched this blog in 2006, but I did everything wrong for the first four years: rare updates, mostly text, unsupported by any other promotion other than a few emails.

Then I got serious. When I was getting close to publishing my first novel, The Bones of the Earth, I started reading about publishing and promoting your own work. “Build a platform,” was a common theme from many advisors. A platform, went the common wisdom, comprised a website, a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter feed.

I went to work and started writing blog posts more frequently in April 2011 — eight posts that month, but then fell back to just three in May and only one in all of June.

Getting serious

By August 2011, though, after a vacation, I really got serious and started posting two or three times a week. And I’ve managed to keep that up, too.
At about that time (as far as my Swiss-cheese-like memory can recall), I started using Twitter, and (as many of you know), most of my tweets link back to this blog. That’s probably how you got here in the first place.

That was when the visits really took off. My Twitter feed grew pretty quickly, to over 2,000 followers in the first year. It’s leveled off since then, but it’s pretty clear that tweets bring viewers to the blog.

I have done a few experiments. I use Hootsuite to schedule my tweets, usually a day or so in advance. (I also interactively add other tweets, and retweet stuff when I can.) If I reduce the frequency of tweets, my daily pageviews decrease, as well. I hope that I am not wearing out my Twitter welcome (Twelcome?) with such frequent use of the medium, but as long as my pageviews keep rising, I’ll assume I haven’t.

The next plateau?

These days, the average number of pageviews is around 400 a day; a marketing expert I know told me that he’s read reports that that is a very healthy number for a blog. That adds up to over 12,000 per month. While the two measures are not comparable, 12,000 readers of a trade magazine in Canada was once considered strong.

If this keeps up, that total pageview number will reach 300,000 in less than a year.

Who is to blame for this? You are, dear readers — you who keep coming back to see what’s on the blog.

Thank you.

The Big Lie from a corporate publishing shill

Have you ever noticed how people talk faster and louder when they have to defend a position they know is wrong? Like the Toronto cops defending the officer who shot Sammy Yatim nine times?

A member of the commercial publishing industry is doing the same thing in blog form with statements like this:

There are exceptions to every rule, and I’ll address that in a minute, but for now let me just say, the Indie Market is shit.  It’s a little pile of shit, wrapped up in shit, to make a shit burrito covered in shit sauce.

I wrestled with the idea of dignifying this idiocy with acknowledgement, and I finally decided that readers deserve the argument to be exposed for the vacuous, dishonest nonsense it is. But I will not do the author the favour of a link.

The Big Lie concept

If you want people to believe a patent falsehood, keep repeating it, and denigrate anyone who argues with you. In this case, the big lie — that all independently published books are bad — is backed up by many other lies. The reader who knows better has a difficult time knowing where to start pointing out the lies.

… The unedited, untalented, unresearched drivel that has been rejected by every publishing house

No: I know of many independent authors who spend a lot of time doing research (myself included). And any professional writer gets his or her work edited by a professional editor.
As for a whopper, the guilty blogger admits to fabrication:

On the other side of that you’ll find authors who have never tried the traditional literary market.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and pull this percentage out of my ass…Ahhhhhhh.  96%.  I believe about 96% of those who have never tried the traditional market don’t because they know they’re going to get rejected. 

Speaking of unresearched drivel …
The blogger then tries to establish some credibility:

I work for a publishing house (and no despite your begging, I will not tell you which one, nor will I give you a recommendation, so please stop asking) so I know what it’s like.

You may think, dear reader, that this justifies the rant. This blogger is a publishing insider, and must know what he or she is writing about, right? That’s part of the Big Lie, too: make up some kind of credential to manufacture credibility. This blogger works for a publishing house — but in what job? Janitor? Boss’s kid who pretends to do “marketing”?
This is the same strategy that advertisers use when they tell you that 9 dentists out of 10 recommend their toothpaste. Remember the cigarette ad that said that doctors prefer their brand?
Now, for the one bit of truth, which you always find in the Big Lie:

Editors are necessary.

Image source: The Bleacher  Report Blog
Well, duh. Of course. The blogger puts this in not only because the shaky logic of the post demands it, but because one bit of truth helps convince the audience of the truth of the whole lie. It’s like “With milk and a glass of fresh fruit juice, this cereal is part of a good breakfast.”
It’s all to soften you up for the Big Lie:

The truth is, unless your work is good enough to be accepted by a traditional publisher, it shouldn’t be on the market.

I couldn’t let that go. So, I commented, more or less this way:
Well, what can you expect from an industry insider: defence of a moribund industry’s obsolete and dysfunctional business practices.
I have worked in publishing, too, for over 30 years, for book publishers (including one of the Bix), magazine publishers and newspapers. Guess what: their sales are all falling. The traditional publishing business model doesn’t work anymore, and the big publishing corporations cannot keep up with the market, or the zeitgeist, any better than dinosaurs could keep up with climate change.
What irked not just me but, as I write this, 163 commenters, is the blogger’s presumption of superiority. This blog is the first time I have seen anyone from any commercial publisher to say explicitly that only traditionally published books are worthy of publishing.
Every publisher I’ve ever read, or spoken with, admits that there are many excellent manuscripts in their slush pile, and they just don’t have the resources to publish every good book.

Source: Rebecca Berto
Novel Girl

In fact, most books published do NOT make money, particularly in fiction. The publishing business model works this way: the few successful books, the ones that sell, make enough money to make up for the larger portion that lose money.

E-books and print-on-demand have made that model obsolete.

I’m not the only person who thinks so. There are at least 162 others who commented on the blog, every one of them objecting. Most of them supplied their names or avatars and contact information — unlike the blogger, who remains (cowardly) anonymous.
One commenter, in fact, responded to my comment:

Well said, Scott. I’m self-published but I had a professional cover done and have had my books edited. I also work as an editor and all my clients are, wait for it … self-published authors. Surprise, surprise. Some of us actually do care about quality. We all know there are a lot who don’t, but they won’t stay in the business for long, and because the prospective purchaser of a book can read a sample, well, they can decide for themselves whether the book is up to scratch or not.

Traditional publishers have made a living off authors for a very long time and now that living is threatened. Not only that, contracts are getting worse and so are the editing services some publishers provide. I’ve seen many a traditionally published book that has sub-standard editing. And guess what, Anonymous (at least have the guts to rant with your real identity), a recent survey has shown that readers don’t give a toss about whether the book they’re reading is self-published or traditionally published.

I find [the] rant offensive, ill-informed, self-important and a generalisation. Thankfully, your opinion won’t stop anyone from following their dream to be published. Let the public decide what they like or don’t like. I’m not afraid for readers to have more choice, but I find it interesting that you do. I, for one, won’t let someone else dictate whether I achieve my dream or not :) .

The blogger is a crank — like the old guy who yells at kids on skateboards for going too fast.
Commercial publishing, the way it has been done for the past 500 years, is over. There’s a new reality, and whether you like it or not, independent authors are producing excellent books and gaining market share.

No, the commercial publishers have no monopoly on good writing. You know this, and many of you produce excellent books, too.

It’s now time for readers and writers to dismiss cranks, and look at independent writers in the same way they look at independent musicians: as creative people who produce the most interesting work available.
What do you think?

All about Tween literature: EMBLAZON launches

Emblazon is a new group of authors who write for readers aged 11 to 14 has just launched a new blog dedicated to the art and science of writing for this special audience.

“Some call them upper middle grade; others call them low young adult. They’re somewhere in the middle and can lean either way. We call them Tweens,” the group states on its About page.

The members will post about some aspect of reading and writing literature for Tweens on the first three Wednesdays of every month. “The fourth Wednesday is your turn. That’s when we host a monthly feature called Tween the Weekends.
As part of the launch, Emblazon is giving away signed paperback and e-book copies of stories by member authors for Liking the books and authors. Check out their Launch Giveaway page for details.

Good luck to the Emblazoners in their drive to “write stories on the hearts of children.”

Make an appointment to visit their blog every Wednesday at emblazoners.com.