Indie Authors: What we have and don’t have.

Here’s what Indie Authors don’t have:

We don’t have a large corporation peering over our shoulders.

We don’t have a lot of resources, other than the explosion of ideas in our heads.

We don’t have a publicist to arrange our events.

We don’t have elaborate offices, vacation homes at Martha’s Vineyard, or an army of well-entrenched book reviewers at all the major papers ready to take on our work.

We don’t have the backing of the publishing establishment.

We don’t have literary agents knocking down our doors, no matter how amazing our stories are.

We don’t have enough time to write, juggling two or three “real jobs” as we follow our passion.

But …

… we do have a few things:

Indie authors have passion. We do it all for the story. We are compelled to do so.

Indie authors do have readers. And they don’t care what imprint is on our spine.

Indie authors do have other careers and families, but it doesn’t stop us from our writing.

We have resilience. A bad review won’t keep us down.

We  have uniqueness, our independence is our strength, allowing us to tell our stories our ways. No formulas here.

So love yourself an indie author and all the passion, creativity, and fierce independence which goes along with it.



Indie Authors: Do you have True Grit?

Research has shown that those who succeed have the quality of what we would call grit – ability the shake off the negative and keep going – perseverance in the face of failure.

Do you, indie author, have it?

When you receive a bad review … do you have true grit?

When you haven’t made a sale in days … do you have true grit?

When you can’t see the path ahead that would allow you to write full time … do you have true grit?

When you stare at a blank page for an hour … do you have true grit?

When your family patronizes you with another smile concerning your writing … do you have true grit?

When every single literary agent in the world think they could get leprosy from you via email … do you have it?

When you write something that you know just isn’t very good … ?

When you simply have NO time for promotion and your wonderful new book is languishing in a marketing black-hole … do ___ ____ it?

When doubts creep in and you start to question whether you have the right stuff to make it as a writer or not, ____ you _____ true _____?

Do you have true grit?

It’s a choice. Sometimes it’s painful, hopeless, and seemingly pointless.

But you’ll never make it if you don’t keep going.

And if you love to write, what choice do you really have?


Van Gogh’s Determination is an Inspiration for Any Writer

I had the privilege last week of going to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I took the self-regulated audio tour, and I must say, I was impressed. Not only with the museum but with narrative they told about Van Gogh.

The museum is a beautiful four-story building, tastefully decorated with engaging displays of over 200 of Van Gogh’s paintings and sketches – the largest Van Gogh collection in the world.



Okay, so the outside of the museum is more utilitarian than inspirational. It kind of looks like a high school, doesn’t it.

Here’s one of his self-portraits:



Okay. Even that is a lie because we weren’t allowed to take photographs of the exhibits. This was a poster of one of his self-portraits in a nearby park. But still, you can’t help but admire Van Gogh’s brush strokes.

How much of Van Gogh was pure genius and how much was hard work? As if often the case, hard work seems to win out, eventually pushing genius to the forefront after many years. Typically, genius isn’t in the mindset of the individual at all. Genius is a label conferred on someone after the fact, when people of “know” have had an opportunity to assess and critique someone’s work.

This was Van Gogh. The hard-working painter who wanted to discover new ways and modern ways to express his views of the world. It didn’t just come. It had to be nurtured and worked at over a ten year period.

What stuck out to me about Van Gogh is the descriptions of his work ethic. He observed and experimented. He did self-portrait after self-portrait in order to master his new skills. He worked incredibly hard to improve, to learn, and to realize that he had more yet to learn.

Van Gogh was not the instant genius. He had God-given talent, yes, but it wasn’t enough. He had a hunger, an insatiable drive to improve and create.

I wonder what kind of lesson indie authors can glean from Van Gogh.

Of course, it’s obvious. One cannot sit still. One cannot rest on one’s laurels simply because indie author laurels are quite tiny indeed.

Van Gogh’s drive has renewed in me the passion to improve. I want to further my vocabulary, continue to work on my descriptions, and delve deeper into more creative worlds of fiction.

I’m happy with what I’ve done in the past, but I’m not satisfied with it.

Here’s to renewed vigor, thanks to Van Gogh.

Are second halves of novels better?

As I finish up my due diligence with my fourth and soon (with 3 months) to be released novel, I came across a strange realization: the writing in the second half of my novel is better.

I’m doing a final, thorough read-through and I noticed a strange difference in attitude between my perception of each half of the novel. While I was reading the first half, I found myself cringing at times, thinking how the language was plodding, confining, and at times rather dull. I did my best to pick up the pace and improve it as I went along.

But over the last couple of days, as I have been reading the second half, I find myself enjoying my writing much better. I find myself thinking what a clever little sentence that is or how smooth-flowing it feels. The language seems perkier, the descriptions more vivid, and the characters more exciting. I found myself reading more and more at each sitting, wanting to know what was going to happen even though it wasn’t going to be a surprise.

So the question remains: is the first half of my novel not written as well as the second half? Or might there be a different explanation.

I have to go with the latter. There must be a different reason why my perception is so off and it might be as simple as this: second halves of novels are always better than first halves. (and if they aren’t, you have a serious problem on your hands)

I’ve read reviews of books which stated that the first few chapters of a novel were gripping only to fizzle out in the end. This is often attributed to an author putting in an inordinate amount of time on the beginning as he or she tries to hook in the reader into purchasing it. This obviously is a tragic mistake that authors need to avoid. While gripping opening passages are important, what’s more important is seeing the novel through to the end, and making the ending unforgettable. Who cares if they forget the beginning, just make sure they want to read to the end.

Great books have great endings for a variety of simple reasons.

The characters are more developed by the end. The reader has grown with the character and has become more attached, thus heightening the impact of the story.

The storyline is working towards its climax. It’s always more exciting when the twists and turns of a plot are revealed and the readers are left breathless to find out what is about to happen.

Authors have much more to play with and much more meat to hang their words upon towards the end of the novel.

I hope my analysis is correct and the first half of my novel is just as well written as the second half. But if I’m wrong, hang in there. At least the ending is good.

I am NOT a best selling author!

So let’s get this straight: I am NOT a best selling author!

Sometimes I feel I’m in the minority. Every time I turn around or click on another page I see the following ascribed to (it seems like) nearly every author – all of whom I never heard of:

“Best Selling Author!”

(I just did a quick unscientific survey of few bestsellers on Amazon but interestingly enough, none of those authors had the title “Best Selling Author” behind their name. It’s almost as like actual best-selling authors don’t need to announce that they are best-selling authors.)

Obviously, there are a lot of variables that are taken into account when talking about best-sellers, but when is it legitimate for you to call yourself a best-selling author?

When your book hits the top 100?

When your book is a certified best-seller by the New York Times or USA Today?

When your book hits the top 10?

What about categories? What about subcategories?

Are you only a best seller if your book is in the top 100 overall? What about the top 100 historical fiction? What about the top one-hundred historical fiction romance? Or historical fiction romance time travel alien conquest?

It’s a good thing that I never have this problem or I would never know when it is appropriate for me to call myself a “best-selling author.”  That would be a frustrating moniker to have to deal with.

Perhaps I should call myself a “best-freeing author” because I’m quite good at giving books away for free. My debut novel, “Beauty Rising” topped out at #11 on the overall Amazon free chart. But I’m not sure if I call myself a “best-freeing author” if that would do me any good. I’d probably just get strange stares.

Sometimes this whole topic just gets me wondering if so-called “Best Selling Authors” are just that. Are numbers and stats being used in a fast and loose way. Is their definition of best-seller my definition? Do readers even care if that adjective is being used to describe an author? Will it really convince a reader to buy a book?

You’ll notice that I have more questions about this topic than answers, so if you have any insight, I’d be happy to listen.


Blitz Publishing – My First Christmas Story Soon!

It’s November 30th. I’m sitting in the pool at the Hard Rock Hotel just thinking as I usually do. Rehashing plot lines and pondering random story ideas.

My mind happened upon one of the short plays I had written and produced a short while ago called “If Love is a Crime, String Me Up.” It’s a historical piece about a runaway slave in 1852. Quite moving, actually, with come great characterization. I was thinking how I could probably re-write it as a short story, and possibly even make it a Christmas story. Then I tucked it away thinking it would be something to write over the next six months or so and, if I like it, I could release it next November 1 ahead of the 2015 holiday season.

And then it really hit me. Could I possibly write it for this year?

No, certainly not enough time.

But I remembered that it’s only November 30. Maybe I could whip it up. Possibly?


As I was arguing with myself back and forth, I decided to get out of the pool and try writing it to see what would happen.

I copied the entire script and then started pecking away at certain ideas and descriptions to see if it could be retro-fitted into a plausible story.

A couple hours later and I felt hopeful. I went home and around nine p.m. looked at it again. After another couple of hours, I was three-quarters of the way finished with my first draft, and not completely unpleased with what I had written.

In the morning I sent off a frantic message to my book cover designer and asked if it would be at all possible to have a simple book cover for this story within a week’s time.

By noon, my amazing designer had four incredible samples for me to look at.

Okay, this thing might be happening. Another couple hours this evening and I have completely given the manuscript a one-over and I’m 15 percent away from having a finished draft.

And so I am, quite confident to announce that I’ll be publishing my first Christmas story on Kindle (hopefully) before December 10, 2014.

This is such a cool time to be an author!

Anyways, there’s still MUCH to be done on this little story which will probably settle in to about 6000 words or so.

I’ll be writing drafts of it all week, and even hope to get some quick reader feedback.

And then I’ll put it through my brutal last round of quality control to make sure that this is really a story I want to publish this quickly.

But if all goes according to plan, there will be a sweet new Christmas story added to the annals of Christmas stories.

I’ll keep you all in the loop and announce it’s arrival ahead of time.

I hope it will provide a warm and uplifting feeling during this festive season.

Blitz publishing. I don’t recommend it, but it is awfully fun every once in a while.

“If Love is a Crime: A Christmas Story” coming soon!


My Life is Richer as an Indie Author

I wrote this post – The Exhaustion of Self-Promoting – about a year and a half ago. Nothing has really changed. Being an indie author is still exhausting. The work is never done, and sometimes it feels like it’s me against the whole publishing and reading world.

Plus, I still don’t have a publicist. The offer still stands. I can pay in food and free books. Let me know if there are any takers.

It is, without a doubt, difficult cracking through busy-ness of everyone’s lives in order to a new reader to notice an unknown author like myself. But when it does happen, it is tremendously worth it all.

I’ve come to realize that indie authors are paid more with satisfaction than through monetary means. The satisfaction is paid through a good review or a kind word. I’ve received emails from readers who have been touched by my books. What more could I ask for? I’ve received some tremendous reviews that make me shake my head in gratitude, never expecting such kind and powerful words to be used to describe my stories. All of these feed the indie flame and keep it burning.

However, another side of me is never satisfied, and it is easy to become frustrated when a promotion does nothing except thin out my already thin wallet. It’s easy to wish for monetary success, thinking how amazing it would be to be able to write full time. I have found since I wrote that post that sales are hardly a predictable or linear item. Sales are more of a roller coaster – a fast start with a great promotion which slows to a brick wall, and the overworked indie author has to plug away doing what can be done on a weekly basis to push books, promote the author’s platform, or just stay engaged in what’s happening in the industry.

It is exhausting and time consuming when balancing it all with work, family, and other pursuits. So perhaps I should throw in the towel??

Not a chance, and here are the reasons:

  • I love to write. (period) Why would I stop doing what I love?
  • I’m not writing for the money. And while I wouldn’t refuse the money if it came, that’s not why I started to write. I began writing and publishing to fulfill a lifelong desire which I had pushed aside for far too long.

I just need to remind myself every once in a while of the reasons I began this journey in the first place, and it had nothing to do with success or self-validation.

The simple truth is this: I love being an indie author. Each new reader that enjoys my stories is a humbling experience. I will continue to write with passion and from the heart. Where it will take me, I do not know, but it is the process which has made my life richer. And that’s all I can ask for.


Writing Using Third Person Limited Point of View: I hope I chose wisely.

I’m in the home stretch of writing my fourth novel. I’m excited about the possibilities that this novel has. It’s unique and interesting, and, believe it or not, it’s my first novel ever that I at don’t even mention Vietnam! Surprising, I know!

This is very much a novel about one character’s journey in a country with a corrupt government. When I started writing it, I knew I didn’t want to write in the first person. I, the writer’s voice from the ethereal writing realm above my character’s head, did know that I wanted to be close to this character and follow his story, and so I decided to go with the third person limited point of view.

Third person limited is unique. It only allows the writer into the head of the main character, but everyone else is only viewed through the character’s eyes. It’s a great way to follow along on the journey with someone because you can go deep within himself, but it doesn’t allow you to know what’s going on behind closed doors in the other room. Therefore, the reactions, emotions, movements, actions of the other characters must tell the story of what has already happened elsewhere. It’s a very interesting dynamic. But it does leave a lot to the imagination.

Example. We have the country’s dictator, Antoine, as an aloof figure we hear about and only see from a distance. If I was writing in third person omnipresence, I would cut to scenes inside the presidential palace where Antoine is plotting and scheming his responses to what’s happening in his country. There was a lot of gripping dialogue and intrigue that I left on the table because of my choice of narration style.

So I do hope that my readers will buy into what I’m trying to do!

I felt, however, that the consistent focus on the main character and his trials and circumstances would tell the story in a singular, linear way that will be both gripping and powerful.

I hope I am correct. I’m currently working on the book’s final chapter and then the first draft will be finished. At that point I’ll be ready to share it with my first reader for feedback.

Exciting, indeed!

I’ve really enjoyed writing in third person limited.

So now I have one first person, two third person omniscient, and one third person limited under my belt. What should I try for novel five?

Googling: To Make Sure an Idea isn’t Taken

I find myself from time to time getting this weird idea about what I want to write, but before I start in on it, I have to google it to make sure someone didn’t already do it.

My most recent example shall remain a trade secret lest it is stolen away and used before I get around to it.

But I can give other examples. Actually all three of the titles of my novels can serve as pertinent examples of what I’m talking about.

And I guess this is less about story-lines and more about titles or other phraseology. As I was honing in the title of “The Reach of the Banyan Tree,” I had to make sure that it wasn’t taken. I hate the idea of recreating a title that someone else has used at some point. I found there was a novel called “The Reach” and plenty of novels about banyan trees like “The Banyan Tree”, “In the Shade of the Banyan Tree,” and “Under the Banyan Tree.” Good. I was happy enough that my title was significantly different that I went with it because it fits the story incredibly well.

I wrote “The Recluse Storyteller” in the summer of 2012 and, no, I had never heard of “The Millriver Recluse” at that time. I kind of loathed putting the same word in my title as if people might get the two mixed up. There were other novels called “The Recluse” and there are at least six or so novels called “The Storyteller.” But the concept of “The Recluse Storyteller” was unique enough that I had no problem combining those words into my title. Again, it describes the novel perfectly – about a recluse who tells stories to herself. Pretty simple.

I wrote “Beauty Rising” back in 2011 and I loved the title immediately. To me talked about redemption, rising out of the ashes, second chances, and all of those themes which are intricately woven into the story. But it really was the Vietnamese meaning of the female protagonist, My Phuong, which really made the title meaningful. “My” means beauty and “phuong” means Phoenix – beauty rising out of the ashes. Absolutely beautiful with an incredible amount of foreshadowing. It was perfect. I was just hoping no one had ever used it. I googled and to my surprise Beauty Rising was a health spa in Culver City, California, but it had never been a title for a novel as far as I could tell.

I put a lot of thought and energy into my titles. I have to like them a lot before they are considered and googled. Others may feel indifferent about them, but any title for my novels will certainly have some meaningful background.

Thanks to google, I’m able to stay clear of common titles which have been overused.

Novel #4 will be titled: ? ?  I’m not ready to say yet. Soon enough.

Indie Authors Plan – the Reading Gods Laugh

Indie authors plan – the reading gods laugh.

An indie author can only cast a wide net.

The problem is that there is no way to know how many readers will be caught in the net’s webbing. Sometimes it’s a great haul. Sometimes it’s a rusty can and an old boot.

Is there anything less scientific in the world than trying to determine how to find readers?

I’ve posted recently about my anemic Goodreads ad. I’ve had a lot of anemic ads.

I’ve had some ads that have worked.

I’ve had free promotions which were amazing – digital copies flew off the imaginary shelves like a black Friday sale at Walmart.

I’ve had free promotions which were quite stagnant.

I’ve had good reviews which generated a bunch of sales.

I’ve had good reviews which generated about as much interest as my former cat had in me petting her.

What does it all mean?

It means that indie authors plan, the reading gods laugh.

There is no formula.

No magic bullet.

No one size fits all marketing plan that will work. There’s no guaranteed blog tour, or Amazon algorithm, or amazing guest post, or (most definitely) Goodreads ad which is going to be the magical breakthrough you are looking for.

What am I saying? Is it useless to try and promote your writing?

Not at all. It is just impossible to know what will work. (It’s rather easy to know what will not work, but I’m guessing you’ll try it anyways. Why not? It’s just money.)

The reading gods are in control. They laugh at our effort, and they occasionally grand mercy on a poor indie soul, by opening the floodgates and releasing untold readers upon an unsuspecting plot.

When it will happen, nobody knows.

Who it will happen to, nobody knows.

All an indie author is to do is to keep the faith, keep promoting, cast that wide net, try new things, and try your darnedest to ingratiate yourself into the bosom of the reading gods.

You just never know.

(Can you tell I spent the afternoon on promotion?)