One of our team members was fortunate enough to attend a creative writing club where an author was going to be teaching. The author, Dan Willis, is a Utah self-publishing author who has worked on such things as the Dragonlance series, and is in current workings on the
Dan Willis came prepared to talk about anything the club would like to know about, and seeing as this was a creative writing club they had a lot of questions.
The first thing is that he was a self-publisher on Amazon, which is important. He talked about the world and how it had changed since being a kid and how you could publish anything with the correct tools. He gave the group some statistics on how to tell if you are doing well on Amazon, such as you only need 5 to 10 thousand buyers of your book. Then he told us how important it is to build up an author platform to get the initial ball rolling. And if 10 thousand seems like a big number just know that there are 127 million people on Amazon a month, meaning that there is a higher chance than you may think that you’ll be noticed. Another stat he gave was one on impulse buys for books, he said that the range is from $2.99 to $4.99 for impulsive buys, which is a good pricing tip if you are planning on self-publishing. And if you do the math (don’t worry we did it for you) selling a book at 4.99 each and then you get your 10,000 customers that’s $49,000 dollars, minus some for tax, that means you only need two successful books to get almost $99,000 dollars. But we encourage you to note that this is a very favorable situation here that is not always entirely realistic, but it is still possible to make a very good income on Amazon dependent on how many books you release and how many people buy.
Dan Willis did give one downside to Amazon, and that is the shear amount of competition. It is very hard to be found if someone isn’t searching for you in particular which is why it is important to make the author platform. One way to also circumvent this is to post every 3 to 6 months to make your stuff have a higher chance of getting seen. And it does sound hard to write a whole book (or whatever you’re writing) in 3 months, but keep in mind that a long novel is about 90,000 words in length. Taking this into account Dan Willis said that if you write 1000 words per day you’ll have the 90,000 words and then fix it up to be ready to go. And some comforting words he gave is that it gets easier the more you do it. And now we can’t suggest you rush your books, but in one of our previous posts there was advice given to follow a strict deadline and keep it sacred to you. A link to that post here. Dan Willis says that the hardest words however are the first 5000, and to just get those ones down and return to them later.
One cool little trick we thought we’d mention is that you can select a passage from what you’re writing, right click, and then go down to speech and click on it to listen to the passage. A very good idea for those that need to here their book to make sure it’s running smoothly. And just to simplify Select+Right click+Speech=Audio
Dan got a question on whether or not self-publishers have to self edit as well. He answered no, and then began to tell them that he in fact had hired a professional editor, because this was his career and he wanted to be professional. He says he pays anywhere from $250 to $1000 dollars dependent on what he asks the editor to do. He also had something to say on what kind of editor you get, like be genre specific. One specific example he said was how you wouldn’t hire a romance editor for a sci-fi book and you wouldn’t hire a sci-fi editor for a romance novel, it just doesn’t really work does it. So find an editor that fits into your books category. One fun fact about his current series, the Arcane Casebook series, which is a fantasy mystery novel, his editor actually has hands on experience with solving crimes, and is able to tell when something is unrealistic, which he promptly fixes.
Another question that was asked is how to use tropes or if they shouldn’t use any. He suggested us to the website tvtropes.org a website that covers multiple tropes for mainly television, but it is applicable in most situations to writing. He suggested we do use tropes, because its what people know and expect. However though he did say to be careful and not to use to many cliches, which are overused tropes that are far to predictable, and to also find fresh takes on things to give your book that unique bit. He also told us once again to do this specific to genre, he pointed out that most genres have a basic plot structure that works really well for writing it. One thing he suggested is that they buy the book Save The Cat. A book on screen-writing that gives multiple structures and tropes. Here we have heard a bit about this book from other sources and are willing to recommend it despite that we have not read it.
A piece of advice that we here at All The Writing HQ are a strong proponent of is writing down your ideas, so it was great to have the thought reciprocated by an author. He says to always have something handy that you can write down ideas and other inspirational stuff you find. He also told us how easy it was to just take out his phone and quickly type it down, but a journal is also a great idea and one of our team carries his notebook wherever he goes.
He then gave us some smaller, but still quite useful tips on getting your ideas outlined. He says that you have to work backwards in some cases and find out consequences, both intended and unintended, so that you can start slowly getting down into the details of it. And also to come up with an internal motivation and external motivation. This meaning what the character says that they want, and what they really want. He used The Little Mermaid as an example, how she says she wants to be human, but inside she really wants love.
To wrap up we would like to say that it was great to have gotten to hear Dan Willis speak and wish him even more success in his current career of writing. We do suggest you click on the link in the first paragraph to see all of his works that he is currently selling and support him.
See you all later Writers.