Self-Publishing? Step on the GAASS!

If you want to write, you should write the stories that are in your heart. Follow your bliss, tell your truths… yadda yadda. But if you want to make a living at writing, there are some techniques that will increase your chances of making an early profit, thus putting you in a position to follow your bliss and write the stories that are in your heart.

Herewith, Patrice’s advice on how to make money–as of the indie ebook world in the spring of 2013:

The writer, getting ready to step on the GAASS.

The writer, getting ready to step on the GAASS.

Write GENRE
Write AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Write AS FAST AS POSSIBLE
Write SHORT
Write SERIES

Personally, I have many different interests, and I’m currently concocting ebooks in lots of different genres, including science fiction/fantasy, political thrillers, chick lit, cozy mysteries, and funky short stories. So I don’t mind concentrating on what works best, i.e., gets me more readers, first.

GENRE – Romance, chick lit, sci-fi, fantasy, mysteries, thrillers, are the easiest sells. I think that’s the current order of popularity. Not that you can’t write the great American literary novel. But perhaps try something hotter first.

AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE – This means that if you have a book out that hits big, and you have nothing to sell other than that, you waste a golden opportunity to convert readers to fans. They read the one, think it’s great, and have nothing else to buy… and nothing else to hook them in to you as an author. When you get the next book out a year later, they have moved on to other authors, and have bought their entire oeuvres. That could have been you! (Trad publishers, take note–one book every year or two is not making it any more for readers.) Of course you have to start with your first book. Just keep writing. Don’t wait to see if self-publishing is for you. It won’t be for you if you only write one book. I made that mistake. I had a phenomenal selling streak with my political thriller RUNNING in the hot days around Christmas of 2011 (eons ago in self-pub time). For about a minute I made $6,000 a week. Which slowly simmered down into the summer of 2012, when I made FAR less. I still don’t have a book to follow that one up in the political thriller genre. Which brings me to my next point:

AS FAST AS POSSIBLE – You have a busy life, I know. A day job, a spouse, a house, kids, the dog, friends, TV shows (you’re still watching TV?? You’re a writer. Writing is the new TV. Get away from the screen… unless you’re typing on it.) But write anyway. You may have heard of Hugh Howey, of WOOL fame. He wrote during his lunch breaks while working as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble. He scribbled in longhand part of one of his books while sitting in the audience at a book awards presentation… while they were up there congratulating last year’s bestsellers, he was at a table writing the next one. P.S. He made more than a million dollars last year on self-published ebooks alone. And then sold print rights for mid-six figures, and sold the book in 24 countries, and sold film rights and comic book rights and… yeah, don’t get jealous, just write your own book. Books!

SHORT – I have my newest short story out now, 8,500 words, and it’s selling for 99¢. That one short story is going to make me $700 this month. That’s at the 35% royalty rate. Multiply that by several shorts, and you get… more money. Short is fast, short is easy, and readers LOVE short. They can read it on their lunch hour. It’s ideal for iPhones and iPads. Now that the price point for indie ebooks is rising to $2.99 or $4.99, not as many full-length novels are selling for 99¢. Plus, even full-length is dropping in length from 80,000- 100,000 being typical for a print novel (and longer for fantasy and sci-fi titles) to 50,000 – 80,000 being considered a reasonable length. Joe Konrath calls anything over 30,000 a novel now, and anything over 15,000 a short novel. Barry Eisler sells 35,000 words as a novel…. You can now write THREE books with the words that it used to take to make ONE. Faster, shorter, more money for you. They still have to have a satisfying story arc, a beginning, middle and end. Just make the bits move faster.

SERIES – This is pretty obvious from all the millions of Book 1, Book 2, Book 37 titles you see out there. One set of co-writers is publishing “Around the World in 80 Men,” and they’re up to Books 21-25 (Puerto Rico, Nevada, Tahiti, Spain, Holland, FYI). They sell each ebook for 99¢ and collections of of five for $3.99. They’re going for, obviously, 80 of these. This sweet young waitress becomes a high-priced international hooker. (I suspect there is sex involved.) They’ve simplified the process for themselves–no not the sex process!–of preparing the books by using the same cover in different colors. I think these writers are going to make a mint. You don’t need that many fans if they all buy 80 of your books, or 16 compilations of 5 books each. And these writers are putting them out there FAST! I just read the first chapter of the first one, which is currently free, which is another wise move when you have a lot of books out… we could add FREE to the GAASS acronym, but then it would be GAASSF, and what does that mean? The first chapter showed this to be a fun, light read. About a sweet young thing who decides to travel the world and have sex for money. How much you want to bet she pulls a Pretty Woman and falls in love with Mr. #80?

So there you have it. The latest best advice on how to maximize your earning potential as an indie ebook writer. All so that you can make a few bucks and then write that esoteric masterpiece on ancient phlebotomy techniques among the Incans. Which, who knows, could turn out to be your biggest seller!

Because I believe in giving back, I am going to start critiquing (for free) your work. I’m a good writer–I’ve been writing novels for 20 years. I have an English degree (and a law degree and a grad degree in vocal performance, but I’m not sure they will help you much) and I’ve worked as a freelance writer as well as an editor. I’m the CEO of my own publishing company, and my ebooks are on the charts.

After each post I’ll pick one commenter and critique up to 10 pages or 2,500 words.

I don’t have many commenters yet, so your odds are excellent! A comment gets you one chance, a tweet of this post another. Linking to it on your site or FB page gets you another. Subscribing, friending me on FB or following me on Twitter gets you another. Increase your odds by doing as much as you can. And if you become a regular around here I’ll probably just pick you eventually anyway. If I read your pages I plan to be honest, so be ready for that.

So let me know in the comments what you are doing to promote this worthy, pithy, and free advice for fellow authors, and I will put your name in the hat for a personal critique by ME.

Thanks for reading!

Now go out there, fellow writer, and step on the GAASS. Or, GAASSF. Or maybe GAFASS… which sounds really bad.

28 Responses to Self-Publishing? Step on the GAASS!

  • Pingback: Write for a Living – Guest Post by Patrice Fitzgerald

  • Excellent advice. The part I struggle with most is learning to write fast. Writing “wind sprints” helps. Roughly plan your next scene and then write AS FAST AS YOU CAN for at least 30 minutes. Don’t stop to correct spelling or grammar or to rearrange the dialogue. Just write like your life depended on amassing word count. Doing this regularly will train your brain and your fingers. And once you have words, you can revise them. As Nora Roberts said, “You can’t revise a blank page.”

    • patricefitz says:

      That’s a great method, Frankie. There are a couple of websites that help with that… Write or Die is one of them. You can choose a word count you want to achieve and it will insure that you keep typing by various inspirational tactics, including messages and obnoxious music. And there’s another one that rewards your words by showing you pictures of kittens and puppies. The carrot versus the stick!

      It is so easy for all of us, even those who have been writing for years, to think that our new writing is not as good as our old writing, or the opposite–that the successes were just flukes. Or to be distracted by thoughts of what’s not right about the sentence we just put down. I am getting better at reminding myself to simply keep chugging along and remember that I can fix it later. And later it will be clearer to me where I’m going, who the character is, and how to make that sentence serve the story best.

      I just turned in my latest, a 20,000 word novella, which took me about three weeks to write (though the first segment was written a little earlier to tack on to the back of the first story in the series, as an incentive for readers to look for #2). One energetic day I put down 6,000 words! And they were good words, too.

      Thanks for commenting! What are you working on?

  • Jason Fuhrman says:

    Thanks for the advice Patrice. I just finished The Sky Used to be Blue and enjoyed it quite a bit. I’ve been working on a novel on and off for awhile, it’s not really genre, but has some thriller elements to it. I’ve contemplated turning it into a genre story, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to tell the story how I originally set it out to be and not try and jam it into something just for the sake of it.

    That said, I have three or four other ideas I’m working on that are genre, and SHORT, so we’ll see how that goes. Looking forward to your followup.

    • patricefitz says:

      Hi Jason: I just love to hear it when people read and enjoy my work! My second Silo story, “Cleaning Up,” is being formatted at this very moment. I’ll post the cover soon–and I should be able to hit the publish button at the end of April. It’s exciting to be able to create stories and connect with the audience so immediately.

      I just checked and as I’m writing this, “Sky” has sold 1396 copies this month in the U.S. alone. Oh wait… I mean 1398. How much you want to bet it breaks 1400 by the time I finish typing this comment?

      I COMPLETELY agree with your decision to write the story you want to write. It’s tough enough to climb the mountain that is a novel, and nearly impossible if you don’t believe that what you’re creating as worthwhile or important. Plus, if you finish something that you wrote just for the hot market of the moment, and then it doesn’t sell… what a waste of your energy and time.

      My comments have to do with that point when you have 6 ideas, and one of them happens to be something that looks like the better concept for today’s most popular categories. Then it makes sense to pick that one first.

      And woohoo! I just sold my 1400th copy of “Sky” in the U.S.! Plus the 500 I sold in the last week of March when it was first published.

      Awesome, this brave new eWorld.

  • D.E. Crispus says:

    Fair warning: I posted this same comment on WJ Davies’ excellent blog before realizing the post was in multiple places. But I wanted to be sure you saw my comment. Thanks for the post!

    I really hadn’t considered writing short stories before reading your post. Now I’ve got the first draft of one written. It is definitely a different writing experience.

    And in the interest of getting some personal feedback from someone who knows what they’re talking about when it comes to short fiction, I’ve Tweeted, FaceBooked, and Google+’ed this post!

    • Thanks so much, D.E.! I love the speed of short stories… both the writing and the reading. You do get a chance to experiment without investing so much time.

      I appreciate your spreading this around!

  • Pingback: First Short Story: The City of Eternal Love | D.E. CRISPUS

  • Lyn Perry says:

    Ditto!

  • Jill James says:

    Now I will think of GASS in a whole new way. Thank you!!

  • Jill James says:

    Sorry, GAASS

  • As a literary writer whose work crosses genres, I’ve had a rough time getting my novels and stories placed in traditional venues. Now I see that I can use the “genre” to position and market my books and let the “literary” part speak for itself. Thanks for the post. I’m re-tweeting and posting this to my Facebook account.

    • patricefitz says:

      Thanks, Carrie Ann! I think that’s precisely what you can do. Readers are only more pleased when a good book appears in a genre they enjoy and is even better than they’ve been led to expect.

      I’ve been thinking about this aspect of “good” or “bad” writing. Examples of fairly poor writing that (IMHO) succeeded because of the contents of the story include The DaVinci Code and the infamous Fifty Shades books. But you can have brilliant writing that never gets attention because the story isn’t of interest. And then, of course, there are all kinds of different tastes in books.

      P.S. Do you know the old song “Carrie Ann”? I’m dating myself with that. Was it Loving Spoonful??

  • I was named after that old song. I think it was The Byrds. Not quite sure. Funny thing is that in school, my name got attention because of the Stephen King novel and movie. Not as fun as being linked to such a cool song!

  • patricefitz says:

    “When we were at school our games were simple, I played the Jani-tor, you played the Mommy-tor…” Hey, Carrie Ann, what’s your name…? That was one of the songs we listened to for a week one summer and wrote down all the words until we knew it by heart. Great song!

  • Anna O. says:

    Hey Patrice! Thanks so much on writing about Karma, it is really interesting to read from another charachters perspective. A wonderfull edition to the Silo-world! I dont have any writing experience (besides hobby writing- a guilty pleasure that not so many people around me know about) But now im guite inspired to try and do more. My problem is mostly in spiraling of my point because of several ideas that pop in to my head. There is a world of ideas and I have trouble narrowing the the general plot- the base of the story into a spesific plot. Do you have any tips for how to effectivley narrow the idea-pool and choose a concrete idea out of the possible ones that my imagination is clinging to:) Thanks again for your work and I am really looking forward to reading more about Karma!

    Anna

    • patricefitz says:

      Hi Anna: Thanks for coming by! I’m glad you’re enjoying the Karma series. It’s a blast to write… (no pun intended)!

      Here’s what I would say about all your many ideas… because it happens to me too. Tell your creative critter (that’s what I call the little voice that keeps popping up with comments and better stuff and just different plots and characters and stories and…) to relax, that you have the rest of your LIFE to tell that other story, or go in that other direction. And for now, out of the infinite possibilities, you decide to tell this story. Because, just like driving a car, or wearing a pair of shoes, or kissing a guy, you can only drive/wear/kiss one at a time!

      Plenty of chances to explore the other ideas in the next tale… as soon as you FINISH this one.

      Let me know how your writing comes along!

      Patrice

      • Anna O. says:

        Hi Patrice, thanks so much for your advice! I do think I just need to breathe out and put my ideas to storage in idea bank. I can always come back to them. It will be interesting to see what the story will develop into and I’ll be sure to let you know how it all comes together. Thanks again for taking time to reply, I truly appreciate it!

  • Hi Patrice, You have inspired me to write my first Romance e-series. As a newbie to ebooks I would like your advice on getting the book on the market. Is it difficult to do so? If you are interested in seeing some of what I have I written so far, close to 8,000 words so far, let me know. I have already mapped out the story arc etc. Haven’t seen you since La Mancha in Darien. Be well, love your site, have finished Running on my kindle. Enjoyed it immensly.

    Randy

    • patricefitz says:

      Hi Randy: So nice to hear from you! And you are writing romance…? Wonderful!

      I can tell you that it’s very simple to push the “publish” button once you’ve done all the work of writing, and then making sure it’s as good as it can be, has been edited, has a good cover, and is properly formatted. To get it selling it takes all that and luck as well.

      Have you been in more shows since La Mancha? That was a great production! Richard and I will be in Les Miserables in the fall. Lots of work, but such fun!

      Patrice

      • Hi Patrice, thanks for the reply. Yes I am writing a romance story based on actual events that occured in my marriage to a Ukrainian woman. Although the marriage ended after four years there is plenty to write about. Would love for you to read some of it. How do you get a good cover? Hmmm.

        Glad to hear you and Richard are doing Les Mis. One of my favorites. Last work I did was last November in A Merry Mulberry Street Musical. It marked my 100th performance as Angelo Bacallini of Mulberry street.

        Keep in touch and would love to share my writing with you.

        Randy

        • patricefitz says:

          Randy: That sounds like a fascinating story. How did you meet her?

          I had no idea you’d been in so many Mulberry Street shows. I have never gotten to see one, but I’d love to. Now that we’re back up north, it’s a good 90 minutes to Stamford, though.

          I have several cover artists I use, and would be happy to share their contact info. Perhaps you could message me on FB directly.

  • wilef says:

    Thanks for the words of inspiration!

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Works in Progress

“I Dream of PIA” (for The Robot Chronicles anthology, available July 25, 2014)

3149/ 3000 words. 100% done!

"Sand Song” (a novella set in Hugh Howey’s SANDbox)

8,627 / 10000 words. 87% done!

"The Terminal” (a dark futuristic short)

2383 / 2000 words. 100% done!

“ROCKS 1” (the first episode in a dystopian series)

5675 / 10000 words. 57% done!

“Salt & Pepper Mystery #1” (Book one of a cozy mystery series)

22379 / 40000 words. 56% done!

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My Books

Karma of the Silo: the Collection (Karma Omnibus)
Karma lives in the Silo, deep underground. She lives with a man whom she barely knows and with a name she doesn’t remember choosing. When visions come to her about another husband, another way of life, and another world, Karma struggles to discover what came before.

Cleaning Up: a Silo story (Karma)
Five years have passed since the airlock slammed shut on the 4,000 souls condemned to live in the Silo. Karma can remember now that there was a time before--before she was locked into this cylindrical tomb under the earth. But all she can see of the outside are dead hills and the dark clouds swirling through what remains of a toxic world.

The Sky Used to be Blue: a Silo story (Karma)
Karma lives in a Silo deep beneath the earth. She isn't sure of much else… only that the wallscreen shows an outside view that is barren and swirling with toxic clouds. Most of the other residents seem content. Except for the ones who jump to their deaths from the hundred-level spiral staircase. And the ones who are pushed.

Last Walk: a Silo story
The kids are fighting in the Silo—gangs engage in battles between the Up Top and the Down Deep, with the Mids caught in between. There are too many young people without work. They ink themselves with primitive face tats and guard their territory against incursions from below or above.

Deep Justice: a Silo story (Karma)
Karma has endured twenty-five years underneath the earth. Her path in life—a path she never bargained for—has included marriage to a man she never chose, whose powerful position forces her to hide her memories of the time before.


Rising Up: a Silo story (Karma)
After a hellish three months locked in the private inner sanctum of IT, Karma and her family emerge, bloodied and forever changed. Rick is a man who is no longer in control. Mars has become the power in the Silo.



Silo Saga: SILO SECRETS: Daniel
Daniel is sixteen now, and he can count up to one hundred. He can go all by himself up and down the two levels of the Silo between his home and his job. Daniel knows he's not as smart as some people. But his mother told him he was smart enough to help her, so it must be true. He always believes his mother. His mother is a doctor.

Running
THE NEXT PRESIDENT IS GOING TO BE A WOMAN... Catherine Young, Vice President and newly-anointed Democratic nominee, is surging in the polls. The race is on against GOP candidate Jerusha Hutchins, folksy charmer and blonde beauty, who is the darling of the far-right Liberty Party.

Till Death Do Us Part: a short story
Join Harold and Rosemary as they bring together their family and friends for a night of celebration before a long-planned trip... and see just how this journey ends. Mix a little Dorothy Parker and a little Shirley Jackson, add a twist of David Sedaris and a pinch of O.Henry, and out comes a satirical romp. "Till Death Do Us Part" is a 3,000 word short story. This is a sophisticated take on the way people fool themselves. More New Yorker magazine than Asimov.

The Terminal
To be published next week!





Looking for Lance
A pinch of Dorothy Parker and a twist of O.Henry go into the mix to make this Fitzgerald short a bracing sip of satire. There is a free sample of RUNNING, her best-selling Kindle political thriller, at the end of this story.

Jungle Moon
Another quirky short story from Patrice Fitzgerald about love and the ways people connect. When Felicia gets a special birthday request from her husband Herman, she can't believe what he's asking her to do. Will she say yes? This 3,000 word short story explores the nature of a happy marriage, compromise, and passion. A four-chapter sample of Fitzgerald's best-selling political thriller, RUNNING, is also included.

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