Tag Archives: Indie


A1Self Publishing is the book-writing gold rush for indie authors. There’s money in them thar words and that’s no lie. A lot of people are making a lot of money outside the Big-5 print publishers and good for them. But most of the money is made by people selling stuff to gold-stricken writers.

The ones who made good money off the gold rush sold shovels to the miners. That’s right. They mined the miners. They also sold food and packs and clothes and toiletries. They sold eggs at a dollar a piece and whiskey at five bucks a shot. They sold a shave & a haircut for two-bits, baths for fifty cents, and women for whatever the gal could command.

A2The miners did mine, and some got quite rich, but most got frustrated and gave up.

Indie writing is no different. There has never been a better time to be a writer and I believe that. There is a fortune of information available on line, in print, and in person which you can turn into golden words.

Thing is, you have to pay for most of it.

And a lot of it is good stuff.

A3In the three plus years that I’ve taken writing seriously I’ve spent hundreds, no, thousands of dollars on author services. I’ve got over fifty books, print and electronic, on the craft of writing and the business of marketing. I’ve taken webinars and seminars and sat in bars reading about writing. I’ve paid for editors, formatters, and cover designers. And I’ve given away gobs of information to others.

It’s paid off.

Not in gold – yet. That’s to come.

A4It’s paid off because I’m starting to figure this game out and it’s been because I’ve paid for the help from others. I’ve made tremendous on-line acquaintances. Some actually personal. Some are ether mentors. Some are those who struck it rich.

Here’s an example of someone from my home town who hit the motherlode. I met Chevy Stevens (pen name because her real name is hard to pronounce) when she was a realtor showing a house for me. She aspired to be a writer and she sold the farm to succeed. Literally.

A6Chevy so believed in herself and her craft that she quit the realty business, sold her own house to survive, and sat down to write. She paid a lot of money to have Renni Browne of The Editorial Department work her first book, Still Missing, into a New York Times BestSeller. Now Chevy’s on her fifth BestSeller and internationally known. She’s the first to admit that it wouldn’t have happened if she didn’t pay for good help.

Good help is not hard to find.

I see a lot of online bashing of Author Solutions – a division of Penguin Random House. Now there’s an example of mining the miners. These clever bastards saw the indie gold rush not as a threat to print publishing, but a new vein to be tapped. Author Solutions has some great outfits for sale and they’ll upsell the shit out of you. Draining your wallet is their aim. But if you take the gold dust out of your eyes, and know what you want, there’s value in their pack.

A7An interesting new outfitter is Booktrope. Rachel Thompson, who I highly respect (Rachel in the OC / Bad Redhead Media), referred me to them and she’s now heading one of their imprints called Gravity. This is an interesting concept where you can get published without spending any money. Yep, it’s for real.

Booktrope is a cooperative of writers, editors, designers, and marketers working together to produce quality books. All you have to do, as a writer, is to provide quality content. They’ll help you to get published and, in their model, no one makes money till they all make money. It’s an interesting concept and I hope they succeed.

A8They say that those who can’t do, teach. I’m not so sure about that, but here’s some free dirt from someone who’s still digging a shaft.

For gold on the craft of writing, read Stephen King’s On Writing.

For gold on grammar, read Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.

For golden motivation, read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich.

For the gold on scientific storytelling, read Lisa Cron’s Wired For Story.

For a pot of gold on everything writing, go to Joanna Penn’s TheCreativePenn.com.

What have you dug up that makes a better writer?

I’m dying to see your mine.


“Surround yourself with other authors who are reaching for the same things you are,” advises award-winning author Steena Holmes, whose novels have sold over one million copies and landed her on the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Top 10 BestSeller lists. I’m so pleased to have Steena Holmes, a fellow Canadian writer, as a guest on DyingWords.

AE2At lot has changed since 2011 in the realm of publishing. So much that if you’re still reading blog posts dating back to 2011, you should realize that they are old and outdated. The publishing world has changed so much that it’s almost hard to keep up.

There are a few constants in the publishing world, however, that remain the same.

  • Write a good book.

  • Ensure that book is edited and has a quality cover.

  • Social media is a necessity in today’s world – you no longer can hide under that rock and assume others are going to market for you.

  • Brand is important. Essential even.

  • Your readers want the same thing they have always wanted. Your next quality book.

AE17There are things that have changed. How we can market ourselves. Amazon’s algorithms, where to sell your books, where to promote, where not to promote and… do we need a pen name still.

Honestly – whether you have a pen name or not is up to you. Some people need them – they write a genre that wouldn’t be acceptable in their line of work (teachers writing erotic anyone…). Some people have also found that creating a pen name and starting over has given them a fresh breath of life with their books and you’ll find names skyrocketing the markets today that you never heard of before.

It’s up to you.

There’s really no right or wrong answer to this question.

AE11I used to have a pen name. I don’t anymore. Everything I write is under my name, my brand, and everything I write is part of my brand. Yes, our brands change, they should…it means your writing is growing. It means you’re understanding yourself, your writing, your readers a little bit more than before, and that’s a good thing.

AE10Can we all just agree to stop arguing about this. If YOU feel that a pen name is necessary for YOU and YOUR brand…then go for it. If you don’t, then don’t do it. Regardless, you will still need to brand yourself, you will still need to find your readers, you will still need to write your books.

You can do searches and find blog posts and website articles dedicated to this one subject. If you are a writer in a writer’s group, you can ask this same question “do I need a pen name” and you’ll get a multitude of responses. Everyone has an opinion and everyone’s opinion is different and their own.

Think about this: Why do you need a pen name?

What is the reason for it? Is it because you’re writing in different genres that you don’t think will mesh together? Are you worried about your fan base, if your readers will follow you from one genre to the other?

AE15Remember this…no matter what book you write, you will still need to promote you and your brand.

Everything you do, everything you write should be under that brand you’ve created. It’s up to you to decide if your readers can handle you writing YA and Horror at the same time (I’m sure they can), or even sweet romance and erotic romance.

AE3Maybe the real question isn’t whether you need a pen name but whether you know how to brand yourself.

Just my thoughts…from someone who has been there, done that, and had to wear multiple T-shirts because she couldn’t decide what she was going to do or how to do it. 

*   *   *

AE1Steena Holmes is the Top 10 New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon million-selling author of nineteen books including four series.

Steena, like me, grew up in a small Canadian town where there wasn’t much to do but ride your bike, hang out with friends, and daydream. She always wanted to write but never dreamed it was something she could do as a career. She loves to travel and fell in love with the sheep covered hillside, old castles, and romantic history of Scotland and England.

AE4Steena dreams about waking up in Tuscany and touring small town shops in the south of France with her husband, of placing her toes in the ocean, and experiencing history first hand. As a mother with three daughters, she says she’s learning that teaching them to pursue their dreams is a lasting legacy.

She loves to wake up to the Rocky Mountains near her home in Calgary, Alberta, will forever enjoy the taste of coffee and chocolate, and can’t imagine the day when a story doesn’t unfold in her heart. “Living a life with passion and pursuing dreams is a life well lived,” she believes.

Here’s more advice for aspiring writers from Steena Holmes:

AE18“Surround yourself with other indie authors who are reaching for the same things you are. Always be willing and wanting to learn and don’t stop writing. Stop focusing so much on the promotion and focus instead on your words…nothing sells a book better than the next book – and even though we’ve all heard that, it’s so true! And don’t forget your readers. Above all else – don’t forget your readers!”

Follow @SteenaHolmes on Twitter: https://twitter.com/steenaholmes 

Like Steena on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SteenaHolmes.Author?fref=photo

Visit her website at: http://www.steenaholmes.com/


It’s a real privilege to host acclaimed New York Times Multi-BestSelling author CJ Lyons as a guest on www.DyingWords.net. CJ generously offered to share this piece of wisdom about what it takes to be successfully published in today’s ever-changing writing industry.

CJ1B81% of Americans say they want to write a book someday. The most common mistake unpublished writers make is that they don’t write. They talk about writing. They’ll polish the same ten pages for contest entries over and over, bring the same scene to their critique partners repeatedly, work for ten years on the same manuscript, and complain about not getting published.

Here’s Ten Secrets about what it takes to get published.

Secret #10: Writers write… successful writers keep writing.

Yes, they’ll hone their craft. Yes, they’ll pour their heart and soul into a project. Yes, they’ll revise until it’s the best they can do. But they also keep writing. They’re always open for new ideas, new directions, new challenges. It might mean trying a new genre, stretching their point of view skills, or trying a new plotting or editing technique.

CJ2They’re in constant search for something that will spark their passion. That “one thing” no one has tried before or been able to pull off the way they know they can. They don’t want to fit in with the herd. They want to outrace it, be trail-blazers, forging their own unique paths…this is how they find their voice. And once they find it, they embrace it, instead of denying it.

They learn how to finish a project and when a project needs to be set aside because “good” just isn’t “good enough.” They realize that they’re not competing with other unpublished authors, they’re competing with New York Times bestsellers. They’re prepared to work just as hard as any bestseller when it comes to honing their craft, learning the business, and managing their career. 

Secret #9: Your first book won’t be the first book you sell. 

Most published authors will have written at least half a million words, usually between four to six completed novels, before they sell.

Makes perfect sense–you wouldn’t let a college freshman or even a med student do brain surgery, right? Be prepared to finish projects and move on if they aren’t striking a chord with industry professionals. It might mean your writing needs work, or the market is over-saturated, or your wonderful idea just isn’t hitting the right desks at the right time.  

CJ4Embrace every rejection letter not as a failure but a success. Because with each one, you’ve done more than most people dream of…you finished a novel and had the courage to set it free. And, when you do find your voice and polish your craft and hit the right desk at the right time, the first thing your new agent is going to ask you is: what else do you have for me?   

Then you’ll be very happy that you have those other completed manuscripts ready and waiting!

Secret #8: It’s not about finding an agent, it’s about finding the RIGHT agent! 

CJ3Finding an agent is like going on a blind date and getting married that same night. You’ve probably never met, or if you have, it was for a ten minute pitch session when everyone is playing a role and on their best behavior. Once you sign with an agent you are entrusting them with your reputation, your finances, your future. Take the time to find the Right One for you.

Secret #7: Know your readers. Know your genre. Know your market.  

CJ5AOnce you have your agent, you don’t get to slink back to your cave and just write. Yes, your agent may have some ideas about which editors and publishers are right for your work, but you need to know who your A list editors are and why. Talk to your agent about long-term career planning. Do you always see yourself writing in this genre? How do you want your agent to market you? There’s a big difference between an agent telling an editor, “I have a hot new thriller writer” and “I have a hot new romantic suspense author” even though the book might be the same.

Understand where the market and genre you’ve chosen have been, where they are, and where they’re heading. Educate yourself. Target the editors you submit your work to. Find the ones who respond to your writing, but more importantly find one who will champion your work. 

Secret #6: Contracts only favor the publisher!  

CJ6You did it! You’ve sold!! Yeah!!! Now what? Your agent will already have some negotiating points in mind, but first you need to educate yourself on the basics. What’s a pre-empt? What’s an auction?  What’s an advance? Who’s making the most: a “nice” deal for $30 K, a “very nice” deal for $50 K, a “good” deal for $100K? 

If the first is for one book, the second for two, and the third for five books, then your “good” deal author may be in trouble. How far are you willing to fight for your subrights, like movie/TV, e-books, audio? Where will you draw the line? You and your agent need to have the answers before you sign the contract.

Secret #5: The average book receives $800 in marketing from their publisher.

Actually, based on some recent conversations, I fear this is actually more money than most books get for their marketing budget.

CJ1Yes, we’re repeatedly told that part of our jobs as writers is to build a platform, create a brand, get out there and blog, Tweet, Facebook, and sell, sell, sell!!!  Here’s the reality: Marketing is worthless without your publisher behind you.  AND the one thing publishers forget while they’re telling you to get busy selling your books, is that the BEST marketing is taking the time to write the next one!  Protect your work instead of getting frenzied promoting it. Write the next book. Then, if you have energy left over to promote, go for it!

Secret #4: People DO judge books by their covers.  

CJ9My first publishing deal was a debut author’s dream: a hard cover pre-empt with a major NYC publisher, over a dozen NYT bestseller endorsements (including one from Sandra Brown!), great pre-orders and pre-sale buzz…enough to lead the publisher to double their initial planned print run. Until…the cover art finally arrived.

Monochrome shades of bile green destined to make anyone trying to read the cover quotes or cover flap material literally nauseous. Yes, my wonderful debut found itself dressed in the ugliest, most physically revolting cover I’d ever seen!

I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. As soon as the booksellers saw it, they cancelled all their orders. But the publisher stood by their cover art (rather than my book) and pulled it 100 days prior to publication….no more debut dream for me…. 

Secret #3: Expect change, embrace change.   

CJ10As you can see from the story above, change is the one constant in this business. You’ll be faced with new editors, new agents, maybe even new publishing lines as companies trim and merge and re-structure. Be professional. Know how to break up and still stay friends. Be alert to new opportunities: new publishing models, new genres…always growing your brand rather than dividing it. And above all else, stay true to your vision! 

(Which, by the way, is exactly what I did and that book-that-never-was is now a bestselling e-book!)

Secret #2: Write 2K / Read 2K  

CJ11Ever have someone tell you they want to write a book or they are writing a book and then say, “I don’t read”? Happens all the time. But if you’re going to have a career in writing, you need to love reading. Read everything. Not just your genre but others as well. Look for the cutting edge in trends, new twists on language that make you smile, even bad writing that makes you cringe—so that you can learn how to avoid those pitfalls.

CJ12It’s difficult, because once we begin to write we often find it hard not to edit as we read–and we have less time than ever. I have finally given myself permission to not finish a book that isn’t working for me. When a book does work for me, when it transports me so that my internal editor turns off, I’ll drink it in, immersing myself in it. Then I’ll set it aside for a day or two before I go back and try to dissect why it worked or make note of any particularly magical phrases, word choices.

Not to steal, but to study.

Why did I connect so strongly with this character? How was the setting used to evoke emotion? What made the plot twist at the end both believable and devastatingly surprising? W2K / R2K is a formula my agent came up with: Write 2,000 words a day / Read 2,000 words a day. 

Secret #1: Writers may write alone, but you can’t be a writer alone.  

CJ13We may have the innate talent to become storytellers, but there’s no way to walk the road to publication without a lot of help from a lot of people. When people ask me the secret to getting published, I tell them, it’s surrounding themselves with the right people – even if they never meet in person.

Those people could be the authors of the kind of books they aspire to write, online teachers and mentors on writing forums who offer support and advice, a group of like-minded professionals like those in Romance Writers of America or International Thriller Writers, the spouse who understands that when they start mumbling dialogue it doesn’t mean they’re talking to themselves.

Throughout history storytellers have held a revered place in communities.

CJ14EIt takes a village–support from non-writers (aka enablers who feed your addiction), fellow writers who understand all about the voices in your head, mentors, your publishing/career team, booksellers, reviewers, and above all readers.

How do you know you made it?  

CJ15For some it’s being able to quit the day job, for others seeing their name in print and getting good reviews, but for me it’s hearing from fans who tell me my stories–those silly voices in my head that got me into so much trouble when I was a kid–that my books have made a difference in their lives. Like the commercial says… priceless. Becoming a career novelist is not simply a question of perseverance. It’s a question of passion.   

Where’s your passion? How can you be the best you instead of a pale imitation of someone else? Are your stories the kind of stories that speak to the eternal, that resonate with your audience, that will still have something to say to people decades from now? Be committed. To lifelong work, lifelong learning, lifelong growth. You’ll never have all the answers. 

CJ16Take a lesson from writers like Stephen King who insist on constant re-invention and challenging themselves. King says, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work”.

When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “One word at a time.”  

Happy writing!  CJ 

*   *   *

CJ17As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge thrillers. In addition to being an award-winning, bestselling author, CJ is a nationally known presenter and keynote speaker.

CJ8CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday). 

CJ20Her award-winning, critically acclaimed Angels of Mercy series (LIFELINES, WARNING SIGNS, URGENT CARE and CRITICAL CONDITION) is available now. Her newest project is as co-author of a new suspense series with Erin Brockovich.

You can learn more at http://www.cjlyons.net or find her writing books at www.NoRulesJustWrite.com .

Follow CJ on Twitter @CJLyonswriter

Like her on Facebook 

Here’s the link to download CJ’s original article