Sunday, 12 April 2015

#Awethors Takeover - K.S. Marsden



Welcome to the final 8pm post in the twelve-hour #Awethors Takeover!

Don't miss out on the giveaway of K.S. Marsden's "Witch-Hunter trilogy" at the bottom of the post!

Celebrating The Get Down With The ‪#‎Awethors‬ event!  Go to the Facebook group page to discover prizes, challenges, your favourite new authors and more!


Writing on a Non-Existent Budget
by K.S. Marsden


Ok, I know it's only me, and you've seen a hundred posts from me before.  But I had 11 lovely authors posting today and my OCD insisted I round it up to a full 12 hour take over.  So sit back and enjoy a post I originally did in Melissa Holden's Write Advice series.

Background
I am an indie writer, with a published trilogy under my belt.
We all have our own motivations to write - personally, mine stemmed from boredom with the tosh that was filling the shelves in the book shop.  Making that initial decision to publish was a daunting experience, there's so much information out there, so many things you're expected to do.
Like many indie writers, I tried the traditional publishing route first.  Let's face it, most of us would like the backing of an agent, a professional editor and marketing team.  Because the alternative of doing it all alone is bloody scary!  On top of which, it can be a very expensive route...
Which leads me to offer a few tips on how to become a published writer on a shoestring.  A necessity for me, as (until my books form a viable income) I work in the equine industry - which is modern-day slave labour.  You get paid minimum wage or less for the "opportunity" to work with some fantastic horses and trainers.
But that's a rant for another day!

Writing
This is the most important factor.
Is your writing any good?
We all enjoy writing; it's why we pursue this crazy idea of getting published.  As a writer, you have the impossible task of both having the confidence in your work to put it out there; and the humility to accept criticisms from all angles.
So let's improve your writing.
There are writing courses all over the world.  Some where you enrol online, others that involve travelling to venues and meeting other would-be authors.  They are designed to help the fledgling author.  But they are also designed to turn a profit.

If you want a free writing course, I would recommend Coursera.
They are a mass online course - you get video lectures, coursework and tests.  They run courses throughout the year, lasting a few weeks to a couple of months.  All you need to do is set aside a little time every evening, or a lot of time one day (however you function and learn best)

So that's the grammar and sentence structure sorted.
What about the character development?  The world-building?  The plot and meat of your story?
I have two tips:

1) Download as many ebooks as you can from Amazon (and other online stores).  There are hundreds, even thousands of books that are free now.  Don't always stick to your genre.  Read them, judge them.  Hell, I found that setting up my own "Book Blog" allowed me to dissect what I did and did not like about these stories.
Use that as your own basis for building your work.  Learn to recognise and avoid the Mary-Sue problems.
Read the reviews and see what other readers thought of particular character flaws.

2) Join a role-playing website.
Yup, that is my advice, embrace your inner geek and join an RP game.
I've been a member of a certain site that has been running for ten years.  After ten years, my writing has improved to an unrecognisable level.  I have learnt how to twist a plot and keep things hidden and obvious at the same time.  And best of all, I have not had control of every character in the scene - it is invaluable to see how others think and plan, what they consider acceptable reactions.
I would not be the writer I am today without that circle of friends.

Editing and Beta-reading
Ok, so we have the story.  It's perhaps the second or third draft (or fourth or fifth), and you feel you've taken it as far as you can.
A lot of people skip having an editor, because it's often a huge expense, or they are so keen to get their books published now.  Or worse, they don't want someone meddling in their work.
Do not skip this step.
Trust me, you can really tell the books that have had an editor, and those that haven't.
A good editor will help you make the most of your work, but they will work with you to make sure the story is still the story you want to tell.  Which seems like a perfect opportunity to promote my editor - Lesley Neale.
There's a huge online market, people that offer their services to check your work and make it suitable for the rest of the world.
I am sure that most of them are very good at their jobs.
Personally, I wouldn't use someone without a reference from a fellow writer, no matter how shiny their website is, or how well they sell themselves.
But again, there are ways to do things a little cheaper - at least for your first book, while you get a feel for the industry.

You have to join Goodreads.  Simple.
This website is indispensable.  It actually helps in every step from conceiving your book, to production and marketing.  It is also FREE.
It has numerous groups that allow you to connect with readers, editors, beta-readers - anything you need.  I have used it to connect with other bloggers; and I have also been approached to beta-read several books.
Join it.  Now.

Ok, so this next piece of advice might seem obvious.  It might also seem terrifying (I know that it was the most terrifying part of publishing my first book).
Tell your friends.
Since the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Myspace (uhm, is that still a thing?), the way we connect and stay connected with people has changed.  How often do you never speak with a person, but catch a glimpse of what they're up to, despite the fact you haven't physically seen them since leaving school?  Or in my case, the colleagues I have worked with in every six-month stint at different yards around the UK.
Do they know you want to be a writer?
Most often not.  It's far too scary to put yourself out there for judgement.
But then... how many others are in a similar position?
One of the biggest surprises I got when I published, was the many messages from people that were interested in creative writing; that had dabbled in editing and begged to be allowed to beta-read, because that was their dream.  I had no idea that they were as terrified as me to admit it.
And if you're still worried about not being taken seriously, there's an exciting new development in the indie world - Amazon is now allowing Pre-Order on indie books!
I realise that this doesn't sound a big deal, but imagine - you can have a link to where to buy your book, complete with an image of your front cover and your name.  In print and irrefutable proof that you are a writer and this is really happening.
Best of all, you can have this all up on their website 90 days before release.  Which means you have three whole months to finish your editing and alterations.

Cover designer & Illustrators
Similar to above; there are tonnes of people that like to create images.
For the first edition of my first book, my baby sister did the cover design.  Luckily, she is as much of a geek for photoshop and deviantart as I am for the role-play!  I loved her design, and it felt special that it was a Marsden collaboration.
My problem came with the second book.  Unfortunately baby sister was snowed under with her uni course (the smart arse was off doing Forensic Science), and my release deadline was creeping closer.
So I went on Twitter and with a simple tweet asking for recommendations for cover designers, I was put in touch with a lass who was just starting out as a designer.  Because she was an unknown designer who wanted to make a name for herself, she did the covers for the first two books in my Witch-Hunter series for free. (It made more sense to redo the cover for the first book, than have Beth try to emulate my sister's style)
When it came to the third and final book, I insisted on paying for her services.
Even when you are striving to get away with as little expense as possible, you have to know the value of the people around you.

Marketing
Right, so our checklist is complete.  We have the story, the cover, the release date.  All you need are the fans.
I'm sure I will echo other writing advice here, and there will be others that go into more detail, so I will try and stay away from opinions on good vs bad marketing strategies.  Let's just look at what's free.
Goodreads... have I mentioned Goodreads yet?  Yes, it is a great platform for writers, and a place for people to connect and talk about your book.
Twitter - seriously, get on it.  I was a Twitter virgin, I thought it was a rubbish concept - 140 characters of crap from people you don't know.  I joined it with my usual level of scepticism... and it has become an invaluable tool.  It has allowed me to join in some very exciting indie movements; and it allows me to bring together and promote the other social medias I use.
Facebook - do I need to explain?  Create a page.  It's free and, even if like me, you don't tend to use it as much as your other social media, it's a solid, searchable thing that will show up.
Blogger.com/Wordpress - whichever you find easiest to use.  Share your opinions.  You never know when you might be asked to guest blog somewhere ;)
Your own website.  There are many free options (mine is from Wix.com) and most come with pre-formatted websites and "how-to" guides, so even the most computer illiterate can create their own website easily.

Wrapping it up
So that’s it, all the advice I have to offer.


None of it is ground-breaking, I’m sure now you’ve read this post, it is all common sense.  But I hope that I’ve given you the confidence to give it a go, to try and publish and not be put off because you don’t have financial backing.  Because it can be done, and good stories shouldn’t be allowed to go to waste.


K.S. Marsden

Kelly Marsden grew up in Yorkshire, and there were two constants in her life - books and horses.
Graduating with an equine degree from Aberystwyth University, she has spent most of her life since trying to experience everything the horse world has to offer. She is currently settled into a Nutritionist role for a horse feed company in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.
Her first book, The Shadow Rises, was published in January 2013. The entire Witch-Hunter trilogy is now available as paperback and download.

See "Published Works" tab for book links - including where to get The Shadow Rises for free!

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