30 August 2011

How To Tackle Smashwords

To the newbie author: First of all, congrats on writing a book. Second, let me welcome you to the rapidly growing world of indie authors and commend you for having the courage to take on the do-it-yourself e-pub challenge. Below are a few tips to help you along the way.

Tip #1: Adjust your mindset. Think of Smashwords as a toolbox overflowing with gidgets and gadgets, all at your disposal. Whatever tool you need is inside. You may have to dig for it or learn how to use it, but it's there. At any roadblock, the support team is quick to assist and boot you in the right direction again. So relax, take a deep breath, and crack your knuckles. You have a long road ahead.

Tip #2: Follow instructions. If Smashwords has done anything, it's spend plenty of time simplifying the complex publishing process. Start by planning your metadata info, read the FAQ page, and make a copy of your manuscript. For obvious reasons, it is unwise to use your original as a formatting guinea pig. For subsequent books, you will likely find yourself arranging your page set-up in the Smashwords style before the first word is ever written. This makes publication a snap and the format-correction headache a distant memory.

Tip #3: Perfect your digital manuscript before you start. Read it silently, read it aloud, and then do a polish edit. Take the time to double check questionable grammar, eliminate passive voice, and spell-check. Once you've begun the formatting/publishing process, you will not want to be making spelling, grammatical, or content adjustments.

Tip #4: Use the Smashwords Style Guide. (See rule #2) Nothing spells fun like an entire evening redoing your format because you missed a step. On the bright side, the author of the guide has a fun personality and the book is actually entertaining. I felt like the instructor was talking directly to me, sooo I talked back during the entire process. It helped keep the mood light and the experience pleasant.

Tip #5: Prepare your market playground. Once you get through the meatgrinder and suffer the loooooong week-long wait to see if you made Premium Catalog, it's time to market. While Smashwords is busy distributing your book across the internet, you have time to create a professional looking author page, design a website, start a blog, open forums, join book clubs, and link up with Smashwords on facebook and twitter. Zero in on your target audience and show 'em what you've got.

Tip #6: Get involved. Smashwords is extremely interactive with their authors and encourages them to intermingle with each other, which is not easy for many writers (typically introverts). Even if it goes against the grain, stay proactive, stay visible, and learn internet marketing. Pay attention to Smashwords FB posts and always keep busy. I write at night, every night, and either I'm working on my next project or I'm marketing. Personally, I despise marketing but LOVE the results. So the time investment is worth it.

Tip #7: Protect your fans. Of all the advice you'll receive, this is the most critical. You've neglected your family, spent a fortune in supplies, invested time and research, and busted your tail editing, publishing, and marketing your work for one thing: READERS. Whether you've earned one die-hard fan or a thousand, it's your job to maintain a healthy relationship. People work hard for their money--remember that when you ask for it. People's time and attention are worth a fortune; just note the cost of advertisement. Every ad, every business, and every other author is vying for just a piece of someone's attention--respect what you get. Don't squander it.

Tip #8: Maintain a professional public profile. Readers have high expectations for their authors and expect professionalism, even in the face of adversary. They don't care if you're an indie or traditional author, and they're not interested in the business nonsense--only you are. To them, it's about the product. In exchange for all your hard work, they've given time, money, and reviews. Don't let them down.

As of this writing, I've published two ebooks from The Entangled Series at Smashwords. It's a happy union, far nicer than the paperback arena and far more author friendly. All I have to do now is become an extroverted marketing master and I'll be well on my way. My success is entirely up to me. I will say this, there is no feeling in the world that compares to standing in the presence of a starstruck fan or walking into the dentist office and being surrounded by a staff of avid readers asking for autographs or to have a stranger hurry and catch up so she can touch 'a real author'. To achieve even one of those moments is the definition of success and is enough to keep any author plugging away for the next bestseller. If that means taking the extra time to follow instructions and get it right, then I'll do my part and let Smashwords do the rest.    ox, D.C. Sargent

Valuable Links

Publish Instructions
Smashwords Style Guide
FAQ Page
Ebook Terminology
Marketing Guide
Smashwords FB Forum
Site Updates

22 August 2011

If I Could Spend A Week With ??? I Would Do It In A Heartbeat!

If I could have anything I wanted, it wouldn’t be a bunch of stuff on sale at half-price, shiny toys, or expensive cliche` vacations. The inner workings of my mind operate on a much different level. I want material—anything that will spark my imagination. My perfect vacation wouldn’t be a luxury cruise, it would be a week with:

A special force unit/black op team. Not for the classified, political, or shooty bloody stuff, but more for the camaraderie, the bond, the lifestyle, mindset, lingo, and point of view. It would be good exercise, too, and oh! the stories they could tell! Of course, this couldn’t be in some base or other civilized structure. I want the real deal! The field! I’m talking wearing soap on the way in and flies on the way out, training and wargames, stories of reckless insanity around a campfire, tasteless MREs, dune buggies, mosquito repellant, shovels.

A ghost. I would love to see our world from a totally different perspective as well as view people without their masks on. What better way than to move freely between this dimension and the hereafter wearing nothing but a shimmer? My problem would be the temptations. I can see it now: Some person has no idea I’m standing there and I have to make a choice—mischievous poltergeist or a guiding light. Hmm! Eenie, meenie, miney, BOO! I will say this, I hope they have books in the hereafter, because I’ll be busy when I get there—with or without the tour.

A warlord. Yuck! Are you serious, D.C.? Yep. Just so I could get into his head, decipher his distorted thinking and try to make sense out of it. What motivates a person to actively defy civilization, absorb power, and turn into a mindless politi . . . er, criminal. Is there any happiness in that tiny heart, any capacity to love, or true pleasure to be found in drawing forth misery from the innocent? Or does he exist in a cold, dark, lonely void in a desperate search for some nameless thing to fill the chasm? This inquiring mind wants to know.

A spy. How cool would that be? I’ve been told that the life of a spy is NOTHING like we see in the movies and I agree—James Bond and Mission Impossible do have the slight flavor of Hollywood. I don’t mean gadget watches with scaffolding hooks and emergency laser beams, and I’m also not talking about boring moles who work for years to reach an inner circle just to plant a single bug only to get whacked by the agency because he knew too much and developed a guilty conscious. Not him. I’m talking about the CIA airplane to nowhere with a crew of nobody taking a plane full of nothing to a place that doesn’t exist. THAT spy!

Ninja assassins. OMG! I could so totally use that! Throwing stars and, oh! some insane housewife tries to take the last box of cereal. I’d be like waaaaaaaaaaa yah!

A comedian. Brian Regan, Bill Engvall, or Jeff Foxworthy—any one of those. What fun!

Violinist David Garrett. I could listen to that all day long.

My mind is whirring now!

Tibetan monks, or, um … under the sea with a mermaid (the tail would take some getting used to), or a week in the company of a genie (preferably out of the bottle), on a submarine. ooh! with the gods on Mount Olympus. I could steal Cupid’s arrow …

ox, d.c.

16 August 2011

A Scene is Born

questions from the readers: How do you create a scene?

Well … that depends on the scene. Sometimes it’s just a matter of reading the previous draft, bringing the heart rate up, and following a detailed outline. Other times—not so easy. Take the fight scenes, for instance. if you’ve never thrown a punch in your life, writing a detailed fight scene can be a very … inaccurate? … experience. So, I started sniffing around the martial arts world. Mere interviews wouldn’t do. I had to learn it myself. Problem was, there’s more than one style of fighting—self-defense, attack, ground—and I had plenty of characters (all of them) who had to know how to do it. So I signed up for kenpo karate, krav maga, and brazilian ju-jitsu. A few black eyes and some bruises later, I was writing away and Levi looked like a pro!

All those detailed scenes in the cargo plane? Yep! The Air Force calls it Spouse Day. I call it real-time research. I wasn’t fooling around! While the other wives were socializing, sleeping, vomiting, I was busily scrawling intimate details into a pilfered notepad with the general’s pen. I went home and wrote the scene in Entangled with Mandy in the cargo plane before Kiser so rudely throws her out. The scene  in The Devil’s Garden with the team on the flight deck wondering what the hell’s wrong with the airplane came from an invitation to my husband’s flight simulator training. To the benefit of my readers, we had a laid-back pilot who didn’t mind if I took the simulator plane for a whirl. The rest of the crew wasn’t in a hurry, sooo … I got the copilot seat! I’ve tried to secure a few minutes in the co-pilot seat on a real cargo plane, but to date the Air Force isn’t cooperating. For the record—I never did get airsick. I wear this tidbit like a badge of honor.

The Carson in the tropical pool scene: Ah, yes. Mandy with the eyes of an over-ripe potato. To her embarrassment and to our delight—yes, she did see Carson naked! [Fanning self] You probably noticed, this scene has the distinct flavor of a romance novel. What? You say. D.C.? Writing romance! I know, I know, it sounds crazy. So how did I do it? Easy. I consulted the romance expert—my sister/first-line beta reader. Like a big girl teaching a crying toddler to walk, she babied me through it. That includes kissing scenes, tender moments, and all those powerful looks. When you see love anywhere in The Entangled Series, thank Celeste.

My nephew—an artillery ground pounder visiting family between deployments—made the mistake of reminiscing about boot camp and a horrible drill sergeant in front of me. My brain snapped to Raul in The Devil’s Garden and my ears perked right up. The unsuspecting soldier starts explaining what it means to ‘get smoked’ in the military. Oh, happy day! Next thing my nephew knows, he’s demonstrating in detail each one (about six total), which included names like The Monkey F**er and Little Man in the Woods, while I sat on the floor taking notes on a notepad. His pitiful cries of ‘can't you write any faster?’ and ‘gimme a minute [pant, pant] to catch my breath’ and ‘I shouldn’t have said anything’ fell on deaf ears. By the time he stomped out of my house, I had pages of descriptions. I’m pleased to announce, The Little Man in the Woods made it into the final cut. This is a prime example of our fine military supporting its American authors. Thanks, John!

Alas, not all my research is pleasant. Some of it TOTALLY sucks! Fender and the spiders: internet at midnight—instant heeby-jeeby protocol (hair in a bun, fly swatter, and potent bug spray). Levi and the coconut grubs: the Discovery Channel on an empty stomach! Blegh! ox, dc