When Conventional Wisdom Goes Astray

The writing world is changing quickly, and that means some things that used to be taboo are now all right.

For example, a couple weeks ago, I was at the Superstars Writing Seminar, and found that there are some common misconceptions among new writers. Here are three things you should do:

Raise your e-book prices.

Some new authors like to give their books away in order to attract buyers, and while there are a lot of people who like to grab free books, it appears that so few of those people actually read the books that it doesn’t often generate much advertising value. In fact, typically sales are better if the author charges a fair price for the book. That’s because a book has a perceived value. Too often, readers feel that reading a free book is the equivalent of reading an editor’s slush pile. They wonder, if it’s any good, why do you have to give it away?

So what’s a fair price? A few years ago, it was about $5. But readers would now prefer to pay a little more in order to get a better novel. So what’s the optimal price to charge? What price tells readers that this is a good deal? Right now, that price is about $7. If you’re charging less than that, you might want to consider raising it.

Send in simultaneous submissions.

When I began writing many years ago, it was considered terrible if you sent a manuscript submission to more than one editor at a time. Authors just didn’t do that.

Of course, that meant that an author could spend years waiting for one publisher after another to look at a manuscript.

But on a recent panel, a couple of editors from major publishing houses surprised me by saying, “I don’t mind simultaneous submissions at all, so long as you tell me in the cover letter that it is a simultaneous submission, and so long as you let me know if it sells somewhere else first.”

This is big news to me. Why? Because it puts an author in a place where he or she could potentially have multiple publishers making offers on a novel. Granted, it’s not likely, but it could happen.

If you want to write a series, don’t be coy about it.

Twenty years ago, if a writer wanted to write a big series, the author would write the first book and wrap it up enough so that it could be seen as a standalone novel “with the potential to become a series.”

However, for most genres that hasn’t been true for a long, long time. Yet twice this past month I’ve been on panels where authors assumed that this was true. All I can say is, “Watch the sales stats.” If you pay close attention, people are selling books in series right and left.

The reason of course is clear: When you write a series, it gives the bookstores an incentive to pick up books on the backlist and keep the series in stock, and that’s the easiest way for a new author to build an audience.

The hitch? The truth is, if you’re going to start a series, that first book had better be darned good. If it is, then just about any publisher would love to have a series by you.

The deadline for enrolling in my “Professional Writers’ Workshop” is next Friday, March 6th. The purpose of this workshop is to show you how to become a professional writer—how to make a living as a writer.

Now, normally I spend most of the time teaching others how to write well, but I see so many authors who start their careers improperly, that it’s like watching them shoot themselves in the foot just before the race.

If you’re in the beginning stages of your career, or if you feel a need to break out of your current career, this workshop is for you!

Learn more about it at www.mystorydoctor.com.

One of our readers, Lee Falin, has his second book coming out March 13th. Titled Science Fictioned. The book takes cutting-edge, scientific research papers and turns them into science-fiction and fantasy stories.

This book has its roots in two observations I made while working as a researcher in Europe:

    1. There are some really amazing scientific discoveries being made in the world these days.
    2. Research papers are so boring, that most people are probably never going to hear about those amazing discoveries unless they happen to make the 6 o’clock news.

I was reading over the details of yet another extremely dull paper one day, trying to keep my colleagues from noticing the drool on my chin, when I realized that there was a better way—what if every research paper was accompanied by a thrilling story?

And thus, Science Fictioned was born.
You can preorder Science Fictioned here.

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