On prologues (with excerpt from The Woodlander)

 

pirateDepending on how you look at it, there are either a lot of rules when it comes to writing, or no rules at all. While I’d like to think of myself as an outlaw, there are certain conventions I do tend to follow, like avoiding passive verbs and minimizing adverbs. These are just accepted as “good writing.”

But one piece of advice I have ignored is to avoid prologues. Elmore Leonard has it at #2 on  his 10 Rules for Good Writing:

“2. Avoid Prologues. They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword.”

The common wisdom here is that you should just start the story right in the middle of the action. If you need a lot of set-up, there’s probably something wrong with the story. Why bore the reader with a prologue?

While I have the utmost respect for Mr. Leonard, you have to keep in mind that he writes in the crime genre. These are stripped-down, fast-paced books that don’t need a lot of world-building. I’m not so sure his advice applies as well to the fantasy genre. George R. R. Martin, for instance, uses a prologue in each of his Game of Thrones novels, and those seem to be well-received. I like how Martin sets up each book with a group of throwaway characters that usually come to a grisly demise, giving the reader a glimpse of the ominous forces heading the main characters’ way.

In fact, I liked it so much, I patterned my own prologue after it.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m taking Mr. Leonard’s rule #2 as more of a guideline. Without further ado, here’s the prologue for my book The Woodlander:

Want to read more of The Woodlander? The ebook is available at Amazon.

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Evolution of a Cover (with Poll!)

evolution2Now that The Woodlander is out, I thought it would be fun to look back at the different cover designs I went through, and let you vote on which one you like the best (there’s a poll at the end).

When I first decided to self-publish, I had my mind set on doing everything by myself: the writing, editing, formatting, and even the cover design. I liked the idea of complete control, even if I had no experience in some of these areas; it seemed very punk rock. To that end, I started designing my own cover. I didn’t have access to Photoshop, so I used the free program Gimp (Gnu Image Manipulation Program).

Here’s one of my first attempts:

Initial

Simple and Clean

I modeled it after those classic Penguin paperback covers like this one:

Classic Penguin

Classic Penguin

I really like the theme in the Penguin covers. My thought was to do something similar, with a different color for each sequel and a different shape (circle, square, triangle) to highlight the character. I decided the squirrel on my original cover was too busy, so I decided to try a more cartoonish silhouette. I also applied an overlay to make it appears as if it were printed on linen.

More Cartooinish

More cartoonish

I liked this one, but the first few people I showed it to said it reminded them of James Bond. That’s not really the vibe I was going for (John Grey is more of your everyday squirrel, not some badass action hero), so I decided the circle had to go. Instead, I put in a background:

Mountainous Background

Too dark

Hmm… that was kind of drab. Maybe a little more color?

Trees

And how about a spotlight effect?

Spotlight

And maybe some stars?

Seeing stars?

Nah, that’s too much. Here’s the final version of my self-made cover:

Cover16LargeCrosshair-small

I like this one, but it still looks a bit homemade. As I got closer to publication, I decided I needed a professional cover. I bit the bullet and reached out to Damon Za (www.damonza.com) to see if he could help me out. Damon is an artist in South Africa who specializes in book covers. After giving him a list of my requirements, he came up with four different designs. I asked him to make some alterations, and we eventually arrived at these:

The Woodlander The WoodlanderB2 The WoodlanderC The WoodlanderEbookA-small
Cover A Cover B Cover C Cover D

I really like all of these (I wouldn’t mind having them as framed posters in my home). I hadn’t asked Damon to riff on my original “spotlight” cover, but I guess he liked it enough to create three variants of it (A, B, and C). I think they’re all fantastic. The fourth cover (Cover D) was based on my description of The Woodlander’s  main character, John Grey. I think it’s really cute. I also like how Damon applied a texture effect to each cover. It’s clear he listened to my input and put a lot of thought into each design. Now for the difficult part: choosing one of the four.

The Woodlander The WoodlanderB2
Cover A Cover B

Covers A and B are very similar, but with different color schemes. My first instinct was to go with Cover B (the blue and green one). Ultimately, however, I decided it was too muddled as a thumbnail, which is how most viewers would initially see it on Amazon. The gold one (Cover A) just seemed to pop more, even if it’s not as realistic, so I put A on the top of my list.

The WoodlanderC

Cover C

Cover C is like a piece of modern art. The sharp angles and use of color is really striking. But in the end, I decided it was too Wile E. Coyote. Again, I’d love to have it as a poster, but probably not as a book cover.

The WoodlanderEbookA-small

Cover D

Cover D is great, but I worried it was too cartoonish. The Woodlander isn’t exactly a children’s book, and I didn’t want anyone browsing the Kindle store to get the wrong impression. I can just imagine the angry letters from parents who bought the book for little Timmy or Susie without reading the product description first (or even the first paragraph). Uh… no, thank you. Still, out of all the covers, I thought it was the one that stood out the most, and discoverability is critical.

It came down to a tough choice between covers A and D. I was leaning towards D, but my friends all preferred A. I thought D would stand out more in the Kindle store, but I suppose A is more conventional. In the end, I caved to peer pressure and decided to go with Cover A. But I also purchased Cover D just in case I changed my mind (I can always swap the covers out later).

The winner:

Cover A

Cover A

So, what do you think? Did I make the right choice? Vote below, and leave me a comment!

The Woodlander The WoodlanderB2 The WoodlanderC The WoodlanderEbookA-small
Cover A Cover B Cover C Cover D
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Crossing the Chasm for Self-Published Authors – Part 2 : Target Market Initiatives

In my previous post, I discussed the principles of Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm  and identified five different user categories along the product adoption curve. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, you can do so here. Don’t worry; we’ll wait for you to get back.

Back already? Read the entire post? Good. But just in case you’re fibbing, I’ll briefly summarize it:

  • Your product (book) falls somewhere along the Product Adoption Curve.
  • At different points along the curve, different types of users (readers) will be interested in buying your product.
  • These users are (in order):
    • Innovators (Dreamers)
    • Early Adopters (Visionaries)
    • Early Majority (Pragmatists)
    • Late Majority (Conservatives)
    • Laggards (Luddites)
  • Between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority lies the chasm. Crossing this chasm is your major challenge in achieving mainstream success.

That’s all very interesting, but how does that help me sell more books?

I’m glad you asked, because that is the topic of today’s post:

TARGET MARKET INITIATIVES

Look, you can’t be everything to everyone. At least not at the same time. As we’ve already established, different users have different motives for buying a product. At some point, they may all end up buying the same product (hopefully your book), but for very different reasons. Understanding these reasons is the key to successfully marketing your book to each user category.

What is a Target Market Initiative?

Target Market Initiatives (or TMIs) are highly focused attacks on a very specific market. In poker parlance, it’s going “all in” to win a user category by concentrating all your efforts on that one, and only that one, user category. The idea is to first “win” the users in one market before proceeding to the next with an equally focused attack.

So, how does this help me across the chasm?

In theory, it’s rather simple. To successfully navigate your way to the other side, you must first answer me these questions three…

What is your favorite color?

What is your favorite color?

Sorry, strike that… The producers responsible for the previous comment have been sacked.

Now, where were we? Ah, yes. To cross the chasm, you must win each of the first three user categories (in this order): the Innovators, followed by the Early Adopters, and finally, the coveted Early Majority.

The secret is that you don’t have to win them all at the same time. In fact, you shouldn’t even try. Instead, focus on the market at hand. Once you’ve conquered that specific market, you can then move on to the next.

With that in mind, let’s see if we can’t put together a Target Market Initiative for each of these three user categories.

Target Market Initiative 1 – The Innovators

If you’ll remember from my previous post, the Innovators are going to be your earliest readers. In most cases, these will be your beta-readers, and you probably won’t be selling them anything. (Not for money, anyway. In some sense, authors are always selling themselves). But just because the Innovators won’t be buying your book doesn’t mean they won’t be buying your ideas, so it’s still very much your job to sell them.

The key to selling any product is understanding the buyer. Or more precisely, understanding what the buyer is looking for in a product. So let’s look at an Innovator’s motivations:

  • Innovators are conceptualists. They love to shape new ideas. This is fortunate for you, because at this stage your book is probably more of a concept than a finished product.
  • Innovators are creative, or at least they admire creativity. Being part of the product development is very appealing to them.
  • Innovators are willing to take a risk on an untested product. The possibility of success is a greater motivation to an Innovator than the fear of failure.

Sounds like a fantastic customer, no? So, what’s the downside? Well, unless you’re name is Stephen King, you won’t have Innovators lining up around the block to help you finish your novel. You need to court the Innovators, and you just might have to give them something in return.

So, let’s get more specific. Just who are these potential Innovators?

  • Friends and Family – This is the obvious group for your earliest readers. After all, unless your friends and family hate you, they’ll probably be receptive and encouraging of your endeavors. The downside is that they might also be less than honest with you, so don’t rely on their feedback too much. But it’s a good starting point. Try to focus your efforts on people that actually have a passion for reading. (I wouldn’t go so far as to forbid your non-book-loving spouse from reading your novel, unless you have a very comfortable couch.) If you have a friend that’s always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, try to get him or her to read your book. They’ll give it to you straight!
  • Writing Groups – Groups that meet in person or in an online community can be invaluable for providing objective feedback on your novel. Try to find a group that fits your genre (e.g. Sci-Fi/Fantasy).  They’ll be more interested (and more forgiving) in reading your rough ideas, and more experienced in the nuances of that particular genre.
  • Development Editors – These are paid professionals who help you craft and structure your story. The upside is that they are professionals (they should know what they are doing). The downside is that they are professionals (they expect to be paid).

Ok, now that we’ve identified some potential Innovators, let’s put together some TMIs:

Target Market Initiatives for Innovators

  1. Write an Appealing Book – I know it sounds obvious, but if you write something no one wants to read, it will be difficult to get anyone to look at it, even if it’s free.
  2. Collaborate – Let your early readers know that this is just a developmental draft, and you’re looking for detailed feedback to improve it. Not just “I liked it” or “I hated it.” Before you even give them a copy of your book, let them know the level of feedback you’re expecting. Provide them with a list of questions such as: “Did you like the characters?” “Did the plot make sense?” “Was the dialogue believable?” “What didn’t you like about the book?” The purpose of these questions is not just to get their feedback, but to let your Innovators know that their opinions really do matter. In effect, you are inviting them to be a part of your development team, and this is nigh irresistible to an Innovator.
  3. Stack the Deck – Only target readers who enjoy other books in your genre. I’ve said it before, but don’t expect your biography-loving uncle to like your paranormal romance.

Okay, now that you’ve won over the Innovators, they’ve delivered their feedback, and you’ve revised your draft, what’s next? It’s time to go after the next market: The Early Adopters!

Target Market Initiative 2 – The Early Adopters

Who are the Early Adopters?

  • Visionaries – Early Adopters are the wide-eyed optimists of the group. They’re willing to take a risk on an unproven product.
  • Trail Blazers – Early Adopters love to be the first to discover the Next Big Thing. Furthermore, they love to trumpet the fact they have discovered the Next Big Thing. You can use this to your advantage.
  • Collaborators – Early Adopters want to feel instrumental in taking a product to the next level.
  • Price Conscious – Although they are risk takers, Early Adopters expect a discount in exchange for taking a chance on an unproven product.

Now that we know a little about the Early Adopter’s motivations, let’s put together some TMIs:

Target Market Initiatives for Early Adopters

  • Refine Your Writing – The main purpose in getting the Innovators (early readers) involved in the previous TMI is to refine your book to the point that it’s now ready for the Early Adopters. So, work out the kinks, clean up the bad dialogue, and eliminate the plot holes. If you can afford it, hiring a copy-editor at this stage is highly recommended. Having a professional and objective third-party go over your writing line-by-line can really do wonders for your book.
  • Improve Your Discoverability – Discoverability is key to attracting the Early Adopter. Here are some things you can do to improve the discoverability of your books:
    1. Put On Your Best Face – I’m talking about your cover. Have a professional, attractive cover designed that suits your genre. Even Early Adopters will be scared away by a homemade cover. Invest some money in a graphic artist who specializes (or is experienced) in designing book covers.
    2. Nail Your Blurb – After your cover, this is the next thing readers will see. Try to make your blurb compelling without giving too much of the plot away. Let your readers know what your book is about, and try to throw in a hook or two to capture their imagination. A blurb should not be a synopsis of your book!
    3. Perfect Your Presentation – If your blurb and cover haven’t driven your potential readers away at this point, they just might click on the “Look Inside” feature. When they do, you don’t want them to find an amateurish mess. Take the time to format your book so it looks nice and professional. If you can afford it, hire someone to format your book for you.
    4. Pick the Right Shelf – I’m focusing on Amazon here since it’s the most popular ebook store. When you upload your book, you get to associate it with two categories. Make sure the categories are as specific as possible while remaining relevant. The smaller the category, the less competition you will have for eyeballs.
    5. Optimize Your Search Results – Again, at Amazon you get to associate seven keywords (actually, it’s seven phrases) with your book. Make sure these keywords are appropriate to your book and genre. Try to choose keywords that complement each other (e.g. “Victorian mystery,” not “romantic thriller”). If in doubt, use longer phrases that incorporate multiple keywords. If you’re still struggling to come up with keywords, go to the Kindle bookstore and type into the search box (e.g “fantasy”). As you type, Amazon will display the top 10 keyword searches that begin with the same letters. These keywords are popular with book buyers, so use them!
    6. Engage the Public (Social Media) – This includes Facebook, Twitter, your blog, Goodreads, KindleBoards (now KBoards), etc. The most important rule here is be a good netizen. Readers don’t come to these places to get blasted by ads for your book. Be friendly and professional. Only post information that is relevant and useful to the community. Make sure that links to your book are easily discoverable, but don’t push your book on others without solicitation. Believe it or not, most people are nice (even on the internet) and want to help their community out, so don’t be obnoxious. Give, and you shall receive.
  • The Price Is Right  – Like I said earlier, you probably won’t have much success with the Early Adopters if you’re charging $11.99 for your unknown ebook. I know the arguments that cheap prices devalue your work, but remember that we’re targeting Early Adopters specifically. They expect a discount. Once your book starts climbing the charts, you can play around with higher prices. But for now, we have a war to win. That being said, there are still a few different price points to consider:
    1. Free – This is the easiest way to get your book to as many people as possible, but there is a downside (besides not making any money): just because someone downloads a free ebook doesn’t mean they’re going to read it. Many people simply “collect” free books, amassing huge collections that they’ll never get around to reading. But if your heart is set on going free, there are a couple of ways to do it at Amazon. First, you should know that the minimum price you can directly set at Amazon is 99¢. If you want your book to be free, you’ll have to upload your book to some other bookstore for free and have Amazon price match it. The second way is by enrolling in Kindle Select. This allows you to make your book free for 5 days out of every 90, but your ebook must be exclusive to Amazon.
    2. 99¢ – This is the minimum price you can set through Amazon without using one of the strategies above. Also note that if your book is less that $2.99, you only get a 35% royalty instead of the usual 70%. This is Amazon’s way of encouraging higher minimum prices.
    3. $2.99 – This is the minimum price you can set through Amazon and still receive a 70% royalty.

Some thoughts on pricing your book to entice Early Adopters – There’s not a single best strategy on pricing your newly launched ebook. Some authors have had great success at 99¢, while others have reported that their sales actually took off after increasing prices. Check out other books in your genre to get a feel for current price trends. Feel free to experiment with different price points, but I would encourage you not to change prices too often. Sales are often unpredictable, so if your book is not selling at a particular price, give it some time before hitting the panic button. I would recommend at least a month.

One strategy you could employ is to launch at 99¢. The hope with this strategy is to attract 5 or 6 solid reviews from Early Adopters. At this point, you could enroll your ebook in Kindle Select (assuming you’re exclusive to Amazon). Kindle Select allows you to give your book away for free for five days out of every ninety. Use these days in conjunction with a book promotion service like BookBub to let potential readers know your book is free for the next X days (up to 5). Most of these services won’t promote your book if it doesn’t have some good reviews, so I would avoid using Kindle Select until that time. Of course, if your book has been languishing for months at its current price point anyway, there’s no harm in trying something different. (If you have a different experience, please let me know about it in the comments.)

Your entire goal in targeting the Early Adopters should be garnering reviews, not money. Once you have enough good reviews, you can attempt to leap the chasm.

Target Market Initiative 3 – The Early Majority

Okay, you’ve made it this far. Your book is polished, available, and receiving some respectable reviews from the Early Adopters. Now you need to reach for the golden ring: the Early Majority.

Who are the Early Majority?

  • Pragmatists – Unlike the Early Adopters, the Early Majority are more averse to risk. They’ll still take a chance on a relatively unknown product, but they want some assurance that the gamble will pay off.
  • Trendsetters – When the Early Majority see a trend forming, they want to be among the first to get in on it. They’re not trailblazers, but they’re not far behind. If the Early Adopters are Lewis and Clark, the Early Majority are the waves of pioneers that followed behind (and in much greater numbers).
  • Cost Friendly – The Early Majority are more willing to pay full price for a product that has proven its potential.
  • Herd Mentality – The Early Majority seldom move first, but once they do start moving, it’s likely to be a stampede.

Okay, now that we’ve gained some insight into the Early Majority, let’s put together some TMIs:

Target Market Initiatives for the Early Majority

  • Improve Your Discoverability – Like the Early Adopters, discoverability is still key for the Early Majority. But it’s a different type of discoverability. While the Early Adopters are willing to trudge through a massive catalog, looking for the unknown gems, the Early Majority will watch the best seller lists (and “Hot New Releases”), looking for signs of an early mover.
  • Pick Your Battles – Getting onto the Top Seller lists is not easy. One thing you can do to improve your chances is target a smaller category. For example, it might be difficult to break into the Top 10 General Fantasy list if your name isn’t George R.R. Martin, but maybe you can break into the Top 10 Fantasy->Arthurian subcategory. Try to categorize your book as specifically as possible. Don’t worry; if you sell enough Arthurian fantasy novels, you will top the General Fantasy list as well. But let’s take one battle at a time.
  • Win Reviews – Reviews are the “secret sauce” that the Early Majority can’t resist. Without it, your book will appear bland to them, having little appeal to their refined palettes. That’s why it’s so important to get the Early Adopters involved (see Target Market Initiative 2 above). You can’t leap across the chasm until you first reach its edge. The Early Adopters (with their reviews) can clear the path to your launch point. Which leads to the next strategy…
  • Actively Solicit Reviews  – At the end of your book, include a note asking your readers to review your book. Include a direct link to your book’s review page to make it as easy as possible. Remember, Early Adopters are collaborators in search of the Next Big Thing, so use this to your advantage. The reviews from these Early Adopters will really help you capture the Early Majority.
  • “Free Beer” Promotions – As mentioned above, once you have enough good reviews, you can take advantage of services like BookBub in conjunction with a temporary price drop to spike your sales. This will, in turn, boost your ranking on the all-important Top Seller lists. After the promotion is over, you can return your book to its regular (i.e. full) price, and enjoy the “free” advertising you receive from its newly prominent position on the list. After all, these are the lists the Early Majority are watching. If you catch their eye, you will be well on your way to mainstream success!

What’s Next?

At this point, you’ve leapt across the chasm and captured the Early Majority. You can now move on to the Late Majority, but quite frankly, these will be much easier sells. The Late Majority basically rides the coattails of the Early Majority, so there’s little marketing for you to do. Just being on the Top Sellers lists (courtesy of the Early Majority) does most of the marketing for you!

Then, of course, there’s the last user category: the Laggards. My advice with the Laggards is to just keep writing. Once you have an extensive back catalog and have been around for many years, the Laggards will finally come aboard, but there’s no use marketing to them. They’re immune to it.

Kindling the Fire

At some point, your sales will begin to lag. No one stays on top forever. This is when you release your next book, and you can use it to jump start the sales of your back catalog, but that’s a subject for another post.

Have questions or comments? Or just want to share your own experience? Leave me a comment! I’d love to hear from you.

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Crossing the Chasm for Self-Published Authors – Part 1: The Chasm

royalgorge

This past week, I had the obligation opportunity to attend a 3-day business seminar in beautiful Salt Lake City. (Or at least I hear Salt Lake City is beautiful. I just caught a glimpse of it from the taxi window before spending the next three days sequestered in a hotel.)

Like most engineers, just the thought of spending three full days in meetings makes my skin crawl, but I was delighted to discover the keynote speaker was none other than Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm.

“Who?” you might ask.

Well, in the business world, Mr. Moore is somewhat of a legend. You see, his book Crossing the Chasm is considered to be the seminal text on shepherding a new product to mainstream success. I had actually read Mr. Moore’s book many years ago. Back then, I was a member of a fledgling startup software company, and our then-CEO handed out copies to all the early founders as required reading. I quickly devoured the text, and just as quickly forgot most of it as we went about the business of building our business.

Now, many years later, as Mr. Moore walked us through his slides in that rather cavernous hotel ballroom, it all came rushing back to me: the adoption curve, the customer categories, the growth cycles, and of course the chasm. I listened raptly with a vague sense of nostalgia for my startup days, but one thought kept nagging at me:

Can we apply the business principles of Crossing the Chasm to the business of writing, and more specifically, to the business of self-publishing?

You see, as a newly self-published author, I tend to see everything though a writer’s prism these days. As I listened to Mr. Moore speak, it occurred to me that being a self-published author is not all that different than working for a startup company. As a self-published author, there’s a single employee (you), and it’s entirely up to that employee to bring his or her product (book) to the masses. You first have to develop your product (write your book), then figure out how to introduce that book to the mass market.

Unfortunately, publishing is not a meritocracy: no matter how good your book might be, if the market doesn’t know it exists, it will languish in obscurity. Sure, you might pick up a handful of readers here and there, but how do you make the leap from undiscovered author to mainstream success? This is the much ballyhooed chasm I speak of, and making that leap is what Crossing the Chasm is all about.

Still with me? Good. Most engineers and writers have at least 2 things in common:

1. We hate meetings.

2. We hate marketing.

But we also love creating things. So with that in mind, let’s see if we can’t put three days’ worth of meetings to good use and make the leap across that chasm together:

Crossing the Chasm in a Nutshell

Slide3

The above image depicts the product adoption curve from Crossing the Chasm. At the left end, the product has just been introduced. There are few users at this stage, and of these users, most are Innovators and Early Adopters (don’t worry; I’ll detail these user categories below). As the product gains more users, the Early Majority drives its popularity to an all-time high. Shortly after, the Late Majority jumps on the band wagon. Finally, as the product begins to wane in the marketplace, the Laggards bring up the tail end.

So, who are all these people, and why should I care?

Well, quite frankly, these people are your target audience. And more importantly, by knowing the type of customer in each category, you can tailor your marketing to fit your current position along the adoption curve. With that being said, let’s delve into each user category:

1. The Innovators These are people who love to try out new products and services. They’re willing to take a risk on an untested product, and are more interested in the potential of a product than its current utility. These people get a charge out of working with the developers to make improvements and enhancements to the product. Oftentimes, they consider themselves a part of the development team.

In the self-publishing world, these innovators would be your beta-readers. These are people who don’t mind that your book still needs a bit of polish. They get a thrill from assisting in the development process and watching the product go to market. You shouldn’t expect to make any money off these innovators. In fact, you’ll probably invest a good deal of your time (and possibly money) working with these innovators. The reward for them is satisfaction, and for you a better book.

2. The Early Adopters – These are the visionaries, people who see a product and imagine what it could do for them. They don’t rely on past success stories of other customers to make their decisions, but instead blaze a path into the unknown with eyes full of hope and optimism. These are the dreamers.

In the self-publishing world, these would be the readers who are willing to buy a book from an unknown author, even if it has no reviews. They’ll read the product blurb, maybe sample a few pages, and throwing caution to the wind, click Buy. Obviously, if you’re just starting out as an author, these will be some of your most important customers.

Early adopters sound great! So, what’s the catch?

Well, first of all, there aren’t that many Early Adopters to begin with. If you look at the distribution curve, there are far less of them than mainstream users. What’s more, these Early Adopters are willing to help a new author, but they want something in return–namely, a discount.

On the plus side, these Early Adopters like to feel personally involved in the development process. Maybe not in writing your book, but in helping you promote it. To this end, they’re willing to write reviews and spread word of your book to their friends, especially if they feel they’ve made a personal connection with the author. If one of these Early Adopters contacts you, be sure to write them back!

3. The Early Majority (Pragmatists) Ah, now we’re getting into some big numbers! These are the users who will wait for a buzz to build about a product, then jump in early and enthusiastically. They’ll hold off purchasing until there are just enough positive reports from the Early Adopters to make success a probable event. These Early Majority users are not willing to risk a total flop, but they also don’t want to be late to the party. They are also more likely to pay full price than Early Adopters.

In the publishing world, the Early Majority would be readers looking for the Next Big Thing. They’ll browse the digital shelves at Amazon, paying close attention to the “What’s Hot” categories. Furthermore, they’ll look for books that have been well-reviewed. If they decide the Next Big Thing is your book, hold on for a rocket ride!

4. The Late Majority (Conservatives) – These are the people who will wait for all the bugs to be worked out of a product. They don’t have any interest in being a beta site, and will happily wait for the Early Majority to fully vet a product. Only once they are satisfied that the risks are minimal will they make the leap.

In the publishing world, these would be your best-seller readers. Less adventurous than the Early Majority, the Late Majority feel they have little time to waste sampling unknown books from unknown authors, and will gladly let the market determine their next purchases for them. Once the winners have been decided, then they’ll jump in. If the Late Majority are reading your books, pat yourself on the back. You have made it!

5. Laggards – These are your least adventurous buyers. They hate change, they hate new products, and they probably hate you, too. The only reason they are purchasing your product now is they have little-to-no choice, as their old product is now obsolete or non-functional.

In the publishing world, these are readers who know what they like, and by God, they’re not changing now! They wouldn’t even bother buying new books except for the fact that their old books have already been “used up,” having been read one-too-many times. They’re likely to read books by the same authors they’ve been patronizing for decades (probably from that author’s back catalog), and would never pay full price for a book. If you manage to capture one of these readers, congratulations; you’ve probably had a long, successful career!

THE CHASM

Ok, so now that we’ve identified the different categories of users along the adoption curve, you might be noticing that large gap between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority. This is the chasm we’ve been discussing, and crossing it is the challenge of any successful product. If you do make it across, you will achieve a level of success most authors can only dream of, but if you fail, you will be banished to the Phantom Zone (not really, but it feels like it).

Sounds daunting. How do we get there?

I’m glad you asked, as that will be the subject of my next post:

Crossing the Chasm for Indie Authors – Part 2: Target Market Initiatives

 

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The Woodlander Lives!

Wow, it’s been a long time! In case you’ve been wondering, no, I haven’t given up  my dream of writing a novel. I’ve just been head-down working on it, so there’s been little time left for blogging. But I’m proud to announce that The Woodlander is finally available at Amazon!

The WoodlanderEbookBsmall

Some of you may remember my original goal was simply to get published. I wanted to procure an agent, seek out a traditional publishing deal, get my books in stores, etc. But times are changing quickly in the publishing world! I now feel that self-publishing is the way to go.

In my upcoming posts, I’ll explain how I came to this conclusion and detail my own journey through the self-publishing process. Feel free to share your own tips and experiences with me–I’m happy to hear them (and I could really use the help)!

But today’s post is about the The Woodlander (I like to describe it as a cross between Fantastic Mr. Fox and “The Most Dangerous Game”). Here’s the story so far:

Life in Langley Grove might not be as charming as its cobblestone streets would suggest. Sure, the forest creatures who inhabit the Victorian town get along well enough. After all, they are enlightened, as the Woodlanders like to say. But despite having evolved from their natural instincts to prey on one another, some of Langley’s less desirable citizens have been disappearing, never to be seen again.

Enter John Grey, a squirrel on the verge of a serious drinking problem. You see, John used to have it all: a beautiful three-bedroom tree, a loving wife, and an award-winning career as a reporter for the Langley Post, Woodland’s most prominent newspaper. But after suffering an unspeakable tragedy, he is now on the brink of losing everything. Now he just wants to end it all, but to add insult to injury, a crippling case of writer’s block has left him unable to even finish his own suicide note, let alone continue his reporting career.

Desperate, John decides to take on one last assignment, venturing into Woodland’s seedy underworld to capture his greatest story yet. But instead, it is John who is captured, kidnapped and smuggled to a mountain faraway, where he learns not everyone has embraced Woodland’s enlightened ways—there are those who still prefer the old roles: the hunter and the hunted.

Welcome to the The Woodlander. I hope you enjoy it!

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Chapter 11 – The Third Time’s The Charm

The third draft is finished!

I know, I know. I said it would take two months. That’s how long the second draft took to write, so I figured it would take just as long to finish the third. But working long nights and weekends, I somehow managed to tear through the whole thing in only twelve days.

So why the dramatic difference? I think the first draft was like a skeleton of a book. The basic shape was there, but there were lots of holes. And it was kind of scary.

As you may already know, I don’t care much for plotting, partly out of incompetence, but mostly due to sheer laziness. Despite all my attempts to remain completely disorganized, that first draft ended up serving as an outline of sorts. Upon its completion, I had a pretty good feel for who these characters were and where they were going.

By the time I began the second draft, those characters already had their own personalities, their own backstories–all the little quirks that make them seem real. The downside is they also had a lot more to say, and it was up to me to record every word.

I’m joking about that last part. It was a real pleasure to bring these characters to life. As a group they fought through some difficult situations. Sometimes they won, sometimes they lost. Either way, they grew closer together, and I grew closer to them. They made me laugh, they made me cry (well, maybe I got a little misty-eyed). I was almost sad to see the book come to an end… until I remembered there’s always the sequel.

I think that’s why the second draft took so long. There was just so much more to invent. I wish the ideas always gushed out of my head like a fire hydrant, but sometimes they drip slowly like a leaky faucet. You end up just as wet, but it takes a lot more time.

The third draft was much more mechanical than the second. You know how it is, fixing all the awkward phrases and questionable punctuation. It needs to be done, but it’s much less mentally taxing than creating a world from nothing. For the second draft, I was lucky to complete a single chapter a night. By the third draft, I could edit three or four chapters a night.

There was also a great deal of cutting. I find cutting takes considerably less time than creating, unless you find it difficult to kill your darlings. My advice is not to dawdle. Your darlings deserve a quick, clean death.

I consider all that cutting to be a good thing. Afterwards the writing feels tighter, though halfway through I began to worry when the word count dropped a couple thousand words. The second draft wasn’t terribly long to begin with–would I end up with a pamphlet?

But not to worry. I flexed my nouns and adverbs, building the prose up to a lean but buff 91,000 words. Nobody’s kicking sand in my YA novel’s face!

So am I finished? Not exactly.

My original goal was to present the third draft to a few select friends for critiquing. Now that I’m nearly two months ahead of schedule, I feel I should use some of that time to further improve the book. Plus I’m really dreading their critiques, so I’ll do just about anything to put that nightmare off.

I could make another pass through the text, but I fear I’m too close to it. I might not see the forest for the trees. I want to gain some real insight, not just make another mechanical pass. No, I need to get further away.

Don’t worry. I’m not taking another break. Except to write this post, you lucky devil.

The problem is I’ve never really read the novel. I mean, I’ve read every word at least a dozen times, but not like a typical reader would. It’s always in the word processor. That blinking caret just beckons fix me! The temptation is too great to tweak every little detail. How am I supposed to gauge the flow of the story if I keep stopping every few seconds to add or remove a comma?

Writer, step away from the keyboard!

I’m going to try something new. I plan to print out a copy of my book (yes, on paper) and read it straight through. I’ll keep a red pen handy to jot down any thoughts I might have, but I’ll try my best not to stop and tinker.

Just read, baby.

Do you remember what it was like to just read a book? I’m talking about way back before you ever had the insane notion of writing? Now you have to analyze every word, every piece of dialogue. But there was a time when you could just read with innocence and wonder…

They say there’s no going back. Once the ink enters your blood, you’re doomed to write for eternity.

But dammit, there’s a little story in there that needs me! I’m going back in, not as a writer, but as a reader. I shall read my book! Do your worst to tempt me, devil-muse, I shall not give in!

Okay, maybe between chapters I’ll pause to make some notes. But that’s it! Unless I have a really good idea after a paragraph. Then I might jot some notes in the margin. But that’s where I draw the line! Unless that extra comma’s really bothering me. Then I might circle it. But not one stroke more!

Yeah, I’ll let you know how that works out.

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Chapter 10 – Some Quick Thoughts On The Revision Process

As some of you may know, I started the third draft of my novel The Woodlander a couple of days ago. I thought I would take a quick break to give you my initial impressions.

So far I’ve revised the first three chapters. That’s about 10,000 words. I’m very pleased with that pace. It means I should finish the draft in about three weeks.

Based on how long it took me to complete my first revision, this is fantastic news. I scheduled two months to complete the third draft, but at this rate I should finish it in half that time.

Why is this draft going so much faster? I like to think it’s because the writing is so much better, but truth be told, the first draft was pretty sparse. I tend to write very minimally, focusing heavy on the action but no so much on the details. I think the the first revision involved filling in a lot of those little details to flesh out the story.

Now I’m just focusing on what’s already on the page. If anything, I find myself cutting more than adding. I think that’s a good thing.

I’ll probably continue this pattern of writing a sparse first draft followed by an expanded second draft followed by a third cutting draft. For the first draft, I don’t like to get so bogged down describing someone’s curtains when I still haven’t figured out the main plot yet. I’ll save the cutting for the third draft and later when I can really tighten the story up.

So what do I think of the story so far? I’m pretty happy with it. The book starts out much darker than I remembered. At first I was tempted to soften it a little–I didn’t want to scare away any potential publishers. But I decided that edgy is good. It lets the reader know right away what they’re getting into. Besides, if I start compromising now, what will I have left when the editors get hold of it?

What didn’t I like about the first three chapters? I thought some of the writing was just too dense. There were some really long paragraphs, for instance. I simply broke these into two or more smaller paragraphs. It’s just easier to read a short paragraph.

There were also plenty of unnecessarily complex sentences. Some of these sounded like I was trying too hard to “be a writer.” I simplified these sentences in the name of readability, even if it means they’re not so artsy anymore. Ideally the reader shouldn’t even notice my writing, but instead be captured by the story. It’s my job not to get in the way.

I think that’s worth repeating: It’s my job not to get in the way. That’s hard on any storyteller’s ego, but I think it’s a lesson that will serve me well.

I need to get back to writing, so that’s all for now. I’ll post further impressions as I continue this rewrite. Feel free to let me know about your own revision process!

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