Thursday, March 13, 2014

Oh the places you'll go....

That book was given to me by a good friend in Alaska when I was moving to the Pacific Northwest back in 2003. 

It's one of my favorite books because it reminds me that life is a journey that you can never really tell where you will end up. I'm almost finished with a book I've been working on for over a year now called Self-Aware (A Zombie Series with a Twist!)

I'm excited to bring it to you and inside it has all kinds of really cool things if you like post apocalyptic Zombie stuff. Someone I was talking to mentioned "What if..." my book became a New York Times & USA Today best seller? What if I became famous and everyone knows my name?

Well, for one, Yay! That would be cool. As far as celebrity status, I doubt it, but it's still fun to think about. Will it change me? I don't think so. At least I hope not. As far as my writing, I've got quite a few books that I want to write for the next few years, enough to keep me busy. I don't think that kind of recognition would change my writing.

My advice to all writers and inspiring writers is don't worry about what other people think.
There's too many opinions and someone somewhere is either going to like you or hate you. Let them. Instead, focus on writing the best story possible.

Get it down out of your head and onto paper. Don't worry about being perfect the first time. Nobody who is successful is ever on the first try. That's why there's editors and people who polish things. 

Make sure you have a good description (what people call Copy) and make sure you have a professional cover, that makes all the difference in the world. 

Most importantly, make sure it's formatted properly too or you will have a lot of angry readers.
Once you release it into the world, take a moment and pat yourself on the back. You did good! You've accomplished what hundreds or thousands of people *want* to do, but because of procrastination or excuses, they don't.

Go out somewhere, celebrate in private or have a shindig. Once that's done, clear your mind and get back to work the next day.
Rinse and repeat. If you can't write every day, do what I do... Study. Buy books on writing, editing, the Hero's Journey, marketing, selling, etc. 

As a writer, you have many hats to wear if you want your book to be seen. (I'm talking via the self publishing route. It might also apply to the traditional publising as well.)

One thing I've learned from writing these past few years is that one can really fall in love with it. 
Let me tell you, that's one of the greatest feelings ever and it makes it easier to sit down and write when you enjoy what you're doing.

Well that's it for now. Thank YOU to all my readers, my fans, and to anyone who is still reading. You're awesome and it's because of you I write so again, Thanks!

Steven Wolff

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It's not the END of the book that matters...

Hello everyone, Sorry for the delay in blogging. Life has been busy for me with all kinds of interesting twists and turns for the better. I wanted to write about something I discovered on my journey as a writer.

One thing I learned is that you can fall in love with writing (and all the multi dimensions that go with it.) You can fall in love with creating the world, the characters, the conflict, the little details that make you stop and think "Where did that come from in my head?"

It's like turning on a faucet and letting the hose of creativity flow. If you want, you can put your thumb on it and watch it spray fast, you can hold it up and watch gravity make it flow like a gyser... there's so much you can do! What's not to love?

The hardest thing, for all writers, is making yourself sit down and write. So many distractions, so many excuses... but it's those who actually write (Pen to paper or press the keys on the keyboard) who are the true writers, because they are bringing words to life.

When you write, you are way ahead of all those wannabe's who dream of writing. You're putting words down, even if its a first draft, all writers have to go back and edit/polish their book. The most important thing is to get it out of your head and down on paper.

Right now I'm in the middle of writing a Zombie series called Self-Aware. It's about a woman who wakes up in a post apocalyptic world with a defective zombie virus that instead of destroying her, it's constantly regenerating her.

Still technically a Zombie, she remembers everything, she still feels and has emotions. Basically, Self-Aware, but every few days, she has to eat another human or the virus starts to break down, turning her into a regular Zombie.

I can't tell you how much I love writing this book. I love adding to the world, hearing the dialog come out as I type and seeing the characters react. It's almost like you're a director of a movie and you call the shots. If you don't like something, change it. Don't like someone? Kill them. There's so much you can do.

People keep asking me "When are you going to be finished with your book?" and I keep telling them "Soon..." but what I'm finding is that it's not the end of the book that matters, it's the joy and love in writing it that does. You can take forever as long as you keep writing because the more you write, the better you become.

Most importantly.... if it brings you joy... keep doing it. That's the greatest thing I've learned so far.

Writing is not about the end of the book, but the journey within.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014: The Best Is Yet To Come

It's the new year and already 7 days into it, I discover what I've been looking for all this time... the secret to what every successful book and movie share in common... a formula!

Yes, there are patterns in everything and when you can see them, immulate them, you are almost guaranteed success! Because after all, all the other ones with the same pattern or formula have had similiar results so if 1+1 equals 2 regardless how you write it, then the answer is always a given. Success is a given!

Granted, I am aware there are other factors that come into play and the responsiblity as a writer still falls on me to create believable characters, write a proper sentence, know how to use proper grammar, etc. but now I have the support frame, the structure if you will, to write my books on the same level as those that came before me.

This is really exciting stuff for me. It's unlocking a new level in my writing which will only make my story telling even better. I'm looking forward to releasing my future books and hearing the reviews. I'm even hoping they will do really well. Heck, my goal is to sell 1000 books every month (minimum) so I can quit my day job as a security guard and stay home so I can write full time.

I love being a writer. It appeals to my creative side, it allows me to tell you, the reader a story. Now I will be able to tell you that on a level that matches the others that became best sellers.

2014 and beyond promises to be a wonderful year for my writing, and it was because of this recent discovery that I can now make my work stand out. (Sorry I can't tell you what it is (yet), but the answer is out there, if you look for it. It's taken me a few years to find it but I'm glad I did.) Now, the only thing left is for you to wait for my work to come out. Speaking of which, here is where I'm at...

I'm working on my Zombie novel - Self-Aware, polishing it and tweaking things as I see fit. It's taking what feels like forever but I hope to release it (or at least part of it) soon. If any of you would like to be a Beta Reader, let me know in the comment section below.

Well that's it for now. Here's to 2014... The best is still yet to come!  :-)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fall is here and there is a chill in the air...

It's been a while since I last posted on here. I apologize, life has been pretty crazy over the summer and into the fall. I've been working on my Zombie book called Self-Aware (A Zombie Series) and I love everything about it. It's a fresh twist to the popular Zombie genre that's currently making its rounds. 

I am a huge fan of the Walking Dead series and I appreciate the simplicity of the show, even though its story and drama is complex. In a post apocalyptic world, there is no technology. Think about it. You don't see them playing with their smart phones or tablets, etc. Things kinda go back to a time like the 1980s and earlier.

In my book, it's the same world, same everything, expect there's a twist to the genre. I won't spoil it but trust me, you'll want to read this if you're a fan of anything Zombie. Currently I'm polishing episode one and when it's ready, I'm looking forward to making it an audio book that I read as well. (Complete with subtle sound effects.) 

There's a lot still to be done and it's taking up my time, on top of going to a full time job and having a relationship. Writing is something you have to do everyday. It has to be a routine, a habit, otherwise you will fall out of it and quit. Last year when I made my first book, I had NO CLUE what I was doing. Yes, I  read all the things I needed to know but still... this was unfamiliar territory. How much would I make? Would people like my work? Will they hate it?

I had all kinds of anxieties and butterflies, as does everyone else releasing their work into the world. No one likes to be told their work sucks because they take it personally. Sometimes we need negative reviews if they highlight where our short comings are. "This author doesn't know how to use a comma!" ~ If that's what they say to you, focus on learning  where to put them. Sometimes negative reviews can be a blessing in disguise. Another negative can be false positives. You know, when your friends and family post nothing but rainbows and unicorns reviews about your book, saying you're the next Harry Potter writer.

You maybe, but these reviews also set the reader up for a certain level of expectation. If you don't meet it, they might turn around and rant about how they feel betrayed. When you ask for reviews, ask for honest reviews. It's okay to have someone  say your book is "okay" and not "OMG You gotta read this." Because when you're at okay, you know that with more work and focus, you can work towards getting those kind of reviews that people are not kidding when they say your book is a must read.

If you're a reader, do your favorite author a favor and leave them an honest review, even if they have a whole bunch of them. Add your two cents. Keep in mind though that this is a living for some authors and words are very powerful. If you slam an author, that can hurt them financially in the long run. If they suck, then tell them where they can improve so they can learn from that and do better. (If they don't know they're doing wrong, how can they fix it?)

If you like their work, tell your friends, tell your family. Better yet, loan the book you just bought to your friends. (Authors make more money when you loan books!) And leave a review of why you liked what they wrote. "I loved how you kept me on the edge of my seat until the last page!"  These really help.

I must lurk back into the shadows of writing and next time I pop back out, I hope to have some good news and content for you guys to enjoy. Don't forget, with Halloween coming up, there's two great books that talk about real paranormal events that I investigated. Things DO go bump in the night and these books are a collection of the cases we went on!

Until next time,
Stay Crunchy, Even in Milk...

Author Steven Wolff

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When your books sales go Thelma & Louise on you...

For the first time since September, I'm experiencing a huge slow down in sales.  I'm not sure the culprit but I have read that this is normal even for the best of the best. They call this phenomenon a Sales Cliff and it sucks because the timing sucks - I'm counting on this to help cover my expenses for my road trip I'm taking in September. What I make this month determines how much of a cushion I have to cover the days I'm not paid from my regular day job.

I did find out that you can contact Amazon's customer support and ask them to put you in a category you can't see (because it's not listed). The trick is to be nice with them and be patient. I sent them an email yesterday and I'm waiting to hear back from them. By asking them, they can place you in multiple categories on top of the normal two you are only allowed to pick.

Another thing you can do is release another book. That helps too but I'm in the middle of two projects right now. I don't think I will be able to get done in time for it to make a difference and you don't want to rush your books.

Quality will always win, hands down. Put out a good product and try to get reviews and that should solidify your books place. Put out a crappy product and the negative reviews will kill your book, even if you fixed it..

Also keep in mind that no matter how good your book is, there will always be someone, somewhere who hates your book. They may think it sucks, or think a 5 year old can do better. IGNORE THEM.

On the opposite side of the coin, you will probably have fans who think every word you type is gold and you can do no wrong. In other words, continue doing what you're doing. Our audience will find us in time.

Most importantly, as I said before, you want to have a email signup form on your website to start capturing email addresses. This will take time to gather them but in the long run, you'll be glad you did.

Let's say you have 500 email addresses. Tell them that on Friday (such and such date) your book will be coming out and they will most likely follow your link on that day. When Amazon sees a lot of interest/buys on your book, your ranking will go up. They call this an Amazon Rush.  :-)

Second most important thing to have is a professional book cover. This stops people from browsing and makes them stop and look at your description.

What they are looking for is "Can I trust you to give me a good experience?" How you word your description is the next most important thing...

Third - A Killer Description. This is very misleading because you don't really want to spill the beans and give away what your book is about. That's part of the joy of reading.

Instead, your description should be like a sales ad, starting with any awards/kudos or acknowlegements from someone important.

This establishes trust that you are going to give them a good experience. Your description is basically trying to tell someone "relax, you're making the right decision."

Add a few blurbs and follow up with a final saying like "If you love ____________ then this book is for you!" to seal the deal. The name of the game is to get your product onto people's devices. (A Sale.)

Just remember that sometimes no matter what you do, you can't change the Amazon winds that blow into your sails or not. You can do everything right and the wind just isn't blowing. Try not to be discouraged.

Use this time to double check everything, strengthen anything the needs tweaking, work on trust and relationships with your readers and bloggers because they have access to lots of people who are readers. One good blogger with a huge following can really turn a bad month into a super month.

It's going to suck this month for me in sales but that's okay. (It may change but I'm basing it on the current trends.) I'm working on getting more quality content out, I'm checking and rechecking things and I'm working on making my image (called Author Platform) better so readers trust me, as they should.

For me to reach my goal of making enough money to stay home and write full time, I need to find 1000 new readers every month. That's it... just 1000. Consistently. Once I can do that, I'll be able to stay home and focus on pumping out more books, and do the things I want to do.

However, this month feels like that goal is so far away and I'm back at square one/Day one. That's okay, I know what's possible. I've already proven it.

Did you notice I said goal and not dream. Goals are attainable and are under our control. Dreams are out of our control and may or may not be attainable. For example...

Goal: I'm going to write 2000 words minimum every day. (This is a realistic thing that can be done if you focus.)

Dream: I want to be a New York Times Best Seller. (This is a nie dream to have but getting on the NYT best seller list is something that just has to play out on its own.

So many factors out of my control have to happen. For one, lots of people have to buy my books in a short period of time and do so over a certain amount of time. There's other factors too but you get my point.

Do what you can, Don't worry about what you can't control.

As Joe Konrath says: "This is a marathon, not a sprint."


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Update on things...

Hi everyone, I wanted to give you guys an update on what's going on in my world, why so quiet, etc. For one, as much as I keep reading about "You have to write and maintain a killer blog" that is just not me. I don't know how to write killer blogs and don't know how to entertain people who come here so I'm just going to be honest and just be me. Maybe this way you can connect with me better, who knows.

June really sucked for me in the writing department because I was dealing with a lot of personal things, mostly related to moving. Everyday I'm doing something productive when it comes to learning about marketing, having a platform, etc. but the most important thing is to write. It's crazy how the simplest thing is also the hardest. There are some who are great at sitting down and pumping out book after book. For others, it's a challenge. It's not a matter of time, we all have 24 hours in a day. It's about prioritizing our time so we do sit down and write.

Well we're in the month of July 2013 now and I am writing again. I'm working on two projects, one of them is Episode 3 of Self - Aware (A Zombie Series) and How to be a ghost hunter (A step by step guide for beginners). I'm trying to wrap up How to be a ghost hunter but there's so much information I want to put in that book and I don't want to half-ass it. Yes I can publish a bare-bones book and then add more stuff to it later but I want to do it right the first time if possible.

One of my challenges as a writer is a personal one... I'm all A.D.D. which means I have the attention span of a goldfish. I'm easily distracted and a great multi-tasker but it's staying focused that's always a daily challenge. I'm experimenting with blocking off time to write and seeing if I can do that every day to the point that it becomes a habit. They say that once it becomes a habit, things should be easier. For the record, I have no problem writing, nor being creative.

In fact I consider myself very blessed in that department. I have so many good ideas and dialog flows naturally out of my head. Last count I have about 18 book concepts of things I want to write, the problem is sitting down and writing them. I need to focus on one project (or two at the most) and just knock it out. Getting myself to sit down, turn off facebook, my Nexus 7, and all distractions and just write is a challenge.

However, while this is a challenge, it's NOT an excuse. I own up to everything and I'm constantly challenging myself to do what I need to do. Every day I'm reading, studying, learning or doing something that is reading/writing related and the stuff I'm learning I'm slowly bettering myself with the wisdom and knowledge gained.

Again, this has got to be one of the most challenging things I have ever done in my life (being a writer.) You can't just write a book and throw it out there and hope people will find it and eat it up, spending their fortune on it, making you rich beyond your dreams. No, you have to not only write it, edit it, proof it, format it and write a good description and find a cover that works, you have to market it and yourself to the world.

There's lots of hats you have to wear and it sucks but that's the price of being a self published author. The positives (and I try to focus on that) is that I am the boss of me. These are my words and the story I tell is straight from me, not some publisher who determines how my book will turn out. I like this freedom and I've got lots of stories still yet to tell.

The 10,000 hour rule
I've been reading and hearing about this 10,000 hour rule that if you want to be good at anything, you've got to put in the time. In this case, 10,000 hours. Since Sept 2012, i've been putting in a lot of hours and I know I'm not even close to finishing my 10,000 hours yet. Gah! I do believe in it, I've just got to do the time and I've still got a ways to go. I just wish I was there. (Don't we all?)

Sales have been slowing down these last few months and as a result my ranking on Amazon has been taking a hit. Ranking (from what I understand) is how well you are seen on Amazon. The less people see you, the less sales you get. (I could be wrong, don't quote me on that.) I just know when my numbers plummet, my sales dry up. I am happy to report my Got Ghosts? Series are my best sellers.

I wish my Anica Storm & The Wand of Time would sell but it's hardly noticed. Ironically it's selling better in pieces than it is as a whole. That is my baby and pride and joy. .I'm not ready to write part two yet as I have many other books that I want to publish first. Books that I think I can write in less time. (Book 1 took over 3 years to write.)

 Don't get me wrong, I love Anica and that world she's in and I have a total of 8 books I want to write in the Anica series but that's going to take some time to write but if I can get a routine down where I can write everyday, I might see what  I can do to get Book 2 out sooner. I've already written some of it and it starts off action packed! I just hope to keep that up.  :-D <3

So there you have it.

If you're a fan of my work, please let me know, I would love to hear from you guys. Thanks!

Steven W.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Top Five Simple Steps You Can Do To Improve Your Website

I'm learning that if you want to be seen as a professional writer, you need to have a professional appearance online, which means your website needs to be too. As part of having an author platform, your website and blog plays a critical role; it's your business card, your public relations director and its your billboard all in one.

It needs to be and look professional because people will judge it (and you) all in less time than you can say "wait! don't go!!!" Also, if its not well designed guess what? You just lost a potential sale. Already two strikes!

People in this day and age have come to demand and expect certain things when surfing the web and if we can't keep up, they'll just move on to the next thing that captures their brief attention span. They have the ability to process a lot of information very quickly and filter things out just as fast till they find what they want.

Sadly, up till yesterday, that was me and my website. When you came to my page, you were hit with spam... my books plastered for all to see with little reason to buy them. I had my covers larger than life and the links to buy them but little else. Honestly, I didn't know what my website was for; what purpose did it serve? It turns out for the last 8 months, it's been hurting me and I didn't realize it.

I didn't know better but it was because I wasn't educated on how to do it right. That's okay because this is all a learning process.

It's all part of this journey and its okay to make mistakes as long as we learn from the lesson presented. I saw what I had and decided I needed to change it so I did.

Here's what I've learned...

1.) People don't always come through the front door of your website. Thanks to search engines people can discover you through many of your other pages and links.

What does this mean? It means that every page should look as good as your front page or landing page because for the person whose just seeing you for the first time, that is their front page.

2.) Have a banner that tells your visitors what your site is about.

What does this mean? It means that your name, who you are (Your Brand) and what you offer should be easily seen within the first four seconds. Take for instance my new banner:

Right off the bat, it tells you who I am, shows you a nice photo, tells you that I'm a writer in the paranormal/fantasy and young adult genre along with a tagline "Let me tell you a story..."

It sets up the visitor to know they are welcomed here and that maybe my stories will appeal to them... all in less than 4 seconds.

I'm not saying my way is the right way or is how you should do it but it's merely a suggestion and the reasoning behind it. You can make your site and banner look any way you want. In fact, if you have a better way, share it with us in the comments section below.

3.) Your site should be easy to navigate.Believe it or not, this is the most crucial step people forget when making their web pages.

What does that mean?  It means that no matter what page the person visiting your website is on, they should be able to find the buttons or links to the most important things they probably want to know. One of them should be the Contact Me button. People like to feel a connection with their authors and sometimes want to email them or ask them a question. Another one is the BUY or STORE button. If they are at your site, they like who you are and your sales pitch, now would be a great time to show them where they can buy your book. If you leave them hanging, having to search for where your books are for sale (or if you make it too complicated) they will leave your site frustrated.

4.) Sign up for my newsletter! - One of the most neglected but most important thing to have on your website.

What does that mean?  Repeat after me: "You want to have a newsletter signup link" Why? Because it's a numbers game. Let's pretend you've slowly built up your email contacts list to several hundred (or several thousand). They signed up because they are interested in what you have to offer. If you tell them "Hey, this Friday I'm going to sell my NEW book "Blah" for a certain amount (usually .99 cents) on Amazon but it's only a 24 or 48 hour sale! Be sure to get it this weekend! (Give them enough warning time/heads up). Come Friday, Amazon will see a surge of people buying your book(s) and that will cause Amazon to boost your ranking which in turn exposes you to thousands of potential buyers who will also see your book. It's a snowball effect and had you not told your followers (fans) when to go, nothing would have happened. (Think of it like a Flash Mob on Amazon.)

5.) Less Is More. 

What does that mean? It means that if you don't have a lot of clutter on your website, people are able to see the posts and images you want them to see. People like simple, clean and clutter free sites. Look at Google's home page. It's a simple white page, with its name and a search bar and that's pretty much it. Simple and to the point. The same goes for flashing icons, gifs, etc. If people want to see that, they'll go to MySpace.

There you have it, 5 simple steps you can do to improve your website. If you would like to share your own tips, please leave a comment below and as always, thanks for reading.  :-)