Should You Self-Publish Your Novel?

Ginormous Library

If you squint really hard, you can almost see my books … Oh wait, no, that’s James Patterson.

Which is better, self-publishing or a traditional publishing deal?

I’ve done both. Here’s the truth: there are benefits and drawbacks to both self-publishing and traditional publishing.

If you’re a hands-on, DIY type of person with an entrepreneurial mindset, then you might be better suited to self-publishing. If you’d rather focus on the writing and not deal with the rest of it, you might prefer traditional publishing.

Self-publishing means doing things your own way. You can hire your own editors and artists. You call the shots. It sounds perfect, but the truth is that it can be grueling. For one thing, it’s difficult to get any attention as a self-published author.

When you work with a publisher, the reverse is true. Someone else has control over the process, and you don’t. They might make crucial creative and business decisions without even consulting you.

Yet at the same time, a traditional publisher can open doors that would otherwise remain closed. For example, you have the opportunity to get reviews from places like Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus.

I believe that the best approach is to embrace both avenues. Come up with a career strategy that leverages the advantages (and minimizes the drawbacks) of both traditional and self-publishing.

It’s not easy, but it can be done. Hey, even a moderately talented guy like me can do it. You can too.

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How I Make a Living as a Writer (And You Can Too)

Make a living writing

Copywriting for fun and profit. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.

I’m proud to say I’ve built a full-time career around writing, as both a novelist and a copywriter.

That means splitting my time between the two. Usually I spend the morning writing novels, then spend the afternoon writing marketing and advertising copy for business clients.

(“Copy” is just fancy ad agency shorthand for “words that sell stuff.”)

I’m not alone. There have been innumerable examples of copywriters who also successfully wrote fiction. James Patterson, Salman Rushdie, Joseph Heller, and Dorothy Sayers, to name a few.

I’m not saying that I’m remotely in the same class as them. But I have written for hundreds of businesses, from little tech startups to big names like Home Depot and Saks Fifth Avenue.

I write copy for all sorts of things: company websites, blog posts, articles, case studies, sales letters, newsletters, landing pages, sales emails, pay-per-click ads, direct mail, brochures, you name it.

Writing copy requires quite a bit of discipline, research, and the willingness to develop specific skills. It will absolutely improve anyone’s storytelling abilities. It helps make your fiction writing punchier, better researched and more emotionally resonant.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s true. A good copywriter, like a good novelist, has to know how to write in a way that connects with the reader’s emotions.

So if you’re interested in writing for a living, I suggest looking into copywriting as a possible business. Not only does it multiply your opportunities to make money writing, it will also make you a better writer. What’s not to love?

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How to Plan and Write A Novel

non-English typewriter

Think Microsoft Word is a pain to use? Try cranking out 100K on this sucker.

I’m often asked what my writing process looks like.

How do I write a book? It’s pretty simple, actually.

(Not easy. But simple.)

First, I start with the basics:

  • Who are the good guys?
  • What are they trying to do?
  • And, especially, why?
  • Who are the bad guys?
  • Where does this take place?

Then I boil all of that down into a strong core idea. For example: a bookish crystal shop owner has to save the world from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – who drive possessed muscle cars.

The idea has to work at the core level, it has to really grab me, before I start writing it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Then I figure out how to make the whole book work, beginning to end, in a short synopsis. Maybe one page. That takes time. And even once I have that figured out, I don’t start writing it yet.

I go through a process of breaking the entire book down into smaller and smaller chunks, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. There’s always a certain amount of stuff that you have to throw out or change. There are gaps that you need to fill in.

After a considerable amount of work, I get to the point where I have a complete list of scenes, and a description of what happens in each scene. Once that’s done, I can start writing the book.

But nothing is set in stone. Any of this stuff could change at any time. I’m not a slave to the outline.

If I come up with a better idea on the fly, I’ll go with it.

I can always change the outline later to smooth things out again.

I think of it like a weather forecast: this is what will probably happen. But just in case, bring an umbrella.

I don’t think I’ve ever written a book that ended exactly the way I thought it would. And that’s okay. The outline is just a tool that helps you get the book done. That’s what really matters.

Are you writing a book? Let me know in the comments.

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The Bulletproof Secret to Doing Anything Better

Thumbs Up

Try. Measure. Improve. Then repeat as needed.

Every writer I’ve ever talked to always wants to achieve more.

(Even Hugh Howey.)

We all want to reach more readers, sell more books, write better stories, and so on.

All of us, writers or not, want to do more and do it better. The question is, how?

I’m no guru, but I believe the secret to improving anything in life is to keep trying new things. And then – this is crucial, this is where most people drop the ball – actually measure your results.

Write them down. Compare. See if they’re working. If something isn’t giving you the results you want, drop it and move on.

Every day, you have a million choices and opportunities headed your way. You can’t embrace them all. Which ones will you take on?

Never give up. Just keep trying new things and measuring the results. If something works, do more of it. If something doesn’t work, stop doing it and move on.

That’s pretty broad advice, but it works. Try it today.

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How to Turn a Short Story into a Book Series

Lightbulb Moment

DING! (That’s my lightbulb-moment sound effect.)

Believe it or not, IT HAPPENED ONE DOOMSDAY started out as a short story.

I was struggling with another novel, so I switched gears and wrote a fun little story about this awkward wannabe sorceress who ends up breaking the evil curse on a bad-boy hero with a muscle car.

It was half scary, half funny, and people seemed to really get a kick out of it. They kept asking me what happens next.

And I had to say, “There is no next. This is it.”

But I really got hooked on writing these characters, so I expanded it into a novella. My critique group was extraordinarily supportive. I kept bringing them new pages of rough draft as I wrote it, and we tossed all sorts of crazy ideas around.

I just kept expanding the story until it became a novel. The day I finished it, I called my wife to tell her, and she asked, “How does it end?”

And I said, “Guess.”

She said, “You know what would be really cool?” And she sketched out a completely different ending from the one I had just written.

Not just different. It was better, and ultimately it meant expanding the book into a series.

So with a sigh, I went back and changed the ending. And at that moment, everything clicked. I had the feeling that I was really onto something.

This ended up being the first book I’ve ever written that received offers from multiple publishers. My literary agent, Kristin Nelson, sold it in a multi-book deal.

I’ve already written Book 2, which should come out in the summer of 2017, and I have more stories on the way. Get free previews and short stories when you subscribe to my free author newsletter. >

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How to Make Writing Your Career: Word Cafe Interview with Yours Truly

Word Cafe author interview

Just for the record, the lace doilies were not my idea. Now you know.

Hey, this is cool. Join me over at Word Cafe for an interview where I reveal everything I know about:

• Building a full-time career around writing, as a novelist and a copywriter — and what a copywriter does, exactly.

• How my first book from a New York publisher actually started out as a short story — and how I grew it into a novel.

• The pros and cons of being a hybrid author (both traditionally published and self-published).

• What my fiction writing process looks like. (It’s both crazier and more straightforward than you might think).

• And, of course, my top piece of advice for writers.

Read the complete interview here. >

P.S. Also, I’m giving away a few autographed paperback books to my newsletter subscribers. Don’t miss out. Click here to subscribe to my author newsletter. >

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How to Never Get Writer’s Block. Ever.

writers block

Writer’s block(s). Get it? … Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Let me tell you the secret to getting rid of writer’s block forever.

I’ll admit, I’ve certainly had days where I feel like I don’t know what to write, or I worry that everything I write is terrible.

Some people call that writer’s block. I call it “Monday.” :-)

But seriously, what most people call “writer’s block” is an insidious combination of those two problems.

Problem #1: Not knowing what to write. Continue reading

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What an Editor Really Does — and Why You Need One

I first met Anita when she worked with my literary agent, Kristin Nelson. Anita is a freelance editor who helps writers bring out the very best in their novels. She was kind enough to share her editing insights, including why you should never let a rejection letter get you down, and why joining a critique group can not only improve your writing, but also save you money – and help you get published. Here’s Anita with all the insider info about editors. –L.

 

Anita, can you tell us what a developmental editor does, exactly?

Anita Mumm, founder of Mumm’s the Word Editing & Critique Services

Anita Mumm, founder of Mumm’s the Word Editing & Critique Services

The easiest way to describe a developmental editor’s work is that it focuses on the big picture: Does the plot work? Are the characters the kind of people readers want to spend an entire book with? Is the dialogue smooth or stilted? Is the voice appropriate to the genre and audience?

Developmental editing means making sure the foundation of the novel is sound, and that all of its parts come together in a meaningful whole.

Continue reading

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Coming in 2017: Dru Jasper Book 2

A Kiss Before Doomsday

Did you notice the red glowing tire tracks? Words can’t express how much I love this new cover.

So, this year I did something I’ve never done before. I wrote a sequel.

It was weird, because for the first time, I found myself writing a book with pre-established characters, relationships, settings, etc. Dru’s magic universe (or the “Druniverse” as I like to call it) was already firmly laid out in the first book.

If a story fact made things more complicated, it’s not like I could just change it. I had to work it out. For example, Opal doesn’t have magical powers, but now she’s caught in the midst of these epic magical struggles. What does that mean for her as a person? What does that mean for her friends?

Continue reading

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3 Authors Chat on Night Owl Reviews – Tonight!

Tonight at 6:00 PM MST, I’m doing an author chat with Night Owl Reviews.

Far as I can tell, it’s a text chat. So, apparently we’re going to party like it’s 1999. ;)

Night Owl Reviews author chat time zone map

Join me at 6:00 PM MST (or your local equivalent).

Join me, along with romance author Avery Flynn and mystery author Julia Buckley.

We’ll answer your questions, share excerpts and give away brand new books.

Since 2004, Night Owl Reviews has reviewed over 26,000 books. Here’s what they said about It Happened One Doomsday:

MacNaughton provides a smooth, action-packed read all the way to the end! This could be the start of a new series, and I’m already looking forward to the next one. The characters were great and believable. I loved the car scenes the best (too bad Hellbringer isn’t real!) … Very descriptive, and new takes on old stories had this reader staying up to finish it in one night!

Wow. Come see what all the excitement is about.

Click here to RSVP for the event.

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