Beginning Writers

THE UPSIDE OF NEGATIVE BOOK REVIEWS

img_5501.jpg

I recently received a one star review on Amazon for my newest book on writing, One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author. The review read, and I quote, “Sounded like a seventh grader put it together…” The reviewer then proceeded to make the accusation that I attempted to copy Anne Lamott’s iconic book on writing, “Bird by Bird” grinding the proverbial salt to the wound by saying, “He missed by a mile.”How do you even respond to that? The truth is you can’t and you don’t want to.  My emotional cycle played out like this…first comes a few seconds of anger, then a few minutes of shaken confidence, then about ten minutes of worry that it will have a negative effect on the book sales and then, finally, I shrugged it off and moved on.   Not only do you move you, you try to determine if there’s a kernel of constructive criticism that can make you better.   If the negative reviewer reveals something you can work on to make you a better writer they’ve done you a huge favor and you should thank them for their honesty. My big takeaway from this review is apparently not to write like a seventh grader. I’ll try to work on that. 

 Seriously, being an indie affords you countless opportunities to develop a thick skin but the great thing is almost every negative can be turned into a positive. According to James Altucher (whom I respect very deeply) we should strive for a Flesch-Kincaid readability score of three for truly effective writing. A FK score of three translates into third grade level so ideally I need to get to work at reducing this by four grades.  I've said it before, writing is not the profession for the timid or faint of heart. You must be like a gold miner panning for glimmers of shining truth in the river of life. The occasional bad review, can even give your book more legitimacy by showing that it’s not just a bunch of friends and relatives writing reviews for your work.  The truth is not everybody is going to connect with your writing. If you want to become a writer of the caliber that will leave a legacy and be remembered you will probably have as many haters as you have fans. When this happens I will know I’ve truly succeeded at my craft and in life.  ~Eric Vance Walton~

HOW TO FAIL MISERABLY AS A WRITER (or anything else)

img_5497.jpg

It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you think you are, if you can’t figure out how to connect with readers you’re not going to sell anything. Internet marketing for indie authors is especially tough to figure out. Often our budgets are small or even non-existent and the rules are changing often. This is important stuff. If you don’t figure it out eventually you’ll be discouraged enough to give up on your dream. I admit that marketing has never been one of my strong suits. This is one of the reasons it took my writing career so long to take off.  I was that skinny and awkward kid with thick glasses that few things came naturally to. I would practice things hundreds of times until I perfected them. One of the few things I had on my side was persistence. I’m still that same kid inside, only larger, with a few gray hairs, and the nagging thought that time goes far too fast to waste it.

A month ago I tried to make a poached egg.  It ended up looking like egg drop soup. It was terrible. Ten or so attempts and a few YouTube videos later I can make a perfect poached egg. The secret, once I learned it, was like magic and made the process easy.  What is the secret?  Soak the eggs (still in the shell) in white vinegar for five minutes before cracking and boiling them. That was it. Things are incredibly hard until you figure out the secret and then they’re easy. To find success you must have to have the patience and persistence to get to the EASY.

Most of us have heard the quote by William Faulkner, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” If a sentence or passage doesn’t work for the good of the overall project you must get rid of it no matter how brilliant you think it is. This is excellent advice but it isn’t easy to do partially because of ego but to a greater degree because of fear that you can’t write something better. To become a successful writer you must subdue your ego and have the confidence to believe that great ideas come from an endless source within you. When you believe this amazing things begin to happen.

The opposite is true as well. The surest way to fail at this is to write from a place of fear or hold on to ineffective ideas. They become bars in an invisible prison cell that will keep you stuck right where you are.

I know this “kill your darlings” philosophy works for writing so I applied it to marketing. Sometimes the entire marketing idea stinks and has to go but sometimes part of it can be saved, retooled to try again. I’m not getting any younger and the books aren’t selling themselves so I’ll only try a retooled idea once. If the idea doesn’t get results it must go to the scrap heap.

Some of you might remember last summer I had a marketing idea that I was super excited about. While traveling I decided to hand out a few copies of my novel, Alarm Clock Dawn, to random people for free.  There was a note inside the front cover asking the recipient to leave me a message on Facebook letting me know what they thought about the book. After they were finished reading it I asked if they would pass the book onto another friend to read and they could do the same, and so on. The whole idea was based on the Pay It Forward philosophy.

It was a hard thing to accept because I was sure it would work but the whole thing fell flat. I waited for months but all I heard were crickets...not a single response from anyone. Ever. I had to accept it and move on to something new and better. All of us are a constant work in progress. Failure is not an option.

Next week I’ll be traveling to Chicago for a long weekend, partially for business but mostly for fun.  I’ll be visiting a few independent bookstores and doing some research for my new novel Truth Is Stranger. Along the way I’m going to try this Pay It Forward marketing idea once more.  It’ll be interesting to see how it works after a few tweaks.  I’ll be updating you all on my experiences throughout this process.

All it really takes in this world to be successful is working through the hard to get to the EASY.  I hope your path to easy is a short one. More importantly, I hope you learn quickly from every misstep along the way. With Gratitude, ~Eric Vance Walton~

Just Before The Dawn

1306182.jpg

I’ve been in this business longer than I care to think about. If I think too much about how many years of my life I’ve been pursuing the goal of becoming a full-time writer I sometimes get depressed. Up until just a couple of years ago I didn’t even have a real plan, I was only a dreamer and the dream didn’t have teeth. It’s good to dream but that’s only one element of what it takes to get you there. Recently just such a moment of depression descended on me. My sales had hit a plateau; there were no new opportunities to speak of. It only lasted a few hours but it was a gut wrenching feeling that this was as big as my dream would ever become. I feared my fifteen minutes were over. Then I remembered that I’d felt this a few times before and usually when I did a breakthrough was on the other side of that dark night. What I’ve found is the closer I get to achieving that next burst of exponential growth in my writing career the more seems to be working against me. I’ve learned from talking to others who are trying to achieve a dream similar to mine that this experience isn’t unique.

The challenges can crop up from a variety of places…the news, envious people, and, yes, even my own mind. All these challenges need to do to be successful in derailing you is to plant that seed of doubt and it will grow into a dream killing monster. But, you know what? None of that matters once your mind is made up and my mind was made up a couple of years ago. I am a writer. I will do this for a living while traveling the world with my wife, meeting new people, and experiencing different cultures.

The most effective way out and on to the next plateau begins with deciding to just focus solely on what you have control over. I know I have control over my mind. Most often I’ve learned getting out of this kind of slump requires a simple shift in mindset. Think about it, anything can seem difficult or even impossible if you’ve made your mind up that it is.

The secret is to make up your mind that your goal is attainable, not just attainable but easy to achieve. This isn’t fooling yourself, well maybe a little, but this Jedi-like mind trick fills you with such confidence and positive energy that I believe you attract opportunities and people that can help. The truth is most of us can’t do this alone and that’s okay. Build a team of helpers who are geniuses in their particular field (marketing, editing, etc.) You will be simply unstoppable with an army of experts behind you.

Whenever find yourself in a funk such as the one I just described ask yourself these three things:

1. What do I really want?

2. Why don’t I already have what I want?

3. What do I need to do to get what I want?

To answer these questions as honestly as you possibly can gives your dream teeth. In my case, my most limiting factor is always inside my own head. The mind is quite good at self-sabotage by peppering your inner dialogue with negative statements like, “This is going to be a real challenge” as well as countless other statements that begin with those two dreaded words, “I can’t…”. Negativity is pure poison and will keep you lost in delusion.

The truth is you CAN do this and if you want it badly enough YOU WILL. The other option is to find yourself right where you are in ten years from now doing the same things in the same way. Stay with me and we’ll build our dreams together. Create a strategy. When you make it through to your next day’s dawn I’ll be there to greet you. Maybe we can have a beer or a nice glass of cabernet at some quaint Parisian café and swap stories.

In just a few short days from ground zero I have renewed hope. I also have a few new and exciting irons in the fire. I can tell you from experience that what I speak of works and this sunrise, it’s such a beautiful thing.

I wish you the very best,

~Eric Vance Walton~

We Are Worthy

I laughed at the comic below and then almost immediately it reminded me of how unbalanced our society is. When is the last time a song, a poem, a film, or a piece of art moved you? It happens to me almost on a weekly basis. The truth is these creative treasures have the power to impact you so deeply they can actually change you. We live in a world rich with life-altering creative treasures, many of them are accessible for free 24/7 from any mobile device. The unfortunate thing is a staggeringly small percentage of the creative geniuses who create these great gifts ever reap the benefits of their valuable service to humanity. Creatives infuse our world with beauty, positive energy, they shake us from our apathy and challenge us to think. How valuable is this? More importantly, how do you put a price on it?

This, is the hard part for us creatives. Our creative fruits...art, literature, poetry are all subjective, what truly impacts one person might seem like crap to another. To add even more complexity, you must make a reasonable name for yourself before most people are willing to spend a dime on your work. The truth is it can't be done overnight but it can be done. I am proof.

First you must give yourself permission to be an artist or writer. You must also give yourself permission to ask people to pay a reasonable price for your work. If you work hard and create a quality product that sparks an emotional connection with others you deserve to be compensated...don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Yes, you will have to give some content away for free at first but you shouldn't do this for long. Keep honing your skills, continue to build your confidence, become a marketing ninja!

By the same token, if you encounter another creative person whose work moves you and you are in the position to do so, buy it. Become a patron. This is the greatest gift you can give someone who is struggling. It's not just about the money but more about the validation of their talent. That item you buy could be the first sale they've had in a week or a month and it will give them the hope they need to keep pursuing their dreams. I know, I've been there, too many of us have. The age of the starving artist must come to an end. In reality we are all just one big creative family and it all begins with us.

Eric Vance Walton is a novelist, poet, aspiring world traveler, and tea junkie. He invites you to follow his unfolding story by "liking" his Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/EricVanceWaltonAuthor for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects. You can find Eric's new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon in print or as an ebook.

Article © 2014 Eric Vance Walton

unnamed

Great Reviews for One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author!

I couldn't be more thrilled by the reception of my new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author! I've received so many kind words from those who've read it, I appreciate this more than you know. The book now has SEVEN Amazon reviews with an average of 4.5 stars! If you've read the book I'd like to hear what you think and, please, whether you liked it or not please write an Amazon review!

If you haven't read One Word At A Time yet and would like to Amazon has discounted the paperback (it's also available as an eBook in the Kindle store).

Thank you!

One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author

Resolutions, Schmesolutions

img_5151.png

I don't believe in New Year's resolutions, they seem half-hearted. Resolutions can be charming and fun but really amount to only inspirational buckshot launched into the air, willy nilly, when the clock strikes midnight. Goals, on the other hand I totally believe in and are all-powerful. Goals are our antidote to the days of our lives slipping through our fingers. Goals are like a highly trained sniper...calm, focused, and purposeful. Goals allow us to accomplish incredible things, really most anything we wish. I can honestly say that I’ve had few goals that haven’t been achieved if I’ve chased them with real intent. Believe me when I say this...I’m not special, anyone can do this. The true secret to success when pursuing your goals is the quality of your intent. It also helps if you share your goals with as many people as possible. This creates a large body of cheerleaders and mentors that help to hold you accountable and keep you on track.

With that being said, here it goes, following are my goals for 2015:

1. Grow my readership on social media to 10,000 readers (or more) before the end of 2015. I will do this by producing high quality content that entertains as well as adds value to people’s lives. I want to continue to share everything I am learning every step of the way with my readers as I grow my publishing base. Reason being? I receive as much (if not more) in terms of inspiration and knowledge from my readers than I could ever give to them. I want to create a blueprint for others to follow. You can play an integral role in this goal by helping to spread the word about any of my writing you've connected with. The tiny (but mighty) SHARE button on Facebook is like gold to the indie author. Sharing of author pages and posts is one of the only effective ways left to scale your audience on social media;

2. Finish the first draft of my second novel, Truth Is Stranger by the end of May with a targeted release by Fall of 2015. I will use the NaNoWriMo template as a model (scaled to my personal schedule), I go into detail about how to do this in my recent book on writing, One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author;

3. Monetize my website with Google Adsense to create another revenue stream. I’ve been thinking about this for years but have never gotten around to it. Monetizing is an easy way for creatives to make more money by doing what they love. I don't care about money. To me money is just a means to an end but this will free up more of my time to create and to achieve goal #4;

4. Travel overseas. I’ve been an aspiring world-traveler since my earliest memory. Other places and cultures have always fascinated me. Wanderlust courses, like a drug, through my veins. Nothing to me enhances your life or provides a greater education than experiencing other cultures. I plan to get some of that education in 2015. I don’t care where but my wife and I will get started. Time waits for no one; and

5. Learn a second language. In the past I’ve dabbled in learning both Mandarin Chinese and French but haven’t pursued mastering these languages with any vigor. In 2015 I will learn to speak French and then we’ll see where it goes from there.

This list might seem lofty but my last few years have taught me that absolutely nothing is unattainable. I’ve seen the following quote in no fewer than a million memes over the past few days but it rings true with me, it reads, “Today is the first blank page of a 365 page book.” I am totally committed to making 2015 a breathtaking adventure. I'd be grateful if you stayed along with me for the ride! Much love, as always.

~Eric Vance Walton~

About The Author

Eric Vance Walton is a novelist, poet, aspiring world traveler, and tea junkie. He invites you to follow his unfolding story by "liking" his Facebook Author Page for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects. Eric's new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author recently charted at #7 in the Amazon Kindle Store and is available on Amazon in print or as an ebook.