The Pros and Cons of Branching Out

This is a blog post that I originally wrote for the website Serious Reading as part of promoting PATHOGENS. Side note/plug: PATHOGENS just received a coveted 5/5 from Awesome Indies reviewers, so if you haven’t checked out my latest book, do that too.

Without further ado:

The Pros and Cons of Branching Out

“Know Thyself” was the command inscribed at Delphi by the ancient Greeks, who arguably invented the drama and the tragedy.

“Pigeonhole Thyself” is the advice given to today’s dramatic writers, words which some would argue are a tragedy.

The idea is to pick a genre, find a niche, and build yourself a lovely summer home there. But is this advice for good or for ill? Let’s flesh out the pros and cons and find out.

branchingout
“Branching Out” by ATWhim on Etsy.

PROS

Marketability. Far and away the biggest tally mark in the “pro” category, setting your writing within the confines of a single genre can help make lifelong fans. After all, readers who loved your heartwarming WWII love story might not enjoy your vampire detective novel. But if you’ve got a Civil War love story waiting in the wings? It’s that much easier for them to click the “buy” button on Amazon. It’s the same logic behind the advice, “write a series, not multiple stand-alone novels.” Brands sell. Agents think this way, publishers think this way, so why not writers? You’ll need to wear all three hats if you’re going to make it in the era of self-publishing.

Honing Your Craft. Writing and reading, that’s what will make you a better writer. Lather, rinse, repeat. And guess what? If you write, read, sleep, eat, and excrete RomComs, you’re going to get better and better at that genre.

Be memorable. Stephen King is a name that can give people goosebumps. Why? He’s a master of horror. That’s what he does, and he does it well and consistently. If you want to make a name for yourself, it might be worth doing the same.  

kyle_-_branching_out
“Branching Out” via Martian Chronicles blog.

CONS

Marketability. Yes, it can be marketable both to stick to one genre or to diversify your portfolio. The market is fickle like that. If you write only Sci-Fi novels, a thriller fan might never discover your books. But if you wow him/her with your murder mystery, they might fall in love with your writing style and seek out your other books, regardless of the genre. By casting a wider net, you open up new possibilities. You want readers to fall in love with your writing, not simply to take advantage of the love they already hold for the genre.

Passion. If you love reading children’s books, slasher fiction, and comedies, why can’t you write all three? Although, to avoid angry parents, you might want to do a nom de plume for one of the first two, lest the kiddos accidentally cross over. But the point is—writing should be fun! That’s why we all do it, or at least why we started. Write what you love and love what you write.

Conclusion

I’m bringing it back full circle here. The right answer? “Know Thyself.” Weigh the pros and cons, discover your own motivations, and pick what’s right for you. What motivates you to put butt to chair and fingers to keyboard? The prospect of sales? If so, you might want to take the hardline marketability approach. Or if you have a story that needs to emerge, but it’s not in your usual genre, write the damn thing. A book written with passion is so much more enjoyable to read than a book written out of duty. Your readers will notice the difference.

As for this author? I’ve tried to do a little of both. My Click Your Poison series hops from genre to genre, yet each book “feels” like it’s part of the same series. My goal is to have fans/readers pining to read what I want to write, not to be a writer who tries to write what I think readers might like. I love writing my books. That’s the first step in finding fans who love to read them.



Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? On the money of off-base?

Leave me a comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

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Hazmat Team Inbound!

men-in-hazmat-suits_100435

Please excuse the mess! PATHOGENS will be published later this month, and in the meantime you’ll see me building the relevant pages on this website to coincide with launch.

Speaking of which, if you don’t want to miss out on the exact moment the book is available (along with some details on how to get the book for FREE), I highly recommend you sign up for my mailing list, which you may do here.

Other than that…move along. Nothing to see here, people. Just a routine posting. Nothing nefarious.


Thanks for reading! Now do us all a favor and scream with giddy excitement.

Leave me a comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

Are ebooks second-class citizens?

I am a self-published author, an indie author, DIY writer; call it what you will. And as such, I know the power of reviews. So when I received this email from a major reviewer — The Midwest Book Review — through my PR rep, I was delighted.

Thank you for your information. Please send two copies of the published book for review, accompanied by a cover letter and some form of publicity or press release, to the attention of:
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James A. Cox
Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
As my book has no hard-copies, I quickly replied:
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Good afternoon! Abby forwarded your request to me so I could handle it personally.

The book is published only as an ebook, due to the unique storytelling where you click embedded hyperlinks to make your choice and progress through the narrative. I can send you the book as an Amazon gift or in whatever format is convenient for you.

Thank you for your interest in INFECTED: Click Your Poison #1.   I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,
James Schannep

This is where the delight ended. In the interest of transparency, I’ll post the response I received in full:
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Thank you for your information and offer.
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There is a charge of a $50 “Reader Fee” for reviewing ebooks, pre-publication manuscripts, galleys, uncorrected proofs, ARCs, and pdf files. If you wish to purse (SIC) this then let me know and I’ll send you the name and email address of the assigned reviewer. The check would be made out to the reviewer who would also tell you what information would be needed along with a copy of the title to be reviewed.
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The reviewer would provide you with a copy of the review and you would have automatic permission to utilize the review in any manner you deem useful to promote and market the book. I will also be provided a copy of the review and it will run in our book review publication “MBR Bookwatch”, be posted on the Midwest Book Review web site for five years, and published in “Book Review Index” which is distributed to thousands of academic and community libraries throughout the United States and Canada.
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Published books in a traditional print edition (paperback or hardcover) are reviewed free of charge.
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Please let me know if you’d like to proceed further.
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James A. Cox
Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
Here’s what stuck out to me: “ebooks” was listed right next to “pre-publication manuscripts” and “uncorrected proofs,” and they didn’t want to charge for a “traditional” book. This was my response:
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I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in paying for reviews. Furthermore, I challenge you to reconsider your stance on ebooks. Lumping them in with other “incomplete” publications is insulting to authors, and ultimately short sighted. Ebooks are the future. Many authors (myself included) put considerable time, effort, and money into making their ebook a professional product. I believe your organization legitimately wants to help authors, but this policy flies in the face of that goal.

.Thank you for your time.

.Regards,
James Schannep

As of this post, I haven’t seen a response. This is not meant to be an attack on Mr. Cox or his group of reviewers, though it is an attack on his policy.
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What do you think? Should I have paid the $50, happy to get whatever press I can, or am I right to be outraged? What would you have done?

Perhaps a month? And I’m a little scared

As promised, here’s an update on my impending book. I’ve gotten round one of reader feedback from my betas, with Mike somehow making it through unscathed (that dude is a ZAdass–Zombie Apocalypse Badass–sorry…that’s awful) and Chris showing me the best ways to die. Seriously, Chris can be in my survival group, but he’s not making the decisions (love you, man).

What’s up now? I’m sending the manuscript out to a professional editor next week, so she can shred it apart before it rises again as an immortal hellion bent on spreading across humanity like a virus. Also, I’ve got a talented cover artist working on a custom design for me. Here’s something she did a couple of years back:

wolves

So with all this awesome news, why am I suddenly terrified?

Maybe it’s because I’ve been toiling in obscurity so long it’s all I know? It’s like all I’ve ever wanted to do is go skydiving, and now that I’m standing in the door, I keep thinking how crazy I am.

Well, ready or not, I’m making the leap — in a month, perhaps.

The Power of Editing

This post serves as the official announcement that I’ll be self-publishing an ebook later this year (hopefully this summer).  It’s the new Wild West in publishing, and anything is possible in this exciting time.  I’m proud to be part of  this neo-Gutenbergian movement bringing far greater reach for the written word and empowerment to writers.

I’m still finishing my manuscript, but I’m getting close to completion, so I’ve begun researching ebook self-publishing already.  As such, expect updates chronicling what I learn along the way.

For this entry, I want to highlight editing.  A professional editor is perhaps the single most valuable resource a publishing house deal could provide.  But the indie writer is not without hope thanks to the internet.  Many excellent editors freelance, and I’m searching for one to work with now (so feel free to contact me with any leads!).

All the short stories on this site are, hitherto, unedited by a professional; peer-review only.  As a part of my learning process, I’ll be taking these stories down in the next upcoming weeks, sending them to editors, and then publishing them as ebooks.

I was perusing David Gaughran’s excellent website on the subject and came across a link to a Raymond Carver story, showing the markups by his editor.  It’s originally from the New Yorker, and can be found here: Primary Sources: : The New Yorker.

It’s worth checking out!