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Messages - jjwilbourne

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Over the past few years since this was originally made, I've met so many authors absolutely killing it by self-publishing. I even make extra income by working with some of them (Sterling & Stone - sterlingandstone.net).

So many authors don't understand how to sell a book, how to market a book, and what their key conversion elements are. You have to write an excellent book, and then put on your publisher hat and then think like a publisher.

From the six and seven figure authors that I know personally, their best advice is:

1. Build a mailing list (using best practices and a good cookie), and understand how to build a proper sales funnel.

2. Write in a series. It's much easier to get a reader to pick up your next book if it's in a series because they're already invested in the characters. Writing standalones makes it much more difficult.

3. Don't cheap out on your cover. Covers sell books. It's the number one conversion element, followed by product description and reviews. Also, make sure your description is actually a product description, not a book report. You're writing sales copy, not art.

4. If you can, write multiple books in your series, but don't release them until you have at least three written, then start releasing them in relatively quick secession. On Amazon there are 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day cliffs where the algorithm stops selling your book as much and the novel will need to float or sink. Staying ahead of these cliffs will give you a huge boost.

Lindsay Buroker has been killing it and has been for years, but wondered whether or not her success was more or less a fluke. So a few years later, she started a pen name and used the best practices that she learned over the years (and didn't tell her fans about it). Here are her results one month after launching and 10 weeks after launching.


Doing well as an independent author is not only possible, but you can do it. Lindsay proves it here because she did it twice. And the second time (being smarter than she was when she first started), she earned more in one month than most writers earn in a few years.

It's never been a better time to be a writer. Your options are wide open compared to what it used to be. Learn your craft. Pay for quality editing. Pay for a quality book cover. Make smart marketing decisions. Be patient, and focus on building up multiple streams of income. You can do it. It's not an overnight success career, but neither is traditional publishing.

Fantasy-Faction didn't ask for permission from a corporation to build this website write. Authors don't have to ask either.

Writers' Corner / Re: Illustrations in Adult Fantasy Novels
« on: April 14, 2018, 11:29:51 PM »
1. You'll probably want to talk to your agent about it and have them talk to the publisher. When should you do it? It depends on the agent, but probably before they start pitching the novel to editors. This way they can properly advise you.

2. Good enough is decided by the publisher's art director(s) and/or marketing departments. It's a relative idea, and can't be easily stated.

3. Illustrations cost money, and the publisher is already risking money on you. If you're not established or if they're not confident you're going to sell a lot of copies (which you can extrapolate from the kind of advance you receive), it seems unlikely that they will spend extra money to do this. This is probably why you don't see it all that often. If you prove to be an author who will not only earn out their advance but will also make them money, you'll be in a position to ask them to do more.

You can ask, but they may not give it to you. I don't think it'll make you hard to work with unless it's framed as a demand. If you're nervous about that, just have your agent advice you and function as your emissary.

Writers' Corner / Re: Emotion Thesaurus
« on: April 14, 2018, 11:13:59 PM »
I have it, and it's excellent.

I actually bought it as an ebook. A physical copy is usually easier to access and flick through, but if you have the Kindle app on your computer, it helps with reference books as it's much easier to browse than using an e-reader/tablet/phone. Give it a try with other similar books first so you see what I mean before you buy it this way though.

Writers' Corner / Re: Taglines
« on: April 14, 2018, 11:07:57 PM »
The Call: The last paragraph or a cleaned up version of it could make a cool tagline. The description is missing what the protagonist desires, and what's at stake if she fails to win the struggle. Rewrite to include these elements to increase your conversion rate.

A Clash of Shadows: Again, you're missing what's a stake. At best, it's vague. I'm not sure what works best here for a tagline.

Firedemon: Like The Call, the last paragraph can be cleaned up to be a tagline. You'll also want to make what's at stake a bit more clear here. It seems obvious what's at stake, but you need to be a bit more direct if you want a potential reader to latch on to the story.

The second series has some of the same issues, so I won't directly list them. Here's a simple checklist to help you clean up the synopsis portion product descriptions:

1. Who is your main character?
2. What does she want?
3. What or who stands in her way?
4. What will she do, or what must she do, in order to get what she wants?
5. What is at stake if she fails?

At the very least, make sure all of this is present. When doing this, you'll likely want to avoid as many proper nouns as you reasonably can so you don't distract the potential reader from these five questions.

In your descriptions, 2, 3, or 5 are absent or a bit too vague. You may want to hire a copywriter or an editor with experience writing product descriptions to help you with this. Your description is one of the most important conversion elements, so you don't want to spend weeks writing a book, and then skimp out on this, because then you're just wasting your time, and throwing away opportunities.

After your tagline and synopsis, you might want to consider adding two more pieces:
1. A "selling paragraph"
2. A CTA (call to action)

The selling paragraph usually lets the reader know some key details like genre, those egotistic claims you don't want to use, and what book in the series it is (you'd be surprised how many people don't actually realize they're about to buy the 3rd or 4th book). It also gives you the chance to use the word "you." It sounds silly, but that actually helps sell things, and there's lots of data on this.

This stuff doesn't belong in your tagline. Your tagline is a gripping phrase that's related to the actual story.

A good selling paragraph looks like this one:

"What Must Come is the second book in David Carson's Planet Wars, a military sci-fi space opera. If you like Tom Clancy, Stephen King, and James Michener, then you'll love a series that combines all of their best traits in a fast-paced, captivating, intergalactic adventure."

Now, you don't have to include specific examples of other stories or authors your book is like, but it does help. It's not egotistical. You're doing the person a favor by letting them know if it's in the orbit of styles that they enjoy. Stop thinking of yourself (this isn't meant to be mean, just a blunt statement). This isn't about you. It's about the reader.

Again, consider getting a copywriter to help you if you feel uncomfortable doing this.

Make sure the person knows as specific as possible—using terms that they understand—what kind of book they're about to read. The "using terms that they understand" part is the reason why you might want to consider name-dropping popular stories they may have encountered that are like your own. It's important to speak your customer's language, and avoid insider lingo because the average person may not know or understand our special writer's jargon. On the other hand, if you want writers instead of readers to buy your book, go for it! Speak your reader's language!

The CTA is more of a blunt instruction:
"Buy this classic romance filled with sensuous heat today!"
"Buy this book if you want to change your life today!"
"Buy the book to start reading Marion Alexander's tale of tragedy and love
"Buy this book to continue the epic series today!"

Again, it may seem silly, but telling the person to do something increases the chances of them actually doing it. Copywriters never forget their CTAs. It's sales kryptonite.

I hope some of this helps :)

Writers' Corner / Re: Making great stories ouf of simple plots
« on: April 14, 2018, 09:50:19 PM »
I don't mean this to be curt, but: just find a story that does this well, and study how it did what it did. If you can't find one in fantasy, that's okay. Read normal action/adventure novels, dissect them, study them, and learn how they work. Then build a plot from what you've learned, and place it in a fantastic world. Mission accomplished.

The same lesson applies for books on craft. They don't have the be books that are specifically about writing this type of fantasy. Just find several excellent craft books, and apply what you learn to your style.

Want 120 minutes rather than 5 seasons? That's fine. Don't write GRRM novels. Write Willow (however, Willow is about six minutes longer than your ideal ;)).

Fantasy Art / Fan Art / Re: Kingdom of Ghaya artwork
« on: February 05, 2017, 01:17:36 AM »
I guess since it has been a year (I forgot I posted this), I should show you guys some new artwork  8)
With your blessing to show more, here's more!

Here are some character designs:

Here's the map that I have for the series:

I also have some animal and plant life that I created just for this world. One such is here:

I took a break from creating images to double down on writing the novel. I've finished drafting the first novel, and have moved into revision with it. I have a great editor who's helping me tune the story so that it's as epic and beautiful as I can possibly make it.

And, if you'd like to get a short taste of what my style is like, you can read (or listen! I had a friend narrate it!) to a short story I posted here:
It's free, and you don't have to download anything to experience it.

I'm sorry if this comes off as self-promotional. I just figured I'd follow up since a few of you asked about my progress. I'm usually invisible and spend more time lurking here than actually posting... I guess I should change that. :) It's been a long road getting to this point. I'm trying to make an epic fantasy that can truly compare to some of my favorites. I don't believe I can top them, but I'm sure trying! :P

I'd love to know what you think!

Self Publishing Discussion / Re: Pushing my e-book
« on: April 24, 2016, 01:07:29 AM »
I'm late to the party, but if I can help:

Before you start pushing, I'd recommend doing two things:

1. Redesign your cover. If it wasn't the fact that this is a fantasy forum, I wouldn't know that the book is fantasy story. The cover doesn't pop at all and that's SO very important for sales. SOOOO important. Make sure it looks pro. If you're making any money at all on the book, make sure you're putting it back to get a great cover designer on the job. It's the single best way to attract someone to actually check the book out.

2. Make a mailing list. If you already have a mailing list, make a page in your book asking for the reader to join it. Write a short story that ties into the story and give it away to anyone who joins the list (and mention in the page's copy that you'll be giving that out when you sign up). This way, you'll begin creating a list of people who have given you permission to contact them when you have a new book, which is much better than throwing random traffic at a page.

I'm sorry if I'm out of line, but I thought it might be helpful.

Self Publishing Discussion / Re: Patreon Thoughts
« on: April 24, 2016, 12:55:47 AM »
I think Patreon works best if you can write on a schedule and deliver on time.
In addition, You'll probably want to deliver once a week to make it feel worth it. So you'll most likely be doing short stories or chapters. If they're chapters, your reader may end up grossly overpaying.

Get creative and really over-deliver. And you gotta work it and make sure people know about it. Otherwise, no one will notice or care.

Self Publishing Discussion / Re: Good freelance editors?
« on: April 24, 2016, 12:47:16 AM »

About 5 years ago, the general recommendation would be this:
Don't self-publish unless you don't care if anyone reads it.

Today, we live in a very different world.

But first, let's start by saying this: self-publishing isn't new. It's a business model, not a shortcut.

You can open a Dunkin Donuts franchise.
Or you can open your own small Coffee shop.

You don't look down at the small coffee shop owner and say: "You should have applied for that general manager job. You would have had all your infrastructure built. You're a sucker."

When it comes down to it, it's about knowing your "why."
Why are you self-publishing?

If it's because you're looking for a quick buck, it's likely a terrible decision. There's often nothing quick about publishing a book and often few books ever turn a profit. And this isn't exclusive to self-publishing. Traditionally published books often flop even ones that should do well.

In a sense you're right, but there's also another big difference: if you're traditionally published people will assume that your work is of at least acceptable quality, whereas if you're self-publishing people will need more persuasion to give it a go.

Excellent point. A self published author has to find a way to market their books in a way that proves their worth first. Then with that trust build an audience. A traditionally published book has the publishing house vouch for the work, but the author still has to build the audience from there. More risk for the self published author, but potentially more reward if they can build an audience of loyal readers.
Yeah definitely - and that's another thing, as self-pub you have to start building your audience from nothing, whereas the traditional publishers can get their new authors' names out there to their existing audience.  :-\

Let's work our way through this the way that self-published authors see it:

Does a Traditional deal mean "people" will trust that you are acceptable quality?
Yes and no. It depends who these "people" are and which people are most important to you.

If by "people," you mean "critics," "literary award foundations," and many "professional review mediums," then yes. It definitely makes a difference. And if those are the people you feel are most important for you to gain respect from, by all means DO NOT self-publish.

If by "people" you mean "average readers," then not so much. I doubt that most readers know who publishes the books they read. And why would they? Apart from a few smaller presses who specialize in a very narrow niche of books or styles, the publisher is completely irrelevant. The reader will remember an author's name, however. That is the brand that insures quality, not the publisher's name.

A self-published author may need a bit more persuasion in order to get a reader to try them out. I agree. But, as a self-published author you have the control to persuade. Traditional published authors are tasked to market their own books with their hands tied behind their backs.

There is a misconception that landing a traditional deal means you get a five or six-figure marketing plan, guaranteed. In reality, most authors have to do basically the exact same things that self-published authors have to do. Authors still have to promote their books. They have to build their own fan base. They have to interact with their fans. You don't typically get a team of people to do these things for you. Traditional publishing is not a red carpet.

And to top it all off: you can lose control of your work for life. So if the publisher decides to take it off the market or not promote it at all for years on end, the AUTHOR gets screwed, not the publisher. They have a million other books pulling in revenue.

Again, let's go back to your "why." Before you can decide, you have to decide what success looks like to you.

Why self-publish?
Why traditionally publish?
What will self-publishing give you?
What will traditional publishing give you?

Are you a control freak? Or do you like to hand off work to other people?
Do you like doing multiple parts of a business? Or do you want to keep your hands out of some of the administrative details?
Are you entrepreneurial? Or are you someone who likes to work for a large business?
Do you need to make money as a writer? Or is this purely a hobby? Is it somewhere in between?
Do you need the approval of an organization to feel success? Or do you need the approval of fans to feel success?
Is your book lead gen for a bigger business move or service? Or is your book the primary product?
Are you flexible enough to role with the punches of a changing industry? Or do you want to ignore it all and focus only on craft?
Are you a risk-taker? Or are you extremely risk-adverse?
Are you willing to pay for professional collaborators (editors, cover designers)? Or can you not afford invest in yourself?
Are you an extremely slow writer? Or are you fast enough to meet demand pressures and don't want a larger company slowing you down?
Can you self manage? Or do you need someone to manage you?
Do you have a lifestyle that requires you to have a large income? Or is your lifestyle modest with a low overhead?
Can you make big business decisions and have the wits to pivot when something goes wrong? Or do you need something more straight-forward?

I could go on and on.

Know yourself.
Know your goals.
Know what success looks like to you.
Know and understand the business and be willing to spend months putting in the time to learn how to run a business.

Do what feels right to you.

You can always try it another way.

Fantasy Art / Fan Art / Kingdom of Ghaya artwork
« on: February 05, 2016, 01:59:18 AM »
Here's some artwork from my Fantasy Series.

It depicts some environmental artwork of a place called Ghaya.

I hope you like it!


Introductions / Re: Say Hi, I'm new thread
« on: January 14, 2016, 01:49:58 AM »

I'm new on the forum. I'm a fantasy author, but I have nothing published yet. I'm working to change that.

A little bit about myself:

I grew up in Georgia, USA. My love affair with creativity began at a very young age. I began playing piano at around 8 years old and branched into vocal performance and guitar. I penned (penciled, actually) my first sci-fi novel during 5th grade. Looking back, this book was terrible (and really not long enough to be a novel. Probably a Novella at best). But I'm proud to site it as my first big literary accomplishment.

I successfully left the state without an accent when I was 18 to tackle the world on my own in New England. After attending Berklee Collage of Music for a grand 4 semesters, I left and spent the better part of the last 10 years gigging, touring, recording albums, and producing/engineering albums in the metal and hard rock circuit.

Despite my efforts to sabotage myself at every turn, I ended up with a wonderful wife and a three year old son. I still live in Massachusetts and I still work as an audio engineer, but I've put aside touring so that I can spend the critical development years with my family.

I'd always planned to return to writing. And a few years back, I hit the books. Hard. I read dozens of books on writing, listened to all the popular podcasts, and read many a blog post on the subject. I read and re-read and re-read and re-read my favorite books, dissecting them and figuring out how and why they work. I read new books with a whole new perspective. And I wrote. A lot.

I'm at the point where I feel like I can tell a half-decent story.

I hope to be able to positively contribute to this forum and connect with other fantasy authors and fans.

You can find me on twitter if you want to connect there too: @jimwilbourne
And you can also check out my website jimwilbourne.com where I write weekly articles on creativity and my developing novel.

I really hope to make some friends here.
I can't wait to get to know some of you.

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