There’s a lot of discussion on the Interwebs about the utility of professional editing for indie and self-published authors. I don’t think anyone would argue that such editing is essential for turning out a top-quality novel that rivals the production standards of traditional publishing houses. The main issue for indie authors is the not-insignificant cost of editing. I’ve paid for two rounds of pro-editing so far with “American Terrorist”, my latest thriller novel, and I also have proof-readers standing by.

But what’s all this talk I’ve been hearing lately about BETA readers, and what is it exactly? Really, it’s the same as beta testing new software or web services. You sign up and check it out to see how and if it works for you. You note bugs and send feedback about how awesome or terrible it is. Then the creator fine-tunes the product and fixes the bugs and releases the finished product into the world.

I first learned of this concept from Guy Kawasaki in his APE book (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur). He released his beta book to thousands of beta readers and he says the feedback he received was invaluable.

I saw the concept expressed a bit differently by Joanna Penn in her ebook “How To Market A Book.” She advocates releasing a beta version of your book to a few hand-picked readers that you trust.

The result is the same. You get feedback and so you get a better book. Personally, I think it’s an incredibly helpful part of your editing strategy, but I agree with the pros who say only release your beta version in its near-finished state.

As it turns out, I happen to be releasing “American Terrorist”, my new thriller novel, TODAY to beta readers. So if you want to help a fellow author create a more perfect novel, sign up at this link for your free BETA copy: http://eepurl.com/AqAQ1

Find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

legacy_of_an_outlaw_hi-resAs an author of historical westerns it’s easy to get into debates about “what history was really like.” After all, it depends on what history books you read. What may be documented fact according to one source might be countered by the documented facts of another source.

Over the last 20 years or so, I’ve found that the trend is toward “revisionist history.” It seems that historians are setting out to debunk previously held historical truths, and they’re backing up their claims with, for example, census data from the era.

When I got my first hardcover western published by a major New York publisher (The Peacekeeper, 1997 – soon to be republished in ebook as “Legacy Of An Outlaw”), I had well known western authors tell me that my premise of a black outlaw-gunfighter was unrealistic in the American West. Now, however, revisionist historians report that as many as one in four cowboys was black. Some estimates go as high as one in three! These estimates are based on documented census data on file at the time.

This should not be surprising since after 1865 there were thousands upon thousands of newly freed and unemployed blacks moving westward. These folks scratched out a living doing the same things that everyone else did – Anglo, Hispanic, Native, Asian, etc. They wrangled cattle, sought gold, worked on farms or ranches or railroads, and they built towns. Some became outlaws and gunfighters.

Traditional historical assumptions derived from a narrow perspective and pre-1990 media reinforced what was commonly believed to be true. Readers nowadays, however, understand that revisionist history presents a new and more diverse set of possibilities, and I’m convinced that modern readers are looking for something just a little bit different from mainstream.

In my next posts I’m going to talk about women Pinkerton detectives, the politics of the frontier wars, the famous Ninth Cavalry, and a Native leader whose name the army thought no one would ever remember. So follow me below on your favorite media for more revisionist history.

Want high-octane adventure with an edge? Sign up to get an email notification of the FREE pre-release historical western ebook “Warriors” (coming early 2014) at www.JeffreyPoston.com or find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

 

warriors_hi-resAs an author of Historical Westerns it’s easy for me to exploit my uniqueness. I know, a black guy who writes Westerns… crazy, huh? What can I say… my childhood hero was Clint Eastwood. I loved Westerns so that’s what I wrote.

I published a paperback, a hardcover, and two audiobooks. I actually have the distinction of being the only black author ever to have a Western published in hardcover by a major New York publisher with THE main character being black. But when I sent my books out to be reviewed and to get promo blurbs, I actually had “established” big-name Western authors tell me a book about a black outlaw cowboy was not realistic. They told me not to put my picture on the back cover because… well, you know. But that was 20 years ago.

Then a curious thing happened to me. I went to my first booksigning at a Western book expo. There we were, all 50 authors. 49 of them were guys in cowboy boots and hats. And then there was me.

The black guy who writes Westerns

I was an anomaly, a curiosity. Everybody came over to see who I was. And they all bought my book! The other authors sold maybe 10 books and I sold a TON. The same thing happened at almost every booksigning I went to. I was a rock star. I was different, and I discovered that readers want something different. Not VERY different, but kinda different. A little bit different.

My westerns are just like those of every other Western author. My thrillers are just like those of every other thriller author. My characters – heroes and villains and sidekicks alike – look just like all the other authors’ characters, except maybe just a tad more diverse.

What’s different about my books is ME and I’ve learned to use my uniqueness as a marketing tool. People remember me as the black guy who writes Westerns (and high-octane thrillers, too).

You, too, have something unique about you. Discover what that quality is and exploit it. Use it as your marketing angle so you’ll stand out among your author peers. Use it to find readers who want something just a little bit different from mainstream.

Want high-octane adventure with an edge? Get the FREE pre-release ebook “American Terrorist” (coming Dec 2013) at www.JeffreyPoston.com or find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

brainrushIt’s a darn good thriller! That’s the bottom line. I found Richard Bard quite by accident. His website was attractive, his book blurb compelling, so I thought I’d give him a read.

Bard has all the ingredients of a good thriller in his book. In particular, his hero character was a flawed every-man kinda guy who grew into his new “skills” (that’s all I can say without giving spoilers!) gradually as he faced his adventure. Like most thrillers, our hero became larger than life but the novel was so well written that a reader can easily suspend one’s disbelief and truly accept the hero’s new skills with ease. I particularly liked the way our hero learned of his new skills (and how to use them) as we – the reader – did. So I was actually embarking on this adventure along with him.

Our hero had an impressive array of talented sidekicks who had surprising, though normal, capabilities of their own, and I enjoyed being kept guessing as the various interrelationships developed. I ended the book wondering how this crew would continue to grow in the next book.

Brainrush didn’t start as intense as I like my thrillers, but maybe that’s just me. In fact, I didn’t find the “hook” until the end of Chapter 4. But when it hit me – BLAM! – I was captivated the rest of the way.

The ONE thing I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around was the bad guy’s motivation. Early on it seemed like he was creating a very capable army to subvert the US from within, but then there was also this extraterrestrial “thing” that became more important to the bad guy, although I was never sure why. I’ve thought about this for a couple weeks, but I still haven’t figured out how those two motivations relate.

Regardless, the adventure was well written with great editing and no typos. Bard tossed in plenty of cliff-hanging chapters that kept me satisfied and he gave us a very cool team of well developed supporting characters that I look forward to reading more about. And there was a cool twist at the end that made a series continuation very compelling. I certainly intend to start book #2 in the series soon.

Update: I started Book 2 in the series and all I can say is… WOW! Bard puts the pedal to the metal on page 1 and never lets up!

Want high-octane adventure with an edge? Get the FREE pre-release ebook “American Terrorist” (coming Dec 2013) at www.JeffreyPoston.com or find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

American_TerroristThey said be active on social media, so I did that. They said share useful content, so I did that. They said “engage but don’t pitch” so I did that.

But then something spectacular happened that completely changed my writing and marketing efforts. There’s a ton of useful blog articles on writing and marketing and book promotion, and I realized that I was actually reposting articles that were helpful to ME. I figured if it was helpful for me, then it might be helpful for other writers or published authors, too.

But all that knowledge isn’t helpful to me right now. And it’s almost impossible to download stuff or take notes or visit websites and keep all that knowledge organized for whenever I might need it later.

Then I discovered that by simply posting a blog article or useful website to Google Plus or Twitter, that post will always be on my “stream.” But blog writers are notorious for using witty but often useless titles for their articles.

The trick, then, is to assign useful hashtags to each article I repost so I can find it later. This way I don’t have to remember who wrote the article or what the title was. I can simply search my posts by hashtag whenever I need a particular topic. For example, #amwritingfiction is great while I’m in the writing phase, but #bookpromotion is more appropriate when I enter the marketing and promotion phase, even if I don’t need that information right now.

Using appropriate hashtags is a great way to organize the information that YOU will need now or later, but there’s also a side benefit. People out in the social universe will begin to associate you with the hashtags they’re searching for, and as you continue to repost useful content your number of Followers will begin to explode.

If you agree with this… FOLLOW me 🙂

Want high-octane adventure with an edge? Get the FREE pre-release ebook “American Terrorist” (coming Dec 2013) at www.JeffreyPoston.com or find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

 

easy thrillersYears ago (when I was writing westerns) I learned that there is a “formula” for that genre, so it shouldn’t have surprised me that there is a similar formula or template for writing thrillers. If you ever wonder how the most popular authors in the genre continuously produce excellent thrillers, Rob Parnell [Google Plus: +Rob Parnell, Twitter: @robparnell] will tell you how in his latest reference, “The Easy Way To Write Thrillers That Sell.”

The thriller genre has changed over the last twenty years and Parnell discusses the how and the why of it, as well as the essential ingredients that must be in the modern thriller. Sure, you can deviate from the modern form and function, but you run the risk of alienating your readers. As Parnell points out, thriller readers are an astute bunch of folks and they have particular expectations.

“The Easy Way To Write Thrillers That Sell” is a short book and a quick read, but it’s stock full of useful tips and strategies for crafting a successful thriller. He didn’t invent this stuff. In fact, he gives plenty of examples of highly successful authors that write their thrillers this way.

For example, he covers everything from the essential combination of characters to how to create and maintain tension to the “right way” to do research to a nifty method of saving a lot of time and effort by plotting your thriller from the END to the BEGINNING. And he gives us a single continuous example as he creates a template for a thriller that follows the techniques he presents in the book.

Seriously, if you want to write quality thrillers the right way – that sell – this book is for you. Look, you can spend hundreds at conference workshops or you can get this ebook for less than $5US. It’s a must-read for thriller writers looking for success.

Want high-octane adventure with an edge? Get the FREE pre-release ebook “American Terrorist” (coming Dec 2013) at www.JeffreyPoston.com or find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

When someone publishes an ebook on book marketing and it instantly becomes an Amazon bestseller, we should probably buy it, right? That phenomenal ebook is “How to Market a Book” by Joanna Penn, and she covers just about everything you need to know about book promotion and marketing, from social networking to finding your target audience to pricing to author branding to professional editing.

Discoverability is the essence of book marketing nowadays, and Penn covers the topic in great detail with specific tips and methods about how to get readers to actually FIND your book. Among the myriad of topics in her book, Penn talks about author branding and content blogging, correct social media use, and how to get reviews to coincide with the launch of your book.

Bet you didn’t know about soft-launching your book before the real launch, did you? Then there are pre- and post-launch tasks, as well as a very cool “relaunch” technique to boost sales after the initial launch. All of these methods are designed to optimize discoverability and maximize sales.

There’s also a lot of talk nowadays about building your author platform. Penn tells us exactly what it is and how to build it and how to use it to get rave reviews and pump up your sales. Don’t have a massive author platform yet? No worries. She includes a section on how to market and launch a book without a platform.

The best part about Penn’s book is that it applies to indie authors who self-publish as well as traditionally published authors, because unless you’re a consistent super-bestselling author the agents and publishing houses are going to expect all authors to know and implement their own book marketing.

My favorite part of the book is the section on professional editing. If we want our self-published books to compete well with publishing house books, we have to invest in the same kind of professional quality editing. Penn lists a bunch of editors – developmental, copy, line, proofreading – and describes the differences in type and application of each, as well as how much they charge. In fact, I interviewed three of her recommendations and hired two.

Look, you can go to expensive conferences or hire book coaches… OR you can buy Penn’s ebook under $10US and get a TON of useful book marketing knowledge. If you use only ONE of her tips, it will be well worth the price. I think the best way to utilize this ebook is to read it once cover to cover, then revisit the sections you need as you make your journey through the book marketing process.

So if you’re looking for ONE book-marketing reference with plenty of detailed how-to examples, “How to Market a Book” is a must-read for authors at all success levels.

Want high-octane adventure with an edge? Get the FREE pre-release ebook “American Terrorist” (coming Dec 2013) at www.JeffreyPoston.com or find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter: @jeffposton or Google Plus: +Jeffrey Poston or www.facebook.com/JeffreyPostonBooks

Structuring Your NovelIf you’re serious about your writing craft and ONLY buy ONE how-to book this year, make it “Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story” by K.M. Weiland. All successful authors incorporate these essential elements of structure in their novels. Also, all READERS inherently realize that if your book is NOT structured properly, they’ll get confused or bored and never buy anything else from you.

This is the book that explains why an agent or publisher says he/she can tell if your book is ready for prime time by reading only the first chapter or first ten pages. It gives specific insight why many excellent writers keep getting rejected or why very talented indie authors can’t get those rave reviews.

In the first half of “Structuring Your Novel” (which I read in a day) Weiland tells us the specific essential elements of a novel and precisely where they should occur in your story. She uses multiple bestsellers that everyone has heard of to illustrate those structure elements. In the second half of her book Weiland gives us an iron-clad formula for crafting perfect scenes that your readers (or agent or publisher) won’t want to put down.

In fact, I compared a couple of my novels to Weiland’s criteria. My 1997 western “The Peacekeeper” from Walker & Company (now called “Legacy of an Outlaw”) had perfect structure, but I’d expect that from a major New York publisher. A couple of my other upcoming novels… well, they still need some work.

 The problem for authors is that publishers and agents won’t tell writers why they’re rejecting a book, so a lot of writers don’t know they need help with structure. Of course, you can go to writers’ conferences and shell out a few hundred dollars for courses that teach structure. Or you can pay your professional editor a couple thousand dollars to tell you what Weiland teaches in a $4 ebook!

“Structuring Your Novel” is the kind of how-to book that, even if you only read the first half, you’ll be miles ahead of 99% of other writers. It’s a must-have resource for all writers (and multi-published authors) who want to take their writing career to the next level.

Want high-octane adventure with an edge? Sign up to get the FREE pre-release of “American Terrorist” (coming Dec 2013) at www.JeffreyPoston.com or find Jeffrey Poston on Twitter or Google Plus or Facebook.

American_Terrorist_final_hi-resIt’s easy. Here’s what you do:

Step 1 – Get mistakenly arrested for a minor infraction

Step 2 – Get mad at the police and the “establishment”

Step 3 – Sulk for 6 years

Step 4 – Turn the minor infraction into a crime the FBI and the CIA would get involved in

Step 5 – Write a book about it

Here’s what happened to me. In 2007 the police responded to a silent alarm at a jewelry store in downtown Albuquerque. I just happened to be the gullible dumbass watering my plants outside my loft fifty feet away from the jewelry store. I got tackled to the concrete and cuffed. The cops let me go after realizing they made a mistake.

I sulked for six years. I got mad because the jewelry store owner tripped his own alarm, but the cops never even confirmed that there was an actual crime. They just thought it was me.

Then I thought, “What if it wasn’t just a jewelry store? What if, instead, some rich or prominent politician’s daughter got kidnapped? What if the bad guy who did it looked like me and I got beat down and arrested and tortured by mistake? What if I went insane and decided to kidnap the girl… from the kidnapper… and use her to punish the US government?

There you have it. American Terrorist: Where Is The Girl? Coming soon in ebook on Amazon.com… as soon as the professional editors get done with it. Or you can get it FREE when it’s ready ONLY from this link: http://ow.ly/pavXt

So where do you get your book ideas from? Ever had something horrible happen to you and writing about it was your only way to cope?

coverSo I was standing in line waiting to order my Foot-Long sandwich in 1999 and this big 18-wheeler pulls up in the parking lot. The driver comes in and gets in line behind me and we struck up a conversation. I told him I was an western author and he said that truckers absolutely love genre fiction audiobooks to listen to on the road. He told me to check out a particular audiobook company, so I did.

And… BLAM! Just like that I got my whole 4-book western series published in audio format. But here’s the catch. You can only exploit your separate and individual rights (for example, audiobook rights) if you own them. If you sign a generic publishing contract, your publisher seeks to own all your rights whether or not it intends to use or exploit those rights.

When I got my first two novels published by accident, I specifically only signed away the print rights. Don’t ask me how or why I knew to do that, because I still don’t know the answer to that question to this day. e-book rights weren’t even on the radar back then, but audio and foreign rights were. So I kept them.

With the audio rights, there was no advance back then and no upfront fees, but my royalties from my audio rights were TEN TIMES all the advances plus the royalties of my first two books combined. All because of an accidental sandwich shop chit-chat… and my insistence on keeping my book rights, even though I didn’t yet know what to do with them.

My advice: Market your book rights individually. Don’t give away the whole bunch. If a publisher insists on getting ALL your rights, make them show [in writing] specifically how they’re going to exploit them for you.

Another tip: If YOU sell your rights individually, those royalties go straight to YOU regardless of whether your paperback print run [by another publisher] has earned back your advance. If your publisher has all your rights, those royalties go to the publisher and will be applied against your advance first before you even see a dime.

If you have a wacky story on how you got published, send me 300 words and your byline and let’s tell aspiring writers there are many paths to the goal line.