I Make Stuff Up for a Living

By Dan Walsh

I should start off my post today (in an effort at full disclosure) by saying my inspiration came from reading my friend Rachel Hauck’s Novel Rocket blog post a couple of weeks ago on April 19th, called, It All Boils down to This… I’m a Writer.

I’ve been writing novels full-time now since 2010, part-time 2 years before that. I’m just about to release Novel #18 on May 15th. I’m not sure, but I think Rachel’s been writing quite a bit longer than me and has more novels published. Still, as I read her blog, I was nodding constantly in agreement.
This is an odd thing that we do, writing novels.

The number who have the good fortune to do this for a living is even a much smaller group (I’ve read it’s only about 5% of published authors). So that makes what I do for a living even more odd.

Other than the author friends I’ve met online, at writers’ conferences and at other various writing events, I don’t know anyone else who does what I do for a living. No one in my church. No one in my family. And I think you could count on one hand the number of people who do this for a living in my town (the greater Daytona Beach area). Now, there may be a handful more who write for a living in my town, but not people who write novels.

Lately, when people ask, “So, what do you do for living?” (this question gets asked in small talk on occasion), I’ve started telling people, “I make stuff up for a living.”

You can imagine the look on their faces. But really, that’s what I do. At least 5 days a week. And I’ve been making stuff up every day, full-time, for the last 7 years. And Lord willing, I intend to keep right on making stuff up for a living for many years to come.

When you stop and think about it, it’s the craziest thing. Imagine people paying you for something like this. And thankfully, paying enough so that for the last 7 years I can do this as my primary “work.” See, even that, I felt the need to put the word work in quotation marks.

Why? Making stuff up hardly feels like work. The crew of guys who sawed down and hauled away the 4 dead trees on my property this week…those gentlemen worked. And what did I do while they were out there doing this work? I sat inside, in the air conditioning, making stuff up.

Perhaps I should feel guilty. Perhaps, on some level, I do.

But I have no plans of letting such latent guilt ruin this good thing I’ve got going on. I’m having way too much fun. I love writing novels. I love coming up with stories that move me, and intrigue me, and provoke me to go looking deeply into things. Deeply enough, that it almost seems like I’m not really making stuff up, but I’ve actually been there myself and lived through everything my characters are experiencing as the story unfolds.

But I’m not. At any moment, I can hit the pause button, step out from some intense scene I’m writing, pet my dog on the head, go out into the kitchen and make myself an ice coffee. Such a thing is only possible to those who make stuff up for a living.

Like me. I write novels. That’s what I do.

Thank you, Rachel, for helping me shed some of this latent guilt for having such a crazy job. We’ve got nothing to be sorry for, right? Making up stories and writing them down for other people to enjoy (and, hopefully, be inspired by) has been going on for ages.

Maybe we should start a support group. Or, since we live so far apart, a blog on the internet. Where other writers who make stuff up all day can come and share their experiences with each other and with other sojourners considering a similar path.

We could call it something like…Novel Rocket.

Well, my time’s up. What better way to end this than with a shameless plug? I’m about to release (as I said) Novel #18 in a couple of weeks. It’s called, Unintended Consequences. Click on THIS LINK to get a preview.

And yes, when you’re reading it, everything will feel like it’s all true. Like it really happened. But don’t be fooled…I made the whole thing up.

TWEETABLES
Don’t be fooled…I made the whole thing up.~ Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 17 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Reunion and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times) and 3 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.

Sometimes You Gotta Take a Risk

by Dan Walsh

I think it’s fair to say that I’m nowhere near as brave or courageous as most of the main characters in my novels. If I’m being honest, it might be accurate to describe me as a “Risk Adverse” kind of guy.

That’s why the last few weeks have been pretty exciting for me. Some of you know my “author story.” At
the end of 2014, I did something pretty risky. After being a traditionally published author with 12
contracted novels released over 6 years the old-fashioned way, I made the decision to leave my
comfort zone and start publishing my books as an indie.


The Big Picture reason was, I could see the entire publishing world
was going through a major shakeup, created by the advent of that great monolith Amazon,
Kindle and other ebook formats and devices. I watched this massive shift occur, as more
and more readers stopped buying their books from retail bookstores and
started buying them online.

Rescuing Finley Cover - half sizeThe Little Picture reason I became an indie was because of the book I’m featuring in today’s post, Rescuing Finley.
In August 2014, I had just finished writing my last contracted book with my publisher.
It was time to turn in a new multi-book proposal. I
had come up with a 3-book series idea, similar in genre to all my other
books with them. Each of the proposed books would have many of the similar
features that had made my other novels successful (and many of them, award-winning). The only difference? These books would all feature a Shelter Dog as a main character. I
loved the stories and was certain my publisher would too.

They didn’t.

In fact, they rejected the series, saying they didn’t like the
stories that much and didn’t think they’d sell very well. “What else have you
got?” they asked.

My answer? (Herein lies the title for my Blog Post today). “I don’t think I’m going to send you anything else. I really believe in
these stories and think people will love them, at least as much as
they’ve enjoyed my other books.” I politely informed them I’d be
writing these books on my own, and we parted ways.
RF - 571 Stars

So you can imagine how exciting it is to be writing this blog post today. What’s the Big News? Well, this past week Rescuing Finley
SURPASSED ALL my traditionally published novels in terms of the total
number of Amazon reviews, and it’s on track to surpass them in Sales, too. And…it’s reached
this milestone at a breakneck pace – it’s only been out 14 months.

As of today, Rescuing Finley has received 571 Amazon reviews, averaging 4.8 Stars
(86% are 5-Star reviews). I’d say that officially bashes the notion that readers wouldn’t like this kind of book. To be fair, many of my traditionally published novels
have surpassed the 400-review mark, and some have even reached the
500-review milestone. But these books have all been out for several
years. Here are some examples:

  • The Unfinished Gift – 444 Reviews (4.6 Star Avg) – Released 2009
  • The Deepest Waters – 412 Reviews (4.7 Star Avg) – Released 2011
  • Remembering Christmas – 533 Reviews (4.6 Star Avg) – 2011
  • The Discovery – 521 Reviews (4.7 Star Avg) – Released 2012
  • The Reunion – 515 Reviews (4.8 Star Avg) – Released 2012
  • The Dance – 453 Reviews (4.7 Star Avg) – Released 2013

When Night Comes - Suspense Novel lineI love these traditionally published books and loved writing them. But it’s pretty satisfying to see books that were rejected by my publisher actually surpassing these novels in such a short time. My first indie novel, When Night Comes (and first true suspense novel…again, a rejected book by my publisher) is right up there with these novels after only being out 2 years. It has 440 Reviews (4.4 Star Avg).

Besides the Reader Response, which has been off the charts, the sales of Rescuing Finley
have also been stellar. Three
weeks ago, I did a 5-day Free Promo of the book. Over 41,000 readers
downloaded a copy. Since then, it has sold 1,409 copies (almost 500/week…on Amazon alone).

The 2nd book in the series, Finding Riley, has gotten quite a bump since then, too. It only released last October (3 months ago), and it’s already up to 124 Amazon reviews (Avg 4.8 Stars).

So I’d say…this “risky” indie experiment appears to be working. Both my indie inspirational
books (Forever Home series) and my suspense books (Jack Turner Suspense
series) are humming along with 2 books each. I’ve just passed the
halfway mark writing Book 3 in the Jack Turner series (hope to have it
released in May, no title yet), and will immediately begin writing Book 3 in the
Forever Home series (Saving Parker). I hope to have that one ready by
October. My goal would be to have at least 4 books in each series 18 months from now.

If you want to read any of these reviews or get any of these books, they’re only $3.99
on Kindle (less than a Starbucks latte), and all are available in
print. Click on any of the titles in the post above to go to its Amazon
page.

Since the theme of this post is Risk-Taking, I’d love to hear some of your stories. Times when you took a risk as a writer and it paid off. Let’s encourage our fellow writers who are standing at one of Life’s scary forks in the road.

TWEETABLES

Sometimes You Gotta Take a Risk by Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)

I’m nowhere near as brave or courageous as my main characters.~ Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)

I loved the stories and was certain my publisher would too. They didn’t.~ Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 17 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Reunion and When Night Comes.
He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times) and 3 Selah Awards. Three
of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book
Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his
wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and
spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.

How to Make Nifty Book Promo Ads

by Dan Walsh

Some of you know my story. Back in 2008, without paying hardly any “Writer’s Dues,” I submitted my first novel, The Unfinished Gift, to a handful of A-list literary agents, fully expecting to be rejected. This would result in me submitting a package to several more agents, also being rejected, and so on until I made it through the entire list. That’s not what happened. Two of the first 3 agents wanted to read the entire book. I signed with one of them. She had a contract with a major publisher in 2 months. That book went on to sell very well and win 2 Carol Awards.

Over the next several years, they signed me to write more books and more contracts, and I continued to win more awards. After the 3rd book, I was able to start writing full time. This went on until 2014 when everything changed (by then, I had 12 novels published). Things in the publishing world had been changing before that, but that year the changes affected me.

I had been a “kept man,” meaning, pretty much all I had to do was write. As for marketing and promoting my books, I really just had to respond to assignments from my publisher’s marketing and publicity departments. At the end of 2014, by mutual agreement, we parted ways, and I launched out on my own as an indie.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving this. But it’s a very different existence. For one thing, I have to do ALL my own marketing and publicity. Which included me learning how to make nifty little Book Promo Ads, so I could use them to help better draw attention to my books on social media (like FB, Twitter, Google-plus, etc.).

The experts say, you HAVE to have nice graphics, otherwise people will scroll right past you if all you have is Text. I believed the experts on this, because that’s exactly what I do. So I decided I better learn how to do this. In the last 2 years, I’ve made dozens of these little Ads. Now I can make them in my sleep.

But I often see writers posting things about their books, either with NO graphics or just whatever image gets inserted automatically when they include a link. I thought this month I’d share something very practical. That is, how to make your own graphics. It’s really not that hard.

Here’s how I made the Promo Ad I’m including in this post (in about 10 minutes) for my indie novel, Remembering Dresden:

1. SOFTWARE – Open a MS program like Publisher or PowerPoint and create a new, blank page. They have some nice art tools that are very easy to use (compared to Photoshop, which is like Rocket Science to me). You can also use an online program like Canva.

2. SNIPPING TOOL – Windows has a Snipping Tool that easily allows you to draw a rectangle around any image on screen and instantly create a graphic file, which you can copy and paste or save as a jpg and import into your program. I think Mac folks can use Grab.

3. BACKGROUND – Think of the kind of background you want and Google it. I used “Neutral Background Colors” here. But you can say “Christmas background” or “Valentine background” or whatever. Just make sure you pick one that is royalty free. Don’t get one that requires buying a license unless you follow through and pay for it. Copy and paste or use the Snipping Tool to get this background into your art program.

4. IMPORT GRAPHICS – Now you can use the Program’s Insert feature to insert your book cover or any other graphic images you’ve saved. Also, like on this Ad, I used the Snipping Tool to grab the graphics for RT Book Reviews, as well as the little “Top Pick” graphic. Then I grabbed the Review Stars graphic from my book’s page on Amazon. I got the Kindle Unlimited graphic by Googling it. TIP: Create a Graphics file and save everything you search for, so you can find it easily the next time.

5. CREATE TEXT – Create the Text you want to use, first for the Ad itself, and then for the paragraph above it (like on Facebook or Twitter). On the Ad, LESS IS MORE. You really need to think about how to say what you want in the least amount of space. If you want to use this is as a Paid Ad, you need to keep the text to 20% or less. Use the Insert Text Box tool. After creating the Ad text, I write the copy for the Main Paragraph. Facebook lets you say quite a lot, so I build it there, then use excerpts from it for places like Twitter (which only let you use a few sentences).

6. UPLOAD – Now, you’re ready to go. I usually start with Facebook and Upload the Picture FIRST. This is important. Don’t put the text in first, especially if it includes a LINK to anywhere (like Amazon). FB will grab the graphic slot and auto-insert a graphic from the link. If you upload your pic first, you own that graphic slot. Now you can put your text and link to your book safely into the promo spot. With Twitter, the order doesn’t matter (one nice thing, Twitter now lets you use graphics without subtracting characters from your text).

That’s pretty much it. Might take a few hours at first but, once you learn how to use these tools, you’ll be knocking them out in 5-10 minutes, Tops. Well, if you’re an author who’s come up with other great ideas for making great promo ads, would love to hear what you have to say!

TWEETABLES

How to Make Nifty Book Promo Ads by Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)

Making a Book Promo Ad in 6 easy Steps by Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)


You HAVE to have nice graphics, or people will scroll right past~ Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 17 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Reunion and When Night Comes.
He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times) and 3 Selah Awards. Three
of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book
Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his
wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and
spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.

Marketing Our Books by Theme

by Dan Walsh

A few weeks before Christmas, I had the privilege of sharing the podium with Jaimie Engle, a novelist of children’s and young-adult fiction, at a Saturday morning workshop
for writers in Mount Dora, Florida. I was there to share some of the
things I’ve learned about transitioning from traditional publishing to
the indie world. Jaimie was there to share some tips she’s learned about
marketing books. In my column this month, I want to talk more about what
Jaimie shared.

Specifically, one theme. That is, getting better at marketing our books by their theme.

It’s something I’ve believed in for some time and have even practiced. Hearing Jaimie, reminded me how important and effective this kind of marketing can be, especially for an indie or hybrid author. What is, “Marketing by Theme?” Let me define it by sharing a little of Jaimie’s story.

She writes in the children and young-adult fantasy, sci-fi genre. Jaimie shared how, at first, her book sales were okay but not great. Then she got the idea, rather than to just keep pitching her books the old fashioned way, she would zero in on the main message or theme of her story. Her first novel, Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light, deals with the subject of Bullying. She actually wrote the book to help her young son who had been bullied at school.

As you know, bullying is a HUGE problem in schools today, public or private. It’s a topic constantly in the news and a challenge most parents of school-age children will deal with at some point in their children’s lives. Jaimie began to market the book and herself as a speaker, focusing on helping children (and their parents) deal with bullying. Suddenly, she began getting all kinds of opportunities to speak about this in a variety of venues, including public schools. AND…not surprisingly, after hearing her speak a lot more people wanted to buy her books.

If you’d like to check out Jaimie’s story for yourself, or her books – CLICK HERE.

What’s My Theme?

Some fiction novels may not have a strong, central theme. Some of us may simply write books to entertain and tell interesting stories. But I’m sure a lot of us do have strong themes in our hearts: topics, messages, maybe even scriptural truths we want to communicate through our fiction stories.

The idea is to spend some time focusing in on that theme(s) and figure out who our best target audience is. Who really needs to hear the message, or theme, unveiled through our story? What would be the best way to make those people aware of the reasons why this is a book they would absolutely enjoy. More than that, a book that might even benefit their lives in some significant way.

I’ll use my novel, Rescuing Finley, as an object lesson. At first glance, someone might think, “Oh, what a nice, heartwarming dog story.” If you read some of the 343 Amazon reviews (4.8 Star avg, in case you’re curious), you will see lots of people saying this about the book. But if that’s all the book was, I could only market it to dog lovers.

But that’s not all Rescuing Finley is about. It also talks about some major, cutting-edge themes going on in society right now. For example, did you know that–on average–20 Iraq/Afghan war veterans are committing suicide every day in the US? Most of them dealing with severe PTSD issues. It’s a horrible tragedy. Millions more vets and their family members are struggling with PTSD-related challenges on a daily basis.

I became aware of this through my wife’s experience as a certified dog trainer, through a program at our local prison. This program takes dogs from a rescue shelter and pairs them up with inmates who train the dogs. When the training is done, they are given absolutely free to military veterans to serve as companion dogs. It has been proven that these dogs literally safe veterans’ lives. Programs like these are popping up all over the country, because of the amazing and life-changing results.

As I researched this, I got a great idea for an inspirational, romantic novel. So, I wrote it. But Rescuing Finley is not just for dog lovers (although dog lovers are clearly loving the book). It’s also a great book for millions of military veterans and their family members, especially those wrestling with PTSD. The novel even includes themes that would really encourage people who work with rescue dogs or in programs that help rehabilitate prison inmates.

Think about your novels. Are there any central themes you could zero in on that would provide fresh marketing opportunities for you?

TWEETABLES


Marketing Our Books by Theme by Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)

Who really needs to hear the message~ Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)


Are there themes in your books that provide fresh marketing opportunities?~ Dan Walsh (Click to Tweet)

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 17 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Reunion and When Night Comes.
He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times) and 3 Selah Awards. Three
of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book
Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his
wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and
spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.