Posted in All Articles, Writer's problems

13 absurdities that frustrate every indie author

This is a vent post. I’ve been observing the absurdity in the publishing world for years, and today, I just needed to complain about it. This is the list of phenomena in the publishing world that I just can’t comprehend.

Absurdity no. 1: REVIEWS FROM NOWHERE

Books without reviews won’t sell, but the team author + family + friends isn’t allowed to review the book because the reviews might be biased. For the same reason, buying book reviews isn’t allowed either. Goodreads is one of the greatest book forums, but they don’t allow sending DMs in which the author or the representatives ask for reviews. Then… How is the author supposed to get reviews, that will later lure other people?

Absurdity no. 2: PICKY BOOK BLOGGERS

Everyone is talking about book bloggers as the best review source out there. However, many book bloggers aren’t interested either in reading a short story by an indie author that is just starting their career  out there. They prefer reviewing popular books because this will make their blog popular. Book bloggers don’t think about helping indies out there. They are writing reviews for themselves.

Absurdity no. 3: TRASHY BESTSELLERS

People are compaining that bookshops are fully of trashy books. However, those same people will say that they don’t like reading difficult books and want something to relax. They will buy the trashy books they complained about and even purchase movie tickets. They are completely unaware that they are the audience which gets to choose what will be popular and what won’t be popular (exactly like book bloggers).

Absurdity no. 4: GREAT BOOK, THREE STARS

Reviewers write “great book” then give it three stars. What does it mean? That they’d like a threesome with the main characters?! Lol.

Absurdity no. 5: NOT JUST SEX, PLEASE…

After “50 Shades Of Grey,” erotica became a fashionable genre. Thousands of Kindle gold miners decided they would write trashy porn… and discovered that erotica readers are as spoiled as everyone else, and want more drama, more character development and, in short words, not just sex.

Absurdity no. 6: SINCE I’M A STARVING ARTIST, PIRATING BOOKS IS OK

I find it ridiculous when people who declare themselves to be artists, musicians, game developers and movie directors pirate novels under the excuse “I am starving, too”. If we are all fighting to get other people to buy our stuff, we should give a good example.

Absurdity no. 7: THANKS, BUT I CAN’T FOLLOW BACK (YOU KNOW, THE RATIO.)

I never know what to with these people on Twitter. They thank you for the follow, but don’t follow back. Clearly, they are celebrities who don’t want hang out with other unpopular authors. Such a pity. I would continue following them, but my ratio (“reason” in Latin) is telling me that one-sided relationships just aren’t worth it.

Absurdity no. 8: I’LL GIVE YOU 5 STARS (IF YOU EDIT ACCORDING TO MY ADVICE…)

The internet facilitated reader-author connection, and readers have new opportunities to commit faux pas. Since they consider themselves literature gurus, they DM authors, saying that they will give the book a better rating once the author corrects the book according to their advice. Wow.

Absurdity no. 9: AUTHORS HAVE TO BEG TO BE READ

Not only the majority of authors doesn’t earn enough to buy a cup of coffee, but they also have to beg everyone – family, friends, readers – to take a look at their book. And in the worst case scenario, they have to pay to people to read it, or trick them into reading by smart ways. Are our books really so unwanted? If not, then why is everyone making us feel like this?

Absurdity no. 10: INDIE AUTHORS ARE “THE NICE GUYS”

Once, I went to a library and asked them if I could organize an author meet-up in there. They said they’d call, but nobody did. I was in the zone, so I decided to ask again in person. The shop clerk was very rude and said: “well, if you didn’t get any answer that’s already an answer, don’t you think?”. I got upset and cursed the place. Two years later they closed due to financial problems. This paragraph is not about M. R. Foti successfully cursing others, but about the disrespect that indie authors have to face. We work so hard, but there are many people who consider indie authors somewhat worse than traditional authors. This is so upsetting, cause we work so incredibly hard to put our books out there.

Absurdity no. 11: GET AN AD, BUT RESULTS MAY VARY

Lots of blogs will advise you to invest in ads. But when you ask authors if ads worked for them, they’ll always tell you: “the results are never guaranteed, sometimes, it can happen that an ad is completely useless”. If ads doesn’t work, than what will work?

Absurdity no. 12: DUMPING PRICING FOR 1000 WORDS

If you set up reasonable ghost writing prices, it’s difficult to get anything. Why? Because there are thousands of people who will write so much for 1$ only. Dumping prices work for a short while, but in the long run, they are damaging the market. Who will pay 400$ per a novella if they can get it for 40$? The disparities in the world and unequal currency is making normal prices seem ridiculously expensive.

Absurdity no. 13: WRITING AS A PART TIME HOBBY

We live in the digital age. There are millions of webpages out there and they all need new content every single day. Everyone can become a publisher, celebrities want their own books, and there is demand for ghost writers. Yet, everyone tells young authors to treat writing as a part time hobby and not to expect any income. We are taught that our hard work is just a hobby, and that we shouldn’t expect to be paid for it. This is so unfair.

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I’m so sorry for today, guys. I’m just frustrated. If you are frustrated, too, feel free to vent under this post. It’s ok for an author to be angry, and speak about it. Thanks!

Posted in All Articles, Writer's problems

Should you publish on a foreign market?

If you are bilingual, you might be considering trying your luck out there in the big, big world. Contrary to what everyone thinks, you don’t need to be accomplished and recognized in your country to make a debut  elsewhere. Read the following check list to see if publishing on foreign markets is a good option for you:

  1. Am I serious enough about writing to venture overseas? Or is writing just a hobby that I am pursuing for personal enjoyment and I don’t care about being published, as long as I can share my writing with closest family and friends?
  2. What are the reasons why I want to switch to international market? Do I want to expand? Do I see no opportunities for my books in my own country, so I am trying abroad?
  3. Who am I writing my books for? If I am writing for a specific audience: are they in my country, or abroad? If I am writing for my friends: do they speak my language or not?
  4. Will my books retain their value after being translated and published in a foreign market? Or do they discuss local matters understable for my nation only? Does the language play a vital role as a part of this book, or is merely a tool I’ve used? Can it be replaced?
  5. Can I speak the language of the foreign market? Will I translate the books myself? Or will I ask someone else to help me? Am I able to communicate with fans on my own?
  6. What do I know about the foreign market? Do I have in mind a specific publishing house? Do I know where I will be doing marketing? Do I have an idea how to find target audience abroad if I failed to do it in my own country? Do I have friends who will help me promote the book abroad?
  7. What are the costs of moving my “writing property”? How many books have I finished and published? Do I still have the property rights? If yes, what would be the costs of translation, editing and re-publishing? What about the series that I have started? Are my fans likely to continue reading in another language?
  8. Have I carefully compared the pros and cons of moving? Which option is more appealing to me? Where do I see myself more successful than I am today?

There are the most important questions that come to my mind. If you are still unsure, you are not alone. It took me 2-3 months to make a decision. I don’t regret.

Here is my story if you are interested:

I am Polish and my local book market is Poland. In Polish bookshops you can find translated Amazon bestsellers (majority of books) and works by famous Polish authors (minority of books).

Works written by unknown Polish indies are automatically rejected by traditional Polish publishers. The only option is to hire an agent, but they are costly and can’t guarantee success.  Self-publishing attempts are disrespected and ignored by readers, who still believe that bestseller = bestwritten. There isn’t really a good place to do marketing, as most Polish people use English websites which are international.

I had a friend, with whom we were initially helping each other. But she was so desperate to break through this glass ceiling, that she started seeing me as a rival and acting against me and my writing. When I discovered it, I felt betrayed, angry and disgusted to the point of nausea. For a moment I just wanted to throw in the towel.

I had enough of dealing with this misery. It made me feel I had no talent. I really believed I had no talent. But then I thought to myself, it can’t end this way. People out there are succeeding; so why can’t I? 

Solution started to crystallize in my head after reading articles by Michal Stawicki, Joanna Penn and Jeff Goins. I had a revelation: I could still make it with writing. Just not in my country.

Which meant I had to forsake my mother language and switch to English. I thought that it would be easy – I’ve been learning English for 18 years. As it turned out, not enough. I encountered lots of problems when I started writing. I spent a lot of time digging in dictionaries and reading grammar rules. However, my writing retained its worth in terms of content and I am sure that I will reach the target audience at last.

If you have a situation similar to mine, then my advice is: don’t hesitate. Try somewhere, where outside conditions are more favorable.

I hope this helps, stay inspired.

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Related articles:

Posted in All Articles, Writer's problems

Should you write in another language?

One of things that causes most confusion and chaos in my life is my nationality/ethnicity. You may know already that I’m half Polish, half Italian; and I married into a Chinese family. I have friends in Hungary, South Korea, Thailand, Pakistan, India, Mexico, Peru… and other countries. Everyone wanted to read something I wrote, and I was always like “oh, but it’s in Polish”. In November 2017 I made a brave choice to turn into an international writer – and write in English.

But even though I’ve been learning this for like 18 years, all editors I’ve worked in, sweat over my work – and then, double the price. A reader said so about an edited story: “all sentences and words are used correctly, but this story feels like it was written in another language, and then translated.”

I try to think in English, but apparently my Polish way of thinking is affecting the way I construct sentences.

I can’t think of an example in English, but I’ll give you an example on how my Polish affects my Chinese. In Polish, we have the word “zaraz”. Zaraz can mean “right away” or “in a moment” – but a moment can last very long, depending on the situation. So zaraz can also be translated as “later” or “much later”.

In Chinese, a word that means “right away” would be 马上 mǎshàng. But mǎshàng means things happeing instantly – we can use it when we want to say “at once”, “staight away”, “immediately”. It can’t be used as “much later.”

Still, because I translated the Polish word “zaraz” into the Chinese word “mǎshàng”, I keep using mǎshàng in the wrong way. For example, my boss told me to do something. I wanted to reply that I will do it later and I said “mǎshàng”. A minute later he asked me: “why aren’t you doing it yet?”. This was when I realized I was making a mistake.

The same is happening when I am writing in English. I wondered whether I shouldn’t ask some English literature professor to give me extra lessons. I asked a trusted person if it was a good idea. She said:

“You’d have to live for 20 years in the UK or America. Just get a good editor. This Polish-English mix is something that makes your style unique.”

And you know what? I think it’s the best advice out there, if you are planning to write in another language. Just ask yourself if you truly feel confident enough in your language ability – here is a checklist:

  • What sounds like a better option to me: writing in my mother language and have someone else translate, or writing in this language and have someone else edit my work?
  • Have I ever tried writing in this language?
  • Am I fully fluent with this language?
  • Am I able to express complex thoughts with this language?
  • Am I willing to spend time researching new words and synonyms?
  • Am I ready to constantly learn this language to improve myself?
  • Am I able to read works in this language, including  classical, academic and formal writing?
  • Do I want to commit to use this language every single day to become even better at it?
  • How does the use of this language change my unique style?
  • Am I satisfied with how my writing feels in the new language?
  • Does this language liberate me as an author, or does it limit me?

Let’s stop for a moment on the last question.

We have already talked about the foreign language limiting us – mostly because of our imperfect language skills.

But, using a foreign language can liberate our minds and helps us write things that we wouldn’t have courage to write in our mother tongue. (Related article: Break your self-imposed limitations, not the writing principles)

From my experience as a polyglot, it always affects me more when somebody talks to me in Polish, rather than when they talk to me in any other language (no matter how well I speak it). Of course, I understand what other people are trying to say, but the emotional effect on my mind is much less than it would be as if they spoke in Polish.

What do we learn from that?

Well, if you have a taboo that you can’t write about in your mother tongue, a foreign language can really liberate you. I can’t write romantic scenes in Polish. I will stop after every sentence and wonder if it’s not too strong. In English, I don’t have this problem at all. This is because the English words don’t affect me as much.

Languages are an incredibly interesting topic, and a passion that I had to give up in order to dedicate my time to becoming a professional author.

I think that the choice of language in which we write is incredibly important, but at the end of the day, what matters is what we want to say, and not if we say it imperfectly. 

Stay inspired!

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Related article:

Posted in All Articles, Be a smart writer, For young writers, Writer's problems

How to properly refuel your creativity, when original inspiration sources don’t work anymore and you have a novel to finish?

What do you do when the flames in your fireplace die out and you are planning to stay up for the night? Obviously, you have to add wood.

Same goes with your creativity. If you feel it’s burning out, you must add some fuel.

Now… What kind of fuel you use matters more than you think.

Do you know that it is possible to light fires in all colors of the rainbow thanks to chemistry? If you use boric acid, your fire will be green. If you use a non-toxic potassium compound, your fire will be purple. And if you burn plastic, it’s not going to burn well.

Why am I talking about it?

Because your fuel choices for writing should be dictated by the type of inspiration you are trying to obtain. If you want to feel inspired for fantasy – you must use fantasy as a fuel.

One of the reasons why people can’t finish their books is, they use the wrong fuel for inspiration.

They have purple fire in the fireplace, but instead of buying fuel for purple fire, they use the fuel for green fire. Obviously – the fire becomes green. Instead of being inspired for fantasy, they inspired themselves for non-fiction. This will very likely make them abandon the fantasy topic and start writing non-fiction.

If you fuel with recipe books, you can’t write a crime! Unless your master chef chooses to stab his victim with a kebab skewer. Which I guess wasn’t your main idea.

Now let’s talk about plastic as a fuel for our inspiration.

Plastic is a topic that sounds nice and maybe even appeals to us, but when we try to write it, just doesn’t work.

Example:

A pacifist reads a gripping murder mystery, which inspires them to write one, too. They plan the story and start researching poisons and weapons. However, violence grosses them out so much, that they actually can’t turn their heroes into murderers.

This is my case. Kazutaka Kodaka, Gōshō Aoyama, Joe Alex and Agatha Christie all make me want to write a murder mystery full of plot twists. But… this inspiration is plastic, cause I can’t write crime novels, and besides, I’m more for writing that promotes peace.

I think I will write a crime novel one day – I have plot and character ideas in my head that just won’t let me go. But right now, reading or watching anything with detectives is only fueling my creativity with plastic. It’s not gonna “burn” into writing, cause there are too many things that block me – for example, lack of skills required by the genre.

Now, let’s discuss creative fire.

Yes! There is such a thing as creative fire! It’s the opposite of the creative burnout.

Creative fire happens when you have added so much fuel to your creativity furnace that you are itching to start writing, and once you start writing, you will be writing until physical tiredness. The creative fire will keep on burning, allowing you to write massive amounts of high quality text in short periods of time.

Making creative fire is easy. You just need to refuel a lot with the right type of fuel and prevent yourself from writing for some time. After a while, you will be faster than a novel writing machine – I promise!

I will tell you now, how I learned the lesson about refueling creativity properly.

When I was 11, I was a fan of Code Lyoko. It’s an old French cartoon about kids who were fighting a computer virus in  digital world. I used to read a very popular fanfiction about it. This fanfiction had over 150 episodes, or maybe even more. The author wrote very often, almost every day, or every three days at most. I wondered, how she author managed to stay inspired for such a long time, and then I noticed that newest episodes were showing up each day in the afternoon, after Code Lyoko was aired on our local TV. I developed a theory, that the author was able to keep writing her fanfiction for so long, cause she was constantly inspired with the right kind of fuel.

Later, I observed other fanfiction writers. I’ve noticed that it was very easy for people to write about a certain topic if:

  • They were genuinely interested in it;
  • They found other people genuinely interested in it;
  • Those other people also wrote fanfictions about it;

Problems started when the topic became stale to most people who were interested into it.

I will give you another example:

D.N.Angel was an anime about phantom thieves with wings that gathered quite a lot of fans. However, since there wasn’t a second series of it, many fans abandoned it and turned to other things that inspired them.

As long as you can find something that will replace your original source of inspiration, that had already run out, you don’t need to worry.

My fanfiction about D.N.Angel is still somewhere in my writing folder, unfinished. I remember I really loved this story and I let it go with a heavy heart. If I could turn back in time to talk to my older self as a more experienced writer, I would just stay: “read books about angels, girl, and the inspiration will be back in an instant.”

And this is the thing that I want you to remember from this post.

Learn to use different sources to refuel your writing inspiration;  use sources that are connected to what you want to write, and when a source stops inspiring you, find another one. And it will be fine.

I hope this helps.

Stay inspired!

Posted in For young writers, Writer's problems

HALLOWEEN! Writers’ worst nightmares and other scary things about writing!

Your favorite pumpkin writer M. R. Foti (born one day before Halloween!) brings you a spooky list of terrible things that could happen to you if you are writer… and how to prevent them (or deal with them).

  1. Someone copy-pastes your writing. Either the whole article/story, or at least pieces. And they claim it as theirs. You’ve tried asking them to remove it, but they say: “What are you talking about? I am the real *your internet nickname*.” What to do: Try not to post your work online, except from short fragments / quotes that are for marketing purposes. If you plan to publish a story for free, then sign it at least with your pen name (or real name – if it’s the same as your pen name). Additionally, always keep your materials in one place and never delete them. If you had to prove authorship, they might turn out very useful.
  2. Someone steals your ideas and writes their own story with them. Actually, this is something that can’t truly be prevented; in reality, we all plagiarize, rewrite and remix other authors’ ideas. If you are writing about a kiss in the boat and someone else writes about a kiss in a boat, too, you can’t tell them not to. However – if your work was copied scene by scene and it’s clear – you must act. What to do: find the thief and sue them. Your book is a golden egg hen and you don’t want anyone else to steal it!
  3. Your short term writing progress is lost when computer resets. This doesn’t need explanation: you write, write and suddenly… blue screen of death! What to do: choose a writing program with autosave option. I loved writing in Notepad and Wordpad, but in the end I switched to Word – because Word automatically saves your document. The default setting should be autosaving each 10 minutes. I set it to 1 minute. Problem solved!
  4. Your long term writing progress is lost when computer dies. It has never ever happened to me. No, not because I was lucky – but because I have always treated my writing as a priority and I had spare copies. Now, I have even the stories I wrote when I was 11 – incredible, isn’t it? (I put it in the folder: “unusable writings”) What to do: zip your writing folder frequently. Put copies on your pendrive and upload them to Google Drive, too.
  5. Your novel gets bad reviews from the target audience readers. Nooo! It sounds horrible when I only think of it! How about you? What to do: be absolutely honest with yourself. Was your book read by the target audience interested in the genre? Maybe you attracted the wrong target audience by choosing a wrong genre or using an unsuitable cover? Was your book edited? Is it free from plot holes, grammar errors, incorrectly used words? Is it gripping or the reader must wait 100 pages before anything starts happening? Does your worldview or language offend anyone? You need a reality check. See also: 6 reasons why your book isn’t popular on social media and how to fix it.
  6. Your novel is under haters’ attack. It happens even to the best of the best. Haters are people that felt hurt by something you did directly or indirectly to them. What to do: differentiate between negative reviews (“I found this book boring”) and offensive reviews (“The author is a whore”). It’s important cause negative reviews won’t be deleted by the bookshop/library admins, while offensive ones most surely will. Also: pay attention if the chain of negative reviews doesn’t match the sales. If you got 10 one-star reviews in one day, it’s very likely that it’s always one person – especially if their accounts are new. You should tell to that to the bookshop/library owners, too. Related article: 20 things to tell yourself after receiving a bad review, to feel better.
  7. All publishers rejected your book. Don’t worry. Really. Publishers do reject tons of decent books! Why? Find out here. What to do: self-publish! It’s as easy as that. It’s going to be cheaper than asking a private publishing house to publish for you. Additionally: Don’t buy the idea that your book is too weird to be liked.
  8. Your sales drop to zero after a few dozen copies. Imagine a boat waiting at the river bank. If you push it, it will go in the right direction. But later, the river current will take it where it wants, and if the weather is bad, it might even sink. Pushing the boat is publishing – once you publish, your parents, friends, teachers will all pay attention to you. But if you don’t do anything to boost your sales, they will become lower and lower until they reach zero. Books  that aren’t in the libraries don’t get discovered. E-books by unknown authors released all over the market don’t get discovered. What to do: Your boat needs a motor (advertising agency). If you can’t afford it, at least get an oar! And in order to get anywhere, you actually need to use the oar, or motor, persistently. Don’t think that you will put three links to your book on your Facebook and it will be over. Marketing must be constant!
  9. Someone (or everyone) tells you: “you have no talent”. In the best case. Cause in the worst case, you’d think much more – and many worse things. Related article: When constructive criticism becomes destructive: is your beta reader a bully? What to do: ignore it completely! You have the right to write and nobody can take it away from you. If you want to be a writer, you will be a writer. In case you truly doubt whether you are talented, and wonder if talent can be learned/acquired, read this article: Where does talent come from? Why isn’t it a prerequisite for success?
  10. Writer’s block turns to creative burnout. You thought you would get to writing after a small break, however, you feel even more demotivated than you were before the break. You just don’t feel like writing, you don’t know what to writing, you feel like you’ve been donating blood daily for months and now you just can’t. What to do: I have created several resources that will help you deal with writer’s block and creative burn out. Check them here:

Those were writers’ nightmares – and here are other scary things connected to the writing process (and progress!):

  1. Receiving a really good writing contract.
  2. Seeing your book online.
  3. Reading reviews.
  4. Writing honestly about what matters to you.
  5. Writing about controversial issues.
  6. Your pen name getting discovered.
  7. Giving your novel to read to someone you personally know.
  8. Re-reading the first draft.
  9. Talking face to face to your readers.
  10. Giving interviews.

And the final resource for today which you might find useful if you are a writer who is chronically scared:

Why dealing with social anxiety is so important if you are an author.

Happy Halloween! Everyone, stay scared inspired!