Ass in the Chair: How to Build Your E-Book Empire (and Not Suck)

Post 0: Prologue

This is going to be a series of posts. I see a lot of fellow new authors struggling with certain things, and I see myself struggle with them as well. I hear from unpublished authors frequently, asking questions about one thing or the other. There used to be books you could point an up-and-coming author to, and then there were blogs that were vital. Even taken holistically as a historical exercise, much of that information wasn’t filled with the specific: “Here’s how to do X” kind of information writers always want.

I know it used to irk the hell out of me when I would read about some author’s reply to simple “well, how do you do it” sort of questions, and their answers would always be along the lines of “It’s takes a lot of luck”, and “my path was unique to me”, and blah blah blah, but they never answered the question.

In this series of posts, I hope to answer some questions. As a whole, it’ll be a living and changing document, because by the time I post some of these ideas, I might have better ones, or the industry might change again. But still, my mission here is clear: to set out specific tasks that you can do, and show you how to do them. These things will make you a better author, make you a better marketer, and show you a step by step process for how you write your books, and independently publish (read: self-publish) them, while not sucking. Hopefully along the way, you’ll make some money doing it too.

What qualifies me to do it? Not much. I have a few books out with my name on them. They make some money (but not nearly enough). I don’t spend nearly enough time marketing or nearly enough time writing as I should. But I will have put out (or had published) four books in fourteen months. And I’m finding more and more authors with as many books out as I have or fewer turning to me for advice. I clearly don’t know everything, or I’d be retired and living like a king in Patagonia. But I must know a few things, because people keep asking me. I won’t tell you it takes luck (although that plays a part). I will tell you that you probably won’t follow my path exactly. (Who the hell wants an M.A. in linguistics just to write a YA fantasy novel?) But I will tell you exactly what I have done, what I do, and what I hope to do. I’ll tell you about some things you should be doing that I haven’t even done yet. I’ll try to keep it light, and funny, but unlike all those vague authors who say “my path isn’t for everyone”, I’ll give you concrete things you can do, and the sequence in which you should do them.

Over time, you can become an author, and a paid one at that. You might even make enough to live. You’ll build up an audience and a fan-base. You’ll form alliances with other authors, and you’ll learn how to manage your business. You’ll learn to treat your work like a business, the same way a small business owner like a corner grocer treats their business. You’ll learn that it really isn’t all about getting that first book written and published—it’s about getting the next one written and published. And the one after that.

I’ll point you to blogs by other people that you should read, and I’ll point you to books. I’ll tell you how to write a story and how to revise it. We’ll talk about editing and formatting, how to get the perfect book cover, how to deal with Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and all the other vendors out there. Social media strategies, and all the rest.

But we’ll start with something simple for this prologue blog post: get your ass in the chair. That’s how it all begins. You have an idea for a novel. “I’m going to write a book,” you say. Great. Sit down, shut up about it, and write it. Don’t worry about anything to do with anything while you are working on it. No publishing stuff or editors or agents or any of that stuff. Sit in the chair, every day (or stand if that’s your preference, and we’ll even talk about desk arrangements at some point), and write the story. Don’t worry about whether the story sucks. Just write it. Don’t worry about how long it’s supposed to be. Just type (or hand-write, or dictate. Whatever.) Just get the story from your head onto paper or screen somehow. That’s the first rule of building your e-book empire. Your print book empire too. You want to write? Write. That’s it. There’s no more secret than that one. I’ve taken ten years to write a novel and two weeks. Guess which is better.

This series is called Ass in the Chair because that’s the most important part. I’ll talk about where ideas come from, what to read for inspiration, how to deconstruct what you read and learn how an author did X in their book, and so forth. Here’s the secret to all that: you can implement all that stuff on your book after you write it. You are going to have to rewrite some things anyway. You’ll have to make fixes and changes. You might need to cut stuff. You might have to add three chapters once you finish. So? Don’t worry about all that, and instead focus on getting the story out of your head and onto the screen.

Until you do, you’re just wishing. Might as well wish to be an astronaut. Get the story down. We can talk about all the rest over the coming weeks. But you have to do the work. It’s the single reason that most people who say they want to write a book never do. They don’t put their ass in the chair and type it. I’ll tell you another little secret. Most of them “want to write a book someday”. That’s not what you should want. You should want to be an author. They don’t write a book someday. They write on a book every day. And they end up with more than one book. There’s a reason. It’s hard to make a living on one book. Stephen King isn’t a gajillionaire because he wrote Carrie. He wrote over 60 more books after that one (and he had completed several by the time Carrie was published). If you want to live as a paid author and build your e-book empire, you need to plan to write more than just one book. When you start thinking that way, your first book becomes an obstacle to overcome, and less of a baby to perfect and polish. Yes, it needs to be good, but don’t twiddle with it forever, or you won’t get Book Two done. Same story for Book Two. Get it done and move on to number three.

We’ll talk about how to make them good, and how to tend them once you release them into the wild. But first things first—make them exist.

Get your ass in the chair.

8 Responses to “Ass in the Chair: How to Build Your E-Book Empire (and Not Suck)”

  1. Ashley Knight says:

    Very nice! I look forward to learning from you!

  2. Kane says:

    Thanks. I think we’ll probably be learning from each other.

  3. Steve Manke says:

    Step 1: check!

    I’m looking forward to the series. This is a great idea, and just what I need! I’ve been plugging away on the first set of revisions to my first book. I’m squirreling away time where ever I can. Nights, weekends… every spare moment. I’m wearing out a spot on the couch in the sunroom.

    I work all day in my office then grab my laptop and cross the house to work in the sunroom for most of the night. It’s only the other end of the house but its separate from my home office so it helps me maintain a different mindset and set aside the daily grind.

    I’m ready for step #2! Bring it on!

  4. Yonatan says:

    Hi Kane,

    I am looking forward to this series of posts. Seems just what I need. Can you add a way to subscribe to your blog via email? Feedburner should have that option. It makes it easier to follow what you write.

  5. Kane says:

    Hi Yonatan,

    Thanks. The main page actually has an RSS button just under the header image showing the cover for RAGNAROK, which it just happens, is the Kindle Sci-Fi Daily deal today for 1.99. So if you haven’t picked it up, today would be the day. Normally priced at 7.99.

    Thanks for reading. More Assin the Chair posts soon.

    -Kane

  6. Kane says:

    Thanks Steve. Sounds like you’ve got a good setup. More AitC posts coming.

    -Kane

  7. EODgabe says:

    This series of posts is coming at a great time for me. My Army career is coming to an end and I have been wanting to put some of my experiences in a book. However, that task seems almost more terrifying than disarming an IED. I truly look forward to reading what you have to say and learning from you. I am already a fan of your characters. Thank you for being willing to do this.

  8. Kane says:

    Thanks EODgabe. I’ll do what I can to help. The basis is just get the manuscript done. All the rest–formatting, editing, tweaking things, worrying about theme or symbolism, or any of the crap from high school English class can wait.

    Just get it done. The rest of the stuff, which can be daunting, gets a lot easier once the first manuscript is written. Finishing a book teaches you the most important thing about becoming a writer: it’s hard, but no different from digging a huge trench or building a long wall. One man (or woman) can do it, but not in a single day. Takes time, and returning to the work day after day until it’s done. Once you get to the other side of wanting to write a book or writing a book, and you’re on the side of having written a book, you realize nothing is as daunting as it seems, and everything can be learned, given enough time.

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