Wednesday, December 13, 2017

First Chapters

First chapters are my favorite things to write. They burst out of you, helped by that initial surge of excited adrenaline that comes with every new story idea that has enough substance to stick around in the old noggin and not be forgotten with the shopping list. First chapters are where decisions are made: Is there a book here? Can I let this thing run itself out for four or five hundred pages? Does it have a heart beating in its chest? Those answers are never really clear, to be honest. You can only get a better sense of what's going on by writing a first chapter, meeting some characters, and deciding whether or not their lives are interesting enough to follow for upwards of a year. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: the best stories are not created; they are discovered. My job is not to make these people do things, but rather to hang out with them and be there when the shit goes down. And the shit almost ALWAYS goes down. If it doesn't--or if it doesn't seem like it's going to--then I bail after the first chapter. Because if I don't, when that initial excitement fades (and it always does), then I won't be able to care enough to write down what happens... or, if I do, I won't write it down the way it deserves and the story will be flat.

Friday, February 19, 2016

What I've Learned About Self-Publishing

I have been doing this writing and self-publishing thing for a little while now, and over the last year the hard work has finally started to payoff, albeit modestly. Just enough, I'd say, to make me see the true potential in self-publishing and want to write this post. The following is simply my opinion of what I found to work along the way, and what did not. I have spent countless hours over the last three years reading articles that others have written on the subject of self-publishing, and I think it's only fair to pay it forward and add my own two cents and, maybe, touch a little bit upon my own experiences. Take it or leave it. There is no formula for success for this, just a lot of trial and error and luck. But I would be lying to tell you there aren't things you can do to help your chances.

The Product

Once you have poured your blood, sweat and tears into writing your novel or short story or whatever, you need to stop thinking like a writer and start thinking business. Your book is now your product, and there are a lot of products out there that have had a lot of hours put into them to make them look like the professionally crafted products that they are.

So let's talk about what you're putting out there for a second. The first obstacle a self-published writer will be up against is the stigma attached to the fact that you are self-publishing your material instead of being "traditionally published" by a publishing house. Let's face it, for every well-crafted and professionally presented self-published novel put out there, there are a hundred that look like they were designed by a 5th grade computer class circa 1995 (that doesn't mean the writing is bad, but people will be hesitant to take a chance on you if your book looks shoddy). People often fear--and this is a stereotype that is rapidly being shed in the industry--that "self-published" is synonymous with "lesser quality." And they have every right to think this way because there certainly is no shortage of poorly crafted books out there in the digital self-pub market. So one way to increase your credibility is to make your product every bit as professional as what the big publishers are putting out. It's not easy on a small budget, but it also isn't impossible.

I would recommend finding a good website that sells pre-made or custom covers. Oh. Here's one. This is where I bought my cover and it was like $40, but it looks great if you ask me. I've actually received a few emails from people who liked Cicada Spring saying they bought it because they liked the cover. So, yes, people do judge a book by the cover. It is the first taste of the story the book contains. I like to think the cover sets the mood before the reader has read one word.*

*I won't lie. I still have a couple book covers on Amazon that aren't as nice as I'd like, but they are for short stories, and I kind of like seeing them as a reminder of how I started.

I would also recommend springing for a professional editor. Oh. Here's a good place. For a 100,000 word manuscript it's about $500 (I suggest the one-pass line edit), but it is worth every penny. And if things go well and you make a little money selling books (the business side of you should want this), you will be able to write that amount off on your taxes to reduce what you owe Johnny Government.**

**Here I should add that you should save all receipts for anything you do writing related. You'll thank yourself later. Anytime you do anything that costs you money and it is related to your writing, get a receipt and put it in an envelope.

Bottom line is that it is important your book has as few errors as possible inside. Have someone edit it, then have six or seven people proofread it. I won't tell you it will ever be perfect, even after five proofreads from others and a dozen of my own, I still doubt I got them all. That's okay, though. Even Big House books have errors. But the goal here is to get this thing as polished as possible. And if you do find a typo in your digital book after it is published, it's not that hard to fix. Here's Hugh Howey to explain how. And if you don't know who he is, you should Google him.

Fixing print book errors is a different story though, and I'm not going to get into that.

At the end of the day, though, no matter how pretty and professional your product is, how spotless the grammar and spelling is, if you're not telling a story people want to read (no fixes here), you're gonna have a bad time. I have a hard time seeing how a poorly told (or a boring) story will sell well (consistently beyond marketing campaigns, anyway) because word of mouth is key to a book's success. And people don't tell their friends about books that didn't do it for them.

That brings me to my next part.


Word of mouth always is and always will be the ultimate marketing tool. But it takes some big pushes, and patience (and sacrifice), to get people talking about your book. However, thanks to the wonderful world of social media, it is much easier for people to hear when their friends are chattering about your book. If you haven't already, go sign up for Goodreads. It's Facebook for booklovers and authors.

When it comes to marketing your book, there are a lot of options. I will tell you the things I have done that have led to over 100,000 downloads and some trailing sales.

Let's start with this, and you're gonna hate it if you just spent a year or more writing a book: GIVE IT AWAY FOR FREE as much as possible. If you don't have a readership yet, which I don't imagine you do if you're reading articles about self-publishing, then the best way to gain one is to give content away for free. And not just any content--give people GOOD CONTENT, a good story, for free and they will gladly pay for your next. They will also tell people about your book and if your free promo is over they will buy it if their friend gushes about it enough, especially if you are pricing your book in the $2.99 - $4.99 range.

What's a free promo? Well if you use Amazon KDP Select, and I recommend you do, you will learn that the service allows you to do five days of free promotion every 90 days. Doing a promotion alone won't generate a ton of downloads, but pairing it with a marketing campaign like Bookbub (more on this in a second) will blast you up the charts.

Here is what I did.

The first time I did a free campaign I did it by itself without any marketing. Luckily, a site called Pixel of Ink picked up that it was free and in three days I had 15,000 downloads and Cicada Spring made it to #2 on the Amazon list of free books. These lists are crucial; they get eyes on your book. And after the free promo was over, I had about 200 sales. Not great, but more than I had ever anticipated. The most valuable thing about the promo though was that it got me about 75 reviews from random readers, and they were good reviews. This increased my credibility.

I then leveraged those good reviews to apply for a Bookbub campaign to list my book for free again in the next few months.

What's Bookbub? It is a website/email subscription with over 3 million users. You basically pay them to blast your book out to all these people. The catch is that they are also super exclusive and picky and won't pick your book if they don' think their readers will like it (here's where those 75 reviews helped).

Anyway, I applied and Bookbub accepted and I paid them $400 (tax write-off) to list my book as free. I listed it for four days. End result: 95,000 downloads. For the following four months I also sold a thousand books and had over a million pages (Kindle Unlimited users) read.

This was all generated by giving away my books for free. Oh, and I also sold a bunch of my short stories. It was a good learning experience too. I received a ton of emails asking if I had more full-length books. I did not, and so ended up depressed that I was missing so many sales opportunities. However, I think it is a testament to how powerful a marketing tool giving away free content can be. It goes against all the hard work you put into writing your novel, but in the end it gets you what you should want as a gets you readers.

Keep Writing

This is most important. You can't keep focusing on your one book. Once you have written it and polished it and gotten it out there, you need to turn your focus to writing another book. That's where I am right now. Your book is out there until Amazon somehow crumbles, and it has the rest of its life to be discovered. Your best chance of that is to have a few books find moderate success and hope the fire catches. Here is where luck is nice. You never know who will stumble upon your book and love it.

Earlier I said I didn't think there was a formula for success in this industry, but I think I was wrong. I think what you need to do is consistently put out quality writing that people want to read. That's what the pros do. And how do you get people to want to read your stuff? I think you just have to say something interesting. Readers will forgive a lot, but they won't forgive being bored by your writing. The rest, the consistency part, is just hard work.

And here is where I end abruptly, perhaps having written a lot, said little, and taught nothing of value. It's Friday and I feel like leaving the office now. I guess in the end this was more a story about myself than it was advice. I think there is some useful stuff in here though. Basically just pour your heart into a book, spend money polishing it, then spend more money giving it away for free. It worked for me though.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Goodreads Giveaway and Brief Update

I know, I know, I have been neglecting my social media duties lately. But I think that's okay because I have been busy with work (gotta pay the bills) and writing my second novel. It's coming along nicely, although it has changed a lot along the way and is a much different story than I had first envisioned. That's all right though. Isn't that usually what happens when you try to write a book? You have an idea of what the story should be, but the story has its own ideas and you end up meeting somewhere in the middle and agreeing on a fair compromise. At first I said that 'Soldier of God' was going to be like 'Sling Blade' meets 'The Green Mile,' but it has turned into something closer to 'The Shining' meets 'It' meets, well, still 'Sling Blade.' I'll post an excerpt soon, once I know the storyline is pretty much cemented in place. I'd rather not post a chapter/an excerpt/whatever if I will end up cutting it later, or if it is part of a plotline that ends up being unnecessary. Anyway, I almost forgot why I even decided to write this post: I'm doing a Goodreads Giveaway. There should be a widget below. Sign up if you'd like a chance to win a signed copy of my first novel, 'Cicada Spring.'

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Cicada Spring by Christian Galacar

Cicada Spring

by Christian Galacar

Giveaway ends February 25, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Monday, October 19, 2015

Short Horror Stories for Halloween

As promised (at least I think I promised this at some point) I have collected four dark short stories, old and new, and published them. The collection is titled "Blackwater: Four Stories"(damn I'm clever), and it is available for $0.99 on Amazon. Some of the stories are my first children, and they have buck teeth and bad acne, but they are not without their moments so give them a chance... I was just learning to walk, myself. These aren't intended to be award winners, and perhaps they should've stayed in the trunk where trunk stories belong, but they might occupy an hour of your time and leave you with a shiver or a smile, depending on how demented you are. I won't judge.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Finally Got Around to Creating a Website

I had been putting off the daunting task of creating a website for quite some time. Then I realized it really wasn't a daunting task at all, and that I was being dramatic and lazy. As I suspected, the majority of Internet-related things that once seemed complicated to non-tech-savvy people, such as myself, have since been streamlined and made user-friendly to the masses. I suppose that's how we advance as a species. Anyway, website building was one of those things that got easier. Go figure.

As it turns out, there are many companies that provide this service--Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, Jimdo, to name a few. I chose Wix. It was relatively inexpensive ($75 per year), and the editing platform was easy and intuitive. The others are fine companies, but admittedly I didn't vet them as thoroughly as I could have. With so little free time, I need to be efficient.

So without further ado, I give you my website, the official Christian Galacar Author Page. I'm sure I'll update it over the next few weeks. Tweak things etc. But the basic idea is there. If you visit, be sure to sign up for the newsletter. I only really plan to take advantage of that feature to announce book releases... and possibly to solicit reviews and offer advanced reader copies.

Damn that's a clever domain name. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Cicada Spring Is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

This is some exciting news! I was just notified that Cicada Spring is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree. If you don't know what that means, click here and have a look at their website. No viruses, I promise (although that's exactly what a virus would want you to think). Now my cover has a fancy new emblem. I'll update my Amazon cover soon.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What's Next

Over the past month or so, I have received a lot of emails from new readers who have read my first novel, Cicada Spring, asking if I had any more books. It’s always a bittersweet thing: I love hearing from people who have enjoyed my writing, but I am always slightly bummed that I don’t have more books to offer at the moment (I don’t count the short stories I have published on Amazon). From a business standpoint, I can’t help but see it as the missed sales opportunity that it is. But what is even more disappointing (far more so than any amount of lost revenue) is not being able to provide more entertainment to people looking for it.

Now I know writing is not an immediate endeavor, but it is hard to know there are people out there asking for more when I don’t have anything to offer right away. I feel like I’m turning away hungry patrons, forcing them to leave empty-handed, stomachs still rumbling, appetites not sated. I don’t like it. Nope. Not one bit.

The only solution it would seem is to write another book. And, I suppose, the purpose of this post is to assure people who might stumble upon it that I am in fact writing another book. It’s called Soldier of God (for now, anyway), and my plan is to have it ready for publication in May/June 2016. I’m about a third of the way through the first draft, and provided my schedule doesn’t become even more hectic, I should be able to finish it in time for this coming spring. At my current rate, taking into account the responsibility of my full-time job (gotta pay the bills), I feel confident that I can put out at least one book per year—and maybe a few short stories here and there when time allows.

But what’s the new book about? you ask. Well that’s a good question. Here’s what I will tell you: Soldier of God takes place in the fictional town of Gilchrist, Mississippi, in 1959. There is murder. There is kidnapping. There is a strange river. It is kind of like a bizarre lovechild of The Green Mile and Sling Blade. That’s all I’ll share for now, but rest assured I am really enjoying writing and discovering this strange tale as I go. And at the end of the day, that’s what my writing comes down to: I write the kinds of stories I want to read... and I absolutely want to keep reading this one.

Oh, and I almost forgot. In October I plan to put out a short story or two. Definitely one, maybe two.  The definite one is titled Blackwater which is my homage to Stephen King’s short story, Graveyard Shift, one of my childhood favorites. The second is a really short story I wrote when I first started out called Mercury Rain. They’re both fun stories, and they’ll either be $.99 or free. I might actually end up packaging the two together and releasing it as a duo.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I have to get a haircut. If you want to stay up to date on what I’m up to with my writing, follow my blog by adding your email to the little gadget thingy on the top right of my blog’s home page. And as always, please feel free to reach out to me through email at I truly do like to hear from readers.