Episode 106B – MT Bass – Community

Overview

MT attributes much of his long term success to being in a good group. Community and hearing from other authors is critical to long term success.

An aspect that is difficult is getting feedback or getting criticized. MT has some words of wisdom for this and we talk about how authors can use groups to improve their craft.

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Transcript

[00:00:48] Stephen: All right. So let’s roll into some author stuff because I love talking to people that have been writing. My goal is to talk to authors that aren’t know and help get word out, which you fall [00:01:00] into that category where you started off before the whole self publishing thing and you’ve rolled into it. So what have you learned from when you first started to now, especially with things being so digital, what have you learned that you’re doing different?

[00:01:17] MT: Yeah, I’m doing different. Excuse me. The one big thing is nine out instead of. Writing out my pencil on paper, on the college rule paper, I do everything. I do everything direct into a Scribner. That’s the program I use. It’s a great program. That was one of the best things I bought was a little $19 Bluetooth keyboard.

So I can just sit. And that was a big change. Yeah. Other than that, you just, you gotta get up and write and do it just all the time. And then beyond that, like we were talking earlier trying to build a community people, editors, and [00:02:00] you know, other authors and things like that to spread out because we’re all loners.

It’s not really a group activity. So we belonged in the Cleveland writers. And that’s pretty valuable because Dave is focused on the marketing end of things. So once you have a book and getting it out and promoting it and getting it sold, that’s a huge prospect besides just putting together a book so that, so that’s valuable, they’re coming up with different ideas to promote it.

And then I’m in another group called the west side writers group, which is a small. I think there is five or six of us and we get together the third Saturday, and it’s a critique group, which you put out about three or 4,000 words, and then you get a critique on it. That’s really important to, you know, to hear what other people perceive about what you’re [00:03:00] writing like mysteries.

I know that I know the ending, so I can’t pull myself. But you get important feedback about what they think is going to happen. What are the red herrings what’s working? What isn’t and that’s pretty valuable too.

[00:03:17] Stephen: So doing this for a while, I assume checked out other groups or they’ve come and gone. Why choose these particular groups and stay with

[00:03:26] MT: them?

Like I said, most of the other writing groups I was involved with were critique group. Like the west side writers group, some of them were, their focus was like game of Thrones stuff. That’s all they wanted to read about. And so I don’t fit that. So I just moved on. Whereas with the west side writers group, it’s all different genres outcome does Saifai and I do mysteries.

What kind of a.

[00:04:00] Yeah, I get to see him twice a month when we get together. So, you know, so there’s a wide variety. There it’s a small enough group that you can consistently get critique. Cause it gets tough to join a group critique one month and then you don’t get critiqued for another three months. So I’ve been able to run, oh, probably 1, 2, 3, I’m on my fifth book that I’ve run.

And that feedback is just great consistently month in and month out getting the feedback. So that’s why some of them

[00:04:34] Stephen: dropped off because not all groups are critiquing groups, not all groups are about marketing and stuff. Some really are just to maybe hone the craft, but have somebody to talk to. I’ve been in several different groups, but it’s also.

I guess the overall feel with everybody because I, there were some that I’m like, yeah, I just don’t click in this one. [00:05:00] It’s hard to define that, but I’m saying that to encourage other readers, Hey, if you’ve got a local group and I went to the group and you’re like, yeah, this isn’t for me. It doesn’t mean groups won’t work and won’t be beneficial to you

[00:05:16] MT: and you gotta be, you have to be flexible.

I’m not really, I’m not really big on some of the outer space scifi stuff like what Malcolm does, but it’s good to read that stuff. It’s going to be exposed to it, to hear his takes on things and what he’s trying to accomplish. We’ve had some other people that one guy did a religious book. And so it’s not, you shouldn’t go out and.

Look for just everything being the same as what you already do. And plus, when you get feedback from these other people, it’s from a different perspective on someone sometimes they’ll see things that you never thought of. Yeah. It’s important to, to find the right mix with the people. [00:06:00] Like you said, some folks that are.

Doing their own thing and it’s just doesn’t match up.

[00:06:08] Stephen: You anticipate it’s not just, I’m going to go read my stuff and get a critique to help me, but going and reading other people’s stuff in proceedings, because building that skill with somebody else’s really helps a lot on your own. Oh yeah.

[00:06:22] MT: Yeah. It does make a big difference.

And it’s in the end, the west side writer’s group is more structured, right? So it’s not just, you show up and read a small piece. People throw out. Get the piece in advance and the chance to read it a couple of times go through things. So it’s more of a deliberate process rather than just doing off the cuff reactions.

[00:06:46] Stephen: And it also gives you a chance to get some feedback and tempting that skin up a little bit. Cause you’ll get some people that get really harsh about it and you may not agree with them and they may not even be completely right. Or your [00:07:00] style or your genre. I found that too. I heard people give comments and feedback on the structure of some, you know, first couple chapters and I disagreed with it because the style of the story did not fit what the feedback was saying.

They should change it. But again, that’s an experience thing. You have to go and start building up that experience.

[00:07:25] MT: You have to listen. Can I take it all in and then decide, then you have to sit back and decide what’s important. What is, what really applies to you and what might not some, sometimes people are giving you are really talking about what you wrote, but something else.

So you have to sort that out and just separate the wheat from the chaff, because you’re going to get it all. But I haven’t really been in many groups that have been. Partially critical. They’ve been critical, but in a productive, [00:08:00] mostly in a productive way, you gotta just, you gotta be able to put it out there and take the hits.

[00:08:06] Stephen: And again, it’s important for the group. You feel comfortable and click with that. You understand you’re getting constructive criticism or figuring out that guy really isn’t being constructive. He’s just being a jerk. Figure that out because there’s people like that all over. Oh, and you mentioned like with Dave’s group, it was a focus more on the marketing and the after, which is unique for these types of groups, mostly their critique groups.

So working with Dave in that aspect as a group and everybody, here’s what I’m doing, suggestions and helping out is different. That’s one of the reasons I really liked that group too. Yeah, we do

[00:08:46] MT: do some critiques. Pop-up critiques. So there’s a piece of that at the end, but my main interest is trying to sort out how the heck to advertise and market and promote.

I’ve got the books I want, [00:09:00] I want more people to connect with them.

[00:09:02] Stephen: Yeah. So what are some things you’re doing to market your books? I’ve

[00:09:08] MT: gone through a lot of different phases trying to do things. I. Last year and the year before I did a lot of news newsletter promotions, where you put your book in for 99 cents, I’ve sold a lot of books, but didn’t get a lot of money.

I connected with a guy called Brian Colon and he’s got a full advertising program that he put together. I did one of his free sessions last year. And I liked his approach to everything. It’s pretty much a business approach. You got to make sure you’re making a profit, what your spending balance is, is bringing in the royalty.

And it’s a different approach from that. And I was doing Amazon advertising with this different approach to it, and it seems to be working and I seem to [00:10:00] be instead of. Getting hits on the 99 cents. I’m selling books at full price. So, and I’m early in the program. And then the other thing was part of that is I looked at to be honest, when I looked at all my sales from everywhere else, apple Barnes, noble Smashwords Kobo, and I decided to go all in to try the Kindle unlimited, to see how that.

Got to give it a try, kind of try every

[00:10:30] Stephen: and that point there too, because I listened to some of the same podcasts, some of the same groups and a huge discussion. And a lot of people are like, oh, we hate Amy. Amazon was stay away from it. We’re just going wide. But then I’ve heard other people say, yeah, but when I went to Kindle unlimited, I sold more books and I was doing, making more money, better living in, I could support my writing better.

And some people say I did that for a [00:11:00] while. It died off. Then I went wide and I had a bigger audience. I think my point with that is it doesn’t need to be a holy war. It doesn’t need to be something where people look down upon somebody else for doing one thing or the other, the choices are. And you have to make what works best for your book and you, and that doesn’t mean it’s that way every time or all the time.

So it’s good to hear that you figured out something

[00:11:30] MT: truth. Be told. I went wide until January. I was everywhere. And to be honest with you, with all my sales, 80% of my sales running. And with Amazon, they give you an advertising tool that you can use to promote your books. You don’t get that anywhere else, but you don’t get that on. Smashwords, there’s a little bit of it on Kobo, but it’s hard to get into that stuff.

So you’re left [00:12:00] out on your own, and that’s why I started to newsletter promotions. And, and I’ll still, I’m going to continue to do that, but it’s mostly to drive more traffic to my book. Like I said, I’ll take a look at it and see how it all works out.

[00:12:14] Stephen: It’s interesting because I have some non-fiction books out there that I haven’t even really touched no advertising, no anything with them for quite a while.

And starting this year, I’ve been getting reports from apple and I’ve been selling as much on apple with those as I have on Amazon. Again, nonfiction with no. Absolute promotion whatsoever, not even a website or anything anymore, I’ve just been letting them sit. And so I’m like, yeah. And so now it’s the question of what can I do to make that even more, once you start getting traction, it’s easier to keep going.

But I understand because getting into some of those Google, especially is like really difficult to [00:13:00] get set up and get everything in there. It seems. And then if you’re someone like one book, every six months, you got to go, is it worth it?

[00:13:07] MT: Yeah. Yeah. And I don’t know, I haven’t, I toyed around a little bit with Facebook ads.

I didn’t have much luck. I did some Bing ads and some Google ads, but it just, it was, it was a drain on my finances more or less. I wasn’t seeing much return on it that I could trade. And like I said, this whole program that I’m in now is really focused on tracking your royalties, tracking your conversion.

Making sure that the money you’re putting out for advertising, you’re staying ahead of the game on royalty. So like that.

[00:13:46] Stephen: Okay. Have you seen, I know it’s only been like a month and a half. Have you seen an increase in your Kindle unlimited your Amazon sales and all of that from making this change?

[00:13:59] MT: I [00:14:00] not in the I’ve seen, yeah.

I’ve had Kindle unlimited reads. No, but I think that’s going to be a long build to build that up. I, my, my numbers have gone down in terms of units sold, but my income, my royalties are up because I’m not just selling 99 cent books selling full-priced eBooks and that’s all good sign. Like I said, I. Okay.

[00:14:32] Stephen: So you mentioned back a little bit, you mentioned Scrivener and we’ve talked about the groups. Are there any other services that you’re using that work well for you? Either writing, marketing or whatever,

[00:14:44] MT: to be honest with you, I use Grammarly to do a. Quick, edit on my stuff and sort out the big boo-boos that I put in there all the time.

So that’s a good product use and it’s free. And in Scribner [00:15:00] is just, if you’re serious about writing, it’s got everything you need in terms of a word processor to compose your book. And then it’s got whole binder where you can load in PDFs and links and stuff. So you have all your research. For your book right there available right at hand.

And then at the end of it, it will spit out a finished eval. So that’s been the best thing in a long while. And then other than that, then my editor beloved, she’s she, I met her a while back 2014, I think. And she’s edited all my books and she’s.

[00:15:47] Stephen: Editors are very scared sending it to the editor and waiting for it to come back. But for me, it’s been my expense of education, proving [00:16:00] myself. Cause I’m. Personality and the ego aside and listened to the editor. And once I can accept what’s being said, and I’m like, okay, I can see how this is improving things.

So I, I personally now really sending things to my editor because everything gets better once I get it back and work on my writing.

[00:16:20] MT: Oh yeah. I don’t care how many beta readers you have or anything like that because I have other people reading my books and I run it through. So writer’s group and you get feedback with that.

And I think, oh, okay, now I’m fine. I’ll send it off to her. It comes up, but she’s right. Yeah. Yeah. I need that. I need that help. I’d rather focus on the story.

[00:16:45] Stephen: Yes. And I thought a lot of times people get caught up on the trees and focusing on sentences and words and restructure and all that. And I realized the one day I got done reading a book.

I love it. And I realized I’m like, you know [00:17:00] what? I love this story. I can tell you about it, but I can’t give you a specific of chapter eight. I don’t remember a specifically chapter 18. I remember the overall story. I can’t tell you any great sentences. I can’t recite them like Shakespeare or anything.

I’m like, so all this worry about the grammar and the structure of the signings is so minimal compared to the great story that the author pulled me into. That’s what people remember that revelation. To me, it sounds like, yeah, duh, but really you have to internalize that. And that moment I really realized.

That’s the important stuff. Really? You got to get that before the other stuff. Oh yes.

[00:17:40] MT: Yeah, you’re right. It’s the storytelling. That’s, what’s important. And that’s what you did. What, whoever the author was, did a great job of sucking you into the story and making that. So the most important thing, not coming up with quote lines or stuff like that, that’s that’s, that’s what we all kind of came for.

At least try to present a [00:18:00] great story.

[00:18:02] Stephen: Yeah, that’s difficult. There are, there are writers. Believe it or not. I don’t really care for Patterson. I’ve read a few of his books and none of them like were like, oh, this is great to me. But like my mother loves reading Patterson. So you know, different people.

[00:18:20] MT: Yeah. I’m with you on that. For me, it was too cliffhanger. You know what I mean? It’s like every chapter was like, it almost became worrisome. Here’s another cliff thing. Or now I got to go. Here’s another cliffhanger. Here’s another question. And I get it. You can overdo good thing.

[00:18:43] Stephen: And wonder, what is it about doing that?

That turns me off, whereas like Koontz does it and it just makes me want to read more. There’s gotta be that’s where it’s the overall story, but also the structure of it that we [00:19:00] read and it flows with us. I don’t know how to discover it and very metaphysics. But not focused on, well, this grammar in the sentence is perfect, but it’s the way it’s written.

It connects with me is what I’m guessing if I had to really analyze it. Yeah,

[00:19:17] MT: yeah. Yeah. And it’s just, there’s a thousand ways to write books. Right. And not everyone, I don’t give some I can take and some I can’t and that doesn’t make any of them. It’s just that here’s a style that, that I relate to.

Here’s a story I relate to. I don’t relate to the constant clipping.

[00:19:41] Stephen: All right. So this has been great. Do you have any last minute advice you would give to new authors listening?

[00:19:51] MT: It’s well, we’ve heard this at the Cleveland writers group is you got to finish the damn thing. That’s the whole really that’s the point is just.[00:20:00]

Just putting words to paper and that’s all we do. I get up, I get up early five or five 30 and I write for a couple hours and it’s pretty surprising. You just keep piling up the words or, you know, you have a book and then you can go back and edit and put everything together. But it really doesn’t take that long if you’re doing.

A little bit every day. And that’s what I recommend. Just write every day and pile the words up.

Yeah. That too, for once the story is done.

[00:20:33] Stephen: Yes. All right. I appreciate you taking some time today, outside of the first Monday of the month. Yeah.

[00:20:40] MT: Yeah. Thanks for having me. It’s great. Being on the podcast.

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