Changing Your Book’s Target Reader (After You’ve Written It)

My nonfiction book, The Query-Free Freelancer, has been moving along in an extraordinarily slow fashion. That’s due to a variety  of things (from several months of illness where I focused my limited work time on clients to simply shelving the project for a while for a fresher perspective).

Now that I’m moving forward with that first draft again (my own edits to the manuscript before sending it off to a pro), I’ve come across a serious problem. I targeted the wrong audience.

Well, technically I didn’t target the wrong audience so much as I targeted a smaller audience than I should have. I targeted freelance writers. But really the book applies to almost any kind of freelancer you can think of. And even the title seems to imply that, so I was concerned other freelancers would pick it up and be disappointed that the content was so heavily tailored to writers.

It’s a challenge and it means edits will take longer than planned, but here’s what I’m doing to fix this before the book is released:

  • I’m editing most writer-specific language to apply more generally to freelancers. Specific case studies and examples may still focus on freelance writing. 
  • I’m adding other examples to illustrate points using other types of freelancing.
  • I’m going to conduct a series of interviews with a variety of freelancers about how they attract clients without direct pitches. These will be featured as sidebar-style extras.

I’ll also have to make some major adjustments in the early chapters where I talk about querying. While this kind of pitching is common in most freelancing specialties, the term “query” is most commonly used by writers. So I’ll need to clarify the intent better.

In addition to this target reader change, I still need to write one or two new chapters to cover information I feel deserves more attention, especially after cutting another chapter I wasn’t happy with in earlier edits.

While I have little interest in being an obsessive perfectionist, I think the extra time and edits will be worthwhile in this case. After all, they’ll open the book up to hundreds of thousands of additional possible readers over time, and they’ll enable me to use other elements of my platform (such as a small business site I own) to actively promote the book to that broader audience.

Have you ever written a manuscript only to realize you need to adjust your target readership? How did you handle the changes (or did you decide to stick with your original plan)? Tell me about it in the comments.

Should Indie Authors Pay for Book Reviews?

I’ve been keeping an eye on a recent trend in the indie publishing community — paid reviews (and family/friends reviews) and the controversy surrounding them. But I fail to see why it’s such a hot topic.

On one hand, when I see people asking the question of whether or not it’s okay for authors to do this, the answer’s clear. I want to scream “of course not!” But what makes me want to scream even more is the fact that this conversation is happening at all. That’s especially true when we’re talking about online reviews, which we often are.

I get that indie publishing is still new for most authors. But if you’re going to use the Web to publish or promote your books, have the basic sense to understand the arena you’re entering first. Paid reviews are an ancient topic in the Internet age. So let’s just boil it down to the basics in case you missed them:

  • Paying for reviews is stupid from a marketing perspective. As an author the only feedback you should care about is honest feedback. And you’ll never know if you’re getting honest feedback when you pay for that feedback. Even if you don’t insist on a positive review, not all reviewers going to tell you what they really think. They’re too afraid of how you’ll react or they’re afraid others won’t pay them for the same. There are ethical paid reviewers out there. But you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference. And you can’t improve your product or your marketing strategy based on a bunch of bullshit.
  • If you pay for reviews and you do insist that all published reviews are positive, you’re a pathetic unethical schmuckPeriod. If you aren’t ready for honest feedback, you aren’t ready to publish.
  • Not only are there strategic and ethical issues with paid reviews, but you can also have your ass handed to you by Google. They don’t like paid reviews. You can be penalized if you’re caught. (And you probably will be caught.) Again, this is old news. And if you’re an e-book author, this can be especially problematic. Not only can you lose search traffic to your author or book website (and therefore direct sales), but if people find you somewhere else like Amazon and they want to learn more about you before buying, they might be SOL when they search for you and can’t find your penalized website.

Seriously folks. It’s this simple. Question: “Should indie authors pay for book reviews?” Answer: “Hell no!” There. All settled.

Just in case you can’t tell: laziness and a lack of common sense are major pet peeves. There’s really no excuse for this to be such a big topic of discussion. Maybe authors in favor of this really did miss all of the hoopla about paid reviews just a few years back. Or maybe it’s just my hypersensitivity to, and no bullshit tolerance for, spin given my background. Either way, it’s not enough to write. You need to make sure you understand the business side of publishing if you want to go it alone. If you don’t get the problems with paid reviews, you haven’t done your homework.

What Are Your 2013 Publishing Goals?

It’s that time of year again when goal-setting and dreams of new achievements fill people’s minds. I’m no exception, and that’s why I shared my overall writing resolutions previously on my freelance writing blog. For me those resolutions include freelance writing goals, Web publishing goals, and publishing goals for books and e-books. Today I’d like to share that last group of resolutions with you and invite you to share your book writing and publishing plans for the New Year.

My 2013 Writing and Publishing Goals

The bulk of my work on books and e-books this year will be on the writing and editing side (with several publication dates expected early the following year after professional editing and design work is completed).

  • Finish drafting the first novel in my Murder Scripts mystery novel series, under my Aria Klein pen name.
  • Finish the first draft of the second novel in that same mystery series.
  • Finish drafting my first horror novel (largely being adapted from a rough screenplay format) under my A.J. Klein pen name.
  • Create and release the first Murder Scripts game (an ancillary product tied to the mystery series).
  • Draft the manuscripts for four short children’s books under my Poppy Andersen pen name.
  • Choose an illustrator for those books (art is another passion of mine, so I might do it, but I don’t expect to have the time).
  • Release at least three Query-Free Freelancer information product style e-books.
  • Finish my next draft of The Query-Free Freelancer manuscript (print book).
  • Choose a professional editor for The Query-Free Freelancer.
  • Draft the first short story for a collection to be continued in 2014.

It will be a busy year on all fronts of my business. But that’s where planning comes in handy. I usually set lofty goals knowing that if I don’t push myself hard, nothing will get done. So chances are good some of these things will get bumped. But if I mapped things out reasonably well, most will be completed as planned. And that’s something I’m excited about. I’m determined to make this the best year ever for me professionally, and when I put my mind to something, very little can get in my way.

How about you? What are you working on in 2013? Are you hoping to self publish your first e-book? Draft your first novel? Publish a collection of poetry? Win a particular writing award? Tell us about it in the comments.

Writer’s Digest Resources for NaNoWriMo Authors

I received an email from someone with Writer’s Digest about some content and giveaways they’re offering NaNoWriMo authors. I wanted to quickly make you aware of what they have available.

The idea is to offer content and motivational tools to keep authors focused during the hectic novel writing month. That content will be published every day Monday – Friday throughout the month of November.

Access the NaNoWriMo freebies here. 

Here are a few examples of giveaways currently available:

  • Get Started Calendar
  • Motivation Master Plan
  • 50 Questions to Consider When Writing a Novel

You can find those and all other NaNoWriMo giveaways this month by visiting the list above. For all the indie authors out there whipping up novel drafts during NaNoWriMo, I wish you the best of luck!

My Interview on Independent Writing and Publishing

I was recently interviewed by Dava Stewart of about independent writing and publishing. I’d like to share a portion of that with you below. If you’d like to read more, please check out the full interview.

Dava Stewart: Recently, I heard a well known writer talking about the often repeated phrase “there are no gatekeepers anymore.” He suggested that every reviewer on Goodreads or Amazon is a gatekeeper. What do you think? Has self publishing made it easier to be heard, or is it more difficult than ever? Or, is it just a different set of obstacles now?

Jennifer Mattern: This is a tough question, and it’s one I have mixed feelings about. Look. There’s a lot of crap out there right now. And that has the potential to hurt independent authors because some readers have a bias against them after one or more bad experiences. Then again, even major publishers release garbage on more than an occasional basis. That’s nothing new in publishing.

I think what the current environment does is provide a unique opportunity for independent authors and small presses to blur the lines — ignoring the gate and jumping the fence, if you will. And while I wouldn’t call reviewers on Goodreads and Amazon “gatekeepers,” if you screw around once you join the party, they sure have the ability to kick your ass out.

We’re slowly moving in a direction where readers are going to pay more attention to the author and less to the publishers. If you can build a name for yourself — your author brand — you’re going to sell books. But that’s no justification for publishing anything half-assed. So sure, it’s easier for authors to be heard. But it’s also easier for them to get lost in (or contribute to) the excessive noise.

The trick will be avoiding anyone or anything that promises to make self publishing cheap or easy while learning as much as they can about book marketing and PR. Fortunately those skills can be learned and many authors these days seem too lazy to bother. That means any author willing to put in the effort has an immediate edge. And they won’t have to rely on traditional gatekeepers to open any doors for them.

Again, you can read the full interview to find out more about my thoughts on things like my favorite indie author and the business side of independent publishing.