Multi-passionate writer, author and solo-preneur

Month: March 2012 Page 1 of 2

The Dresden Files: Ghost Story

Dresden Files Ghost Story

I FINALLY read this book (seriously, y’all, sometimes I almost want to quit writing just so I’ll have more time in my life for reading, which is not easy to come by as it is). It was an enjoyable read, as always, with lots of tugging at the heart strings and wanting to give Harry a big ol’ hug. The ending was pretty much exactly what I expected, although I kept wondering throughout the book how it was going to end up there, and although unsurprising it definitely set up some interesting dynamics for the continuation of the series. I don’t really have anything to add by way of review, just some fan-girl babble that I will place behind a cut because it is somewhat spoilery and also, fan-girl babble.

Our Tornado Closet

Tornado season is here, and if you live in Tornado Alley like I do, that means it’s time to make sure your storm preps are ready.

We haven’t had any majorly severe storms in our area yet this year, thank goodness, but I haven’t let that keep me from getting our storm closet ready. Unfortunately, our house lacks a basement or cellar, and as much as I’d love to, we can’t afford to install a tornado shelter or safe room, so we have to make do with our bedroom closet and a lot of prayer.

Cover Wars

Thanks to everyone who offered feedback on the potential cover concepts for Dominion of the Damned. The general consensus was overwhelmingly in favor of the third concept, featuring a girl with a gun standing on a desolate highway, the feedback on which ranged from “least cheesy” to “awesome.” Of course, for practical and budgetary reasons I was hoping the majority would favor the second concept, which wouldn’t cost me anything to produce. But both aesthetically and conceptually I’m in agreement with the readers—I think the cover representing my protagonist is the strongest.

Now the next step is to purchase a high-res copy of the photo, which will have to wait until my next payday, and then refine the concept into something that is hopefully totally awesome and not at all cheesy—although, when you’re talking about a cover to a novel about vampires subjugating the human race in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, I have a feeling that a certain segment of the population is going to find a certain amount of cheese no matter what. And I admit that my vision of zombie hands reaching toward the girl from out of frame probably won’t do anything to decrease the cheese factor. Although that would probably be stretching beyond the limit of my Photoshop skills, so that version of the cover very well may not happen.

Feedback is also starting to come back in on the book itself, and if the consensus agrees with the first beta reader, I’m going to have a fair amount of rewriting to do before it’s ready for prime time. So, allowing for uncertainty and the fact that I ALWAYS underestimate how long stuff like this will take me to get done, we’re probably looking at a June release. Which is fine, as that gives me time not only to make the cover as awesome as I can make it, but also to get new author portraits made. Not that the old ones aren’t perfectly lovely, compositionally speaking, thanks to the EXTREME talents of my baby sister, but they were taken at an incredibly sucky time in my life, and also in the life of my hair. So a new portrait is definitely in order.

My agenda for today also includes drafting a marketing plan for the book, which I’ll share here once I get it nailed down. I didn’t have any kind of plan or do any pre-marketing for Restless Spirits, so it should be an interesting case study to see if any of that makes a difference for Dominion.

But first thing’s first, and that’s perfecting the cover. I’m sure I’ll be hitting you guys up for more feedback once I get it closer to the final version.

How I Got Over the “Stigma” of Self-Publishing

How I got over the stigma of self-publishing

Six Books by lusi on sxc.hu

Over the last few years there’s been an explosion in self-publishing, with the advent of not just the e-reader, but accessible technology that makes publishing an e-book easy, low- or no-cost, and potentially very lucrative. And it’s not just e-books, either. Gone are the days of vanity presses where an author who couldn’t get published the traditional way would have no other option but to pay thousands of dollars to buy a print run of their book and then be on their own for selling all of those copies boxed up out in the garage. Print-on-demand web sites like CreateSpace and Lulu have made print publishing as accessible as e-publishing.

And yet, perhaps because it is so accessible that literally anyone can do it, and despite the fact that more and more professional, traditionally published authors are turning to self-publishing as a means of taking charge of their careers, there’s still a sense of snobbery toward self-publishing that prevents a lot of aspiring authors from going that route. It’s this idea that being self-published isn’t really being published; it doesn’t really count without the blessing of an agent and a major New York publisher. And there’s this pervasive fear that self-publishing will be seen as “giving up” and you’ll be looked down on by your peers and by the writing and publishing industry as a whole, and you’ll give up your chances for good of being traditionally published. That fear pervades even as one self-published author after another is making headlines by getting major book deals from the major publishing companies because of their self-published books.

I know because I had to get over this fear and sense of snobbery myself, and I still see it all the time among my aspiring author friends. I would look at self-published authors who were doing well and think, “That’s great for them, but I won’t feel like a real author if I don’t get traditionally published.” Obviously, I’ve gotten past this line of thinking. So what changed?

For one thing, I watched my fellow indie author David Michael, who I know locally from NaNoWriMo meet-ups, as he began and grew his self-publishing career. His books looked professional, he was getting excellent reviews and making money, nobody appeared to be looking down on him for being self-published, and most importantly, he seemed like he was having a blast. I saw him transform from a wannabe author like me into a professional career novelist, and it was awesome.

That inspired me to give self-publishing a little more consideration, and I started doing the math. I could go the traditional route with my newest novel and send out agent queries. If I was lucky, I would hear back from one or two agents in three to six months who asked to read my novel. If I was really lucky, I’d hear back another six months after that from one of them wanting to represent my book. And if I was exceptionally blessed, I would hear back in another six months to a year that they’ve found a publisher for my book who wanted to pay me a $5,000 advance (yes, that’s the average size of advances for new authors these days; the giant, six- or seven-figure advances you hear about in the news make headlines because they’re so rare that it makes them newsworthy when they happen). And then I just have to sit back and wait another two years or so for the official release date!

But as an aside, let’s say you’re one of the very, very lucky ones who scores a $100,000 advance. Divide that over the year (or several) that you spent writing and polishing the book, the additional year or two (or three) that it took to find an agent and a publisher, and the additional two years it takes the publisher to actually publish the book… and congratulations! You’ve now made the equivalent salary of an underpaid schoolteacher.

So I could go that route, or I could try this self-publishing thing. I could cut out the middle-man and take my stories directly to the readers—something musicians and other types of artists and creatives are expected to do, with no stigma attached—and I could have them out there, getting read and building a fan-base and making money. Not a lot of money, especially in the beginning, but percentage-wise, a lot more than I’d be making per book than if I had an agent and publisher both taking their cuts. And I would only need to sell about 2,300 books at $2.99 to make the equivalent of that $5,000 beginner’s advance. And I wouldn’t have to worry about having a limited print run and a short window of time to sell enough books to earn out that advance before they all got remaindered and taken off of the shelves, because virtual store shelves never run out of space and virtually published books never go out of print.

Taking all of that into consideration, it seemed like kind of a no-brainer, and yet I was still hesitant. What gave me the final push was an epiphany I had one day when I was looking at a paperback that my husband had just gotten from Amazon. I was looking to see who had published it, and I realized that it was a self-published POD book from Xlibris. This wasn’t obvious at first glance, and I was impressed with the quality of the book. I asked my husband if he realized the book was self-published, and he said that he hadn’t realized it—nor did he care. That knowledge made absolutely no difference whatsoever to his desire to read that book, and it wouldn’t have made any difference in his decision to buy it.

That’s when I realized that the self-publishing stigma is limited mainly to aspiring writers and to those whose livelihoods are threatened by the rise of self-published books—and even among that latter group, the stigma is waning as they begin to mine self-published authors for talent in order to stay afloat. Among the vast majority of the reading and book-buying public—the people who turn books into best-sellers—the stigma doesn’t exist. They simply don’t care where a book comes from, as long as it’s a good read. Oh, sure, there are the literary snobs who turn their noses up at self-published books, but these are generally the same people who also turn their noses up at genre and commercial fiction, and they are in the vast minority. The average citizen reader couldn’t give a rat’s poop whether the book they hold in their hands came from Simon and Schuster or from CreateSpace.

And that is when I realized that the stigma shouldn’t exist for me, either, and I decided to become a self-published author; and in terms of personal gratification and career satisfaction, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

 

How Does My (Survival) Garden Grow?

Survival Garden

Watering Can by michaelaw on sxc.hu

I started my vegetable garden this year… or at least, I tried to. I tried to start some seeds indoors, but it’s been about a month since I planted them and so far there’s not so much as a single sprout. Part of the problem, or possibly THE problem, is that the only south-facing window that isn’t shaded from the sun is in my husband’s office, and by keeping them in there I keep forgetting to water them as regularly as I should. I also didn’t use heirloom seeds—I’ve read a lot about the importance of keeping heirloom seeds for your survival garden, but I’m not really clear as to why that’s important. But we didn’t find any at Home Depot when we went to stock up on seeds, and we decided to take our chances with some Burpee organic seeds instead.

More Dueling Covers For Your Consideration

This time for Dominion. I have an opinion, but I’m going to keep it to myself for the time being.

First, the cover I originally mocked up waaay back in 2009 for NaNoWriMo (which isn’t really up for consideration–it’s just so you can see where I started from):

 

 

And now a more stylized and abstract version of the same theme:

 

 

And finally,  one that puts the focus on my main protagonist:

 

Which one entices you the most, dear readers?

Also, thanks for all the feedback on the new Restless Spirits cover. Since opinion was divided pretty evenly over the light vs. dark versions, I went ahead and used both — the dark on the paperback and BN.com, and the light on Amazon and Smashwords. I’ll see which, if any, has the greatest impact on sales, and then go with that one across the board. That’s the beauty of e-publishing–nothing is set in stone.

Light or Dark?

Okay, I tweaked the new cover a bit more, and I need help deciding which I like best: the daytime version or the nighttime one?

Daylight

 

Dusk

 

How to Publish an E-book

I was recently asked how to make an e-book available on Amazon. The short answer, I said, was to go to Kindle Direct Publishing and go from there… and then I promised to write a post explaining the long answer. So here’s that post.

The first step… well, the first step is to write your book. But we’ll assume that part’s already done. So the first step toward publishing it as an e-book is proper formatting. For this, I follow the Smashwords Style Guide. It’s free, and although it’s specifically written for getting your document ready to run through their file conversion software, their guidelines also work nicely for prepping your work for conversion to the Kindle’s proprietary Mobi file format. One caveat is that it has to be a Word doc. But although this guide put’s a lot of emphasis on formatting your manuscript in Word, I used Open Office Write to format Restless Spirits and saved it as a Word doc, and that worked just fine.

Once your book is formatted, it’s ready to upload to Smashwords. This part is simple—just fill out the publication info, upload your Word doc and submit. Smashwords’ “meatgrinder” program will then do its magic and convert it into every e-book file type that there is, and automatically make it available in their store. I recommend doing this step because a) it’s free, b) it’s really simple, c) it helps your work reach a wider audience than just Amazon (Smashwords will also distribute your book to BN.com and the iTunes store), and d) you can then take advantage of Smashwords’ coupon generator to give away free promotional copies, run promotional discounts, participate in site-wide sales, etc. Really, there’s no good reason not to upload your work to Smashwords.

But to get your book on Amazon takes a few extra steps, which you can find outlined in detail in the Kindle Publishing Guide. When I published Restless Spirits last summer, I had to save my document as an HTML file and then use a free program called Mobipocket Creator to convert it to a .mobi file, and then it was ready to upload to my KDP account. But it looks like things might have changed a bit since then, so follow the guide to be sure. The first step to Kindle publishing, though, is to create your own account at Kindle Direct Publishing, click “Add New Title,” and go from there.

There’s one more marketplace you can upload your book for free, and that’s through Barnes & Noble’s PubIt web site. Of course, you can just wait and let Smashwords submit your book to BN.com, but doing it yourself through PubIt is faster, and it makes it easier to track your BN.com sales. It’s also super-easy—just fill out the information on your book and upload your Word doc, and you’re done.

A couple of things to remember before you go forth and publish: first, each marketplace has different speeds at which your book actually becomes available in their store. Smashwords tends to be fastest, taking only minutes, whereas Amazon’s vetting process typically takes two or three days before they approve your book for sale on their site.

The other thing is a word on ISBNs. Each site will assign its own ISBN (or in Amazon’s case, an ASIN) to your book at no charge. You only really need to consider purchasing your own ISBN if you want to publish the book under your own publishing imprint or, in the case of paperbacks (which are a whole ‘nother post), you want to be able to distribute it to brick and mortar book stores and libraries. For new authors especially, my advice is to take the free ISBNs; that way, unless you spend money on professional services like cover design or editing, you end up making pure profit. And you can always go back later and reprint the book under your own ISBN if the need arises.

So that’s how you publish an e-book. Any questions?

Restless Spirits Cover, Revisited

I’m thinking of trying out a new cover to see if it has any impact on my sales. Whatcha think?

Chosen

No, not to be the one girl in all the world with the strength and skill blah blah blah. Although that would be nifty. But it seems that we’ve been selected to become a Nielsen household.

You guys. Seriously? Why–and I ask again, WHY?!–could this not have happened a decade ago? You know, back when I was obsessed with TV? And my obsessions usually ran toward obscure SF-nal shows that were always in danger of cancellation, or simply doomed from the beginning? Why does it have to happen now, when I can take or leave most of what’s on the air and every now and then I actually seriously pondering giving up television entirely? When we don’t even have cable and most of what we watch is online, and only really use the TV to watch local programming or DVDs? WHERE WERE YOU WHEN YOU MATTERED TO MY LIFE, NIELSEN COMPANY?

Sigh.

So, we’re debating whether to do it. And if we do, we probably won’t admit it, because we don’t want to be getting obsessive e-mails from fans of bubble shows pleading with us to watch it. Although, I’m sure we could find a way to exploit that sort of thing, if we were all exploitative and stuff, but we’re not, really, so never mind. Nevertheless, it seems to require a time commitment that neither of us are really able to make. And neither of us are keen on having their tracking software hooked up to our PCs. Not that we have anything to hide, it just seems a little creepy. And if we have to fill out weekly diaries instead… like I said, who has time for that?

I was surprised to find the packet on our door informing us that we’ve been selected. They sent us a survey a few months ago, but we never got around to filling it out, and so assumed that we’d missed our chance. We still have to call the number on the card to find out exactly what’s involved and what would be required of us. Of course, phone-o-phobes that we both are, we’re debating whether even that much is worth our while. But I think we should probably call and have all the facts before we make our decision.

I just can’t get over how much this would have been a dream come true if it had happened when Joss Whedon was still doing TV.

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