Oathbreaker Paperback Now Available

Oathbreaker has now come out in paperback, and should be available via other stores (like B&N shortly.) I will be having a Goodreads giveaway as well, starting on the 24th and running through the end of the month (there will be more details in my newsletter on the 30th.)

 

Adventures in Indie #2: Choosing Covers

Now that I’m talking about my indie publishing experience (so far), I have to decide how to divide this up into digestible bits.  And the first area that I’ll talk about is my covers.

One of the frightening things about a traditionally published book is having little or no control over the cover. If you’re not a big name, then you’re going to have to hope that your editor is actually reading your books and has a good eye.  My covers at ACE/ROC were AMAZING!

No thanks to me. It was all my editor at the time: D or J. Both of them did a great job of communicating cover ideas to the art department and got beautiful work done.

But when it came time for me to start publishing my related novellas, I had to wade into the world of cover art with no one to hold my hand. Back in 2011, cover art was pretty simple. Now it’s a multi-million dollar industry with a gazillion practitioners and jarringly different styles available everywhere.

So what did I do?

For my first cover (The Seer’s Choice), I had some simple needs:

  1. I wanted the cover to look similar to (but not copy) my Golden City covers.
  2. I wanted the model on the front to look somewhat like what I pictured for my character.
  3. I wanted the cover clothing to be moderately period-appropriate.

Those aren’t huge demands. But when I went to engage a cover artist, I made sure that she knew those three things up front.

I chose my cover artist (Rachel A. Marks) for The Seer’s Choice because I’d seen her work on another writers’ books where she did #1.  So I knew that 1/3 of my wishes were taken care of.

But for #2 and #3, I had some work yet to do.  She got back with me with a list of questions that would give her information about the series, plus a couple of sites that she preferred for stock imagery so I could look at pictures to give her a visual idea what I wanted.

Luckily for me, I found a model that I liked pretty quickly. Her clothing didn’t match anything in my story, but that was an easy fix–I just wrote it into the final scene. She needed a hair change, and the setting had to be picked out, but once Rachel and I made those decisions, I stepped back and let her do her magic.

This is probably a good thing to remind others looking for cover artists about: the artist has to work within certain limitations. For example, the setting, the model, and her hair came from three different photographs. That means that my artist had to pay for use of 3 pictures.

Could I have made a dozen more changes, found more exact details? Yes. But every little thing costs money. Keep that in mind.

Rachel got back to me with some mockups just to check composition and text.

 

I made a few suggestions for changes.

She got back to me with the next version.

We agreed on some final changes.

And a few days later, I had my various covers. (I had covers for the ebook and for the print version*.)

(Rachel also did some drawing on the cover to pull everything together, plus some lovely effects to make the final cover more…magical.)

I also used this same artist (and process) for After the War, my other novella set in the Golden City world, so you know I’m super happy with her work.

So here are some simple guidelines that I’ll suggest for using a cover artist.

  1. Ask around and see who your friends have used, or alternately, look at other books and pick an artist you like. Usually the artist is listed on the same front page that the copyright and author are listed on.
  2. Be prepared for it to take a while. If an artist is good, they’ll probably have a waiting list. Also, it simply takes time to go through all those steps, communicating back and forth. (And they have lives outside doing your cover. Seriously.)
  3. Pay your cover artist for their work. You expect to be paid for your writing, so they should be paid for their design work. If you can’t afford your cover artist, then you probably should find another way to get a cover.
  4. Remember that it’s NEVER going to be exactly what you have in your mind. The artist has to work with photos that are available.
  5. Don’t forget to credit your cover artist in your work.

Next time, I’ll talk about some other cover art I’ve had done: getting a very specific cover is harder than it looks!

*Print covers have to be pdfs and meet very specific width rules, so adding the print cover often costs quite a bit more.

 

Adventures in Indie, #1

Now I know there’s a lot of angst out there about Indie Publishing. Some people despise it, some people say it’s the only way to go, and a goodly portion of those two groups would cheerfully strangle members of the opposing group.

I’ve published with small publishers, magazines, and large traditional publishers, but I’ve got indie published works as well. I’m one of the growing number of writers who believe that both courses have validity.

So for the next few months, I’m going to talk about my indie experiences.  From time to time I’m going to talk here about people who’ve helped me along the way. Because they’re pretty darn awesome people.

First, a little history:

Back in 2012, I self-published my backlist of short fiction. My main desire was to make my old work available for people who didn’t like to read on a computer. Because I wasn’t really looking for huge profits, I formatted the ebooks and made the covers by myself.

Back in 2012, that was okay…so long as you weren’t using crayon to do the covers and you did a decent job self-editing. I’m not a terrible editor, and I could patch together a cover based on covers that I’d already found online.

But by mid-2015, the ebook market had changed. What had looked acceptable in 2012…looked dated and unprofessional in 2015. (Yes, that’s how fast this market is changing.) 

After a lot of consideration, I began to take down my old ebooks and redo the parts that were important. My goals had changed. I suspected by then that I was going to lose the support of my publisher, and started thinking about getting my indie career going. My writers groups all have members going indie on the side, so I had a lot of examples before me of other people doing this, and doing it well.

In 2015, I checked with my publisher and, once I had their approval (there was a contract concern), I got ready to publish my first new book on my own. 

The Seer’s Choice came out in October 2015.

For this book, I hired an amazing cover artist (Rachel A. Marks).  I chose Rachel because I’d seen her work before (specifically the work she’d done for Alethea Kontis–scroll down to the covers for The Trix Adventures) and I knew her via one of my writers’ groups.

I wanted a cover that carried forward the theme of my Golden City covers. I wanted one that would match the new story. And I was delighted with the cover. She did a far better job than I could ever had done!

I also hired a publisher–e-Quality Press–to help me get the formatting right. While the interiors of the old books were passable (yes, I know how to put in a hyperlink), they lacked the little bows and flourishes that make an ebook look professional.

Again, EQP was recommended by one of my writers groups, and I’d previously met Rick Fisher. It’s been great working with him, because he makes my work look far better than I ever could.

(I have actually used an auto-formatting service for one ebook, but that was a special situation, and I would not choose this as my go-to-method. I’ll talk about that process later.)

So for my first foray into the world of Indie Publishing, I feel like it went pretty smoothly.While this hasn’t been a break-out best seller, The Seer’s Choice earned out (that means my profits exceeded what I spent on the book) in early 2016 and continues to sell now. That makes it a good investment.

I’ll break this process down further as the next few months go along, and talk about the print version of the book as well–that’s a totally different can of worms!

 

 

Tex-Launch in Irving this Weekend!

This weekend at the Irving Public Library (address below) 16 authors and associated hangers-on will be gathering to celebrate the Launch of Tex Thompson’s newest work, Dreams of the Eaten!!!

Come and Join Us!

Get signatures!

Ger rid of your holiday goodies (and take home someone else’s!)

(We promise not to eat anyone…that’s just the name of the book.)

There will also be a book table, where authors are giving away the books of their friends and allies (seriously, our shelves are CRAMMED), so please come see us. If you don’t we’ll be sad 🙁

 

Things an Author Doesn’t Actually Control

Originally posted on  at 3/21/16 at my old website.

It’s interesting (and sometimes infuriating) to see some of the things that fans blame on authors. Authors who are traditionally published often have little control over their published properties. That’s simply part of the way that the business runs.

But authors still take heat for some of these things. Recently an author had a book released, and for some reason, Amazon didn’t release the ebook on time.

And fans sent hate mail to the author.

Can you really call those fans?

So I’m going to put down here a list of Things that Traditionally Published Authors Generally Don’t Control.*

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The Release Date

Yes, we don’t have much say over when our next book is coming out. Our publisher sets up a scheduled date and everyone races toward getting things done on time, but if we miss a crucial part in the publication process (say, for example, edits just take too darn long or surgery kept the author from getting a manuscript turned in on time) then the book might get bumped. Not to the next month, but to the next open slot in the publisher’s schedule….which might be 18 months away.

(That’s a simplification, but essentially, moving the publication date is difficult.)

((An author’s writing speed is another factor, although that’s not usually controlled by the publisher. Some authors can put out 4 books per year. Others put out one book every 7 years. It’s art, people, and not all artists move at the same pace. Be patient, please.))

Releasing ON the Release Date

This happens all the time. Books don’t get put out on their release date. Snags happen in Amazon’s or B&Ns ebook delivery, and the ebook doesn’t appear in the device on time.

This is INCREDIBLY frustrating to authors, too.

An author I know had a book come out in early February, and the nearby B&N still doesn’t have it on the shelf. They have 6 on order. I’ve asked. Those six are supposedly sitting in the warehouse, but for some reason, they’re simply not being shipped to the physical store. The customer service people don’t know why. I’ve been in to ask about it twice, and they’re supposed to call me when it comes in, but not having the books there two months later doesn’t help an author with first week/month sales.

Sadly, there’s little the author can do about it. We can email Amazon. We can contact our agent or our editor, who can contact someone else, but sometimes things just don’t get done.

Please don’t be angry at the author. I guarantee they want that book on the shelf, in the mail, or on your device.

The Price

If we’re talking about a traditionally published book, then no, the author has almost no say over the price. Currently, my older trade paperbacks are hovering near $15. I would LOVE to see them at $9.99. But it’s not going to happen.

I would love to have my ebooks go on sale. It’s not going to happen. I can ask, my agent can ask, but we don’t make that decision. Amazon points out on its page that these are the publisher’s prices, publishers have negotiated with Amazon, and the rest of us are stuck with the results.

So why not just give everything away for free?

Seriously? This is our job, and we should be paid for our work. Yes, we’ll post an occasional free thing. Yes, we like making things available to new readers. But we need to earn money, too. We have to pay our rent, and for genre fiction, at least, the best way to do that is via a traditional publisher right now.

Availability

This is related to all of the above. See where I  talked about the book that’s still not on shelves after almost 2 months? It happens a lot when a book comes out.

It also happens when a book is older. We cannot force Amazon to carry a book in stock. We can’t force B&N to carry all the books in our series. And we certainly don’t control used book sales.

(Martha Wells once told me an angry fan suggested that she was making The Element of Fire hard to find  so that she could drive up the price of the used books.  This is a ridiculous claim, first because an author doesn’t control the number of used books floating around and secondly because the author doesn’t get a penny from the sale of a used book. Ugh!–This was years ago, of course, before ebooks made out of print books easier to find.)

But there’s also a problem with that book that’s out of print. Being out of print doesn’t mean that the author can just put a copy up in their website. Since we’re talking about traditional publishing here, the author has a contract with the publisher for each book, and that contract determines who has the right to put the book out (in any form). Because publishers invested money in those books, they like to hold on to the right to reprint a book for….well, a long time. It varies.

But it often takes the author years to get the right to publish their book back. Sometimes it never happens (if it’s a particularly draconian contract–this is why we need agents).

And once the author gets those rights back, it may not be worth their while financially (or in stress) to try to self-publish a novel. Life may interfere and make a book unavailable.

Continuing/Finishing a Series

Yeah….this is problematic. If a publisher bails on a series, the author’s caught in a conundrum. We have limited options at that point.

A) We can convince another publisher to purchase the remaining parts of the series. This is MUCH harder than it sounds, because any publisher will know that they can’t control the books that are already published by another publisher.  (It would stink if they published books 4-7, but no one could get their hands on books 1-3 because the original publisher decided to let them go out of print.)

B) We can self-publish the remaining books. The downside here is that we’re never guaranteed that we’ll make a profit on this. The novella I published back in October is still not quite in the black. After a couple of tries at that, selfpublishing becomes a daunting prospect fraught with snowballing expenses and vast amounts of time sucked in. Not everyone wants to chase that rabbit.

Authors are in a Catch 22 situation here: people get upset if they never publish the next book, and yet the author may never see a payoff equal to the amount of money and time they put into it. (Essentially the publisher decided that readers weren’t willing to pay enough to read the author’s word to make it worth their while to publish more…and sometimes that’s proven out by the lack of response to a self-published book.)

What Can an Author Do?

These are just some of the situations where an author has limited control, but basically, all an author can do is ask people to buy their books.  Even if those books arrive a day late. Or are hard to find. Or are slow coming out.

We can ask people to buy, to review, to recommend.

What Can a Reader Do?

A reader can play the other end of the line. Buy the book, leave a review, recommend it to a friend. You can ask your bookstore to carry a book. You can suggest it to the library where you borrow books. You can suggest it for your reading group.

But please don’t write an angry email/blog post/review because of a factor that the author can’t control. Don’t write and tells us we suck because your kindle book cost more than $7.99.

That’s the sort of thing that makes writers want to quit publishing.

Publishing is hard. Be nice to your authors.

*Here are some other, excellent posts on the same subject:

Cherie Priest

Nicole Peeler (especially in regards to piracy)

Elizabeth Eulberg

Jeff Cohen

#SFWAPro

Oathbreaker Now Available!

Oathbreaker, the newest novel in my Dreaming Death world, is now available as an ebook in all formats.

THE HORN: OATHBREAKER (BOOK 1)

Read the First Chapter here!

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Available at: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Apple /

 

From the world of Dreaming Death, we follow Amal, Lady Horn as she and her guards try to preserve one of the great secrets of Larossa: an abandoned Fortress. The Cince Empire want its secrets, and will do anything to get someone inside. The Oathbreakers–those members of each of the Six Families who speak to their Fortresses–all suspect that the Fortress is still alive.

Amal, the chief of the Oathbreakers, is one of only a handful of people aware of the true dangers the abandoned Fortress of Salonen presents. Now they must decide whether to wake the sleeping Fortress so it can defend itself against the Cince…or kill it forever.

Dalyan doesn’t know why he was sent to find the abandoned Fortress, what makes it worth the time his masters invested in training him. When the Horn arrest him for trespassing on the glacier beneath it, he goes with them willingly enough. After all, he didn’t return to his masters on schedule, and now they’re trying to kill him.

But more than that, he feels drawn to the abandoned Fortress, as if he belongs there…

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How (Not) to Talk to a Writer # 12 (Memory)

When you approach your favorite writer, if you ask them, “Hey, in that book you wrote twelve years ago, on page 37, why did ____________________?”

They may not have an answer for you.

They’re not being coy.

They’re not being evasive.

They may not remember.

If you look at the publication date of their book and then shift back a couple of years, that’s probably when they wrote it. Maybe even before that.

Since that time, they’ve written a million other words, some good, some bad. Some are more beloved than others. Some get edited once, and thus have appeared fewer times before the writer’s eyes.

It’s interesting to me to go back and visit the world of The King’s Daughter and The White Queen (the two old novels I’m reading through and serializing on my old website.) I have written other things in this ‘world’ since then, an entire novel set 50 years later, and I’ve outlined several others.  This ‘world’ is my writing passion.  I love these people with a white hot fire.

Going back, it was interesting to consider what I would actually change to make these two novels fit better with what I’m currently looking at.  I was surprised how little would change.  No, I wouldn’t be willing to publish these two as is–I need to rework some things.  TWQ is actually a first draft, the ending left off. (I’m -sure- I wrote it, but it didn’t make it into this file. I just have to find it.)

But it’s reassuring that my writing wasn’t too bad a decade ago.

And even so, it’s amazing to me how much I’ve forgotten….

 

RESEARCH FOR WRITERS OF HISTORICAL FICTION #10

We’re entering the home stretch of this presentation, and today we’re going to cover an important point:

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The video pictured above provoked one of my worst rabbit hole incidents of all–the Affair of the Sidewalks.

Right before I was supposed to turn in my second novel to my editor, I happened across this video. It’s notable in that it was filmed in 1896–possibly the first Portuguese film ever–and shows women coming out of a factory on St. Catarina Street in Porto after their shift.  It’s only a minute or so long, and has little merit other than it’s ‘first’ status.

However, when I watched it, I saw ONE THING…the women were coming out of the factory onto a SIDEWALK.

I immediately began to wonder how many streets in Porto had sidewalks at the time of my novels…how many of those streets had I mentioned and NOT given them a sidewalk????

I began desperately poring through pictures on the internet and making lists of which ones had sidewalks and which ones didn’t. I did this for a couple of hours before I came to the realization that NO ONE WOULD CARE.

It wasn’t important. It didn’t touch on the plot of my story. I could simply avoid mentioning sidewalks altogether. Because as hard as it was for me to find that information, who else would know?  Seriously? Is there a sidewalk historian who’s going to read my book? That’s about the only person who would even care…

And that illustrates my point. That’s two hours of my life during which I should have been writing, not researching something silly like that.

So…I came up with a rule:

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Yep, if it’s obscure enough that I can’t fine it, then there’s not much chance that any of my readers will know the difference if I get it wrong.  I have to make the call and move on to things that are more important.

It’s harder to do than say. Rabbit Holes abound everywhere, and researching them is, quite honestly, fun. We wouldn’t tackle historical if we didn’t love that.

But we do have to learn to draw the line somewhere. It may not be an hour for you. It might be one day. Or one week. Whatever you’re comfortable with.  But whenever you do find yourself falling down a rabbit hole, try to have a safety line to pull yourself back to reason.  1 hour for me.

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Next Week: What to do When You Make a Mistake

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RRH Confession #11

I ignore the above rule far too often.

 

 

 

How (Not) to Talk to a Writer #11

Write what you know….

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You teach Calculus? Then you should write Hard SF.

I’ve seriously been told this. By a major book company editor.

The truth is, I have no interest in writing an SF novel about Calculus. Nor do I think I would read one. And honestly, if we all wrote what we knew, we would only be writing diaries and journals. All fiction is just that….fiction.

Am I saying we don’t need to know anything before we write? Not at all. We need to put thought into our work. And yes, it truly helps if we learn to do things first hand. (Otherwise all my time learning fencing, horsemanship, shooting, rapelling, sailing, camels, languages, etc…was all wasted.)

But I write about sereia and selkies and seers. Do I know any of these personally? Have I interviewed any of them prior to writing? I’m afraid not.

And that’s a part of what makes writing (and reading, I hope) fun.

So if you want to write about submarines or dirigibles, you don’t have to build one first. Do your research, but don’t let the fact that you’ve never captained a dirigible stop you from writing that…

Research for Writing YA and Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy

This the ninth in a series of guest posts by authors who, like me, have found themselves falling down into a Research Rabbit Hole, often with hilarious results. Because this is the true danger of research…it sucks you in!

GUEST AUTHOR: KATHRYN SULLIVAN

My day job was university librarian so whenever I needed to research a topic, I always *really research* a topic. I might start out with Google or Wikipedia to find some useful terms, but if something exists in this world, I want to know as much as I can about it before I start modifying it for a science fiction or a fantasy story. So that means books, journals and newspapers as well as websites, forums and blogs.

For my last book, Talking to Trees, a YA Fantasy, I wanted to briefly mention some tree diseases. I started with Dutch Elm disease, because there were photographs in historic newspapers of my current town of the main street lined by huge elms that are there no longer. The blight that killed off most of the chestnut trees in North America (four billion) was next, followed by diseases affecting oak trees. I used to be Periodicals Librarian at my university, so I know how to search the academic databases and the paper indexes for the older journals.  I had scientific articles filling my research folder as well as pages of newspaper articles. The ‘brief mention’ ended up being an important plot point, but very little of the pages of research made it into the book.  It didn’t have to.

For my current work in progress I needed information on comets and meteors. The main character may be 10 years old, but she’s more focused on astronomy than I was at her age (she has a telescope and a backyard in which to use it). Plus there has been more discoveries since I was ten. I already get The Planetary Report, and the university library had paper and online subscriptions to Science and other journals. The curriculum collection had science textbooks for the elementary and high school grades, so I could check what information was currently taught in schools.  Though since the story is set in the far future, there will be changes.

Research was the perfect excuse to watch the show Meteorite Men (2009-2012) (yes, the work in progress has been in progress for a while).

The university offered an astronomy class for retirees, and the instructor was a geologist who specialized in impact craters. I quickly signed up, and enjoyed myself. She had meteorites that we could handle, and examples of “meteor wrongs”.

A side rabbit hole I fell into was checking newspaper articles on science fair projects and robotics competitions. My justification was to confirm that ten-year-olds are indeed working on advanced science projects. And they are.

All the research I’ve done for this project is quite a contrast to an short story that I wrote while baby sitting at age 16, which was inspired by a newspaper article about predicted meteor showers that month.

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kathysullivan1-06Kathryn Sullivan has been writing science fiction and fantasy since she was 14 years old. Having read her father’s collection of sf and fantasy, she started writing her own. The world set up in The Crystal Throne has been developing since then. Some of the short stories escaped into fan zines, print zines and ezines, but those were collected into Agents & Adepts.

Follow her: Website / Facebook