Browsing Tag

writing

Thoughts on Edits–Rogue One Version (with Chompers)

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be putting aside graphic design and covers to finish this edit pass of Overseer.

The bones and muscles of the story are laid down, the things that need to happen. Now comes the skin and the connective tissue: description and makings sure that reveals happen in the correct place, that everything happens for a reason.

But there’s also some mental pressure here to add tension.

Some writers really torture their characters. They throw everything in there, much like the end of Rogue One.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I really adored Rogue One, but close to the end I began to get fed up with ‘everything will go wrong’…especially when it began to look silly to me.  (I thought this the first time I saw it in the theater.)

There’s a scene where Jyn is climbing the tower to get to the communication platform. Multiple bad things have already happened, but as she climbs alone, she sees that she has to go through a vent that’s opening and closing regularly.

And my first thought on seeing that vent that could cut her in half? It was the chompers from Galaxy Quest.

Because there was no need for it to be there. Why would any engineer design a vent like that?

In fact, it was so egregious that it made me question everything that went wrong for her after that. You see, all she had to do was get up to the platform and insert the tape to play.

Instead she:

  1. Has to get past the chomper, but then when she inserts the disc, the dish is out of alignment, so she…
  2. Has to go out on a narrow walkway to realign the dish (like an advanced-technology dish wouldn’t do that automatically.) She does so, but…
  3. Is shot at by an Imperial fighter (who is incidentally firing at a person in an Imperial uniform on the most important communication dish at their own installation. Why?) The walkway collapses and…
  4. Jyn has to hang on as it slams against the tower. (Lots of upper body strength required!) Then she…
  5. Has to climb back up the now-damaged walkway without falling to her death. There she….
  6. Is confronted by her nemesis, who blocks her from hitting the send button.

I totally bought #6 because we saw him coming that direction, getting on the elevator and heading up there.

But the first five seemed…like contrived tension to me. Because the first was obviously a chomper scene, (“This episode was badly written!”), it made me doubt the rest.

 

My point in all this being that tension in a story needs to be reasonable. It needs to follow from the story because if it doesn’t, after a while it becomes clear that an author is doing it…just to do it.

We make up all the troubles that befall our protagonists, but we can go too far.

So the next couple of weeks I have to make sure that all the troubles that befall my protagonists actually make sense. That they follow from the plot, and aren’t just chompers.

Care and Feeding of Authors: Why Do They DO This?

Yesterday one of my author friends was lamenting the fact that another friend had decided to quit publishing.

We’re hearing that more and more these days…authors giving up because the current publishing paradigm makes it difficult to make a living.  Now note that above, the author in question didn’t say she’d give up writing. She just wanted to get out of publishing.

Publishing can be a brutal business, and it’s generally not a lucrative one.

Let’s be clear. There are a lot of authors out there making good money. The vast majority, however, are not.

I can’t give you exact stats on that, but…I can give you my numbers.  These are the numbers for an author who had 4 books published by an imprint of one of the world’s largest publishing houses (in USD).

 

2011:  226

2012:  5,445

2013:  6,240

2014:  6,233

2015:  8,503

2016:  4,888

 

Those numbers represent ALL my writing income, from the monies coming in from my publisher, to short story sales, my indie published books, books that I’ve hand-sold at conventions…and in the last two years, money coming in from donors to my Patreon.

What don’t those numbers reflect? Expenses. 

Monies coming in to my publisher would then have a percentage going out to pay my agent. (I have no issue with that…she earned it.) Those books that I hand-sold? I had to purchase them first. Going to the convention? I had to pay for travel and a hotel room and often a convention membership. Indie-pubbed books? Well, I have to purchase covers and pay my copy-editor (again, they earn it), so in actuality, only ONE of my indie published books has made a profit so far. All the others are still a loss.

And then there are promotional expenses: the expenses for my website, for any bookmarks or swag I put out (I love to give away pens). The expenses for mailing out books to first readers and GR winners (in the hundreds of dollars most years.)  Promotion? Most of that costs money of some sort. I pay for BookFunnel and Instafreebie and every little ad I’ve tried…most of which lost money.

En balance, even with a big publishing house behind me, for thousands of hours of work most years I’ve operated at a loss.

The question comes back to, why do we do this?

There are two different issues here: Why do we write? and Why do we publish?

 

Why do we write?

Most writers I know have written their entire life. It’s their passion. Some people sew, some people tailgate at football games, some people form bands….we write.

I still have this: A novel I started in 6th grade.  

I wrote stuff before that. My second-grade teacher wanted to send one of my stories to Highlights magazine (a story for another day). But this is the earliest writing I still have in my possession.

The point being that I’ve always written. If I were to quit publishing, I would still write. For myself. It’s what I do. It’s what most of us do, like breathing. 

So the follow-up question is:

Why do we publish? 

Well, I have to say that for most of us, it’s external validation. We know we write well, now we want others to believe that.

I know very few people who said, “Hey, I’ll get my stuff published because that’s a way to make lots of money!”

Now, there are people who make lots of money. I am not going to deny that.  LOTS of money. Generally, though, if a writer thinks they’ll make lots of money in publishing, they were duped by someone with something to sell. They didn’t do their homework and learn that the vast majority of authors lose money on this gamble.

But why go into this game if you’re not assured you’ll make money?

The primary answer is surely the external validation of having other people enjoy your work.  (There are other reasons, BTW. It could be a control issue, or a desire to gamble years’ work for that possible big payout, or just stubbornness. Motivation often has many factors, some of which we can’t even identify ourselves.)

 

So given that, why would someone just stop?  

I can think of a few reasons:

  1. Personal issues (health, family, dog vet bills) force the writer to invest their time/money elsewhere.
  2. Financial analysis makes the writer decide that the time invested in publishing is simply not paying off.
  3. Writer decides that they’re worn out by engaging with the public. (This can be utterly horrific in some cases.)

There are, without doubt, other reasons to step away.  An author might have a specific goal and find themselves frustrated when not meeting that goal. They may have a falling out with someone specific that sours the whole field for them. They may run into issues of an artificial ceiling that keeps them from success…but the three above catch most of it.

 

What can a reader do?  

Be supportive. Say good things about the writer and to the writer. Leave reviews or ratings. Buy their books if you can, ask your library to carry them if you can’t. Recommend the book to friends. Don’t pick up pirated books (please!)

Readers are not required to do any of this. It’s not their responsibility. They don’t OWE the author that. It’s a gift given to the author. It’s a kindness.

But if you want an author to keep publishing, they need those nudges.  My friend’s friend who’s dropping out? She just didn’t get enough of…something. Not enough author food to keep her going. And that’s kinda sad. 🙁

 

I’ll be breaking down what authors do over the next several weeks, talking about some of the obstacles to publication we’re facing, and some of the traps that might knock us out of the game. So stay tuned, and hopefully I’ll say something that will be helpful….to someone!

And this is, of course, just one author’s view. There are a lot of voices out there talking about these issues. I can’t speak for them all. I can’t speak for the ones who don’t talk about it. All you get from me is my take on the situation…but thanks for reading anyway!

 

 

 

Still thinking about book covers…plus update on writery.

I’m still working on learning how to do covers, and as part of that, I’m creating a series of covers in an attempt to improve my graphic abilities. (Since I’m not willing to pay for a subscription to Photoshop until I’m actually considering doing this for money, I’m cobbling together different programs to get effects I want: Paint, Paint.net, PagePro/LogoPro, and Canva)

Here’s my first one. Still needs a touch of work–I need to fix the type running across her face, add a series title, etc, but this is almost acceptable:


So considering that one in the bag (almost), I started on subject 2, and have a couple of options for this. Olympia Penn and the Haunted Lake perhaps?

Or Olympia Penn and the Blue Door? 

Either way, it has a long way to go!

 

As noted above, a bit of a catch-up on OVERSEER. I had planned (hoped) that this book would be out by August 29, but family issues and made it necessary to put that off a bit. I now am looking at a September 28 release for the last of The Horn trilogy,

The rough draft is more or less done, but I need to do another edit pass, and then get it to my copyeditor/format guy. Since I am running late, I’m hoping this will work with his schedule as well. (Also, my cover artist is really busy, so I’m concerned that getting it all together on time might be a stretch, but I am working as fast as I can.)

To that end, I purchased* an odd little writing tool. I’d seen on a blog that a writer was using a child’s typing tool to speed up his writing…an Alphasmart Neo2. These are designed to students to practice typing, and therefore have eight file spaces where typing practice can be stored and later uploaded to a computer.

When you’re done typing, you simply open a Word file (or any typing file) on your computer, attach the Alpha via USB cable, and hit send. The stored keystrokes begin to fill up the word-processing file, which is rather cool to watch.  (FYI: No special software is required on your computer to use this. Essentially, this is just a keyboard with memory and a few hardwired Applets.)

What’s most useful about this item, though, is that:

a) there’s NO internet access, so there’s no distraction, and

b) it’s not easy to edit (you can edit, it’s just not easy), so you tend to concentrate on forward progress, and

c) it’s smaller and lighter than my laptop, which makes it easier to cart around.

Since it’s powered solely by AA batteries, there’s no worrying about a charge, either. Because they were made to be used by students, they’re nearly indestructible. Plus I can be working on as many as eight different files, which is good for me since I always have multiple stories going.

On my first time using it outside the house, I got about 2.5K new words in 2 hours. I was most impressed, since in that time I usually get 1K with my laptop.

So I’m hoping that my new toy will be useful for me.  (And since I purchased it, I’ve been surprised to hear how many other writers use one of these things…because I’d really never heard of one before a couple of weeks ago.)

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*I bought this used on Amazon, but I see that there are a bunch on ebay as well.

July: Upcoming Story, and Free Story

While I’m working on Overseer, the final book in The Horn trilogy, I’m also working on several other things, so I thought I’d give a rundown very quickly on what’s going on:

  1. The Horn trilogy is almost finished, and I’m aiming for a release in August.
  2. I am still trying to update The King’s Daughter at least twice a month.
  3. My Patreon story set in the Golden City setting, The Truth Undiscovered, is being updated once a month. This is a story about the initial case handled by Inspectors Gaspar and Anjos, the Lady, and Miss Vladimirova. If you’re interested in following along, you can join my Patreon group for as little as $1 a month!
  4. I am working to make all my old short stories available as ebooks. To that end, I’m trying to publish one per month (except August, since I have Overseer coming out.)  Next month I’ll be putting out The Stains of the Past.(This is only a tentative cover). This was my very first published story (2006!) and it ties into The King’s Daughter. Although this story takes place a few years later, it involves some of the same characters.
  5.  In that vein, Fleurs du Mal is now FREE at most etailers….except Amazon.  I have not been successful in getting Amazon to lower the price to free, but I’ll keep trying!  Click on the picture to see a list of retailers:

6. And if that’s not enough to keep me busy, I’m also putting together a plan for the next three Dreaming Death stories, with Shironne and Mikael returning. The first of those, tentatively called “Bound in Dreams” should be out late this year.   I will have to have titles and cover ideas worked out for all three before I hit up my cover artist, Kate Marshall…

So I’m really really busy these days, and hope that I can get everything out on time!!!

 

Update on the Dreaming Death sequels…

Last week, I had someone over at Goodreads ask when the sequel for Dreaming Death would be coming out.

As is probably evident by now, my publisher isn’t putting out the sequel. First week sales weren’t good enough to consider continuing the series, and therefore I’m no longer with them. Which leaves me with an incomplete story, something that rarely makes people happy!

Therefore, I thought I’d let people know I DO have a plan.

Due to some niggling contract issues, I could not immediately launch into producing the sequel. (If you run into me sometime, I’ll explain that, but otherwise it’s too complicated.)

I had the old sequel that I produced after I originally wrote Dreaming Death…but that was no longer valid*. And as I didn’t want to rewrite the whole thing with no guarantee that my publisher would even look at it, I worked instead on outlining and producing The Horn series. Those novels are set in the same world, but in a very different province, one that holds more knowledge about that world itself.

The first two books of that series are out now, and I’m hoping to finish up Book Three by the end of the summer.

THEN I’ll be working on the first of the Dreaming Death sequels.  Now, admittedly, I have a bunch done. I’ve been working on that intermittently this year, so I’m hoping to get the first sequel out by the end of 2017 or early 2018.

I have not yet decided on the titles for the three books*, but as soon as I do, I’ll be getting with my cover artist and working on the covers.

I will probably not use the series title that the publisher did (Palace of Dreams Novels) because it doesn’t quite work for me, so I may have a new series title. I’ve actually been calling these the Dreaming Death World online, and may stick with that, or I may call it something totally different. Titles aren’t my thing, so it will be a struggle to decide what’s best.

(FWIW, the original short version of The Golden City was called “Of Ambergris, Blood, and Brandy“.  The publisher bought the book with that name, but later changed it to Of Blood and Brandy and then finally to The Golden City.)

But back to the topic…as soon as I have made decisions on that, I will post about it here, and will definitely let you guys see the covers as soon as my artist (Kate Marshall) can grind them out.

So don’t give up! I’m typing as fast as I can…

*Because of changes that my editor asked for in Dreaming Death, the original sequel that I wrote long ago (2005?), is no longer valid. Its name was The Sins of the Fathers, mostly because it dealt with the lingering death of Shironne’s father.

 

 

I Don’t Think That Means What You Think it Means…

Once of the decisions writers make when they’re indie publishing is whether to hire someone else to edit their work. All too often these days I run across an ebook that could have absolutely used another set of eyes on it, and even though Spell Check does a great job catching misspellings, over-reliance on it leads us to the dreaded Spell Czech.*

A Spell Czech is when you have a perfectly good word in a sentence, but it’s not what you intended.

There are a few ways this happens:

  1. AutoCorrect messes you up, and you miss that mistake in edits.
  2. Synonym Finder puts in a synonym, but it’s not quite right.
  3. Homonyms trip you up.

 

AUTOCORRECT:

Now I think that all of us have experienced the first instance. You’re typing along madly and AutoCorrect is going along behind you and changing your words, often with comical results. You can turn AutoCorrect off, but I don’t. I cannot spell the words just or because without screwing them up.

 

SYNONYM FINDER:

I usually catch a writer doing this when they’re trying to be a good writer. They’re typing along and realize they’ve used the word ‘lectured’ too often. So they click on synonym finder and it tells them ‘bloviated’ is a synonym.  And we get this:

He lectured her on economics.>>> He bloviated her on economics.

Uh, this doesn’t work. Technically, the two words are, loosely, synonyms. However…lecture can be used as transitive or intransitive, while bloviate is pretty firmly intransitive. So someone who knows the word bloviate will find this jarring and…well, unfortunate.

 

HOMONYM MISTAKES:

These are easy to make. I had the word mantle in a manuscript for a long time before my mom caught that it should be mantel. Nothing will get a writer past homonym issues faster than awareness. Here’s a great list: Alan Cooper’s Homonyms.

Some of these we learn in grade school. It’s still easy to make too/to/two mistakes decades later, and the internet is full of they’re/their/there and your/you’re issues.

But what I’ve seen a lot lately is the more obscure ones like PEAK/PEEK/PIQUE.

One does not engage in a fit of peak.  One does not eat a hardy meal. One does not pay their dos.

(I’ve seen variations of all of those lately. They make me strongly consider putting the book down.)

Right or wrong, I tend to associate all of these mistakes with people who are not as well read. The last one in particular seems to be the province of someone who’s heard an expression spoken aloud, but has never seen it in print. (This is the opposite of kids who mispronounce words because they’ve only seen them in print, but have never heard them spoken aloud.)

I have to admit, I’ve had things edited, and we STILL find mistakes in them several passes later. However, a lot of these things can be caught by a copy editor. This is why, for my novels, I pay someone to copy edit for me. (Rick at EQP BOOKS is great!)

(I did several posts at my old website about things I learned from my copy editors. I still struggle with DUE TO/BECAUSE OF, though.)

So if you’re having problems, try a copy editor, and try to learn from what they point out…

*I don’t know who first used this term. It is not mine. I am simply not that clever.

 

 

 

 

Starting the Story in the Right Place

While traveling last weekend (which is why I didn’t post a segment of The King’s Daughter), I tried to read a historical mystery novel. It was the first in a series of several and I’d hoped I’d found a new Sebastian St. Cyr or Nell Sweeney. Instead I found a boring series of events and gave up about 25% of the way through the book.

My main gripe? Well, it wasn’t until 14% of the way through the novel that we had an inciting event. Until that point, I wasn’t sure what the plot of this book would be, or whether it just would be a long string of events.  In my mind, everything that happened in the first 14% (and first YEAR) of the novel could have been summed up in a few sentences. The novel would have been better served to start there, when the heroine finally found the suspicious letter that got her moving.

It’s an important lesson to learn.

When I first submitted “Touching the Dead” to Jim Baen’s Universe, there was another scene at the beginning. The editors there quickly pointed out that my story would be served better to start on the next scene, and anything important from scene 1 could be worked back in later. I did as they suggested, and they bought that story. Easy peasy.

After that point, I always tried to start with the dead body.

It doesn’t work for all my stuff, but I try to get there as quickly as I can.*

So it’s worth keeping in mind (for authors) that we need to tell readers up front what this story’s about and why we should keep reading. There needs to be a clear beginning (along with the middle and end.) And finding that beginning can be difficult.

I, for one, often write parts that end up being cut off.  For example, The King’s Daughter has TWO prologues. Both were intended to tell the reader that X was going to happen later in the book.  However, in the ultimate version, I will definitely cut one, and possibly both. The book really starts when the soldiers arrive.

I cut scenes off the beginning of a lot of my stuff. I feel, strangely, that I benefit from writing them, even if I know early on I’m not going to use those scenes. They help ME understand the backstory, and while backstory doesn’t always surface in the final product, it fills out the characters for me.

So my advice would be to go ahead and write your rough draft, starting it wherever you want, but keep your mind open to trimming that beginning off later.

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*My big exception to this is Dreaming Death, where the editor asked me to add a few days to the beginning of the story. It originally started roughly where Chapter Nine is now. I wasn’t wild about the change, but the editor asked and I delivered. Then the next editor was baffled why nothing happened in the beginning of the book and asked me to take most of it out. I tried, but since I was in the middle of moving to another state and under a very short deadline, I really couldn’t do that successfully…leaving me with a version of the book that is too front heavy for my liking. If I ever get the rights to that book back, perhaps I’ll change it back to the way it was. I liked that version better.

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And speaking of Dreaming Death and “Touching the Dead”, I plan on releasing an ebook version of three short stories set in that world, all of which occur before the novel itself. “Touching the Dead” is included in this, and is the first meeting of Shironne and Colonel Cerradine.

Shared Dreams should be out later this month, and will sell for 99 cents…so look for it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

(typewriter photo via Pixabay)

 

Reblog: Things an Author Doesn’t Actually Control

Reblogging this because a friend just got a nasty-gram from a reader because one of her books isn’t out in mass market paperback.  Since I am in exactly the same boat, I thought this old post was pertinent.

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

Adventures in Indie #7: The Dreaded Newsletter

I’m heading into the area of promotion, and I have to admit that I’m at a bit of a loss here. Trying to grasp all the types of promotion available is like drinking from a fire hose. It’s overwhelming.

But there is one staple I can start with: A newsletter

Now, a large percentage of writers have newsletters. This is currently ‘what you do’. Who knows whether it will remain that way? But I am using the newsletter to keep reader apprised of my new publications, special prices, and various freebies I’m running.

When I was with Ace/Roc, I mostly flailed around with the newsletter, not sure what to do. And at that time I had about 50 subscribers, so it was what is sometimes called an ‘organic’ list. All of those people had sought out my webpage and joined, but I wasn’t making special efforts to attract new readers.

Essentially, I didn’t know how.

One of the differences in going mostly indie is that I have no choice but to get that in hand, so I started researching ways to reach more people. My friends at Codex (one of my writers groups) made some GREAT suggestions that had really helped.

So here’s what I’ve got…so far.

  1. Use a newsletter service like MailChimp, MailerLite, or Sendy to handle the newsletters for you. My friends are fairly evenly divided between the first two, but I’ve seen Sendy gaining ground for those people with huge mailing lists (like 13K). Sendy is installed on your webpage and you basically send the newsletter rather than having MC or ML send it for you.
  2. Have a newsletter sign-up pop-up on your webpage. I actually created a new web-page so that I could do that (it wasn’t possible on my old webpage).
  3. Look at other author newsletters to see what you like. Copy shamelessly.
  4. Use a service to attract new readers like Instafreebie (my favorite) or Bookfunnel. I use Instafreebie to offer free books to people who join my mailing list. There is some question whether this people will ever -buy- a book, but it’s also true that exposure is exposure.
  5. Join group promotions. When someone comes to look at Author A’s offering, they might also enjoy yours.
  6. Try not to inundate people’s mailboxes. I mail once a month at most.
  7. Offer them incentives, if you’re feeling magnanimous.  I often include a free short story with a newsletter. For me it’s a chance to expose more people to my writing, and a chance for me to practice my formatting skills, as I often create .mobi and .epub files especially for those.

All of that said, I’m not an expert. I’m just starting out.

In the last several months, though, I’ve gone from about 50 members to about 1600. That’s a decent increase. I cannot attest to the ‘quality’ of my subscribers (a lot of people who pick up free books will only read free books, so they’ll never become purchasers), but I have seen a consistent increase in numbers of books sold.

And my aim was to have a bit of a base built before I released Original in April (I hope). So for those aims, it’s meeting my needs well enough.

So what’s worked for you and your newsletters? 

 

 

 

Adventures in Indie #6: Self-made books

I talked a couple of weeks ago about using Canva to make covers for ‘promotional’ books. And generally to save costs on those books, I also format them myself.

Now, I have to say up front that my method of formatting is not the best. There are a lot of ways to format a book.  Some people use Scrivener, which can put out a book in EPUB format. Personally, I found Scrivener too complicated, so I gave up on it after six months.  I have a friend who uses InDesign, but when I did a trial of that, I found it WAY too complicated also.

So what are some of the options I’ve used?

Way back in 2011, I formatted my books using the guidelines that Smashwords recommended. This led to decent books, although nothing special.

But I wanted something a little better looking for this new generation of books.

So for The Dragon’s Child, I tried out a service called Pronoun. It basically takes your Word file and makes it into an ebook (but not a print book). They give you a choice of layouts (6 at the time that I used it), lay your document into that, and put it out as an epub and mobi. They will even upload it to all the vendors that way.

It’s a free service as well. (Here’s a pretty comprehensive review of the service). So far I’ve been pretty happy with the book they produced for me. However, it’s not available as a print book, something that I may work on this fall (see below.)

Since then, however, I’ve been working with a new program that I like pretty well to produce ebooks -and- print books.

My editor/formatter, Rick Fisher at EQP Books, turned me on to the program that he uses: Serif PagePlus 9.  So far this program has been easy to learn and I’ve been super happy with the books that I’ve produced.  (See Fleurs du Mal and A Time for Every Purpose, available as .pdf files on the bottom of my Free Fiction page.)

Again, I’m just producing my promotional books this way (because I want my editor to review my novels for me!), but that frees me from being tied to Pronoun’s placement restrictions, so I’m uploading them to Amazon and D2D myself.

The best thing for me about PagePlus is that it’s a fairly intuitive interface. Most of the menus have similar structure to Word, so that means that someone who uses Word all the time will find it easier to work with than, say, InDesign (which is an Adobe product). I can create .mobi, .epub, and .pdf files, and even used that .pdf function to create the cover for my print version of The Sparrow in Hiding. Really versatile.

Also, because it’s a legacy product, it’s inexpensive. I paid 24.99, rather than the new subscription services like Adobe. So I’m happy with it so far!

 

Next Week: The Dreaded Newsletter