One more off my list

Sal RunningCover, editing, series, move to the next.  THIS is the problem when you write about a novel a month for almost two years.  The entire process gets all bottle-necked.  Let me assure you, it’s an amazing problem to have.

You see, at first, I wanted to have my books published by one of those big places.  You know the ones I mean.  The problem is that I don’t write the stories they want.  Vampires?  Nah, that’s been done.  I make genetically modified humanoids subjugated by population.  Feudalistic Europe?  I’m more of a Germanic/Rome kinda fan.  Humans vs. monsters?  I prefer monsters vs. humans.  Over and over my fans keep saying two things consistently.  1.  Characters that feel real.  2. Unique plot.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict the sales of a “unique plot”.  That means companies who are forced to watch their bottom line get a bit nervous.  A series about gamers, written in a style like romance serials but with an action/adventure style plot?  They can’t figure out how to market it.  Then again, I can’t either, so I just tell my fans on twitter and facebook and hope that word of mouth really works.

But, the rambling point I’m coming around to, is that while waiting to see who would be interested in my first, second, or whatever book, I kept writing – and researching.  The deeper in I got, the more I realized that trade publishing may not be the answer I’m looking for.  There’s no way the big publishing houses can keep up with my writing.  They wouldn’t give half my books the time of day because there’s no profit/loss research on that subject.  And….

Truth be told, I’m a fan of the indie control.  I don’t have access to $5000 cover artists, but I do have people with skills.  Maybe it takes my artist longer.  Maybe my editor has a day job.  Maybe my beta readers are literary fanatics sick of reading the same ol’ thing.  Everyone involved in getting these books out to the fans are readers, the kind who like to curl up with a book and escape for a while.  And now that I have decided to throw all of my eggs in one basket (indie publishing) they are right behind me making this happen.

Which means two new series for my readers.  And yeah, all of these books are “done” (but waiting for editing and the finishing touches).  I just don’t want to scare away my fans, making them think their favorite series will be forgotten.  Most of these books are complete, sitting on my hard drive, waiting for a little polish to make them worthy of being seen.  Most of the work needed to get these books to the readers are things out of my control, so while I get excited about a new cover, or being able to announce yet another release date, know that I’m at home, frantically typing away on the rainbow colored list of corrections that need to be made so you all can get the one after that.

And this is why I love being an indie author.  Because I can tell you all the truth.  I am not gagged by an agent or publisher, urged to hold my tongue so that expectations aren’t crushed with the print is running late or the release date is pushed back.  I love being in control, even if that means accepting that I’m going to make mistakes.  I love knowing that the book I created will be the book you see – and hopefully love enough to tell all your friends about.

 

The glory of Kindle Unlimited

044e1aa7a1cf59d98f84009292d7b307There are two significant downsides to deciding to go it alone as an independent author.  First, is getting discovered.  Second, is getting someone who knows you exist to spend their money on your basically unknown book.

Now, let’s be honest here.  The vast majority of people are lazy.  The problem is that we always assume that means THEM and not US.  But, before you pushed the button to publish your book, how much effort did you really put into it?

Did you spend money on a cover?  More than $50?  Did you have an editor look at it?  I’m not even talking about someone who charges $0.25 per word.  Even those low-cost student editors are better than nothing.  What about beta readers?  Critique groups?  Writing forums?  And when they ripped it apart (because they always do, if they are helping at all) did you ignore what they said?  What draft is your book in?  Did you write “the end” and toss it up for sale?  Did you go through it once or twice?  Have you edited that thing until you can’t stand looking at another gladiator – er, uh, sorry.  Was that out loud?

Most of us will answer no to at least ONE of those questions, and there’s so many more I could add to it.  For me, I don’t DO critique groups.  That means people, and I’m freaked out enough by people.  I’m a very happy hermit, thank you very much!  I can get away with it, because I have a beta group made up of enough professionals that they WILL catch everything, and they understand that the meaner they are with the book, the more I adore them.  Tell me “it’s great!” and I will never EVER send you another copy.

And so, of the “Published by Amazon Digital Services” books out there, so very many are, well, CRAP!  Head hopping, verbs that can’t seem to agree on a tense, detail swaps throughout the story and more.  From formatting issues to crappy covers, the entire package matters.  There’s never one thing that a reader will “just forgive”.  With that said, there’s always going to be at least one typo that makes it to print.  Always.  Even with traditionally published works.

So, as a reader, kindle-381242I’m a bit skeptical about paying real, hard-earned money for a book.  Yeah, maybe it’s two bucks, but so is a damned good coffee.  Often, the coffee will give me more enjoyment, since I quit after the tenth mistake.  If that’s the second paragraph?  Well, I’m pissed at the author, and you just lost a potential fan.

Now, that’s where Kindle Unlimited comes in.  It’s a flat fee.  You can have up to 10 “borrowed” books on your devices at any one time.  Because Kindle syncs between reader applications (like phone, tablet, desktop, kindle reader, etc) you never lose your place.  For just ten bucks per month, you can take as many risks as you want.  Book lovers are much more likely to press the “read for free” button as a KU subscriber than they are to press the “buy with one click” button to bill their credit card.

And thus, we as authors get a free chance to make their must read list.  We get a low-risk method to build our fan base.  With most books priced at $2.99, it takes just four books to make it a better deal than buying outright.  As an author, I get paid almost the same amount – more if you consider the comfort level of the buyers.

Oh, I heard the whining when KU changed from a flat rate to only paying for actual pages read, but is this really bad?  If you’re writing short stories, then it takes LESS time than it does for a thicker book.  It also encourages authors to write more complex novels.  It drives the art of literature from both sides.  What shocks me the most, is that someone is actually taking a chance (Amazon) and bringing more people to ebooks.

And before anyone starts sending me hate mail about how the previous version was better… Sorry, I simply do not agree.  The crap that authors were almost forced to pump out, just to make a living wage was pathetic.  Short, crappy, underdeveloped works that left a bad taste in my mouth and turned me to cinema over literature – and I HATE movies.  Plus, if your readers are stopping about a quarter through the book, it kinda means YOU, the author, screwed it up and need to either fix it, unpublish the book, or learn to write before trying again.  There’s no harm in failing, if and only if you can improve on your mistakes.

And so, I proudly have all of my books available on Kindle Unlimited.  The only time one won’t be, is if I list it for perma-free (which I’m debating at the moment).  I want to make it easy for people to find my stories, to enjoy them, and to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.  We all work hard for what we get, and I certainly do not expect my readers to throw those few bucks away haphazardly.

Growth as an Author

Salryc TeethIn 2013, I began writing.  I was stressed out, flustered, and just needed to escape.  What came out was a very dark story that somehow managed to portray hope.  The plot has enough tropes to make the reader feel comfortable, yet enough novelty to keep  interest.  The world?  Think Game of Thrones meets Star Wars.

Even now, I think the story is good.  Keyword there is STORY.  The writing?

Oh. My. God.

It wasn’t bad, or anything, but it certainly wasn’t good.  The word choice, stylistic options, and overuse of common “ticks” (a bit, though, etc) was just very amateur.  This is why BloodLust was NOT the first novel I released.  While the story is one of my favorites, it needed to have a little cosmetic surgery, and I’ve done a doozy on it.

Now, the introduction to the iliri has flare, substance, and rhythm.  It reads like a novel should, not some stuttering babble coming from a self-absorbed bimbo.  The story is a gripping coming of age novel from the perspective of a domesticated humanoid in a world where metal is rarely available in pure form.  Iliri are used as cheap labor, considered to be inferior to humans and little more than animals.  Imagine if dogs evolved to walk on two legs and talk.  Now imagine how they’d feel about their collars and being owned.

And the story had a life of its own.  Book 1 quickly turned into a four book series.  The story took hold, grew, and became something epic.  To this day, I’m not positive if it will culminate in 8 or 9 books, but I can tell you that I know exactly where it’s going.  Sadly, I keep finding that what I THOUGHT was a single book ends up being two.  I had to re-write book 5 twice, because 350k words might be a bit much for ONE book, but the plot needs to END when the pages do.  Evidently separating them by location was NOT a good idea if too much happens in one place.

So, I got to learn about pretty much everything while living in the fantasy world.  One of my biggest problems is describing the iliri in a way that makes it clear they are NOT vampires.  They’re predators who are complete carnivores.  There’s a few other hints I drop throughout the series, foreshadowing the “big reveal”, but I also know that 95% of people won’t even notice, but it’s all to keep the reader from associating my beasties with something they have probably read a lot more about.

And yet, now that I’m well into editing the second book (which will release in June) of the series, I can’t help but see how much I have learned by writing so many novels.  At book 6, I dropped half of my personal ticks.  At book 15, I finally figured out a good method of deep third POV.  Around book 20, my dialogue tags began to feel seamless and invisible (see One More Day).  Now, nearing book 40, I look back and just cringe at my novice mistakes – then fix them!  It means that book 2 will probably have more than 60% re-written.  It will also be so much better because of it.  The world will have a chance to come alive because I, as an author, can finally get the hell out of its way.

And none of this could have been possible without the skills of a damned good – and very patient – editor.  Her remarks come back with laughter and cheesy jokes.  When she discovers a new “bad habit” I have (such as mistaking whether to use a period or comma around the quotes) she trains me, making her job easier in the future.  Often, this results in some pretty intense discussions, a lot of ranting, and a few tantrums, but in the end, I’m so much better because she stands her ground and MAKES me fix it.  Yes, the choice is mine, but bad grammar is just bad.

And today, rolling my eyes at myself, I’ve realized that even a good novice author is still just that.  Experience really does pay off, so I’ll keep on writing the books, and hopefully my fans will keep on enjoying them.

What an amazing release weekend!

Leyli Promo poses 1First, I have to tell everyone who read When We Were Kings and/or When We Were Dancing THANK YOU!  I mean it.  Thank you so much for taking a chance on an author you probably had never heard of before.  Thank you for buying the book, or borrowing.  Most of all, thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a review.

I know that this isn’t exactly a “hot” subject in fantasy right now.  Monarchies are over done.  Princesses saving the world?  Oh, that’s “old hat”.  So much about this series begs to be cliche – but it’s NOT.  Leyli refused to be just another princess turned warrior.  Tristan?  Yeah, he had a few of his own opinions.

And they aren’t done yet.  Granted, I’m a little burned out on gladiators right now (this always happens for a week or so after intensive editing of my books, then I’m addicted all over again).  And  it’s already starting.  So far, I’ve been locked out of WWWD for 10 days because of the publishing process.  In that time, little details about book 3 (When We Were Crowned) have become just a little more clear.  Never mind the addendum book that’s begging me to release it.

You see, it isn’t just Tristan and Leyli that are the heroes of this saga.  Haven’t any of you wondered about that birthmark on the Lyone family?  Now I wonder where something like that could have come from.  And while that’s the most obvious hint I’ve left hanging out there, it’s not the only one.  I’m waiting for someone to figure it out.  (Yes, that’s a dare).

But the release has gone so much better than I could have dreamed.  Being a pragmatist, I’m well aware that gladiators, princesses, and obscure indie authors aren’t exactly begging to become the next “megahit” of the year.  I was hoping for a solid release from my dedicated fans.  Instead….

I got so much more.  When We Were Kings hit #31 in free fantasy books, right alongside novels I’d bought myself.  When We Were Dancing reached 29k in the overall kindle store (which has like 4 million books in it)!  These numbers aren’t best seller status or anything, but it’s jaw dropping for me.

Keep in mind, I released my first book, One More Day, in September of 2015.  Less than a year later, I’m seeing sales to be proud of.  WWWK still has a perfect 5 star rating!  Reviews are ticking up, sales have been stable all weekend, and me?

I feel like an author.  Saturday evening, I had to sit down and just let it sink in.  My dream of writing a book had not only been achieved but I really, truly, honestly FEEL like an AUTHOR.  I write books that people actually read.  Not just crap to fill up the kindle listings, but books with good reviews, solid sales, and a fan base that is growing.  I have an audience to keep feeding my stories.  I have a reason to do this.  I have achieved a dream…

And I wish that I could tell each of you how much I appreciate it.  For you, my readers, it may have been a book you picked up on a whim.  For me, the author, this has been a dream come true.

And I’m not at all ready to stop.  I have two more series to release this year, and the Wolf of Oberhame…. yes, there’s still more of her story to tell.  It’s going to be a wild ride.

 

How to be an Author

books-are-magicIt seems everyone wants to do it.  No one knows the rules.  Some say there’s money out there for the taking.  Let me tell ya the truth.

Being an author is like a job.

Yeah, it may be a fun job, but there’s still some responsibilities and deadlines that have to be met.  Sometimes, there’s even a few bits that kinda suck to do.  So, let me give you a very brief overview of what you need to consider before you press “publish” on KDP.

First, you need a story.  I’m not talking about some interaction between two smoking hot people, who you wish one of them was you.  I’m talking about a story that can be set up in a single sentence.  Here’s a few examples:

  • Mackenzie just found out she has cancer and is determined to become a survivor.
  • Since a man isn’t going to come save her, Leyli plans to become a successful gladiator so she can save herself.
  • The Heir to the throne has never been a woman before, but that won’t stop her from doing what she must to protect her country, even if she hates it.
  • The PLG may be a boy’s club, but Riley is determined to be the first woman to become a professional gamer and destroy the glass ceiling.
  • Salryc may be a beast, but that doesn’t mean she’s worse than a human, and she’ll do whatever it takes to show the world that iliri are people, too.

Now, if you’re paying close attention, you might notice that those are MY books (and that 2 of them have yet to be released…enjoy).  Naturally, I didn’t start with a one-liner.  I start with an idea, and end up with the sentence.  It doesn’t matter how you get there.  The point is that your story must start somewhere, move through obstacles of some kind, and reach a solution.  Happy, sad, good, or bad, it doesn’t matter, but you must END the story.

Next, you must pick a perspective.

lauren-dicioccio-book-art-3First person.  Third person limited.  Omniscient.  Even second person if you’re feeling a little psychotic and want to have people cuss at you.  Now, if you don’t know what these phrases mean, try Google.  Research.  Learn.  Treat yourself like an artist trying to improve the craft.

As an aside: head hopping is evil.  Do not do it.  If you try to say it’s “omniscient” perspective, then just slap your own face for the rest of us.  We’ll want to, if that manuscript ever sees the light of day.  Omniscient has no inner thoughts and relies on ONLY mannerisms and descriptions of what can be seen, heard, felt, etc.  Third person limited is what you’re thinking of, and if you switch whose head you’re inside, well, you have rules.  Yeah… Google them.

When you finish – if you do – read it again.

Cruel point here.  Many writers never have the guts to actually finish a novel.  I hear it’s hard.  Personally, I think it’s due to confusion.  They want to write a GOOD book.  Unfortunately, no one has ever done that.  Many of us write books that “aren’t bad” but they still need help to become GOOD.  The first step, though, is to write a bad one.

When that is done, read it.  Highlight the bits that bother you.  Fix the typos (now, not while you’re trying to finish).  Watch out for things like now/not or chance/change.  Spell check won’t see those.  Make things tolerable enough while you read it, looking at the details.  Did her dress change colors?  Did an extra hand appear in that sex scene?  Is her brother suddenly her father, and then turns into her cousin?  Was his hair always brown?  Thought she left on a Tuesday at 9 am, so how did she arrive on a Monday at noon?  Fix it, highlight it, make notes in red, or margins, or whatever you need to do, but read it and don’t say “I’ll go back and fix that”.  Nope, this is when you fix it.

When you’re done with all of that, read it again.

And then someone else needs to read it.

Not your mom.  Not your best friend (usually, although mine is a writer so that doesn’t really count).  You don’t want the moron down the street to read this love child you’ve created.  Nope.  This is where you pick the smartest, meanest, most cruel-hearted person you know, who might possibly do you a favor.  Beg.  Do whatever it takes, and give them a red pen with the understanding that you want their HONEST opinion.

Then, go home and cry.  You don’t have to tell us you did that, but you will.  When the work comes back, mutilated by this asshole who thinks she knows what it took to make this into a work of art, then you can beat that cum guzzling gutter snipe back into the stone ages with the research you did and how you’re sure that they are wrong.  Er.  Um.  I mean… When the critique partner gives it back, you will probably feel a bit hurt, shocked, and embarrassed at how many things slipped past.  Have another good cry, a few beers, but make sure you lock up the guns first, because killing this person is still not a good idea.  Trust me, you’ll need them (the person, not the guns) again later on.

Now, you let it cook for a while.

frog-prince-book-artIs this your first book?  Great!  Set it aside for a week.  Don’t read it.  Don’t talk to it.  Don’t fix anything.  Start another book, either writing or reading, I don’t care.  Just do not touch it, or you will ruin the process.  Think about ANYTHING else (like that family you ignored while you were writing.  Yeah, your infant just started college, hate to break it to ya, you missed a bit.)

After a week (month is better) read that stupid book you wrote again.

Because cancer/gladiators/gamers/fantasy alien monsters was a horrible idea.  It’s so last decade.  What were you thinking?  Gah, this thing sucks, but you will still read it ONE MORE TIME.  You’ll also find mistakes that made it past you, the others who have read it, and – if you’re lucky/smart – the editor.  Typos happen.  Commas always end up in the wrong place.  Read it again and you WILL find them.  If you think you can write a book, make a cover, and get rich, well, you’re wrong.

If you can handle that…

Then you might be able to become an author.  What I have outlined here is kinda the bare minimum of what it takes to write a book.  You will need to put your pride in a box somewhere and bury it, because you will not be seeing it for a long time.  There are no insta-riches.  There isn’t some easy trick to becoming a multi-millionaire.  This is art.  Yes, it takes an inherent talent, but it can be trained.  Not even Picasso started off as a brilliant artist.  He had to learn, get critiques, and try again.  We all do.

The trick is to realize that your book is not you.  It is a single grain of sand in what makes up the person who wrote it.  Yes, you may love it, but that doesn’t make it great, and if you protect it from all harm, all you will do is ruin it.  Your book will become the pampered child who everyone hates because it’s got a filthy mouth, bad manners, and a helicopter mom.  Your book needs to bleed, to laugh, and to grow up.  Without a few hard knocks, it can never become the beloved novel that is hidden in the pile of shit that was born when you first typed…

The End.

When Science Fiction isn’t

 

5327836749_4a97cdd488_bFacial recognition.  Automated social media.  Global position tracking.  Satelite monitoring.  Consumer data analysis.  Handheld scanners.  Does this sound like science fiction?

It’s all available today.  There’s no need to wonder about when this stuff will come to pass.  It’s here.  Now.  Today.  Facebook tags our faces for us.  Our phones have buddy locators.  Drones survey just about everything.  Signal detectors, handheld scanners, and communications devices are all common apps on our phones.  We text, video call, and have synthetic voices speak for us, all without batting an eye.  We are living in the future.

From genetic modification to network data carriers, the things of books happen all around us, yet so many people aren’t even aware that it’s not only possible but something they are USING right now.  This is science fiction… yet it’s not.

I’m wallowing in a series about gamers, hacktivists, geeks, and social expectations.  It’s all set in the modern day.  All of the tech is out there, and cheap.  I’m not talking about google glass or anything.  I’m talking about the free apps you can download in seconds.  Here’s the problem…

What the hell genre am I writing?

I took a modern drama plot, wrapped it up in the story arc style commonly seen in romances, and filled it with amazing science that sucks the reader right in.  Unlike most video game books, where the story is about how games are taking over our lives, this one goes the other way.  People with real life issues trying to hide away in a virtual escape.  People who want to be forgotten, and find “their own type” as pixels in their games.  People who come together, from all walks of life, because they share a hobby.  Whether it’s motocross, rock music, or horseback riding, this concept isn’t unique.  Sadly, I’m having trouble finding any books about gamers where the game isn’t either a sentient being or a plot device created by the villain.  Ready, Player One is an example of what I mean.

And so, I’m stressing myself out (if you can’t tell by the recent theme lately) about getting it right.  I want to put the book where people will find it.  I want to shelve it so people have a chance at enjoying what they read.  Sadly, I have no clue where that is.  It’s not literary.  This story is total genre.  It’s not really suspense.  It’s contemporary drama… but that shelf doesn’t fit.

*sigh*  I’m gonna be bald by the time I figure this out!

The Genre

photo-1429032021766-c6a53949594fReaders tend to find books by genre.  This leads to certain expectations.  Romances have beautiful women and bare-chested men.  Fantasy has horses and swords.  Horror is dark and mysterious, thrillers have blood, and urban fantasy has some chick wielding magic or outdated weapons.  We expect this.  We think nothing of it, until the cover is for the wrong genre.

Imagine a military suspense with some bare-chested man and nothing else.  How about a romance with a blood-splattered cover?  Yeah, you see what I mean.

So, what about those crossovers?  Not only is cover art hard to figure out, but so is finding the right home.  From review sites to which shelf to use, it’s maddening for the author and publishing company.  And here’s where the problem lies.  I do this… a lot.

One More Day is probably my easiest book to categorize.  When We Were Kings and When We Were Dancing aren’t that much worse.  One romance and two low fantasy novels.  Now, the novels I have in the works?  Oh my!

Challenge Accepted is a story of a girl-gamer trying to break into the professional scene while fighting the sexism she sees in the industry.  It has traits of romance, drama, contemporary fiction, and a touch of thriller (but just a touch).  It’s not more of any one than the others, though.  This is NOT a true romance.  There’s a happy for now ending, a love story that moves through it (and is very much not traditional) and a few other standards, but that’s more like a heavy subplot, and not the main story line.  Rather, it’s about Riley Andrews, and her struggles to stop sabotaging her place in life, while still succeeding.  It’s a coming of age story, for a very headstrong woman who’s had more crap thrown at her than anyone deserves.  It’s inspirational, based on the idea of getting knocked down seven times and standing up either.  It’s not really romance, but it sure as hell isn’t literary.  There’s way too much cussing… and video games.

The next book, BloodLust, is about an indigenous species of humanoids in a world where humans have lived for more than three thousand years.  There’s specism (because they aren’t a race), discrimination, military, fantasy, and on and on.  It has a romantic story arc (or two) but those aren’t the story.  It has magic – that is all science based.  It reads more like fantasy than science fiction, but in reality, it’s more science fiction than fantasy.  Thankfully, there’s a category for this.

And then I look at the rest of my backlist.  Oh. My. God.  Seems I never stopped to worry about genre before.  I’m having a momentary panic about how to classify these books so my audience can find them.  That’s all that matters.  No one cares about why I chose to write the way I did, they just want a good story that they can find to enjoy.  Talk about some serious pressure for an indie author!

 

Believe in your own work

Book Covers Shadows LeftAll too often, I see amazing indie authors floundering in the sea of kindle books.  They have something worth reading, but no one knows about it for one simple reason – the author hasn’t pushed.

Then, I turn around and see countless pieces of crap, books I can’t make it halfway through before wishing I could throw them against the wall (but don’t want to ruin my tablet to get that gratification).  WHY?  Why do people pay for such crap and convince the authors to pump out more?  Normally, sex.  Often, it’s a simple case of marketing.

You see, the readers can’t FIND your book if they don’t know to look for it.  They can’t fall in love with it, tell their friends, complain about how they wish it HAD ended, and all of that.  The entire reading experience hinges on one thing: they have to be able to read the book.

With over 4 million books on kindle at this time (and growing fast), becoming an indie author is easy.  Everyone out there talks about how to do it, how much crap is filling the lists, and how to spend hard earned money to make it.  No one talks about the most important thing.  Love your OWN book.

And if you don’t?

Then fix that shit!  Sorry, but if you don’t even love your own book, then why the hell do you have it out there?  If you want to get rich, play the lottery.  The odds are probably better than becoming a kindle millionaire.  If you want to be an AUTHOR, then do your work, write a damned good book that YOU want to read over and over, and then be proud of that book enough to tell the entire world you wrote it.  Let your mother read that sex scene (pretty sure she knows sex happens, since um… you).  Let your brother see how you portrayed his teen years (because really, that’s how we create villlains).  Let your best friend know about this secret and embarrassing addiciton you have been hiding.  Share the work, listen to feedback, and beg your readers to be harsh – because without real criticism, our work ends up as more crap to add to that pile.

Leyli Tristan posesYes, right now I don’t want to even THINK about gladiators.  I just finished up book 2 of the Wolf of Oberhame series, and it’s out of my hands.  I don’t need to talk to them, listen to them, or be involved in their political crap again until the book comes out…. then I’ll read it just as voraciously as my fans.  I write these books because I want to read them.  I write them because I want to see characters like this, worlds like this, and can’t find anyone else doing it.  I write it because I love these stories enough to read them until the cover falls off (or my screen cracks, as the case may be).

And my fans seem to agree, because they keep asking for more.

Addicted to Publishing

There’s a thrill – and a terror – to releasing your first book.  Watching the sales climb, seeing the reviews come in, and knowing that SOMEONE ELSE is reading your book?  That’s a feeling I can’t describe.  It’s exhilarating.  It’s horrifying.  It’s mesmerizing.

It’s also a whole lot of work.

From deciding where to advertise, learning the industry, and working day and night to keep up with new ways to make sure people can find your book, it’s like a real job.  This is the life of an independent author.  No one tells us what to do.  No one makes the decisions, and no one has all the answers.  It’s us against the world.

And I’m addicted to it.

I have one serious back list… kinda.  As I’ve said before, I have about 35 books in some state of “done”.  Some are rough drafts.  Some are ready to print.  Others need some major plot work before even my trusted beta group will see it.  They’re close, though.

What they don’t have are the finishing touches.  Editing.  Reviews.  Advanced copies to people who will actually write a review!  And the biggest deal breaker: no cover.  Without a quality cover, a book simply will not sell.

So, my little publishing company (Spotted Horse Productions) has a bit of a backlog.  We’re currently working on 3 books, from 3 series.  I’m trying to figure out how long it takes to write a book, from start to finish, to predict the lead time for the rest.  I figure, if I release all of these books, it gives me quite a span of time before I need to worry about what I am CURRENTLY writing, but between all of that?  Yeah, I need to finish the ones that are “purt near” done.

I still want to watch the numbers.  I want to get the feedback.  I am addicted to letting people read my fantasies, and hearing both the good and the bad.  I’m still trying to master this indie publishing thing, but I’m getting there, and I’m going full steam ahead.

 

The joys of handling everything

Some call it self publishing.  Some call it independent publishing.  The name doesn’t matter.  What’s important is that more readers have more access to more books than ever before.  In today’s world, we can download a book for just a few bucks, and never worry about where to store it when we’re done.

As an author, it’s even better.  Some of my work just isn’t “main stream” enough to be picked up by a production business.  They have to weigh all of the risks vs. rewards.  If they know the market is buying up book type A as fast as it can hit the shelves, but has never seen a book like Z, why would they dump in hundreds of thousands (or more) into printing it?  That would be a very foolish business decision.

But I no longer have to worry about if my story is “mainstream” enough.  I just need to worry about things like plot, characterization, and a viable story.  Authors can focus on telling what they want to, and ignoring wondering how many people will read it, if it will make the best seller’s lists, and all of the “old style” way of doing things.  What matters are individual reviews, public perception, and knowing how to market to your niche in the book world.

Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about unicorn porn (yep, found that on kindle, eek!) or murder mysteries.  Every book out there has someone who could read it.  Today, we authors have to worry about professional covers, grammar and editing, as well as writing with a unique voice that sets us apart.  We have to build an audience, the appease their need for more.  Regurgitated story lines and transparent plot twists aren’t going to cut it in this world.  We need to be smarter, more inventive, and twice as creative – but it’s allowed.

You see, the gatekeepers for traditional publishing are doing their job.  I’m not opposed to that, and it makes perfect sense.  The number of people buying tangible books is down.  That means that each book published needs to be a sure thing.  They must hedge their bets, but that also means not taking a big risk.  The stories they like are the ones they know will sell.  Rulebreakers like Hemingway or Tolkien wouldn’t stand a chance.

But they would if they did it themselves.  The best way is to make a team.  I have mine.  Between my cover artist(s), my editor, my beta readers, and more, we have a herd of people invested in each and every book.  Remember that old saying about how it takes a village?  It’s true in indie publishing, but it’s worth it.  To see the cover I dreamed up, with the words I wrote, all sitting there, getting read by complete strangers?  There are no words for the feeling that stirs inside me.  It’s epic.