Tag Archives: indie stuff

On Choosing Indie…Again: An Epic Journey

How can I possibly break this down to be a single post? The decision is part of a journey, and I can’t figure out how to yank out the reasons and present them out of context. I’m not a bullet-points kinda girl; I’m a novelist, for Heaven’s sake. So I’m hoping that if you’re interested enough to know the whys, the what I’ve been through, the what I’ve learned, that you’ll be willing to sit through the tale, backstory and all. I’ll provide you some headings if you want to skim and maybe someone could write up the bullet points for me later.

Backstory beginnings

About 13 months ago, I released my first novel, Hush Money, independently. It’s a short, YA novel of about 50,000 words, the first in a planned series called the Talent Chronicles. The series is about people with supernatural abilities who are trying to hide what they are amidst governmental abuses of their kind, and yet they keep finding themselves in situations in which they have to embrace and be what they are in order to win the day.

Why Indie The First Time

The negativity on the internet surrounding traditional publishing had become so prevalent and so disheartening, that I had actually given up writing. Every article I read about why your query letter will suck, why you will never make it out of the slush pile, why your chances of being struck by lightning are better than your chances of ever selling your book were personally directed at me, and I took them to heart. That’s  just how I am. I’m working on it. The point is that I became certain that Bill, sitting there on Capitol Hill, should stop his whining, because he had about a million times better chance of becoming a law than I did of becoming a published author.

Long story shorter, I decided that I needed to stop torturing myself and find other avenues for my creativity. I wrote for other purposes, I continued to do critique and editing, but I quit the novel-writing thing. When I started to learn about indie publishing, that’s when I got excited again. At the time I had had a successful run with an Etsy shop, but I got in over my head with a popular design and I was just burnt out. Everything I learned about indie publishing seemed so analogous to everything I loved about my Etsy business, and I became crazy eager to dive back into writing and catch up with my friends who were building audiences of readers.

Releasing the First Book and Living Indie

When I released Hush Money, I had no expectations. I mean, I didn’t know what to expect, so I tried very hard to keep my wishes and dreams in check. By the time the book was six months old it had sold 10,000 copies. People were writing to me to thank me for doing something that I loved. People were commenting on instructive articles I wrote and asking me for advice, like… Well, I don’t know if I’d ever in my life felt like I’d earned anyone’s respect before.

Living within that indie publishing community, I began to identify very strongly with being indie. There was certainly a component at the outset in which I would introduce myself as an “indie author” or “self-published author,” simply as a disclaimer. I’ll be clear up front about what I am so you don’t think I was trying to style myself as “published author” when I’m not publisher-vetted. Or whatever notion. I was happy to be indie, and proud of my accomplishments, of my work, and all I’d learned and done. But my view was still that others would see it as less, even though I, myself, came to a point where I truly didn’t. I was truly, deeply, passionately, devotedly indie.

It wasn’t all perfect. There’s a lot to keep up with. And there’s a lot I was keeping up with that I should have just let go so I could write more books. I got very caught up in being indie, and that was part of what was keeping me from writing. (Lots of stuff was going on that was keeping me from writing, and most all of it was me.) I’m not a multi-tasker. I focus passionately on one thing at a time and my focus was not on writing my book. Anyway, I don’t beat myself up for this. I watch it happen to other people, and I think it’s a phase a lot of us go through.

The Case of the Mysterious Foreign Agent

Also relevant to mention is an incident in which I had a foreign agent contact me about the translation rights to the book. This freaked me the f out, as anything legal does. I didn’t even know how to respond to the email I received, and I found next to nothing on the internet to help me. Which is rare. You know, usually you can find the answer to anything on the internet, and usually when you’re indie you don’t even have to go that far. You can just ask someone. So that was my next thing. I wrote to the two people I knew to be indie, with whom I had had some kind of brief contact in the past, and asked their advice. Both of them were unable to tell me what to do. Their agents handled that stuff. Their advice: get an agent.

But a) I didn’t have time to query an agent, so I just continued to freak out about the foreign thing. I ended up having to find an intellectual property attorney. Which means I had to TALK ON THE PHONE, which you know terrifies me, especially when I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. And then I went in and talked to a VERY nice man who was interested in my story, seemed genuinely excited to learn about my successes, gave me good advice on how to respond and how I might go on if anything came about, and sent me on my way with the suggestion that maybe I should really think about getting an agent.

Well b) as indies we’d been practically beaten over the head by others with the notion that no reputable agent would ever touch us. Kind of amazing how things have changed over the course of one year, but my impression was that most might just be insulted that I wasted their time with a query. I did spend some time researching agents, but I found practically none who stated that they had any interest in representing self-published authors. So I threw up my hands and walked away, very unsettled by the whole incident.

Representation

Jane came to me in the spring. In my inbox was a message with the subject Representation. I could not have been more blase about this. Seriously. Months after the foreign rights incident, after finding no help with that, after having given up on the notion of any agent ever coming to me (Kait Nolan had already accepted representation, as had indies well ahead of me like Amanda Hocking and HP Mallory and who knew who else), I was probably a little bitter and had set this firmly aside.

It didn’t take long for me to get excited about Jane’s offer to talk. And by “get excited” I mean “totally freak out and spin up into a whirl of dramarama,” because that’s what I do. I was in IM with Kait, had told her about the email. I think then I got up to get a drink or make a snack or something and she had to demand I open the email.

When I did, Jane was complimenting me on my Amazon success, mentioning her interest in the possibilities of electronic publishing, inviting me to call her to discuss print publication. She also mentioned that her agency represents Joe Konrath, of whom I may have heard. Um, yeah, just been hanging on his every word for the last year. So already there’s a certain amount of Wow-factor. I go to her website to look at the client list. James Dashner, Richelle Mead, Carrie Ryan…NYT bestseller this, NYT bestseller that…

Holy shit, why is this woman writing to me?

Talking to Jane spun me up to drama-level magenta. I was still working on Heroes ‘Til Curfew, deeply, hopelessly mired in Second Book Syndrome and absolutely consumed by doubt that I could produce a second book that wouldn’t disappoint. I was creatively paralyzed by fear, with a million brain-eating voices in my head, from every review of Hush Money I had ever read, every time I opened my file. Jane was offering to help me make the best book I could make. And when Heroes ‘Til Curfew was the best book I could make, she would take it and Hush Money and try to sell the rights to a traditional publisher.

In a way, Jane was an answer to prayers. I didn’t want to go unrepresented. I didn’t EVER want to go through again what I went through with the foreign rights thing. It might not seem like a big deal to you, but trying to seem like a grown-up professional and handle my own shit when I’m just a clueless kid (inside) who has no fucking idea what she’s doing or how to get the answers she needs to act how she’s supposed to act on the outside was very affecting to me. And as a writer who wants to make a living and help my family, I’d be a special kind of idiot not to jump to say yes to Jane.

Temptations Toward Trad

And yet I hesitated. What Jane was talking about was taking my two books and selling both the print and the ebook rights. While I could do something else on my own, the Talents would belong to someone else. I would no longer be free to do whatever I wanted with them. I might have restrictions on length, content, language, who knows. I might not be free to give stuff away when I wanted to. I would be giving up my carefully chosen cover art that was really working for me. I would be pulling Hush Money off the market and putting the building of my readership on hold for the next 1-3 years, while postponing the release of my already delayed second book for years.

Lots of stuff to consider. And on the other side of the coin: opportunity. Indies have done a lot on our own and will continue to do more. Opportunities will continue to open for us. But they’re not all there yet. One very real thing I had to consider was the possibility of a sizable advance. Konrath talks about not taking a contract unless the advance is “life changing money.” Well, it wouldn’t take a whole lot of money to change my life. That’s my reality. If I thumbed my nose at the opportunity to bring my family security, wouldn’t that just be plain wrong?

And look at all the stuff I could learn? Haven’t you wondered about all the stuff that goes on between the time a writer finishes the manuscript and the time it comes back as a bound book? Haven’t you ever wanted to be on the inside of that? And the possibilities for mentoring. I will always be a work in progress. I hope that I will always be a work in progress. My writing improved exponentially when I started getting critical feedback from peers at my own level. They pointed out weaknesses for me that I couldn’t see on my own. How much could my writing be improved with feedback from the kinds of professionals I’d be exposed to under contract? I know there have been a lot of negative things said about this, and I get that. But that’s not all of it, and I could choose to see the possibility as exciting.

Then the extras. Yes, it is possible that indies are making movie deals and I don’t know what else. But right now at this moment, cool stuff like that is a lot more likely (though perhaps still quite unlikely), with the backing of a traditional publisher. If those opportunities were possible for the Talents, I did want them to have that chance.

Paperback and Bookstore Relevancy

Finally, and most obviously, distribution. I mean, forget vetted validity. I believe that in the numbers game, that’s practically a non-issue. If a few people on the internet are still saying they won’t read a self-published book, if they’re actually checking for the publisher imprint to make sure they’re not getting indie when it looks like every other good book on the surface, I don’t think those people represent enough “lost readers” to get upset over. Non-issue. Distribution: still an issue. Right now, at this moment, paper books and book stores are still entirely relevant.

Yes, ebooks are becoming more and more popular, as are ereader devices, as has shopping online every day for the last 15 years. Big pluses for us indies, for sure. These are things which make it possible for us to succeed financially on our own.

But what I’m talking about here is another level. Kristen Lamb, social media expert for writers, tells us that writers are often marketing to the wrong crowd. We love fellow writers and other avid readers. Of course we want to sell our books to those people. But the books that break out and become the ones that “everybody’s reading” are the books that…everybody reads. That person who picks up just a few books a year. Each of that person who picks up a certain book because they keep hearing about it over and over again. And where do those people go to buy a book? Often it’s the bookstore. Even if they buy it online, they buy print. And a mass market paperback is probably going to be a more attractive price point than what you can do with POD.

(Note: In spite of the price of POD trade paperbacks, the point is that print is still relevant and it’s not expensive for authors. 1% of my sales are print. But if I’d only ever sold 5 copies, I still believe it would be worth it to have it out there to offer.)

Anyway, there are so many higher levels that seem at lot more likely with publisher backing, and I wanted that opportunity.

Submission

I finished Heroes ‘Til Curfew at the end of June, got a couple beta reads to make sure it made sense, and then I sent it off to Jane. After the holiday she was able to start reading it. Ironically, she had no editorial suggestions. She and her partner, Miriam, approved the book as written. So score one point for the side that says Susan’s self-doubt may be overblown. After getting in touch with some editors to check on their vacation schedules, the book was submitted to the first round of her picks toward the end of July.

I’ve no idea how Jane goes about deciding whom to contact first. That’s her job and I never asked. I figure it’s some combination of what imprint and what editor she thinks are the best match based on what they’ve put out before, her contacts and personal relationships in the industry, who might be in a position to give us the most both in terms of money but also marketing and distribution and stuff like that.

Waiting and Rejection

The waiting wasn’t difficult for the first maybe two weeks. And then I’ll admit that I started to get antsy. Finally I asked Jane how things were going and she sent me the few rejections she had received.

They were awesome! I really got a charge out of reading them. By now there’s something you understand about me: I’m not full of self-confidence. I will probably always be surprised to find that someone else enjoyed my work. I got responses in which editors at this big label imprints that publish all kinds of really awesome books tell Jane things about me and my work like “engaging and compulsively readable,” “great, commercial writing,” “able to completely suspend disbelief and become immersed.” And these from people who have read everything!

Still, what we kept hearing was that the concept was not quite original enough for them to get behind. There’s that thing we keep reading where we’re told that you can have a swell, well-written book that people might love to read. But you might not be able to sell it, and it may never see the light of day because NY might not find it marketable. That phenomenon? Yeah, I haz it.

Wavering

Signing with Jane was hard. It shouldn’t have been, but it was. Because I had spent the last year of my life so excited about independent publishing, and the last several months embracing it and enjoying my success. It had become part of my identity.

It took a lot of soul-searching to become open to traditional publishing again. But when I made that decision, I embraced that too. All the stuff I said about the opportunities it offers are things I believe, continue to believe. They’re things I wanted and continue to want.

But I missed being indie. I missed having a current book out there. Hush Money sales began to fall at the beginning of the summer. I know that lots of people have experienced a dry summer, but this book’s rank plummeted. Because it was time for that. It had been out for nearly a year with no sequel. I had put out a free short story, but that’s hardly the same as putting out a new novel 2-3 times a year which is what we tend to see when we talk about big number indies. With one book out, it was pretty much a miracle that I saw 20,000 sales for Hush Money before it was a year old.

I felt out place. I felt like I never knew what to say. I continued to have to stall on the question of a release date for the second book because I didn’t know if I’d be releasing that myself or breaking the news that I had sold it and the release would be further postponed. I was carrying a lot of guilt about that, even though some rational part of me knows that my readers are both supportive of me and what I need to do for my family, my career, and the series; as well as people with full lives who are not actually suffering from the delay.

But beyond the guilt, I began to recognize what I was feeling as longing. I longed to share this book. That’s why I wrote it. Friends kept asking, “Well, what do you really want?” And I couldn’t figure it out. It was a big mess of what I want, what I need, what I dream, what I think I can have, what I should want, what I should be doing—aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!!

Why do I write? A hundred thousand reasons, intertwined with stunning complexity. But maybe, at the heart of it, because I have something share. And while I was tied up in submission and it had been over a month and there were still people we hadn’t heard from, and if it got sold and all kinds of stuff had to be done with it by a staff of people before it sat in queue waiting to be released for who knows how long–while all of that goes on, it’s not being shared. And I’m unhappy.

I Want It All, And I Want It Now

I wanted all the opportunities of traditional publication and I wanted the control and immediacy of going indie. And by this time, the dramarama has reached EPIC proportions. I’ve gone to Jane and I’ve dumped all this on her, told her maybe don’t want to go into the next round of submission with another handful of editors. I now get to be in the middle of the

epic guilt deathmatch of DOOM

as I contemplate that I can either

a) stay unhappy with what’s going on and what will probably be the result if I continue this path, ie, delaying the book for the current readers who say they’re waiting for it while we wait for a publisher to buy and then release it, or

b) be equally selfish by pulling the books from submission to release on my own, deny my family the potential for the security of an advance and career opportunities I might have with a publisher, and, AND, take Jane’s opportunity to earn a commission for this such that I have just asked my agent to work for me for free.

Oh awesome. Fuck. Me. Running.

YA novel, Gone, the third book in Lisa McMann’s Wake trilogy, talks about Morton’s Fork: a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives. Morton’s Fork, I haz it.

OMG, Susan, snap the hell out it. You call that a Morton’s Fork? Did you learn nothing from the reading? You have a choice between two potentials for AWESOME in your life. And YOU’re the one who makes it about guilt. NO ONE puts that on you except you. So get your head on straight and figure it out.

“What do you want?”

I want both.

And somewhere in the muddle of feeling like everything was so absolute, that times are what they are and I’m looking at two mutually exclusive things, I came across this little thread of sanity that I followed to an understanding.

I can have both.

I can’t have both right now.

Nothing is forever. This is not my one and only shot. Part of this was finally accepting that Jane does want to work with me. That she’s not going to up and abandon me because I’m difficult. Because she thinks I have potential. Maybe things will come up, like that foreign rights thing, as the series progresses. And maybe that won’t be anything big enough for her to get excited about, but she’s got a whole staff of people to deal with stuff and a whole bunch of money-making clients and me needing to do this right now is hardly putting her on the food stamp line. (Not all agents will be able to be this understanding.)

Meanwhile, I’m going to be working to come up with a new idea. Something that’s not the Talents. Something to do on the side. I will get better at this. I will get better at writing and better able to handle the other stuff, and I will be able to do that. And Jane is going to work with me on starting from a marketable concept. But I’ll still have the Talents for my own. I’ll still have control over that to see what I can make of them on my own. Because that’s interesting, and another kind of opportunity. And I’ll have this other thing that Jane can be more involved in, that will allow me to learn more of what she knows, and I can have another shot at this trad thing and learning all the things that those guys know.

And certainly, if anyone wanted to go to Jane with an offer at this point, I’d be willing to hear it. I’m not closing this door because I want it closed. Right now I just really want to share this book so that I move on to other things. Jane just got John Locke a print deal where he keeps his erights. I’m no John Locke but things are changing and maybe something like that will open up for me someday with the Talents.

The Possibility of Failure

The possibility of seeming like an epic failure here is two-fold.

It is no small thing for me to be worried that a lot of people are going to see it as me having failed in NY and crawling back to indie. I don’t see it that way. A) Indie is not something you crawl back to. It’s a choice with its own awesomeness that I’m embracing after a lot of soul-searching. B) Yeah, I got a few rejections, but every one I read said positive things about my books, about the quality of my work. I got no indication that I suck. What I understand is that I do NY quality work, but that the concept is “too familiar” and therefore not marketable enough for any of these editors to take on. And while that’s surprising (I have no proper word for the amount of surprising) to me, it’s okay. I truly believe that Jane would have found a buyer for this, both because I believe in the series and because I believe that Jane is a BAMF of an agent who would not stop until she found the right editor.

The second possibility is that I sold over 20,000 copies of Hush Money merely because it was 99cents, most of those people didn’t read it, a lot of the people who gushed about it are over it now and will not rush to buy the second book. At $2.99 it might not make the charts to get the visibility it needs to really sell. Heroes ‘Til Curfew is a different kind of book from Hush Money. I have no doubt that some readers will embrace what it is, while I also know as a certainty that there will be people who won’t like it. And who will tell their friends and strangers how very much they don’t like it..

I doubt there are many people who don’t experience performance anxiety over a release. I’m trying not to make this too important. I’m trying not to attach to the numbers. I will try not to watch them. And I will try very, very hard not to put even more pressure on myself for things I can’t control in some effort to convince myself that I haven’t just made a horrible decision.

And yes, I’m not even close to being so big a person that I don’t want this book and this series to sell like MAD to prove that it was marketable. As an indie I want to be able to point to it and say “Look, here’s a series that was rejected in NY and look what’s done. So don’t give up.”

But as an author, ever so slightly, politely, complimentarily scorned, I would not mind hearing “I wish I had grabbed the opportunity to buy this when it was offered, would you consider…?”

As I come to the end of this epic post, I realize that this still isn’t everything I’ve learned. How is that possible? If you read all the way through, bless you. I hope you got something out of my long-winded share-a-thon of spew. I, of course, feel better for having written a story and shared it with you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some publishing to do.

Heroes 'Til Curfew Release Postcard

19 Comments

Filed under writing

#ROW80 update, upcoming release, and some recommended reading

Heroes 'Til Curfew postcard with release information

Click to share

So whew, it’s good to have this all settled and to say, “Thanks for asking, it’s coming out around September 2nd!”

Really good.

I’m still wrapped up in this book and not so much active in the next one. I continue to lack true multitask finesse. Once this week is behind me and the book is out, my new ROW80 goal will be to try really hard to leave it be. To not babysit my stats, to not read reviews, etc. To move on to the next thing and let this thing do what it’s going to because once it’s out, it’s no longer in my control anyway.

Been extremely busy this week, so my reading has been limited to my subscriptions. There was some good stuff, though.

Recommended Reading

Big News (Look! My agent!)
Yeah, ’cause it’s all about me, right? LOL. If you’re an indie and you missed this, what have you been doing this week, writing a book? When I read Konrath’s piece on John Locke’s deal with Simon & Schuster in which they’re going to print his books but he’s keeping his erights, I thought Wow, that’s something. And then, Jane, what a BAMF you are. Good job! I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say the end is necessarily nigh. It’s hard not to agree with Jane’s assertion that publishing is full of brilliant people who will find a way to turn things around for themselves. And I figure if she can do HER job every day and still think that, there must be something to it. (via subscription)

Konrath goes #MyWANA?
That’s what I thought when I read this post in which Konrath and Crouch have a back and forth about the future and who has the power in publishing. Where it gets particularly interesting is where they start talking about author to reader direct sales. I sell PDF sewing patterns and have some knowledge of how to set up to sell digital goods directly. I could do it tomorrow, in theory. Notice how I don’t. Because, as a small fish (without a 10K member mailing list), developing web traffic is a marketing issue I don’t want to deal with. And the idea of carrying other authors’ books, having to keep track of THEIR royalties and pay them out…accounting nightmare for me. Not to mention the fact that building a high quality brand means having to tell some people “no” and that’s just awkward. I need to write more books, not manage a store. Never say never, though. And I did like the idea that this post sort of represents a convergence of Konrath and Kristen, two smart people I always want to listen to. (via subscription)

I’m a sexist pig
Okay, not actually a pig, maybe, although I did participate in an objectification of Tom Welling on Twitter the other night. Again. My double standard about men should be men but women can be anything, is something I know about myself and am working on. Andrew highlighted that in his Girly Man post this week. He picks up a discussion about how the issue of fewer young male readers maybe shouldn’t be about the lack of “boy” books, and moves it into his take on life as an open-minded guy who doesn’t need gender bias to make his choices for him. Which is, undoubtedly, part of his charm. (via subscription)

#UnicornLoverz Unite
Beverage warning applies to this brilliant bit of hand-drawn comic goodness from Claire. Claire reveals what it’s like for an author and her unicorn when the author gets in “the zone” and the world is blotted out by her own awesomeness. A must read. (via subscription)

6 Comments

Filed under Recs and Links

FINALLY, a release date for Heroes ‘Til Curfew

Last night I wrote this really long, wordy post. Well, it was last night and into this morning. Now I’m thinking maybe I need to go a little simpler.

Heroes 'Til Curfew releases 9/2/11

Click to download this postcard

Those of you who know how the indie stuff works know there’s no planning an exact release date. You never know how long it will take a book to go live and be buyable once you upload it. But I’m hoping that Heroes ‘Til Curfew will be available in ebook on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords a week from today, Friday, September 2nd. It’s also possible that the print version could be available that soon, but more than likely it will take a little more time for that.

Back cover of Heroes 'Til Curfew with blurb

Back Cover of the print version

It’s been a busy month for me. The book was in submission to the first round of editors in New York and the waiting was driving me mad. Last week I finally got on the phone, talked it all over with my agent, Jane Dystel (yes, the awesome Jane), and finally made the decision that putting this out on my own, right now, is really what I want most. Plan to see a post about my experience with the submission process, and about choosing indie, on Monday.

So we had to give the editors who had it a week to give an answer one way or the other, a deadline which expired yesterday afternoon. Meanwhile, I got to work, frantically proofreading, formatting, all that good stuff. So much has changed! There’s always more stuff to learn. I COMPLETELY resemble Clarie Legrand’s post today, which you absolutely MUST READ. The components of the paperback version are already uploaded and in review. I’m finishing up lose ends on the ebook formats and intend to start uploading those early next week.

What do you call this way that I am? Mercurial? Yeah, we’ll go with that. Owing to my mercurial nature and the last-minuteness of this decision, I am WOEFULLY unprepared to launch this book. Read: FULL OF WOE, not full of preparedness.

I’m going to need some serious help here.

A release date graphic suitable for a sidebar

Click to download image

I feel like there are thousands of people I need to invite to this party and I only have access to a handful of them. But the reason so many people tried Hush Money is because you guys checked it out and told other people about it. I would be so grateful if you’d mention that this is finally happening. <– Look, I made you this nifty graphic for your sidebar. The postcard at the top of the page would fit well at the bottom of a blog post, in an email to a friend, on Facebook, or shared in a tweet. And you can always use the sharing buttons located beneath the post.

No pressure. I hope I don’t even need to say that. But if you’re excited this is coming out and want to help spread the word, I want to make it easy. If anyone has any ideas about what I can do to get the word out, I’m happy to hear them.

I also hope it goes without saying, and yet I want to say it anyway: I am deeply grateful for everyone’s patience and sustained enthusiasm. Your support means everything to me. It’s the reason I finished the book, and ultimately it was the reason I chose this path. I wrote this book for us and I can hardly wait to share it with you.

10 Comments

Filed under Heroes 'Til Curfew

#ROW80 Susan, what the hell are you doing?

Hell, I don’t know.

I think maybe I’m a recovering stats junkie. I used to right on top of all my stuff. Checking my sales everywhere and recording that in a spreadsheet used to be the first thing I did every morning. It used to be a bit of hobby for me to watch changes in rank and to get a sense of about how many sales per day meant about what rank and how that changed with the changes in the market as a whole. (For example, at one point getting into the top 100 might have meant selling at least 100 books in 24 hours. And then at another point 100 books in 24 hours might have gotten you into the top 700 as more books and customers entered the marketplace.)

But anyway, I pretty much walked away from all that. I learned a lot. I think I needed to learn stuff, and I don’t feel like it was totally time wasted, but… I can’t control things like rank and sales. When you see those things taking even a natural downturn, even when everyone around you is reporting decreased sales, still, just looking at something makes you want to affect it. And you can’t. Not really. Not directly, I guess.

So anyway, had to stop obsessing over that stuff, and I think that’s been good for me. I just realized that Hush Money is a year old. Like, today. A year ago today it went up on Smashwords. In a few days it will be a whole year it’s been up on Amazon. I’ve sold over 20,000 copies. I’ve gotten so much love and support from readers and other writers. It’s been awesome.

You know the question I get asked most? When are we going to get Heroes ‘Til Curfew? You have no idea how I’ve struggled with this question. Because the simple answer is: I don’t know. And the rest of the answer is complicated.

Books one and two of the Talent Chronicles are currently being shopped by my agent. We’re looking for a contract for both of them. To take this step, to even seriously consider selling the rights to these to someone else and put this much control of my world into someone else hands…it’s huge.

I often wonder what the hell I’m doing.

Every other week we hear about another known author self-publishing. This week it was Holly Lisle. People I respect and admire turning away from what I’m approaching and moving toward where I’ve been.

As though I’m moving backward.

But maybe it’s not linear. Maybe there is no backward. (Maybe there is no spoon.) I understand my own reasons for seeking this out. I know what I want out of it.

But the waiting is nerve-wracking. There’s wondering. There’s dreams I’m afraid of dreaming. There’s worrying. There’s this feeling of life on hold.

And if I would just give up this whole idea I could go back to what I know. To where I’ve been successful before and hope I can do half as well with Heroes ‘Til Curfew as I did with Hush Money. And then when people asked me when book 2 is coming out I have a better answer for them!

I just feel like Hush Money and I have done so well on our own, but does that mean we should just sit back and be satisfied with that or should we see if there’s more than can be done? Now that I’ve already had thousands of readers, what might happen if I had a publisher behind me who could get me wider distribution? Where I’m, like, a new author, but not quite brand new. Maybe it could be awesomer.

Look, I may never get a TV series or a comic or a video game. Okay, yeah, I probably won’t. I get that. But I think that even if a lot of readers no longer need a publishers’ stamp on book for them to give it a try, I think the world might still be at a point where that would make it slightly less impossible to be considered for the next level. The Talent Chronicles graphic novel level.

Do you get this sense that I’m deeply conflicted? I want this. I want to try this. I want to have these opportunities if I can. I want to learn shit. New shit. And I don’t want to wait. I feel so friggin’ guilty about the waiting to release this book that it’s eating me up. And I’m so worried about not having new material to release and having readers forget about me. And I’m so worried about not releasing and thence not having an income and thence not having a Christmas.

Do you know what I’ve done in this year since I released Hush Money? I’ve traded my size 14 pants for size 4. Sometimes I think it’s all from worrying.

This should be a happy birthday post. It should be chock full of awesome, and I’m sorry that it’s not. This is why I’m not around a lot. I’m just in this holding pattern that makes me crazy and crazy-angsty, and I feel like I don’t know what to say because I don’t KNOW anything anymore.

So, I don’t know what you think of that from a ROW80 standpoint. I guess it means that I’m still trying to get myself settled back in and back on track.

What the hell is up with Susan? To be continued…

7 Comments

Filed under ROW80, writing

The Runaways- Movie, not the comic

The Runaways

Maybe I can blame the fact that I had to watch this movie on Stacey Wallace Benefiel whose recent Bad Reputation post has had that song stuck in my head for days. But today as I went looking for something to strengthen my teen-writing mojo, I found that I had added this to my Netflix Q.

Despite the fact that the Netflix description focuses primarily on the Cherie Currie (the band’s lead singer) storyline, it is important to note that this is a movie about Joan Jett and is therefore to be listed with all things awesome.

It was, in a lot of ways, like every other rocker biopic with an emphasis on drugs and sex, because the music business is what it is. But, I shall repeat: Joan Jett. And lest anyone start wailing and gnashing teeth about the same actress playing Bella Swan who moons over some idiot vamp who likes to tell her he knows what’s best, AND playing our rock goddess, let me just say that I had no problem with the performance.

To try to relate this to our Friday hero fiction appreciation topic, I have to say that what’s unfortunate about this movie is its lack of heroic plot aspects. There’s really only a taste of Joan is awesome here. The story does concentrate more on Cherie whose heroism probably mostly comes about after the story takes place when she cleans herself up.

But, I did have a point to sticking this movie mention on my writing blog. At the end of the movie they flash up the little bits about what happened to main characters after the story and I learned this:

After being turned down by 23 record labels she created an independent label, and released a self titled album, “JOAN JETT”. Released in 1980, it was the most successful indie rock and roll record of all time.  In 1981, it was picked up by Boardwalk Records, and named “Bad Reputation”.  It spawned two hits: “Do You Want To Touch Me?” and “Bad Reputation.” (Source)

I thought some of you indies might appreciate that.

In other news, I’m taking my daughter to Florida for spring break for the next week. I’ll tell Mickey you said hi.

6 Comments

Filed under Recs and Links

Now with representation…

We interrupt Friday’s regularly scheduled hero fiction appreciation (which I wasn’t even able to come up with this week anyway, as I’ve had my nose in my own book and haven’t gotten a whole lot of fiction myself, except for Dean, and we just talked about him the other day and I’m sure SOME of you [cough]Kait, Cher[cough] could deal with a weekly Dean segment, but…I digress) to bring you the following update on the writing life of me.

I’m now represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

So, yeah, it’s been one of those exciting yet surreal weeks for me. A lot of this post is going to be about why I wanted an agent because I know there’s some sentiment that we don’t need them. Personal choice. You know that my friend and crit partner Kait is indie an has an agent. She’ll eventually have work both traditionally and self-published. The plans that she and her agent are making for her career make absolute sense for what she wants and it seems to be a beautiful arrangement. My friend Zoe is fiercely independent. She loves the business aspects of this job at least as much as she loves the writing. She thrives on it and doesn’t want to give any of that over to someone else. Totally valid and I totally get where she’s coming from. There’s no right answer.

I have been very interested in representation for last few months, ever since I had that incident of interest in the translation rights that I didn’t know how to deal with. Advice I got from those ahead of me was to get an agent, but of course I had no idea whom to approach. I think there’s been this clear feeling in the indie community that the industry sees us as damaged goods and no one wants to pick up a used commodity. (Actually, I read that, with nicer words, on an agent’s blog once.) Weird, huh? Clearly that’s changing, and like the rest of the changes that are going on around us, it’s changing fast.

But I couldn’t tell who was interested in representing self-published authors, and couldn’t find help to figure it out. So it’s one of the many things I just let go as too complicated for the moment, even though I have very much felt that I’m at a point where I could use the guidance of people with more experience than I have.

Honestly you guys, we’re all monumentally busy, and it just keeps going. What did Amanda say recently? “I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling e-mails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full-time corporation.” Bless her heart, I can only imagine. But really, isn’t being you a full-time job already? A huge part of my trouble this year has been in trying to take my already inefficiently-run life and suddenly trying to shove a full-time author/publisher/book-marketer/manager career into that.

My daughter made a calendar in school last year. It was one of those Home Depot kid projects they do on Saturdays, but they do a lot of those in the class my daughter was in last year. Anyway, it’s a perpetual calendar with blocks you turn to show the date. It sits on my stove. One day this winter I looked at that calendar and it said August 2, 2010.

The date I first uploaded Hush Money.

The date that time stopped.

Or at least that I stopped being able to focus on stuff in my home. Susan, you just signed with an awesome literary agent, what are you going to do next? Scrub my bathroom. That’s what I did this week. I gave my bathroom some quality time. I washed the walls and the baseboards. I’m going to have to re-caulk. And I’m going to have to figure out a way to do everything I need to do. And unlike a lot of you guys, I don’t even have a 9-5 job I have to do 40 hours a week. (Really, did I mention I’m inefficient?)

I’ve wanted someone who could be there when questions like this foreign rights stuff come up, so I wouldn’t have to waste a couple days with Google and then another day with an attorney–only to have nothing come of it! I’m going to want sound editorial advice on this book I’m working on, and I don’t want to waste time trying to figure out whom to hire for that. I think we’ll [indies will] get to a point where we have reputable editors for hire, but I don’t know who they are now. It seems like so many of the writers I know are so monumentally busy they’ve hardly got a brain cell to spare these days to answer questions for me, let alone read a scene and tell me why it sucks. I love the idea of having someone to go to with this stuff, and someone who has an interest such that I don’t have to feel like I’m just sucking their time.

So anyway, last week Jane sent me an email and then we spoke on the phone. I have to tell you that “the call” was kind of a series of brain mines, followed by an aftermath of disbelief and the certainty that there would be a phone call from a receptionist informing me of some unfortunate error. I mean, guys, I’m just now getting to the point where I can start paying my credit card bill with my royalties instead of hoarding the royalties in the bank in case someone calls to tell me about an unfortunate accounting error and demands them back.

My serious issues aside, a huge thrill in all this is that I love to learn, and I am so excited about the opportunity to learn from someone with this much experience in the industry. That’s freakin’ awesome! Some people are pretty negative about different editorial perspectives, you know? They feel like they’re being told what to do and forced into this and that. I know that my own perspective is very narrow and that I don’t see everything. I love it when a fresh opinion opens me up to thinking about something in a way it wouldn’t have occurred to me to think before. At the end of the day I may not change the work, but I’ll know that I covered another angle in terms of looking at it and that that was an informed decision.

The opportunity to discuss my work with experienced people who actually have time and give a shit about it? That’s an opportunity I absolutely want and am very excited about.

I love that Jane contacted me. I understand how the query process came to be how it is, but eep, it’s rough. Being thrown out of the running for a novel on the basis of not being able to write a stand-out letter is something I think a lot of us are uncomfortable with regarding things as they stand now. I’m hoping that we’ll continue see more agents willing to scout.

Anyway, sorry this is long, but as far as my thoughts on the whole business, you guys really got short version. Trust me.

32 Comments

Filed under writing

Would you ever take a contract?

Ok, so this is sort of a take-off on Ms. Jami Gold’s recent post on Would You Ever Turn Down A Contract? And on that specific subject, Nadia Lee had some interesting things to say about that on Zoe Winters’ blog a while back. Because of course you might. There are some damned good reasons for doing just that.

However, what Jami’s post was really about was someone who was not interested in indie authorship/publishing basically saying that he couldn’t imagine anyone self-pubbing if they had a choice. Which you can either take as one of those “self-publishing is a last ditch effort of the inferior writer to get any kind of audience” things, or you can just assume, as I am, that this person simply has not thought about some of the things we have thought about.

So for those of us who have gone indie, perhaps especially for those of us who never queried and for whom indie publishing was a first choice endeavor, we’ve actually thought about those things a lot. We’ve done a lot of convincing ourselves that we’re doing the right thing for our work and our careers.

Maybe that’s where the backlash against Amanda Hocking came from when she “sold out” for a two million dollar deal. Maybe some of us have just convinced ourselves that hard. To be honest, I was exposed to very little of the nastiness first-hand because I didn’t go looking to read it, but as friends responded to it on their blogs, even I couldn’t help but notice it was going on.

And the bummer I got from that lingers on.

But anyway, the interesting thing is that when I got into this several months ago, a lot of people were talking about starting out in indie for the express purpose of getting picked up by a publisher, or at least starting to get some name recognition going to make themselves more attractive come negotiation time. That’s why Kait got into it, and even though she got sidetracked into being satisfied with staying indie, she ended up with an agent who came to her, who is interested in how the two methods can support each other, and Kait will probably end up very successful with great work in both worlds because she kicks ass like that.

Sorry, I think my waxing about Kait made me forget my point. :scrolls back up to find it: Oh, right. So the with so many indies saying they were doing it for those kinds of reasons and maintaining aspirations of eventual traditional publication, I was pretty astonished by the ugliness that followed Amanda’s news. Because here was an indie who did face rejection, went out a proved herself, got a fabulous deal that will give her security and freedom from stuff she doesn’t want to manage–she did good. It seems like just a few months ago people would have been happy about that.

But they weren’t? Is this how it is now? Are we really down to us and them like that?

How do you feel about traditional publishing? Are you indie but still hoping for that? Are you so indie you can’t imagine a contract that you would accept?

Do you think there’s been a significant climate change in our community, or that the sell-out crowd just barked louder this time?

15 Comments

Filed under writing

Writing to a Niche

So again this morning I find myself clicking from an Etsy newsletter to an article, and in that article finding so much that seems to pertain to us indie authors. I should probably have some kind of Etsyish Publishing category or tag on the blog.

Anyway, 4 Ways to Make Your Products More Niche on the Crafting an MBA blog is a great article for indie authors to read because it carries some of those same messages we read all the time: you can’t be all things to all readers, write the book you want to write and you’ll find the readers like you who have been waiting for just that… So click on that title and give it a read-through. Will just take a couple minutes, and as you read, think of parallels to what you’re trying to do as an indie author.

My early designs were average and unimaginative.

How are we going to stand out and get found? That’s a big thing with us, and it’s part of the reason I continue to click on these Etsy articles, because I know from

Everyday jeans and tees for an everyday doll earned me low wages and only a few very kind fans.

experience that it’s a big thing there too. When I started on Etsy, I really had no direction, except that I was going to make doll clothes, starting with Barbie. I knew they would be better quality than most of what was out there–because that’s part of what handmade is–and that they would fit well, but in terms of design I was very much average in my thinking.

My Blythe doll

When a friend pointed me at Blythe, showed me the doll’s increasing popularity, the higher price points for the indie clothing that was coming into the market, and finally sent me a doll to get me started, she was sending me into a niche. After all, I’d wager that most domiciles in this country have

I moved into the Blythe niche, but my designs were still nothing to get excited about.

seen at least one Barbie doll within their walls at one time or another, while most people still don’t know what a Blythe is.

My early designs for Blythe were boring, just like what I’d done for Barbie. I made more money per piece, because of the niche. A dress for Barbie could get $3. A similar dress for Blythe could get $10, and was more likely to sell (eventually). This was due to the increasing popularity of the doll (or genre, if you will), the demographic (adult collectors vs. children), and the lack of Blythe-sized clothing on the market.

So already I’m hoping that you’re seeing similarities. When you’re selling just another epic fantasy or just another apocalyptic thriller, it may be hard for you to get found. And this is true even if you move into a hot, trendy niche, as I did with Blythe or you might do with vampire romance.

Since Blythe was a growing trend, my friend wasn’t the only one who noticed the premium prices people were paying for her clothing. Soon, more and more Blythe-centric clothing shops opened up on Etsy. And this is very much like with indie publishing: anyone can try to do it. So we saw people who knew how to sew (write) who had been sewing completely different items like baby quilts and children’s clothing (writing in a completely different genre), buy dolls and start turning out Blythe clothes. We also saw Blythe enthusiasts who were just learning to sew opening up shops and trying to sell work that just wasn’t ready for a pricetag (and we’ve all seen those indie writers too).

All those listings flooded the Blythe market on Etsy. Literally thousands of items tagged Blythe or coming up in a search. Even if you were doing quality work,  putting out nice items at a reasonable price, how were you going to get seen in the deluge?

I was enjoying creating for Blythe, but I wasn’t making any real money at it. It was worth doing because I love to sew and play with my dolls, and even if I made $20 a month, it was $20 more than I had before. And then, and I know I’ve talked about this before, so just bear with me, I wanted to do

My first commissioned order.

something different. Something kind of crazy. I wanted to see if I could smock in miniature and make a smocked dress for Blythe. This was taking an embroidery technique that is usually done for babies and very young children on an area say 12″ x 4-6″ and reducing it to an area of about 2″ x 1″, and then crafting that finished embroidery piece into a garment that was somewhat more complicated in construction compared to most of the handmade Blythe garments being sold at that time.

I was really nervous about this. This won’t be much of a surprise to my regular readers as I seem to be nervous about every damned thing, but really, I was actually scared to put out something so different. In retrospect, I see what a ninny I was, but there’s a certain level of comfort in doing what everyone else is doing.

Overindulgence was my most expensive design ever.

Next thing you know, I had more interest in my work than I knew what to do with. My inbox was flooded with compliments and special requests. I had a waiting list of at least 20 special order clients for months, even though I was asking more than twice as much for these dresses as I did for the original smocked design.  I had started out making quality yet boring dresses for Barbie for $3, and these dresses were earning me an average of $45-$50. The most expensive dress I ever did went for

The design had 6 of these detailed floral spray embroideries

$120, and making the second one of that ridiculously detailed dress just about killed me. Let’s retire that design!

Why did this dress and all the others command such high prices, and why was there so much interest in my work? These were doll dresses for Heaven’s sake. Because I was in a popular niche, yes, but doing something that no one else was doing (people started referring to me as “the crazy smocking lady”) and doing it well because it was something that I loved.

I’ve wanted to write the Talent Chronicles because for years I’ve been loving the superheroes and having to sit back and say: That would have been awesome if they hadn’t screwed it up. The kinds of stories that I really wanted just weren’t part of the genre. Hell, the format that I wanted to work in–novels–really hasn’t been part of the genre. The book category is NOT Comic books, Graphic Novels, and Superhero Novels. There’s no place for me there. Which I’ve decided is fine. I don’t think I really belong there.

Your niche doesn’t have to be something that no one’s ever done before. I certainly didn’t create meta-humans. I want to come to be known for superhero romance, but I didn’t come up with that idea either. Superheroes have had all kinds of love stories, just mostly the kind where someone ends up dead or abandoned. And I’m certainly not the only one working on this. So you don’t have to re-invent the wheel here.

But there are tons of books out there and there are going to be more and more–because anyone can do it now. So now, more than ever before, I think we really need to think about what makes our concept different from everything else that’s out there, and we need to think about how we’re going to use that difference to market our fiction. And if you can’t come up with a difference, maybe you’ll want to take a harder look at what you’re working on. (Maybe not. Your call.)

Same sh!t, different doll. Oh no, wait, that's the same doll too.

Your story is so very special to you. Even my boring dresses and t-shirts were special to me because they were lovingly crafted and I spent a lot of time on them. But I look back at these photos and I can totally see how uninspiring they are. Part of why a lot of indies get angry with traditional publishers is because the publisher says they just can’t see how this is going to stand out and sell. And they know that it’s not enough to have a good book, you’ve got to get some people to read that thing. It’s not enough for us either. We have

My special sh!t for a special doll

to have some sense of what we can say about this book, about what makes it different and better than the sea of books already out there, in order to get people to look at it.

Maybe the hardest thing to accept about a niche is that it’s often small, and that often means small growth. It also means that we’re not always going to be able to make reasonable comparisons between our successes and those of our peers, when our peers are writing for a different audience.

I honestly think I’m writing for the same people who read Twilight (whether they loved it or not), and are still talking about Buffy. But I write vampire-free (I’m thinking of starting a tagging trend on that, btw), so I’m never going to get seen on the Vampire Romance Bestseller List on Amazon, and I’m never going to get found in vampy tag searches. I don’t even have any kind of normal demon/angel/shifter/witchy paranormal anything in my books, and how many people are out there searching “superhero romance”?

Not a lot.

Yet.

Hey, I’m just sayin’.

16 Comments

Filed under writing

Formatting for Print on Demand

Ok, so last week I started talking to you about getting started with CreateSpace. We talked about some things you can do and think about before you really dig into formatting. The last step we talked about was doing one last, careful, super final pass to make sure that text is completely typo-free and just the way you want it.

I should preface the rest of this by saying that there’s actually a lot you can do with interior layout, and if you want to be fancy, you’ll want to find references beyond what I’m going to talk about. This post is about get it done, get it out there, and quit being held back by fear or perfectionism. What I’m going for is a nice, clean, legible read, because I really believe it’s your story that matters. But if you want to dive into the fancy stuff on your first time out, go for it. One book I’ve seen recommended may times is Aaron Shepard’s Perfect Pages. That book deals a lot more with the ins and outs of making Word do what you want it to than it does about design type things. I’m sure there are tons of books and blog posts out there if you poke around long enough.

Hopefully you’ve been looking through some books to see what the insides look like, and to think about what kinds of extra information you’ll add. This is your space. As long as you don’t wind up costing your customer too much money, you can add promo for your other works, the works of your peers, a bio, etc. You should definitely leave a little room to tell the reader where to find you online so they’ll know where to go for more info about your future work.

A quick word about margins, which we didn’t get into the other day. I used equal margins on each side, partly because I had read somewhere that just in case the printing got a little off, it seemed a safe thing to do. In retrospect, I think I might have a wider inside (gutter) margin next time around. If you want to do that, in Word, you’ll go to File, Page Setup, Gutter Position Left, set the Gutter amount that you want (1/4″?), for Multiple Pages select “Mirror Margins.” Don’t be surprised if you page count has changed.

You’ll want to go through that section at the beginning of the book before the story actually starts, the “front matter.” Use Insert, Break, Section Break Next Page to make each page a new section. Use this method for any blank pages you want to add to make text fall on odd or even pages.  For example, the title page is on the right-hand side, or an odd page. The copyright info is usually on an even numbered page. Page 1, the way CreateSpace is counting, is the first page of your document. You can’t print anything on the inside cover (save it for your autograph).

When you start Chapter 1, make sure that’s the start of a new section. All Chapters should be the beginning of a new section (meaning there should be a section break, not a page break.) Continue to scroll through your document. Now you’re looking to make sure each chapter starts on an odd page, and if it doesn’t you’ll add extra section breaks as above. Remember to always work from beginning to end of your document. Each blank page should be its own section, and each new chapter should be the start of a new section. This is probably the most tedious part of the whole thing. This is about page numbering, which we’ll get to later.

Once you’ve added all your blank pages and you’re SURE about your page count, you can go back to CreateSpace to make the cover template. That’s as easy as entering your book size and number of pages and downloading a zip file. What you do with this, I don’t know. I sent mine to Robin and she sent me back a cover. (I ❤ Robin.) CreateSpace has some kind of cover creator thing for you DIYers. Remember to look at some books on your shelf to see what goes on a cover. You’ll probably at least want a short blurb for the back. CreateSpace will take care of your barcode, and the blank spot you leave for that is on your template.

Now you’re going to add headers. Go to File, Page Setup, Layout tab, and under Headers and footers check the box for Different odd and even. Also check the box for Different first page. In your document, skip to the Chapter 1 page. Select View, Header and Footer. A menu bar pops up and so does a text box where your header should be. Page down to the header of the next page. Use your regular old alignment buttons to center the text and type your name. Page down to the third page of your book, center the text and type your title. Now page through the rest of the section. You should have your book title on the odd pages and your name on the even pages.

Hover over the buttons on that little menu bar until you find the one that says Link to Previous. When that button is live, the section that you’re in takes the information from the section before it. Go through and click that button for every section. Go back to Chapter 1 and make sure that what you have is

  • your title on odd pages
  • your name on even pages
  • no headers on blank pages or “Chapter” pages

All of the headers and footers in the “front matter” section should be blank (but only if you’re doing it my way–you can actually do whatever you want). If they’re not, check those link to previous buttons and make sure they’re not activated.

Next step is to add page numbers. Go to the first page of your story, Chapter 1. If you’ve lost your footer box and menu, go to View, Header and Footer to get it back. Click in the footer and click the button for Format Page Number. Select Starts at and put in 1 so that this is where you start counting pages (story pages, for the reader, not actual pages for the printer). If you find there’s a 1 in the footer box in your document, delete it.  Go to the next page’s footer. This time, click the Insert Page Number button. Use the alignment buttons to center the number. Check page 3 and see if there’s a page number.

Page through your document. You should have no page numbers on blank and “Chapter” pages (because those are all the first page of a section). All other pages should have consecutive numbers. If this is not the case, play with it.

If you want page numbers on your “Chapter” pages (I have them, because the convention of not having them annoys me as a reader, but it is more common not to have them), that’s doable. You just have to unlink your sections and insert page numbers on the “Chapter” pages. It’s a pain in the butt.

Double check your front matter section and make sure all headers and footers are blank. Double check that all your headers and footers on blank and “Chapter” pages are empty. Double check, again, that all blank pages fall on the left, or even, and that all new chapters start on right or odd pages. And when you’re done checking, check again.

Another thing that’s worth mentioning is your curly quotes and apostrophes. When characters interrupt each other, as they often do, Word has a habit of making the end quote turn the wrong way. (“Hey, wait a min–“) Additionally, make sure any apostrophes at the beginnings of words are turned properly. When you type a word like ’cause, Word always puts the apostrophe the wrong way. These are things I now fix as I type, but had to go back through and fix when formatting for epublishing and print for Book 1. Make sure your double hyphens became em-dashes (the long, unbroken ones). There are probably other common things to look out for, but these are the ones I can think of and you probably worked a lot of this out when formatting for e anyway.

Once you’re all done, you should be able to Print to PDF. If you don’t have a program installed that allows you to do this, you might try something like PDF Creator or other free program. Google is your friend. Then you’re in for another round or two of just get your eyeballs on it and make sure it’s perfect before uploading.

We’re running long, but if you’re actually doing this, I know you just want me to finish it out.

Once you upload your PDF and your cover, it takes a day or few for CreateSpace to look it over and make sure it’s not going to be crappy in some way. Basically they’re checking to make sure you’ve followed the submission requirements, that all your text is in the printable area, stuff like that. Once it’s been accepted by them, you’ll order your proof.

What you pay for your proof is the cost you were quoted based on the page count. You’ll probably pay about the same for shipping via media mail. This should take about 7-10 days depending on how the mail is, although the site quotes longer. Once you get your book, after you’re done oohing, ahhing, stroking it, taking pictures of it, etc., you’ll want to actually crack it open and make sure everything turned out ok.

Go back to CreateSpace and approve your book. Make sure you’ve got your price set the way you want and that you’ve enrolled in ProPlan if you want (you can go free right now and add that later if you choose), and that you’ve opted into the Expanded Distribution Channel if you choose and have done ProPlan. Your book should show up on Amazon within a few days. If you entered your title exactly as your DTP title, your Kindle and paperback versions should link up automatically. If your page finishes building and they don’t, contact DTP customer service and let them know.

There’s a lot more that can be learned on the subject than what I’ve told you, which is mainly the highlights of what I remember having to learn when I did this, only once, about six months ago. But I hope it helps move you toward getting a print edition out there.

My book uses 12pt Times New Roman with 1/2″ margins, no gutter. Headings, headers, and footers are done in Engravers MT. I did no kerning of the text at all. The text is left-justified. If you’d like to see how that came out, you can Look Inside the Book on Amazon.

8 Comments

Filed under self-publishing

Beginning Steps in Print

I don’t know why I’m so all-fired motivated to get you guys to put out print books, but yeah, here’s another post about it. I wrote this before I went on break, but while I’ve been away I’ve read yet again that it’s Soooooo hard to format for print. For CreateSpace even! Arg. It’s enough to make a girl come back and schedule some posts.

This is going to be some more nuts and bolts type first steps, and is going to be about CreateSpace. That’s what I used, I liked it, I recommend it. If you want to do something else, that’s cool, and this post may or may not be helpful to you. Welcome to the crap-shoot that is my blog.

Stuff you can easily do today, so get off your ass.

Ok, possibly unnecessary, but if you’ve been dithering or otherwise dragging your feet on this (like I did), for whatever reason, here’s a little kick in the pants.

Today, just go create an account. You don’t have to do anything with it, you’re not obligated to use it, but it’s a good first step. It’s just your basic username/password, email addy, and they’d like to know what you’re planning to publish (book, DVD, etc.) While you’re there, go find the places where you enter payment info. You’ll need to put a credit card on file for when you buy stuff, like ordering your proof copy, or later when you order your copies at cost for giveaways and reviewers. Also, find the place where you enter your payee info. Because they’re gonna need to know where to send your big fat royalties.

A good next step would be to choose your book size. You don’t have to do anything or commit to anything here, I’m just saying figure it out in your head, so you know. My method for choosing my book size was very scientific. I IMed Zoe and asked, “What size did you go with for Blood Lust?” She said 5.5″ x 8.5″. I went back to CreateSpace and double-checked that that would be a good size with the Expanded Distribution Channel and all that, and it was all good. So if you don’t have a preference, you can also go with 5.5″ x 8.5″ for the simple reason that we did. Decision made.

Can you handle another to-do today? Assuming you have a completed manuscript, open it up, do a Save As, and then in the new copy change the page size to whatever you chose for your book size. See how many pages you’ve got. Go back to CreateSpace and play with the calculators. If you can’t find them, try the Publish tab, click the Books on Demand link, then the Pricing tab. The other calculator is under Sales & Royalties. Between the two of these, you can start to get an idea of what this book is going to cost and how you can price it. You can go back to your document and play with margins, fonts and font sizes, extra content, etc, and more or less decide on a number of pages. (You can find recommended margins based on number of pages under the Submission Requirements tab.)

Do NOT finalize your cover or send a CreateSpace template to your cover designer until you are certain about the number of pages. Changing the page count will affect the cover template.

Now that you know how many final pages you’re shooting for, you can start your formatting. The biggest part of this will be the most thorough proof-reading ever. Be certain you’ve got as many bugs out of this manuscript as humanly possible because once this is done, you will be charged a fee to make changes in the future.

Set a goal for this proof-reading pass, and schedule proofing a set number of pages per day to reach your goal. Because proof-reading is boring. To avoid being caught up in the wonderful awesomeness of your story, I very much recommend starting from the end. Read each page from top to bottom so that you’ll still understand the context, but turn the pages from right to left instead of left to right. If you’re like me, working this way will help you catch a lot more of the missed word/incorrect word typos that your brain typically fills in automatically. If you’re not good at this, consider shipping this off to a professional copy-editor.

That should keep you busy for a little while. Next week I’m going to talk about things like headers and footers, page numbering, blank pages, etc., and how I handled those. It’s easier to do that stuff AFTER the rest of the text is perfected. Trust me.

3 Comments

Filed under self-publishing, writing