Thursday, March 28, 2013

Whoseywhatsit Thursday: Procrastination

Hi. My name is Larissa, and I have a procrastination problem.

sea otters
Image courtesy of Becca Puglisi via WanaCommons
Oh, look! Sea otters! *checks my Daily Otter email, googles "cute otter pics"*

I've always been a bit of a procrastinator. And, actually, I do some of my best work when I'm under the pressure of a deadline.

Unfortunately, since I am (thus far) unagented and uncontracted, I don't have any deadlines to motivate me. And I have been having some SERIOUS procrastination issues lately.

If it's not exhaustion from my day job, it's my kids needing something. Which are both legitimate uses of time.

Playing never-ending games of Candy Crush Saga? Not so much.

I also recently joined Netflix (finally, I know), and have spent a bunch of time watching some of my old favorite movies. (Seriously, Girls Just Want to Have Fun is SO FREAKIN AWESOME. Also, CLUE, y'all.) Ahem.

So, what are your procrastination downfalls? What do you do to get yourself back on track?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Writer's Wednesday: The Pros & Cons of Indie Publishing

This is a re-post from the post I did at Indie ReCon.  I wanted to share it again here in case you missed it last month.  I think it's important for everyone to know the pros and cons of trying to get traditionally published versus taking the reins in your own hands and going Indie.

The Honest Inside Scoop or the Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing

(An introductory note: my comparison focuses on self-published Indies, not Indies who use independent publishers, i.e., small houses.)

I know. Many of you are new to the world of Indie publishing and it looks pretty rosy.  The news loves to tout Indie turned best-selling authors.  Indies are making their own to-die-for covers.  And best of all, Indies are making money now and not having to wait years for their first book to see the light of day.  Plus, you have full creative control of your story. It sounds glorious, right?

Let me be the first to stand up and tell you that Indie publishing is wonderful.  On many different levels.  I braved the waters because I knew my book was ready and I knew the market for mythology would pass me by if I waited for a traditional deal.  And I was right.  If I hadn’t jumped when I did, Destined may never have seen the light of day.  And for that, I will forever be grateful that I chose Indie.

What I didn’t know about -- not really -- were some of the cons that come with being Indie.  So before you make the leap into Indie waters yourself, here are some considerations to weigh carefully.  (If you don’t want to read my detailed explanations, you can skip ahead to the end, where I have a chart.  I recommend reading through this though, so you can make a fully-informed decision.)

First, let me be clear, I’m not talking about the “stigma.”  Haters gonna hate, right?  But even the perception that Indie equals inferior product is rapidly falling away.  There are some people, though, who will not feel successful unless their book is produced by a traditional publisher.  If you fall within that category, then read no further.  This is a personal choice and no one here will judge you for feeling that way.  Truly.  You will not be happy going Indie because it will feel like a compromise to you.  It’s not worth it.  Step number 1 in being Indie is to embrace it.

Con #1: Time.  Don’t tell me, "Well, even traditional publishers put you on deadlines and you still have to do your own marketing."  That’s 100% true.  BUT -- when you’re Indie, you’re it.  You are in charge of every aspect of your book business, because that’s what it becomes: a business.  You have to account for your income and expenses (including those all important tax write-offs!). You have to hire your designer, editor, and formatter (if that’s not something you’re equipped to handle yourself).  You have to decide which channels to sell your book through, decide if you’re going to have a paperback version, and which POD company to use.  You have to promote your book, which is not only the social media you typically think of, but advertising through other channels like Kindle Fire Department and Facebook, as well as setting up blog tours.  

Are you starting to get the picture?  The reason you get such a small percentage of royalties with a traditional publisher is because they are paying people to worry about most of those things for you.  With Indie, you keep everything you bring in, but you work for it.  If being Indie is a second job for you (like it was for me), be aware that the business of Indie publishing will start to gobble up that time you used to use for writing.  It can be consuming.  In my mind, this is the biggest con of being an Indie author who also has a day job.

Con #2: Money Up Front.  Remember earlier when I said you have to hire your designer, editor, and formatter?  Did you catch the “hire” part there?  Yes, I’m talking about an outlay of funds.  Money coming out of your pocket before you make dime one.  Before going Indie, consider whether you can afford to make this investment in your book.  It is an investment and you cannot skimp on these areas if you hope to achieve success.  

For example, unless you can create a professional looking cover (like the lovely Chelsea Fine or Heather McCorkle), you should never undertake this task yourself.  The cover is the single-biggest piece of advertising your book will have.  It’s your novel’s calling card.  I’ve heard of great designers who will do a book cover (not spine or back for paperbacks) for $99.  That’s the floor.  You can go up to several hundred dollars, plus the cost of buying your stock art.  If you want custom photography, you can add several hundred more dollars to the price tag.

Editors are another area that you truly don’t want to skimp on if you’re trying to distinguish yourself as a professional Indie (and you are, right?!?!)  Your beta reads and friends are great, but they are not a substitute for a professional.  Neither is spell check.  To avoid falling prey to the inevitable reviews complaining of pacing, inconsistencies, or even just typos, you are looking at at least another couple hundred dollars.

Finally, e-book formatting is not as easy as it looks.  Lots of Indie authors will tell you it’s doable and I’m sure that it is -- with time.  Since I found time was already in short supply, I also hired someone to format my novel.  That’s typically another hundred dollars.

Of course, in addition to paying these folks, you’ve got to find them and manage them.  You can add that to the list of time-draining activities associated with being Indie.

You’ve also got to buy your ISBN and copyright.

Con #3: Blogger Support.  (Please don’t be mad at me if you’re one of the awesome bloggers who fully supports Indie authors.)  But the vast majority of bloggers have been overrun with requests from Indie authors to review their novels and have had to turn them away entirely. If you’ve done your work and created a professional novel, you will probably have some bloggers reach out to you and ask for a review copy.  That being said, most of your own requests for reviews will likely be turned away.  And since blogs are one of the biggest ways of spreading the word about your novel, not having full access to these channels can be frustrating, if not problematic.  The good news is that many bloggers will agree to do a cover reveal or host a spot on your blog tour even if they don’t do a review.  While not as powerful as a good review, space to share your novel is worth taking!

Con #4: Marketing Reach.  Not only are you doing all of your own marketing as an Indie, but you likely won’t have the same reach as a traditional publisher.  You won’t have a 3x life-size poster of your book cover up at BEA.  You won’t have cross-author or cross-title promotion coming from your publishing house.  You likely won’t be in a brick and mortar store.  You likely won’t have a big launch party and multiple signings at local bookstores.

Con #5: Standing Out.  This ties in with marketing reach.  There’s a reason you’re hearing so much about Indie publishing these days.  It’s because it’s working for a lot of people.  Meaning, a lot of people are trying it out.  Even best selling traditionally published authors are throwing their hats into the Indie arena.  Rising above the masses in Indie is becoming increasingly more difficult.  Although you will get tips for how to do this in other parts of this conference, just know that you will be one of millions out there.  Getting noticed in the absence of a traditional publisher’s marketing reach is difficult.

Con #6: Learning Curve.  I almost forgot this one, because once you have the knowledge, it becomes second nature.  (In traditional publishing, I think this would be non-existent, since your publisher handles these things for you.)  But here are some examples.  Do you know the difference between an .epub and .mobi file?  Do you know which one to upload to Amazon and which one to Barnes & Noble?  Do you know that if you distribute through all channels available on Smashwords it can take weeks for your changes to take effect?  Do you know what Smashwords is?  Do you have publishing accounts with Kindle Direct Publishing, PubIt! (B&N), Kobo Writing Life, Apple and Smashwords?  Do you know if you’re going to use CreateSpace or  Lightning Source (or another) printer for your POD copies?  Do you know the price and quality differences between the two?  Do you know how to buy your ISBN?  Do you know whether you’re going to establish your own company for publication (like I did with Mae Day Publishing) and how to go about that? 

You get the idea...

So that you don’t think I’m a total Debbie Downer, let’s talk about the pros of Indie publishing.

Pro #1: Timing (not to be confused with the “con” of time).  Do you hate sending out query letters and waiting?  Do you have a story that is in a “hot” genre right now and you’re afraid it will pass you by if you have to wait for a traditional deal?  Well, in Indie publishing, you control the timing of your release.  You want it out in time for Valentine’s Day?  Done.  That’s totally within your control.  In fact, you control all aspects of your book sales.  You want to lower your price for a weekend promotion (and do it spur of the moment) and raise it back up?  Totally your call.  

And here’s another beautiful thing about timing in the Indie world.  Not only can you do it faster than in traditional publishing, but you can do it longer.  You don’t have to worry about losing your shelf-space in a brick-and-mortar building because your sales aren’t happening fast enough.  You don’t have to worry about being back-listed.  Time is on your side.  In our virtual world (which is where Indies thrive), you can leave your novel on sale for as long as you want.

Pro #2: Publishing Prolifically Through a Long Career.  Which brings me to another important “pro” of being Indie... you thought being back listed was bad?  What happens when you don’t earn out with your traditional deal (which happens ALL the time)?  I’ll tell you: publishing homicide.  Your career is dead in the water.  Not so with Indie.  If your first book doesn’t catch on fire, you write another.  And another.  Who’s going to tell you “no”?  No one!!  And when one of those books finally gets a little traction, you’ve got a stable of other titles already waiting for your adoring fans.

Pro #3: Earning Money.  I know I listed money under the “con” column already, and it’s true that with Indie, you have an initial outlay of money that you don’t with a traditional deal.  But to move money into the “pro” column, you’ve got to look no further than the fact that you keep a much higher percentage of what you make.  (I’d say you keep 100% of your sales, but that’s not entirely true.   Depending on the price you set for your novel, your e-book royalty rate will be between 35-85%.  Companies like Amazon pay only 35% if your price is $.99 or less but offer 70% if you price above that.  Smashwords offers the highest royalties, but your customers are less likely to find you there.  (Compare with traditional publishing, where a typical royalty is 8-12%.)

Now, let’s be honest, there are many, many Indies out there who struggle to sell a few e-copies a month, so their percentage may not amount to much.  But you’ll also meet many Indies who are supporting themselves quite nicely of their stable of novels.  Series and serial novellas tend to really be the key to large earnings, but you’ll hear more about that later in the conference.  My point is, as an Indie, you can put out a novella every month (it happens!) and keep the bulk of the profits from all of those sales.  

Moreover, it’s common knowledge that advances are on the decline.  While you may get a little money in your pocket up front (after paying your agent), unless your meager royalty “earns out” your advance or you strike gold and see film rights or have the next best-selling series, your advance is likely all the money you will ever make on your novel.

Pro #4: Control.  As an Indie, no one gets to tell you how to re-write your story.  No one gets to tell you when your novel comes out (as I mentioned in timing).  No one gets to assign you a cover you don’t like.  You have full control of every aspect of your novel and if you’re a control-freak person (like me), this thought makes you anxious.  Plus, if your novel doesn’t fit into a traditional genre, that’s also not a problem, because you get to control how you market and distribute your book.

Pro #5: Rights.  As an Indie, you keep all of your rights.  World rights.  Audio rights.  Film rights.  You’ll likely give these, or most of these, up if you sell your novel to a traditional publisher.  That being said, your chances of getting International or film rights are pretty limited if you Indie publish.  And a note of caution: Indies are often approached by foreign companies inquiring about translation rights.  And that sounds super-exciting, right?  Your novel translated into Turkish!  Just beware.  Investigate the person and company to be sure they are legitimate.  Don’t send over your manuscript without some written agreement.  And if you are approached for translation or film rights, consider hiring an agent or attorney so you don’t wind up on the raw end of a deal.

And where are Indie and traditional publishing equal?  Serendipity.  You’re just as likely to land your dream agent on your first query as you are to be the next Indie best seller.  So much in this business is timing and luck and that doesn’t change, no matter which path you choose.

So, good luck to you all!  I wish you all the best on your path to publication, no matter which route you select.

And, as promised, here is your chart.  And “X” appears in the column that favors the method of publishing.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TBR TUESDAY: Transparent by Natalie Whipple

It's Tuesday - time to talk about a book in our To Be Read stack.

Transparent by Natalie Whipple is due to hit shelves on May 21st by HarperTeen. I've actually met Natalie in person - and she's just as sweet and supportive in person as she is online (I've sorta been a Twitter stalker of hers for a while now!)

And the book sounds amazing! Can't wait to pick it up.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.
Make sure to follow Natalie on her blog and Twitter!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Whoseewhatsit Thursday ~ using Pinterest

I know many writers try to avoid encountering more distractions -- ya know, those things that keep you from the business of actually writing your story -- but here are three very good reasons you should consider spending "some" time on Pinterest.

1.  Inspiration is at your fingertips!
I know you've got an amazing world crafted in your brain, but sometimes you just need a little prompting on the details.  For instance, if you're writing about a lace wedding gown but want to get some more ideas of what an all-lace gown might look like in your wildest dreams, just type in "lace wedding gown" in the search and you'll get 100s of results - everything from vintage to romantic to downright sexy.
Or maybe you need an idea of a fantasy underwater world.  A search using those exact terms turns up some amazing results.  Try it!

2.  Use it to store your ideas and inspiration.
Have you ever seen something online and thought, "that would be perfect for my book?"  Well, now you can quickly pin it to an inspiration board so you have it to come back to and reference in the future.  Boards are also a good way to store a variety of ideas and choose between them side-by-side.  So say you're trying to envision the perfect front porch for your characters to kiss on, you can pin a bunch of porches you find on line and then decide between them when they're all in one place.  When you think about it this way, you'll be saving time!

3.  You can find or connect with readers here.
If you're an already published author, Pinterest is another possible place to find and connect with readers.  You can have boards related to your book and pin everything from your dream cast, to inspiration pieces for location, to what a specific outfit a character wore looks like. Today's readers expect lots of bonus material, and this is one way to give it to them.  For example, I have this board on Destined.  It's got the pictures I used for inspiration when I was writing, an updated dream cast, and some pictures of Eros and Psyche that I love by some talented artists out there.  Plus, if you put the right key words in the description under your book title, you just might find some more readers who are interested in your theme or genre.  It can't hurt!!

For more inspiration, check out Ann's awesome board for Broken.
Sheri's chic board for Marked Beauty.
Sean's inside peek into Poltergeeks.
Nikki's inspiration for Archipelago.
Larissa's board of stunning characters.
Jessica's brief but alluring look inside Renegade.
And Judy... well, she just received her invitation so she can come join the rest of us slackers, er, inspiration seekers.

What ways have you found to use Pinterest productively as an author?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An e-book publisher made you an offer!! Now What?

I have a Sony Touch and it's my preferred choice when reading books. It's my second Sony e-reader. I used to have a Sony PRS 505 which had a hefty price tag when it first came out. 

I acquired my e-reader shortly after I'd published my first novel with a start-up e-book publisher in the U.S. I didn't carry any grand hopes and aspirations when I decided to sign with them, I was just bloody glad that someone out there thought my novel about a 40-something superhero was entertaining enough to publish. That was back in 2008 and now flash forward  five years to a slightly wiser and more successful author, the question arises: would I do it all again?

Now I'm not besmirching the good name of e-book publishers and their authors, I want to make a couple of things clear. First off, e-books still only represent about 5% of sales in publishing. That number is expected to grow in the coming years and over the past 24 months, we've seen an explosion in the number of print publishers starting their own e-book imprints. This is an anticipatory move, in my view, because ebook readers have dropped below the psychological $100 affordability barrier and they can be found for sale pretty much at all retail outlets.

But ...

What about e-book publishers?

There's a TON of e-book publishers out there - some are scams and some aren't. Some report their sales figures and most don't. Some have brand identification and consistently put out a good product while others, not so much. If you're an author, you have to put on your thinking cap and do a little bit of research into an e-book publisher because they're not all created equally and as a result, you might wind up with abysmal book sales.

 This might have to do with the quality of the books at a given publisher, but in actual fact, my gut tells me it's about marketing and brand.

You are an unknown author and if you choose to accept an offer of publication with a little known e-publisher, the chances of your book making any money are pretty damned slim. Even if you accept an offer from an established e-publisher, how do they market your book? Print publishers work very hard to ensure product placement at major book stores, but e-publishers are still pretty much unknown to the book-buying public who actually own an e-book reader.

Brand matters. Period.  If you sign with an unknown e-publisher, they'll probably get your book listed on Amazon, but will it sell? Well, chances are unless you have a viable social network then my answer to that question would be:

I was lucky - I ended my relationship with my e-book publisher because my book wasn't selling. No, the book didn't suck - it's just that I was an unknown author struggling to get his book noticed with a largely unknown e-book publisher in a market where e-books make up about 5% of books published in a world where e-book readers still aren't owned by the vast majority of consumers.

And that's really the critical factor I'd recommend any author to consider before they decide to submit to an e-book publisher: does my novel have a ghost of a chance of making any money at all?

Yes, there are some e-book authors who've developed a following and make a fine living writing e-books, but remember: they're the exception and not the rule. Kindle, the gold standard in ebook readers can be purchased for as little as sixty bucks now but does this mean that readers are going to buy an e-book from a largely unknown e-publisher? I doubt it: they're going to buy from an established retailer like Amazon and they're probably going to purchase something from a bestselling author whose book is published by a known print publisher who just so happens to digitize their books and who sells them on Amazon or Chapters or Barnes and Noble.

Oh ... and did I mention the glut of self-published ebooks you have to compete with? Oy! I get Twitter spam every day from authors who are following me and trying to flog their self-pubbed piece of crap which they are *giving* away on Amazon. It drives a person nuts!

I'm going to make a prediction and it might not be a popular one, but here goes:

I think that within five years, we're going to see a ton of small e-publishers disappear. I think we're going to see measured growth for e-publishers who are a known quantity, and I expect that large publishing houses are probably going to buy them out if they're profitable. By then we'll also see that major print publishers will have an e-book imprint and will be selling e-books direct from their own corporate websites as well as online venues like Amazon.

What this means for the struggling author is that the small independent e-publishers will probably be gone and that e-books having become mainstream will follow the same rules as print books from a major publisher - get an agent.

It ain't pretty, but in truth, there's a helluva lot of bad e-books out there. There's a lot of scam publishers and there's a market flooded with e-books from e-publishers nobody has ever heard of before. That's the reality of e-book publishing in 2013.

I'll close by stating an old rule of sales: people buy from those they like and trust. People trust major publishing houses and they know established brands. This is bad news for small e-publishers, but publishing has always been a risky venture. Authors still face incredible hurdles on their way to publication, but as the price of e-readers continues to drop, the more mainstream they will become. As more and more people invest in them, they're going to shop for books the same way they buy print books: from someone they know and trust (Hello Amazon) and based on the recommendations of those in their social circle (Hello Goodreads).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

TBR TUESDAY: If I Should Die, by Amy Plum


From Goodreads:
I will not lose another person I love. I will not let history repeat itself.

Vincent waited lifetimes to find me, but in an instant our future together was shattered. He was betrayed by someone we both called a friend, and I lost him. Now our enemy is determined to rule over France’s immortals, and willing to wage a war to get what they want.

It shouldn’t be possible, none of it should be, but this is my reality. I know Vincent is somewhere out there, I know he’s not completely gone, and I will do anything to save him.

After what we’ve already fought to achieve, a life without Vincent is unimaginable. He once swore to avoid dying—to go against his nature and forsake sacrificing himself for others—so that we could be together. How can I not risk everything to bring my love back to me?

From Amazon:
If I Should Die delivers a stunning, deeply satisfying conclusion to the international bestselling Die for Me trilogy by Amy Plum.

Kate is devastated. Her boyfriend Vincent is a revenant who waited lifetimes to find her. But once he did their future together was shattered almost immediately. They were betrayed by their trusted ally, Violette. She killed Vincent and destroyed his body so that he could not be reanimated.

Now Vincent is doomed to roam the earth as a spirit. But Kate isn’t willing to accept life without her true love. She’ll risk anything to save him, even as Violette, their friend-turned-enemy, begins to wage a war to rule over France’s Immortals.

Amy Plum created an intricate, original mythology for her YA paranormal series. The books, set in Paris, the City of Lights, introduce readers to revenants, undead beings who must sacrifice themselves again and again to save the lives of strangers.

Amazon link

It's not secret I'm an Amy Plum super fan. I fell for her Revenants and fell for them hard with the first book Die for Me. Her spin on life nd love after death, in the gorgeous French setting just sang to me. If I Should Die if the final book, and I am excited to get my hands on it and just hertbroken to see it all end. I've loved these characters and this storyline far too fondly to close the book on them. 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Whoseywhatsit Thursday~Critiques Up 4 Grabs!!

Life can be funny sometimes. And confusing and hard and playful and sad and frustrating and, and, and.... So can the process of writing stories. Writers put so much of who they are into their work, it's inevitable that the gamut of possible emotions and motivations get involved.

So today, I'm offering a little peace of mind to our writer friends and loyal followers. Leave a comment, get your friends to leave a comment, and include either the first 100 words of your current WIP or logline no longer than two sentences. One or more of your Oasis staff will respond over the next few days in the comments with a critique!!

Sharing this offer would be so cool of you! *WINK*

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Writer's Wednesday: The Dreaded Adverb

I'm sure you've heard it before ... I know I have.

Avoid the adverb! Slash them out of your manuscript. Replace your verbs with something stronger.

I realize some adverbs can't be replaced with another verb. But before you leave them in, shrugging your shoulders in defeat, ask yourself the following:

Am I Being Lazy? 
Sometimes an adverb is a lazy choice for a verb. So really take a look at your verb and adverb combo.

Example: Jennifer came up to me and said quietly, "He's staring at you."
Updated: Jennifer came up to me and whispered, "He's staring at you."

Am I Telling?
A lot of my adverbs are me telling, not showing. See if you can edit your adverb/verb with a different action altogether.

Example: Jennifer came up to me and said quietly, "He's staring at you."
Updated: Jennifer leaned over, her breath a sigh against my ear. "He's staring at you."

Am I Using My Character's Voice?
If you're using adverbs in dialogue or in first person POV, it may be a part of your character's voice. Or it may not be. See if you can infuse your character into your word choice.

Example: Jennifer came up to me and said quietly, "He's staring at you."
Updated: Jennifer's sigh lasted longer than Mama's pecan pie at Thanksgiving dinner. "He's staring at you."

Am I Not Trusting My Reader?
I've noticed I have a tendency to tell the reader every little detail - when sometimes I just need to trust them to figure it out. If you've done your job in setting up your world and your characters, your reader can often figure out how they are moving and speaking without you telling them.

Example: Jennifer came up to me and said quietly, "He's staring at you."
Updated: The classroom fell silent as Mr. Thomas stepped into the room. Jennifer leaned in. "He's staring at you."

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

TBR Tuesday: Let the Sky Fall

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

For my TBR Tuesday post, I thought I'd spotlight Shannon Messenger's Let the Sky Fall, since it releases today.

From Goodreads:

A broken past and a divided future can’t stop the electric connection of two teens in this “charged and romantic” (Becca Fitzpatrick), lush novel.

Seventeen-year-old Vane Weston has no idea how he survived the category five tornado that killed his parents. And he has no idea if the beautiful, dark-haired girl who’s swept through his dreams every night since the storm is real. But he hopes she is.

Seventeen-year-old Audra is a sylph, an air elemental. She walks on the wind, can translate its alluring songs, and can even coax it into a weapon with a simple string of commands. She’s also a guardian—Vane’s guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect Vane at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing her own life.

When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra’s forced to help Vane remember who he is. He has a power to claim—the secret language of the West Wind, which only he can understand. But unlocking his heritage will also unlock the memory Audra needs him to forget. And their greatest danger is not the warriors coming to destroy them—but the forbidden romance that’s grown between them.

Have any of you read it yet? What did you think? What's on your TBR list today?
Related Posts with Thumbnails