“Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down”

September 15, 2011

No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.  ~Russell Lynes

By: Stacey Purcell

I’m sure a lot of you have read about author Kiana Davenport’s trouble with a large traditional publishing house. In case you haven’t, I’ll do a short re-cap. This author signed a deal for a book that she wrote which was due to come out in 2012.

So far, so good.

Ms. Davenport has won numerous awards, been previously published and by all rights is a wonderful writer. She is also a fashion model who lived the high life and spent most all of her money. She submitted and was accepted by Riverhead, an imprint of Penguin books. The terms for her new contract were less than what she used to command, but she needed the money that the advance would pay.

Just prior to this arrangement, she came across Joe Konrath’s blog about self-publishing and turned to him for help. With a bit of guidance, she sold a collection of short stories and was successful! She then published a second collection and  the proverbial poop hit the fan!

 “The editor shouted at me repeatedly on the phone.  I was accused of breaching my contract (which I did not) but worse, of ‘blatantly betraying them with Amazon,’ their biggest and most intimidating competitor.  I was not trustworthy.  I was sleeping with the enemy.”

Kiana Davenport immediately hired a lawyer. (Good for her!) He pointed out that the first collection was published before she signed the contract, so they turned their attention to the second collection and demanded that she take it off line, erase all mention on the internet about her short stories and that she submit in writing that she would not publish any of her back log items while her current book was with them. (That would represent a good two or more years of her life.)

Can you say straight jacket?

She refused. (Yay!) They terminated their contract and demanded her advance back. They are also holding her novel hostage until she sends them the money. That’s the whole sordid affair in a nutshell.

My first response to reading about her plight was disbelief. I simply couldn’t believe that an established business under the banner of an even bigger company would resort to classic bully tactics fronted by their legal department. After spending several hours researching articles posted by several amazing bloggers (lawyers included), I can say I was wrong. Do they not realize writers have blogs? Stories like this WILL get out and spread like wild fire.

Authors are urged to remember they are “professionals” in most every writing group out there. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it ad nauseum to always be on my best behavior, remember this is a profession, dress appropriately etc. etc. etc. So I ask the question, “How professional was it that the editor screamed at her over the phone? How professional was it that they called her agent offering treats so she would move forward in the right spirit?” I would also answer the questions by saying that they seem to be on shaky legal ground.

I haven’t seen the contract, I can only interpret the actions by both parties. If the publisher thought they had an iron clad legal stand, there wouldn’t be such an emotional outburst on the editor’s part, and they wouldn’t have tried to offer incentives for her to agree to their terms.

“The vice president and publisher of that house called my agent, offering extra little sweetmeats if I would just capitulate and ‘adopt the right spirit going forward.’  This somewhat sinister and semi-benevolent attempt at mind-control fascinated me.”

I think someone at Riverhead omitted the clause about what they would allow her to publish or not publish during the tenure of their agreement. I also think that if all of the above is true, then they are in breach of contract. By terminating the contract and demanding the advance back, on baseless grounds, they are now in the wrong. I believe they are bluffing by demanding the advance back and I’ll bet that her lawyer is telling her much the same thing. **Remember, I’m not a lawyer and am only expressing my thoughts.**

This whole story makes me sad. Not every publisher is a bad guy, some actually support the idea that the author is out there drumming up business and making their presence known on line. It seems to me that it’s a win-win situation and a model that would help traditional publishers stay afloat in this tumultuous time. Scenarios, like this, hurt everyone and I hope that the coming days as the landscape dramatically changes in our business, we will see calmer, more rational behavior from all.


Take some responsibility! by Candi Wall

September 12, 2011

So I hit the purchase button the other night SEVEN times. Yeah, you heard me right. Seven times. For a grand total of $21. and some change.

I don’t part easily with my money, except when it comes to books. I could spend THOUSANDS. (Checking to make sure hubby didn’t read that.) Below is what my house will probably look like some day.

I usually don’t complain. But here’s the thing. I read the first book – LOVED IT – and went on to the next. It was a .99 cent purchase from an author I didn’t know, self-pubbed and I liked the premise. Hey I’ll give anyone a chance. ONCE.

I hadn’t reached the end of the first chapter when I realized I’d given my money away for nothing. I groaned, archived the sucker and went on to the next one. The next wasn’t as bad, but there was a plot hole the size of Jupiter about midway through and by this point I was losing interest in the hero. Too bad, because it started off as a good read. Darn.

I’ve twittered several times about this as well, venting my frustration for the self-pubbed authors who are making other self-pubbed author look bad. Every reader who has a bad experience with a self-pubbed book makes it harder for other authors to sell! Argh, the frustration! And I’m not even self-pubbed.

At this point, hubby was starting to get sick of my ‘waspish’ attitude. After three more days, my results were:

Seven purchases

1- Loved

2- Liked

4- Couldn’t finish

I know – it’s a crap shoot right?!?

NO! It isn’t.

And here’s where dear hubby had all he was going to take.

In his words…

“What did you expect, hon?” Raising a quizzical brow. “If you go to Wal-Mart and buy a vacuum for twenty bucks, you get what you pay for. It’s like buying toilet paper at the dollar store. It ain’t gonna hold up.” (Yep, I’m married to a thinner version of Larry the Cable Guy.)

Well how dare he. I have friends who self publish. That’s not fair! (Insert indignant foot-stomping) “There are tons of authors out there with brilliant books!”

“Really?” says hubby. “Then you would think you’d do your homework before you buy.”

GADS! He’s SO right. And I’m so not going to tell him that. Sheesh.

What was I thinking?!?

We’ve been spoiled peeps. Let’s face it. The publishers we’ve come to trust have given us so many great books, we may have forgotten how to check the products first. Don’t get me wrong, one person’s crap is another’s gold. I hate what you love at times and visa-versa. But we came to rely on what they put out there.

Now if we, the consumer, are going to gripe about prices and go elsewhere to read at super cheap prices, we’ll have to start doing our own research. We’re spoiled again however, because there is this ingenious little thing called the World Wide Web. Search engines abound, and at any time, we can sluice through the crap to ferret out the truth, or at least get a sense of what we’re getting into.

Here’s my new list of things I check BEFORE I purchase:

  • Google the author
  • Do they have blogs?
  • Reviews? (Other than where I’m purchasing from and checking the author’s responses to reviews)
  • Any other books out?
  • Website?
  • And of course – I ask my writing/reading pals
Seems like a lot of work, but hey, there are some amazing authors out there getting lost in the shuffle of self-pubbing. I want to find, support and enjoy them. If that means I have to do a few minutes of research, so be it. I’m a big girl, I can handle the responsibility of checking out my purchase’s history beforehand. After all, who wants a $20 vacuum that doesn’t work, when you can get the fantastic $5 super sweeper that might just be the next big thing?
So take some responsibility as readers! Check it out first.
🙂

Welcome Saranna DeWylde and THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF MOUNT OLYMPUS

September 5, 2011

Hello All,

I’m super excited to have this writer here today. I was lucky enough to find and befriend Saranna DeWylde during the Next Best Celler contest at Textnovel, and I’m extremely lucky we’ve stayed pals since. I could list her qualities (one of which happens to be a ridiculously fast and super efficient crit partner who puts me to SHAME) but I’ll let you get to know her through her writing, which is what drew me to her in the first place.

Saranna recently released her uber sexy THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF MOUNT OLYMPUS and she’ll be giving away one PDF copy to one lucky comment EVERY TEN COMMENTS! Sweet!

I loved this book in its earliest draft and now – awesome.

Love the cover!

Welcome Saranna!

Let’s start out easy! What do you write and is there one genre you wish you could write but don’t?

I write paranormal romance, urban fantasy, contemporary and erotica. I also write a bit of true crime. I used to be a horror author but after my employment as a corrections officer, it sort of changed what I wanted out of my career and what I wanted to put out into the world. I’ve even got a romantic suspense that’s been poking at me to give it some attention.

The second part of the question is harder to answer. I don’t really write in genre, (contrary to labels I slapped on myself in the previous paragraph. *laughs*) I write the story that wants to be told. The one living in my head. So, if I have a hard-boiled cop story in my head, that’s what I write. If I have a historical in my head, I’ll write it. I think anyone can do the same as long as you’re true to the characters and the story that needs/wants to be told.

Um, the correction’s officer part is true and Saranna just sold her memoir about that time in her life. WOOT! Okay, back on subject. Are you a plotter or pantser?

Mostly a pantser. I usually have a general idea of what I want to happen, major plot points in my head when I start. I don’t write it down though, or make a story arc or an *shudders* outline. I do, every so often, write down some GMC statements where I can see them. Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Just to remind myself what drives my characters and that really helps me keep them in character so I don’t have to go back and delete 20K of material because it’s not working.

Can you tell us what made you decide to self-publish Housewives?

It was a tough decision, but everyone who read it as far as agents and editors were concerned told me they thought it was too snarky. But my critique partner and other beta readers loved it. More importantly, *I* loved it. I believe in it. There is so much more to it than the snark and it’s using the gods as they were meant to be used. As an allegory for ourselves and what I like best about romance–in that it shows us redemption and happily ever afters are possible for all of us.

Further, publishing is changing so fast now. It’s shifting with new technology, new ways to get stories to readers and new ways to connect with each other. Platforms, markets, and even product are all in a spin. I wanted to dip my toe in the water and check it out. So far, it’s been great. I got exactly what I wanted for this book as far as character, content, even my cover is exactly what I imagined.

Regardless of whether I’m with a traditional publisher, an epublisher, and indie publisher or publishing myself building a backlist is important.

I had requests for something after I did some promo for my Kensington books that won’t be out until 2012.

So, you add all of that together in a big blender and get the self-publish smoothie.

Smoothies, yum. Okay, even a publishing smoothie is yummy considering so many of my fav authors are putting out titles on their own. So is there one pro and one con you’ve found from your experience self-pubbing?

They’re the same thing. Being responsible for everything myself. It was cool because like I mentioned earlier, I got to produce this product exactly to my specifications and my visions.

But wow, the pressure. There were some things I had trouble with and luckily I have awesome friends who were right there to jump in the fire with me and help me out.

Any advice for those considering the self-pub path?

I’ve only done it with one book so far, but I’ve learned that people do expect more from a self-pub book because of the stigma of being self-pubbed. It’s not as bad as it used to be, there are a lot of good books out there self-pubbed. But don’t let it get to you. Accept it and prove them wrong. Put out the best product you can. Engage an editor, take time with your cover and remember a book isn’t just your creative expression, it’s a product. If you want people to buy it, you have to treat it like a product and you are the brand.

Okay, now some fun stuff:

Who’s your favorite character in Housewives and why?

Thanatos. He’s so modern, kind of cyberpunk. He’s like Death living in The Matrix. He’s one of the most powerful gods, but he wears it so casually. He accepts what he is, a little dark and brooding, (I mean, come on. He’s Death.) but he still has a sense of humor, he’s witty. Hades was the one I thought I’d fall for, but I ended up being stuck on him just a little bit.

Where did the idea for HOUSEWIVES come from?

I was talking shop in chat with a few friends of mine and we were talking about cool titles. I threw that one out there and one of my friends demanded I log off and write it. So I did.

HA! I know that friend. She’s a slave driver. Thank goodness! Tell us a secret about Housewives. Were there any deleted scenes you’d put in the extras category if this were a dvd?

There were not any deleted scenes. Usually, there is something I delete but the words flew hot and fast with this one. I would just sit down in the morning and crank out sometimes three chapters a day and it was surprisingly very clean. Although, I had trouble with Demeter’s chapters. I didn’t like her much and living in her head was hard for me until she learns her lesson.

As I’m a card carrying metal head, it may surprise those of you who know me that this book had its own CD. Lady Gaga’s Fame Monster. Each couple has a song. I don’t write to music anymore, I used to, but I weaned myself away from it. Although, I could hear these songs in my head when I wrote them.

Hera/Hades-Dancing in the Dark

Demeter/Eros- Bad Romance

Nyx/Apollo-Alejandro

Abstinence/Zeus-Monster

Persephone/Thanatos-Teeth

And if this were a DVD, I’d have an interactive section where you could dress them up like live-action Barbie dolls.

This is always hard, but can you tell us a secret about you?

I, the all powerful Amazon Goddess of Doom, am afraid of cows. I hate them. The neighbor’s bull broke through the electric fence to chase me a 1/2 mile UP-friggin-HILL home. And ever since then, the cows across the street watch me with their big soulful eyes, but inside, I know they’re laughing.

Or they could just be looking for my mini Amazons. They like to feed them Hershey’s kisses. (When my youngest was smaller, she thought if she gave them Hershey’s, she’d get chocolate milk so she’d sneak over and give them some.)

LOL! COWS?!? Hey I can’t say much since I freeze up like Medusa glared at me whenever a spider makes an appearance. Thanks for being a good sport.

Here’s an excerpt of HOUSEWIVES:

NYX

     “Thanatos!” she cried when she saw her oldest son lounging on her temple steps.

     “Hey, Ma.” He stood and endured her hug.

     “I thought you were working all week. Wasn’t there a natural disaster in South America?”

     “Wouldn’t you know it, it’s so cool. Red Cross showed up and the volunteers saved a bunch of people.”

     Nyx hadn’t seen him in what felt like a century. In fact, she almost started counting on her fingers to see if it had been that long. “I suppose you’re hungry. Fig cakes with cream cheese frosting?”

     Thanatos patted his flat stomach. “You know me so well.”

     “Why are you outside? You could have gone in, you know.” Nyx pushed the door open.

     “I didn’t want to startle you. Might fall and break a hip and I’d feel bad.” He shrugged.

     “You little shit,” she laughed. He was always teasing her about her age. She was a Titan after all and older than all of the gods. She was one of the last of the old guard; one Zeus was sure wouldn’t try to overthrow his power. He was mistaken about that one, only she didn’t want the power herself. She wanted him to stop treating Hera like crap. Or divorce her. That at least, would be honest.

     He smirked back at her. Of her two sons, Thanatos was most like her. She loved her children the same, but she had a special kinship with Thanatos.

     “So uh, what’s the deal with Persephone and Hades?” he asked as he followed her inside.

     Tartarus on cracker! What was with that girl that these dark types were so stuck on her? Was it because she was blond? Nyx just didn’t get it. Not that she had anything against the girl, but it wasn’t like she was as pretty as Hera. Or as smart as Athena.

     “You have been out of the gossip loop for awhile, yeah? They broke up, so to speak.”

     “He let her go? Dumbass.” Thanatos shook his head.

     “What would you have him do? Sacrifice the world for her?”

     “Well, yeah,” Thanatos answered as if that were the only reasonable response.

     Nyx couldn’t argue with that, but she tried anyway. “Hades released her from the curse too. He didn’t want her to be unhappy.”

     At that, her son was silent for a moment. “So how hard do you think Demeter would smite me if I asked Persephone out?”

     “She better not smite you, or I’ll kick her ass up over her shoulders. She has winter, but I’ll drench the world in eternal night if she tries.” Nyx was thoughtful for a moment. “Unless of course you were unreasonably handsy or demanding. Or acted like Zeus. Or—,”

     “I get the picture, Ma. By the way, you look great.”

     “You’re just saying that because my hair looks like yours now.” She scowled.

    “Moonlight and stardust. No one can resist.” He smirked as if it was just his trial to bear, being that attractive.

   “Nice deflection. I mean what I said. If you want Persephone, do what you will, but don’t be a dick. Got it?”

     “Yeah, Ma. Don’t be a dick. Got it,” he recited dutifully.

     “So I have to ask. What’s with you dark and tortured types and this girl?”

     “I dunno. She’s hot. It’s not like I want to marry her or anything. It would just be a date. Maybe a kiss.” He considered for a moment. “Maybe something else.”

     “That girl is a virgin, Thanatos.” Yes, he was her son and she loved him dearly, but he was one-hundred percent male—thinking with his parts. She had to struggle not to sigh.

     “She’s probably got a family of bats living in there after all this time. Don’t you think it would be okay if she—,”

            “You know, we so don’t need to have this conversation.” She threw her hands up in defeat. Nyx loved that her boys talked to her, confided in her, but there were some things a mother just didn’t need to know.

Thanks so much for coming by hon. Okay everyone, Saranna’s an open book so if you have questions, ask away. And make sure you leave a comment to get a chance at a free copy!
And here’s where you can find THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF MOUNT OLYMPUS:
Amazon
B&N
ARe

For Crying Out Loud- Get It Right!

September 1, 2011

The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.  ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

By: Stacey Purcell

Do you want to hear a semi depressing number? I read that less than 1% of the books that are published by the Big Six are by debut authors. Excuse me while I sit down for a second. That is a fairly harsh number, to say the least.

Fortunately for those of us still working on getting the first book out of the door, we have options. The publishing landscape is not as desolate as it seemed when I came across that tidbit of information. As you have undoubtedly heard by now, our industry is changing fast. What does that mean?

It means that we have options…if we don’t blow it.

E-publishing has brought us several more publishing houses that are looking for quality work. Companies like Carina, Wild Rose and Ellora’s Cave are offering representation to thousands of authors and paying a higher percentage to the writer. We also have the ability to skip agents and publishers altogether.

Here’s where we start to have some trouble.

The other day, I was chatting with Jenn about writing contests. She noted that there seems to be a drop in the number of entrants across the board. I’m sure the economy is partially to blame, but she also pointed out another factor that is driving the numbers down. As more writers self-pub, they are entering less contests. Whoa! Stop everything! It should be just the opposite..

One of the biggest draws in a writing contest is the final judge for each genre. If you’re a finalist, then your pages are read by agents and editors. Obviously, if you are doing your own work, then you don’t need them. So why enter? In my opinion, if you are publishing your own book, then you should be entered in multiple contests. It’s a terrific way to get your pages edited and help you polish those words. Can you edit your own work? Of course you can, I just wouldn’t advise it.

Listen up people, if you are going to publish DIY, then please don’t settle for editing it yourself. Enter contests, find critique partners, hire professional editors, and just get it right! We have this amazing opportunity to take control of our artistic future and the public is receptive. There are many success stories, but there are many failures as well. I’m afraid that if they are continually disappointed with mediocre, sloppy books, they will stop giving new authors a try.

Even at $2.99.

Even at $1.99.

Heck, even at .99.

When an author puts out a crappy piece of work full of typos, poor spelling and awkward sentences, they sink themselves. They also make it more difficult for me to grab that customer back to being willing to try an unknown writer. That makes me mad. Many of my friends have beat me in putting their stories up for sale first and I watched how hard they worked. Countless hours were spent writing and re-writing until it was their best possible product. They used the feedback from contests to hone their writing style and add more texture to the stories. It didn’t stop there. They had critique partners and beta readers marking up their manuscripts. It wasn’t always fun, but they knew it was necessary. Feedback is essential to any really good author.

This is a competitive industry. Be smart when you make decisions about your career. There are many things we can’t control in life, but the quality of our work isn’t one of them.

This one is just because I thought it was funny!


Just Add Mash and Stir

August 10, 2011

Song of the Day: Overcome by Creed

Last week, Stacey mentioned in her post a mash-up experiment that she and I and two others participated in. Let me give you a recap, down low on the low down, the specifics of what we, The Usual Suspects, concocted.

Author #1 wrote the beginning of a story up to around 1000 words. He then sent his story to the next author, who in turn would pick up the tale where he left off and write another 1000 or so words. Then Author #2 would pass it along to Author #3, and so forth. After the last person finished their contribution, it went back to Author #1 for another round. When it was our turn again, we read the story thus far and added another chunk. The idea was to go several rounds and create a short story. There was no discussion of genre, plots, characters, or motivation. Imagine our surprise each time the story landed back in our laps, especially given that each one of us has our own unique voice, writing in different genres.

But the bigger surprise came when we finished. We had a great story! Sure, there were plot holes big enough for a convoy of beer-toting truckers to drive through and moments of mass confusion. (Where’d Clyde go? He was here a moment ago? Oh, he’s dead now? Really? How’d that happen? Oh wait, it was just a flesh wound? Yeah, someone should fix that.)  But the bones were strong. We talked about the problems and how to fix them. We are currently editing in the same roundtable fashion, sweeping up any gruesome evidence of heinous writer-ly crimes.

Though it was an experiment, we didn’t treat it as such. We put thought and honed skills to task. The goal was to have a marketable finished product. One that will eventually be available for e-reading.

Participating in this co-written short story was fun. I didn’t feel the usual pressure I place on myself, despite the twinge of performance anxiety. I was the last author, Author #4, in the roundtable. By the time the story reached me, it obviously headed down the dark and scary path of suspense. I should’ve known this would happen. Stacey and the other Usual Suspects have a flair for writing thrillers and romantic suspense.  But I write historical romance. Sure, I like to kill people. Sure, I like to throw in some spills and chills. However, these aspects are not the driving force behind my novels.

I surprised myself. I held my own against these thrill seeking pot boilers. I stepped out of my comfort zone, upped the ante, and managed to add tiers of tension. In the end, I was pleased with what I wrote. I learned that I can be flexible and push my boundaries into uncharted waters I have not been inclined to explore. What a great experience.

How about you? Have you tried your hand at a different genre? Ever plan to? Have you ever participated in a mash-up type story? I’d love to hear from you.


Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so.

August 4, 2011

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.  ~Author Unknown

 

By: Stacey Purcell

I wish I could say that I wrote those two sentences in the title of my blog, but I didn’t. They were written by the amazingly talented Joss Whedon who also wrote Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and Firefly. This is a wonderful example of a short story. A really, really short story.  It is said that Ernest Hemingway wrote one using only six words. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” He also claimed that it was his best piece in a very large body of work.

Short stories are on the rise in popularity. So much so, Amazon is attributing this burgeoning market to pushing their stock up to above $200 a share.

Hmmmm.

That’s a pretty good statistic. If that didn’t get your attention, try this. David Baldacci recently wrote a short story called No Time Left. It sold 50,000 copies in its first week! Times are changing and we need to be flexible enough to change with it. It wasn’t so long ago that the only way to sell short stories was to bundle them together and sell them in an anthology or to sell them to a magazine. It was a slowly dying breed. Things are different now!

Short stories have caught on everywhere and I want to be a part of that market. Last week, I shared with you about my “mash up” experience. Three of my friends and I have taken turns putting together a story. No plans. No talking about it. Just write and see where it goes.

Now, we’re trying to figure out the best way to edit and re-write the parts that need help. This is proving to be a bit difficult. Finding common free-time in four very active adults’ schedules is next to impossible. Plan No. 2- We’re going to edit in the same round table fashion as we wrote it. I’ll keep you posted with our success…or maybe there will be Plan No. 3. Regardless of the plan chosen to do the painful edits, it’s been a fun and very creative moment for our group, The Usual Suspects. We’re hoping to put it up for sale as soon as it’s polished.

So what is a short story? It’s a story that can, obviously, have very few words. That being said, the six word tale won’t be a hot selling commodity any time soon. The typical short story can be found to have anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 ish words. They represent all genres and seem to sell really well for $0.99.

An author friend of mine has an e-publisher that only handles her short stories and she produces one every other month. Over time, she will have quite an inventory of product out there! She was also smart enough to write groups of stories around different themes so she could easily compile them into anthologies. That’s good writing and good marketing! Those stories will be a source of solid income over the next several years as the desire to have well written stories people can easily read on their phone or e-reader increases. The Director, Hamish Hamilton, at Simon Prosser Publishing stated, “The short story form is better suited to the demands of modern life than the novel.”

This phenomenon is not just happening in the U.S., it’s very popular in the U.K. A British newspaper called The Sunday Times has begun the EFG Private Bank Short Story Award.

The prize?

30,000 pounds. (That’s over $65,000)

Hmmmm.

That’s a pretty good prize. And if that didn’t get your attention, then I give up!

 

One last really short story: Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket.-William Shatner


Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush

July 28, 2011

I do not like to write – I like to have written.  ~Gloria Steinem

By: Stacey Purcell

Monday 6:30 am- Wake up, dress, eat cereal, drive to train station, wait on platform, and sit on train for an hour.

Monday 5:30 pm- Leave office, walk to train station, wait on platform, and sit on train for an hour.

Rest of Week- Repeat above steps over and over and over…

This doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Unfortunately, this scenario is practiced by countless millions, maybe even billions, of people around the world. So what does this have to do with writing?

Before I answer that question, I have a story to tell you about what a group of my friends and I have been doing. We meet every Friday at the best coffee shop ever (Drew’s Pastry and Coffee). It’s an open group, but there’s a core of four. Writers will stop in to visit, share their latest victory or defeat, brain storm or sit and stare blankly while the rest of us chat. It’s a wonderful time and every Friday is different.

The core of four consists of Melissa Ohnoutka, Jennifer Bray Weber, William Simon (Will Graham) and me. We call ourselves The Usual Suspects and have supported each other’s writing and careers for over 3 years. One Friday, Will had an unusual idea.

“Let’s write a mash-up.” He received silence as none of us knew what he was talking about. The accepted use of the word “mash-up” has to do with blending different genres of books into one.

That’s not what he was talking about!

He wanted us to try writing a collaborative piece. We’d mash up all of our entries into a cohesive story. The ground rules were easy. He’d start it off and we’d each take a successive turn, adding to the characters and plot. Once we’d been around the group twice, he’d finish it up. We were not allowed to talk about it with each other and there was no general direction the story had to go in. Who knew whether it would turn out to be romance, mystery or even steam punk!

Hmmmmm. Sounded fun. Sounded easy. Sounded creative and quick. My kind of project. I was in, as were the others. The merry-go-round of writing began.

We’ve just finished the story and it was a blast to be a part of something so creative. Just when you thought you knew where the story was going, BAM! It took a hard left and you were running down a different rabbit hole. The experience forced you to keep on your toes and get the character out of situations you had never thought of happening. Whew, what a workout for those writing muscles. Now what?

The story is very rough. Great ideas and great writing flow through the thing, but we have some plot holes you could drive a bus through! Since, we’ve never done this before, we’re making up the steps as we go along. Emails are flying between our group members. It looks like we’ll put together a list of items that needs to be corrected or tweaked before we meet to seriously edit. Sounds reasonable. After that we’ll get together with laptops and spread out across my dining room table for a “rip it apart” party.

So what does this have to do with the poor person sitting on the train for two hours every day?

Once again, the digital world has opened another avenue for writers. Almost all of those commuters, or anyone else who must wait around, have cell phones. Those cell phones have the capability of downloading stories. Traditional novels can be read, but it might be overwhelming to open up War and Peace on a tiny screen. Voila, the short story.

We’re all running around the mulberry bush in some form or another. Moms wait for their kids in carpool, waiters have 30 min. breaks, kids wait for the school bus and on and on. Why not make that time a bit more delicious? There’s a burgeoning market out there for stories that are short and well written, perfect for the phone. We’re creating our version of a mash-up and will sell it soon.

Stay tuned for next week. I’ll share an update on how we’re doing with our project and I’ll discuss the business side of stories for phones and other venues.

What about you? Have you done anything new lately? Tried a new genre? A new writing ritual? Come on now, you know you want to share!


Paying the TimeKeeper – Blogger’s Debt

July 27, 2011

Song of the Day: Paparazzi by Lady Gaga

So, let’s talk about author blogs. Commentaries, musings, chronicles, running narratives of a writer’s life, there are a bajillion out there. But are they effective in bringing in sales and new readers? Or are they another time sucking black hole?

The answer I’ve come up with – yes and no.

Blogs are great tools in developing a web presence, especially when following a few tips. Blogs should reflect the blogger’s personality, be entertaining, and offer something (education, advice, links, prizes, a good knee-slapping laugh, etc.) to readers.  Length can be whatever the blogger is comfortable with, but shorter is sometimes better, especially when blogging often. (Not today. Sorry.) The blogger should make every effort to reply to every commenter. Personal touches go a long way, showing the blogger is not a cold, unapproachable, one dimensional being.

There is no question blogs are important to writers, whether they write them or not. Commenting on blogs regularly is an easy way to gain name recognition. They (whoever ‘they’ are) say it takes seven times for a person to see a name before that name becomes recognizable. That’s what we want, right? To be recognizable? Okay, maybe we won’t walk outside and be blinded by dozens of paparazzi flash bulbs. But we do want people to remember us.

Let’s go back to my original question. Are blogs another chupacabra sucking us dry of our precious time?

A question to ask yourself is who is the target market for your blog? For many of us, our circles of followers are other authors. This is great because writers tend to form supportive, tight knit communities. And in this industry, we need to each other’s back. But how far will that go in terms of sales and readership? It goes back to becoming active in the blogosphere.

We want to expand from the bubble of friends. We want to draw in readers near AND far.

Many authors do blog tours. Any way you slice it, blog tours are time consuming. Consider the time spent looking for and corresponding with other bloggers for a guest spot. Also consider that the content posted will need to be fresh and unique for each site. Don’t forget the time spent replying to every commenter to your post.

If you have time for a blog tour, I say go for it. Got a couple of tips for you, too. Keep the blog tour to a manageable amount, be that 10, 25, or 50 stops. Offer prizes. People will likely ‘follow’ you (think Grateful Dead’s Deadheads) on your tour if they have a chance to win something. Have a boilerplate about yourself and your book’s information already prepared. The boilerplate can easily be copied and pasted into each blog written. Don’t just hit up all your writer buds for guest spots and interviews. There are endless blogging opportunities out there. Expand on blogs that have content you may be interested in. For example, if your book is about a dragon-slaying pastry chef who falls in love with a racecar-driving homicide detective. You might consider looking for blogs about Renaissance festivals, Nascar, baking, and law enforcement and write a blog relevant to those topics. And if you have a boilerplate at the end, you’ll be slipping in that PSA on your book, upcoming release, or YOU the future best-selling author.

Need help finding blogs to appear as a guest? You might try Myguestblogger.com to get you started. Or try Googling ‘guest blogging sites’ or ‘guest bloggers wanted *topic*’. There is also The Cheap, a blog for authors and readers who welcome guest bloggers. Then there is MuseTracks.  That’s right. Want to do a guest blog here, contact one of us!

If tours aren’t your cup of ale, you can still use these blog tips to your advantage and at your leisure. Keep at it regularly and you will likely pick up a few loyal followers. That translates to readers and sales.

Just as with keeping up with the Joneses (damn you Jones- shaking fists in frustration) on social media sites, it goes back to managing your time to fit in a couple of blogs a day/week to visit, comment, and write.

For me, I recognize that my plate is full. I don’t have the time to do a blog tour. I will gladly do interviews, and I always try to put a fun spin on each one. But I am human and I know I can’t do more at this moment.

What about you? Do you blog? Love it? Hate it? Any advice to share? Let’s hear from you!


Writer Inspiration: Indie YA Fantasy Author Learns As She Goes by Beth Barany

June 17, 2011

Indie YA Fantasy Author Learns As She Goes

By Beth Barany

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.”

–Helen Keller

I dove in with both feet, both as an author and as an indie publisher of my own work.

I’m happy to chat here on Musetracks to share some of what I’ve learned on my adventure and to participate as a guest blogger to promote my upcoming release of the print edition of Henrietta the Dragon Slayer, my first novel. Be sure to read to the end of this post to participate in my blog tour’s monthly giveaway and Grand Giveaway.

Pretty much every time I sit down to write I say, “I don’t know what to say.” I start at zero and I’m okay with that. From there I turn to help. Sometimes to my husband to talk it out. Sometimes I look around my environment for inspiration. Sometimes I just set the time for 20 minutes and go!

Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, available on the Kindle and Nook, is a young adult novel that I’ve been working on for the last seven years. It’s 238 pages, for ages 12 and up.

ABOUT
Henrietta, the legendary Dragon Slayer of the Kingdom of Bleuve, can’t stomach the thought of one more kill. Yet, in order to save her dying mentor, she must go on one last quest. But will misfit companions, seasickness, and an egomaniacal king derail the quest for the healing stone? And will she be able to cut past her conscience and kill the dragon?

Yep. It took me seven years to get to this point. In that time I’ve learned so much.

As I said, I’m a hands-on learner. I learn by doing.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • how to write compelling and memorable fiction
  • world building
  • how to receive critiques
  • how to edit fiction
  • how to reedit fiction (and again and again!)
  • how to query agents and editors
  • how to handle rejection

And then this January I decided to self-publish and I had to learn for myself (and am still learning!) more things, like:

  • cover design
  • finding my audience
  • what my audience wants
  • how to organize a blog tour
  • how to solicit book reviews
  • and more!

And I didn’t do this alone.

The so cool thing about being indie published — this whole adventure — is we don’t have to do it alone; we are in this together. I have found so many great resources for indie authors, and even created one of my own, a Facebook group for Indie YA fantasy authors: http://on.fb.me/IndieYAFantasyAuthors.

 

I created this group because I wanted a place to share resources, especially marketing resources. I wanted a place to celebrate our successes and a way to be laser focused on my marketing.

It’s one thing to support all indie authors, it’s another to support authors in your same or related genre.

I love supporting and helping other YA and fantasy authors that are focused on adventure.

As I’ve progressed in sharing the news about my book, I’ve been getting to know my readers better.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned by talking to girls, including my twelve-year-old niece, and her three girlfriends over breakfast, and their moms:

  • teen girls read mostly print books
  • moms are always looking for good fiction for their daughters
  • teens love school visits as long as the presenter is interesting and funny (Funny is important, my niece said.)
  • lots of girls and boys love adventure stories; lots of young 20-something women do too!
  • a good cover that captures the eye produces a fun Wow! response

As I progress in my blog book tour — it lasts through August — I look forward to learning more and to setting up my in-person school visits. (I need to learn how to do that!)

So to learn more about you, and for you to enter my giveaway, please share what you love about adventure stories. Be sure to include your email so you can enter to win a copy of Henrietta The Dragon Slayer (print or ebook), and to enter the Grand Giveaway, a replica of the necklace around Henrietta’s neck. (See book cover)

Want more of Beth and Henrietta The Dragon Slayer? Visit her website
Visit her Buy Links page to Purchase.
And be sure to follow her Summer Blog Tour.  You can find her schedule here.

 

Contest

Beth is also having a big contest as part of her Summer Blog Tour!  Enter for a chance to win a copy of Henrietta The Dragon Slayer and the necklace Henrietta is wearing on the book cover!

Giveaway Rules for the Summer Blog Tour of Henrietta The Dragon Slayer by Beth Barany

Contest will run from May through August.

You may enter as many times as you like throughout the summer for the Grand Giveaway, though you can only win one book.

Just leave Beth a comment and you’re entered.

Check out her blog stops and tour schedule Here for more chances to win!
Be sure to include your email address so you can be contacted if you win!

You can receive the print or digital edition of Henrietta The Dragon Slayer. International entrants okay.

She will pick a winner on the last day of each month using Random.org.

She’ll pick a winner for the necklace from all the entries from May through August on the last day of August. If you have won a book you are still eligible to win the necklace!

Individual bloggers may be hosting same-day giveaways. So you have extra chances to win a copy of Henrietta The Dragon Slayer! Be sure to stop by to enter for the Grand Giveaway!

 

Good Luck!


Make Sure You Have A Tribe In Your Pocket!

June 9, 2011

It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.  Robert Benchley

 

Let's go viral with our marketing

If you are a writer and you want to make money with your books, then you are a business. This is the message that comes through loud and clear as I criss cross the internet researching how other people have become successful selling their books. It is a discipline.

Once you’ve adjusted to this mind shift, then you can get on with the business of marketing yourself and your book. The first move is to create a road map of how you will go about selling your book. Building a successful business requires capital. I know this is a delicate topic, but one that needs to be met head-on. If you think you can do this without spending something, then you are selling yourself a load of rubbish. How much are you willing to spend on marketing? How about products or services of other people? What is necessary to meet your goal? This does not mean a lot of money needs to be set aside, it only means that this should be a well thought out process.

Once a realistic budget has been set, tap into your social networking circles. This is easier said than done. Research shows that the more people see your ad, the more they trust the product. Don’t post your ad one time and wait for the money to roll in. It takes a minimum of seven times for your ad to be viewed before it becomes effective. It is suggested that you run the ad once a week for 2 months. This is, of course, after you have built this social platform into a marketing machine that welcomes your ads.

Marketing your book into a best seller is far easier if you have a large platform from which to spring off. Trissa Tismal calls this platform, a fan base or a tribe. Simply put, it is a group of people interested in what you have to say and love your work. How do you build an online tribe that acts as a sturdy platform? Building this group must be a priority that can start well before you’ve finished your first piece of work. A writer must use the 90/10 rule. When you are connecting with people on or off line, then expect to give them value rich content 90% of the time while trying to sell your book only 10% of the time. I thought this was an extremely useful guideline that Ms. Tismal shared and it makes a lot of sense.

Be generous. Share your knowledge. Be there to offer information to others. This creates a sense of trust and appreciation between you and your tribe. Another way to do this is to connect people within your network. Introduce them to each other if you think they will benefit from it. People will be impressed that you thought about them enough to make this gesture. Above sharing your knowledge and connecting people together, be very generous sharing your heartfelt wishes with them. Cheer them on if they’ve been successful and support them if they need a kind word. Sharing emotions establishes a greater sense of community and trust.

Once that platform is established, try giving people a free sampling of your book. Set up your website or the messaging system of your social network where visitors can give their name and email address so they can download a few chapters of your story. Ms. Tismal even suggests that you can be creative and give out something other than your book that will bring in people and give them a sense of what you do. I believe this is a strategic bit of advice because for every person who gives you their email and reads your material, they then become new members of your tribe. You will be able to communicate with them regularly through email, articles, teleseminars etc.

Don’t forget to let your friends and family that aren’t on social networking sites be included in your efforts. Use a phone call, an email or the old fashioned letter in the mail to let them know about your book. You can ask them to put in a good word for you with their friends and to make a referral sale. You CAN go viral on and off the computer, it just takes effort. My friend, Melissa Ohnoutka, joined her mother’s book club after they read her book (on her mother’s urging). They, in turn, told their friends how much they liked it and how enjoyable it was to have Melissa come to their club. It’s much like a pebble dropping in a pond and the concentric circles spreading out across the still water. The pebble is our effort and it will bring results that reach far beyond our little corner of the world.