Tag Archives: self-publishing

Soldiering On: RIP Ursula K. Le Guin

“Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.” —Ursula K. Le GuinSeattle rose

It’s hard to express the sorrow you feel when a hero dies. Ursula K. LeGuin was one of those people for me, and it’s funny because I’d never really thought much about her until she won the National Book Award a few years ago and said four words I’ll never forget. “Books are not commodities.”

Oh yes, I thought. Writing is art. Writing shouldn’t be directed and commercialized. I’ve always felt that way. And yet, it is. Publishers hold the cards for the most part in the world of writing. Publishers decide what gets published based on what they think will sell—and too often in today’s world, publishers decide what gets written.

It’s a chilling thought that a handful of corporate conglomerates might decide what books you read, isn’t it? It sounds more like a dystopian fiction than reality. And yet…it does happen. I know of writers who long to write a particular story and go to their publishers with it and the publisher doesn’t like it. It won’t sell. How about writing this instead?

And an idea dies.

Maybe it won’t sell. It’s certainly been my experience as a self-published writer that very often my ideas don’t sell. They’re well written. I know I’m a good writer, and a lot of reviewers (not all, but a lot) agree. They’re well edited. I am meticulous about that. The formatting is not as professional as, well, a professionally published book, but my books are certainly neat and clean and readable. But whether it’s because the publishers are right and my ideas are not sellable or because I don’t have a publisher’s ability and know-how to market them, my books are most definitely not bestsellers.

The one thing I can take pride in, though, is that my books are my ideas, born of my dreams and written in my words. Without direction or influence from a dystopian corporate world. That’s what self-publishing has done for me and countless other writers who’ve gotten their words out there in spite of doubting corporate publishers.

Rest in peace, Ursula K. Le Guin. We heard you. And in the end, what more can a writer ask for?

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Filed under Publishing, Writing

Plastic fiction: What happens when writers give up on soul

Three years ago, Ursula K. Le Guin gave an impassioned speech in which she basically implored writers to write what they wanted to write and not what the publishing industry told them to write. She asked that literature in all forms return to being considered an art form. “Books aren’t just commodities,” she said.

I’ve often wondered if I would sell out if someone offered me the opportunity to sign with a big publisher that would basically guarantee my book would be a bestseller with an awesome marketing plan and everything all taken care of—but I had to write a book the publisher wanted with the plot all spelled out for me. Would I do it? Would I sell out? Would I turn out a plastic fiction book with no soul and no art just to gain readers?

I can’t answer that question. I fear I might. It’d probably be easy enough to write if I didn’t have to come up with the plot myself. And I have a respectable backlist now. Surely I should consider that in the equation. If I gained lots of readers with my plastic fiction—readers who enjoyed my style of writing and who would then consume my other books—wouldn’t it be worth it? But then, too, I’d be feeding the plastic fiction industry that has taken over the publishing world and made it more difficult for writers to be the artists they are meant to be.

Not sure you know what I mean by plastic fiction? Oh yes, you do. It’s especially prevalent in my chosen genre at the moment. For a while it was vampire romances (which has now morphed to include werewolves and shapeshifters and lots of other paranormals). I’m not saying these are all bad. I’ve even read a few that are exceptionally good. But those can be hard to find. And then there’s the fifty-shades phenomenon that is reflected in everything from content (way more explicit than just a few years ago) to covers (haven’t you noticed the trend to monochromatic still life since Christian Grey’s silk tie?).

I think the surge in independent publishing has been a reaction to writers trying to avoid the plastic fiction publishing industry. I’m proud to be a part of that surge. I love what I write, and I love publishing my little bits of art. They aren’t the highest quality—maybe they’re made of aluminum instead of gold or silver—but they aren’t plastic, either. I know this because they come from my heart and contain bits of my soul.

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Filed under Publishing, romance, self-publishing, traditional publishing, Writing

Writing and publishing and what comes between.

I’m getting better at this self-publishing thing. I’ve even started thinking of it as a four-step process. The first step is writing/editing. This includes all the drafts and all the deep editing and re-writing. (I’m going to skip a step here, but stay with me.) The third step is publishing. This mostly consists of pushing a button and saying a prayer as your book begins its journey into the world. The fourth step, which actually begins somewhere between the second and third step and continues well into the future, is marketing. I’ve talked about that some, but it includes blogging, tweeting, sending out excerpts, begging for reviews, putting together a press kit…you name it, it’s there.

The second step, which is what I’ve been deep in the process of recently, is book-making. I include copy editing and formatting for ebook and print in this step, and it’s the step that many authors miss out on in traditional publishing. This is the step I’ve had to work to perfect over the years. I’ve found it’s not as simple as typing up a book and plugging it into a publishing platform like Smashwords or CreateSpace. It involves a lot of work, a lot of oversight and a lot of experimentation to get a good, clean-looking book. Chapter headings, white space, margins… Oh, and book covers! Book covers are so much fun. I usually have to get professional help with these, but I also get to make some suggestions and requests (much more so than with traditional publishing). And when it’s all done and you’re ready to move on to Step three, you can call yourself something new, something beyond an author, editor or even publisher. You can call yourself a book-maker.

Pretty stinking awesome.

I’ve been at it for a couple weeks now. I’ve finished the copy-editing and am into the formatting stage for Out of Time. It’s already up for pre-order on Smashwords and Amazon. Go check it out, even if just to look at the beautiful cover designed by Farah Evers Designs. But don’t forget to come back here often. As soon as I’m done with formatting the print version, I’m throwing myself headlong into marketing, and I’ve got a few surprises lined up that will culminate in the day long Out of Time Launch Party on June 15.

See you soon!

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What’s next?

Ever get to that point in your life where you can’t help but wonder: what’s next? It happened to me this summer, and something changed.

I had four works-in-progress and none of them were panning out. I’ve got one complete manuscript in my Sleight of Hand series that needs editing before it can go anywhere else. But I had lost all my inspiration. I was plagued by the normal questions. What’s next? Do I want to be a writer? Do I want to continue to pursue the “traditional route” of publishing or plough on through the rocky road of the independent?

And then it happened. My work-in-progress, tentatively titled “Out of Time” smacked me in the face and told me to get to work. If the title doesn’t sound particularly romantic, well, that’s because it isn’t, totally, a romance. And I’ve held off talking about it this long because it was something so new to me, I didn’t want to jinx how well it was going.

Turns out what I really wanted to write was a romantic fantasy. I’ve always loved fantasy and science fiction (give me a good Anne McCaffrey novel any day!), but the amount of world building required scared me. I mean, how do authors do it? Coming up with everything from political systems to the amount of gravity on a planet…that’s mind-boggling. Better to stick on good ol’ planet earth.

Well, I managed and the results have become something I’m very pleased with. I can’t say they’ve answered all my questions about what’s next, but I will say I’ve already got a rough outline for a second novel in the series and an idea for a third.

So maybe what’s next is something a little different. A road I haven’t yet taken.

Speaking of roads not yet taken, please note that this weekend, September 17-19, I will be at the Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference. I’m presenting five workshops (!!!) on everything from marketing to writing a series, and while I’m really looking forward to it, it’s with trepidation since I’ve never done anything like this before. You can find more information about the conference here: Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference 2015.

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Life as a Self Published Writer and the Road Not Taken

Tomorrow morning, Island Magic goes on sale. My tenth book (nine novels and a novella). It seems like a good point in my career to sit down and look at the road I didn’t take for a minute.

I see the roads of Self Publishing and Traditional Publishing like this. Self Publishing is a rural route. Part of it isn’t paved, and part of it is freshly hacked out of the forest undergrowth. It’s windy and long and sometimes difficult to get through, and there are a lot of little side paths you might find yourself on if you’re not careful. Traditional Publishing, however, is a highway. Well-paved, but sometimes jammed up. Littered with rejection letters from editors, publishers and agents. It’s only once in a great while that a writer can make their way through the pack and over the bridge and into the big, golden city named Published. And once you do, you have to go back to the beginning and start all over.

I reached the fork in my road a while back. Traditional publishing had paid off only mildly for me (two ebooks with Lyrical Press and one with Carina Press). I tried self publishing with my book, Weeds and FlowersMH900058885, because I had literally no idea how to sell it. It isn’t literary or genre fiction. It’s fairly intense for young adults, but the main characters are teenagers. I tried to rewrite it as a young adult romance, but that didn’t work. So I self published it, telling myself it wouldn’t hurt anything.

And it didn’t hurt anything. But it opened up a whole new world to me. Suddenly I realized, as a writer, I don’t have to sit in a traffic jam on the Traditional Publishing Highway. I don’t have to spend my precious writing hours anguishing over cover letters and synopses. If I took this exit onto Self Publishing Route, I could spend them writing what I want to write. Books.

I can still see Highway Traditional Publishing. It crosses Route Self Publishing from time to time. I check out the market, consider submitting, wish for a moment that life could be easier, that my books would sell themselves. And then I continue writing. Because that’s what I want to do, and if I have to pull out my machete and hack my own way through the wilderness, so be it.

Island Magic goes on sale tomorrow. Don’t forget to buy your copy of my seventh self-published book.

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SATURDAY LOVE: My current feelings (subject to change) about self-publishing

Whatever else you might say about self-publishing, I’ve never felt so free before!

Today marks the official publication of my book SATURDAY LOVE. It’s my eighth book, my fifth self-published. I’ve gotten much better at this thing over the past couple of years, everything from formatting to editing to cover design is better now. Even my writing is improving with every book, and I say that with no false modesty whatsoever. I can’t read one of my older books without blushing a little, and I wouldn’t want to change that. If I could read them all with unfettered pride, it would mean I was standing still.

But why do I say self-publishing is freeing? Whether it’s a good thing or not (and it’s definitely more work in many ways), I can publish what I want and make my own schedule. Having done it both ways, I thought I’d give you a sample schedule for both traditional and self-publishing.

SELF
Write
Finish book and set aside.
Write something else.
Return to first book, rewrite and set aside.
Contact editor and get quote.
Send book off for editing.
Write.
Get edits back. Lots of great suggestions! Pay editor.
Rewrite and make better.
Set aside.
Write something else.
Pull out book and read over making small changes and edits.
Decide it’s good and set a publishing date.
Write blurb.
Contact a cover artist, tell him/her exactly what you want.
Get back cover and be pleased. Pay cover artist promptly because you want to use them again.
Submit everything to CreateSpace.
Decide to go over one more time. Crap. How did you leave that apostrophe out?
Fix apostrophe and resubmit everything to CreateSpace.
Begin telling friends, posting on FaceBook, Tweeting, etc.
Publication day!

TRADITIONAL:
Submit book.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Wait (begin checking email obsessively)
Wait
Wait (despair of ever hearing back)
Wait
Finally!
Open email with great trepidation to find a refusal.
Break smartphone/computer/etc.
Drink wine.
Resubmit book.
(repeat above process)
Finally!
Open email and rejoice to acceptance.
Wait
Wait
Contact with editor who gives you rough schedule of editing process and publishing schedule and sends you worksheets that will help the art department and blurb writers get a handle on what your story is about.
Complete worksheet and return.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Get first edits.
Despair that there’s still so much wrong with your story.
Get to work.
Complete edits in much less time than is given and return.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Get second round of edits.
Complete edits much faster this time because you and your editor understand each other better.
Return edits.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Final round of edits.
Complete and return.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Copy edits arrive, marked up by two or three additional editors you don’t know.
Crap. There’s still so much wrong! How is this possible.
Fix and return.
Wait
Wait
When will you get to see your cover? What’s up with that? And the blurb?
Wait
Wait
Finally! The cover arrives. The artist is very proud. He/she has a cover they know you are going to love!
It’s not what you’d imagined. But how do you tell him/her that? And it’s not bad, just not what you’d pictured.
Blurb arrives. It’s pretty good. They’ve taken your original idea and spiced it up with some catch words and phrases designed to make readers LOVE the idea of reading your book.
The cover’s really not that far off. And what do you know, anyway? You point out a few small things that could be changed.
The artist replies that those things are set, makes a very minor change and you’re both okay with it.
Wait
Galleys arrive. You read eagerly, certain your book can be nothing but perfect now.
Crap. Who left out that apostrophe? Was it you or one of the copy editors? Is it too late to fix it?
Decide it’s too small to bother editor with.
Decide it’ll bug you forever if you don’t.
Query editor about it and be reassured you’re not being a pest and they’ll fix the apostrophe right away.
Relax.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Get advance copy of your book. Start querying review sites that haven’t already been hit by publisher about reviewing your book.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Publication Day!

In so many ways, the process is the same. The difference is, the only person I have to wait for is myself, really. The editor and cover artist (and I’ve done self-publishing without either) never take long to do their jobs, and because I hire them, I know about how long that will take. So, in the end, I can publish what I want when I want to publish it. But I’m out here more or less alone, except for you guys, my readers.

SATURDAY LOVE is now out there. Feel free to give it some love. And if you’re worried about reading the sequel without reading the first book, DUCKS IN A ROW is free for the Kindle today. Do me a favor and go check it out, then let your friends know, too.

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Filed under Ducks in a Row, Saturday Love

It all began two years ago on a winter afternoon…

Saturday Love Final CoverThis year I will self-publish another book on January 1. I’ve done it for the past two years, and I now think of it as my way of renewing my pledge to keep on keeping on at the writing and publishing thing. But it does have a story…

It was after Christmas, everyone was content, and for once I wasn’t running anywhere or doing anything. That’s when I decided to take the leap into self publishing. I already had two ebooks out (Secrets of the Lotus and Winter Solstice) through Lyrical Press. And I had this third manuscript just kind of hanging out on my computer desktop. (Stephen King calls them “trunk novels”, and the description is pretty apt. Because you don’t know what to do with them, you tuck them away somewhere, but every now and then you open the trunk and have a peek.)

Weeds and Flowers coverThat was how Weeds and Flowers came to be published. Half young adult romance, half coming of age novel, a sprinkling of mystery and a pinch of autobiography, Weeds and Flowers doesn’t fit in any particular genre, but I always knew it was a good story. Even if it is a tough sell. I first published it on New Year’s Day 2012 through Kindle Direct Publishing, although it’s gone through revisions and is now on its third edition (and available in paperback as well as ebook).

Ducks_CoverLast year I found myself in a similar situation. Kids happy, husband happy, everyone content to stay in for an afternoon…and lo and behold, I had another trunk novel just begging to be published. That’s how Ducks in a Row found its way into the published world through the magic of CreateSpace and KDP on New Year’s Day 2013.

This year, I’m doing it again, but I’m doing it on purpose. Saturday Love is the sequel to Ducks in a Row, the story of Will and what happens to him after the events of Ducks. In Saturday Love, you’ll become better acquainted with Will’s loving and lovable family, including his handsome brother Patrick (the one who coins the phrase “Saturday love” to describe the way he feels about his new girlfriend), his younger sister Lisa (who may yet have her own story…) and his beautiful, strong mother Anne, the matriarch of the Hubbard clan. And yes, it’s a romance, so there’s a new lady in Will’s life. You’ll be able to find Saturday Love on Amazon and many other online retailers in paperback and on Amazon for Kindle on January 1, 2014.

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