The Art of Saying Thank You

As we all know, books don’t just happen to appear from thin air.  Behind any good author is a support team, equally excited about the dream of publication. They are ones who lend their support, knowledge, time and understanding–the closer ones who make sacrifices and allotments so the author can simply write without worry and distraction.  Thanking those people, the ones who don’t appear on the cover in bolded font and get all the credit, is an honor.

I’ll admit that I don’t always read the thank you pages in the back of a book.  Shame on me, I know those people are important.

But now that I’m tasked with figuring out who was vital in making this book come to life, it’s a whole new game.  There are so many people who deserve credit.  It should be simple … it’s just, after all, an open letter to all the people you have been thanking along the way.  But, it’s not.

How many times, in an award show, has an actor or actress taken the stage to accept an award only to get flustered and forget their husband or producer?  It happens.  It’s human error.  But, it matters.  Although there are no lights and flashbulbs as you put into words your gratitude … leaving someone out might still sting.

I found an amazing “how-to” page that I wanted shed light on who should be thanked.  The credit for the following belongs to Khol.google.com.

***

Writing the Acknowledgment:

Follow the steps below to write your book acknowledgment:

Step 1:  Make out a list of who you want to thank and why.  You can do this by hand or write it on the computer.  Print it out so you can examine it.

Step 2:  Take a look at your list.  Is it really long?  You can expect to have one page to work with.  Most book acknowledgments are one paragraph to half a page in length.  Any longer and readers will lose interest.

Step 3:  Consider whether the book will lend itself to a series.  If it does, you can break up your acknowledgment in to sections.  You could thank your family with the first book, friends with the second, and other helpers with the third.

Step 4:  Trim down your list until it fits in half a page or less.  This includes the entire acknowledgment and not just the names of the individuals.

Step 5:  Write a rough draft of the acknowledgment. Make sure you write why you are thankful to the person.  Don’t say, “I want to thank my wife”.  Rather say, “My sweet wife Gillian was so patient with my late nights, and I want to thank her for her faithful support in writing this book.”  You want the person to know that you are thankful and why.  A simple “thanks” is not enough.

Step 6:  Have an unbiased individual review your acknowledgment.  Have them give you suggestions as to how you can make it better.  Is there anything they think that can be omitted?  Take their ideas to heart. It could very well make your book acknowledgment much more exciting.

Step 7:  Re-write your book acknowledgement using the suggestions you received.  Fix any grammatical errors.

Step 8:  Proof read the acknowledgment.

Step 9:  Type the acknowledgment up and save it.  Make sure that the acknowledgment is written using the same font size and color as the rest of the book.  You don’t want it to look out-of-place.

Step 10:  Add the book acknowledgment page to your book and submit it to your publisher.

***

Good advice, I believe, and a nice templet for making sure you — as the author — continue to dot the “i” and cross the “t” in the home stretch.

 

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All Your Eggs, One Basket Only — Amazon Continues To Muscle The Market

Right now, the hot topic seems to be Amazon’s continual push to become the absolute end-all-be-all of the publishing world … especially when it comes successful independents.

On the forum I frequent an author recently posted about a deal with Amazon she’s been offered.  An exclusive deal where she would agree to not list her books on any other site — no B&N, no Kobo, no ePub, no iTunes — and in return for her sacrifice, Amazon would help boost her sales with special help, the kind only Amazon can offer.

The author, who also happens to be wildly successful, made note that nearly 80% of her sales happen to come from Amazon … with the other sites coming together to create the lagging 20%.  For her, it makes perfect sense.  Amazon is her readership … that’s where people find her and fall in love.  Taking the deal is simply good business … even if it means giving up the 20% in the other realms, Amazon’s muscle will probably more than make up for that on their end for her willingness.

The details of this deal remain super secret, Amazon is contacting authors privately to discuss the inner workings of their proposal, so the exact terms are unknown and they are asking those approached to keep quiet until a later date … but the floating conversation seems to swirl around the fact that signing on doesn’t mean forever and always, giving authors the back door if they ever need to escape.

It seems to me that Amazon is continuing to push the boundaries of becoming a monopoly.

When Amazon launched the Kindle, it was absolutely the best of the best of the best, and it held its place as King of The E-Readers for a good, long time.  But, B&N has seemingly caught up … along with Kobo, Apple and Sony all trailing not too far behind.

My guess is, if Amazon no longer feels they can beat them in the device market, they will attempt to outwit them in the library department by offering better books with a larger selection for a lower price.  But … they can only do that if we agree … because, lets face it, Random House, Harper Collins, Penguin and the like would never polarize their readers by making titles exclusively available through only one online resource.  Amazon … they need Indies.  We are all sort of like the wild cards, the ones that will take the crazy chances … getting an author to agree to only sell through one online source when so, so, so many are available with the simple click of a button … that’s pretty much a wild idea.  But, who better than us to take a different path?  After all, isn’t that what we do?

Amazon has always been the warm light in the Indie world.  Self-published authors will tell you, with very little prompting needed, that Amazon cares more about them, takes them more seriously, supports them more vigorously than any other outlet combined.  KPD is a true doorstep, once passed an author will find advice, a real person and someone who will help them if they need.  That alone allows them to be the front-runner for those going it alone into publishing.

But … all of your eggs?  One single basket?  I’m not so sure …

I think this it is a brilliant idea for the already published author who has a strong readership on Amazon and knows exactly (as in dollars and cents) what she would be giving up by giving up B&N, ePub and Apple.  For a new author, like myself, it’s probably not a smart business move.  My market remains untested, unknown.

Independent authors have to be more than just writers … they have to be business men and women.  When I think about this deal, I think about traditional publishers.  I think about how they conduct themselves in this literary web … which is almost as new to them as it is to us.  Would they limit themselves simply because Amazon would give them more muscle?  I doubt it.  They understand that the key to selling books is giving the reader — all readers — the opportunity to buy them.

Think about whole hoopla surrounding the release of the Fire.  Amazon was able to ink that exclusive deal with DC Comics, and B&N fired back quickly that they would no longer sell DC Comics in-store because they are all for equal opportunity.  If their Nook Color readers couldn’t buy DC Comics on their tablet, then f-it, they wouldn’t do business with DC at all.  Period.  Done.  Kaput.

When I consider self-publishing, I think of eBooks as only one avenue of sales in a city full of them.  I do want to be carried in brick and mortar stores.  I do want to give readers the chance to find me wherever it is that they find their books.  I simply could not, at this point in time, go along with Amazon.  But, that doesn’t mean I don’t support or understand how others could, nor does that mean I won’t ever reconsider when I’m working with brass-tack data.

I think the bottom line is this:

Independent authors are starting to have opportunities.  Some will help us, others will hurt us.  But, we’re being taken seriously enough by big brands that they want us all to themselves.  We’re absolutely doing something right …

**Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions below**

 

 

Signing On

One of the huge perks of working with a traditional publisher often evades the indie … its not the pretty covers or eagle-eyed editors, no … that is, it’s PR … the “I have arrived” muscle behind your story that does get it sold.

Traditional publishers have in-house PR machines that get the book and then the two-man team assigned goes to work getting national and viral coverage of said book.  That why so-and-so ends up on Oprah or garnishes a fantastic, brag-worthy spread in a glossy magazine.

Indies … unless you’re married to a PR guy or gal … chances are you don’t have “in-house” anything.  So, you are left flapping in the breezy, so to speak, figuring out how to best campaign within your budget.

But, PR is a huge part of getting your name and book out there.  After all, if no one knows you wrote how in Heaven will they know to buy it?  The truth is … they won’t.  Indies often wallow at the bottom of Amazons algorithm simply because they don’t take the time to spread the word, to drive the interest, to build the momentum, to make the big splash … or, more likely, they aren’t sure how.

Blog tours seem to be a very popular sale to Indie Authors looking to cover massive ground in short sprints of time.  They hedge on the affordable side of the PR line.  Running anywhere from free (if you can do it yourself) to $150.00 and beyond.

I can tell you, as a blog owner, I do get traffic.  When I’ve hosted particular Indie’s or held a guest appearance, my numbers spike.  Would that generate into sales for someone?  I’m not sure.  But it can’t hurt, right?

Hiring a PR agent, while expensive, is also a viable route … one that I am taking.  Which is why I “signed on” … okay, not officially, but within the next month or so I will officially be a client of the Alicia Brockway firm.

Every author … traditional or otherwise … dreams of wild success.  I know my limitations, but that doesn’t mean I don’t “want it” … I just have to find help.

Alicia was the perfect person to do just that.  Having worked with the likes of Danielle Steel, Kathy Griffin and gaggle of other big name authors, Alicia was once a Random House PR machine (yes … that Random House).  She is the sort of person I need on my team, pushing my book towards bigger and better.  So, while her service will nearly double my original budget and slightly break my book-bank, I can’t see another way.

So … Authors, tell me about your PR experience?  How did you do?  What resources did you use to make the magic happen?

 

 

 

It’s Worth What? — An Exploration of Pricing

I’ll soon be facing the conundrum of deciding what my book is worth and where to effectively price it.  Do I go free and drive up the sales?  Do I slip quietly into the .99 cent ghetto … I mean … bin?  Do I price myself to challenge the market at a rousing $2.99?  Or, do I plow headlong into the $4.99 bracket and practice a little patience because other “literary fiction” sells for at least that much and often times much more?

These are real questions … depending on where I fall will directly correlate with how well I sell.  It’s a seriously strategic business minded move.

The schools of thought on this various from professional to professional and author to author.  Some think, hey, go free–get the reviews and then up your price, because hey–everyone likes to get something for nothing.  Some think, no way is free is the way to go, it screams INDIE and polarized potential customers.  The under the buck mentality is referred too as the “ghetto” … an obviously sad term when you consider the love that an author pours into a book.

The fact is … my book is worth something … but what that something is remains unknown.

I was sitting down this morning trying to figure that out … and I’ll share my thoughts …

I bank with Bank of America.  I use my debit card more than anything else.  But, sometimes I need cash.  BOA has a lot of ATM’s in high traffic places, but they aren’t on every single corner.  Sometimes I have to visit another banks cash station to do a withdrawal … and each time I’m pinged $2.50.  I never spare a thought on that … paying the nominal fee is part of life as far as I’m concerned.

When I fill up my SUV with gas, I pay all sorts of fees I’m unaware of.  But, that doesn’t stop me.  It’s part of the price per gallon … and I just do it without thinking about it.

This holiday season, when I was buying gift cards, I bought Visa branded ones.  And, I paid an extra $5.00 a card.  Why?  I don’t really know.  But, I did.  It didn’t really bother me … it’s just what you do.

I heart Starbucks.  I will willing pay $5.00 plus tax for a swanky cup of coffee just because I like frothed cream.

I adore the movies, and when we go, we pay $20.00 for tickets and about $30.00 for a popcorn and two sodas.

My point is … all the time I have money going out on things that I need or enjoy and I never give it a second thought or backwards glance.  I realize that … you know what … these companies (be it the bank or the gas station) are businesses with overhead and they’d like to turn a tidy profit.  Am I really that different?.

No, actually, I’m not.  While reading is a little luxury for most people, it just so happens to be my business.  I’ve invested in the start-up cost of publishing and I’ve worked my ass off to make sure what I’m sending out into the world is a pretty, easily enjoyable read. I should be … at least in my mind … rewarded for my efforts.  I don’t think free is for me.

I think when you’re starting out, you’re setting a bar.  You’re introducing yourself and the quality of your work.  If you’re free … what does that mean?  How can you possibly go from nothing to something and not expect someone to shake their head in confusion?

Writing is art.  It’s entertainment, designed to provide pleasure.  Is $5.00 really too much to ask for that?  Not in my mind.

But…I’m posting for opinions.  What are your thoughts?  Where did you price and what was the result?  Share and share alike 🙂 your wisdom’s are rewarded with gratitude!

 

Vanity Presses…Author Beware!

As a new author, I can honestly tell you, I knew nothing about vanity presses until this whole fiasco with Book Country blew up across the blogosphere and forums.  Authors everywhere were nothing sort of steaming pots of outrage.  I honestly didn’t know enough to have an opinion one way or another.  But, after a bit of research, I started to wonder why anyone would sign up for such a racket.

I’m writing this blog to warn independent authors to steer clear of the likes of Book Country, and here’s why…

While it might sound lofty to say “I was published by Book Country, a subsidiary of Penguin” the truth is, that’s rubbish.  By signing with Book Country you’re not signing with Penguin–as in the publisher with the muscle to move your book to the NY Best Seller list–no, no, no…what you’re doing is signing away a cheque and handing over the royalties of your work forever.  The company can and will gloss the fine print up to spin it every which way…but the bottom line is that you’re paying them for absolutely nothing.

People making money off the backs of “the talent” is nothing new.  Agents, publishers, lawyers, managers, and so on have taken cuts and retainers and percentages since way back when.  And likewise of course you, as an author, can’t expect to get anything for free.  If a company is formatting your book, you’ll pay them.  If a company is doing your cover, you’ll pay them.  If a copy is uploading your book to be sold at XY&Z, you’ll pay them.  But, once you’ve cut those cheques…the book is yours as is the money rolling in from the book–that’s how it works when you’re an independent.  But not if your sign with Book Country–they’ll continue to take royalties.  Why thought?  What makes them entitled to such a thing?  And that remains the 30% question.

Since the revolution of “self publishing” in the era of Amazon and B&N, Vanity Presses are popping up like web companies in the 90’s.  They’re almost everywhere.  But there is absolutely nothing they can offer you that you can’t do for yourself.  That’s the bottom line.  That’s the truth.

Book Country wants nearly $600.00 to format for you and create a cover.  But that’s a high number considering what you can freelance it for.  Book Country wants to print your book–but, sites like CreateSpace or LuLu offer the same thing without demanding a slice of the pie in return.

Consider this blog a public service announcement.  Please, do your homework before getting caught up in a true publishing web.

Let’s Talk Websites

One of the very first things I do if I discover a product I love or a person in a profession I’m curious about is type the I have information into Google and hope that a website jumps up.  My favorite authors, actors, or personalities…well, I could spend hours on their sites playing around overcoming information and reading excerpts and background information.

Before Twitter or Facebook or blogging…all we had were websites…it may smack of the dark ages of the internet, but it’s still very relevant.  They were the place we went to connect with our favorite things and people.  A good website is like a virtual storefront, greeting folks and welcoming them inside.

Still, I never thought I’d “have a website”–it all seemed very, very above me.  But, after blogging a lot and hosting a bunch of interviews I noticed a common theme…everyone had a site. Couple that with the fact that on this blog I’m been fairly candid…something I wanted to do for all of you, but maybe not for a reader since a lot of what I’ve discussed is, well, industry mumbo-jumbo. It was then I realized, while I love to blog–and hope to continue doing so for a good, long while–I needed a professional doorstep as well.

I discovered Scarlett Ruger’s on the Kindleboards.  She was introduced to me as a cover artist, but after visiting her website, I realized she does far more than that.  She makes websites, too.  Warm and affable, I knew I really wanted to work with her in some capacity or another.  After e-mailing her back and forth and discussing the price with Mark, I decided to jump right in and have her do the heavy lifting of website design.

Since I don’t have a lot of “me” to share…no backlist, no previously celebrated accolades…I knew the site would be small, but I wanted it to have a heart.  I wanted to capture the Olympic Peninsula in pictures, let you all inside the world I write and give someone a place to go to if they want to connect.

And, I’m very excited.

There are many moments when writing a book becomes bigger than you are as an individual and amounts suddenly to the sum of its parts.  The first time you hold the manuscript in your hand, the first time you see your cover, the first time an agent takes you seriously…and now, for me, it’s having a domain name that is my own.

So, blog buddies…my question is this…do you have a website?  What do you do with yours?

The True Cost of Self Publishing Exposed

**Please note, this posting is subjective in nature.  I cannot speak universally to the cost of self publishing, your skill set or anything of the sort since books and vendors are all different.  However, this blog entry is filling a void I noticed when doing my own research.  It is my hope that from this you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what to expect as you begin the undertaking of self publish for the first time.   Thank you**

Before my first real rejection burst through my inbox, I had already started to look into self publishing–which was a Plan B of sorts for me.  Along with traditional publishing how-to’s, I bought books on the subject of self publishing.  I read the words, took the knowledge and all of that was fine and well…but, something was missing–something rather large and looming in the not-so-distant future that went hand in hand with Plan B.  While traditional publishing books will go into deep talks over advances and royalties and agent-fees or commissions, self publishing barely brushes the surface of money in terms of what it costs.

The truth is, if no agent took my book and no publisher bought my book–I’d be going Indie, what other choice did I have?  None really, other than let the book die–which wasn’t going to happen.  Since I eventually figured out I wasn’t going to be one of the “blessed” and I wasn’t going to be making money right out of the gate, I needed to know how much I would have to spend.  Everyone budgets for more big things in life, from a vacation to a car to a new home to a start up business, it’s called planning–and it’s the smart person who understands the ins and outs prior to taking the plunge.  I didn’t think finding out the nuts and bolts of expenses would be that hard…only, it was.

No one–not other Indies, not the so called Guides, not the blogs–was talking about that.  I know money at large can be a rather hush-hush taboo sort of topic…those that have, don’t…those that don’t, do.  But in between all of that PC stuff I was left missing the point.  You can tell me all day every day what to expect from the experience at large in abstract–and I appreciate that–but really, what’s this going to cost me?

So…

I did what I always do.  I researched the matter.  Still, nothing.  At least nothing that I could find.  It was as though no one was willing to fess up and share the figures.  I didn’t want to count their money…but I did want to gain some understanding of what to expect…

So…

I went peg by peg.  Finding the team that would build my brand with me.  The editor, the cover artist, the formatter…and eventually…I did a mock up of the cost of self publishing through the eyes of someone whom has never self published before.  I had my estimated around $1,000 to get this book launched and ready to roll.  My guesstimate was a no fluff, no excess estimate.  It was simply a matter of dollar and cents.

I wasn’t that far off.  But, then again, I was. The true cost of going it alone is really an equation of whatever you’re willing to spend and whatever you’re willing to do yourself added and subtracted against one another.  This is my break down for anyone thinking of taking on this huge project.

Please keep in mind, outside of the actual writing, I depended on the kindness of others and their professional know-how.  I outsourced the things I wasn’t comfortable doing–which means, I basically outsourced every nook and cranny.

The Cover

Your cover can cost as much or as little as you’d like.  You can piece one together yourself for the price of a stock image and maybe a fancier font, or you can hire an artist to do the heavy lifting for you.

I ended up doing my cover twice.  My true cost the cover boiled down to this…

Cover Number 1- $120.00.  This included a stock image and the artists time and energy.

Font for cover Number 1- $60.00 purchased from myfonts.com.

Cover Number 2- $120.00.  This included the artists pre-exisiting artwork, her efforts and time.

Back & Spine for Cover Number 2- $80.00.  I’ve opted to put my book out in both eBook and print.  Not everyone does.

GRAND TOTAL: $380.00

Editing

Editing is an expensive and important part of the process and unless you’re fairly confident that you can do it yourself, and it’s best to outsource this leg of the project.  Actually, I’d like to take that back…I think everyone should be edited professional because fresh eyes are rather priceless.  Unedited books are one of the largest gripes readers have with Indies…they don’t want to read through a writers mistakes and eBook vendors like Amazon or B&N will not tolerate them.  Even if a book is your best effort, even if your a college graduate with a B.A in English…get an editor.  Step back and let someone else raise the red pen.  You’re comfortable with your work–you know what you meant to say–and editor isn’t any of that and will be honest pointing out where you went off the rails.

Quotes can vary depending on the length of your book and the style of editing you want. When I started looking for an editor and taking bids, they ranged anywhere form $3,000 to just over $100.00 to copy edit my 94k manuscript.  I did my research on editors to find one that I was comfortable with, and as it turned out, the $103.00 bidder was highly respected and came complete with glowing reviews from authors who had worked with her in the past as well as impressive resume of over 10 years worth of work.

I opted for a copy or line edit where the editor will correct my punctuation, highlight overused words, and any grammatical errors or oversights.   My editing costs boiled down to this…

$103.00 for 94k words

Formatting

Formatting can be another DYI project, but the rumor is that it will make you pull your hair out at the root.  Nothankyouverymuch.  I outsourced this to a recommended formatter.

Every book needs formatting, you can’t get around this…what you hammered out in Word or Pages won’t cut it in the big leagues.  What you send to the public needs to read fluently and crisply–everything from proper indentation to flourishes.

My formatting charge included both eBook and print formatting…and it boiled down to this…

$110.00 for Kindle, B&N, ePub, Smashwords and Print

Website

This was a highly unexpected but sage venture for me.  But, as an author, I felt the need to have a web presence that would speak of professionalism and become a place where my fans can connect with me–as my designer likes to say, plan for a miracle.  I started this blog to be my live journal, and while I’ll keep it going because I love it, the truth is, I needed a more professional approach to welcome my readers.

A website is a brilliant investment in your future.  Out of pocket, it’s pricey–I will admit that.  But, like with other things, it can be done for next to nothing if you’re good with computers and know your way around coding.

$870.00 this included a four page from scratch design.

$120.00 this included my domain name (a .com) for a year through GoDaddy.com, site analytics, 5 e-mail addresses and a pro plan that saves me from spam.

$100.00 for stock images to fill the site up

Promotion

Another unexpected but important element to the process as a whole.  No one can buy your book if they don’t know who you are or that you even wrote a book!  This is an ongoing budget, one that will cover various fees and various platforms over time.  It’s a budget in the rough because that is the only way to plan and I did set a cap for myself.  

This also a very a subjective one.  You can pour thousands upon thousands of dollars into promotion for press with the NYT and other publications…or, like me, you can keep it simple and attack the market online through various blogs and social media.   

$500.00 ads planned are for GoodReads, Facebook and The Kindleboards as well as others that may be suggested or discovered.  Each outlet charges different rates for different pushes.  Some are pay-per-click, others have a flat rate.  I will do a separate, in depth, discussion of PR at a later point. But, that is my budget.

$150.00 for a month long promotional blitz with a PR agent.

Printing

One of the greatest parts of being an author is having a printed book in hand–well, at least for me.  It’s the accumulation of the experience entirely which can be captured no other way.

I opted to use CreateSpace.  My first run of 20 books will be for giveaways, friends, family and bookstores I want to individually approach to carry my book.

20 copies at 6.00 a piece–$120.00 plus shipping

Grand Total: $2,453

Okay…so I was off by a little under $1,500…but, that’s what no one tells you and exactly why I am telling you.  It’s expensive.  And you should plan for it.

Now, lets talk sales…shall we?  Since, it would be kind of nice to recoup that cost eventually…

If I sell on Amazon for $4.99 a book–but for the sake of easy math, lets round up to a nice even $5.00.

$5.00 x .3 (amazon’s cut)= $1.5 (amazon’s take)

5.00 – 1.5= 3.5 (my royalties)

2,453 / 3.5 = 701 books sold before I break even.

The truth is…I write because I love it.  I can’t image doing anything else for the rest of life and I’m thankful that I was in the position to do it at all.  It’s an adventure.  And even if I never sell a single copy…I have zero regrets.

 

 

A Thousand Little Lies

Have you ever heard of Q. R Markham?  If you haven’t, you probably will.

You see, Mr. Markham (which is the pen name for the author Qunitan Rowan) is a plagiarizer.  And I’m not talking about the little borrowing of things here and there…no, if only…the truth is, it’s much deeper than that.  Quintan Rowan plagiarized an entire novel.  He took all the works that ever inspired him to begin with, mashed them up and served them up under the title “Assassin of Secrets”.  And no, he’s not some new Indie who simply didn’t know better..Rowan owns a bookstore in Brooklyn, NY (Spoonbill and Sugartown)…and the book, well, it was published by Little, Brown.

The story of this unfolds like Russian Nesting Dolls.  From the novel itself which, from the very first pages, copies nearly verbatim the works of others, dribbling down to the interviews he did where he passed off quotes of others as his own.  I’m not going to go into the gory details of this disgusting breech of trust and blunt dishonesty…but rather share my reaction to it.

When I came home this evening and told Mark what I’d learned about this–the whole story–he sort of shrugged like it was no big deal.  Then, he kind of laughed and referenced James Fry.

And it was in that moment I understood the difference in weight and balance. He couldn’t see what I saw in this. For me, what Quintan Rowan (and yes, I refuse to use his pen name…because really…what’s the point?  what did he pen?) did was take everything I did, everything we all do, and spit on it.  He’s not an author–he doesn’t deserve to be published.  While it may be funny–highlighting the gaps in traditional publishing, making a martyr of this “author”–for me, it’s just sad.

I don’t know why Rowan did what he did.  I can take my guesses, throw them at the wall, and wait to see what sticks. Maybe he was tired of the hoops and the jumping, maybe the rejections were piling up and he felt broken, maybe he wanted to see just how far this could go, maybe he has entitlement issue.  Who knows.  But what I do know for certain is that he was given an opportunity and he wasted it.  It wasn’t a rightfully earned placed on the book shelves, he piggy-backed off the work of others.  But still, he had a chance.  He could have done what we all do–he could have worked hard, taken the lumps of rejection, pushed passed it, found a way to make the literary world for him in his terms…but he didn’t.  What a shame.

Read more:

here

 

here

 

and

here

 

It All Boils Down To The Blurb

We’ve all this moment…

We’re standing in the middle of a bookstore.  Rows upon rows of beautiful covers wink at us from their neatly organized bookshelves, names we recognize and those we don’t.  We’re simply there because we want to read something.  Maybe it’s a mystery or a scary story, maybe it’s a great love story or emotional saga. We’re looking, actively seeking out an amazing book to lose ourselves in. We narrow it down based on the cover art, we look further into the Easter eggs a title teases us with. And finally, We find a novel that calls to us, we gently lift it from the shelves and turn it over….

A good blurb is the first foray into a writer’s style.  It’s the first words of theirs we’ll read, it will either sell us on the story or it won’t.  With a blurb, there is simply no middle ground to walk on upon.  It’s kind of a big deal–you know–for us wordsmiths, since we have all of five seconds to capture our audience, invite them inside and entice them to stay.  This is the moment where we sell our story.

My book will be available in both print and eBook, as well as audio.  I’ve spent a lot of time worrying and finessing the finer points of publishing.  I think I’ve done okay…but with a blurb…there is genuinely no “how to” that is one size fits all.  Sometimes a call to action works, other times we have to pluck the heart-strings.  But, whatever is our motivation, we must do it well.

So, I’m turning it over to you all.  That’s right…

I’ll be imbedding four potential blurbs, and each vote matters–I want your opinions!!  When you’re reading–ask yourself–does this pull you in, excite you, make you want to learn more.  Remember, this is a work of women’s fiction or literary fiction.  Polling closes in 24 hours from the moment this blog goes live.  While I can’t promise I will use the “most popular”…I will consider all opinions sincerely.

And, as always, I welcome your thoughts.  Tell me what you think–what feelings the blurb evokes in you as you read it.  I’m anxious to hear from you all!

Thank you in advance for your vote!

BLURB ONE

Jenna Chamberland, a mother with a young daughter, Mia, she is dying of breast cancer and in the final months of an all out war for her life–one that spanned three years and hung always from a feeble string of hope.

When it is clear that no further medical intervention will save her, Jenna is forced to watch her life come together as the end approaches by inches.  Desperate to help her husband Gabe make the gentle slip from married man to widower and single parent, Jenna longs to remain the devoted mother she’s always been, worrying about who her daughter will become. Jenna, in a moment of reflection and worry, decides to record tapes for her daughter, the milestone tapes.

In a story deep with sadness and grief, there is beauty and healing.

Mia reemerges from the tragedy of Jenna’s death nine years later as a precocious sixteen year old.  Her life is changing all around her at once–and like any child, she just wants her mom.  Through the recordings, Jenna voice returns, brought back on the thin-film of tapes to teach Mia the magic of life at large. Mia takes from the recordings what she will need to know to gain a better sense of self–to spread her wings and embrace the challenges and changes with humor, grace and hope.

THE MILESTONE TAPES is the story of a mother and her daughter, and the love that still holds them when time no longer can.

BLURB TWO

Jenna Chamberland adores her daughter, her husband and their life together, it was all she ever wanted.  Now, after a three-year war with breast cancer, her life is ending and only mere months linger.  Jenna must face the reality that awaits the ones she loves on the other side of her disease.  Her husband, Gabe, will be forced to make the slip from married man to widower, left alone to raise their daughter, Mia.  As Jenna watches the pieces come together, she wonders how her daughter will remember her.  In a moment of reflection, Jenna decides to leave her voice behind–recorded on the thin-film of tapes, hoping they will serve as a touchstone for Mia as the years and milestones pass her by.

Mia emerges from the tragedy of Jenna’s death nine years later as a precocious sixteen year old.  Her life is changing all around her at once–and like any child, she just wants her mom.  Through the tapes, Jenna voice returns, brought back to teach Mia the magic of life; to remind her of how deeply she was loved and to encourage her to spread her wings and embrace the challenges and changes with humor, grace and hope.

The Milestone Tapes is the story of a mother and her daughter and the love that holds them together when time no longer can.

BLURB THREE

Jenna Chamberland never wanted anything more than to be a mother and wife.  That was, until she realized that her life was ending after a three-year battle against breast cancer.  Then, all she really wanted was more time.

With 4,320 hours of life left, Jenna is watching the pieces come together, knowing what awaits her loved ones on the other side.  Gabe, her husband, will be asked to make to slip from husband to window, left alone to raise their seven-year old daughter.  Mia, will be forced to embrace life without her mother by her side.  Jenna worries what will become of them all.  In a moment of reflection, Jenna decides to record tapes for her daughter, the milestone tapes, leaving her voice behind as a touchstone for her daughter.

Nine years later, Mia is a precocious sixteen year old. Her life is changing all around her at once with each passing day, and all she wants is her mother. Through the Tapes, Jenna’s voice returns to teach Mia the magic of life, and she’s able to show her daughter with words how to spread  her wings and embrace the challenges to come with humor, grace and hope.

THE MILESTONE TAPES is the journey of love between a parent and children and the bonds that hold them when life no longer does.

BLURB FOUR

Dealers choice…

If you’re selecting this option, please feel free to leave your blurb suggestion in comment section of the posting.  If picked, you will receive full credit in the book!

A Change…

We’re back on covers, folks.  (Does publishing ever feel like a never ending merry-go-round?  I’m totally on board right now–spinning, spinning, spinning–two steps forward, five back)

Let me begin with this: The 11th hour change was as unexpected and surprising to me as it will be for you.  We all know how much effort and energy I poured into it making the original cover “just so”…now, the change that is coming…while exciting, as anything creative naturally is, it’s also equally surprising…

I like my first cover and I was initially thrilled with it.  It fell snuggling within my budget (hooray!) and the artist, Christine, came highly recommended (double hooray!!).  It was a wonderful experience working with her and she did capture my self-imagined image perfectly.  I cannot recommend her enough to anyone looking for an artist to make cover magic happen…and I cannot find fault with her on anything, whatsoever, this is all me–100%.

But…because there is always a but…

A couple of things happened…

1. Christine is highly sought after.  Her business blooms constantly and a wait-list developed rather quickly.

This created sort of a kink in the armor, shall we say.  I plan to have THE MILESTONE TAPES available for both print-on-demand (POD publishing) and electronically.  I always knew this was the agenda for the book, but–for whatever reason–I failed to commission a spine and back design at the time I commissioned the cover. My bad. Christine made a public announcement saying she was booked solid for a good and long time. Ergo, if I stay the corse, I’ll be putting off publishing for an undetermined amount of time simply because Christine is so popular–good for her, bad for me.

2. The more the original stared at me from the screen of my computer, the more I wasn’t sure.  I need to be sure-sure.

When you’re going it alone, like I obviously am, everything from editing to a cover matters a whole lot.  And the entire onus of your product, your brand is on you–you and you alone.  What you put out, you need to love–you should love it with every fiber of your being, that’s sort of the point of keeping your spoon in the pot for the whole process.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…you get ONE CHANCE with your book to make the biggest splash possible.  Without a marketing machine behind you, your responsible for your own ship.

Once I started to think it over seriously…look at it through the eyes of the reader…I wasn’t sure if it had the pop I originally believed it did.  Again, this isn’t about anyone but me.  I’m most critical of my own creations, that should be fairly obvious by now, and my critical side was giving me the “hmmm” voice.

3. While the “rights” to use the image for my cover are mine–whereas, promotional usage is limited.  I cannot create book marks or magnets or any other swag with its likeness.

That, right there, is a big flippin’ deal.  Again, something I didn’t know, but am smarter for figuring out now as opposed to later.

This is a good thing for us all to think about, really: If you’re ever going to use the image for anything other than the cover, you’re SOL unless you’re willing to shell out serious cash for all the rights.  And let’s face it, if you’re an Indie Author and you’re beating feet traveling to book fairs and pub clubs and panels, you need to offer something to your public, funds be damned really.  You, as the author, need the trinkets that say to someone “buy my book!”.  Have you ever been at an Expo and saw a product that was great but you wanted to think about it, only, you forgot to get the card?  That’s what this whole thing equates too.  It’s the deal sealer, the final offering…it’s you’re appeal of: please, take this book mark and remember me.

So, that changed things.

Again, I was out there looking for someone to do something amazing….

I discovered an artist, Renu Sharma, who does original work.  She is extremely creative and her digital art is some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever seen.  I couldn’t afford her.

Renu works as a commission artist.  That simply means, she hires models, takes their pictures, digitally changes the image to reflect an otherworldly theme and makes magic happen.  They are sincerely original–from the model to the finished piece.  That comes with an equivalent price tag.

I originally contacted Renu to work with me on my second cover.  But, she launched a fall sale on pre-done, noncommissioned work.  The process is all the same…original model, original piece, only, the ones on sale were homeless.

THE MILESTONE TAPES is a character driven piece of literature.  It pings into the lives of imaginary people with all the gusto of real life.  Since I write women’s fiction or literary fiction, the world is real while the people are not.  But, it all needs to stay grounded in the “it could be real” realm of writing, it should all feel real–the characters should be interchangeable with people you know.

Have you ever been haunted by something?  That one thing you should have bought because it would have been perfect?

Welcome to feeling that inspired the change.

While cruising the “sale section” of Renu’s portfolio I discovered the most magical, beautiful, haunting image of this little girl.  She had dark chestnut hair and ethereal blue eyes with the sweetest pouty lips.  She was my Mia.  Okay, not literally Mia…but as the author, I can tell you, that is Mia.  The highlights of dark and light and the innocence of the face, my guttural reaction was–that’s my girl. Oh my God, the moment itself was surreal, it was as though I looking at a picture of my character.  It was seeing her…which tripped me out…but also inspired me to rethink my stance on covers at large.

When I wrote Mia, it was after I had written Gabe and Jenna.  I knew what they looked liked, I had fleshed them out so clearly and I mashed them up to create their child; his eyes, her hair, his nose, her smile.  So seeing a photo that so entirely caught that image and held it–it was more like seeing them all stare back at me from the screen of my computer.  How do you walk away from that moment?  The answer is, you don’t.

I quickly took a screen shot and sent it to the only other person who has read my book cover to cover.  She loved it.  Her exact response was  “Mia?” and all I had to say was… “Mia.”

While it’s more literal than the first cover, it’s still falls way short of spelling out the context of the book.  I am not generally a fan of characters on covers.  I feel like there are times when “spelling it out” steals an experience from the reader, the chance they have to–in their own mind–create the character in the image of which the writing inspires.  But, I can’t help myself.  This girl needs to be on my cover.

So…change, it is a coming.

Soon THE MILESTONE TAPES will have a new beautiful face lift…and I will be the real owner of it, free to use it for any and all promotional plugs I desire.  I will probably still use the original cover in some fashion or another–a special release or paper back edition–but I am so drawn to the new cover, I can’t make promises.