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?


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…


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

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 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 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


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, 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


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.


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.




Like Me–I’m On Facebook!

It’s official!

I started an author page on Facebook to give everyone a chance to connect with me and live chat.  You’ll be privy to spur of the moment comments that may otherwise not make it onto the blog.  You can find the link to “like” me on on the right hand margin.  I’ll be doing giveaways and making announcements as THE MILESTONE TAPES prepares for release!

Like me and join the fun!

Blog Party for E.S Lark

Emily grew up with a fantastical imagination and parlayed that into a stunning career as an author.  With an unwavering belief that her books should be read–whether they fit traditional markets or not–E.S Lark has given readers beautiful stories.  Today, she joins the La Bella Novella blog to discuss her 2011 NaNoWriMo plans!  Thank you Emily!

-Name: Emily Lark

-Blog/Website Address:

-Tell us about you: I’ve been writing fantasy fiction for about twenty years now. I’ve tried other genres, but they never seem to stick as long. A few of my favorite authors include Mercedes Lackey, Andre Norton, Piers Anthony and R. A. Salvatore.

-If you’re a writer–professionally speaking–what is your “normal novel” pace?  Given no restrictions on time, how long would you say it takes you to write 50,000 words?: This really comes down to how easily the story flows for me. I’ve been known to writer 30,000 words in as little as six days. I’m sure if a story really grabbed me, I could easily achieve 50,000 in one week. Unfortunately, it usually takes more time than that because I obsess over the smaller details.

-This isn’t your first NaNoWriMo…tell us about your first time?: Last year was actually my first Nanowrimo, but I didn’t write under this name. I was working on a piece of non-fiction at the time (making me a Nano rebel) and didn’t want to confuse my readers by using the same name.

-Since there is an end goal–which makes you a “winner”–did you win and reach 50k in your past NaNoWriMo’s?  How many words total did you write (more or less or dead even)?: I won Nanowrimo last year a few days before it ended. I believe I finished with about 52,000 words, and then through edits I cut that down to around 47,000 words.

-NaNoWriMo is a lot of work, so we all want to know, what initially inspired you to join the writeathon movement and then, what has kept you coming back for more?: I’d seen a lot of my writing peers getting geared for it and I kind of felt left out. I’m doing it this year because I enjoy the community as it’s going on. You can join chatrooms, chat on the forums, join in writing sprints or even meet up with local authors.

-What were some of the things you taken away from past NaNo’s?  Any lessons you’d pass on to a newcomer and things you’d personally do different this year?: About halfway through Nano last year I started to fall behind. I let myself get stuck on a scene because it wasn’t flowing as smoothly as I would’ve liked. I’m one of those writers who edits as she writes, which makes the writing process longer than it has to be.

When I realized what was holding my novel back, I forced myself to ignore the internal editor. Sometimes we forget that the first draft isn’t supposed to look polished and that it’s just there as another piece of the foundation. So, for myself and new Nano writers out there, I order you to turn off the editor. Get the bare bones of your novel down in the first draft. Basically, your head’s full of words and letters. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, and the only way to get rid of it is to throw the novel onto the page as quickly as possible. Get it out and move on. You can fix any mistakes during the editing process.

-What happened to your story–did you publish it?  Junk it?  Still working on it?  (this is the place where it is A-O.K to mention a published book, if that book came from NaNoWriMo’s of the past): The book I wrote last year has been edited about six times. It’s ready for publication, but I got sidetracked with my fantasy. At the moment, I don’t have enough time to do the interior layout and cover work, so it will have to wait. I do plan on publishing it in the future though.

-What do you think your biggest personal challenge will be when it comes to NaNoWriMo this year? (examples: time, other obligations, consistency of participation, writers block) Time management. Ever since I released my first book this fall, I’ve been unable to manage my time as well as I’d like. I tell myself to do one hour of marketing/connecting with readers in the morning, but that one hour soon becomes two or even three hours long. I do the same in the evening. So when I’m not marketing or connecting, I do my very best to write, but I’m constantly checking email, my blog for comments, Twitter and online writing communities.

-Since you’re obviously back for more–tell us–what prep work have you done for 2011 NaNo?  Do you have a strong plot mapped out?  Character development?  What are you current plans?: I had three ideas for Nano earlier this season, and it kept changing. Now, with Trueblood’s Plight coming out next month just as Nano begins, I’ve decided to work on the sequel. I’ve done very little prep for this. I’m using a plot idea I had about a year ago, changing a few things and winging it. I know it’s not for everyone, but I cannot use an outline.

I feel restricted if I do, like I need to follow the exact outline. Besides, most times when I plan on something happening, my characters decide they want to do something else. They’re the ones that write my books. I’m just there for the ride and to make sure no one dies (usually).

-Do you plan to keep working on this book/novella/script post-NaNo? I do. Since I started on my road to publication about two years ago, I’ve made myself a promise. I’m not allowed to start a book and not finish it, even if I get stuck. If I gave up when I had a writer’s block that lasted two weeks last year, Trueblood’s Plight wouldn’t exist. It’s hard trudging through the meat of a novel at times, but we never know how good it could’ve been unless we finish it.

Blog Party for Edward M. Grant

And the party continues!  British author, Edward M. Grant, stopped by to share his past NaNoWriMo experiences and what he hopes to accomplish this year.

-Name: Edward M. Grant


-Blog/Website Address:


-Tell us about you:


I grew up in Britain and studied Physics at Oxford, but I moved to

Canada several years ago. I make a living in IT and in the UK I spent

about a decade working on indie movies in my spare time, and only really

returned to writing fiction when ebooks made self-publishing viable;

every time I thought about finishing a novel and sending it out the

prospect of waiting years for agents and publishers to reject it left me

looking for better things to do with my time.


Lately I’ve been too busy writing to do much for hobbies, but in the

past I’ve been a VIP at several space shuttle launches, traveled all

over the world, climbed Mt Fuji and visited ground zero of a number of

nuclear explosions.


Over the years I’ve written various short stories, a lot of unproduced

movie scripts and some magazine articles. I co-write an indie vampire

movie which was shot in 2006, but it didn’t come out as well as we’d

hoped. Right now I’m doing a final tidy on a novelization of the first

horror movie script I wrote back around 2001 and hope to have it

available soon.


-If you’re a writer–professionally speaking–what is your “normal

novel” pace?  Given no restrictions on time, how long would you say it

takes you to write 50,000 words?:


I’ve been trying to average 1,000 words a day all year and I’ve come

fairly close to that but unfortunately the words are spread across about

half a dozen novels and a few short stories rather than all in one

place. So on that basis about two months, though I’d normally be

revising a previous novel at the same time.


-This isn’t your first NaNoWriMo…tell us about your first time?:


That was ‘Petrina’ in 2006, which I’ve just started revising to

self-publish sometime next year; I was roughing out a series of five SF

novels when my girlfriend suggested doing NaNoWriMo because she and some

of the people she worked with planned to do it, so I thought I’d write a

separate novel set in the same universe with some of the same characters.


It was a useful experience because at the time I had several

part-written novels that I had abandoned but had never completed a first

draft (oh my God, all those words in one story!), so it gave me an

incentive to do so. Fifty thousand words seemed daunting at the time,

but I’d managed to write feature-length movie scripts in a couple of

weeks so it wasn’t as daunting as it would have been a few years earlier.


-Since there is an end goal–which makes you a “winner”–did you win and

reach 50k in your past NaNoWriMo’s?  How many words total did you write

(more or less or dead even)?:


To be honest, I’ve never been that worried about actually completing the

story that month, so I just aim for the 50k words and call it done once

I pass that. Every NaNo novel I’ve written has a beginning, middle and

end, but also a number of places saying ‘[stuff goes here]’ or ‘[The

magic hamster arrives and saves the weasel princess]’


I see it more as a way to write a detailed outline than a complete novel

with all the words in the right places. For example, ‘Petrina’ ended up

around 65,000 words after I went back and wrote the parts I’d left out

and I wouldn’t have managed that extra 15,000 words before the end of

the month.


-NaNoWriMo is a lot of work, so we all want to know, what initially

inspired you to join the writeathon movement and then, what has kept you

coming back for more?:


I work best with deadlines, so having a simple deadline (50k words by

the end of the month) is a good incentive to get something written. I

have a ton of ideas stashed away that I’d like to write and so it’s a

good excuse to pull one off the list and write it.


-What were some of the things you taken away from past NaNo’s?  Any

lessons you’d pass on to a newcomer and things you’d personally do

different this year?:


Mostly that it showed I could sit down and get a story pretty much

written in far less time than I’d imagined. The downside is that it is

just a very rough draft so you really need to revise it into a readable

story if you want to learn as much as you can from the process. Having

proven I could write the words I’ve learned a lot since from revising a

story to make those words worth reading.


I always made a rough outline before I started so that I’d have some

idea of where I was intending to go, but I didn’t always follow it; I

would say that helps because you don’t waste too much time thinking

about what should happen next and can concentrate on putting the words

down. In addition, if I realised something needed to be fixed I’d

normally just put a note in the margin rather than spend the time to go

back and rewrite it then.


One idea I like but have never used in Nano is the ‘snowflake method’

(there’s a web page of that name) where you start with a very basic

outline of the story and then expand it in multiple stages until you

have a very thorough outline. If I was starting from scratch this time

I’d probably give that a try.


-What happened to your story–did you publish it?  Junk it?  Still

working on it?  (this is the place where it is A-O.K to mention a

published book, if that book came from NaNoWriMo’s of the past):


I have five and at the moment they’re waiting for me to get around to

revising them; I think at least four of them are worth further work.

Hopefully ‘Petrina’ and ‘Highgate Horror’ will be out sometime next year

along with the new Nano novel.


-What do you think your biggest personal challange will be when it comes

to NaNoWriMo this year?

Time, I think. When I first did Nano I was single (well, my girlfriend

was on the other side of the Atlantic) and living in a log cabin so I

could start as soon as I got back from my day job and finish at 4am if

need be. Now I have to deal with cooking and mowing the lawn, and I’m

on-call for my day job for part of the month so hopefully no disasters

will happen.


-Since you’re obviously back for more–tell us–what prep work have you

done for 2011 NaNo?  Do you have a strong plot mapped out?  Character

development?  What are you current plans?:


I’m deciding between two stories, both of which I have as half-written

screenplays; hence I already know the characters, the beginning and the

end but I need to figure out the middle. One was written to be a really

cheap indie horror movie with a few people in a warehouse and plenty of

gratuitous sex and violence, the other is a war movie which would

require more research. I’m tending toward the war story but I hope I

have enough time for any research I have to do while writing it…

otherwise there may be more ‘[things go here]’ notes than usual this time.


-Do you plan to keep working on this book/novella/script post-NaNo?


I’d like to get it finished and published before Christmas, but I

suspect I won’t make that deadline if I go for the war story.

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!


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.


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.


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.


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!

Don’t You Love It When You Find New Things To Love

I believe that songwriters are perhaps the most gifted of all writers–across all genres and mediums–for they are the ones to capture an entire moment, memory, milestone or a lifetime in the span of four minutes and breathe real life into it.  That’s why songs make us cry, make us laugh, make us dance…because the authors of them hold a gift and they use it perfectly.  Songwriters can make it real for you with a simple melody and thoughtful lyrics.  They can pull you back to your first kiss, transport you to your senior prom, your wedding day, the day you first saw your child, the moment of your first bittersweet heartbreak, the moment you knew life would go on or even last Saturday night.  Every good movie has an amazing score behind it that sets the scene.  Every good book was written to playlist.  Music is a thread, woven intricately through our lives.

I have fallen in love with Christina Perri.  Deeply, madly, truly in love.  That girl, now, she’s a songstress.  She has the most beautiful voice–earthy, deeply noted, fresh and just plain, old fashion good in the era of auto-tune.  She’s a little Anna Nalick, the best of Sarah McLachlan, touches of Jason Mraz, and lull of her own exceptionally unique brand.

Her song, Jar of Hearts, first bled through the speakers on a winding road while I was driving home.  From the hook, I needed to know who she was.  Her voice, her song–it was magic–it put me back in that moment of bravery, the moment when your heart is broken but you decide to move on because no one has the right to hurt you so much.  I downloaded it and was instantly a fan, not simply of the song, but of the artist.  Then, as if fate spun in, I found out she was doing the theme song to Breaking Dawn part 1.  A Thousand Years…well, now that song may just be my favorite song ever.  Being a Twilight fan, owning all of the past soundtracks, I feel Christina was able to hammer home to the heart of Breaking Dawn.  She was the perfect person to do this…and she did it very well.

I think we can all learn something, as traditional authors with our thick books and long chapters, from our lyrical counterparts.  What they can create in those moments, it is art.  They give something.  They truly, no matter the subject, can evoke feeling in the reading, as we should evoke feeling in our readers.   What they can do magically is bottle it up for us.  They don’t need 400 pages, though the effect is often the same.  There is something beautiful in the soft, short span of it.

As I begin the second book, I think I’m going to try for a different format, a different rhythm…because I realize, it can be done. Glimpsing life without giving it all away.  Give the reader the what matters, pull them in, make it real and make it resonate.  THE MILESTONE TAPES isn’t that.  It’s a slow build, a small fire that eventually, page by page, grew.  Book two, it will be flashes of warmth all the way along.

Do you write to music?  Do you learn from it?  Does it set the scene of the blank canvas for you?  Are you inspired by it?

And as a reader, when you’re reading, do you hear a soundtrack in your mind?  Does knowing what the author listened too while writing make the book better for you?  Do you wish books came with scores?

Are You Really REALLY Ready For NaNoWriMo?

It just dawned on me this morning…NaNo starts in two days!  TWO DAYS PEOPLE!  Are you excited?

I’ve been planning since–oh–mid October.  I think I’m ready, but since this is my first time–who really knows?

I’ve done my outline on Storyist which was amazing.  I was able to decide all the brass tacks of the characters down on paper and finesse the finer points–like the layout of their homes and jobs.  I’ve given my mind a few days off…and I started my Christmas shopping–just so that it won’t be a distraction.  My office is blessedly finished, so I will have a quite place to write long into the evening.

How are you all doing?  Getting ready??

I Have Bloggers Block…

Doesn’t that sound like a disease?  It certainly feels like one–and I’m sorry.  I can’t think of a single thing to talk about…I’ve got nothing…nada…zilch.  Tomorrow will be better, promise!

But for today, I’m going to share a post from another blog I read this morning.  It’s funny–dripping with sarcasm–but, it all depends on how you read it.

Andy Straka Gives It To You Straight


Then There’s The Matter Of a Broken Heart

Life is full of rejection.  Big ones and little ones a like.  The type that stay, linger forever in the back of your mind.  The sort that are fleeting, in and out so quickly it hardly resonates.  I never thought a book could break my heart.  But, like with everything about this trek through the publishing web, I should really stop being surprised when it goes to a whole new level.

One of my readers, Deshipley, gave me sound advice a few days ago.  She said, when the rejection comes–based on your book, after a professional has read it–it hurts.  She was right, totally correct…it does hurt.  It’s pounds of hurt and disappointment and self doubt and fear and so many other emotions I can’t pinpoint them.

I’ve taken a lot of no’s with this story.  I’m so tired of that word.  I can sit here and say it’s a matter of taste, I can reason that it’s not my fault or the book’s fault per say.  I can say all of that and sometimes I can even believe it, but other times, I’m sorry, but I simply can’t buy it.  Today…I’m having a pity party for one.

I submitted my book to a small publishing house.  Don’t ask me why, I don’t really know.  The sample contract was extremely limiting–no print books, little control over my edited manuscript, 50% profit after the royalties of eBook sales–which we know is already a lowly sum to begin with. The gains were little, all things considered and weighed evenly. But still, I queried.  And with that single try, I managed to get a full read.

The publishing house I went after was tiny, a start up only a few months old.  Maybe I did it simply because there is an innate desire in me to have the backing of a real publisher, no matter the size of their muscle. Maybe that desire is something I cannot quash, no matter how promising Indieland is, and maybe that’s what it’s always been about.   You always want most what you can’t have.

The editor got back to me so quickly initially, and she had such nice things to say out of the gate after reading the first 30 pages.  I actually had the gull to be hopeful despite logically knowing better.  I apologize for not posting about this full read on the blog–but I wasn’t sure what to say…

This morning I received the following rejection:

Dear Ashley,

Thank you for your submission to <name removed>.  Unfortunately, this story does not meet our publication needs at this time. The beginning of the story felt a little awkward, and as I moved further into the manuscript, the story didn’t really catch and keep my interest.  
That’s a really sad way to start the day.  It broke my heart just a little bit, just like Deshiply promised it would.  All with all rejections, rebound is inevitable, I’m certain, but still…it stings.
I think the hurt mostly pours from the very personal message in the body of the e-mail. And this is why…
I tried, of that I’m positive, to write a book that was gripping.  But, it never to be your stock women’s fiction novel– not in the way commercial fiction grips you, not in your expectations of speed.  It’s unconventional, I know that, but to tell the Chamberland’s story, there was simply no other way.  It had to have the pace of real life, it was why I didn’t write “chapters” but rather “months”.  I designed the book to feel that way…a slow build to a moment of utter grief, and the length and effort it takes to heal from that–it all happens by inches, across measures of time and life, not chapters.  It was never supposed to be a fast burn.  I wanted the readers to meet Jenna, to love her and understand her so completely that come what may, they’d have a richer, more profound, understanding of who she was.
If that doesn’t resonate from the pages of the story…then I’m simply lost. I thank God that I have an editor on board who will help me refine what I’ve written.  But, I understand today that I’m at a huge crossroads with everything….and I’m not really sure what happens next…

The Beginning of The End

THE MILESTONE TAPES is wrapping up it’s time as being my number one.  I’m soon sending it off to an editor, and I’ve already begun the outline for my follow-up novel. I’m preparing to finish this chapter of my life with Jenna, Mia, Gabe and Ginny–who have become my friends. It’s bittersweet, exhilarating, and scary. This is a time of reflection, the calm place where I can sit back and amaze at what I accomplished–my work ethic that was a little engine that could.  The grind is slowing…a few more stops–the editor, the formatter–and we’ve reached the station.  The book will be published, and I’ll be forced to move on–because that’s we do.  We finish one and begin again.

Mark and I were hanging out in the family room this evening, sipping on mugs of Keurig hot chocolate with stacks of whipped cream floating in the sea of steaming cocoa, and we got to talking about this journey I’ve been on.

Mark believes that the book–in and of itself–is the major accomplishment.  Just my ability to write one left him wonderstruck for a long time–I used to call him and say, I wrote 3,000 words today and he’d be amazed.  I tend to agree with him while also disagreeing–writing only a part of the bigger accomplishment.

For me, everything about this has been an accomplishment, a milestone, which is appropriate because that is the title of my first book.  All of it, from finding the right cover artist, the queries, to the editor, to simply not ripping my hair out at the root and, of course, this little blog, meant something major.

It’s now that I look back on all the people who have you ever said to someone “anyone can write a book?”…after doing it, that sentiment is laughable.  Writing a book is more than typing words.  It’s everything–the feeling of accomplishment truly a sum of all its parts.

It dawned on me, probably for the first time, that writing a book is a lot like being spun up and dropped, head first, into THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Most everyone knows the story of Dorothy and Toto and their band of misfits.  But to look at it from the angle of art, it’s a subtly different context…

At first, as this begins, you’re just a normal person doing the normal things that make up your normal life. Then, a twister comes along and takes you to another place.  That twister is your book, and that land of Oz it the world of publishing.  You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.

It’s a magical second world, beaming with colors that juxtapose you’re black and white existence. You can tell, standing there for the first moment, that there are possibilities in this literary land of Oz.  Wild dreams and bright flashes of the future–fame, fortune, glossy books and people who want your autograph–it’s enchanting and encouraging–you want it.  But the road is long.  Fraught with flying monkeys, vengeful trees, fields of poppies, a gatekeeping wizard who hold the key to all you desire and the witch of the west with her broom and cauldron boiling with ways to trip you up.

You listen to the good witch, believe in her–that’s your friends and family who will help, arm you with the tools and encourage you along.

You collect your companions; the editor, the cover artist, the formatter .  They all become your lion, your tin-man, your scarecrow–the odds and ends that you need to make through.  And you set off down the yellow brick road to wherever it may it go.

The trees–they want to grab you and hold you–they can be nothing but the querying process.  All those letters, personalized and delivered by e-mail or post, and all the downtrodden rejections that follow.  But you throw apples of resilience at each one, they can’t hold–try as they might.

The monkey’s–they want to scare you–they are all the naysayers and doubters that raise a brow at your writing.  You find a way outrun that, you fight, because you believe you can.

The beautiful poppies–that’s real life.  The distractions that tire you out, that pull you down, the writers block that comes up at the most inopportune times.

The wizard–no surprise there–he’s the gatekeeper of traditional publishing.  It’s where many people want to land–the written Oz.  A land of impossible realities.

And the wicked witch–well, that’s kind you, believe it or not.  It’s a sum of all your mistakes, all the things you’d do differently given the chance.

Maybe I’m only the crazy one who can think of it like this…but I do.  I’ve loved every moment of my first journey.  And I’m so looking forward to the beginning of the chapter two and what comes next.