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Posts tagged with: Indie Publishing

Indie, Are Ya?

So, you’ve decided to be your own boss. Not an easy decision. Kudos to you for grabbing the entrepreneurial reins. And as you look ahead into the future with excitement and determination, despite knocking knees, the Rubies want you to know we’ve got your back. In the coming months, we plan to post information that’ll help you build a fabulous career.

On the second Tuesday of each month, Katie Graykowski and myself (along with a few other Rubies backing us up with current information), will be chatting about the Indie business of book publishing. Our blog will be in two parts, directed at both new indie writers and those who are part of the indie world and need help in certain aspects, such as marketing. We fully admit, we’re not experts, but we do own our own businesses and we’re always on the lookout for new information. We’re also willing to host guests who are experts, so if you’re an industry professional please contact us.

If you have specific topics you’d like discussed, please email me at autumn@autumnjordon.net or Katie at katiegraykowski@me.com and we’ll do our best to address the topic in our next blog.

 

DON’T KILL YOUR CAREER BEFORE ITS STARTED

by Katie

The indie market is an everchanging beast. What works today may not work tomorrow. I’ve met indie veterans and total newbies who all have the same issues.

 Five years ago, when I published my first indie book, it was an OMG-is-this-the-right-path-for-me moment. In the early days of indie publishing, established authors and traditional publishing companies alike, balked at the idea of self or indie publishing. Thank God readers didn’t and still don’t care how the books that they buy are published.

Now, I know that everyone wants to jump to marketing so that they can sell a bazillion books, retire to Grand Cayman, and day-drink on the beach, but you can’t sell a bazillion books, if you’re manuscript is crap.

Let’s be honest here. If all it took were words on a page to make a good read, then the IRS tax code would be on the NYT Bestsellers List. You need to write a damn good book and then, you MUST have it edited by a PROFESSIONAL EDITOR.

Hear me world, a professional editor is NOT your cousin Sally-Jane who loves to read, your son’s third grade teacher, your mother, your next-door neighbor, or your coworker who has a blog on pet grooming. Or, and this is the worst possible case, your readers.

A professional editor is someone who edits books for a living. You pay this person. They have references that you contact to make sure they are in fact, an editor. I know what you’re thinking, that you can’t afford it. But you can and here’s why.

Let’s go back to letting your readers edit your books scenario. I know what you’re thinking, I’m just being overly dramatic, but no, it’s a real thing. I met a writer at a book signing. We started talking because if you’re not Nora Roberts, James Patterson, or Gandhi, no one comes to a book signing. We had three hours to chit chat about writing. It’s important to tell you that this particular signing was at a bar which is a great gig—free drinks in exchange for sitting at a table behind a giant stack your books, and smiling to people who refuse to make eye contact.

I asked my new writer friend how many books she’d sold and she proudly told me thirty. I was like that’s awesome … thirty thousand books … respect. Nope, she corrected me. She’d only sold thirty. In an effort to pry my foot from my mouth, I then congratulated her on her new release. Guess what, the book had been out for a year and a half. She told me that she just couldn’t figure out why she hadn’t sold more books.

I opened my laptop, pulled her book up on Amazon, and mashed my lips together to keep from gasping. She had ten reviews which for thirty sales is awesome, but her overall rating was a 2.4. Every single review said basically the same thing, she needed an editor. Her grammar was terrible, her story didn’t make sense, and her characters were flat.

I asked her who edited this book thinking that she either needed to ask for her money back or she needed to find a new editor. She told me that she lets her fans edit her books. Unfortunately, I’d just taken a gulp of my Mexican Martini (it’s a top shelf margarita on the rocks with a splash of olive juice). Martini spewed all over my laptop. To this day, my keyboard is still a little sticky.

I can’t stress enough the importance of a good editor. There are line editors who look at grammar, content editors who look at the overall story, and global editors who look at both. You can afford.

I have a global editor who charges $0.0045/word. My last book cost me $378.14. Yes, it was short, but you do the math. You can afford it. Give up online shopping for a month. Don’t buy that new purse you want from Coachonline.com (which is actually cheaper than the Coach Outlet Store). Paying a good editor is just the cost of doing business.

If you like writing and want to do it full time and still be able to eat, HIRE an editor.

As Autumn mentioned, I’m no expert, but I have published 20 indie books, quit my day job five years ago, and still manage to feed my family. BTW-I am an expert when it comes to eating brownies, avoiding people I don’t like, and correcting the misuse of I vs. me. Come on people, I before the verb, me after. It’s not that hard.

 

WE ALL WANT TO MAKE GREAT ART,

BUT UNLESS OUR ART GOES TO AUCTION IT WON’T PAY THE BILLS

By Autumn

 

Indie authors wear many hats and unless you are willing to wear them and are capable of switching them out several times a day, maybe Indie publishing is not for you. You are the President and VP, secretary, accountant, editing department, art department, marketing department, production department, etc. etc. etc. of your company. Even the janitor, as your office probably needs cleaning like mine.

Now, depending on the funds you have, you can hire someone to do some of the jobs, but most likely, initially, you’ll wear most of the hats. Keep in mind, every decision you make will affect your business.

With over 4500 new books reported published each day, it’s no wonder marketing is the topic of most interest to indie authors. Without it, your book is lost and all the hard work you’ve done will never be appreciated.

Over the next several months we’re going to share marketing tips which we’ve used ourselves in order to grow our reader base, along with any new information we’ll learn.

To begin, let me echo the advice of the many marketing experts I’ve listened to over the last year. There is no magic bullet that will propel your book sales to stardom.

There are six steps, however.

  • Write a damn good, emotion infused story.
  • Hire a good editor and copy editor.
  • Have a professional cover made and write intriguing tag lines and blurbs.
  • Have a professional website and landing pages on social media and venues.
  • Know your target audience.
  • Know your strengths and limits of ability.
  • Be consistent with your marketing!

Marketing plans are not done and over within a month or a year. They’re ongoing and take time, research, decisions and funds. Research is where marketing begins. You need to know who are your potential customers. This step is very important and will lay the foundation of your marketing plan. It will also keep you from throwing your hard-earned money into the firepit.

Know your target audience. Take the time to research who your readers also buy and read. You can do this by looking at what other books they’ve bought on different platforms and listed on Goodreads. Look at reviews. Find ten authors whose books are similar to yours. These readers will be who you’ll target through Amazon, Bookbub, Goodreads, or Facebook ads.

If you don’t have your first book out yet, start with who you like to read and whose works are the same genre as the book you’ve written. It’s never too early to start researching and cultivating your fan base.

When starting ads, set a budget that wouldn’t break you. Watch which author camp is giving you impressions and clicking on your ads and then following through with sales. Delete or pause those who are costing you money. Keep in mind, it can take three impressions, or more, before your ad will catch a reader’s attention.

Your goal is to whittle your list of core reader camps down to five or even three. And as you get results you can add more funds to your campaigns.

Beware! Keep an eye on the changing scene. Take ten minutes a day to review your ads.

Next, Know your strengths and limits of ability. Watch where and how the targeted authors are using social media. We all have favorite venues of social media, but it’s nearly impossible to be everywhere effectively. Could you reach more readers on another platform than the you’re currently using? And would you feel comfortable to use that venue?

Okay. That’s enough information to start our discussion on marketing.  Any questions or advice on learning a target audience?

 

 

 

 

Putting on Your Big Girl Pants

liztalley_princenotsocharming2500So this isn’t going to be one of those how-to posts some of the Rubies are so good at (I’m looking at you, Hope Ramsay :))

But this, rather, will be more confessional. See, I’m going to totally get naked here. Don’t worry. You won’t have to look at this 44 year old pudgy body, but I will open up about my career – the good, the bad, and the meh – for the last year.

Let’s begin with a brief bio: finaled in Golden Heart, sold first book three months later, sold two more five months later, embarked on career with Superromance, signed 8 book deal, realized publishing was changing, stuck in 8 book deal, signed book deal with Berkley, signed short story with Storyfront, sold two books to Montlake, turned down three book deal with Harlequin, subbed two more books with Montlake, got rejected, writing a new proposal…

And six years later, here I am. In that time, I’ve had some bright moments – a Rita final, RT Superromance of the Year, Amazon book of the month. But I’ve had some bad times too, namely, realizing I can’t control what happens. I CAN’T CONTROL WHAT HAPPENS.

What looks to be a sure thing, turns south quickly. And thus, this is where we are in publishing. So what, you may ask?

Indeed. So what.

Well, here’s what. All this time I thought if I wrote good books I believed in, if I made my deadlines, if I jumped through publisher hoops, and if I smiled a lot and was agreeable that I would reap the rewards of my efforts. That’s what we tell ourselves, right? That’s what we tell our children. That hard work pays off. Except sometimes it doesn’t.

It just doesn’t.

So two weeks ago, I made a HUGE decision to take the series my publisher felt all meh about and publish the remaining books myself. You may be like “So? Lots of authors do this.” But it feels bigger than that. Because this wasn’t about tossing something out there and seeing what happens. It’s about the foundation of what I believed being shaken, about me losing some faith in what I thought I knew and about me putting faith in myself. So for me, it was big. I quickly set about getting covers (that look awesome, btw), finding an editor (done) and creating my own publishing company – ARTalley Books, LLC. I applied for my EIN and uploaded the first offering Prince Not So Charming to Amazon. In two weeks’ time, I changed my destiny.

Here’s the whole point of this post – I resisted taking action for far too long. I didn’t believe in myself, and though I’m still quivering in my slippers, I now believe in myself, and something about this is freeing.

Yes, freeing.

I did it myself. Myself. Like a big girl. LOL.

And, though I’ve heard so many people rave about self-publishing (and just as many complaining about it), I never understood how empowering it is to make your own decisions. I chose the cover and I wrote the blurb. I selected my own meta data and figured stuff out. I’m still blown away by myself. Which is silly, but it’s true. I sort of want to huff on my fingers and polish them on my shirt. Did you see what I just did? Yeah, me. I started a business.

So what does this mean for you and what’s the point? Um, honey (and I say that in a non-offensive, non-patronizing way), if I can do it, you can too. And I’m not merely talking about self-publishing. I’m talking about writing that book you’re scared to write or starting that editing business you’ve been mulling over for months. Or maybe it’s something non-writing related – running a marathon, leaving that jerk, or quitting your day job. Deep down you know what is right for you. Stop doubting who you are, stop making excuses. Put on your big girl pants and get busy.

It’s beyond time.

 

Liz Talley is the new owner of ARTalley Books, LLC. She has published twenty-one stories the traditional way, but as of Nov. 17th, she’ll be doing some things her way. And that has her pumped! You can find out more about the newly bold Liz at http://www.liztalleybooks.comor find her on FB at https://www.facebook.com/liztalleybooks/.

Oh, and if you want to support her new business and get a fun little novella in the process you can buy Prince Not So Charming here http://bit.ly/PrinceNotSoCharming

A Cautionary Tale

It’s been said that, in a courtroom, the man who represents himself has a fool for a client. Something similar can be said for a writer who does his or her own editing.

StarshipIn an earlier blog, I mentioned fine-tuning my SFR and that it became a cautionary tale in and of itself. Here’s what happened:

Some of you know family obligations made it impossible for Cuz to relocate when his employer chose to move.  With him facing unemployment, we decided to polish a manuscript that, although begun as a writing exercise in the 90s, would not die. Unsure whether those old ideas still had merit, we entered the first chapters into a contest and—Hallelujah!—they did. To ice our little happy cake, while the story sat, SFR emerged as a viable genre. Whoopee!

Reality soon changed whoopee to whoop ass—with mine in its sights. Half the chapters remained in WordPerfect®, the program we had grudgingly abandoned when Word® rose to industry dominance. Some existed only on legal pads. The last handful were doc. and docx. files.

Have you any idea the garbage a story can collect over nigh eighteen years? Upon seeing the merged files, I darn near had a coronary. Over 120,000 words, huge gaps, duplicate scenes, missing scenes, more inconsistencies than I care to enumerate, and despite comprehensive profiles, the characters had morphed. Oh, and no ending. That’s right. At 120+K. It. Was. Not. Finished.

But wait. There’s more. Since we were having so much fun, circumstances added a smidge more crazy.

My CP, who planned to help us navigate indie publishing’s vagaries, announced her impending out-of-state relocation. In a strange twist, although they didn’t know each other, Cuz and her hubby worked for the same outfit.

Yay.

With the deadline approaching and beta-readers waiting, we escalated to panic mode. I settled in to work. I kid you not when I say I gained about fifteen pounds because I did little but sit and type until I sent the story to the readers.

Nobody liked the hero. Too alpha. No evidence of a softer side. The heroine, while likable,  didn’t fare much better. The villain . . . Well, you get the idea.

I returned to my chair and, comments in hand, knuckled down.

Many sleepless nights, pots of coffee, and PB&J sandwiches later, we had something viable but, given its age, realized holes we stood too close to see might yet exist. Both Cuz and I have solid general science backgrounds and experience within specific disciplines. Neither of us can claim more than a basic grasp of physics, however, and we had, of course, ventured there.

Pooling our resources, we hired a developmental Sci-fi editor who, we were assured, had experience with romance.

While he found several oopsies on the physics/space-science front, making him well-worth his hire, his comments and handling of the love story declared ours wasn’t the story he wanted to read. Unfortunately, what he wanted to read, we didn’t want to write.

We thanked him and parted ways.

I’ve done plenty of editing during my life. These days, it’s mostly for my CP, but in years past, I edited publications, ads, form letters—Yeah. Fun stuff—and books that eventually found place in traditional publishing. I could handle this. No sweat.

Thus, without fanfare, I donned motley and joined the fools’ ranks.

More eighteen and twenty-hour days behind the desk followed. My feet swelled. My hips spread. Each tick of the clock, it seemed, claimed another strand of hair.

Somehow, between midnight phone debates, sometimes-grudging compromises, incessant typing, and gritty eyes, time ran out. Cuz and CP made the long trip, squishing into my dinky office to navigate the publishing process.

After an almost nineteen year gestation, the book went live 25 January 2015.

It wasn’t ready. We knew it. We priced it high to discourage buyers, but like proud parents who refuse to believe they created an ugly child, kept the pictures on display. 

People bought it. Our family and friends led the way, but we sold too many for just that forgiving group.

Instant panic—for me.

Cuz moseyed on to Book Two. I couldn’t make him understand Book One of a series carries the weight of every book that follows (we have three gestating), and ours didn’t have the muscle yet. Our developmental editor had become so fixated on the alien pronoun usage several discrepancies and plot holes evaded his detection just as they’d escaped mine—until I read the book in print.

Nightmares had nothing on this mess. The book bled red ink. Depression, a specter most writers battle at times, found a foothold. I republished over and over while fighting the demon (I forget how many print copies I bought. I can’t seem to see this stuff on the computer), enduring Cuz and Hubble’s jokes about how anal I was and their advice to let it be. No argument made either male understand why I persisted. The months that followed proved hellish.

On 1 August 2015, I downloaded The Sword & the Starship for the final—I hope—time, and can, at long last, say I’m proud of it. It’s sixteen pages and several thousand words leaner than its January incarnation. The bits that went nowhere are gone. The timeline issue has been resolved. The hero and heroine boast complete character and emotional arcs. As for the villain? No complaints.

AND (cue Angel Choir) Cuz has finally seen the light.

Here’s what we learned:

1.) Hiring a content or copy editor would have been wise. Despite determined attempts at objectivity, my knowledge of the story and characters led to ill-advised assumptions, skimming, and more reworking than there had to be.

2.) Nothing catches errors quite like the ear. Read the book aloud. Hearing it read works, too—if you can avoid zoning out.

3.) Not all editors are created equal. While grateful for the solid science, we would have been better served by an editor who shared our vision for the story.

4.) Trust yourself. If your inner voice is screaming, listen; it’s probably right.

5.) Chair time is not always time well-spent. Get up. Move. You can’t think very well with your blood cushioning your tush. You’ll accomplish more with it energizing your brain.

6.) Sometimes, in the long run, it costs less to spend. If you work best with print, then print. While shredded paperbacks are excellent soil-enhancers, and pages spread over soil stop weeds, they’re expensive alternatives. Your flowerbeds will be just as happy with computer paper. Better a garden than a landfill. 

7.) Publishing sites have draft modes. Unfortunately, I noticed the option too late. We could have learned what we needed without risking our—or our book’s—reputation. Instead, we went all in, releasing it during its almost-but-not-quite-ready-yet, chrysalis stage—a decision we might yet regret.

So there you have it, my cautionary tale. If you take nothing else from it, take this:

Some things never attain their potential if they’re rushed, so don’t cut the chrysalis. 

Wait for the butterfly. DSCN1118

 

 

 

 

 

Good things come in small packages?

Once upon a time—okay, about ten years ago—we romance writers all knew how long a story should be. If you were writing for a Harlequin line, there was a specific word count to be met for it. If you were writing a single-title novel for another publisher, it needed to be 90-100,000 words. There were exceptions, to be sure, but for the most part, things were set and clear.

Very few novellas were published. Due to the constraints of efficient print publishing, novellas had to be grouped into multi-author anthologies or into anthologies by a single (generally best-selling) author. Short stories had almost no place to go. There were no other options.

Five or six years ago, single-title lengths were trending downward, toward 80-90,000 words.

Now, with the explosion of self-publishing, stories of any word count can find a home—and readers—and sales.

As an indie author, I have every length to play with. Sometimes I’m certain that the story I have in mind will take a whole novel to tell. Or I may know I’m aiming for a very short story, or a novelette, or a novella. Of course, some of those times when I think I know, I’m, well, wrong.

I was going to announce a release today, but instead, I’ve found myself holding off, because I think the story wants a little more room.

I’m grateful I have that option. But these days, even trad-pubbed authors have more choices. Digital publishing makes shorter works possible. Publishers don’t have to concern themselves with how much (or how little) paper a story will use, and whether it can be published efficiently.

Authors on every publishing path are finding advantages to shorter stories. Short works can entice readers toward longer ones and bring in readers who might not otherwise find you. For example, in the last two weeks my free fantasy short story, Swords and Scimitars, has received two reviews from guys. Yay! Men aren’t the typical fantasy romance reader, but maybe, just maybe, they’ll keep reading and go on to discover the rest of the wonderful genre of romance. Gateway drugs! 🙂

So I’m curious: have you found yourself writing shorter works now? Do you enjoy writing shorter tales as an author—and do you enjoy reading shorter ones as a reader?

T Minus 96 Hours & Counting

My @# *&^! Can the clock move any slower?

It’s only four days until the RWA National representatives call those who are the 2012 Golden Heart® and Rita contest finalists and already you’re grabbing Tums or sipping wine to calm your nerves. You’re four days away from realizing your dreams and you wish you could control time.  HA!

I’m writing this blog not to put a damper on the fantastic party we’re going to throw next Monday but to advise many because that is what the Rubies are all about—helping other writers. And, just so you know, I speak from experience. I sat next to the phone a few years waiting for the call from RWA and didn’t get it, and ended up in a dark place for a while. I don’t want that to happen to you. My Ruby sisters don’t want that for you, not for a minute.  That is why I decided to post this blog today.

Keep in mind only 10% of those who enter this respected contest final and a lesser percentage win the golden necklace. Only about half of the finalists get a serious look at by agents or NY editors, including those who have won the necklace. And, only a small number of writers, in all the decades of this competition, got a huge contract.

With that said, here is my suggestion. Get ready to party, but have a Plan B in place. I think Bob Mayer would agree with me, along with other authors.  You must realize the Golden Heart ® is not the only way to publication, especially in today’s industry.  There are so many paths to take if publication is your dream.  Larger houses are still looking for new talent-golden necklace optional. They’re opening new e-lines which will allow them to pick up a number of great authors. Small publishers are also looking for fresh, exciting writing.  And finally, there is the way of indie publication, which many NY bestselling authors have gone with their back-lists and new works.

Just three years ago when we, the Ruby Sisters, received our calls, we didn’t have open to us the many fabulous dream reaching options you have today. The Plan B we offered our readers in the past years was first, restrain yourselves from throwing the keyboard out the window, next dive into a huge bag of chocolate, (which led to a number of blogs offering advice on healthy living), take some time to wallow in your sorrow over this little speed-bump and then remember why you write in the first place. For yourself. It’s your passion.

It’s your passion. The words are worth repeating.

With that said, today, I’ll offer this advice.  If you don’t receive the call next Monday, look out the window and note the sun is still shining in the sky and the world is still moving. Then put this Plan B into effect. Take your polished work and submit it everywhere it is a fit. Don’t wait for the next contest results. Don’t wait to go to RWA Nationals in California where you’ll snag an editor or agent appointment.  Don’t wait another day. You have options. Get your work out there. You’ll feel much better and won’t gain a pound. Then, get back to work learning your craft and writing the next story.  An author needs a back-list to make a living.

 

Ruby Sister Autumn Jordon, know as the sly Ruby, is the author of His Witness To Evil, In The Presence of Evil and Obsessed By Wildfire.  Visit her at www.autumnjordon.com  You can follow her on Facebook, and Twitter as Ajordon.

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