Interlude: Cover reveal

Turquoiseblood-800 Cover reveal and Promotional

It’s finally here! The cover to my forthcoming novel, TURQUOISEBLOOD!

Isn’t it BEAUTIFUL?!

For this cover, I worked with Glendon Haddix of Streetlight Graphics. I was very impressed by the professional-looking covers in his portfolio and I was not disappointed with this striking design!

I sent the plot of my novel and my requests for the cover look/feel over to Streetlight Graphics and was very pleased with their quick responses. I definitely recommend them to other authors looking for cover art (they are very reasonably priced as well).

TURQUOISEBLOOD will be out soon. Keep checking back here for updates!

Interlude

In case you were wondering, my serial cover art was done by Beetiful Book Covers. I bought a pre-made cover for SPG  because it was cheaper and the serial is up for free.

I loved how dark and moody the feel was. Perfect for urban fantasy!

I loved how dark and moody the feel was. Perfect for urban fantasy!

It was really fun to search through covers without any set idea in mind. I picked one that matched the feel I was going for in the story, and I feel lucky to have come across a cool cover like the one I found on Beetiful.

(One thing I definitely noticed was that it was hard to find a fantasy cover with POC on the cover.  In the end I decided not to have people on the cover at all if it wasn’t going to accurately represent the characters.)

For my forthcoming novel though, I was VERY particular and knew exactly what I wanted.  It’s going to be awesome!  You can sign up for my newsletter to see it before anyone else!

IndieReCon Recap: Cover Best Practices

If you’re anything like me, the existence of a free online indie writing con thrilled you to bits. Fortunately (unfortunately?) the videos are up all the time, so unlike a live-action con you have no limitations on how many sessions you can “attend.”

I’ve decided to post some short recaps of a few of the interesting videos I’ve watched so far. Please share your own recommendations below!


 

 

indierecon posts (2)

Cover Best Practices: Finding the Right Designer for You

Summary: Guido Caroti, an art director and graphic designer, lays out the in the simplest terms how to find and work with a cover designer–or how to go it alone.

Grade: A. The post was very sparse (I’m not clear if there was a video at some point. There’s only text there now) but it answered my questions and was a good primer to read before beginning my search for a cover designer.

Quotes:

“Make a trip to the local book store. Review recently published books [and] look up the designer’s name in the credits section.”

“Having a wider pool of choice candidates will enable you to shop around and negotiate [prices].”

“A lot of people in publishing will disagree with me on this, but I think the cover should only be true to your story and avoid clinging to visual cliches typically associated with the genre. A cover that doesn’t resemble other titles in the bookshelf will stand out among the herd.”

Takeaway: My burning question was answered about halfway through the post: What should I do if I already know exactly what I want my dream cover to look like? Answer: Talk it out with potential designers and stay flexible. A designer has a better idea of what will work on a cover. In fact, whether you have a design in mind or not, open communication is the best way to get a satisfying result. Make sure your designer knows your specs, your schedule, your target audience, your competition, your story synopsis, and your personal vision.

 

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IndieReCon Recap: How to Find Your First 10,000 Readers

If you’re anything like me, the existence of a free online indie writing con thrilled you to bits. Fortunately (unfortunately?) the videos are up all the time, so unlike a live-action con you have no limitations on how many sessions you can “attend.”

I’ve decided to post some short recaps of a few of the interesting videos I’ve watched so far. Please share your own recommendations below!


indierecon posts

How to Find Your First 10,000 Readers: Nick Stephenson, Orna Ross

Summary: Orna Ross, director of the Alliance of Independent Authors and IndieReCon 2015 interviews Nick Stephenson of YourFirst10kReaders.com, where he offers video training on building email lists. They discuss Internet marketing with an emphasis on the importance of an email mailing list.

Grade: A. As someone with marketing experience, the importance of building an email list was not new to me. However, I think this will be a good video for beginners. It doesn’t walk you through each and every step, but it does lay out the importance and gives good tips and tricks in several areas of Internet marketing.

Quotes:

“Most authors can identify with…putting your heart and soul into this book and you release it into a void…you don’t know how to influence [sales].”

“We not selling books…we’re trying to get visibility on a search engine…Amazon and the other ebook retailers are search engines for books.”

Takeaway: Stephenson preaches the same marketing approach for books as any other product. Instead of counting one-time sales as a measure of success, authors should be building relationships with readers, which can then be turned into loyal followings. Authors should take “every opportunity to prove [their] brand” by bringing value to their customers. Stephenson does acknowledge a learning curve, but states that once you get going, this type of marketing should run on autopilot in the background, which will give you more time to write.

 

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Twin Cities Speculations Release Party

Our anthology release was long in coming! But we finally got everything in order and threw an awesome release party yesterday! Check out the pics below. And there’s still time to Like our Facebook page to win a free copy of the book!

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Me in front of our poster

 

 

 

 

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Free dragon drawing with signing

 

 

 

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Upselling :p

 

 

 

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6 of the 8 authors near the end of the party: (l-r) Jonathan Anthony, Eric Binfet, Lindsey Loree, me, Bill Cutler, Tina Murphy

 

 

Buy the anthology for $2.99 HERE! And check out my story for free here.

 

Review: The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide

Self Pub Ultimate Review Guide

Just as you probably wouldn’t try to build your own house or fix the brakes on your car, it is almost never a good idea to try to be your own editor, proofreader, cover designer or indexer. Professionalism shows….

So says The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide, the book that is here to help you do just that: become a professional writer.

The Guide is well-organized into three sections: Prepare, Publish, Promote. Each section covers every resource you could possibly need on your self-publishing journey. I thought the whole book was well laid out and each section of the guide, and the sections within the sections, were clear, informative, and overflowing with recommendations.

That has definitely been a big problem for me as an indie writer: recommendations. I can do a Google search as fast as anyone, but how do you know if someone advertising their services is honest, cheap, efficient or good? Authors Joel Friedlander and Betty Kelly Sargent distill the choices for you (thought they do remind us to check recommendations, use contacts, and communicate openly).

Some might not like the idea of paying for a guide, an opinion I understand. Friedlander and Sargent have reduced but not eliminated the workload, and you may not want another expense. This guide is not for everyone, especially if you are comfortable with doing your own research (or have lots of time on your hands).

Other reviewers have noted that the word “guide” in the title is a little misleading. I agree with that. Before reading, I also assumed that the Guide would be a little meatier. Instead it is more a list of references. But I didn’t really have a problem with the list style because this is pretty similar to the Writer’s Market books. That said, some expansion would’ve been nice. For example, the Writer’s Conferences section would be a lot more useful with a breakdown of pricing/scholarship terms.

The Guide is also not suitable for people just starting to consider maybe someday self-publishing. It is not an instruction manual, it is a list of people who will help your completed novel get whipped into shape, published, and marketed. If you are not ready to go, your copy of this book will go out of date before you are ready to publish. Similar to the aforementioned Writer’s Market books, the information changes as people come and go, and if you are not ready to act, someone you want to work with may not be in business next year. You will get the most out of this guide if you are already ready to go, and have an idea of what you need.

Personally, I’m glad to have this reference book (full disclosure: I got it for free in exchange for an honest review) and believe it could be helpful to other writers. Just wait until you’re ready to get the most out of it.

 

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IndieReCon Recap: What Authors Need to Know in 2015

If you’re anything like me, the existence of a free online indie writing con thrilled you to bits. Fortunately (unfortunately?) the videos are up all the time, so unlike a live-action con you have no limitations on how many sessions you can “attend.”

I’ve decided to post some short recaps of a few of the interesting videos I’ve watched so far. Please share your own recommendations below!


D E S I G N (4)

What Authors Need to Know in 2015: Mark Coker, Orna Ross

Summary: Orna Ross, director of the Alliance of Independent Authors and IndieReCon 2015 interviews Smashwords founder Mark Coker. They cover the founding of Smashwords, the current market, and Coker’s thoughts on the future.

Grade: A. The narrative wandered a little at the end when Coker started talking about an April Fool’s joke (funny but not as interesting as the rest of the vid). Otherwise I enjoyed hearing Coker’s story and his opinions on the future of indie publishing.

Quotes:

“We [Coker and his wife] were going to build our business around books that publishers wouldn’t publish.”

“Writers write for reasons that are different than why publishers publish.”

“You should plan on toiling in obscurity for years…you need to hold on to your vision.”

Takeaway: Coker’s best points were about best practices. He strongly encourages authors not to waste time on things like cover design or even marketing. Writers should be writing! He is also against exclusivity, saying that authors should not limit themselves to any one market (ahem, KDP). There is more competition for indie writers so “now more than ever it’s about the book.”

Resources for Scammed Writers

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Your manuscript is the One Ring, and unfortunately the publishing landscape is a little like trying to cross the Dead Marshes. (Sure, Gollum knows his way through, but can he be trusted?)

So here are two non-comprehensive lists to help you on your publishing quest. The first and most important part of surviving a scam is really just to avoid one in the first place. Do your research and you will save yourself a lot of time. For the poor souls who stray from the path, well, there’s help for you too. Read on for details.

For Avoiding Scams: 

Like I mentioned in my previous post, Absolute Write Water Cooler is one of my favorite places to go for tips on all areas of your writing business. The “Water Cooler” is actually the forum of Absolute Write, and I’ve found the mods and contributors there to be knowledgeable, willing to help, and not afraid to tell it like it is.

The one drawback of these forums is the chance that the threads will be old or unanswered. Another drawback is trying to judge a publisher/agency/editor based on many people’s opinions! For a simple, cut and dry approach to whether a place is reputable or not, try Preditors and Editors. Here, only about one line is devoted to each agency or publisher, and Preditors and Editors is clear on what they consider acceptable. Charges reading fee? “Not recommended.” Involved in a libel suit? “Strongly not recommended.” Pretty straightforward.

And lastly is SFWA’s Writer Beware. SFWA has been muddied by controversy for some time, but the website still has lots of great author resources, which you can access for free without supporting SFWA ;). The website is very user-friendly. I also recommend Victoria Strauss‘s stuff. She cofounded Writer Beware and is active on Absolute Write.

For Surviving Scams:

For your first stop you can head right on back to Writer Beware (or go there for the first time, since you wouldn’t have been scammed if you’d done your homework). They keep a running catalog of sketchy characters in the publishing world and welcome your contributions. Hand over your bad contracts and other materials so Writer Beware can add to their database and protect other writers.

Your next stop can be Writer Beware’s Legal Recourse and Other Remedies page. I would file a complaint on any relevant site, such as the Better Business Bureau. Remember, if nothing else, you have an ethical responsibility to try to protect other writers from scams. Do this by documenting your experience where others will see it.

And finally, if you are getting nowhere with whatever person/agency that scammed you, make use of legal aid like the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. It’s definitely worth at least a phone call, especially if you have already put a lot of money into the scam or if they are using your work/image against your consent. It’s one thing to waste time with a bad publishing house, it’s another to have this mistake haunt your professional career.

Don’t let scam artists get away with anything just because you feel overwhelmed. There are plenty of resources for you out there.

 

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How to Deal with Publishing Scams

The yellow is to cheer you up.

The yellow is to cheer you up.

Last year, members of my critique group and I decided to self-publish an anthology of science fiction and fantasy short stories. Nine of us wrote, edited, and compiled original stories. We ran a successful Indiegogo campaign; we met to discuss marketing plans: signings, press releases, how to utilize the “go-local” craze. Graphic designers in our group made an awesome cover, and we even broke down the legal details of our partnership.

Sounds like we had all of our bases covered, right?

Well, I wouldn’t be writing a post about scams if that were the case. Our original publisher was AuthorHouse. (Some of you will groan when you hear that name.) After discrepancies with our original contract vs the one they tried to hold us to months later, we dug a little deeper and found that many people were having or had had the same issues with AuthorHouse. Legal suits were ongoing, plenty of sites flagged the company as untrustworthy.

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Our anthology, now due out in 2015

So, many wasted months and hundreds of dollars later, we decided to leave AuthorHouse. We’re not sure if we will be able to get our money back and our anthology has had its publication date pushed back further and further. Though we found a new service to format the book, a lot of trouble could have been avoided with a few simple changes.

1. No matter how experienced you think you are, always do your due diligence.

Whether you are self-publishing, agent-hunting, submitting to magazines, participating in contests, or whatever, you must do your research. Yes, this is the most basic of advice, but it is important to remember. I’ll use myself as an example. I’ve been submitting to agents and magazines for ten years. Two of my favorite sites are Absolute Write Water Cooler and Preditors and Editors. I consider spotting bad agents a skill of mine, and those two websites have been my support through my agent-hunting years. Then how did I miss such an obvious scam as AuthorHouse?

Basically, because we published in a group. Someone else suggested AuthorHouse and printed off prices that compared a few self-publishing presses. I assumed the contract had been looked over, and no one else brought it up. Because I was in a new situation (self-pub vs agents) and in a group, I did not do my due diligence. Turns out, no one else in the group had either.

2. Take context into consideration.

If a traditional publishing house asked for a $500 reading fee before accepting you, you would know that was way too much money and back away slowly from the offer. But what about a $10 reading fee from an agent? Or a $15 entrance fee for a contest? That’s not too much money, and winning that contest could get you noticed by your dream agent! (Who represents Suzanne Collins, again?)

There’s no hard-and-fast rule about paying for services. Many people will tell you not to pay to enter a contest, but then there’s Glimmer Train. Self publishing was villainized not even ten years ago, but now respectable people pay to publish all the time. (Pretty much everyone will tell you never go with an agent who charges reading fee.) You will have to take context into consideration when making your decisions. If the only place you’ve heard of Glimmer Train is this blog just now, you probably shouldn’t submit there. Word of mouth is not a reliable way to choose who to work with. Look for a consistent track record of successful authors and happy customers. If this information is hard to find, go somewhere else. If customers disagree on whether the company is good to work with or not, go somewhere else.

3. If you are scammed, take action.

I can say one thing for my anthology group: once we knew about the scam, we rallied. Everybody chose one new publisher/press and researched it. We presented our findings and checked and double-checked before making a decision. We assigned one person to take on AuthorHouse and try and get our money back (we’re still in limbo). We’re discussing small claims court and revitalizing our marketing.

Your first task, whether working in a group or alone, should be to secure the rights to your work. Your money may be gone down a black hole but with persistence you should be able to get back your rights. After that, you can start considering options. Don’t worry about a smaller budget or a slower timetable. Your priority should be getting back on the right track.

This post is the first in a short series on publishing scams, so check back tomorrow for more details on avoiding and surviving scams.

 

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