Friday, September 30, 2011

For Better of For Worse

As many of you know, I recently re-released The Keepers of Sulbreth on Kindle after having a falling out with my publisher.  It hurt when my publisher made the decision to break my contract.  With my first book released and doing pretty good in mass market and the next two under contract, I felt my career was really taking off and the next big step with a sale to a major publisher was around the corner. 

Then the phone call came.  My publisher wanted to release my second book, Beyond the Gate, in ebook only.  I was crushed.  My spirits were low for nearly two months as I tried to make the decision.  I made the wrong one.  I allowed them to release my book and they made a real hash of it.  No promotion, no reviews, and they didn't even get it to the retailers on the release date.  So I divorced them.

It's very strange.  I was angry, beyond angry, with the publisher when they told me they would only be doing ebook, but I hid it and held on.  I tried to work with them on promotion and pin them down on what they would be doing.  They did nothing despite their promises.  But once I told them to forget it and give my rights back, I felt free and energized.  I no longer felt my writing future was out of my control.  I no longer felt so helpless before the cold-hearted decisions of a corporation.

Being contracted with a publisher is something like a marriage but it can turn into a bad one.  An abusive one where the party holding the power takes advantage of the other member.  I'm happy with my separation because I decided I didn't have to put up with the 'Worse.' I deserve better.

Have you had a bad experience with a publisher?  Do you know someone who has?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Keepers of Sulbreth Release

Yesterday I came home from work and powered up my computer.  Couldn't wait to check. And there it was.  Kindle had my book up for sale with its new cover and new price.  Nothing like seeing your book for sale to get you inspired to work on the next one.  I am busy working on the edits for the second book, Beyond the Gate.

The Keepers of Sulbreth introduces the island kingdom of Futhark where a small group of sorceresses called, Keepers, have used their gifts to contain the denizens of hell behind a magical gate.  But something is slowly going wrong and more and more of the demons escape into the human world.  Working with the young king of Futhark, the Keepers find a gifted warrior foretold in prophecies to help them close the magical seals. Cage Stone reluctantly gets pulled into the dangers facing Futhark.  The otherworldly foes force him to reveal his secrets and his heritage.  As he bloodies his sword in demon blood, he slowly realizes the dark mind behind the troubles have been controlling his destiny from his birth.  He vows to take back his life and save Futhark at the same time.
Cover art by Gayle Bower

Keepers recieved many excellent reviews when it was first released, including from Publisher's Weekly and Booklist. Now my goal is to remind readers of this and restart my promotion. 

I have a lot still to learn about self-publishing and the best way to promote the book.  The price is another thing I've had to make decisions on.  I priced the book at $2.99 to start.  I've read JA Konrath's blog many times and absorbed his advice.  It's a tough decision.

The price of ebooks is a controversial issue in and of itself.  I buy lots of ebooks.  Some of the reasonably priced ones written by my friends but I also purchase ebooks from 'famous' authors and I do resent paying the same price as for a mass market paperback.  Why should an ebook cost that much when there is no shipping, no manufacturing or storage costs?

What do you think is a reasonable price for ebooks? What royalty rate should authors receive from ebooks?  The same as print?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Begin Again

A little over a year ago, the publisher of my fantasy series, The Futhark Chronicles, called me to say they were breaking my contract and not releasing my book in mass market paperback.  With my permission they would release my book as an ebook only.  I considered requesting my rights back to all three of my books like many of the other authors contracted with them did.  I believed even then the way to go in the future would be ebook though the disappointment of not having my book in print was huge.  In the end, I stayed with them, mostly because they had already released the first book in my series, The Keepers of Sulbreth, earlier in the year.  I feared I would never find another publisher.

Though uneasy about the company's commitment to making my book a success, I dove into promotion and did everything I could to prepare for the release of my second book, Beyond the Gate on January 1st, 2011.  The big day came, although my first book was available before its due date, and tada....nothing happened.  It was up for sale on Amazon, B&N, or any of the other ebook retailers.  I called my publisher on the very next business day.  My publisher had the nerve to blame it on the booksellers.  Weeks later, Beyond the Gate, finally was available.  Some blips still existed like a few days of bleary cover art.  So many long days after my blog tour and all the online promotion I did, readers could purchase my book.  Was it any wonder word didn't get out? 

I nearly pulled my books right then, but I thought I would wait for my first statement.  You can guess how it looked.  So at the start of the summer, I asked for all my rights back on the three books my publisher had contracted.  It was simple since they had broken my contract.  Now my options were to either find another publisher who would be willing to take on a book series where the first two had already been on the market though not marketed or to take the plunge and publish them myself.

I dove into the self-publishing chaos storm.  I love reading books on my eReader and believe thousands of other people do also.  The first obstacle I face was my lack of computer literacy.  I read the directions on Kindle self-publishing and felt a little overwhelmed.  I lingered over editing, spreading it out over the entire summer months.  I talked to colleagues and friends, gathering information on the steps I needed to know before I could get my books back into the hands of the readers.  I compiled an entire folder with dozens of emails, blogs and printed instructions from Amazon and other retailers to help me find my way. 

So I'm now in restart mode and very hopeful.  I realize I had lost confidence in my publisher long before I pulled my rights from the dark pit of their possession.  I have lots of people to thank for helping me renew my dreams of a successful career as an author.  Let me start with Cate Masters.

Cate answered my call for help.  She answered no less than five emails filled with questions, general and specific.  And she responded every time within a day and she added encouragement each time.  More than a few of her books are in my ebook library.  She's a production machine just not in producing new material but in keeping an up to date blog and promoting her books 'every' where and how.  Her work ethic shames me when I whine about how little time I have to write.  Somehow she gets it all done.  So thanks, Cate.

In the next few weeks, I'll be doing a lot of posts on my experience wading through these new waters including introducing the talented young artist who designed my entirely original cover.  During that time, I'm hoping to not only pass on what I've learned but also to receive even more tips and advice from my followers. 

Has anyone in particular helped you recently in advancing your career or getting over a bump in the road?  Have you helped anyone?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What It Means

My local Borders lingers still.  It has a few shelves of books.  The adult fiction section would fit in my living room.  I often do some shopping in the center where the store is located so I go in and check it out.  And then I walk out empty-handed.  The best buy I've found in the last few weeks of its slow demise is the stack of AP study guides my daughter needs for her current high school classes.  The store is filled with cheap, but still over-priced, towels and other things that have never belonged in a bookstore.

I miss sitting the cafe and if it was still open, I would  likely be writing this blog post there with an iced latte sharing the table with me along with a stack of books I was considering purchasing.  Instead, I've visited my local library on a more regular basis.  Nearly every two weeks I stop in and see what new releases they have and prowl the aisles in search of new authors.  Their fantasy/scifi offerings are limited and they seldom updated but I've discovered some mystery/thriller writers I've quite come to enjoy like CJ Box and Jonathan Kellerman.  Of course the library doesn't carry their earlier books so I've turned to online sellers.

My husband bought me a Kobo eReader for Christmas last year and I was thrilled with it though I often wish I'd asked him for a Kindle instead.  But it's easy to purchase books on and I like reading on it.  So I'm still buying books and spending less gas to do so.  I make a lot of ice coffee at home and do nearly all my writing at my own desk. 

So though Borders is gone, I'm not reading less though I've bought no physical books for my own reading pleasure in the past few weeks.  I'm probably going to buy the next Preston and Childs book tomorrow to read at lunch at work this week.  I'm over my sadness at the end of Borders and only worry that I've adjusted so well.  If all brick and mortar stores go extinct, will I get over it so quickly?  Will you?  Do you see the end in sight?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Up and Running.

I finally got my personal laptop back in the game.  It's running faster than ever thanks to some simple advice from the great guy at the computer fix-em-up shop.  I wish I could tell his boss t give him a raise.

After a few days of using my slow desktop, I really came to understand how irritating word verification can be when visiting blogs.  It's just one more step, but that one more step cuts into the time I've set aside to visit blogs.

On the other side of the coin, I've heard lots of chatter lately about malware and spam finding its way unto blogs and disrupting or even destroying lots of work.  I guess having the word verification can help prevent some of that.

I use Norton protection on my personal computer, but the guy at the fix-em place told me it does really slow down a computer.  He gave me some advice on what to use instead when my subscription expires.  It's amazing what talking face to face with an expert can do for understanding something that usually causes me lots of confusion.  In the world of writing, we call that networking.

I wish I had the time to network a little this fall by attending a big writers' conference.  But I have neither the money nor the time.  Face to face can really help clear the fog of confusion at times. 

At least I still have all my bloggy friends to network with online.  They've helped me so much by answering questions and providing links to even more information.  And now that I have my laptop back, I'll be cruising along at high speed to visit them more often.

What was the last memorable face to face networking opportunity you had for your writing?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Can't Get There From Here

The phrase, 'can't get there from here,' is a running joke in our family.  But over the course of the last few days it has become reality.  I live in central PA where we had a flash flood on Wednesday bringing nearly six inches of rain to our locale in a few hours time followed by another four inches over night into Thursday.

Wednesday got ugly really quick and our school tried to send the students home early.  Teachers were asked to stay in case the buses had to return before delivering their students.  Lots of buses did return and by the time I helped check all those frightened kids in, the roads had flooded enough that I couldn't get home either.  After about three hours, the flash flood eased off enough for some roads to clear and I made it home to a flooded basement.  Then the real flood started and overflowed the creeks and again inundated the roads again.  For more than a day, we couldn't go anywhere.  We really couldn't get 'there' from here.

Now two days after the flood, many roads are still closed, schools are closed  and some areas are going to get worse as the flood moves unto the Susquehanna River.  But my basement is nearly dry.  I've washed the floor with bleach again and cleaned the baseboards with mildew cleaner.  It even smells nice.  Some roads are open again so we can go to the store if need be.  We can get 'there' again.

So after cleaning the basement floor, I propped my feet up and opened my laptop to visit some more Insecure Writer Blogs, and low and behold, MY LAPTOP HAS BEEN ATTACKED BY A VIRUS! AGAIN!!!  This one is my work computer so I can't download any programs such as a security feature.  It relies on what they've installed on it.  So for the second time in as many months, I can't get to the internet on my laptop.  Can't get there from here. 

So I'm back on my trusty old desktop, a little slow, but protected by Norton.  It's too slow to visit all the blogs I wanted to today so I'm sorry I won't get to meet all those Insecure Writers just yet. 

What do you think is the best security program to protect your computer with? I have to get something different on my personal laptop this time. Did you ever pickup a virus and know exactly where it came from? Are there particular sites you avoid because you think they might infect you?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Insecure Writer in September

We all have some things in this business that makes our stomachs a little queasy.  For me the list is pretty long and I'm sure I'll have more than enough material to keep up with our monthly sharing of what causes us stress and discomfort.  Thanks, Alex Cavanaugh, for getting out all together.

If you're not interested in my problems, here is a link to the list of other insecure writers sharing their headaches, woes and also the expertise to help each other.

My insecurity this month isn't a little thing. It's a huge one.  I'm getting ready to publish my first book using Kindle Direct Publishing.  Though I manage to do lots of basic things on my computer, I really don't know my way around it. I'm extremely intimidated by the task in front of me. 

A few writer friends have given me starting points and I've ran off copies of the instructions from Amazon but I'm still dithering about jumping into this project.  Do I have my manuscript formatted correctly? Have I done enough editing? What have I gotten myself into? Should I pay someone to help me with the first time?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Power of Pen

Jack Hillman is a PA writer I first met through my membership in Pennwriters.  This past July, I spent a few hours with Jack and some other authors at the Saucon Valley Farmer's Market.  Jack not only arranged the booksigning event with the management of the Farmer's Market, he provided the shade.  We didn't sell lots of books that day, but we had a chance to network and share our ideas, our frustrations with the industry and our speculations of where the world of books is heading.

But let me tell you a little about Jack Hillman.  First of all he's a clever man of great wit.  It's just plain fun to talk with him.  His broad spectrum of knowledge ranges from writing, publishing, marketing and other areas not related to being an author. 

His recent experiences with his publisher reminded me a bit of my own, so we had lots to discuss about that.  His trilogy called The Giant's Wars, is set in the Saucon Valley and connected to a local legend of a lost river.  The young hero, Eric Johnson, encounters all kinds of legendary characters and creatures in his adventures.  As you can tell from his cover art, Jack's book is filled with great fantasy action.  It's just the thing for young readers, especially those reluctant boys.  Buy it here!

Booksigning opportunities are become rarer and rarer.  I'm grateful to Jack for sharing this chance with me.  Where have you held booksignings? Do you expect more venues for writers published with small presses to close? Are booksignings going to become a thing of the past?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Work Desk vs. Work Desk

A few authors, I'm not sure of the numbers, make enough on their writing to work only at their career of choice.  But most writers are like me.  We work another job to help pay the mortgage and put food on the table.  For school teachers like me, summer is over and I'm back at work. 

While preparing for the start of classes a few weeks ago, I thought about the two different desks I maintain for my two jobs.  My school desk is of the old metal variety, probably nearly as old as I am.  The floor of my office is painted cement and is in the center of the girls' lockerroom so I have no windows to the outside world.  It's a very cold setting, especially when there are no students around.  The chattering teenagers do wam the place up a little.

My writing desk at home is in the front room where I get the morning sun.  The window overlooks the front porch and the surrounding flower beds.  The floor is carpeted, the walls lined with bookshelves and I even have a fireplace.  I have two cheap desks I put together to form an 'L' so I can spread out all my 'stuff.' The desktop computer is on one desk and I set my laptop on either.  Everything is right at hand. I love that work space.

At school, I have one wall covered in the senior photos my students have given me over 25 years of teaching.  I have two different pottery dishes made just for me by students in their pottery class and a few other keepsakes and gifts.  I can't count the coffee mugs given to me over the years.  If I could retire tomorrow, I wouldn't miss that old metal dinosaur-like desk but I would miss those kids.

If I hit the big time and can spend money on a new, bigger fancier desk where it all matches, I'm not sure I would give up those two mismatched, $99, desks I've spent so many hours at. 

Both my school desk and my writing desk have one thing in common.  Somewhere on both of them is a folded paper towel where I set my ice coffee.  Sometimes hot coffee or tea claim the spot of honor.  My favorite drinks help make my work areas comfortable and welcoming. 

What makes your workspace a place where things get done?  Would you change anything is you could? Is your environment conducive to getting a lot of work done?