Thursday, January 28, 2010

Authors, Self-Publishers: Roundtable, Part 4

Welcome back!

Today, we wrap up the roundtable with self-published authors Lee Adams, P.A. Hendrickson, Tommie Lyn, and Victor Travison. I again want to thank all four of them for being willing to share their experiences with all of our readers. I hope you've enjoyed this roundtable as much as I have. Maybe in the future, all of these magnificent authors can share individually in guest posts.


And, without further ado, here is our final installment.

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Liberty Speidel: Some readers, writers, even agents see a stigma with self-publishing. What has your experience with this been and how have you attempted to counter it?

Victor Travison: I knew there was always a chance The Justice Coalition would be dismissed out of hand as a hack’s job, but by posting sample chapters on my website I hoped to forestall this assumption. Also, through my blog that compares sci-fi concepts with the Bible, “Lightwalker’s View,” I hoped people would get the idea I was a serious writer with a serious message to offer. I post every Wednesday morning, and I post a link to it at Facebook and Twitter so my friends/followers know it’s there for the reading.


Tommie Lyn: I really don’t care how agents view it, since I have no desire to have an agent. But when other writers I had thought were friends view my work with disdain, when they dismiss my books even though they’ve never even seen or read any of them, well, that was a shocker. I’d had no idea of the snobbery involved in writers circles. At this point, though, I’m not going to concern myself with it anymore, because I know the rewards I’m getting, and I’d much rather have them than what I would have gotten if I’d been young enough to hold out for a publishing contract.


Lee Adams: They’re gonna get over that “stigma” thing within the next ten years, I’ll bet. I come from a music background, and I remember when we all sat around waiting to get discovered. Then one day someone said, “Hey, I’ve got some recording equipment. Let’s do this mother ourselves!” And now, the major labels (only a few left) wait for the band to produce their own work, get a following, build a healthy MP3 catalogue, and THEN they’ll call you. Then they can sweep in, slap their logo on your work, and distribute it to the whole wide world. Everybody wins. That’s exactly what’s happening with the publishing industry. Independently published books will be the standard in publishing in no time.


P.A. Hendrickson: I have found the so called self-publishing stigma to be more prevalent among authors than readers. If someone reads your book and enjoys it, they do not care who published it. Much like the music business has changed in the last twenty years, where major record labels now compete against hundreds of independent labels, so the writing business is changing. If the book feels like a real book, reads like a real book, and is competitively priced, then the reader is not being cheated out of any part of the reading experience.

In my mind, there is room for both the independent, self-published authors, and the major label authors. I would love the exposure and high volume potential that comes from a major publishing house, but I also had a tight timeframe to reach my goal of a completed novel that could be held in my hands. As I type this, I am making the final arrangements to head back to the corporate world. My next novel is in the works, but it will have to be written in the evenings and on the weekends, like the majority of authors write their novels.



LS:  Do you have any other advice you'd give to writers in general as they choose to self-publish?

VT: Don’t just publish a book and leave it alone, expecting some miracle to draw a crowd. You have to actively promote it any way you can. I am unable physically and financially to put in all the effort many can give, so I am open to all the help I can get. In my opinion, only if you’re a dynamo in the marketing department can self-pubbing have lasting and far-reaching benefits.


TL: First of all, don’t use a vanity company to publish your book.

Do whatever it takes to polish your English grammar skills and spelling abilities so that you can create an error-free manuscript. If you aren’t able to do this, hire an editor to perfect your manuscript for you.

If you can’t create your own cover, hire someone to do it for you...the cover is extremely important as far as the impression it makes on likely customers.

Be aware that you will have to promote/push/sell your book yourself. (Actually, you’ll have to do that no matter whether you self-publish or are published by a traditional publisher...but if you publish your book yourself, you’re likely to get that investment back many times over.)


LA: Keep your day job. And rave on, John Donne. Rave on, rave on, rave on.



PAH: This is important--Never think of yourself as a second-class author because you chose the self-publishing route. It is quite likely your work is far better than many who have been published by major publishing houses.

In the last year, I have met several self-published authors who have had their work picked up by traditional publishers. Can you imagine? These authors actually received a contract without ever submitting a manuscript!


_______________



Victor Travison has been writing since the age of eight. His two novels are Savage Worlds and The Justice Coalition. He is currently working on the sequel to The Justice Coalition, Let No Man Put Asunder. Victor resides in the Denver metro area.


His website is VictorTravison.webs.com/.










____________________

If you're contemplating self-publishing, you may find this article from Michael Hyatt a useful tool.


Until next time,

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Guest posting at Lightwalker Files!!

Just wanted to let you know that Victor Travison asked me to do a guest blog for him, and today's the day! I hope you'll go visit his website, VictorTravison.Webs.com and check out my post on 'The Borg & Perfection'! I had a blast writing it, so I do hope you'll check it out... and maybe leave a comment or two.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the final installment of our self-publishing roundtable, as well as a brief announcement.

Until tomorrow,

Monday, January 25, 2010

Authors, Self-Publishers: Roundtable, Part 3

Happy Monday!

Thanks for joining in on this 3rd part of the Self-Publishing Roundtable. I hope you're finding our guests' answers as fascinating as I am!

____________________________________

Liberty Speidel: What reasons would you give to self-publish?

Victor Travison: A quick and relatively easy way to get a book out to the public. One also has to maintain as strong an Internet presence as possible to promote it. I developed my own website, victortravison.webs.com, and I signed on with Facebook and Twitter.


Tommie Lyn: If you are willing to invest the time and energy to producing a stellar product, and if you, like me, want to have ultimate control over what happens to your work, self-publishing may be right for you.


Lee Adams: I would never dissuade anyone from self-publishing. Guerilla art (all of it) is pure and raw and visceral. Might suck, but it’s authentic. If I signed a big book deal tomorrow, I would still want to manufacture the books myself, from cover design to the back-cover blurb.   


P.A. Hendrickson: You should self-publish if...
•    You like to control your creative works, and want full ownership of your book's copyright.
•    You enjoy making sure all the details surrounding the creation and publishing of your book are done right.
•    You want to get your work in front of the reading public sooner than later.
•    You want to make a higher royalty per book.



LS:  What advantages and disadvantages would you say you faced in choosing to go the self-publishing route?

VT: I considered the self-pub route for a very long time before I finally went ahead with it. I read the warnings, the pros and cons I found at ChristianWriters.com, among other sites. And yes, this includes what I mentioned before. I also considered making Savage Worlds an e-book. When the opportunity came to participate in Nanowrimo 2008, with the offer from CreateSpace, I decided to go ahead and see what happens.


TL: The advantages for me were that, first of all, I’d always been good with English grammar and spelling; second, I’d worked in graphic design for a number of years; third, I was comfortable with using the computer in design and layout as well as for uploading to the printer.

Another advantage is (I hate to sound crass and materialistic) the monetary reward. Fewer and fewer publishers are offering advances these days. All too often, the author receives only royalties, period. And if you ever do a breakdown on how much the author receives on the sale of a book, if you ever see just how small the pittance is, well, let me say I was shocked. All that work writing, polishing, then all the work and outlay of cash out of your own pocket to promote your book, and all you receive in return is, at most, a couple of dollars per book....it just didn’t seem worth it.

One of the main disadvantages for me was the automatic prejudice and disregard I received from other writers. But I can live with that, because the rewards are so much greater than if I’d chosen to still be sitting at my desk researching agents and publishers and mailing out query packages, LOL.


LA: Advantages: Your vision is realized.
Disadvantages: Only about thirty people get to enjoy it.


PAH: The significant advantages of self-publishing include, but are not limited to, ownership of the copyright, full creative control, higher per book royalty, and unlimited "shelf" time.

The greatest disadvantages of self publishing are the lack of exposure one can receive from a major publishing house, and the loss of enormous blocks of time required to market one's own work.

________________________


Tommie Lyn is the author of several books, including ...And Night Falls, Scribbles, and On Berryhill Road. Her website is TommieLyn.com.




Until next time,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Authors, Self-Publishers: Roundtable, Part 2

Welcome back!

If you missed the post on Monday in this series, you really should check it out. Check the archives, or the post immediately after this one. You don't want to miss out!

________________________

Liberty Speidel:  Someone going the so-called "traditional" route has the help of an editor and agent along the way to make their book as good as it can be before going to print. Who, if anyone, do you rely on to help make your book(s) as good as they can be?

Victor Travison: Myself, mostly, plus critiques from friends and family. Christianwriters.com is invaluable for use of their workshops to present my work to my friends, and accept comments on how to improve.


Tommie Lyn: I have a background in graphic design, so I do my own cover designs. I’m fairly conversant with the English language, and I rely on that ability as well as several proofreaders to catch any typos or outright misspellings or grammar mistakes.


Lee Adams: I have a small collection of literate friends I lean on, bless their ever-lovin’ hearts. However, I need an editor. A real one. Maybe for the next book the right editor will come along. And by right I mean free. As it is, my syntax gets squirrelly (I know it) and there’s an occasional typo. But then I love the old pulp fiction, from Chandler to Spillane, and I own nary a one of those old gems that doesn’t host a bucket of typos and trouble, so I’m in good company. Perhaps my lack of proper editing adds to the books charm. …maybe not.


P.A. Hendrickson: I relied on a small critique group and a professional editor to help me take Dreamstone to the next level. If you go the self-publishing route, you must have at least two or three people with whom you can share your work along the way. Critique groups or "crit groups" are essential for brining a writer out of his or her comfortable, safe, feather-lined nest. Writers need a sounding board for sharing ideas, story pacing, and content. Hiring a professional editor is also a must. Never skimp when it comes to editing. I don't care how great Aunt Sally was in English. Hire a professional!


LS:  What reasons would you give to someone considering self-publishing to not go that route?

VT: Lack of critique services and other helps. Also, since anyone can publish their work through a self-pub outlet, there’s a tendency for them to put out a lot of badly formatted writing. However, I do know a few exceptions within my circle of authorial friends.


TL: If you have very definite problems with English grammar and have no one to help you polish a manuscript, self-publishing may not be right for you. Or if you think that folks will beat a path to your door, looking to buy your book, self-publishing may not be right for you (actually, if you have this belief, publishing in general may not be right for you). It requires a lot of intensive work to prepare a manuscript and cover for publication, and even more work to sell it after it’s published. Fortunately for me, I enjoy every step in the process, from writing to editing (I somewhat enjoy this part, LOL), to cover design, to getting out and meeting people and selling the books.


LA: I would never dissuade anyone from self-publishing. Guerilla art (all of it) is pure and raw and visceral. Might suck, but it’s authentic. If I signed a big book deal tomorrow, I would still want to manufacture the books myself, from cover design to the back-cover blurb.  


PAH: You should not go the self-publishing route if...
•    You are not good at making decisions.
•    You must have the acceptance of a publisher or agent to feel like a "real" author.
•    You have a fear of the self-publishing stigma.
•    You do not want to spend a lot of time promoting your book once it is completed.
•    You do not want to spend money publishing or promoting your work.
•    You are not creative outside of your writing.

___________________



P.A. Hendrickson is a new voice in modern fiction. Born in Southern California and raised in the historic river town of St. Charles, Missouri, his imagination grew from liberal doses of Science-Fiction and Fantasy. Although he loves to write, his favorite occupation is that of husband and father. He currently resides in Illinois with his wife and children.
His website is pahendrickson.com and he's the author of Dreamstone, available through Amazon.com.





Until next time,

Monday, January 18, 2010

Authors, Self-Publishers: Roundtable, Part 1

Good morning to everyone!

Today, I'm pleased to kick off the first in a four-part series where I've interviewed four different self-published authors. Look for the next parts this Thursday, and next week, also on Monday and Thursday.

The authors are Lee Adams, P.A. Hendrickson, Tommie Lyn, and Victor Travison. With each post, I'm going to feature one at the end of each post with information about their books and websites.

So, without further ado, let's rock 'n' roll.

___________________________

Liberty Speidel: First, tell us a bit about yourself, your writing experience, and a thumbnail sketch on why you chose the self-publishing route.

Victor Travison: There’s a fuller description of my writing history on my website, victortravison.webs.com. I started writing stories when I was 8 years old, as part of a 3rd-grade assignment. In the early ’70s, I moved on to short stories in various genres, and in 1980 I finished my first novel length sci-fi story. It was pretty bad. In 1983 I tried it again, putting in multiple plots and starting to develop long-running characters and plot arcs. I chose self-publishing because I had tried the traditional route before, without success. I decided if I can at least get a couple of books in the public eye, I might be able to attract a standard publisher.


Tommie Lyn: I’d always done well with essay writing in school, but when I tried my hand at fiction when I was in my twenties, the result was awful, and I concluded I couldn’t write, I thought one had to be born with the talent to write fiction, and I obviously didn’t have it. I tried one more time, when I was in my thirties, and gave up totally after that ill-fated attempt.

But when I reached my sixties, I encountered little-known historical information that I thought should be written as fiction (few folks will pick up a dry, dusty history book, but they will read entertaining fiction). Since I knew I wasn’t capable of writing it, I tried to manipulate others into writing it. No one would. A history professor told me, “If you want it written, write it.” So I did. And after I wrote that first novel, I found I was addicted to writing and couldn’t stop.

I began querying agents and publishers on that first novel and my second novel. I got varying responses, ranging from form rejection slips to: “I love your story. It’s well-written and intense. It will be published by someone. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit our guidelines, so we can’t publish it.”

I decided to self-publish when I realized that, if I wanted folks to enjoy my stories while I was still alive to know about it, I’d have to do it myself. Plus, what I had been reading about the publishing industry gave me an awareness of the remote possibility of traditional publication for most writers.



Lee Adams: I’m a Long Beach writer working on a mystery series, the “Julie Page Mystery” series. I just launched the second installment of said series in November. It’s called Nighthawks. These books are cloaked as mysteries but all examine the creative personality. The first book, 5th and Vanguard, focused on how far an artist will go to reclaim his/her Muse. Would you steal? Would you kill? Like that. Nighthawks concerns itself with what happens to an artist once he/she gains some cred, money, fame. As is evidenced with my heroine, Julie Page, often the artist will throw it all away, self-destruct, because they’re not really ready for (or maybe even pursuing) the money and prestige. They’re just creating, against their better judgment, because they are compelled to do so.

When I first sent out 5th and Vanguard, I received nothing but form rejections. So, based on no specific criticism, I rewrote the book and sent it out again, receiving some form rejections and some with hand written notes attached. This process of mailing it out, assessing the rejections, and rewriting the book went on for several years. I rewrote the book perhaps ten times. With each new mailing I received kinder rejections, so I knew the rewrites were working to some degree, but one day I realized that the story no longer held the import I originally meant it to, and that freaked me out. It’s at that point I decided to self-publish, went back to the manuscript, retrieved parts I’d cut out, realigning myself with my characters, and ended up, for better or worse, with the story I meant to tell, albeit a much better written one than I started with.

My reason for publishing independently was ultimately based on my belief that the art is the important thing, not the prize. You’ve got to share the work, get it out there, whether or not you hit the jackpot. As soon as commerce becomes the focus, the art is going to suffer. This is not to say I wouldn’t take Oprah’s call. I just think we need to stay centered on why we’re writing in the first place.



P.A. Hendrickson: Several years ago, I made the difficult decision to take leave of a successful corporate career, which I enjoyed, to write my first book. The dream of writing a novel haunted me for at least a decade, before I finally took the plunge. Once the goal was established, the gloves came off, and there was no turning back. No retreat. No surrender. A little heartburn.

Prior to writing my first novel, I was fortunate to have a broad range of writing experiences, not all of them creative, mind you. Some examples include technical writing, copywriting, and writing articles and website content. Although writing a novel has been the most fun, you learn something every time your pen touches paper or your fingers strike the keyboard.

I chose the self-publishing route for the simple reason that I wanted to get my work in front of readers as soon as possible. In fact, I did not even submit my manuscript to potential agents or publishers.



LS: Who is your printer/publisher? What were the main factors behind your choice behind utilizing them?

VT: Currently my publisher is CreateSpace, because they offered a discount on the production of my first Nanowrimo 2008 novel, The Justice Coalition, which came out in June 2009. I formatted Savage Worlds to follow in October the same year. Both books are available at amazon.com, and I plan to use CreateSpace again for my Coalition sequel, Let No Man Put Asunder, my Nano project for 2009. Meanwhile, my plan to be noticed by a standard publisher seems to be working. I have an offer to republish Savage Worlds under the Port Yonder Press banner, possibly to come out summer of this year.

TL:  CreateSpace is my printer. I chose them after weighing a number of factors. They will supply an ISBN if you don’t have one, and I didn’t have funds at the time to buy a block of ISBNs. They don’t have an upfront charge to publish (unless you opt for the ProPlan). You upload your files, and you pay for any books you order.

Another consideration was that CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, and being printed by CreateSpace means your book is automatically listed on Amazon, unless you opt out.

And the quality of the first book they printed for me finalized my decision to have them print all my books. Also, they have been great to work with.


LA: I narrowed it down to Lulu and Lightning Press. I wanted more control than I could get with some of the other vanity presses, XLibris, iUniverse, etc. I finally went with Lightning Press because they are the only manufacturer I found that would cut the books 41/4 X 7; standard pulp fiction pocketbook size. Silly, perhaps, but I had a vision of what this series should look like, and I wanted that size.


PAH: I chose BookSurge, an Amazon.com affiliate, to help me publish my first novel. After months of careful research, BookSurge, which recently merged with CreateSpace, seemed the clear choice. There were several reasons for that decision. First, they offered the highest royalties for books sold on Amazon.com. Second, they assigned an author representative, who guided me through the entire publishing process. They were always available and saw me as a partner. Finally, the quality of their product is superb. Their graphic artists are well-trained and talented. You will not get a cookie cutter cover, unless you want one! They also have quality editors on staff, should you chose that service.


LS: What kind of assistance, if any, did the printing/publishing company offer?

VT: Very little, apart from the discounts. CreateSpace is a POD printer, no critiquing services, and I did all the formatting and cover design and marketing. If PYP takes on Savage Worlds, they will help with the cover and marketing, and I will get more in royalties. Even so, the money isn’t as important to me as getting my message out there.


TL: They have a step-by-step procedure to set up your title and upload your files. They explain on their website that you must upload your files in PDF format, and inform you of requirements. They have a cover template you can use to create your cover, or you can opt to use their “cover creator” software to do your cover layout, using pre-designed covers, using your own artwork, if you choose.

If, at any point, you have a problem, you can email them and they will answer in a timely fashion. They also have a means whereby you can speak to them by telephone, if you need to.


LA: None.


PAH: Booksurge offered a great deal of assistance up front to help me get the book ready for publishing. First, they offered comprehensive editing services, which were an additional cost, but well worth it. They also worked with me to get just the look and feel I wanted for my book. I gave their artist a vision of what I wanted the cover to look like, and they ran with it. If they have a weakness, however, it is their lack of post publishing services. There is an occasional marketing session available, but it is hit or miss. Now that Booksurge has merged with CreateSpace there are purportedly more post-publishing services, but this merger is so fresh that I have not been able to explore them sufficiently.

____________

I want to thank all of our authors for sharing today!

Today's highlighted author:


Lee Adams is a writer, musician, and voice artist in Long Beach, CA.

The Julie Page Mystery Series is rapidly earning Lee a loyal fan base in the arena of neo-noir. She has written for newspapers, magazines, and literary compilations.

Lee is also an accomplished musician. Her songs have been played on radio and in independent films, and have been described as offering the wittiest lyrics in alternative pop. The music of Maxine Montego showcased in Lee’s novel 5th and Vanguard is the author’s own. Some of the songs can be heard on her album, “Champions and Lunatics,” available through amazon.com.

In addition, she has worked as a voice artist for many years recording audio books for Books On Tape (Random House, Inc.) as well as an array of videos, series, and station identifications for the Educational Television Network

Her website is ajuliepagemystery.com.


Until next time,

Monday, January 11, 2010

The 2nd Story

Not too long ago, I was watching my favorite TV show, 'Bones', and while I frequently think about the episodes after I'm done, this particular episode got me as a writer. The episode was no. 3 from the 5th season, entitled 'The Plain in the Prodigy'. After the credits rolled and I was getting ready for bed, my mind kept mulling the plot and subplot over in my mind, and I noticed something.

Not only the plot, but the subplot, had the same themes going on.

Most of the time when I watch 'Bones' or my other favorite show, 'House', I don't notice similarities between the main plot and the subplot in a given episode. 'The Plain in the Prodigy' was unique in this aspect.



***WARNING: SPOILERS!!!***


In the episode, Booth and 'Bones' are tracking down the murderer of an Amish young man who'd been on his rumspringa, a period of 'running around' before becoming a member of the Amish church (see Wikipedia) usually away from the community, as it is in this case. The subplot revolves around supporting character Camille and her foster daughter, Michelle, who's about 16, and is getting ready for a formal dance at her high school, and is debating becoming intimate with her boyfriend, 18, following the dance.  (Camille, by the way, is horrified by this, as is Booth. Kudos to the writers on this episode. While they didn't necessarily have the most pro-abstinence way of handling the situation, it was handled in a manner that made it an acceptable alternative. But, I digress.)

While some may not see the correlation, the writer in me noticed that both of these characters--Michelle and the murder victim--were going through traditional 'coming of age' rituals and trials for both their communities.

The connection between the two may be light, but it's still there, and it's got me thinking about how often we intentionally intertwine our subplots to be related to the main plot of our novels. Most of the time, I don't see them being intertwined, especially in series books. But, isn't it cool when they do? Doesn't it make a bigger impact when the characters are dealing with essentially the same issue, but from different angles, kind of like in that episode of 'Bones'?

While I haven't intentionally done this in any of my novels, I'm going to be giving it some thought, and I'm going to try to see if there's a way I can beef up my subplots so my characters are being challenged on the same topic from different angles. I hope you'll do the same.


Until next time,





Photo of 'Bones: The Plain in the Prodigy' from Fox.com/Bones

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