Tag Archives: publishing

Define Yourself

I have a button (one of those round ones, with a pin on the back, and words on the front) that says, “Among animals it’s eat or be eaten, among humans it’s define, or be defined.” Marketers and politicians have known this to be true for as long as their professions have existed. It’s time for writers to recognize this as well.

By defining the terms you control the discussion.When it comes to your career, you should be the one defining the terms. Dean Wesley Smith wrote a recent post that touched on this. His post was mostly about how indie writers should take the long view, and regard the time they spend building their career as an investment. That, like a biweekly contribution to a retirement fund, the time devoted to writing will only gradually yield growth. This is important for impatient people like me to remember. The message: just keep writing and over time, with the magic of compound interest (in your books) success will grow. He defined writing as an investment.

But Dean also defines other terms. He says:

In the last article in this series, I went on about the difference between an “Author” and a “Writer.”

And in indie publishing, the difference can really, really be seen, with the “Authors” doing nothing but promoting “their book” while the “Writers” just get out to readers what they have written and then move on to writing new stories.

And let me repeat something I said:  It is the “Authors” who are going on and on about what indie “Writers” MUST DO.

And then Dean goes on to say what he thinks writers must do. (Write. A lot.)  My point is not to say “gotcha” to Dean, my point is that he has defined what he believes works, and he is following that path. Part of that path is sharing his definitions with the world, just like the “authors” he defined are doing.

As we must all do for ourselves. We don’t have to share it with the world, but we must figure out our own way amid the clamoring voices that are trying to tell us the “right” way to get our books written and in the hands of readers. We should not accept what an author, or agent, or even a publisher says without critical thought. We must ask ourselves if what they’re asking, or telling us to do, fits with what our vision is for our future. Of course, that means we have to have a vision for our future, even if that vision changes over time.

I sympathize with the desire to find out “the secret” to success. We had that desire in a different form, when we wanted to know how to best phrase our query letters and synopses, so a publisher would buy our latest effort. Now we indies have substituted the desire to know which review blogs to submit to, whether we should use professionally designed covers, and how to manipulate Amazon to get a better ranking and more sales.

The community of writers, and the indie community in particular, is one of the most supportive I’ve ever belonged to. Everyone I’ve talked to is willing to share how they do what they’re doing and give advice. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from authors who generously shared their experience with me.

The problem is, the advice from one source often conflicts with what the next person says. And because the indie environment is so new, there isn’t much available in the way of cold, hard facts. We’re all flying by the seat of our pants, even the ones who sound very sure of themselves. And even if they’re right about something today, next year the market will have changed.

One thing I know “for sure.” It’s that it is possible to stand still waiting to be certain that a particular path is the best. And while you’re waiting, you’re not moving forward. Try something. Don’t wait for “best.” Go with “good for now.” Define your path. It doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s. You can change direction later if you want. Most mistakes aren’t fatal, and all of them can teach. (And keep records so you’ll know if what you’re doing is working.)

How is all this affecting what I’m doing? Well, I have another button. It says, “If you’re going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance.”

Honestly, I’m just dancing as fast as I can. I’m getting my finished work out, and writing new stuff. I’m having a blast doing it, too. I don’t have much time for more than that. As I said in my last post, I may turn more of my attention to promotion when I have a number of titles for sale, but not until then. And I use the words “author” and “writer” interchangably.



Filed under Publishing, writing

My Self-Publishing Journey: Planning 2012

I’m a big believer in making lists and having a plan. I don’t always follow the plan exactly, but I’ve got one.

It’s good, essential even, to have dreams, but you have to have a plan for how you’re going to get there, or you’re likely to flounder around without making much progress. I believe in setting goals which are measurable and within my control to achieve. I start with the big goal, then break it down into smaller steps as I get closer. As the saying goes, life is what happens while you’re making other plans, so I like to keep my plan loose until I’m almost ready to implement the next step. You might call it “just in time” management. I don’t see the benefit of nailing down every detail far in advance, when circumstances might change.

I’ve had one quarter of being a publisher as well as a writer. If sales continue at the current pace, I’ll break even in 22 months. My dream is that the pace of my sales will increase as I continue to bring out more books, but I have no direct control over that. What I do have control over is how much I charge for my work, and how much I spend on the various components of publishing. I also have control over how much time I spend on free social media promoting my work. I don’t have control over whether time spent on social media converts to sales.

So how am I going allocate my time and money in 2012?

  • The majority of my time will be spent writing, revising, and publishing two books. I’m currently preparing a backlist novel, DANGEROUS TALENTS, for publishing. DT should be out by May. I’m also writing FIRSTBORN, a tie-in novel in the Celestial Affairs universe that LIGHTBRINGER began. I plan to release FIRSTBORN in the fall. Then I’ll either begin work on GUARDIAN, the next Celestial Affairs novel, or prepare FORBIDDEN TALENTS for publishing in 2013. I will not plan another Christmas release as I did in 2011.
  • I’ll continue to use social media to let the world know that I, and my books exist. I’ll blog a little less frequently, and tweet a little more. I’ll look into guest blogging so I can reach a new audience.
  • I’ll send review requests to blogs that discuss the kinds of books I write.
  • I’ll make personal appearances at events I enjoy: The Amore and More talks at the Pima County Library, the Tucson Festival of Books, and TusCon Science Fiction Convention.
  • I’ll send postcards to book events advertising my books. I’m not sure how immediately effective this kind of advertising is, but at least it has the benefit of being targeted to readers. In direct mail campaigns a 1% conversion rate is pretty standard. With a targeted campaign it might be as high as 3%. Hmm. Now that I’m doing the math, that’s not a good return on investment. I may rethink how I implement this.
  • I will research less expensive alternatives to certain production tasks, like cover design.
  • I’ll research inexpensive advertising opportunities to implement once Castle Rock Publishing has three titles for sale.
  • I’ll stay flexible and keep my eyes open so I can take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

Mostly this year, my focus is going to be on making my work available for sale. My long range plan is to release a minimum of two books a year. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂




Filed under Publishing

A Recurring Theme: The Best Use of Time

I read a guest post on J.A. Konrath’s blog yesterday by Stephen Leather. He’s a successful traditionally published and self-published author in the U.K.  This last year his self-pubbed books really took off. So much so that his traditional publisher is making changes to take advantage of his increased popularity. Self-publishing has worked for him, but he’s decided to step back from it. He doesn’t enjoy the extra work that takes him away from what he feels he does best, and what he enjoys: writing.

In addition, he believes that we’ve reached the limit of what he calls the self-publishing “bubble.” That’s why he’s publishing his next books with Amazon. Not quite traditional, but not self-publishing either. (Joe Konrath, of course, disagrees about the bubble. He believes there are ebbs and flows to a self-published books, sales and that generally speaking, a downturn will be followed by an up-tick.)

Leather has made a decision about how to best use his time. His self-publishing success has given him more options, and he’s made a choice to go where someone else will take on the bulk of marketing chores.

I’d like someone else to do the marketing chores too. (I keep trying to talk my husband into taking them on, but so far he’s resisting.) Traditional publishers do some of this for you. They get the average book into a bookstore where it can be seen by the readers (those who still go to bookstores instead of buying online) and they may send out review copies too. They don’t let the author off the hook entirely, though. Many publishers’ marketing departments require the author to do social media marketing as part of the overall plan. Traditional publishing does not mean all you have to do is write the next book.

If you can even sell your book to one.

So that means that no matter which path you choose, you’ll still have to allocate some of your time for promoting your work, with no guarantee that it will actually result in sales. While it makes sense that the more often your name and the titles of your books are seen by readers the more likely it is you’ll make sales, there is little hard data to support any particular effort as being more effective than another. Almost all the info out there is anecdotal. (Including what you read here.) Things are changing so fast that all we can do is read widely and go with our gut. And be patient. (Not my forte.) It can take time to build a following. And while you’re being patient waiting for that following to develop, you’ll get only hints about whether what you’re doing is effective.

Despite that uncertainty, I’d still rather work to build my sales than wait six months for an editor to get back to me on a submission.  With that goal in mind, I’m soliciting reviews for LIGHTBRINGER, and entering it into contests. (If you have an established review blog and would like to review LIGHTBRINGER, please contact me. Likewise if you know of contests for indie-published books.)

Please share how you are promoting your books, and how it has worked for you.





Filed under Publishing, writing

TusCon Science-Fiction Convention Starts Tomorrow!

TusCon Science-fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Convention starts tomorrow. It’s my home-town convention and I’ve been involved with organizing it for many years. This year I’m working as the Guest of Honor liaison, so I have the honor of picking up Patricia Briggs at the airport today. Patricia is the NY Times bestselling author of the Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series as well as a number of popular high fantasy novels. I love her books, so this is a big thrill.

TusCon is also giving me another opportunity to promote my own work. I’ll be on a couple of panels, reading from my WIP, and signing in the mass autograph session. I’ve done all this before, but this year I have books to sign.

This morning my order of LIGHTBRINGER was delivered. I am beyond thrilled. Not only did it get here in time for the convention, but it looks fabulous! Because of the short time frame, I wasn’t able to order a second proof after a few minor changes were made. I kept telling myself that it would be fine, and fortunately that pep-talk proved to be prophetic. Are there still `changes I would make? Is there a craftsman alive that can’t point out every little flaw in the cabinet he made? But I’ll keep my mouth shut except to smile, because nothing anywhere is ever perfect.

That brings me around to the topic of yesterday’s guest blog: vendors. They don’t always work on your time schedule. My formatter for the interior layout of the POD version ran into some family issues, and was two weeks late getting me the first version of the PDF. That set the whole print production back. I barely had time to upload, order a first proof, have it delivered (expensively) overnight, get changes, upload again, and order books. Fortunately, both the cover artist, Kim Killion, and the interior formater, Cheryl Perez, came through within hours of receiving my email asking for changes.

Publishing LIGHTBRINGER  has been on the job training. In the future I will do my best to allow lots and lots of extra time so I’m not sweating bullets about whether the books will arrive in time. Life happens and most vendors are sole proprietors of their businesses. Many are women, responsible for sick kids and other time consuming events.

Amazon however takes 5 – 7 business days to get the product page up (I uploaded it on Saturday), so you’ll have to wait a few more days to order the print version of LIGHTBRINGER.

BTW, when you leave a review (good, bad, or indifferent) of either LIGHTBRINGER  or VEILED MIRROR, your name will be entered into a drawing for an autographed copy of either of these books, or DANGEROUS TALENTS which will be out in May (your choice). Winners (4) will be drawn December 1st.



Filed under Publishing

My Self-Publishing Journey: Paper!

The final step in the Publishing part of my first Self-Pub Journey is almost here. On Thursday, November 10, LIGHTBRINGER will be available in print on Amazon, just in time for TusCon, my local science-fiction, fantasy, and horror convention.

While I do believe that digital is the way of the future, it still only accounts for about 20% of the market. And though most self-publishing authors make more sales from digital downloads than from physical books, there are still a lot of folks out there who prefer paper. So I wanted to give them a chance to read LIGHTBRINGER too. And to be honest, there is a definite satisfaction associated with being able to hold up a beautifully designed book at a convention and say, “This is mine!” 🙂

You’ll note that I wrote this is the final step of the publishing part of this journey. It’s by no means the final step overall. Following on from this is the need for marketing. Word of mouth sells books, but folks need to know about the books before they can talk about them. While I do believe that writing the next book is my most important task, I also intend to contact book reviewers. As a publisher, that’s part of my job.

In six months I’ll share with you what I did to promote my book(s) and what my sales have been. I probably won’t have pretty graphs as David Gaughran does, but I’ll let you know what the numbers are and what conclusions I draw from them about the effectiveness of my efforts.


The drawing for a free autographed copy of one of my books is still active! Leave a review of LIGHTBRINGER or VEILED MIRROR (good, bad, or indifferent) at whichever online store you purchased it from, and on December 1st your name will go into a drawing for an autographed copy of one of my print books (including DANGEROUS TALENTS which will be out by May of next year.) I’ll be drawing four names. (Assuming I have at least four reviews! :-))


On Wednesday Roxy Rogers will be guest blogging here about her publishing journey.  Roxy writes erotic romance with a science-fiction/fantasy twist and her short “Be Careful What You Wish For” is available now for Kindle.


Filed under Publishing

My Self-Publishing Journey: The Sound Track

Some lovers give flowers to their sweethearts. Others leave little love notes where their significant other will find them. My dear husband has taken to bringing me the lyrics to songs that evoke the characters in my books.

Today’s post includes two songs that could be about the emotional motivation behind the decision to self-publish.


As my DH says. Self-publishers are the ones traditional publishing can’t control.



I don’t know where Hoobastank got its name from, but I like the way this song ends. I don’t want to waste my  time and energy vilifying traditional publishing.  (I don’t consider reporting the truth, as Kris Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, and the Passive Voice do vilification.)  Don’t hate. Become the first of you.


Filed under Life, writing

My Self-Publishing Journey: Getting Good Information

As you may have gleaned from this blog over time, two of my guiding values are Balance and Perspective. I get nervous when all the information comes from a source that clearly has an axe to grind.  I like reading persuasive arguments that disagree with my preconceived notions — but they have to be balanced and logical, not just full of emotion and bombast. It makes me uneasy when I read an argument that supports my point of view but is not well reasoned.

That’s one reason I keep recommending you read The Passive Voice. Passive Guy is an attorney with years of experience in contract law. Whether you like or dislike the traditional publishing model, Passive Guy’s analysis is invaluable if you plan to sign a contract with a publisher. I recently read Passive Guy’s post “How to Read a Book Contract — Contempt.”  Even though PG calls it a rant and infuses his post with plenty of snark, he has the knowledge to back up his arguments. As much as anything on the Internet, I can trust what he has to say.

Likewise, Kris Rusch.  She’s been in the business for a long time, and she’s talking to a lot of people. She is clearly opinionated, but she is balanced. By that I mean she’s not only focused on indie-publishing. She’s willing to work with traditional publishers as long as the contracts they offer aren’t abusive. She’s also willing to walk away if they are.  Her mantra is:

Writers Are Responsible For Their Own Careers.

Writers Are Professionals.

Writers Are In Business, And Should Behave Like Business People.

When I first started thinking about becoming a publisher (which is what you’re doing when you self-publish), it was hard to let go of the old dream (a fantasy, as it turned out) of having an agent do all the work of selling my book and a publisher do all the work of publishing and marketing it. I grew up with that model. There was a prestige associated with that model. A blessing was conferred when a publisher conceded that you were good enough to join the ranks of the published few.

All snark aside, that model still has weight. There is still some benefit in being traditionally published. That’s why Amanda Hocking signed a contract with St. Martins. They offered her a lot of money and quicker market penetration for her physical books. She made a business decision, not an emotional one.  Just as Barry Eisler did when he made a deal with Amazon’s Publishing arm, and John Locke did when he made the distribution deal with Simon & Schuster.  Business decisions all.  Based on facts.

As impatient as I am to get my work out there, I’m taking time to sample the information swirling around out there, always searching for new sources. The publishing environment is changing daily.  It’s worth it to spend a little of our precious time keeping tabs on it.   To that end I’ll be adding a page to my site in the about two weeks, with links to good information about self-publishing.

I hope the information helps others at it helped me.


Filed under writing

Mistakes to Avoid: Check Out Your Agent

I had to post about this. Since I believe there is no single right path to publishing, that means for some people having an agent who represents your books to traditional publishers is a valid path. But like other aspects of business, it requires vigilance on the part of authors.

As I posted yesterday, authors MUST respect themselves, and take themselves seriously as business owners, not just as artists. Part of taking yourself seriously is being vigilant about the legal and financial relationships you enter. Like with your agent. Please read this post from Dean Wesley Smith and the comments by Laura Resnick and others that follow.

I like to think of myself as fairly cautious.  I call the Better Business Bureau and the Registrar of Contractors before I hire work done. But during the years I was submitting to agents I would have been one of those stupid authors Dean writes about. Even though I’d often heard that a bad agent is worse than no agent, and I asked around before I submitted, I would have rejoiced to have someone represent me, and I would have let a virtual stranger handle my money without a background check. Because that’s the way it was done.

That’s not the way it should be done. Split accounting is the smart way to get your royalties, and it will protect you and your agent from temptation. As for getting an agent, that may be in my future, but if I do, I won’t depend solely on word of mouth to support my evaluation.  I’ll ask some hard questions, and if I don’t like the answers, I’ll walk away.


Filed under writing

My Self-Publishing Journey: I Am a Professional.

I recently read Kris Rusch’s blog post about being a professional. Various writers have been coming to Kris lately for her opinion on a contract they received from their publishers and, in most cases, have already signed.  Most already had an inkling that it was a bad contract. What they were looking for was reassurance that signing it hadn’t hurt them too much.

Why am I talking about this here, in an article about self-publishing? Because this series is as much about the self, the emotions of publishing and how they help or hurt us, as it is about the publishing part. And emotions were definitely in play with those writers. One author even said she knew the contract was bad for her career, but she’d promised her editor she’d sign it and didn’t want to make her editor mad by negotiating something better.

Passive Guy recently put up this quote by Dorothy Parker:

He’ll be cross if he sees I have been crying. They don’t like you to cry. He doesn’t cry. I wish to God I could make him cry. I wish I could make him cry and tread the floor and feel his heart heavy and big and festering in him. I wish I could hurt him like hell.

. . .  I don’t think he even knows how he makes me feel. I wish he could know, without my telling him. They don’t like you to tell them they’ve made you cry. They don’t like you to tell them you’re unhappy because of them. If you do, they think you’re possessive and exacting. And then they hate you. They hate you whenever you say anything you really think. You always have to keep playing little games.

When I read this I was expecting it to be a snarky comparison to traditional publishing.  Instead it’s just a riff on emotional abuse.


Kris Rusch  also writes that many writers fail to take the business side of  writing seriously.  The danger in this is that the publishers take it very seriously indeed. They, and agents, know they are in business, and they are looking out for their own bottom line. Many writers are not. Many writers have conducted business believing  that their editor and their agent will look out for them. The publishers and the agents have encouraged this. Just as in many a dystopian novel, a passive populace is easier to control. And many authors are complicit in their own abuse. The problem with allowing your future to be controlled by others is that it trains you to be passive. To seek approval. To accept bad treatment because that’s “just how it is.” For a long time authors didn’t have a choice. Now we do.

The point of this is not to bash traditional publishing.  The point is that for many of us, our business decisions are affected by our emotions, and we should be aware of how we react to situations that are emotionally difficult.

Are we making a certain choice because it’s less frightening, even though it’s not in our best interest? Do we choose something else because our friends are doing it? Because it’s safer and won’t expose us to ridicule if we fail?

Demanding respect for what you have done is not hubris.

It starts with self-respect. It’s having confidence that what you’ve done has value. It’s knowing where you sit on the spectrum of accomplishment, and having the humility to learn from others. It’s knowing that you are in business and being able to negotiate for what you want, and willing say,  “No, you may not treat me badly.” It’s walking away from a bad deal.

In this shifting world of publishing some people will disagree with your decisions and question your judgement. Some will feel threatened by what you’re doing, and disparage it. But if you made your choices for the right reasons, it won’t matter.

I have a button with the quote, “Among animals, it’s eat or be eaten. Among humans, it’s define or be defined.” Whatever path you choose, don’t give up your power. Take control of your career. Define yourself as a professional.


Filed under Life, writing

My Self-Publishing Journey — Learning As I Go

As I’ve mentioned here before, one of the decisions I had to make when I decided to self-publish was how much to do myself, and how much I should outsource.  Time and money were the two players on that see-saw.  I knew if I took my time, I could learn to do pretty much all of the necessary tasks and I would end up with a pretty good product because I wouldn’t let the book out the door until I was satisfied. I also knew that while I was doing all that learning, I wouldn’t get much writing done, and as I wrote in my last post, each new book is your best promotion for your last one.

In light of that, I as I said here, I decided the money spent outsourcing the production work to professionals was the best  investment in my business and my future.

So then I had to find the professionals to outsource to.  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, there are lots of places to find referrals. Mark Coker at Smashwords has a list of inexpensive digital formatters and cover artists he’ll send for the asking. The kindleboards are another source of info, as are the blogs of other self-published authors like Joe Konrath.

I didn’t know how long each step of production would take so I just dove in and contacted my first choice for a cover artist, Kim Killion at Hot Damn Designs.  She sent a questionnaire that I filled out, and two weeks later she sent the first draft of a cover to me. I sent back some requests for changes which she quickly implemented.  I wanted a few more refinements and sent those to her. Busy with attending a conference, she is still working on those revisions.

What is worth mentioning is that I felt reluctant to ask for more changes that second time. Perhaps this is a problem more common to women, but I had to remind myself that Kim had not complained or communicated a limit to the number of revisions I could ask for. I had to remind myself that this is one of the perks of self-publishing as Barry Eisler has mentioned — that I’m paying for a cover I like. I don’t have to settle for what my publisher chooses for me. (Which is not to say that all publisher-provided covers are awful, just that as the one in control, it’s up to me to choose.)  As soon as I get a final cover I’ll post it here and show you what the progression was.

I think starting with the cover was a good idea, even though it will probably be done long before I finish with the edits.  I know from getting the cover for VEILED MIRROR (coming out September 21st)  that seeing a cover makes the book seem real. Not to mention the visual is great advertising!  In fact now that I think about it, there’s no reason to wait until the book is finished.  Having a cover already designed could be an inspiration to write faster!

Soon after I contacted Kim, I emailed Rochelle French at Edits that Rock.  So far I’ve received their free five page edit and decided to go with their full manuscript level edit.  I debated with myself for some time about whether to spend the money on a professional edit.  LIGHTBRINGER  had been through two different critique groups of multiply published authors, and I knew that Kris Tualla had used a series of beta readers instead of professional editing to good effect. What decided me was yet another blog urging the benefits of professional editing for self-pubbed authors, and the discount ETR offered to me as a new client.  Then I saw their incredible attention to detail in the five page edit and I was sold.  They do three different rounds of editing at ETR. I can’t imagine any editor at a big publisher could do better.

That allayed any lingering doubt that by self-publishing it, LIGHTBRINGER would be sub-standard.

I’ve also contacted three different digital formatters, and decided to use Lucinda Campbell.  I do not yet know if I’ll hire someone to format the interior of the POD version or let Amazon’s CreateSpace manage that.

This has been a rambling post, but that’s appropriate to the subject matter because just I dove into the nuts and bolts of production without being sure what to tackle first.  And that’s a good thing, because I’m further along than I would have been if I’d continued to collect even more information.  At some point you have to choose: fish or cut bait.

This is a learning process for me.  When I publish my next book, probably FIRSTBORN, I’ll know better how long each step takes and be able to plan better.



Filed under writing