Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why I've Embraced Indie Publishing as a Writer

Previously, I covered why I've embraced indie publishing as a reader. Today, I'll tackle the other side of the coin, indie publishing as a writer.

One of the biggest pieces of advice writers will hear (and repeat) is "Write for yourself." But the biggest problem with writing for yourself is that you're an audience of one. And often, the Big 6 (aka NY traditional publishers) aren't interested in anything different from what's selling. Snooki sold not one, but two books to NY! Is there anyone in the world who thinks Snooki is a literary giant? Of course not. She's a name. And there are too many people who buy books based on a name, rather than on the talent of the author or the uniqueness of the storyline. Given the choice, NY will choose a big name over a great story every single time. Publishing is a business, but it's also subjective. A name guarantees sales; a great story might go largely ignored.

This is where indie publishing can be an author's best friend. Many authors will hear "It's a great story, but we don't know how to package it" or "We love the story, but we already represent an author who has a similar story line." Other authors will receive recommended changes before publication that don't make them comfortable or go against what the author envisioned for the characters.

So what's an author to do? A few years ago, the author would probably put that story on the shelf, write a different story, and move on. Nowadays, (s)he doesn't have to table the first story. And who benefits? The author (of course), but also the reader!

Other perks? The author has control over things that were out of his/her grasp before. Cover art, for example. When an author finishes a book, (s)he has a pretty good idea what the cover should look like. Many publishing houses take that into account and actually ask the author for input. Most, however, don't. Ever buy a book and notice the heroine doesn't have the right hair or eye color? And you wonder if the author was on drugs not to notice? Chances are great that the author knows, but can't change it because the art department has final say on the cover, not the author.

Again, nowadays, the author can have full control, whether (s)he chooses to create the cover or hires a cover artist.

Heard about the Harlequin shenanigans that caused several authors to file a class action lawsuit to get the royalty rate their contract promised? Have an opinion on the cost of ebooks? As a former Avalon author, I can tell you that I always hated how expensive my hardcover books were priced, considering their length. But that was out of my control. Now, indie publishing gives the author control of royalties, pricing, marketing, etc.

I admit there's a lot of hard work involved in indie publishing, and no one should go into any kind of publishing project blindly. If your book is not clean, well written, and properly formatted, don't leap to hit "Upload" on Amazon or any of the other self-publishing sites. Editing is crucial, and you should pay for a professional editor(self indulgent plug: if you need an editor, I offer Excellence in Editing with timely delivery at reasonable rates), and a cover artist if you don't have the skills. Become well informed about markets, and be prepared to invest a lot of yourself (and your own cash) into the project. Be patient. No one becomes an overnight sensation in indie publishing.

But if you're willing to do the work, the rewards could be well worth it!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer's Over? Not For Me, It Ain't!

It seems to me these days that we spend too much time pushing ahead instead of enjoying what we have in front of us. School supplies hit store shelves before the 4th of July, this week Starbucks announced they're getting ready to reintroduce their Pumpkin Spice Lattes for fall, and yesterday, a friend told me she'd started her Christmas shopping already!

When I was little and couldn't wait to grow up, my mother used to accuse me of wishing my life away. Nowadays, I'd say we're shopping our lives away--always looking for the early bird special to save a few bucks, but never really enjoying the here and now. So here it is the final week in August and guess what? I'm not putting away my flip flops yet. I refuse to climb into the attic to pull out my sweaters and jeans now. Autumn doesn't officially start until September 21. I'll wait til then to welcome the colors, the crisp air, and yes, the pumpkin spice lattes.

How about you?

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hooking the Reader and Free Books!

I'm kicking off a whirlwind blog-a-thon with my first stop at pal Becky's blog where I discuss "Hooking the Reader." Come on over and leave me a comment. You just might win one of the books in my backlist!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The {Booker} Award: My Five Favorite Audio Books

The uber-talented, kind-hearted, generous soul, Ellie Heller, tagged me for this meme, which she conveniently adapted for audio books. I listen to audio books at work so I do have a comprehensive list of favorites.

Before I begin my list, I want to clarify this by saying, for me, when it comes to audio books, it's all about the narrator. I've listened to some really stinky books that were saved by brilliant narration. And I've had to read some really great books because the narrator on the audio version was such a disappointment. These five had the perfect combination of a well-written book and amazing narration. So with that in mind, I'm listing my books, along with the narrators:

1. Naked in Death by JD Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen. I should probably amend this to "any of the In Death books that are narrated by Susan Ericksen." I'm addicted to this series, and I first fell in love with hero, Roarke, when Susan gave him that sexy Irish lilt in this book. <Delicious shivers!>

2. Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann, narrated by Patrick Lawlor and Renee Raudman. Again, any of the Troubleshooter books with Patrick's narration are must-haves for me. Suzanne Brockmann writes the male POV so brilliantly and Patrick brings that POV to life with humor, snark, and a realism that makes you love every member of this series.

3. The Bone Vault by Linda Fairstein, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. I love all of Linda's books about Alexandra Cooper, DA for Manhattan's Sex Crimes Unit. How could I not? She combines my love of suspense with my love of history and adds all the details of New York City. There's also that underlying current of sexual tension between Alex and Mike Chapman that grows from Book I through the later books in the series. Barbara Rosenblat is an amazing narrator who can easily switch between the characters, giving each of them a unique voice.

4. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, narrated by Jenna Larnia. The beauty of this book, the color and rich description, the drama of the women, kept me pinned to my chair for hours.

5. Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah, narrated by Suzanne Toren. I wept like a baby while listening to this magical story about a "wild child" and a hurting psychologist who tries to unlock the little girl's story.

If you're not an audiobook fan and want to try one, you can't go wrong with any of these. If you're more a physical book fan, pick up any of these beauties for un-put-down-able entertainment. You won't be disappointed either way.

Thanks, Ellie. This was fun!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Why I've Embraced Indie Publishing as a Reader***

The other day, I headed to my local library and strolled over to the paperback fiction section. I began perusing the titles on the spines, looking for something to check out. What did I see? A whole lotta the same. Nothing new or the slightest bit interesting.

Mysteries had "pun" titles like Cloak and Lager, about a beer-brewing sleuth investigating a murder in the local ale house. Okay...I made that up. But you get the point. They're all cutesy titles that combine the mystery angle with the sleuth's daily career.

Historical romances read like "How to" manuals: How To Snare a Scoundrel, or Canoodling With a Count. Contemporary romances feature the same tired tropes: secret babies, the ex is back in town, and (the squickiest of all!) I Married My Brother-In-Law. The paranormal romance selections are top-heavy with shapeshifters or vampires.

Contrast the library shelves with my Kindle app. Sure, you'll find the pun-titled mysteries, the how-to historicals, the traditional tropes of contemporaries (even the squickiest ones), and you can be up to your eyeteeth in vampires or shapeshifters, if that's what you want. But you'll also find the unusual, the stuff that traditional publishing's agents and editors said they "couldn't sell." These are rare gems, often found in mountains of pebbles that you'll have to sift through. Believe me when I say, I've read some stinkers on my Kindle. But I can usually tell by the online blurb or certainly within the first chapter if the book is not going to live up to my (admittedly) high expectations.

And every once in a while, I find the diamond in the rough. When that happens, I feel like I'm the first one let in on a delicious secret. And my general reaction is usually, "Why didn't NY grab this beauty?" But I already know the answer. Do you? Because these rare gems don't fit into NY publishing's box.

The Big Six of traditional NY publishing churn out the same product month after month, year after year. That's what sells, so that's what they want. They're terrified to take a chance on something new, something unusual, something with a strong authorial voice or an odd point of view. "Different" manuscripts need not apply. Got a historical featuring a Scottish laird and an English lady? Send it to NY! Set the story in ancient Rome, though, and they "can't sell" it. Writing a mystery where the police actually solve the crime? Fuhgeddaboutit. The Keystone Kops solved more crimes than the current crop of homicide detectives in mystery fiction. Everyone knows that the cupcake baker or the dogwalker will save the day! And they'll do it while wearing the cutest shoes!

Don't believe me? Look around. You're already seeing variations on the Fifty Shades phenomenon. Black and gray covers, some books that even use the same title formation or rhythm, (i.e.: Twenty Verses of Solomon. Don't look for that one; I made it up.) are already hitting the shelves. That's NY publishing for you.

But there's hope for Indie Publishing. Twenty-five years ago, Hollywood shunned the indie movie productions, films that were created outside the status quo of the industry's studio system. Time and talent changed all that. Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers, James Cameron, Spike Lee, and Steven Soderburgh were among the creators who changed the game.

I truly believe the same will happen in publishing. And I can't wait to see it.

***Next week, I'll tackle why I've Embraced Indie Publishing as a Writer.

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Christmas in August?

I'm currently working on a short story, The Christmas Guest, for inclusion in a holiday anthology coming out this November. For someone like me, so used to four seasons, it's kinda weird to be writing about sleet and snow, hot cider and sugar cookies, while sitting poolside in 95+ degree heat. Oh, I know the store merchants will start moving their holiday decorations and gift ideas onto the sales floor right after the kids go back to school, but I need holiday inspiration now. Memory and imagination only go so far. I've had to find a way to get into the holiday spirit by artificial means.

Music is always necessary when I write, so for this one, I scroll to my meager Christmas tune playlist. Seriously, I or four Christmas songs on my iPod. Most played among them: Steven Colbert's Another Christmas Song. Surprised? Yeah, I didn't think so. With lyrics like, "Chestnuts singing on a silent night, reindeer kissing by candlelight," it's goofy and nonsensical and perfect. For me, anyway.

And speaking of candlelight, another way I get into Christmas mode is to light scented candles: pine, pumpkin pie, winter snow. I have half a dozen holiday flavors to choose from and believe it or not, smells do help to set the right mood.

So do foods. Okay, I'm not going to bake an apple pie or roast beef any time soon. But I can grab an apple pie yogurt or a chocolate raspberry coffee and that draws my tastebuds into the holiday spirit.

One last sense to manipulate. Sight. Enter snow globe. I've got a beautiful Spode snow globe I received as a gift one year, complete with a delicately carved Christmas tree in full holiday regalia with fairy lights and ornaments. One good shake, and it's winter in that tiny world. Perfect!

Authors can't always choose the timing for a story. Sometimes, we just have to create the "write" atmosphere.

As details develop on this new project, including an official title and release date, I'll let you know.

Until then, Happy Holidays!

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

If Authors Competed in the Summer Olympics

If the publishing industry held its own Olympics, imagine what categories we'd compete in! I did. How many gold medals would you get?

1. Deadline Biathlon. You can see the tape looming closer and closer, but you've still got the climax and denouement to finish before the clock runs out! And that other author is a few seconds ahead of you. Can you clear that last hurdle and resist the urge to trip up the leader?

2. Bad Review Vaulting. Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, and all the review blogs are less than thrilled with your style of genius. Rise above the hurt feelings and move on with grace.

3. Swimming Through Social Media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, TumblR... You need a game plan to reach the far wall and still have time to write.

4. The Volleyball of Edits. Revisions are served; you've gotta perfectly slam that manuscript back to your editor.

5. Cross Country Conference Attendance. It takes perfect packing, excellent planning, and the ability to adjust quickly for bad weather, travel delays, and lost hotel reservations. But will your books and swag get there on time?

6. Fencing With Words. Brevity is always best. You, as the author, have to find the perfect description for a scene, the perfect comeback for your character, the perfect blurb to pique a reader's interest. It takes years of practice!

7. Tennis Pitch Session. While facing an editor or agent, serve the best elevator pitch, mini-blurb, and detailed description of your manuscript. Timing is crucial if you want top score.

8. Coffee High Dive. Plunge into that caffeine pool. You know you want to.

What events do you think might be good for authors?

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page: