Nothing like a Deadline

There is nothiwebbadge4ng like a deadline to get my butt in gear. I've been attempting all summer to balance the consulting gig with revising The River Maiden. Meanwhile my husband/alpha reader has been harassing me about how I need to be sending queries out already and who cares if I think it's ready. Well, I care.  Still, I'll probably always find words that need to be rearranged and things that I could have written better. So, I see his point...somewhat.

In any case I'm trying to finish my revisions and adding to the end to answer some of the questions my beta readers wanted answered. Unfortunately, the list of things jumping in the way over the last few weeks have included no less than, consulting gig, back to school, home renovation and some stuff that was just plain invented to get in the way. (When I finish reading it, I'll review Stephen Pressfield's The War of Art and all of the things he has to say about resistance).

In the spirit of stepping out of my comfort zone, I decided to step out and take myself to a writer's conference. So, I'll be attending the James River Writer's Conference in Richmond next month. Hopefully I'll be connecting with some other writers in the area and maybe even some agents. There is even an opportunity to pitch books on Sunday. I may even step up there and try. In any case, should be a good way to make some connections.

I'm also hoping that the date of next month will put a little pressure on me to step up my revision efforts. Hopefully I can finish this draft before the conference. At the very least it gives me a date to work toward rather than a vague hope that I can finish quickly. They've very nicely added a countdown clock to their page that displays the days/hours/minutes/seconds until the conference. Let's hope that its a good fire starter.

Are Nook Readers Hopeless Romantics?

Recently on a self-publishing forum that I frequent, a much more successful indie author than I asked the forum if we had seen our Nook sales dry up. I was one of the few people who answered "No". In fact, I have had a couple of months in the latter half of 2012 where Nook sales were all I had.  This prompted me to look a little closer at the difference between my Nook and Kindle sales and what some of the differences were. First, let's review the ebooks that I have and the differences between them (in case you haven't read them yet). I'll try not to give any spoilers.

histfic comparison

With that said, it's interesting to note that 84% of my Kindle sales are of The White House. This isn't completely surprising in since The White House was released four months before A Fond Kiss. However, 100% of my Nook sales are for A Fond Kiss. That's right, I have not sold a single copy of The White House on the Nook. Which is a shame, because it's a really good story (not that I'm biased or anything;)

This is what leads me to ask the question at the top of this post. Are Nook readers hopeless romantics? It's pretty clear that my based-in-fact love story appeals to them far more than pirates, even famous ones. Is it because A Fond Kiss is a love story, or because it's based on a true story? This of course has me wondering what's different about Nook readers vs. Kindle readers.

After a little frustrated searching online the only information that I found about the demographic differences between Kindle and Nook readers is a couple of years old. Since the e-reader market has exploded in the last couple of years, I'm not sure how accurate that information is.  This article from shows that Kindle users tend to be older than Nook users and credits the Nook color/tablet with attracting a younger audience. It also suggests that the older audience prefers the Kindle because it's lighter and therefore easier on arthritic hands (A dubious conclusion).  Given that this data is from 2010, before the Kindle Fire was released and was from a self-selected survey, the data isn't exactly that scientific. In fact, based on my experiences both as a reader and author, I found the idea that the Nook appeals to a YOUNGER audience surprising.

Here is another article from the Florida Research Group that compares the demographics of all e-reader users, but again it's two years old. There is no end to the number of articles comparing the devices themselves, and they're great for consumers shopping for a device, but there really seems to be a limited amount of market research done for authors looking to maximize their sales on either one. If I were about to publish a romance novel and was trying to decide whether or not to opt in to KDP Select with its exclusivity requirement, I might like to know a breakdown on Romance genre sales on Nook vs. Kindle. Otherwise, I might lose sales from other platforms that have a large number of readers in my genre. For independent authors running their own show when it comes to marketing, this kind of information would be very helpful in targeting that marketing rather than the current throw everything against the social media wall and hope something sticks strategy or the increasing popular mimic the best-sellers (50 Shades of Fill-in-the-blank) and ride the wave of whatever's popular strategy.

Maybe this is something that KDP, Pubit and Smashwords can offer as a value add to their authors. Maybe it could be another revenue stream for them. I can imagine that I'm not the only author who would pay a REASONABLE  fee for a timely demographic analysis of e-reader users or even monthly newsletter that goes beyond just the bestseller lists and looks at who is buying. I would think that this is all data that these e-publishing platforms have, it would just be a matter of putting it together in a form that people can read.

Admittedly, I'm new at this and I've been eyes deep in editing lately, but this doesn't seem too much to ask. Maybe this is out there already. If it is, please point me in the right direction. I'm sure it's a product of my corporate sales background, but I can get kinda nerdy about this stuff, and as the saying goes, Knowledge is Power.

Progress Update

I'm getting closer to releasing A Fond Kiss, my next novelette. I'll working on the final edits as soon as I finish this post. After posting the previous cover and getting some feedback on it. I made a few modifications. I think this new cover strikes the right tone for this story.

I also have a few things coming up to help get the word out.

I'll be doing an interview for the blog of fellow writer John B. Campbell. I highly recommend you check out his book, Walk to Paradise Garden. I'm also excited to be posting an interview of John here in the near future. So there should be some juicy shop talk about editing and characterization.

And a guest post on Sean McLachlan's blog Civil War Horror to talk about research, some online research tools. This is especially fitting for A Fond Kiss because it's based on a true story.

I can also be found reviewing books at Read All Over Reviews.

I'll let you know when A Fond Kiss is ready for release.

As always, I am also hard at work on the novel. If you haven't already you can get a sneak peak here and here.

Moving Right Along

Ha! Now you have that song from The Muppet Movie stuck in your head. You're welcome. On a serious note. Feedback on the upcoming novelette is coming in from my awesome beta readers, and so far things are sounding pretty good. While I'm waiting to hear from the rest of them I thought I would go ahead and work on the cover. I'm a DIY kind of gal and this little gem is going to sell for .99 so I didn't want to spend a ton on getting someone else to design the cover. Unlike last time I didn't have a photo in my pipeline that was ideal for this story though. So, I joined and found a great photo to use. I know some of you are  probably saying that there are plenty of free photo places online. Truth is I looked at those and the license agreements on most of them were a little murky. I decided that I would rather pay a little money up front, than potentially have to pay out later if I was misinterpreting or if the free site wasn't as scrupulous in where they got their pics. I'm not knocking those sites and if you know of one that you trust completely, I would love to hear about it.

Being a content producer I'm sensitive to copyright issues and try to operate under a standard of courtesy when it comes to intellectual property. We see this a lot in the craft world. My sister-in-law for example has a pretty successful business going through etsy and various retail boutiques selling her hand stitched felt goodies. She's been at it for a few years now and even has a book coming out. If you're crafty you can pre-order it here. Just the other day she discovered another etsy seller who was not only selling similar felt goodies, but had copied her signature stitch pattern and even copied some product descriptions word for word. Now, it's might hard to enforce copyright in the crafting business, but a lot of crafters especially those selling things operate under a general rule that you don't copy other peoples designs. I don't want to get caught up in a similar misunderstanding (I'm being very generous there to my SIL's copier) with my book cover, so I'll pay a little and it really is only a little.

With that said, here is the cover for "A Fond Kiss". Since this is only my 3rd cover, I am certainly open to feedback. Please let me know what you think. To leave a comment please keep scrolling all the way down. I don't have a specific release date for this piece yet, but I'm hoping to get it done this month.



To outline or not to outline

I can't count the number of writers that I've heard in various forums saying that they just sit down and write and "let the story take me where it will" or something like that. These people often say that they don't know how a story will end when they start writing. Now, I'm not one to cast aspersions on anyone's process. I say do what works for you, as long as it's actually WORKING.  I however, have never been one to just sit and write with no end in mind, at least not for anything longer than a blog post. That method might work for poetry, flash fiction or even short stories, but anything longer than a few printed pages and I better have an outline. This could be the fault of my high school English teacher, Rita Mullins. Aside from Mrs. Mullins many gems of literary wisdom, one of the things that she taught us that I have used the most, is how to create and work from an outline.  I don't want to brag (Yes, I do.) but as a corporate trainer, I never missed a deadline for writing training material. That was entirely due to this habit of working from an outline. Where other trainers who weren't natural writers would sit and stare at blank screens trying to come up with a plan, I would schedule a plan allowing a specific amount of time for researching, brainstorming, outlining, writing and editing and I would work that plan. Voila! Training class on time with minimal stress.

Here are some of the key things that an outline provides for me:

1) Direction: Novel writing isn't a simple as writing training manuals. Sometimes I just feel a scene and it's better to write that when I'm feeling it or it might lose its emotional punch. But if I don't want to lose my way writing from point A to point Z then an outline is a necessity. There is always room for switching items around, changing order and scrapping scenes altogether. That's why I tend to do my outline on index cards, and nerdily color code them according to plot or sub-plot. For a large project like a novel, it's a way to get a bird's eye view of the whole story. Plus it's reminder of what needs to be written next. That doesn't mean that I write scenes in order. If I'm feeling one scene I might work on that. Likewise, if I'm not feeling one, then I can check what else needs to be written and try one of those.

2) Plot Check: Working without an outline is a bit like driving on back country roads with no map or GPS. It might be a lot of fun, in fact that's one of my favorite pastimes, but unless I have some set destination in mind, I'm likely to meander about with no direction take forever to get where I'm going. A book is not like that. If you meander about too much you risk losing the reader's interest. Lengthy passages about the beauty of barns on the back roads of central Virginia might be fun  for me to write, but they're not going to turn pages. Every scene should move the plot forward, and using an outline helps me make sure of that. I can ask myself if an item in my outline moves the plot forward and if it doesn't, I can chuck it. Likewise, I can ask myself if anything is missing. Do the events in my outline motivate my characters to do what they are supposed to do? If not, what else do I need?

3)Accomplishment: There's a reason why I don't knit blankets or sweaters. It's not that I don't like them, I just don't like big projects like that. I get impatient and want to move on to the next thing. I actually get a little depressed if I don't have that sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing something every now and then. So, a big writing project like a novel or (gasp!) a series of novels can be a daunting task. Working from an outline helps me break that down to smaller more manageable tasks. I  go act by act, scene by scene and check them off as I finish drafting each one. I even go so far as to print them out and put them into a notebook in the order of my outline right behind the relevant index card or cards for that scene. This way I can look at the manuscript and feel like I'm moving forward.

As I said before, I'm not disparaging anyone's process or lack thereof. I'm just saying that the old adage "Fail to plan, plan to fail" is famous for a reason. It takes a remarkably rare talent to just sit down and write a book without knowing the direction or having the end in mind. So if you're a writer, you might ask yourself. Am I that rare creative genius that can do that, or am I a classically trained samurai?

Do you write for yourself, or for readers?

There are people who write for themselves. These people write what they want, the way they want it and if you don't like it than that's just your opinion. Their work is often riddled with incorrect diction, punctuation and bad grammar. When anyone points those things out to them, they meant it to be that way to serve the story.

You've probably seen the singing equivalent of these people on American Idol. They're the ones that come into their auditions full of confidence because their parents/friends/church family have all told them that their singing is nice (usually because they don't want to hurt their feelings with the truth).  When they are told the truth about their singing, they rationalize it by saying "That's YOUR opinion!" Naturally, we're talking about the opinions of experienced music industry professionals who have a pretty solid basis for comparison. Still, the contestant will walk away from the encounter confident in their belief that what they do is awesome even if the judges didn't like it. In my house we call these people, "Classically Trained Samurai" because there is now way in this century to become a "Classically Trained Samurai" (Look it up), yet there are people who insist that they are just that. Given that the samurai class in Japan was abolished in the late nineteenth century, these folks are Samurai in their own minds. They fight and/or practice for themselves just as some writers write for themselves. And often publish for themselves hoping that they will find other "Classically Trained Samurai" who are interested in the same kind of things that they are and will enjoy their work.

Then there are people who write for readers.

These are writers who very often make a ton of money, and write in whatever genre is popular at a given time. James Patterson is a perfect example of this. Wildly successful as a mystery writer, he then branched out into pretty much whatever genre/subgenre is trending; Wizards, Awkward Adolescent, Women's Fiction. Patterson at least credits his co-authors since no one person could possibly write this much fiction fast enough to take advantage of current trends. While I might initially be prone to sneer at this sort of genre chasing (not that crossing genres is bad, I write/read more than one genre too), Patterson is I'm sure making money hand over fist. There is also something to be said for pleasing the crowd, which he usually does.

I however, think that some of the best writing falls somewhere in between these two poles. We all choose what to write about based on our windows on the world. I for example and a history loving Southern girl who is also a Scotia-phile. So, I like to write about my roots in North Carolina and the history there and about Scots. The Once & Future Series that I'm working on is something that I'm writing for myself because these characters have been living in my head for years, and I would like for them to live on pages or screens for others to enjoy. But I'm also conscious of the fact that in order for others to enjoy the story, I have to be interested in their opinions. I need feedback from readers about the narrative and the style. Is it engaging? Is it easy to understand? Are the characters believable?

Every writer needs this kind of feedback and should seek it out, preferably prior to publishing. However, if you're true to your vision you'll take this feedback with a grain of salt.  We writers have to pick and choose what changes to make. Keeping that choice in the hands of the writer is one of the great things about indie publishing. I can incorporate feedback that says "this needs more action and less Celtic myth nerd-dom". I can also say no to morphing my characters into teenage malcontent vampires at wizard school because someone says that YA Paranormal Romance is super hot these days. It's a balancing act that is essential if you mean to publish and actually sell books even if not as successfully as James Patterson.

With that said, I'll soon be sending out my latest piece of historical fiction to my beta readers to get that feedback prior to publishing. Since it's based on a true story, hopefully no one will ask me to change the ending.


Telling people you're a writer

This has always felt a little awkward for me. I've sort of had the idea that you're not a writer unless someone is paying you to write. Even when I was getting paid to write training material, I called myself a trainer not a writer. Still in the indie author business you sort of have to tell people that or you'll never sell books. It's never been a secret that I write, that's just not the way that I would introduce myself to people. It's one thing to say it online, but a whole different thing to introduce yourself in person to someone new by saying that you're a writer. I found myself yesterday introducing myself to someone as a writer for the first time. It felt weird, but awesome.  It just happened that my daughter and I were way early for her preschool field trip and I had not had enough caffeine, so we stopped at Starbucks for some coffee and cocoa. T in her indefatigable cuteness attracted the attention of the young lady at the table next to us. I'm a terrible introvert (as so many writers are) and children make the most wonderful icebreakers. After telling me how cute T is the young lady, Katrina, and I began chatting about kids, preschools, blah blah...Then she asked me what I do. Before I would usually say, "I'm a stay at home mom." or "I knit and crochet accessories". Yesterday I said, "I'm a writer."

Katrina's face lit up, "Wow. What do you write?" I told her and more conversation ensued mostly about leaving jobs and chasing dreams, the importance of support while you're doing it (I'll save that topic for  a later post). It was a good conversation, and before leaving she asked for my email.

Here I had to stop, because being newly published I did not have any cards for me as a writer. I did have cards for my fiber business and I gave her one, but I immediately began thinking of the need for business cards with my web address and some info on what I do. So I started looking around at Author Business Cards and trying to figure out what would be the best way to go. I found a few blog posts on the subject. Here's a pretty good one.

In the end I went with my standby I've used Moo before for my craft biz cards and have been really pleased with the result. I like their mini cards. Yes, they're smaller, but you'd be amazed at how much people like them.

  • For the cost of what most printers will charge for their stock designs. Moo lets you put your own photos on your cards, and not just one photo, you can do a bunch of different photos.
  • The half-sized mini cards are attention getters. Most people don't expect them, and they remember them.
  • The card stock is good quality. They don't feel flimsy.

I went into their card builder tool and uploaded some of the pics from here on the blog and from The White House's cover and a few others that looked sufficiently "historical fictiony" Chose my background color and put in my info. After previewing them , I ordered 100 to start with. I can always order more. Plus if I get some new pics, I can upload those for the next batch. 100 mini cards cost only $19.99.  Moo also does stickers in different sizes, and designs including using your own photos. All around I've been very please with them and can't wait to get my new cards. I'll be able to say I'm a writer and give a card consistent with that.