Over the past year or more we’ve been hearing more and more about self-publishing. Joe Konrath has been a force behind the message that we authors can have so much more control, and income, if we override the conditioning of Big Publishing and take control of our own careers. That’s not to say that traditional publishing is bad. I’m not against it in any way, and will still be pursuing it. But I’m also smart enough to know that options are never a bad thing.
In October I dipped my toes into the whole self-publishing pool with MEANDROS. I’d promised to keep y’all up to date on how it went, but have really posted nothing about it since because it’s been very slow moving.
Meandros is a short story just over 5k long. It’s been previously published, and it was also a free read on my website and scribd for a year or so, so I didn’t really expect a lot of sales. But I thought why not, let’s get it out there. I put out some coin to get it re-edited, and formatted and got a nice new cover. I put it up for 99 cents, because that’s the lowest price Amazon allows.
Here’s the stats of what’s happened with that book so far.
* In the four and a half months it’s been for sale, I’ve only sold 1 copy through Smashwords, and 150 through Amazon.
* Sales went up when readers posted reviews.
* Changing the blurb didn’t help sales. Although this could be because my story is about how the main character deals with the death of the love of her life, and I refused to hide that fact in the blurb. It was suggested to me I take that out, to sell the story, but I didn’t think that was cool. I didn’t want to mislead readers
I’m okay with slow sales on that story. Of course I want it to sell lots. I’m human and I want to keep working as a writer, but that particular story is a very personal one, and I really just wanted it to be available to as many readers as possible.
Author Jordan Summers has also been dipping into the Indie Publishing arena by re-releasing some of her backlist, and talks about it openly on her blog. So far she’s released one novella and one category length book, and states that she made a little under $100 in the first month. A few of the sales are from Smashwords and B&N, but the majority are from Amazon. Jordan’s done no promotion beyond her own blog because she wanted to see what would happen if she just put the books out there. Would people find them on their own?
It seems that many of us are not only seeing this as a way to re-release backlists, or short stories that connect to our books, or even new stuff, but also as way to really see what works with readers. We can see what works promotion wise, too. I know I noticed a bump in sales when readers started posting reviews on Amazon, and Jordan confirmed that she saw the same thing.
With that in mind, I went forward with a project with another author. Charlene Teglia and I decided to do an anthology together. We used the theme of rocks or stones of mystical value (ROCK MY WORLD is my story) and we each wrote a short story that connected to our previous print books. Because Charlene’s was paranormal, I chose to write one connected to my own paranormals that were published by Kensington, and not my Berkley contemporaries.
The idea of it is that our fans will buy the book because it’s connected, and hopefully new readers will enjoy the eBook so much they’ll hunt down the print books they’re connected to.
Below are some tips from me to anyone out there wanting to go the Indie Publishing route.
*When it comes to formatting…hire a professional. Save yourself time and stress.
Also, when getting the file ready to send to the formatter…Keep it as simple as possible.
Page breaks are okay. Italics and bold are good, but beyond that, there’s no need to format your file a lot. The person who formats it for publication has to break it down and completely reformat it anyway. However, you can make their job easier and smoother by giving them a clean and simple file to work with.
Long Fiction: $30 for the first file, $10 for each additional format
Anthologies of three or more stories: $50 minimum (more if number of stories or authors exceed 5) for the first file, $10 for each additional format. If the ebook file needs to have Interior Illustrations (including diagrams for non-fiction or covers for excerpt books): additional $5 per image embedded (assuming all images are provided by author(s))
April says, “So far, length hasn’t really made much of a difference in either ebook formatting or for print book design. If anything does make a difference, it’s more likely to be the number of chapters or the number of sections or, say, stories in an anthology. This is because where there’s a hard page break, it’s usually the start of a new file — so the more chapters/sections/stories, the more “files” there are in an ebook and in a print book, and the more “entries” there are that refer to them in a table of contents.”
This shows that it’s not so much about the number of words when it comes to formatting, but the work involved..books with more work (Sections, or excerpts, or images that need to be embedded) will cost more to format.
Also…be sure to include the legalese in the front, and your bio in the back. It’s not up to the formatter to complete your file, only to format what you send them.
If you have any specific requests, (a table of contents, or embedded links) be sure to mention them at the same time you send the file in.
When you get your file back, be sure to check them over right away. You’ll likely get a chance to ask for tweaks if there’s something off, but only if you do so right away.
Smashwords was fairly simple to upload to. Step by step, instructions. One thing we did by accident was not check off the ePub version because we wanted to upload our book to B&N via PubIt. That was a mistake, as the ePub version is also what they use for the iBook store and Sony. We waited until the file was published, then went back in and redid it. It wasn’t a huge hassle, but it was a step that we could’ve avoided. Plus, having to republish set our book back in the line for the premium catalogue, a delay thats not really wanted when the goal is to get the book out in as many venues as soon as possible.
*Side note* Smashwords has a fabulous step-by-step guide on formatting your file for them. It seems easy. It wasn’t. I formatted MEANDROS for Smashword myself (The guy I hired for that one only gave me Mobi and EPub files, I didn’t know enough to ask for a word doc) I followed the steps. Everyone of them, and MEANDROS is till no even in the line-up to go to the premium catalogue because they keep saying it’s not formated right. So, I highly recommend hiring someone. )
Kindle also had step-by-step instructions that made publishing fairly easy. The thing we screwed up on there has to do with pricing. You see, we uploaded the story to all three places (B&N, Amazon, Smashwords on Thursday, and decided to wait until it was available on three before we announced the Sale and Giveaway we planned. We figure it was a better way to make an event out of the release. With this in mind we set the price at $2.99 when uploaded, figuring we could change it to 99 cents for the sale on our official release day Monday) On Sunday night Charlene went in to change the price so the sale could start. The change on Smashwords was immediate. B&N took an hour or so, Amazon took over 12 hours. So, next time, we’re not going to worry about co-ordinating and surprising with a sale, we’ll just put sale price in initially. LOL
B&N PubIt. Me, I didn’t bother putting Meandros up on there before because at that time it wasn’t worth it for the experiment I was doing. Charlene uploaded our anthology, and she cursed the whole time. She says “The real difficulty I ran into wasn’t the upload process, it was the account creation and verification. Also, the cover art requirements are different from Smashwords and Amazon, so it takes a separate file that fits their requirements exactly.”
And since I’m talking self-publishing, I just have to add that the news of Barry Eisler turning down a two book deal worth $500,000 to self-publish makes me wonder what’s next. While there is no denying this was a revolutionary move, it’s also one that make me wonder what this move means for those like me and Charlene, and Jordan, who aren’t NYT Bestsellers. How will it effect us if more “Big Name” authors follow in his footsteps? Will it effect us?
One thing is for certain, it’ll be along time before things are settled again in this industry.
Last night I watched Casey Abrams sing the Joe Cocker song “I get by with a little help from my friends”, and I immediately knew it would be my blog topic for today. You see, as true as it is that only you can actually make yourself stay in that chair and get your fingers dancing across the keyboard, there are ways to feel less alone. something that has become extremely clear to me over the past week.
If you’ve been reading here regularly then you probably know that I’ve been struggling with my writing for a couple of years. After I burnt out and decided to take a year off from publishing to work on a project just or me, I had a very hard time getting back into the habit of writing. So hard that in the last 2 years, aside from blog posts, I’ve only written 2 short stories from scratch.
2 short stories in 2 years. In 2005 I wrote two single title novels, 3 novellas, and 3 short stories.
I’m not saying that to toot my own horn, but to show you why I knew I could write, if I really wanted to. And it really does all come down to desire. It’s easy to say you want to write. It’s hard to want to write, and not be able to. I’m not referring to time restrictions or anything physical. I’m referring to writers block.
I also used to be quick to say there was no such thing as writers block. That if you wanted to write bad enough, you would write. Then it happened to me, and you know what? I still say there’s no such things as writers block.
How can I say I had it, and that it’s not real in the same sentence? Because while I do believe I was blocked, I also believe that I could’ve gotten past it any time, if I’d truly wanted to.
Yes, I wanted to write. I told myself it was time to start writing again. I even agreed to do project with friends thinking it would force me to write (I’ve always been someone who thrived under pressure.) But even then I wouldn’t write. I’d sit at the computer and type and type and delete and type and delete, and then delete some more. I’d get depressed and tell myself I couldn’t do it.
Then it was time to stop fucking around. Seriously, that was what it took. Simply deciding that it was now or never. Either start writing again, or give up the dream and find a normal job. No more trying to do both, which was driing me a bit crazy. So, it was time to write. And guess what? I wrote a short story this past week.
Sure it’s only a 10k one, but it’s a complete story, from start to finish. And it felt great!
The reason it felt so damn good was because I had some awesome friends at my side the whole time. Sure, I could’ve written the story without them, but I might not have made it through the past 2 years without them commiserating and cheering me on.
The only thing that can truly make a person do something that is hard (and we all know writing can be hard work) is a true desire, not a surface one. But knowing you’re not alone when things get hard makes the work a lot easier. So, I can honestly say I got by with a little help from my friends.
Memorable scenes offer something beyond words to the reader. They offer content.
As an author I tend to always be short on my wordcounts. My editors have been known to send my manuscripts back and say, “It’s too short. Make it longer.” I struggle with this mightily. Why? Because I absolutely HATE ‘filler words’. I also hate adding scenes to a story simply to hit a specific word count. Yes, I write erotic, and I hate gratuitous sex scenes. It frustrates me to end when a critique partner or editor tells me to add another sex scene to meet my word count. If I wrote thrillers I wouldn’t add another murder scene just to add pages, so why should I add more sex to do so?
Sure readers read erotic fiction because they like hot sex scenes, but any reader will tell you that the sex scenes mean nothing if there is no story, no connection to the characters. The same goes for any scene, in any book, in any genre. Each and every scene has to offer something for the reader or they are just words on a page.
As a reader I hate it when I find myself skimming a book. To me that means that scene offers nothing of value to the story, and it shouldn’t be there. As a writer I strive to make sure there are no scenes in my stories that readers want to skim. To me thats what make a fast paced, engrossing read. It’s like when you go to a movie and you really have to pee, but you don’t want to leave togo to the washroom because you know if you do you’re going to miss something important.
I want my books to be that way. Ok, so you can put the book down and go to the washroom, or work or whatever, and not miss anything, but thats because when you start reading you pick up where you left off. The point is that you don’t skim anything because every scene has meaning, and your so engrossed in the story that your eyes are glued to every page.
Those scenes that no one will skim over are what I call Dynamic Scenes.
So how do you write them? Each scene has to offer something to the reader. Think character development, story arc, and plot holes. Think action or reaction.
I find that the action or reaction way of thinking is a very simple way to view things, and I like simple. Figuring that every scene in my books needs to feature either action, or reaction to something thats happened in the story makes it very easy to decide if the scene should be there or not. As a non-plotter it works great to think that way. I write a scene with action, then write the reaction to it. Simple.
Please understand that ‘action’ doesn’t always mean fighting a bad guy or jumping off a cliff. Action is basically when something is happening or being done. Action is something that moves the story forward in some way. Action is change. Something is different at the end of the scene than it was at the beginning.
By that definition, yes if you have your character showering, shaving and ….in a scene then yes there is action there, but it is it really anything that reader needs to know? So for my purposes, action is defined as something important happening. Not something big, but something important or integral to the story. Understand the difference? (and yes, character development is integral to the story)
However, what if your story has multiple storylines and POV’s? It doesn’t matter. It’s the same thing. Every scene should have either an action, or a reaction at it’s core. This keeps the story moving, and helps you avoid the dreaded sagging middle.
Okay, let’s get specific.
Look at a scene from your WIP.
Is it an action scene? Is it a reaction scene? If it isn’t either of those, how would you categorize it? Can you categorize it? If you’re looking at your scene, and thinking, “Shit, this isn’t really action, and it’s not really reaction…” then chances are your scene is not a dynamic one. No worries. You’re going to make it a dynamic one.
If it’s not an action or reaction scene you need to think about where in the story this particular scene sits. Look at the scene before it and the scene after it. What are they? is one an action, and the other a reaction? Is your scene really needed? If it’s not needed, cut it out and paste it into a separate file. ( I always have a file called “WIP cuts” where I paste anything I think doesn’t quite fit, but I’m not quite ready to delete. You never know you might find a place for it later-with some tweaking) If it’s still needed but it’s not an action or reaction, then think about how to make it one. Don’t be afraid to cut words, or to add another layer that will make the scene an action or reaction. Personally, I’m more afraid of leaving in words that aren’t needed, and boring my readers.
Last week I blogged about how to write hot…and what NOT to do when trying to heat up your stories. I admit it, I’ve been reading a lot lately, and too often the stories have disappointed me because of flat characters, cliched storylines and over-the-top sex scenes. With that in mind when I found out one of my go-to authors had anew release, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on it. And I was so not disappointed.
With that in mind I thought I’d share some thoughts on the story, and why I thought it worked so well.
Full of raw emotions that tug at your heartstrings Beg Me is an incredible story.
Erotic at times and heartbreaking at others this short story will grab hold of you and not let you go until it’s all said and done. Beg Me is certainly not going to be for everyone. The heroine enjoys rough sex, and rape fantasies – until she’s actually raped. This information is in the story blurb, so I’m not ruining anything for you, but what I want to point out is that it’s hard for most people to think erotic thoughts about a story where rape – real and fantasy- are the basis for the story. There’s no denying it has some rough scenes that some people will be both shocked and angry about, but it’s all part of the story. Not once did I feel any of it was there for shock value, or simply to push the envelope. The characters were real, and human and flawed. The hero and the heroine were also courageous and strong and sexual beings. They were full of emotion, all sorts of emotions, not just love and lust and happily ever after type fantasy romance feelings. This fact made all of their emotions feel real to me as I read the story-the fear, the anger, the desire and the love.
It takes a lot to make me uncomfortable, and I admit there was a time when I had to force myself not to skim ahead, but it was worth it. The most amazing thing for me was that during that scene my heart wasn’t breaking for the heroin, but for the hero. I’m not gong not say more on that that because I feel this is a story you need to read completely to form your own opinions on. The emotional connection between the characters, and between me the reader, and them, is what made the story erotic.
I highly recommend BEG ME to those who understand that it’s fiction, and everything that happens in the story is between consenting adults- and to anyone who wants to see an example of how any story can be erotic, when you focus on the characters and emotions, and not the number of sex scenes.
Someone asked me to blog about how to write hot, and my first thought was, “No Problem. I can do that.”
When I sat down to start writing it, I started to really think about how I did it. The thing is, I’ve never really thought about how to write hot. Sure I can tell you to build the tension between your characters by keeping them apart while they lust after each other. I could tell you to be sure to use all the senses when writing a sex scene, scent, touch, and sound so that you can bring the reader into the experience… Those are the things I would’ve expounded on a coupel of years ago when New York publishing houses started building erotic lines and so many writers jumped on the bandwagon. Instead of giving you tips on what to do to heat up your writing, I’m going to I’m going to give my opinion -as a reader and a writer -on what NOT to do if you want to write truly hot stories.
1) Don’t mistake quantity for quality.
Having a sex scene in every chapter doesn’t make a story erotic. Haveing a sex scene that runs 5-10 pages doesn’t make that sex scene hot.
2) Shock value isn’t hot, it’ s shocking. Pushing the envelope for the sake of pushing the envelope turns the story into something about you, the author, instead of something about the characters and what they are feeling or experiencing. That’s not hot. It’s irritating.
3) More is not always merrier. Be it partners or orgasms, multiples don’t in and of themselves, make things hotter.
Now, I’m not saying that’s these things can’t BE sexy, just that they alone are not what makes a story erotic. Passion and emotion are what make scenes and stories hot and erotic, and if you want to write hot, you can’t forget that.
Time and again it’s said that what makes a story great is character. Erotic fiction isn’t any different than every other genre when it comes to what makes it great. Well developed, three dimensional characters are the key to a great story, and to making your stories erotic.
If you want to write hot then you need to understand that erotic stories are about more than the mechanics of sex. They’re about characters having sex. *grin* And if the readers don’t feel the characters emotions, they won’t find anything those characters do erotic.
So, my advice to those authors who want to steam up their stories is to focus on making their characters real, then what the characters feel (desire, arousal, need, love) the reader will believe it, and the story will be hot.
Just for fun, (and to make you think) tell me about something you read recently, or saw in a movie or on a tv show, that you thought was hot. Was it overt and in your face, or envelope pushing? Or was it subtle, perhaps emotional?
Over the last year or so word has spread about self-publishing with kindle and more. The most notable advocate is J.A Konrath, who has blogged openly about his journey. I’ve watched the information flow, and often wondered about doing something in that area myself. I like eBooks, and I like the idea of more options fro getting my work out to readers.
I also like to write short stories and have had a hard time finding a permanent home for some of my shorter (less than 10k) works. SO I decided to put these things together, and see what happens.
Meandros is a short story I wrote years ago. It was first published by Amber Quill Press back in 2005. I got the rights back in 2007, and put it up as a free read for a while. But for the last year or two it;s just been languishing on my hard drive. Now I’m putting it up as a Kindle/Nook release.
I did the cover art myself, and I had it re-edited, and professionally formatted. I also plan to do this with several other short stories and more that I have, and maybe even put some new releases up in the future. It will all depend on how well this little experiment goes.
Yes, Meandros was a free read before, but Amazon will only let publishers put up free reads on Kindle, not just anyone. So, I’m pricing it at 99 cents, and the profits from the Kindle sales will be donated to Cancer research. A worthy cause if you ask me, and once you read the story, you’ll see the connection.
As Tanya commented, the blurb hasn’t shown up on AMazon yet, so I added it below. I’m also trying to figure out how to show inside the book, so readers can read the first bit of ot he story, but haven’t found how to do that yet. LOL
After losing the love of your life, can passion be found again?
After being injured in a car accident, dancer Tammi Johnson thought her life was over. But then sexy dynamic Tom entered her life, and refused to let her curl up and die physically, or emotionally. He taught her to be strong, to find the passion of life again. With Tom she learns to live and love with her whole heart.
When tragedy strikes again Tammi is devastated. Will she give up on ever finding happiness and passion again? Or will she realize that the only way to honor the love of her life is to celebrate what he taught her?
“Count on Sasha White to deliver first-rate blistering passion and tug on your heart strings at the same time. MEANDROS is soul-grabbing, richly evocative, and unforgettable! A true keeper!” ~ Suzanne McMinn, author of The Beast Within
“MEANDROS is a story that is simultaneously poignant and uplifting. This book will pull at your heartstrings but it will also give you a glimmer of hope that there is a second chance to love again… This is an evocative tale that demonstrates the power of love and a very sensual and sizzling story between the two main characters… The reader is left with a very uplifting and positive feeling and this in turn makes MEANDROS an unforgettable book that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend for an inspiring but also romantically erotic read.” ~Aggie Tsirikas, Just Erotic Romance Reviews
“You will be pulled in when you get this book, so be aware of its emotional punch. The words hold you powerfully, making you feel all the emotions that Tammi is going through. The depth of the characters in such a short story are amazing as they make you feel elation and passion, as well as their sadness. After reading this book, you’ll want to stand right up and cheer for MEANDROS!”
Recommended Read – Wendi, Fallen Angel Reviews
“Wow! MEANDROS is a beyond doubt a remarkable read. This very short story is overflowing with such powerful emotion. Readers, I would advise keeping a few tissues handy as you read Tammi’s story for it is a real tearjerker. I truly felt Tammi’s happiness and pain as she reminisces about her life with Tom. I am honored to bestow MEANDROS 5 glorious Angels and a Recommended Read!” ~Reviewed by Contessa
Last week I touched briefly on the recent Novelists Inc conference, and I have to say it was the best conference I’ve ever been to. It’s easy to say it was all because of the location, but it really wasn’t. There was such a wealth of information delivered by people who really know what their business. And, it was dispensed in a way I understood. *grin*
Aside from the information and the location, I got to spend more time getting to know many of the authors I’ve seen here and there over the years, on a personal level. One of the workshops I attended was given by Chris Kenneally of Copyright Clearance Center, and it was on podcasting.
I’ve done some video posts on my own blog in the past, but it’s been a while so I was intrigued. (Looking at the archive of my posts, they were all in 2008) Here’s what I though were the top three of the tips Chris shared with us on successfull podcasting.
~ Shorter is better. Aim for 5-10 minutes fro each podcast.
~ Make a commitment to doing it. “Frequency is more critical than length.”
~ Use your voice, show who you are, don’t confine yourself to thinking of JUST your readers, think of editors, booksellers… everyone you want to interest in your work.
Now, because I’d agreed to write up a summary for the Ninc newsletter on one of Dr. Lyle’s workshops, I’d brought a video camera with me hoping I’d get a chance to interview him. After the podcasting workshop I was primed to take that camera out and have some fun. Not exactly “podcasting” as it’s video, but hey…it was fun..take a look.
As you can see form the video, Joe Konrath really inspired many authors. I’d heard that there were some publications out there bashing him, but honestly, the man knows what he’s talking about. I don’t think everyone who self-publishes on Kindle willhave his success, but I do think they can if they write great stories and work hard enough. It’s too bad that fear of change causes so many people to keep their minds closed, but I’m glad Joe came to Ninc and talked openly with us about his experiences, and what he learned. As you can see, it made an impact on many.
Oh, and when I talk about coming back tomorrow to see more video, I meant on my personal blog, as I’m only here once a week. So if you want to see more, be sure to visit www.sashawhite.net/blog tomorrow.