Showing posts with label publishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label publishing. Show all posts

Jul 22, 2021

Choosing Your Next Book

 

Happy Cute Kid Girl Choosing Two Book Stock Vector - Illustration of  doodle, cartoon: 167740868 

Whether you open a website or walk into a bookstore, there's nothing like the feeling of choosing what you're going to read next. Sadly, I've been disappointed more often than thrilled this year, and at lunch with a friend the other day, she said the same. "Maybe we read too much," she told me. "We've heard it all and seen it all as far as stories go." While that might be true, I can still get pulled into a book if it's done well, as I have been with my current read, WE BEGIN AT THE END by Chris Whitaker. It's not an easy book, but when I find myself thinking, even worrying, about the characters when I'm not reading, I know it's because of good writing. Of course, reading is as individual as writing. I can't tell you the book will affect you the same way. I can only give you my reaction.

Choosing a new book is both easy and hard in our time. There are tons of books and tons of places to find them. Still, I've noticed that the traditional publishing world is very much centered on safe choices these days, and they often don't appeal to me. One safe choice is the trending topic. When a book is a success, you can expect a couple dozen similar ones will follow. The covers will be similar in mood and style. The titles will suggest the bombshell best-seller. I got sick of books with "GIRL" in the title some time back. And the time/setting/focus will be the same. Right now it's WWII stories. After some excellent ones (and there still are some out there), we have a host of pale copies, like the one I'm currently reading, which tells me how the protagonist feels as if describing what she had for breakfast and boils down to French people=good, Nazis=bad. Quelle surprise!

The other safe choice for traditional publishers is authors who already have a name. While there are authors whose work I always buy, smart readers know some of them don't write their own stuff anymore. Look for the "with ___" on the cover, which means in most cases that some unknown author wrote it and the "big" author agreed to put his/her name on it, equaling a nice paycheck for everyone. Then there's "franchising," a way of benefiting from an author's name when he's too old to write or even after he's died. It all comes down to money, but for discerning readers, that results in disappointment.

I also note with sadness that editing has suffered--not so much in grammatical things but with allowing big-name writers to do whatever they like. Length is stressed over concise storytelling, and I sometimes find myself paging through to find the plot. I skipped about twenty pages of a legal thriller the other night, and when I jumped back in, the SAME WITNESS was still testifying. Big authors are allowed more leeway to stretch credulity as well. In a book by a well-known author, a fifty-year-old male murder victim was mistaken for a young woman because the killer covered the corpse with flowers. ("Oh, right, guv, we can't move all those flowers. We'll assume it's a young girl because she's done up like Ophelia in Hamlet.")

On the other side of traditional is independent publishing. (In case you're wondering, I started out with a traditional publisher and am now independent.) The problem here is uncertainty as to the quality of the work. Anyone--and I mean anyone--can publish on a dozen sites without investing a single penny, and that means there's a lot of bad work out there. Conscientious writers (like me!) hire editors and test their books with beta readers many times in the process, so they are fairly confident they've got a story worth reading. For a reader, however, it's hard to tell the difference when book shopping.

The other problem with independent authors' work is finding it. Type in a keyword like "mystery" and you'll get a list of the big names. But what if you've already read everything your favorites have written? There's no way to find an independent author with a similar style. We depend on social media to publicize our work, and the results are spotty at best. Often people say things like, "I really liked KIDNAP(.)org. Have you written any more books like that?"  or "I read all your historical mysteries. Do you ever publish anything else?"

"Um, yeah."

So how can you find authors new to you who write good stories? It's not impossible.

Read the recommendations of bloggers/influences who like the kinds of books you like. Here's one: https://radio-joyonpaper.com/?s=Peg+Herring

NOTE: The cover was different back then. Here's what it looks like now: 



Check out the samples on Amazon or other bookselling sites or read a few pages in your local bookstore (They don't mind). I can usually tell with that much if it's my kind of book or not.

Talk to people, online or in person, to find out what they like. I met a woman in a bookstore the other day who recommended a book to me (WWII era) and I bought it. I also often take booksellers' recommendations. They read a LOT of books, so they know if a particular story rises above the ordinary. I have found that young booksellers aren't as helpful as those closer to my age, though. Kids think J.K. Rowling was the first writer to ever explore the idea of a kid learning he wasn't just an ordinary guy--sheesh!

Jun 16, 2021

You Gotta Love Suggestions...or Not



 People love to tell you what you should do. I guess it's part of being human. Many suggestions are horribly wrong, and they can feel almost willfully so. I saw a post on social media recently asking for book recommendations. The poster wanted to read about an era of history, but she specified she wanted a standalone book. She got no less than three recommendations for series that are "really good."

As my writing career lurches along, I get lots of advice on what I should be doing. My first books were historical, but then other ideas came along. I wrote contemporary mysteries and what I call 'vintage' mysteries set in the 1960s. As a result, Peg Herring's books are scattered through various mystery sub-genres, and of course there are fans who would like more of this type or that. "You should write more ---" Maybe some authors can churn out endless books of one type. I can't.

When I decided to try writing a cozy mystery, I invented a pseudonym, not knowing how well I would fare in that sub-genre. I didn't think about the fact that Maggie Pill would need her own social and IRW presence. I had to practice answering to that name at conferences and being careful to sign the right name when a fan hands me a book and a pen.  It's more work than I imagined to keep Maggie going, but she's fun, and she's very popular with readers. 

Last year, with Deceiving Elvera, Peg moved into women's fiction, which is considered more "literary" than genre books like mysteries. It's a story of a lifelong friendship, but social questions are interwoven: refugee relief, immigration, and people smuggling. Not exactly a light novel.

Peg is currently working on another women's fiction book, Sister Saint, Sister Sinner, and here's where we come to the advice thing. Twice now I've mentioned to acquaintances that I'm not sure how readers are reacting to this new, more serious turn in the Peg books. The breezy response in both cases "You should use another pen name."

That sounds simple, but because of Maggie, I understand what it would mean. Invent a third name. Make a Facebook page for that pseudonym. Then make a Twitter account, etc. Create a blog for her. Start building her a newsletter list so she can send out information periodically. Ignore thousands of readers who know Peg Herring's (and Maggie's) work and might buy the new book because they liked a former one. Not to mention the mental effort mentioned above, being three people at public events.

While it's fine to make suggestions, the decider is probably more aware of the situation than an outsider. So when people say, "You should--" I usually thank them for their input and move on.



Nov 11, 2020

The Terrors of Publication

Today I sent a newsletter to over two thousand readers, telling them about the book that will release on December 4, DECEIVING ELVERA. I also bought an ad on Facebook, letting readers there know how to pre-order the book.

Terror. I'm gripped with terror, I tell you!

Why? Because it's a little like navigating a minefield, this publishing thing. 

*The print cover looks great on Amazon, but it's wonky on Draft 2 Digital (see spine above), and I haven't yet figured out why.

*I have a FINAL final review copy on the way, so I might find a few leftover errors that will now have to be fixed on several sites before December 4th arrives (actually it's earlier than that, because they need time to get the files changed. More like November 30, then.)

*Over the past week, I've slated ads with a half-dozen sites like Great Books, Great Deals and Kindle Daily Nation, so their readers will see the cover and read a bit about the book. Each one is different, and I dread that I might have made some mistake that will screw things up.

*And, of course, there's the everyday author angst: Will they like it?

Into this madness my husband wades, asking the right questions. 

So what if some people don't like the book? It's not the end of the world, or even the end of my career.

Most mistakes can be corrected, so we'll take them one at a time (He means I will, but I get it.)

I have two full weeks to examine the final-final review copy. That's plenty of time, and fixing any leftover errors isn't a big deal, just time consuming.

And the cover thing probably just needs me to step away for a while and think about it. I get a little stressed with uploading stuff like that if it needs adjustment. Breathe, Peg, breathe!

So I will get through this, and I LOVE the new book. It's been a two-year project, and I've read it at least a zillion times, but it's been worth it.

So take a look at Deceiving Elvera--not a mystery, so don't expect a murder on page two. Think Kristin Hannah, not Janet Evanovitch.



May 29, 2020

Series: What I Wish I'd Known Then

I suspect every writer looks back and wishes things done and undone, and I'm no exception. I write what pleases me, not what I think will make tons of money.  Often I don't know as I'm working on a book if it's a stand-alone or if I'll want to revisit the characters at some point in the future and write them a new adventure.
The technology for book publishing has a steep learning curve and requires constant updating. I started my career with a traditional publisher, which meant I didn't have to worry about that end of things. Now that I'm independent, I decide at what point a book releases, how it's presented to the world, and how to make the internet assist. A while back I learned how to make a boxed set of some of my series, so binge readers can get all the books for one price. I think that's a nice bargain for them.

Recently I learned that Amazon will let readers know about all  the books in a series IF the information is presented to them correctly. As I mentioned above, I often don't know with the first book if it's even going to be a series. (The two main considerations are whether readers like Book #1 and whether I like it enough to pound out 70,000 more words about those people.) I often have to go back and add a series title to the Book 1 file later, so Amazon's algorithms will notice and offer readers the other books.
I've learned that a series title needs to be catchy, and it's best if it's unique." A Dead Detective Mystery" has been used as a series title by other authors, so my four dead detective novels are mixed in with books by different authors and labeled incorrectly (one is called "Book 7"). I have to figure out how to correct that, but I know from experience it will take lots of time and energy to get it done.
Publishing is always changing. That can be good, as the geniuses at Amazon or Draft2Digital make it easier to use their services. But it also means authors have to keep up with formatting, cover creation, promotion, end matter, and more.

I'm always picking up tricks to make things easier, but it seems that like as soon as I learn one, some other new thing comes along.

Jul 15, 2019

There's Too Many Kids in this Tub!

That's a poem by Shel Silverstein, but sometimes I feel that way about my books. I was packing for a book signing on Saturday, and I simply can't haul all of my books (and Maggie's) along anymore. I ended up taking a suitcase full, leaving it in the car, and checking with Horizon Books to see which books they already had. That way I only had to bring a few books from the car to the store, since Traverse City is a bit of an obstacle course all summer long. Gawking tourists (and I'm not complaining, since I've been that person many, many times), dogs, kids, cars, and protestors make the streets an adventure. Luckily, Horizon Books carries my work in good quantities, so I was able to navigate the streets with only a small tote bag containing the newest release.

But back to the too many kids thing. I once heard a very famous author comment that it was frustrating for him when people asked questions about his older books. "I forget them as soon as I write them," he said. "There's no sense asking me why Bill A. did something in Book Three. At Book Fifteen I might not even recall who Bill A. was."

I have to admit I find it hard sometimes to remember details of my own work. When someone asks, "Why did Susan say that on page 32?" I have to think, "Susan, Susan. Oh, yes. Simon's adopted daughter. Let's see, that would be Book Four... Now why did she say that?"

Most authors "live" in the book they're currently writing, and most of us don't have time to go back and reread or even think about earlier books. The details become fuzzy. The characters' names and personal details won't come to mind.



  As Shel said, "There's too many kids in this tub."

Aug 27, 2018

Everything Old Is New Again


Amazon is great for authors. Their print book division, CreateSpace, has been very helpful for me in publishing books on my own, either from Day One or when the rights revert to me from a publishing contract. Recently the news came out that CreateSpace will be going away, and KDP, Amazon's ebook division, will take on both print and ebooks in the future.
I decided to convert my books to KDP now rather than later. It's pretty easy if the book is already in CS, though one needs to pay attention to the details. In the process, I did some updating, including altered covers and even new covers for some of my books.
Above is Shakespeare's Blood, the old version on the left and the new one on the right. I'm going to do a print version, which I hadn't done before, and that one will have the cover on the right as well.
I like having Mercedes featured and like it lighter, both in mood and actual light. I still might make some changes in placement, depending on how the proof copy I sent for looks when it arrives.

So...old book, new cover. It's pretty exciting for an author, maybe not so much for the rest of the world.
BTW: This doesn't change anything about buying books from Amazon. They're all still there, so don't worry...and don't stop reading!

Nov 27, 2017

If You Publish...

...you'll often wish you'd spent more time making it better.
...you'll want to keep your day job.

...you'll be surprised how little your friends and family care.

...you'll find out how many people don't read books like yours--or don't read at all.

...you'll learn that typing THE END is only the beginning.

Sep 4, 2017

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong


So here's the new cover: better, I say!


A few months ago my newest book, KIDNAP.org, was released. I had worked with the cover artist, who was very good about doing what I thought I wanted.
I wish she'd been a little bossier.
The author is usually asked what she pictures, and I had a vision. The only problem was, I'm not very good at vision. No artist's eye. No ability to see what the prospective reader will see--and deduce about the book.
I imagined how cool it would be to have all the main characters pictured in front of the house they end up living in. I included the van they use for kidnapping bad guys. I thought it gave a good sense of the story.
What I got was more Scooby Doo than kidnap capers.
Yeah, it's cute, but the spookiness of the house and the cartoonish characters say the wrong thing to readers. When I ask audiences for an impression of the book I get, "Young adult, right?"

Um, no. It's a caper novel, meaning the characters are technically criminals (think Ocean's Eleven) but in this case they're completely justified as well as hilariously unprepared for life on the run.

Of course I asked people to tell me what they thought before I finalized this cover, but here's where I went wrong a second time. I showed them what I thought I wanted and said, "What do you think?"
People are polite. They say what they suspect you want to hear. Everyone (except one brave, intrepid friend) said it was great (Thanks, LT--wish I'd listened to you!)

People who read the book love it. I got a radio interview with a nationally syndicated show and lots of good press after its release, but it didn't take me too many times watching people at book fairs pass over the book to realize the cover is wrong. People do judge a book by its cover, and if the cover isn't right, it takes someone you trust saying "Read this" to overcome that bad first impression.

So I'm changing it. One of the nice things about modern publishing is that mistakes can be ameliorated if not completely eradicated. Since you're reading my blog, you might already have the book with the cover above in your stacks. If you do, thank you, but from now on, KIDNAP.org will look different.

I've learned a couple of things in the process that I hope serve me well in the future:
     Picturing too many characters makes the cover uninviting.
     Cartoon people makes a book look less serious, more childish.
      Lots of people younger than I am (this book appeals to them for some reason) don't know what the black bars over the characters' eyes means, so it just seems weird.
     Dark background implies dark story.
     Friends won't tell you they hate your idea. It's easier to say, "Yeah, that's nice."  With the new cover, I've been consulting people with multiple ideas, giving them choices and asking why they like what they like. Of course they don't agree on everything, but it gives me a sense of what a first-time impression is. For example, I wanted to put the dog, Bennett, on the cover, but no matter where we put him, he gave the wrong impression. We aren't kidnapping dogs, but that's what people thought. Sadly, Bennett is no longer in the picture.

I could go on, but you get the drift. As soon as the cover artist finishes the new one, I'll post it here so you can tell me if you like it better. Fingers crossed!


Oct 17, 2016

Oh, Those Publishing Snobs!

I read a very snarky article yesterday about how self-published authors just don't "get it right." The author explained that as a book reviewer she felt it was her duty (yes, she really did use that word) to point out the failings of those who have the nerve to go out on their own.

I'll say at the outset that self-publishing availability does allow writers to publish work that simply isn't ready. A reader can figure out who those people are by perusing sample chapters on Amazon (or the book descriptions, written by the author in most cases). I have to admit from listening to readers and writers for years, there seem to be readers for every book, good or bad.

I object to someone who sets herself up as a judge of good books based on what the industry says and does. For example, the writer of this article claimed self-published books use the wrong fonts and improper layouts. Her wholesale condemnation and her contention that big booksellers always get it right was both offensive and silly.

Shortly after I finished reading the article, I opened a book released by a major publisher to find close lines, small print, and a spindly, faint font printed on cream-colored paper. Yuk! My first Maggie Pill book was set up according to "industry standards" that someone else chose. People said, "Loved the book--hated how hard it was to read!" After that I followed my own instincts and produced much easier-to-read books.

How many of us have half-ruined our eyes trying to read a big-time publisher's idea of  "proper" formatting? My husband will struggle through a book like that if he's interested, but I've decided life's too short. (If I really want to read it, I buy it for Kindle.) The reading public is aging, and publishers must be aware of that, but their profit comes before all else.

I've also had the "Chapters MUST start on a right-hand page" argument with publishing purists.Why? That wasteful idea should disappear, like the two-spaces-after-a-period we were taught in long-ago typing class that is now taken as a sign of senility.

The article writer went on to disparage self-pub covers, implying that authors try to save a buck by making their own. Most don't, and again, the reader's eye will tell her if the cover is bad. If it is, be suspicious of the rest of it.

The article writer works for an organization that had reviewed self-published books and now has decided not to, for the reasons she listed. That's their prerogative, I guess, and I know the number of books coming out is staggering. Still, the publishing world is changing. By ignoring self-pubbed authors, they'd have missed The Martian, The Wool Trilogy, Still Alice, and 50 Shades of Grey (not a recommendation; just sayin') to name a few.

Publishing purists ignore the fact that some writers get tired of getting pennies for their work and (in my case) a whole year where a publisher announced, "We've gone bankrupt, so all you authors get nothing." Some of us worked hard to learn what to do and figured out that we can do it ourselves. We don't just slap a book together. We want to get it right, and we hire expert help when we need it.

That's the good part of not being a snob.





Oct 10, 2016

Help for Wanna-be Writers



This is an excerpt from my presentation on publishing. It's by no means exhaustive, just a little help to get you started.
 
There’s a book that tells you EVERYthing about the self-publishing process. It’s around $15.00 but worth it. Let’s Get Digital-https://www.amazon.com/Lets-Get-Digital-Self-Publish-Should/dp/1475212607

Before you get too excited about all the money that’s going to roll in, you might want to read this article: “Everything You Wanted to Know about Book Sales but Were Afraid to Ask”-

Site to find free-lance editors, cover artists, etc. Reedsy. You tell them what you need, they match you with someone who can do that. https://reedsy.com/#/freelancers

To make Kindle E-books: Kindle Digital Platform- https://kdp.amazon.com/

To make paperback books through Amazon: CreateSpace- https://www.createspace.com/

To make paperback books through Ingram (It's more expensive, but bookstores can order them without admitting that "awful Amazon" exists.) IngramSpark- http://ingramspark.com/

To publish just about anything to various outlets: Smashwords- http://smashwords.com/   
or Draft2Digital-http://draft2digital.com

Bowker is the only US provider of ISBNs. If you buy from anyone else, they’ve bought from Bowker and are reselling them to you. http://www.bowker.com/

U.S. Copyright office: again, if you get “help” with your copyright, you’re paying someone to fill out the short form the government requires and paying a LOT more for it. www.copyright.gov/

BEWARE sites help authors navigate the dangerous waters of publishing. They rate publishers and agents by complaints received, so I always check before I deal with an unknown entity.

Writers Market lists agents and publishers with lots of info on what they represent and how to contact them. https://www.amazon.com/Writers-Market-2017-Trusted-Published/dp/1440347735

At the Point Where I Can Tell You

 I sent my next book to the copy editor a few days ago, which for me is a major turning point. It's a commitment of sorts; the book that...