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Co-owners of ChiZine Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory have stepped down as publisher and managing editor of ChiZine. The new interim publisher is Christie Harkin.  From what I can tell her primary function will be to attempt to pay as much money that is due where it is due, to the best of her ability to sort that out. Where ChiZine will go from here is yet to be seen.

 

Chizine is (was) a Canadian press (quote direct from their about page):

“World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Award-winning ChiZine Publications publishes the same kind of weird, subtle, surreal, disturbing horror, science fiction, and fantasy that ChiZine.com (the webzine) had become known for since 1997, only in longer form—novels, novellas, and short story collections.”

 

I have read varying views on what actually happened to ChiZine. Not being on the inside of this controversy, I am refraining from making assumptions. (I have had my own experience with failed small presses). Google at the moment is filled with a lot of angry posts from ChiZine contributors, attempts by the owners of the publication to explain, as well as both those in support of and against them. I will leave that to you to make your own judgements.

 

The literary world is rife with publications that fail for varying reasons. It’s a tough and fickle business and, reasons for ChiZine’s downfall aside, High Fever Books is only one of those walking away from doing business with ChiZine.

 

The controversy tearing ChiZine apart, and you can easily find and read for yourself the many views on its source causes, boils down to contributors and others (editors, cover designers, etc) who are not only unhappy, but are absolutely furious, with not so recent developments involving the publication’s communications and inability to pay them, among other claims.

 

Whether someone will be able to pick up the pieces and successfully rebirth ChiZine is open to speculation. As some have said, it may be better they go quietly to sleep while another publication takes up the reigns of weird, subtle, surreal, and disturbing story publication in Canada. We certainly could use more Canadian markets for these stories.

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Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

Starting November 1st a number of large libraries in the US have begun boycotting Macmillan Publishers, suspending all electronic book purchases from them. The same day was the start of Macmillan’s library embargo, the limitation of public libraries and consortium to the purchase of a single copy of new e-book releases for eight weeks from the date of publication.

 

Libraries, in collaboration with partners in the Digital Downloads Collaboration, are fighting back against this limiting of access to a segment of society that may rely on libraries for access to literature in all its forms.

 

In an open letter, Macmillan’s CEO John Sargent said that a surge in e-book borrowing circumvents the assumed obstacles to free access to library books, ie transportation to and from the library and the requirement to physically return the book. Apparently he feels the digital age of e-borrows threatens the economic value of the books they invest in by making them more easily available to those who borrow them at no charge. In what could perhaps be categorized as an attempt to offset this restriction, Macmillan sells libraries perpetual access to the e-books they purchase and cut the price to libraries.

 

Publishing a book is not a costless undertaking by any means, so minimizing losses will be on every publisher’s to-do list. Meanwhile, libraries and their like are in the business of making books accessible at no or minimal cost to their members. Two sides with opposite takes on the situation who have not yet come to an agreement both are happy with.

 

Looking from the outside in are the writers, who naturally want to be paid for their blood, sweat, tears, and very souls they put into writing those books, and those who do rely on libraries for access to literary enrichment they cannot afford to buy at retail prices.

 

We are yet to see how this standoff will play out.

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Photo by Raphael Rychetsky on Unsplash

As an author one of your jobs is endless self-promotion.

 

I did my first ever book bog tour. I mean a real tour, not one where your publisher sends your book to all of two fellow authors in their stable to review it and calls it a tour (yeah, this did happen). This, despite having my first short story published in an in-print anthology in 2009. (I’m not counting the multiple E-zine flash fiction and short stories), and my first book published in 2014 by that same Indy publisher, followed by another. (Wow, it feels so much longer ago than that!) And, I’ve been writing for a lot longer than that.

 

It was kind of terrifying. Okay, a lot terrifying. 62 book bloggers over 30 days received complementary copies of my 4-book series to blog and/or review at their discretion.

 

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

 

To add to the, ‘will they hate it,’ fear, I’m not entirely a conventional writer. I’m not a follow the traditional rules write to the long established scripted standards kind of author. I don’t conform to the status quo, the norms; the overall expectations of, ‘This is how it has always been done, so this is how you have to do it,’ mindset. I don’t obey the, ‘This is the currently popular style/person so you must do it too.’ Literary art, to me, is not meant to be kept in a tidy box of expectations.  (And, those expectations are expanding with the volume of Indy and self-pubbed books.)

 

 

 

 

 

Book blog tours is only one of the ways to try to get the attention of the readers at large in the hopes they will be interested enough to buy your books.

It is important to note here that people who manage book blog tours do not generally do it purely out of the generosity and kindness of their own hearts. Book blog touring is a paid service. While the bloggers and book reviewers are not paid (their only compensation is the free book), the tour manager will charge you a fee, and the rates will vary.

 

 

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

My book blog tour was a fail and I’ll tell you why. Predominantly, in going through each blog or Facebook page after their scheduled posting date, almost every one was like skimming through those Facebook groups of endless self-promotion. You know the ones, where countless authors hopeful and desperate seeming plug themselves in a never-ending stream of self-promotion posts that nobody looks at. Few of the authors posting on these groups take the time to scroll through the other advertisements, fewer still with the goal of finding something to buy. I doubt anyone else even looks at them.

 

 

The other problem was the genre. You need to sing to your target audience. Can you imagine Alice Cooper or Ozzie Osborn stepping on to the stage and belting out lyrics to a crowd who bought tickets to Michael Bublé or Beyoncé? As Alice would croon, “Welcome to my nightmare…”

 

Photo by Katie Montgomery on Unsplash

The blogs that signed up for the tour were mostly populated by streams of “book tour” advertisements for romance. Yes, romance. I write dark fiction; thrillers, dark mystery, psychological thrillers, drama with dark twists, not so cozy mystery with an underlay of you guessed it – darkness. I have not to date tried writing a dark romance. Frankly, I don’t think I could write a romance. Romance and dark fiction tend to appeal to very different kinds of readers.

 

I did get some positive comments on my book covers, even a few on the books’ write-ups. And I got one review so far from the 62 blogs. Do I expect to see any sales from it? It’s possible. Just because there was no uptick in sales during the 30-day tour, doesn’t mean no one who saw or participated will buy. Some buy later. I don’t think it’s likely, though; romance and thriller being unlikely crossover genres.

 

The comments were also generally from the bloggers themselves posting on the blog tour operator’s blog. They already got complimentary copies, so they aren’t going to buy the books. If a book farts in the woods and nobody hears it, will they buy it? There seemed to be little, if any, traffic outside those bloggers to any of the blogs.

 

 

Photo by Dorian Hurst on Unsplash

Can a book blog tour be successful?  Yes. The question is, ‘How?’ It’s about following basic rules of marketing.

 

Find your audience. If these were blogs featuring thrillers, horrors, suspense, mystery, and other related genres, odds of sales would have been driven up exponentially, assuming anyone reads the blogs.

 

Traffic is necessary. I suspect blogs that feel like Facebook groups of endless self-promotion ads with nothing else to offer probably get just as much meaningful traffic: little to none. You need blogs that pull traffic in, that have meat and potatoes and lactose free/gluten free/vegan-loving poutine (if such a thing exists). What you need are blogs the people who might read your book are interested in what they have on the blog menu.

 

 

Incentives are helpful. People love to feel like they got a deal. Thus, the giveaway. I gave away a couple of small Amazon gift cards and a few free copies of an eBook I was not trying to drive sales on in the book tour. If it was a short tour, I might have offered a discounted sale on the books.

 

Be inclusive and try to make friends. You want people to want to buy your book, and to make it as easy for them to do it as you can. Remember, everyone who might buy is your friend.

 

Personal touch is important. Self-promotion is not just about immediate book sales. It is also about building your author platform and growing your hoard of followers, some of whom will buy your books – eventually. More followers can be gained by being personable and engaging with them than standing behind a smokescreen plugging ads at them.

 

Be seen.  If nobody knows you exist, you don’t, right? Kind of like that Schrödinger-styled tree that may or may not have made a sound when it fell in the forest. Your marketing needs to hit as many eyes as you can, but not literally. This is not A Christmas Story or the Addams Family.

 

 

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

How the book blog tour works is that the tour operator puts out a call for bloggers to sign up. Once the signups are complete, the bloggers are scheduled to blog on certain dates. It could be a blog, Facebook blog page, or other online site.  The bloggers get a complimentary copy of your eBook(s).

 

You fill out an author Q&A interview and/or write up some short guest blog posts to be shared with the bloggers.

 

On their designated day, the blogger puts up the blog post. It could be a cut and paste of the book tour info (all but one did this on my tour), they could post the relevant information and pictures with their own personal narrative introducing it, or they can post a book review.

 

Ideally, you want each blog post to be unique. Pre-written author interview Q&As or guest posts from you are key here. So is regular active participation from the bloggers, rather than blogs filled with empty cut and paste advertisements.

 

You visit each blog and make comments thanking the blogger and responding to any comments left by anyone else. Again, be personable and try to make friends.

 

Sit back and hope for sales, and don’t forget to tip your waiter/waitress.

 

 

 

Other ways to self-promote your self and books include, but are not limited to:

– Book and/or author website/blog is discoverable on internet search engines

– Social media. Be social online and blog.

– Newsletter/email subscriptions (ie Mailchimp).

– Category choices and keywords for your book sales listings and Google searches.

– First appearances. Your cover needs to make them want to pick it up.

– Book promotion. Pay for some outside promotion help.

– Give it away FREE! Allow free download of the first 10%-20%, free short/flash fiction.

– Book events. Set up author signing tables and schmooze, sell, and sign.

– Have some swag. Give away business cards and bookmarks.

– Submit to eZines, magazines, and anthologies featuring short stories and flash fiction.

– Get mentioned in local newspapers and newsletters.

 

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I’ve been with the same publisher for some years now.  Through thick and thin, and a rebranding from Second Wind Publishing to Indigo Sea Press.  They took a chance on me, a complete unknown with no experience in the world of writing and publishing.

They edited and formatted my books, while I continued to focus on writing and marketing.

Now, as the publisher is revisiting another major change with a restructuring of their business model, I found myself again with the choice of what to do now.

As an author, there is only one way to go with your writing, and that is to improve.  It doesn’t matter how good you are, there is always room to improve on yourself.

Research is key to opening the world of writing.  Researching little details in your stories to make them pop more, pulling the readers in with those tidbits and keeping them real.  Researching writing, editing, and the publishing world in whole and in parts.

The old saying “practice makes perfect” never gets old, even for someone like me who believes there is no such thing as true perfect.  It doesn’t matter how many times I edit a piece; I will always find something to change. Even if it is written by a well-known famous author, and it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it.  I’ve just spent so many hours editing that my mind automatically looks for things to change and attempts to improve on whether it needs improving or not.  Art is subjective and writing is an art form, making its valuation subject to the views of each individual.

A great deal of practicing writing is, of course, a given.  Your writing talent is in a state of constant flux as you improve.  Your voice evolves.  My writing now is different from that first published book.  And from the second.  I find my voice is different with the different feel of my stories.  If I lose passion for a story, the story loses its luster and the voice falls flat.

 

So what to do when your publisher is changing their business model and you have the choice to opt in or out?  To each the choice is their own.

For me, I chose to take advantage of the opportunity to revisit old friends.  Freshen up and perhaps rewrite sections of my books. Make them better, since my writing is better.

I know, it’s not always best to keep worrying at that old bone when you need to focus on writing, editing, and sharing with the world new stories.  And I have more stories in various stages from an inkling of an idea to a full first draft than I can probably write in this lifetime.

But, they can be better.  I’ve found a new voice since writing them.  And, I’ve cringed at a few minor things during my re-exploration of these stories.

So, soon the McAllister series will vanish.  Where the Bodies Are, the McAllister Farm, and Hunting Michael Underwood.  But they will re-emerge.  Better.  Fresher.  And I must continue working to finish the final chapter, Killing David McAllister, for in all stories someone important must die.

 

But not Nathan.  Nathan lives on.  Nathan will have his own story and it will reveal the dark and twisted world of a mind even more troubled than a serial killer lost in a blurred reality between past and present with a compulsion driven by a dark secret locked in a fractured mind.

 

So, watch for the re-emergence of the McAllister series, freshened and improved with new covers.

Hunting_Michael_Unde_Cover_for_Kindle

where the bodies are

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

 

Garden Grove Cover - Amazon ebook - front cover

 

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Garden Grove, a bit of a quirky and fun to write story.  The scene at the end came from an actual dream I had. A dream about the story.  There is always something in the woods, isn’t there?

 

 

 

The Gypsy Queen

 

And my newest just released, The Gypsy Queen.  This is a story I wrote years ago, and finally focused on editing that first draft to complete it.  Her dark past will not be forgotten.  And, I am already being pressed by a fellow book lover to write a sequel to this one.  I love the art for this cover.  This is an artist I definitely will use again.

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Check out this article when choosing to convert your image to sRGB or Adobe RGB.

Spoiler: argh wins.

https://kenrockwell.com/tech/adobe-rgb.htm

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One of the problems with an author’s need to self promote is the need for those promotional efforts to come across as professional.

Having it look like your ten year old did your promotional material is probably not good. Then again, maybe your ten year old is better at it than you are.

If you want professional looking promotional material you need good quality photos and photo editing.

The first rule is to watch the copyrights for every picture you use in your promotional materials. As a writer you would not like to be plagiarized. Neither do artist’s and photographers.

Canvas.com is a good source of single use photos around $1 USD. It’s more for expanded rights.

If you are manipulating the photos or art, you need a photo editing program.

This is where I get stuck.

After realizing photo editing does not mean drawing on your screen with colored Sharpie and uttering a little swear, comes the knowledge that sooner or later I need to upgrade the program I have. I think it’s older than flip phones. Yes, I’m definitely pretty sure.

Cost is a huge factor. So is being user friendly. I don’t have the money to blow on something expensive, or to commit to a monthly subscription for a product I will use sporadically.

I don’t have the patience either to fight with it while putting Roxy dog aka The Big Dumb Bunny outside every three minutes.

I also don’t actually have a promotions budget, a software budget, or even a Sharpie budget for that matter. Cost of living expenses and all that tend to get in the way of little things like that.

If you are like me with a very small disposable income that gets sucked into the vortex of young teen children, you need to find the most cost effective (aka cheapest) way of doing everything.

So, here is a link to an article that says these photo editing programs are not super expensive.

We will see.

http://www.toptenreviews.com/software/multimedia/best-photo-editing-software/

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One of the big questions in book formatting is what font is best. And, what works for the printed book may not necessarily work for electronic media.

Like everything to do with writing and publishing, there is no definitive answer. The best advice anyone can give you is to research and make your own informed decision.

This is just one of the many suggestions out there:

http://www.indesignskills.com/inspiration/fonts-for-books/

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