And I’m going… Where?

Its been another long blogging break. Nearly 2 months, so not as bad as last time, but still. Unacceptable! I’ve been editing editing editing, and working working working on the condo, and as for real work? We shall not speak of it.

We shall, however, speak of editing, which is nearly – God willing – finished. Another leg of this long journey, almost complete. And a big one too, because this time it means I’m nearly to the point where I need to let go of my little beastie and see if it will fly.

But it’s scary. Not because I’m afraid to let someone read it, but because of what it implies. Publication. And that is terrifying.

I know I should be excited, and I kinda am, but I also know too much about the industry to not be concerned. Publication means I have a whole new set of skills to learn, while on a time budget that is already too tight. I’m sure I’ll be able to deal with most of these, one way or the other, but the big and looming specter is marketing, about which I know jack.

Self published authors live and die by their marketing efforts. Complicating matters is the fact that I have only one book to market. And then there’s the day job time constraints, which will slow everything down.

Of course, I could just phone it in and say frak the marketing, but I don’t want To Kill the Goddess to just sit there and collect virtual dust while a handful of friends and family throw me a bone and read it. I mean, what is the point of all this if not to be successful? Not necessarily financially, although that would be awesome possum, but to have people read it. And more than just a handful. I want to go somewhere someday and hear a stranger talking about my book. Not for vanity’s sake, but because then I’ll know all the years of effort and sacrifice were worth it.

Until then, I’m moving forward, on faith, or maybe just stubborn determination. And I’m going… Where?

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Take Off Your +3 Cloak of Isolation

It should come as no surprise to anyone that we writers are a relatively solitary bunch. Regardless of how outgoing we are in our everyday lives, we have to shut away the world to write.

And we like it.

Writers get high from a brilliant plot twist or off the buzz of a perfectly crafted sentence in the same way normal people do from partying with their friends. Ok, writers do that too, but we just do it less often, and even when we are with friends, our minds aren’t all that far away from our story, or the possibility of story laying nascent in the gestures of the woman across the aisle, or in the way the light shines through the window and onto the bar.

We writers know that constant churn of creativity is gold. It can only come from within our minds and only we can spit it out onto paper. We have to do it, and we have to do it alone. No one can do it for us.

And that’s where we get into trouble.

Consider all those indie publishers out there. Some of them find success but a lot of them don’t. Now take a look at all those “real” authors out there. They may have the vindication of being published, but we all know that’s no guarantee of financial success. Regardless of our path, the problem all us writers face is the same: How do I become successful?

Yes, we all know the road to success is long and winding, and while we all face the challenges of editing and marketing, we indie authors have one defining challenge that will separate those who fall flat on their face and those who go on to find success: knowing when you are ready.

Now I can’t speak for all writers, but after accomplishing as much as I have, I’m pretty impressed with myself. I kinda think I’m the shit, you know? And I am. I’m pretty damn good. But I’m not ready for the Big Show. Not yet. Not quite.

My writing group (Scribblerati Agents unite!) didn’t tell me that. Nor did I wake up knowing that. My editor told me. She didn’t come out and say, “Shawn, you handsome, egotistical bastard, you’ve got something here but you aren’t ready to publish.” What she did was point out all the things I need to work on, which in turn saved me from joining the ranks of those indie publishers who publish too early.

So allow me to pass along a little advice. If you, like me, are one of those lonely indie writers who are preparing to knock on publishing’s front door, then start talking to other people in the industry. Make connections beyond the immediate focus of your peer groups. Stretch yourself. Challenge your certainty and make certain that you really are the shit. Find those people who can help with the next stage of your evolution.

The Big Show is waiting. Take off your +3 Cloak of Isolation, get the help you need, and make your entrance with style.

Indie Publishing: Editors, why you hide?

** Updated November 16, 2012 **

Come with me on a little journey, if you please

Picture an eager (and devilishly handsome) future Indie Author (EdhFIA for short) hammering away on the final edit of his first novel. EdhFIA is hungry, optimistic, and determined to ignore everyone who says Indie Publishing is a mistake.

EdhFIA is gonna finish his book, he’s gonna find an editor, and together they are gonna show the naysayers how wrong they were.

Finally, after months of hard work, sacrifice, and the occasional beer, EdhFIA sets out with his finished manuscript in hand. It’s time to find the perfect editor.

EdhFIA googles “editor.”

*mind blown*

There are lots. LOTS. But EdhFIA is no internet noob. EdhFIA knows that any shmuck can call themselves an editor.  (They can also call themselves a 19 year old cheerleader, but that’s a different blog.)

*terrible realization*

It could take months to find the good editors amongst all that noise.

Enter: The Alliance of Independent Authors and Publishers Marketplace

EdhFIA has done his research. He knows there are organizations out there that were created to support both Indie Authors and the Publishing Community at large.

So EdhFIA joins the Alliance of Independent Authors and goes to the section where editors (and others) advertise their services.

*mind blown*

There’s only a few. So very, very few.

He checks Publishers Marketplace. Same thing.

*terrible realization*

Most editors are not advertising their services.

Hollywood Ending

You’ll be happy to know that I, EdhFIA, found an editor.

** Update **

As it turns out, Googling “Professional Editor” is far more useful that Googling “Editor.” Who knew? Just about everyone else, but not me. 

Furthermore, this discovery completely dismantles every assumption and argument I originally made in the rest of this blog. Hence its deletion.

Embarrassing? Yes, but that’s ok. You can’t learn how to walk without falling.

Thanks to Rebecca Lang for pointing out my sillyness on the ALLi Facebook group. 

Making it Happen: I Have an Editor!

Earlier this week I finalized an arrangement with Brett Hardman, Freelance Editor as well as Editor for the Cornerstones Literary Consultancy.

Together, we shall conquer the universe!

Or maybe just one small part of it.

WOOT!

What sealed the deal?

Brett and I hit it off from the start. She was super professional, which I appreciated, and very tolerant of my many newbie questions. The best part? She “gets” my book.

For example:

  • She saw the influence of Marion Zimmer Bradley on my book. Holy crap! No one has ever said that to me before and it’s so true! The Mists of Avalon is, in genealogical terms (and let me beg Ms Bradley’s forgiveness, may she rest in peace), To Kill the Goddess’ not too distant ancestor.
  • Brett immediately honed in on Point of View as being an area I need to strengthen. For those who haven’t read To Kill the Goddess, TKtG is told from the point of view of six different characters. That is, while great in concept, really hard to do. An essential component of my success will be ensuring that my writing draws the reader in and makes them invest in each character.

How did I find Brett?

I found her through the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), which is an amazing resource for Indie Authors. I am also a proud member.

A few other random notes

Brett lives “across the pond.” In Wiltshire, UK. Wiltshire is an awesome name. Even more awesome? Royal Wootton Bassett. I think Frodo has cousins there.

Was I was initially concerned about having an editor 5-6 timezones away? Yes, but it’s been working out well so far. We have a fairly good communication window during the morning, which is mid-late afternoon for her, and while most of our communication will be via email, she is open to using Google + or Skype if we need some face time.

Craziness ensues!

I know how to write, but I don’t know how to do all this other stuff on the publishing end. There’s so much between now and the end of the road, and the cold reality is that the Indie Author doesn’t have many companions to keep him/her company along the way. Thank goodness for ALLi.

There’s only one thing I can say for certain: it’s gonna be an adventure!

Indie Publishing: No Wimps Allowed!

Confession: I’m kinda persnickety. I like my things a certain way (just ask the Lovely Leann) and yet I’m constantly making choices that fly in the face of that persnicketyness.

Confused? So am I.

So let’s try and figure this out.

Exhibition  #1: Beer

I’m one of those guys who goes into the liquor store and looks for the bottles he doesn’t recognize.

“Hey, there’s one with a monkey in a space suit!”

[Buys. Consumes.]

Exhibition #2: Music

While I’m completely cool with all that 80’s music I grew up on (The Smiths, New Order, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Love and Rockets – Yummy!), I’m always jonseing for something new and different. Like, “Who’s this Skrillex guy I keep hearing about?”  Or maybe, “What was that awesome song I just heard?”

[Checks The Current’s Twitter stream. Downloads.]

The Common Thread

Beer and music are safe bets.

I mean really, how much can go wrong with a bad beer? It’s still beer!

So safe is nice, but…

Safe, like a good ‘ol can of Surly Fest, can be awesome.

But safe doesn’t stretch your corn-fed, Iowan wings. Safe doesn’t make your dreams come true.

Like, for instance, writing a book and publishing it.

Indie Publishing: Not So Safe

The book is written. Woot!

But as for publishing…

I’ve known for a few years now that I wasn’t going to publish with the Big 6 (uh, looks like I mean 5).  Their royalty structure is not to my advantage (unless I was crazy popular, which I’m not) and they would be all too happy to put a noose around my intellectual rights. But man, those boys sure do have the appearance of SAFE. “Here’s your advance, kid, now sit back and we’ll take care of EVERYTHING.”

Well, not everything, but they do take care of some really important things, like: editing, getting a book cover, printing, distribution, ebook formatting, etc., and one shouldn’t discount that. But is that enough to offset the negatives?

Not in my opinion. Not when I can hire all that done myself.

Although, that ain’t easy. Not even a little.

So even though I would love nothing more than set settle into a firm Big 6/5 embrace, it’s the dark and choppy indie waters for me.

Step 1: interviewing editors

For the first time Indie Author like myself, this is like interviewing the doctor who is about to give you a heart transplant. Sure, you can check references, but at the end of the day you just have to trust that they know what they are doing because you have no decent frame of reference on which to evaluate them.

It’s kinda scary.

Step 2: finding an editor

Google’s no help because any schmuck can hang their virtual placard on the internet and claim to be an editor. And let me tell you, wading though all that chaff is hard. The only decent resources I’ve found are organizations such as the Alliance of Independent Authors (which I found useful), but the lists there are small and if editors don’t self select in (i.e. fill out a profile) then you won’t find them. Publishers Marketplace is much the same.

Editors, where are you?

Step 3: waiting for the editor to deliver the news

I’m currently somewhere between steps 2 & 3 but I can already see the writing on the wall. Step 3 is going to be a hand wringing nightmare. I’m already at the point where all I can think is, “How bad is it going to be?” and for those of us doing without the Big 6/5 embrace, there’s precious little validation to keep us going. I’m surviving on guts and gumption and the longer I wait for that editorial report the more convinced I am that I’m going to get clobbered.

Step 4 and beyond

Getting a book cover. Ebook formatting. Navigating Amazon. Deciding whether to go exclusive with Amazon or publish through multiple venues (and ebook formats).  Marketing. Social Media. Blog tours.

And don’t forget, writing book 2.

So – not – safe.

But frak safe. I’ll make it through.

I’ll just download some fresh tunes, crack open a new beer, and get to work.

It’s time to make those dreams come true.

No wimps allowed!

Terror in Synopsis-ville

It all started with a moment of terror.

There I was, having a pleasant email conversation with a Potential Editor, when I saw the dreaded word: synopsis.

This was one of those writerly tasks I had been avoiding like the plague, and who could blame me? No writer wants to take their 70-100k word baby and beat it down to 1-2 page shell of its former self. The mere thought- shudder!

I had thought that since I wasn’t looking for an agent I wouldn’t need one.

Silly little boy.

In retrospect, I guess I should have anticipated that an editor would want a synopsis for the same reasons an agent would. But I didn’t, and there I was, completely unprepared and panicking.

My first draft? 10 pages. Well, I could whittle that down, right? After all, I’d just cut 15-20k words out of my book. How hard could it be?

Next draft: 7 pages.

Ugh!

So I scrapped it all and came at it from another angle. 4 pages! And now, with just under 3, I’ve sent it away along with chapters 1 & 2 and we’ll see if I pass the interview.

Is my synopsis any good? Will Potential Editor read chapter 1 and toss it all in the trash?

Cross your fingers, folks. The indie publishing boat is pushing off from shore!

Of Booze, Gophers, and Editors

Wow – I can’t believe it’s been three weeks since my last blog!

Needless to say, there’s been a lot going on.

First there was this:

A nice little vacation on California’s Central Coast. Paso Robles, to be exact. If this were a wine blog I would go on and on, but suffice to say, this relatively unknown region is getting its groove on. If you’re looking for a place to go taste exceptional wine, and one that is well away from the overwrought crowds and bustle of Napa and Sonoma, then this is your place to go. Oh, and you want a lovely place to stay where you can wake up in the morning and look out onto the rolling, vine filled hills? Here you go.

YUM!

After vacation, I had a week off in between work assignments. During that week, there was cookies!

There was also quite a bit of plotting going on for To Kill the Goddess’s sequel, Moon Sister. That’s a crazy process. Lots of fits and starts, ideas explored, some discarded and others integrated. There’s also been a lot of tasks I wasn’t expecting, like the Dungeons & Dragons style maps I’ve been creating to help keep the locations of everything straight, the vast amounts of history that I’ve had to document, and the realization that some concepts that I had thought to be ironclad needed significant revision.

This brings us to last weekend – the start of Minnesota Golden Gopher football season!!


Three weeks in a row of home football games means lots of fun, sun, beer, and a gigantic chink in my writing schedule. But I’m cool with that. College football is one of the few guilty pleasures that I allow to interfere with my writing.

And this week? New work assignment. Lots of brain power focused on scoping and planning the new work project. But in between that I have spent a lot of time in my search for an editor for To Kill the Goddess. Let me just say,

UGH!!

Damn, that’s a difficult job. I never once thought that self-publishing would be easy, but until you’ve actually driven the road, it’s impossible to appreciate the potholes, twists, and turns. Selecting an editor is one of the most important tasks – outside of actually writing the book – that a self published author will have to face. And it’s frakking hard!

I’m sure this will get easier the second or third time around, but right now I feel like a little kid who got separated from his parents in the middle of a busy mall. There’s literally hundreds of editors out there – or at least people calling themselves an editor – and finding the right one is an intimidating task. After all, it’s only your entire writing career on the line, that and a good thousand plus dollars. A mistake here could be deadly, or at least a waste of a boatload of money. But the right choice? That could be magic.

So hang on, friends. The self-publishing ride has started.

I’ll keep you posted.