Category Archives: publishing

Writing Resources: For Love or Money by Susan Kaye Quinn

A quick book review today, and one that will be mostly of interest to writers.

Okay, almost strictly of interest to writers.

You might be familiar with Susan Kaye Quinn from her book The Indie Author Survival Guide. If you haven’t read it, you’ve probably heard me mention it (assuming you’ve been around long enough. Hi, new guys!).  It’s a fantastic resource for any indie writer, whether you’re new to this* or an experienced author looking to brush up on how to approach book production and marketing.

That book is the kind of how-to guide that feels like an older sister (a nice one, not the kind who puts gum in your hair) holding your hand and guiding you through the scary stuff.

For Love or Money is a different beast altogether. It’s not about how to write, or how to publish. It’s about crafting the rest of your career after those first few books, about figuring out what your goals are, why you’re writing and publishing, and how best to reach the top of your chosen mountain.

It’s about writing for love: Telling the stories that move you, the ones you’d write even if no one ever read them.

It’s about writing for money: Figuring out the market and discovering your own voice within a tight genre framework.

And it’s about doing both. Ms Quinn writes “mercenary” fiction (strictly for money) under a pen name, and she talks about finding joy in the work she does there. She talks about taking ideas that you love and shaping them so that they fit the market, thus allowing the books you write for love to become money-makers. And she talks about how it’s just fine to have both kinds of books out there.

I enjoyed this book enough that I read it in a day (during a long reading slump, no less). I’ll share a few of the lessons I took away from it, but it’s definitely worth grabbing a copy and reading it for yourself (though you should definitely read IASG first, as this one refers back to it).

My take-aways:

  • Not every book has to be a bestseller. When one book (say, a first book) has some measure of success, there can be a lot of pressure to repeat that with every new project or series. It’s comforting to know that if I decide to work on a project I love that might resonate with fewer readers, that’s okay. Writing for love is healthy, and sales will vary over the course of a career.
  • Writing for the market, aiming to please a larger number of people by writing books that cater to the genre tropes people love, is not selling out. It’s a unique form of creative challenge, and one that can net huge rewards (even outside of the money). There’s nothing wrong with actually wanting to make money off of our hard work, and predicting what will sell isn’t impossible.
  • I have my whole career ahead of me. If I decide to genre-hop instead of staying with a successful world and premise, that’s okay. It may put the brakes on things, but not burning out is just as important as maintaining sales numbers. Playing in another sandbox might keep me happier, and therefore help me do better and more meaningful work when I do return to the genre and world that kicked things off for me.

That’s not all, but those were the things I most needed to hear.

This book helped be choose the mountain I want to climb: writing stories I want to read, shaped to enthrall a large audience… most of the time. I don’t think I’ll ever be a mercenary writer, churning out dragon porn to make a quick buck (though I could totally kick ass at that, guys). Stories that are purely “for love”, i.e. too non-genre-specific to find much of an audience, will go on the back burner until I’m at a place financially where I can afford for them to flop and not have to stress out about it.

Reading this book helped me step back, look at my career goals, and decide where I want to go.

And that’s huge.

Check out Susan Kaye Quinn’s site here for links.

*New to this as I was the first time I read it, that is. In fact, the IASG, Be the Monkey (Konrath and Eisler), and Let’s Get Digital (Gaughran) were the three books that convinced me that indie publishing was the path I wanted to take, and I’m mind-explodingly grateful to the authors of all of them. If not for these books, Bound could still be making the rounds of slush piles, or badly published and nearly unread. *shudder*


Last Chance to Enter!

Teri Polen’s giveaway (signed paperback copy of bound, mermaid charm, sea glass, and assorted papery swag) is ending soon! She’ll be announcing the winner July 31, which means there’s only a day or so left to enter. This is a fantastic prize from a generous reader, so be sure to enter!

(US and Canada only for this one, but I’ve got something different coming up for everyone else next month)

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Click here to enter. Good luck!


Paperback Giveaway!

Hey, guys!

Just a quick note today, and one some of you might be interested in.

Paperback copies of Torn are finally here! Formatting issues are all cleared up, and they look fantastic. Drool-worthy, even. A little distracting, actually.

*stares at front cover*

Ahem.

Anyway, to celebrate, and to say thanks to readers, I’m doing a signed paperback giveaway for newsletter subscribers! All you’ll have to do is watch for the rafflecopter link in the next newsletter (coming Thursday) and click through to enter. The winner will be chosen at random, and given the option of which book (or Bound audiobook) they want. Open internationally. The only requirement will be that you get the newsletter.

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Not signed up yet? No worries, there’s still time! Follow this link and enter your name and e-mail address. I don’t send out newsletters very often, just when there’s something exciting going on like a cover reveal, release news, giveaways, new project sneak peeks, and other fun stuff.

Good luck to everyone who enters!


Another One Flies the Nest

This is it.

This is the last day when Torn gets the spotlight, at least in my office. Starting tomorrow, it’s all about book three (which I will use the proper title for soon, I promise–I just don’t want to spoil it for the first people who discover it at the end of Torn).

Today, though, we celebrate.

We celebrate a little over two years of off-and-on work. The struggle of a skeletal first draft, the joys and pressures of revisions, the triumph of positive responses from alpha readers, and the crushing discovery that edits won’t be as easy as anticipated. The months of struggle to make the book what readers need while remaining true to my own vision for the story as a whole.

The frustrations of the publication process.

Even the things that were stressful or seem negative at the time are worth celebrating, because they’re part of a beautiful process. A new book is a victory.

It’s like raising a baby bird, really. You nurture it, encourage it, feed it, and give it tough love when needed… and in the end, you have to shove it out of the nest and let it fly on its own, knowing you’ve done everything you could to prepare it for this day.

Maybe it’s the painkillers I’m on right now (hello, migraines that helped inspire this whole story!), but I’m a little weepy.

No. No tears. This is happy, exciting, wonderful!

And in case anyone missed the announcement yesterday, we’re having a party to celebrate. A Facebook party, because I don’t expect all of you to come to my house (you’re welcome).

Here’s the link. Drop by any time between now and about mid-afternoon EST on April 1–we’ve got great prizes!

Ooooooh...

Ooooooh…

 

....Aaaaaaahhhh!

….Aaaaaaahhhh!

Come on down and celebrate with us, won’t you? It’s gonna be fuuuuuuun (and you know it’s true, because I used extra letters).

TORN purchase links:


Consider Yourself Invited

Yep, we’re having a party to celebrate Torn’s ebook release tomorrow, and you’re invited!

release party promo 1

We’ll have chances to win paperback and ebook copies of Torn, as well as other great prizes. Watch for the author AMA (ask me about writing, publishing, the stories or characters, whatever!), a party playlist, a scavenger hunt, flash giveaways, guest authors, and more!

Mmmm... papery and yummy

Mmmm… papery and yummy

Here’s the party link. Events will be posted between 2:00 and 9:00 PM EST on March 31, but will be left open overnight in case anyone wants to drop in and add responses to games/activities. Winners will be selected at random on April 1 (no foolin’).

See you there!

(Please note: March 31 is the official e-book release date. Paperbacks will be available as soon as formatting issues are sorted out. Party prizes will be sent out soon after… and the party is not endorsed/sponsored/etc in any way by Facebook, etc).


Street Team: Great Idea, or Kind of Silly?

I’ve heard a lot about author street teams lately. The concept (for those who haven’t heard of it) involves a group of fans of an author’s work who are excited about promoting it. Those special readers hand out bookmarks, leave honest reviews, maybe request or donate library copies in their town, recommend the books to friends, or mention the titles in relevant Facebook posts. In exchange, they might get advance copies of books, paperbacks, or other swag. Maybe they become the author’s inner circle, the devoted fans who the author asks to beta read new work, or who have the author’s ear when they have questions about the stories.

And, of course, they get the author’s eternal gratitude. It’s about connection, not bribery.

Ideally, it’s a win-win situation. As an author, I wouldn’t be comfortable asking people to help out with promotions if they weren’t getting anything but warm, fuzzy feelings in return…

…but then, people do that anyway, don’t they? I know I do, when I read a book that I love. All of Bound‘s early sales came from word-of-mouth promotion. People read advance copies and reviewed on their blogs, or bought copies and recommended the book to their friends. A few people suggested it to their wine-drinking clubs book clubs, and they all bought it and read it together. And that led to enough sales that Amazon started recommending it.

It continues now. People will write and say they loved the book and are recommending it to everyone, and I just want to hug them. But I don’t. Because that would be uncomfortable for everyone.

Also, internet hugs get weird.

But I’m starting to think that a street team could be fun. I know there are people out there who are reviewing and recommending, and darn it, I want to give them stuff to make that easier. I want to send them postcards with book covers on them. I want them to be the first to know when a limited number of advance review copies are available. I want to wish them happy birthday (from their favourite character, if that’s what they want).

I want to thank them.

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Like… all the swag. I should get more.

 

So, how to do it?

A Facebook group seems like the obvious answer. This would be better than a page, as it would ensure that people actually see my posts (unlike my page, where posts reach very few of the people who have signed up and said they want to see them). It would allow people to interact with each other and share ideas, and I’d get to know them a little better, too, as I’ve done with a few readers through my Facebook page.

Or would it just be a time-suck? I’d love to do fun things like awarding points for achievements (sharing promo posts on Facebook and elsewhere, recommending the book or nominating it for things like readers’ choice awards, leaving reviews, etc.), and then send out prizes like book charms, exclusive bookmarks, paperbacks, etc.

But that could get complicated. I mean, I can’t even use Excel to track this stuff, because I’m no good with computer… thing. And I kind of need to use my “spare” time for writing. This isn’t something I’d take time away from writing to do, but I could definitely set it up and maintain it on days like today, when the kids are home and I can’t do my “real” work.

And there’s the expense. Mailing anything bigger than a few postcards gets really expensive when it’s coming from Canada.

So my questions for all y’all: 

AUTHORS: Do you use a street team? How do you keep in touch with them? What do they do? Is it what you hoped it would be? How do you make it worthwhile for your readers, those wonderful people who make your professional world go ’round?

READERS: Would you be interested in something like this? Say, a closed Facebook group where you’d be the first to learn about my new books and promotions, see things like teasers and new covers, and have first dibs on advance review copies? Would you be willing to help out with occasional promos in exchange for these things, or do you prefer to recommend books for no reason other than the fact that the moment seems right? If you were on a street team, what would make it fun for you? Points? Raffles?  Just-for-fun, random party games a few times a month? Group chats? Constant AMA author access?

And also: What would my team be called? “You Guys” is probably taken. O.o

And P.S: I am so grateful to those of you who are already doing this stuff. Those who are sharing Bound with people, writing reviews, tweeting about books, recommending to your book clubs, clicking “helpful” on positive Amazon reviews, commenting on Facebook… the one teacher I know of who stuck a copy in her classroom… I appreciate it, and you, so much.

 

 


Wednesday’s Writing Stuff

Exciting title, no? It’s been kind of a crazy week, I’m a little off-kilter, and that’s actually the best I can do.

Quick update:

  • Torn is off for copy edits and proofreading, which means I have a few weeks to freak out get back into revisions on book three, which needs some adjustments after Torn‘s big edits (and just because I’ve come up with a few ways to give the story a more satisfying conclusion).
  • We had the cover reveal for Torn on Monday. Big thanks again to everyone who helped out by sharing or posting the reveal on your blogs! It made it a great party.
  • torn_full

    So pretty!

  • Pre-orders are up, too. It feels like this is really the point of no return, but I… *looks over shoulder, whispers* I feel good about the timing on this. Still releasing in March (31st), but leaving time in case things go wrong.
  • And Bound is on sale for 99 cents this week, in case anyone missed THAT on Monday, as well.

 

WIPpet Wednesday

I guess we only have a few weeks left when I can call Torn a work in progress.

Holy carp.

As always, potential spoilers ahead. I’m trying not to give away twists or surprises (or the main plot), but if you’ve read Bound, you might guess who’s being described here.

And be happy. I can’t be held responsible for that.

2 paragraphs from chapter 25 for 2/25, from the mysterious 3rd character’s POV. She’s just met some strangers, and isn’t feeling particularly warm toward them.

I guess you’ll meet her when we do the prologue reveal in a few weeks… 😀

One look at him told me I had better not let my guard down. It would be far too easy to be overcome by his obvious charm. Skin the same color as the woman’s, eyes like the depths of a lake on a summer day, black hair that he brushed back from his face in a gesture that was somehow bashful and self-confident at the same time. His smile revealed the hint of a shallow dimple at the corner of his mouth. I glanced lower, taking in the challenge. Broad shoulders, a muscular body obvious even under layers of clothing. Big hands with long fingers gripped the reins in an awkward hold.

I’d always had a weakness for beauty. We saw so little of it in Cressia.

Hmm…

For more WIPpet Wednesday, click here. The WIPpeteers (including our host, KL Schwengel) post snippets of works in progress every Wednesday, and it’s always fun to see what they’re up to. The only rule is that the snippet has to relate in some way to the calendar date. If you think that sounds like a good time, jump in on your own blog! We don’t bite.

Hard.

 

 


COVER REVEAL: Torn (Bound Trilogy Book 2) by Kate Sparkes

At last, the time has come!

I’m not going to tease, or make you wait any longer. I’m pleased as punch, proud as a peacock, and flipped-out as a fairy to present the cover and back-cover blurb for Torn (available now for pre-order through Amazon!)

torn_full

cover art by Ravven (www.ravven.com)

 

Aren Tiernal knows that safety is an illusion, that his cruel and powerful brother will never forgive his betrayal. Still, returning to Tyrea to challenge Severn for the throne would be suicide. It’s not until Severn himself comes to collect what’s owed to him that Aren decides to risk everything in an attempt to bring down the most powerful Sorcerer Tyrea has ever known. The mission seems doomed to fail, but it’s Aren’s only chance to save himself, his country, and the woman who thawed his heart.

Rowan Greenwood has troubles of her own. Though she should be a great Sorceress, years of being closed off from her magic have left her unable to control her incredible power. When a pair of ominous letters arrive from her home country, Rowan has to choose between her new life and a chance at saving her family—and just maybe changing an entire country’s beliefs about the evils of magic.

Torn apart by separate quests, Rowan and Aren will have to discover untapped strengths and confront their darkest fears in order to overthrow a ruler determined to destroy them both.

 –
Coming March 31, 2015. Pre-order here!
And as an “author’s birthday, so why the heck not” celebration, Bound is now on sale on all retailers (Amazon, Nook, iBooks, Kobo) for 99 cents! The sale is only on for a week, so if you or anyone you know has been waiting for this, now would be a great time to grab it.
bound sale 1
Special thanks to everyone who’s helping out with the cover reveal today (yay, you guys!). If you want to stop by and say hello to these wonderful folks, here are the links. Shares and re-blogs are always appreciated!
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WIPpet Wednesday – Full of It Edition

Hmm. Four blog post drafts in my folder, and not one happens to be a WIPpet Wednesday entry for today.

Past me is such a jerk.

For anyone not familiar with the rules, on WIPpet Wednesdays we post a snippet of a work in progress that relates in some way to today’s date. I’m going to be boring today and post 2 paragraphs from chapter 18 of Torn for 2/18.

I’m removing a character’s name to prevent big spoilers, but of course, anything comes with the risk of telling you something about the story. You’ve been warned.

From Rowan’s POV:

 

[My captor] cleared his throat, and I opened my eyes. “Whatever you’re thinking, stop now. They’ll go easier on you at the prison if you cooperate.”

I could have made a good guess at how full of excrement that statement was, but didn’t speak. My voice would have trembled.

 

I’ll give you a longer one some day. Promise.

OH, but speaking of Torn, and for anyone who missed it on Monday, I’m taking sign-ups if anyone would like to help with the cover reveal on February 23rd. E-mail me at kate.sparkes (at) live.ca if you’d like to help out on your blog. It’s gonna be fuuuuun…

Click here to see what the other WIPpeteers (including our host, KL Schwengel) are up to!

ROW80 Update

Torn is with beta readers this week, which leaves me a bit of a self-doubting, insecure mess. It’s nothing to worry about. This is normal for me, and I suspect for most writers, at this stage. There’s more pressure to produce on a deadline this time, which isn’t helping my nerves, but it’s in good hands.

If all goes well, I’ll be announcing the release date with the cover reveal.

And the blurb/cover copy.

*squeak*

And maaaaybe a sale on Bound for anyone who hasn’t grabbed it yet. Because Monday is my birthday, and I’m feeling generous, and I know you’re all going to want to get caught up before Torn comes out. 🙂

(Yes, I still get excited about my birthday after almost 34 years. I consider every spin around the sun a gift, and it’s a great chance to look back on a fantastic year–even if it was a bit of a roller coaster!)

So other than freaking out, what have I done since my last update? I’ve booked a formatter for the paperback version of Torn, corrected a few typos in the same of Bound (which had already been corrected in the e-book, but PDF files are so much harder to edit) and re-uploaded the file, ordered a proof… walked my big dog… cleaned out a kitchen cupboard… cleaned up a lot of messes courtesy of a tiny dog who doesn’t want to do his business outside…

Okay, most of that’s not writing-related, but I’m a little stuck here. I don’t have time to get back into revising book 3 before my betas finish with Torn.

Reading. I should go read. With tea. And cats.

YAY!

ROW80 is a blog hop, and a lot of authors have interesting stuff going on. To check it out, for more information, or to jump in at any time during the round, click here!


The Things I’m Learning: Working With a Cover Artist (and a call for help with a cover reveal!)

For anyone just now joining us for this series, I’m occasionally posting about things that I’ve learned as I’ve struggled through the process of writing, editing, and publishing my books. It’s a big project with a huge learning curve, and I wish I’d been able to find some of this information when I was starting out.

So I’m sharing my experiences now. As in all things, your mileage may vary, and my way is not going to be the best way for everyone.

Here’s how the process went:

After I decided I was going to publish the Bound trilogy myself, I started looking at book covers I liked. There was one on my Kobo that I loved the look of. Actually, I had bought the book based entirely on that cover. I checked the acknowledgements page, and looked the artist up. Not the cutest “date with destiny/how I met my _____” story, but it’s not a bad method.

The artist was Ravven, and hiring her turned out to be a fantastic decision.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the process. I knew she did photo manipulation, and that her work was beautiful. I knew what I liked, and could point to a handful of her covers I truly adored, and to covers I loved in other genres, and by other artists.

The problem was that I didn’t have any idea what I wanted for my book.

I was pretty sure I didn’t want a character on the cover, but rather something symbolic. I liked covers like that: Twilight, the Hunger Games, Divergent. Even if I didn’t always like the books, I knew that the covers grabbed me.

I sent off the information Ravven requested: full synopsis, character descriptions, my ideas, imagery, mood/tone, genre, links to covers I liked on a Pinterest board… everything. I knew I wanted a sort of ethereal feel. Fantasy, but not Dungeons and Dragons Fantasy. That wasn’t my audience. I wanted it softer, and wanted no chance that readers would think this was going to be a battle-and-body-strewn bloodbath, or a bunch of dudes on a quest. It’s Fantasy, but also YA, with a solid dose of romance, and a lot of it driven by a female character.

So, hey, there’s the mood, right? Kind of?

Problem was, we didn’t have a clear symbol that was eye-catching and said anything about the story. There was no MacGuffin, unless you count a cure (or, like, “not dying”). Nobody wore a special piece of jewelry, and even if they had, covers featuring pretty chins with necklaces have been done a lot in YA. We tried a few things. Feathers. A knife. A ball thing with power trapped within it, symbolizing… well, you know.

Nothing worked. Some of them were nice, but they looked pretty generic. Or, as a friend said about one design, “It looks like the book should be medieval porn.”

And with that comment, any thoughts of showing a woman’s hands bound behind her (symbolically, of course) went out the window, too.

So the ever-patient Ravven and I talked about trying a character cover. She pointed me to this article, which made a convincing argument for giving it a shot.

There were a few things I knew I didn’t want. No heads-cut-off torsos. No giant faces that take up the whole cover. No scantily-clad warrior types.

Rowan seemed like the obvious choice for the cover, so we started there. Ravven (bless her) came up with a few ideas based on my synopsis.

There’s a scene where she wears a lovely dress, but “young woman in pretty dress” is everywhere. Also, Rowan’s usually more the “pants and cotton shirt” type.

“Give me flat-heeled boots or give me death” could be this girl’s motto.

We played with having her looking out a window, framed by snow.

Still seemed too familiar.

(And just to be clear, by “played with,” I mean that Ravven whipped up un-finished designs with stock photos, just to give me an idea of what was possible. She’s a rock star, that one. So patient.)

And then Ravven hit on the current design. We incorporated a certain eagle, because he deserved to be included, and it made for an interesting element.

Ravven sent me about half a dozen stock images of attractive young ladies. There was one with her hand held dramatically across her forehead, and we played with the idea of making it… like… magical, somehow. It didn’t work out. There were others who seemed too disinterested, or too glam-gorgeous.

And then there was Rowan, or as close as we could have hoped to find: pretty but not flawless, strong yet vulnerable. I sent my choice back, and we had our central cover image.

There were still plenty of changes ahead. The model needed her eye colour changed to grey, her hair to dark auburn and totally re-styled, her clothing changed. The background changed a few times, too, from a lake with a boat to the current meadow/river thing. Ravven had to put everything together and then work her magic to give it the soft, artistic finish that it has. No hard, photographic lines. No obvious elements photoshopped together. More like a painting.

And then there was the font choice. That was a rough one. I loved what we have now. It looked appropriately fantastical, and the almost frost-like tendrils reminded me of someone’s scar. I just wasn’t sure it would stand out in thumbnail as well as others. In the end, I had to choose it. It fit so much better than something harder, and no one has complained so far.

So what did we end up with?

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Not too shabby.

Actually, the full wrap-around cover had to wait until I knew how many pages the formatted paperback had, and until I had my cover copy written. Ravven was really on the ball with that. It seemed like she had the finished cover back to me before I’d even sent the information.

So what did I learn?

I learned that sometimes it pays to trust someone else’s instincts, especially when she has more experience than me.

I learned that the impact can be more important than the details. To be totally book-accurate, Rowan’s hair would be a little darker, and she’d be wearing a white shirt under that cloak (which would also be a little darker, technically). Her nose would be more freckly, if you looked closely. But this image, as it is, has sold the book, and no one is complaining about the details.

I’ve learned that a character image on the cover doesn’t necessarily mean that this will be how readers picture the character. Rowan lives in people’s imaginations as they choose to see her. The cover might shape that, or it might not. I’m good either way.

I learned that you get what you pay for… to a point. If I’d tried to create the cover myself, without Ravven’s talent and expertise, it would have completely flopped. I know some people have success with stock covers, but I never found one that would have worked as well. Going the other direction, I could have paid $2000 for custom art, but I don’t think it would have sold the book any better, or captured the feel of it more perfectly. This was a great balance for me.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who said they clicked through to read the book description/sample because the cover caught their eye. Money well spent? You bet.

And I learned that even though I know more about a project than anyone, even though it’s kind of my baby… there’s always room for another person’s input.

Oh, and that Ravven is amazing. Obviously.

And I used her services again. How did that go?

Well, it was easier the second time around. We had our “look,” we knew there would be a character on the cover. Who it would be was a question mark, but I think we made the right choice. We went through the same process, except that this time I went to the stock photo site and picked out a few models myself.

That’s a funny story for another day.

The character choice did make things hard for me. I know exactly what this person looks like in my mind, and it’s impossible to translate that perfectly. Also, readers already have a vision of this person in their minds, and there’s no way one cover image will fit all of them. In the end, I hope people will continue to see this character as they choose to, and enjoy the cover even if it’s a little different. I know I do.

*drools over cover*

*looks again, drools more*

And what was the outcome?

torn_promo copy

You’re just going to have to wait for the cover reveal next week to find out.

If you’d like to help out with that by hosting the reveal on your blog on the 23rd (my birthday, yay!), please send me an email at kate.sparkes (at) live.ca. The more, the merrier!

Oh, and newsletter subscribers see it before we post here. VIP club, baby!

Here’s the link to Ravven’s site again, and to her helpful posts on cover design.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you found something that was helpful to you.

 


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