The Five Obstacles Self-Publishers MUST Overcome – Part 1

Hoe's six-cylinder pressBefore we get to this list, let me tell you where I’m coming from on this. I try hard to support and read independent/self-published authors. I have a self-pubbed book coming out soon myself. I’m not a literary snob or a believer in any “one true way” of publishing. Roughly 1 in every 3 to 4 books I pick up will be indie/self published. I’m happy to read them. I want to read them. I’ve discovered some wonderful books and authors this way.

But lately, I’ve been almost immediately putting down quite a few of those that I pick up—some after less than a chapter or only a few pages of reading. And many don’t even make it to the point where I will pick them up.

There are a LOT of books I want to read. I manage 50-60 per year and my shelves and e-readers are still overflowing. So despite my desire to support, I’m not going to waste my precious reading time, either. Your book has to pass several all-important obstacles for me to read it. We’re not even talking about whether I end up liking it yet, so you get that ever-more-important good rating/review. We’re talking about just getting me to read it, all the way through to the end.

Obstacle #1 – The Cover

We should all realize by now the importance of the cover in selling your book. The average cover in a bookstore gets about 8 seconds to interest a potential book-buyer—I’d hazard a guess that online, that window of opportunity is even smaller. I can’t even count the number of articles and blog posts I’ve read that stress the importance of your book’s cover.

And a lot of self-published authors are still getting it wrong.

Look, I’m not saying you can’t create your own cover. Some writers have experience in website or graphic design, art, digital art, etc. You may be perfectly competent to create a good cover. If you have zero experience in any relevant area, you still might be able to do it, but realize that you must tread carefully and do your research. Either way, whether you take a crack at it yourself or hire someone, be smart about it. Here are a few things to think about:

1. If you are inexperienced and can possibly manage it, hire someone to create your cover. There are many options, from pre-made designs to custom artwork, at a range of prices. If you go this route, look over the creator’s portfolio and make sure they create the kind of covers that would make YOU pick up one of these books. I’ve seen some folks offering cover design lately that I shudder to think someone would pay for. Don’t go for cheap over quality, or assume that all designers are equally adept. You wouldn’t dress your new baby up in dirty rags to get her picture taken. Don’t cheat your book of a decent cover.

2. If you feel moderately qualified, take a crack at creating your own cover. If you go this route, do your research first. There are loads of resources online to help you. Like here, here, and here, just to start. And don’t neglect the fonts! A decent cover design can be ruined by the wrong font or not enough attention paid to fonts and title design. At the very least, check here and here before you proceed.

3. If you are self-creating, please, please, PLEASE get a second opinion on your cover when you’re finished. And a third. And a fourth, fifth, and sixth. And not just from people (family and friends) who are going to say nice things even if your cover looks like an incensed monkey threw poo all over it. Ask other writers and readers in your circles, online or in person. If you know an artist or graphic designer, run it by them. Ask for honest opinions and advice.

If you have none of these resources, put your cover on your computer screen and load up some websites or blogs that specifically showcase BAD covers. Compare yours to theirs and ask yourself honestly if you have committed the same types of sins. You MUST be hard on yourself. This is the very first obstacle you have to get potential readers/buyers past.

You may get mixed opinions on your cover—perhaps some people like it and some people don’t. For those who don’t, find out whether their dislike is based on personal taste (they don’t like the colours, or the mood, or it doesn’t look like a book they’d pick up) or unprofessional quality (the fonts are unreadable, images look pasted-in or don’t match, colours clash).

You need a cover that looks professional, and if you can’t create it yourself and won’t pay for it, it’s pretty much game over. Readers are not even going to give you a chance. This is a sad but true fact in the world of self-publishing, and you ignore it at your own risk.

Watch for Part 2 of this series tomorrow, and we’ll talk about the next obstacle!

ARC Giveaway – The Murder Prophet

MP-cover-FINAL-webIt starts today! Between today and next Friday (August 22nd), you can enter to win one of the ARCs of The Murder Prophet I have to give away. There will be multiple winners, and one of them could be you!

I’m using Rafflecopter to run the giveaway, and the widget below details the various ways you can enter (and get multiple entries).

Here’s the book’s description:

Kit Stablefield is a detective with a secret and a crush on a guy she knows only online, in a future where magic is a part of everyday life. But when millionaire Aleshu Coro walks into the offices of Darcko and Sadatake with a message from the Murder Prophet and fourteen days to live, everything changes.

Suddenly Kit is questioning the decisions of her past, trying to find out if the man she loves is, in fact, a man, and hunting for a murderer and a mysterious seer. With her eighty-six-year-old grandmother insisting on helping out, and a sentient goose who simply won’t stop pestering her to watch his “killer” video game moves, Kit has more than her hands full as she races against the clock to prevent Coro’s murder…and possibly her own.

So, y’know, if weird magic and virtual worlds and magically-sentient animals are not your thing, you probably won’t like this book. However, if that all sounds awesome, enter below!*

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note that you can tweet about it once a day to accumulate more entries! Good Luck!

*If you are a book blogger or reviewer and would like a copy without having to enter the contest, please send me a message and I’ll get one to you pronto! :)

Cover Reveal & ARCs: The Murder Prophet

It’s cover reveal day for my forthcoming urban fantasy/mystery novel, The Murder Prophet! I’m excited to share the cover with you all.

First, though, in case you missed it, the answer to that all-important question, what’s it about?

Kit Stablefield is a detective with a secret and a crush on a guy she knows only online, in a future where magic is a part of everyday life. But when millionaire Aleshu Coro walks into the offices of Darcko and Sadatake with a message from the Murder Prophet and fourteen days to live, everything changes.

Suddenly Kit is questioning the decisions of her past, trying to find out if the man she loves is, in fact, a man, and hunting for a murderer and a mysterious seer. With her eighty-six-year-old grandmother insisting on helping out, and a sentient goose who simply won’t stop pestering her to watch his “killer” video game moves, Kit has more than her hands full as she races against the clock to prevent Coro’s murder…and possibly her own.

The second-most-important question you’ll be asking, of course, is will I like it? That’s more difficult for me to answer, but I’ll try by making some if-you-liked comparisons. (Disclaimer-I’m not saying it’s really like any of these books, and I’m not comparing myself to these authors! But…) If you liked Janet Evanovich’s Lizzy & Diesel books, or Laura Resnick’s Esther Diamond books, or other urban fantasy/mystery/humour/romance mashups, there’s a good chance you’ll like The Murder Prophet.

And as promised — here’s the cover!

MP-cover-FINAL-web

Isn’t it purty? :)

Now, in a previous post, I’d promised a contest. I will have a BUNCH of e-ARCs (advance reading copies in ebook formats) of The Murder Prophet to GIVE AWAY to interested readers. My only request will be that if you read and enjoy the book, you try to leave an honest review for it somewhere online. That’s it! Sometime in the next week or so I’ll be posting the actual contest and how to enter to get your own copy before almost anyone else. :) So stay tuned!

The Murder Prophet Blurb

MP cover tease 1

I promised some more details about The Murder Prophet, so here’s what the book is about and a few other tidbits:

Kit Stablefield is a detective with a secret and a crush on a guy she knows only online, in a future where magic is a part of everyday life. But when millionaire Aleshu Coro walks into the offices of Darcko and Sadatake with a message from the Murder Prophet and fourteen days to live, everything changes.

Suddenly Kit is questioning the decisions of her past, trying to find out if the man she loves is, in fact, a man, and hunting for a murderer and a mysterious seer. With her eighty-six-year-old grandmother insisting on helping out, and a sentient goose who simply won’t stop pestering her to watch his “killer” video game moves, Kit has more than her hands full as she races against the clock to prevent Coro’s murder…and possibly her own.

The Murder Prophet is a little hard to categorize. I’m calling it urban fantasy because of the existence of magic, but it doesn’t have vampires, werewolves, fairies or any of the other paranormal elements that seem de rigeur in urban fantasy lately. Also, it’s a mystery, and takes place at least in part in the virtual world of the Netz. See my problem?

But urban fantasy/mystery covers it better than anything else, so that’s what we’ll go with, okay?

Watch for the cover and contest on Friday!

 

The Murder Prophet Cover Tease

I know, it’s evil to tease you with just a bit of the cover, right?

MP cover tease 1But I’m getting pretty excited about this project. I shared this glimpse of the cover a while back, but here it is again. Don’t forget to watch this space on Friday for the whole thing, and a contest to win some advance reading copies! Later in the week I’ll give you more details about the novel itself.

I will say this: if you enjoyed One’s Aspect to the Sun but wished it had less space travel, nanotechnology, and wormholes; and more urban magic, mystery, sentient animals, danger, and romance, you’ll love The Murder Prophet. ;)

Cover Reveal on the Horizon!

I’m *thisquestion mark* close to turning in the manuscript for Dark Beneath the Moon, the sequel to One’s Aspect to the Sun. It’s been a long road with this manuscript, but I’m feeling pretty good about it now.

However, it’s never a good idea for a writer to stand still, and it will be a little while, I’m sure, before I get notes back from my editor for DBTM. So it’ll be heigh-ho, heigh-ho, on to the next project we go, and I’m excited about this one, too.

It’s called The Murder Prophet.

The Murder Prophet is…quirky. If I have to pigeonhole it (and I do, for all the online markets, if nothing else), it’s urban fantasy/mystery, although it’s spiced with elements from several genres. It’s also fun and rather funny; I had a blast writing it and early reports suggest you’ll have a blast reading it.

So stay tuned here on August 1st for the big cover reveal and a contest to win some ebook ARCs! The release date is still in flux, but also on the horizon. And I’ll tell you more about the book then, too!

The Summer Library Read

Library_Pataskala_025I’m working my way through my 52-book Goodreads Reading Challenge–a little bit behind, mainly because of writing projects. I haven’t done an actual survey of what I’ve read this year, but I’m going to guess that they’d shake out like this by format: Audio, then Ebook, then Print.

(Well, now that I’ve wondered about it, I DO have to go and check.) Yup, confirmed. Print is at the bottom of the list.

It’s not that I don’t like print books anymore. It’s a matter of convenience–I can multitask and do stuff around the house and garden while I listen to audiobooks. I can easily have an ebook with me wherever I go, on one of my ereaders or even my phone. So while I still love the print format, it’s harder to find space for it in my life.

But not in the summer.

Perhaps because reading print books has become more of an indulgence, they seem to go best with summer reading. I usually devour books in the summertime, and one of the things I love best is the Summer Library Read.

This is the book that you had never heard of before you stopped into the library today. It’s probably the book you wouldn’t be quick to buy, because you know nothing about it, and little about the author. But as you ran your eyes and fingers along the shelf, it spoke to you. The spine caught your eye. The title intrigued. The blurb piqued your interest.

And there was nothing to stop you from giving it a try. Zero committment. Nothing down, nothing to pay (unless you don’t return it on time). You just picked it up, took it to the desk, and then walked out with it. And you’ll settle in to read it at the most indulgent times. When you’re up late because it’s vacation and you don’t have to set the alarm. When you’re at the beach. At the cottage. Sitting out on your step with a cold drink and a bit of shade. Indulging your love of print books, and library books, and the absolute joy of discovering something wonderful and new.

The summer library read. If you haven’t tried it lately, I recommend you give it a whirl. You never know what you might find.

Photo credit: click at Morguefile.com

Exterminate! Exterminate!

256px-Book_burning I’ve read some books I didn’t particularly like. I’ve read some books that I thought had many technical and craft-related flaws. I’ve written reviews on some of those books.

I’ve never felt the need or desire to destroy an author or their book in one of those reviews. I don’t think it’s necessary, professional, or entertaining.

I’m not writing this post because I’ve received any sort of review like this for my own work (or if I have, I’ve been lucky enough not to see it!). But I’ve read some others lately that alternately make me cringe, and make me angry. Have you seen reviews like this? Where the reviewer seems to take a sick delight in completely eviscerating the work–and by association, of course, the author? They can be cleverly written, sure. But their vitriol against the book is actually repulsive. I’m not going to do any of them the service of linking to them. Sadly, they’re not all that difficult to find.

Yes, there are probably more flawed books available now than there ever were before (although don’t think they don’t/didn’t exist inside traditional publishing since its inception). But I don’t know what can prompt a “reviewer” to write such a screed. Even if you think a book is the worst piece of drivel ever written, that opinion doesn’t give you the right to decimate another human being. You can discuss the flaws you found in the book; you can discuss why it didn’t appeal to you; you can even make suggestions for what would have improved it for you. Those thoughts might be helpful to an author in writing another book, and they might be helpful to other readers in deciding whether to read a book.

But if you’re not writing a review with those goals in mind, why *are* you writing it? If it’s to make yourself look clever and rapier-witted at the cost of destroying someone else–you’re just another online bully. And your credibility with me is a big fat zero.

Photo credit: By Patrick Correia from Northampton, MA, United States (Book burning Uploaded by mangostar) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ebook Sale Today!

OATTS cover-smYes, the ebook of ONE’S ASPECT TO THE SUN is on sale today for only .99! If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, this is a great time to do so.

http://tinyurl.com/kowo3j8

About the novel | Goodreads reviews | Amazon reviews

As this sale happens, I’m installed at my desk, hard at work on the sequel, Dark Beneath the Moon. Although One’s Aspect is a stand-alone novel, I’ve had many questions about and requests for a sequel, and who could say “no” to that? There’s certainly enough going on in Nearspace to keep the characters busy! Of course I can’t give much away at this point, but the shadows of the past loom even larger in this book than they did in the first, leaving Luta and her crew with new aliens, corporate intrigue, and more than a few mysteries to puzzle through.

But in the meantime, you should be reading the first book, so you’ll be all set when the next one arrives. It pays to plan ahead, right? :)

“A is for Apocalypse” Cover Reveal

Today I’m pleased to be one of the blog hosts of the cover reveal for A is for Apocalypse. I love the idea of this anthology (and the idea of the series, of which this anthology is the first title). Would I want to edit it? Heck, no! I stand in awe of editor Rhonda Parrish for taking on this Herculean task.

So what is this task? I hear you asking. Well, in a nutshell:

What do you get when you take twenty-six amazing writers, randomly assign them a letter of the alphabet and give them complete artistic freedom within a theme?

A is for Apocalypse

A is for Apocalypse contains twenty-six apocalyptic stories written by both well-known and up-and-coming writers. Monsters, meteors, floods, war–the causes of the apocalypses in these tales are as varied as the stories themselves. This volume contains work by Ennis Drake, Beth Cato, Kenneth Schneyer, Damien Angelica Walters, K. L. Young, Marge Simon, Milo James Fowler, Simon Kewin, C.S. MacCath, Steve Bornstein and more!

Editor’s Note: Keep reading, kids, there’s a giveaway further down!

What’s so Herculean about that? you’re asking now. Sure, twenty-six stories is a hefty anthology to edit, but longer anthologies have been done before.

Well, the rumour (and I believe it’s quite true) is that Ms. Parrish plans to edit an anthology for each letter of the alphabet, each with a new theme, and each containing twenty-six stories. So that’s, um…*gets out calculator, pokes in numbers, scratches head, pokes in numbers again*…that’s six hundred and seventy-six stories for the series. Phew. Having edited a mere sixty-two stories myself (and co-edited, at that), I can appreciate the enormity of the undertaking.

Well, come on, where’s the cover?

We’re getting there. First, you might like to read the answers to this question, posed by Rhonda to some of her writers:

In choosing a theme for this, the first of a series of anthologies, I considered and rejected a great many “A” words. Tell us about your favourite word that begins with the letter A.

Alexis A. Hunter – As an author — ‘acceptance’ has a beautiful ring to it. As a sci-fi writer — ‘apex’ is particularly engaging. In general — ‘angel’ is one of my favorite words, because they’re one of my favorite ‘creature types’ to play with in stories. Plus I have a thing for wings and feathers.

Damien Angelica Walters – My favourite word that begins with the letter A is anathema. It rolls off the tongue like a whisper, hiding its dark meaning in pretty syllables.

Simon Kewin – My favourite A word is (possibly) Archaeopteryx. I love the shape of the word. It’s exotic and fantastical and ungainly all at the same time – a little like the creature itself. It derives from the Greek archaeo (ancient) and pterux (wing). So, “Ancient Wing”. Archaeopteryx is a lovely illustration of the forces of evolution in progress; it’s a snapshot of a species in the process of changing from dinosaur ancestor to modern avian descendent. Here was a creature with a bony tail and teeth and feathers. And claws on its wings. I’d love to have seen one…

C.S. MacCath – My favourite ‘A’ word is ‘atonement’, because unlike ‘forgiveness’, it places the onus for righting a wrong where it belongs; upon the head of the person who committed it. If we were socialized to atone as much as we are already socialized to forgive, we might learn to be more careful with one another.

Okay, okay, very interesting. Now can we see the cover?

Oh, all right. I’ve made you wait long enough. We writers know the value of a good bout of anticipation, you know. But here it is! (You can click it to see it full-size.)
AisforApocalypse

I think A is for Amazingly Cool. :)

Here’s a little more about the book:

“In A is for Apocalypse, the world ends in both fire and ice–and by asteroid, flood, virus, symphony, immortality, the hands of our vampire overlords, and crowdfunding. A stellar group of authors explores over two dozen of the bangs and whispers that might someday take us all out. Often bleak, sometimes hopeful, always thoughtful, if A is for Apocalypse is as prescient as it is entertaining, we’re in for quite a ride.” – Amanda C. Davis, author of The Lair of the Twelve Princesses

“Editor Rhonda Parrish gives us apocalyptic fiction at its finest. There’s not a whimper to be heard amongst these twenty-six End of the World stories. A wonderful collection.” -Deborah Walker, Nature Futures author.

 A is for Apocalypse / Edited by Rhonda Parrish / Poise and Pen Publishing / ISBN-13: 978-0993699016 / ISBN-10: 0993699014 / Cover Designed by Jonathan Parrish

Available August, 2014

Hey, what about that giveaway?

I didn’t forget! Here’s what Rhonda says:

Giveaway

I’m giving away three ARC copies of A is for Apocalypse (tour-wide). These are physical copies but I am willing to ship them to anywhere in the world. The Rafflecopter draw will run from May 12th to May 19th. On May 20th I will choose three winners and email them in order to get their shipping address. Anyone who doesn’t respond by May 27th will forfeit their prize and I will choose a new winner to receive it.

The Rafflecopter Giveaway is here. So go, enter! What are you doing still hanging around here?