A Contest for World Book & Copyright Day

wbd-web-467x300-enApril 23rd each year marks UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright day. As it’s described on their website, “This is a day to celebrate books as the embodiment of human creativity and the desire to share ideas and knowledge, to inspire understanding and tolerance…our goal is clear – to encourage authors and artists and to ensure that more women and men benefit from literacy and accessible formats, because books are our most powerful forces of poverty eradication and peace building.” So, in the spirit of the day, I thought I’d run a little contest here on the blog.

What you can win: One ebook copy each of One’s Aspect to the Sun and To Unimagined Shores.

How to enter: There are several ways to enter the contest, and you can have multiple entries in my Lucky Basket. Here it is:

luckybasket

Doesn’t it look lucky?

Here’s how to get your entries added:

> Leave a comment below. Just say hi! = 1 entry

> Leave a comment below; say hi and tell me your favorite speculative fiction book or author = 2 entries

> Tweet or retweet about the contest = 1 entry. I’ll even write the tweet for you. Just copy and paste:

Enter @sdramsey ‘s #BookDay contest  by April 23rd for a chance to win free SF/F ebooks (http://tinyurl.com/qgp9hfm) #books #reading #scifi

> Share the contest in any other way; post it to your blog, mention it on Facebook, +1 it on Google, write it on your forearm with magic marker. The comments and tweets I’ll see, but you’ll have to email or message me to tell me about anything else you do. Each share = 1 entry

Rules: You may enter from anywhere in the world. Entries will be hand-written by me on actual pieces of paper and dropped in the Lucky Basket. One winner will be drawn from the entries received by midnight AST on April 23, 2014. Ebooks will be available in the following formats: .epub, .mobi (for Kindle), and .pdf. Winner will have to provide me with a working email address for delivery of their ebooks. Winner agrees to let me post their name or screen/online name so everyone knows that someone actually did win. The decision of the contest administrator (me) is final. I will do my best to record all eligible entries, but will not be responsible for missed, missing, or misplaced entries.

Ready to enter? Go!
 

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Judging Books, Judging Publishers

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Details count!

We all know the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” We all know it, but we all do it anyway, right? I find it very hard to bring myself to read a book with an ugly, ill-conceived, or poorly-executed cover. Why? Because the amount of care and attention paid to the cover sends a message about the amount of care and attention paid to the contents.

Yes, of course it’s possible to have a great book hidden behind an ugly cover. But you have to find readers willing to take the chance. I suspect a lot of decent books suffer this way, and don’t get the readership they deserve.

However, today I’m not searching for something new to read. Today I’m searching for publishers to submit to. And I’m here to tell you that I’m judging them by their covers. The covers they put on the books they publish.

There are a lot of factors that I consider–that I expect most writers consider–when deciding where to submit their work. Turnaround time is a big one for me, because I now make it a policy to leave manuscripts in submission (without a decision) for no longer than a year at the outside. Sure, I know that in publishing terms a year is not that long, but I’ve been burned before and I’m not going to do that again.

Payment is also a big one. Many publishers list their royalty structure right on their websites now, which I think is great. No surprises down the road after a long time waiting for an answer. I also have limits below which I won’t go on that score, because if a publisher does not value my work, I don’t trust them to help me attract readers.

Other considerations: I like publishers that accept simultaneous submissions, although it’s not a deal-breaker. I like publishers that accept attachments, although ditto. I like publishers that deal in both print and ebook, although I might consider ebook only if other aspects are attractive. I have little use for publishers who don’t plan to answer me unless they’re interested. And I might break my own rules on any of these things depending on circumstances.

But these days, I’m not even *looking* at any of these details first. The first thing I do when I scope out a potential publisher is go and look at their current catalogue and see what their covers are like. And if those covers are–to put it bluntly–crappy, then I don’t bother looking any further.

Maybe that sounds snobbish, like now that I have one book published, I’m full of myself. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I just think that especially now, in the days of shopping mega-bookstores online, where book cover thumbnails have about eight seconds to catch the eye of a potential reader, it’s the single most important element in getting a reader’s interest.

Some may argue that the most important element is price, but I beg to differ. Even at .99 or $2.99( or whatever the magical perfect ebook selling price is this week), a bad cover is not going to interest a reader in making even a small investment. Not when there are hundreds of beautiful, intriguing, eye-catching covers out there at the same price.

Some may also argue that it’s a matter of taste, to which I will agree–conditionally. Not even the most deftly-executed cover is going to make me pick up a horror novel. But I believe that even readers who profess to have no artistic appreciation will be turned off by a bad cover. Bad covers look cheap. They may be confusing. They’re often unreadable. They just don’t sell books, and after all, that’s their job. A cover is supposed to say “what lies within here is something you want to experience.” They won’t work if they say “we just didn’t have the time/money/talent/experience to make this look good. But spend your money anyway. What’s inside is better!”

If you don’t believe me, there are numerous curators of bad book covers around the Internets: like here, here,and here. Take a look and tell me if you really want to read these books. And would you really want your own book to join them?

Photo credit: mailsparky

One’s Aspect to the Sun Trailer

I love making book trailers. I’ve done them for most of the Third Person Press titles, and it’s really quite easy to do with all the resources available on the Internet. You can find free-to-use graphics at places like Morguefile.com and StockXchng, video clips at MotionBackgroundsForFree , and great music at Incompetech.com.  Of course, there are many others around the web, but these are some resources I’ve used and been very pleased with. I generally use Windows Movie Maker and Photoshop, although of course there are other video programs with more bells and whistles on offer.

So of course I had to make one for One’s Aspect to the Sun. I had a ton of fun making this one!

http://youtu.be/LVK3_ZLFURQ&w=400&h=255&rel=0

Do book trailers really make a big impact in book promotions? Who knows? But the way I see it, having a good one can’t hurt. :)

The Friday Challenge 01-31-14

night-reading-1106140-mToday’s challenge is going to be a complete guessing game (unless you know me well enough to have been to my house, and even then you *might* not know).

In my office (and the rest of the house) I have quite a few books. Okay, a lot of books. All right, a TON of books. Guess which of the following authors is most represented on my shelves:

a. David Eddings
b. Agatha Christie
c. Terry Pratchett
d. Ellis Peters
e. Piers Anthony
f. Dave Duncan

I’ll give bonus points if you guess a number of titles that is reasonably close* to correct.

*”reasonably close” will be defined by my mood on the day in question

Answer on Monday!

Photo credit: nkzs

Being Shameless about Shameless Self-Promotion

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Crank it up!

This morning I sent out a tweet about the fact that my novel, One’s Aspect to the Sun, is on the eligibility list for novels for this year’s Prix Aurora Awards. This–the tweeting, that is–should not be a big deal. (Being eligible is absolutely a big deal, for me! It’s my first novel, after all.)

And yet, mentioning it was not the easiest thing to do. I’ve actually never encountered any blowback for promoting my self or my writing (or publishing with Third Person Press), but I’ve read several articles online by writers (women in particular) who have drawn negative and accusatory comments for doing such a thing. I hesitated a day or two before I said anything about it online.

I, like these women and many other folks, am uncertain why this should be. (And I’m not even going to get into the reasons why women seem to suffer the slings and arrows more than men; that’s been addressed far more eloquently than I probably could, like here.) So while it’s not easy for me to self-promote, I guess because I’m simply of a modest personality, there’s no getting around the fact that I want folks to read (and hopefully enjoy) my work. Almost any writer will admit to this desire, and those who won’t–well, I don’t buy it. Unless you’re writing solely in journals that never see the light of day, or in files that never go further than your hard drive, you’re writing to share something with…um…readers.

So, yes, I hope that people will be entertained by what I write. And to do that, most of them will have to buy it. And to do that, they’ll have to know it exists.

Awards and accolades are certainly nice to get, although the entire idea of awards these days seems to stir up a lot of disagreement and accusation and really a lot more negative energy than I think they are worth. But the plain fact of it is that being nominated for, or winning, awards, brings a work to the attention of more people. Who might then buy it. Who will hopefully then enjoy it. You see how we’ve come full circle here?

So yes, despite the fact that someone may react negatively to it, I’m talking about the fact that my novel is eligible to be nominated for an Aurora Award. I’m even going to tell you how you could go about that, in case you don’t know. The awards are administered by The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association, and the website for the awards is here: http://www.prixaurorawards.ca/. To participate in the awards process, you must be a member of CSFFA–you can join online, but to nominate and vote you pay $10 per year in dues. Nominations are currently open and will remain open until April 12th. The nomination form is on the website.

As people are wont to say, it would be an honour just to be nominated. For me, just seeing my name on the eligibility list has been a thrill! But if you’ve read and enjoyed the book, you might consider submitting a nomination. And if you’ve read and enjoyed other Canadian works on the eligibility lists, then please consider giving them a nod too. This type of award depends entirely on the public’s participation, so if you’re a reader, get in there and participate!

Photo credit: Acuzio

The Friday Challenge 01-10-14

flying-books-1-1408766-mThis week’s Friday Challenge involves the book series I have re-read the most times. No, of course I’m not going to tell you what it is! Duh. Although some of you who have been reading this blog for a while, or know me personally, may be able to guess what it is.

Anyway, I’m going to post a snippet from one of the books here. All you have to do is identify the book it comes from:

There was a sad and terrible pause at this point in the conversation during which a hundred thousand people seemed unexpectedly to say ‘wop’ and a team of white robots descended from the sky like dandelion seeds drifting on the wind in tight military formation.

Also, there’s a hint in this actual post about the main character’s last name. I’ll post the answer on Monday!

Photo credit: josterix

Best Books From My 2013 Reading List

Yes, we’re all getting a bit tired of “best of” lists, I’m sure, but I did want to muse a bit on the best books I read last year. Of those I read, I gave only five the coveted five-star rating. I generally use Goodreads’ criteria for ratings, which are as follows: 1-star: didn’t like it, 2-star: it was okay, 3-star: liked it, 4-star: really liked it, and 5-star: it was amazing.

So to get five stars from me, a book has to be “amazing”, which I interpret as I-loved-it, I-couldn’t-put-it-down, I-wish-I’d-written-this, I-would-hardly-change-a-thing.

Note that I say I would hardly change a thing, not that I wouldn’t change *anything.* Because that would mean the book was perfect, and I think that’s really too high a standard. Is there such a thing as a perfect book? I suppose that would be a good topic for some other days’ musings…

But on to last year’s 5-star reads. In the order I read them, they were:
1. Feed by Mira Grant
2. Blackout by Mira Grant
3. Deadline by Mira Grant
4. Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey
5. The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

feedSo yes, three of these books, the ones by Mira Grant, were a trilogy. It’s a pretty good feat to have all three books in a series be equally good, and at first I didn’t think it would be the case. The author did something at the end of the the first book that almost ruined it for me, and I initially gave the book only 4-stars. I had loved it up to that point, but I didn’t think I could forgive the author for something that I did not think was necessary. However, I was so hooked that I had to go on reading, and after the second book, I was moved to go back and revise the first book’s rating up to five stars. These are zombie apocalypse books and not for the faint of heart, but man, they were *good.*

GateAbaddon’s Gate was the third book in a trilogy as well, and I also gave all three of these books five stars, although the first two I read in 2012. Space opera as space opera should be, I believe I said in one of the reviews. I’m not much of one for writing a synopsis of the book in my reviews–as a writer, synopses are painful things, reserved for my own books and only when necessary–so I will just say that the scope of the story was huge and engrossing and warranted the long length of the novels completely. Despite their size I devoured them.

normalsThe last five-star book of the year is bittersweet for me to talk about, because it was such fun to read and I enjoyed it so much…and then had to somehow reconcile those feelings with news of the author’s death in December. I continue to be saddened by the juxtaposition of his writings and the terrible state of mind he must have suffered. So the five stars are a bit tarnished by that sadness, but it was still a wonderful book.

I read sixty-three books in 2013, a feat which was really only made possible by the number of audiobooks I enjoyed, and one which I am not complacently expecting to meet this year. I’ve set my Goodreads challenge for 55 books, and if I surpass that, of course I will be pleased. There were a number of years when I read less because I was writing more, but I’m glad that trend has turned around. Reading helps me, as a writer, “fill up the tank,” and I think it’s one of the single most effective ways a writer can improve his or her own writing.

Nine Day Wonder Interview

questionmarkThere’s a very nice new interview with me, up at Nine Day Wonder. Pat Flewwelling asked some really interesting and fun questions, to which I hope I gave interesting and fun answers. :) You should really go and check it out!

When I complimented Pat on her questions, she noted that she likes to ask questions that go beyond what an interviewer (or reader!) could find out just as easily by visiting the author’s website (or words to that effect). Which I thought was a very sensible way to go about it!

Anyway, hie yourself over and take a look.

Image credit: Billy Alexander

Third Person Press and Grey Area

Grey Area_smThe small press in which I’m a partner, Third Person Press, launched its first Indiegogo fundraising campaign yesterday. It’s been a busy few weeks getting everything set, and a busy few months in the larger planning stages. It’s quite amazing just how much time you can spend thinking about and planning your perks, changing your mind, tweaking, adding, subtracting and rearranging,  to say nothing of creating prototypes and mockups of rewards, writing website copy, and writing emails.

Then the campaign launches, and the real work begins!

Our project for this campaign is Grey Area: 13 Ghost Stories. It’s a collection of ghost stories (obviously), all by authors from Cape Breton or with a substantial connection to Cape Breton. Of course, one doesn’ t have to be from here to appreciate the stories; most of them are not even set here geographically. There’s a wide mix of tales, from scary to spooky to funny. And everyone loves a good ghost story, right?

So, you might be wondering, if the stories have little, if anything, to actually do with Cape Breton, why do we make a point of noting the connection of the authors?

Partly it’s because of our mandate at Third Person Press: we strive to provide a voice and venue for regional fiction and authors in the speculative fiction genres. You may not know it, but there’s a bit of a stereotype that Cape Breton authors (indeed, maybe even Atlantic Canadian authors) all write about farming and fishing and coal mining, with a little bit of historical fiction thrown in for good measure. And while there’s not a thing wrong with those stories, they’re certainly not representative of the whole of our regional fiction!

If you’re familiar with our other titles, you’ll know that we like a broad range of types of stories, and Grey Area is no different. We think they’ll have wide appeal, so if you’re even slightly interested, please check out the campaign and consider supporting us and this project.