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Category: publishing

Traditional & Indie Publishing: Weapons in the Author Arsenal

I finally finished writing my second novel, Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook on Saturday. Yes, hooray. No, hold the champagne. Now is when the *really* hard work begins: engaging my beta readers, rearranging stories, revising, and editing, editing, and more editing.

Not to mention, deciding how I want to publish, revising my shameless query letter, and beginning the soul-sucking process of sending out queries to publishers. As faithful fans of the Kelly Hitchcock literary flavor know, I self-published my first novel, The Redheaded Stepchild. I don’t have anything against traditional publishing, I just grew tired of the querying (and rejection) process and believed what everyone turned around and said about it – that it wasn’t marketable enough. Yes, this was a nice way of saying “Your first book is about you, which is a little self-indulgent, don’t you think? Plus, you know no one gives a shit about you, right?”

Portrait of Woman in Ink is quite a bit more marketable, I think, and has a much more focused appeal (for those not familiar with the literary adventures of Kelly Hitchcock, it’s a collection of short stories about women and their tattoos). As such, I think it’s more geared toward a more traditional publishing road to perdition. Since this site is wholly my personal ramblings, I feel no shame in saying that it is my personal opinion that authors should not limit themselves to one method over another: self publishing versus traditional publishing. How can you extol all the virtues and bitch about all the drawbacks of each form if you haven’t done them both?

I’ve traditionally published shorter works – short stories, poems, essays, but I have yet to traditionally publish a book. I want to give it a try with Portrait of Woman in Ink, even though I know it’ll be a soul-sucking process full of rejection and self-loathing. Why? Because it’ll be worth it. And yeah, when it goes out of print and I am 80 years old (but still hot), I’ll turn around and self-publish it. By that time, I’ll have a rabid fanbase of no less than 37 people who crave the Kelly Hitchcock literary flavor with a ravenous bloodlust, except for word blood.

Also, I turned 30 last week. Go me.

What do you think? Is it truly an “Us V Them” (indies vs. traditionals) world out there, or should all serious authors dip their feet into both?

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Why I Turned Down My First Book Deal

Loyal fanbase, you are, I’m sure, already aware of the fact that it took me seven years from the time I wrote my first word of The Redheaded Stepchild until I published it.  What was I doing in that time besides getting divorced and attending wine and cheese parties for one?  I was querying publishers and agents, building up an impressive collection of rejection letters, which I often used to line the litter box back when I could stand cats.  I had my copy of The Writer’s Market and I was going to go through every entry in the book until I found that rare Prince Charming gem all writers hope for: the right publisher for my book, and one who was willing to take a chance on me.

Five years from the time I wrote the first word, I finally got an email from an acquisitions editor at a publishing house, while playing pool and drinking beer in a dive bar on a visit to my hometown.  My book was in the batch they were going to accept during their next publication period.  I probably played my best lifetime game of pool that night, because I was over the moon, thinking I’d finally gotten the big break I deserved.  I won’t say who it was – because as you can tell from the title of this post, I turned them down anyway…

The happiness ended the minute I started digging deeper into the company and I got the contract.  For the most part, it was pretty standard for what I read in the reference book, except for the following teensy line items:

  • They weren’t going to let me have any input on the cover.  They were going to throw my book over a wall to their creative team and give the nod to whatever came back.  Still, the covers I saw looked pretty good, so I was willing to go with it.
  • They weren’t going to give me any marketing support.  Sorry, but my minor in advertising in promotion did not prepare me for how to successfully market my book.  When I asked about this, they gave me a stock response about how the author is the best person to do the marketing because they are closest to the project.  Okay, true, but don’t you guys do this like, professionally? I’m just a wordmonkey.
  • And here’s the kicker… they wanted me to pay them a “non-refundable deposit” as remuneration for taking a risk on my book.

Um, yeah… that was the red flag for this redhead.  When I told them I was uncomfortable with this, they sent me a list of their author references as a way of reassuring me that I would be happy, successful, and quickly earn back my “refundable deposit” if I took the deal.  I read all the references, but then I went and found the authors’ websites.  Most of them had long since given up on their books from this publisher or hadn’t published any more books, but there were a few still kicking around, so I contacted them.  They all told me the same thing… it was not the greatest decision they’d ever made in their lives.

But still, this was a book deal, a real one, the thing I had been waiting for for five years of my life.  Who was I to say it wasn’t good enough?  I’m a nobody, and they want to take a chance on me.  I did what any girl would do – I called someone smarter than me.  Specifically, my most-likely-to-succeed counterpart from high school (or would have been, if I’d been popular enough to even make that section of the yearbook’s radar), a lawyer pal with a lot of contracts experience.  No, he’d never seen a book deal contract, but a contract’s a contract, right?  And yeah, he said it sucked.  He wasn’t going to tell me what to do, but he didn’t mince words about the drawbacks of the contract.  He was even kind enough to draw up a list of suggested revisions, reminding me than any contract is just a starting off point for negotiations, and that if I really wanted a book deal, I should fight for one that worked for both me and the publisher.

Well, negotiation must’ve been Swahili to them.  I emailed my carefully crafted list of negotiable revisions to their people.  And waited a week.  And emailed them back, asking if they’d had a chance to view my revisions, to which they assured me their legal team was giving it “careful consideration.”  Then I waited another week.  And emailed again.  Finally, they came back and said they weren’t willing to make any concessions with their standard contract (gee thanks… you coulda just told me that 2 weeks ago).  I wanted a book deal.  I really did.  But this one smelled an awful lot like the rejection letters after the litter box got a hold of em, so I politely declined, determined that I had not yet found my Prince Charming of publishing. And had another wine and cheese party for one.

But… that’s not the end of the story… tune in next week, when I tell the story of “Why I Self-Published.”

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SXSW 2012 Redux

I went back to South by Southwest Interactive this year – 3rd year in a row. Every year, I come away with at least one big idea for how I can get a leg up on technology with my books, and I figure out what the trends are.

I have to admit – I was a little disappointed, because I felt like I was hearing the same things I’ve heard for the past 2 years. Writers are still wading slowly into the waters of self-publishing, publishers are still scared and coming up with half-ass ways to adapt, and more and more ebook startups are sprouting up around us. Not to say that it was an empty experience; quite the contrary actually. I just needed to cut through the “heard this already” to get to what I needed to learn, which was this:

  • Self-publishing was a great fit for The Redheaded Stepchild. It was my story, and kind of a pet project. Something like Portrait of Woman In Ink, however, might be worth going after a traditional publisher.
  • Even if traditional publishing is my goal, I need to find a publisher that will let me do my own thing, who won’t turn my book into some crazy bastardization I don’t want to write.
  • I need to be on Pinterest. Almost every young woman I know is on Pinterest, and that’s my audience. And here I thought it was just for people decorating nurseries and planning weddings.
  • I’m doing the right thing by working my own network first with my book, but I need to be a little more pressing about getting my network to write me an honest review.
  • I shouldn’t try to be elitist about my first book. It’s there for me to get my name out. After my KDP Select period is over, I’ll be dropping the price of The Redheaded Stepchild. I can charge a little more for Portrait of Woman In Ink.
  • I need to start promoting Portrait of Woman In Ink now. And because it is a book about women and tattoos, there’s plenty for me to engage readers about. Also, I shouldn’t be afraid to call up the tattoo shops and see if they want to have a copy in their lobbies.
  • I volunteer at a library. There’s no reason I shouldn’t have my book on the shelves there. I already have friends there.
  • I need to encourage my friends who like the book to recommend it to someone else. It’s not icky. I don’t know why I look at it like it’s icky.
  • Yeah, my sales aren’t going to take off immediately. I learned that lesson. I was encouraged by several panels that it’s all a process, and I need to set it on the shelf (or web page) and let it do its thing.
  • I shouldn’t be afraid to talk to the local paper and area bloggers about taking me on as an interviewee.
  • I need to engage with other people who write about tattoos for Portrait of Woman In Ink. I already got a PhD to agree to write a foreword for an unknown author; it’s probably not much harder than that.

That’s my bullet point redux from SXSW. Also here’s some cool shit I discovered:

  • SmallDemons.com: It’s a startup that will show you (in popular books anyway) what references there are. So, for instance, I am reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (just to see what all the hype is about), and it will show me that the book references John Coltrane, Martin Luther, Adolf Hitler, Hopalong Cassidy. Also, Doc Martens and Armani. Pretty cool stuff.
  • Libboo.com: It’s a startup author support community. I haven’t delved into all the ins and outs of it yet, but I met their CEO who had an appealing accent.
  • BookCountry.com: It’s Penguin’s critiquing community for genre authors. Again, haven’t looked at it too closely, but I applaud Penguin for doing something innovative.

Next year, I’ll probably opt for a vacation that involves a Betsey Johnson bikini and a beach. Take advantage of this vacation’s knowledge.

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#SXSW Report: Days 2 and 3

I’ve been going pretty well nonstop so this is the first opportunity I’ve had to sit down and write my summary of the past 2 days of interactivity at SXSW 2012. Hashtags for panel twitter discussions I participated in are in parentheses.

I began Saturday with a panel about copyrights (#sxcopytrolls) which was grossly underattended and somewhat informative about obtaining and protecting copyrights, which was something I knew next to nothing about so I’m glad I went. After that, I was able to pull up a spot on the floor in the hallway for the simulcast of a conversation with Joss Whedon (#sxjosswhedon) since the room was full. Naturally, I was all too happy to pick up on some insights from the master storyteller of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, and I could go on and on but I won’t. Plus he’s a very funny ginger, which I respect as a semi-funny ginger. Just a note, he wrote the screenplay for his new film Cabin InThe Woods in 3 days. That’s a hardcore writer for ya.

After that, I headed to The Rise of Analytics: Impacting the Editorial Process (#sxeditdata) which wasn’t as much about the impact of the need for data, keywords, links, etc. on the editorial process as much as I would’ve liked, but more about the data. Then it was off to the Hyatt for some 15-minute talks about books and content, including Books Win the Attention Economy (#sxbooks_win) and Delivering Content Experiences Across Platforms (#sxplatforms) which closed out Saturday for me.

Sunday was a good morning of panels, starting with Publishing Models Transforming the Book (#sxpubmodels), where panelists from the new publishing industries spoke about their models and the panelists from the traditional publishing industry defended theirs. Up to and including this panel, I have to admit that everything that I heard in most of these sessions was all stuff I have heard before, some even at previous Souths By. Luckily for me, I stumbled into a panel that proved to be worth the price of admission: Discoverability and the New World of Book PR, where I got some amazing ideas for how to keep getting The Redheaded Stepchild noticed and how I can start building a campaign for Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook. I furiously took about 3 pages’ worth of notes – the advice was just that good. I wish I had time to test out some of the stuff I heard about today, but I have more sessions, beer, and parties to head off to. And I might actually watch a film today since many of the bookish panels are more of the same stuff I have heard before over and over again.

Oh, and last night I got a photo with Steven Moffat – writer for Dr. Who, Sherlock, and Jekyll (again, I could go on, but I won’t). Worth the wait in line for sure. I also watched Rainn Wilson give a talk about his project Soul Pancake. It’s pretty rad. Go check it out.

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The Redheaded Stepchild now available in paperback

Do not adjust your TV – you are, in fact, seeing a paperback version of The Redheaded Stepchild.  Late last week, I received my proof copy from CreateSpace, which I quickly ripped open in the lobby of my apartment office.  I am ridiculously happy with the way it turned out – the back cover is amazing, and even the spine of the book is very slick.

The book itself is thinner than I expected it would be – but it’s not super thin.  Having 12-point font and a 6×9 canvas probably reduces a little bulk that you’d typically find in a squatter paperback.  Most importantly, though, this means my #1 fans, all 5 of you, can get a paperback if you want one! They’re available on the Amazon page, but also in the CreateSpace store, where I get a little bit of a higher cut, I admit.

So there you go, Grandma.  Now you can believe me that I do, in fact, have a book floating around out there.  Also, stay tuned for some exciting The Redheaded Stepchild news this Friday, the 13th.

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2011 in Writer Review

I just got done reading my 2010 review, and now I’m ready to do the same for 2011. It’s been quite a year, and was way different from 2010.

  • I had two manuscripts published in 2011. It was less than 2010, but I’ll still call it a win because I spent more energy on getting The Redheaded Stepchild published and writing my next novel. I also spent more time writing new manuscripts in general than I did in 2010.
  • 2011 came and went, and the two poems that were accepted for publication in February 2010 are still waiting to go to print. And people wonder why print is dead…
  • I forwent the book deal and decided to publish The Redheaded Stepchild myself. I’m still experimenting to figure out what works as far as sales and marketing go, but I’m not in this for the money. I’m in it because I love it and I want to try new things.
  • I tripled my Twitter followers.
  • I once again pimped my writing at South by Southwest. I also submitted a panel proposal for SXSW 2012 which is still under review. Fingers crossed!
  • I used my Kindle to check out works by other Kindle authors. I’m hoping that it’ll be great for you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours kind of sales.
  • I joined a writer’s group, and I’m now leading that group. I look forward to Weird Austin Writers meetings every single time.
  • I began volunteering at my local library. I’m hoping this will help me reach out to readers once I get more established.

Goals for 2012

  • Sell 1,000 copies of The Redheaded Stepchild. I’ll have to figure out what works marketing-wise to make that happen, but it’d be nice to know that my book is in 1,000 new hands!
  • Publish my next novel. I’ve got a lot of rewriting and editing to do, but I’m really excited about the project and I think it’ll be my best work yet. Now if I can just think of a title…
  • Build relationships with readers and other authors. This means I need to keep up with my other author blogs all year round. (Compound goal.)
  • Publish The Other Dentenia Zickafoose. I’ve been shopping this guy around for almost 2 years now. It’s time.
  • Become a contributor on other author blogs. Guest posting, book reviews, whatever I can do. I need to put myself out there.
  • Write 15 new manuscripts. I’ll have the new novel, but I also want to write 10 poems and 5 short stories to add to my repertiore. Can’t be myopic with my manuscripts.

On the whole, I’ll call 2011 a win. I think 2012 is gonna rock.

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Creating for CreateSpace

Long time no see! The holidays did a number on me; don’t worry, you’ll get to hear all about it in next week’s Wednesday Wrant. Lately, though, I’ve been busy preparing The Redheaded Stepchild for paperback format on CreateSpace. CreateSpace, for those who are unfamiliar, is an Amazon affiliate authors can use to create print-on-demand standard size paperback editions of their books. The Kindle edition is, of course, my bread and butter, but we all have those friends and family who refuse to get with the program and want to know “when can I order my paperback?” I’m doing this for them 🙂

CreateSpace makes it all pretty easy, but it has its share of drawbacks, too. I thought I’d write this post to share my thoughts on the good, the bad, and the ugly of creating a paperback on CreateSpace.

THE GOOD

It’s free. I like free. Free is good. Free takes more work, but free is worth it. They have a pay option, too, starting around $300 for interior design and $300 for cover design. No, thanks. I’m not afraid of hard work.

It’s procedural. They keep a running checklist on what you’ve done, what you’re doing, and what you need to do next. If you get tripped up at any phase in the process, you can go right back to it after you correct any issues.

It calculates production costs. CreateSpace automatically calculates how much each copy will cost to print and distribute, and stubs it in as the minimum price you can set for each copy. This takes the guess work out of pricing the paperback.

The preview tools are easy to use. The Interior Reviewer lets you easily check the swankiness of the inside of your book, and the Cover Creator lets you easily design and preview the front cover, back cover, and spine. With the Cover Creator, you can select one of their predefined themes, which are pretty slick if you don’t already have a good cover image, or use your own if you do (which I of course did). You can also add an author photo, back cover text, and pre-place a barcode.

Distribution to CreateSpace and Amazon. I can have my book on Amazon (for a lower royalty share) and CreateSpace just like that.

They provide Word templates. Their downloadable templates keep you from having to manually define the right and left page margins, headers, footers, copyright pages, dedication pages, etc.

THE BAD

The Cover Creator is limited. You don’t get to customize the font set for the spine text or back cover text or set the location of the author photo. You can set the background and text color for the back cover and spine cover, but the palette is pretty limited. I know, I know, you get what you pay for.

The templates are pretty imperfect. The downloadable templates they distribute contain font sets that aren’t supported by CreateSpace (Myriad Pro in the chapter footers) and they can’t interpret blank pages between chapters. So if you want to insert a blank page between chapters, so that each chapter starts on a right page for example, your blank page will still use a header and footer.

The pay services are expensive. I hate formatting in Microsoft Word just as much as the next guy, but I’m not going to pay over $300 for someone else to do it. I suppose if you know nothing about how to use templates and styles in Word it would be worth it, but I’ll do the work myself, thanks.

THE UGLY

The front cover. I had to modify my cover image in PhotoShop several times to get it to meet their standards. They don’t like any text too close to the margin, and to get it to look normal with the 6×9 cover I had to do some layer adjustment that took much longer than I would’ve liked.

Copy and paste. To get the template to play nice, and to not lose my spot in the manuscript, I had to copy and paste each chapter into the template, change the text styles, and modify each footer since it used a font style that wasn’t supported. Nothing feels more like a waste of time to me than copying and pasting, lather-rinse-repeat fashion.

So all in all, the goods outweighed the bad and the ugly, and it was certainly worth the time it took to format the interior and the cover. I’ll be getting my proof soon, and I’m ridiculously excited to hold an actual copy of my book in my hands!

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Remember Remember the 5th of November

So, I’m a little drunk as I write this, so bear with me. I’m celebrating, because I just finished editing The Redheaded Stepchild. I began writing the book about 7 years ago, and tomorrow (and by tomorrow, I mean today, after a night’s sleep), I will be publishing it on Kindle Direct and Smashwords. It’s been a long journey, but I’m ready to publish my first novel and get it under my belt.

More to come tomorrow…

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The Joy of Editing

fter years of pimping my first novel to agents and publishers, I’ve decided to quit stalling and self-publish the thing as an e-book. Why? Well, there are lots of reasons, in no particular order:

  • Indie ebook authoring is the way the market is going. Every time I read something from an author who has gone independent and e-book only, it only reinforces that I’m making the right decision.
  • I know my book’s good enough to be on shelves. I got one offer for a book deal from a publisher (it was a really shitty deal, and I was right not to take it), and got requests for a full manuscript from two agents.
  • It will keep me from being lazy and making excuses about why the book hasn’t been published yet. I can’t blame anyone but myself.
  • Every day I don’t self-publish my book is a day I’m not making money (thanks J.A. Konrath), and I could use it.
  • The Redheaded Stepchild is not my greatest work. I have better stories to write and it’s time to get this one under my belt and move on.

So, what are the main functions today’s publisher offers, since I can get my books in the hands of readers without a publisher getting them on pages and on a shelf in a bookstore? Primarily, editing and cover art. I’m doing both of these myself, which may be a cardinal sin, but hey, if I’m going to be a starving independent author, I need to play the part.

In addition, it’s been more than 5 years (seriously? seriously.) since I wrote The Redheaded Stepchild, so I felt like I had the level of dramatic distance needed to be more objective than I would have been right after I wrote it. And I think I do, for the most part. I’ve taken a lot of measures to make my main character a little stronger (she was a lot whinier than I remembered) and I’ve caught a lot of technical errors I am both embarrassed by and know I would have missed years ago.

The first pass of editing is now complete, and I’m moving on to phase 2. In phase 1, I was mostly cutting – deleting details that didn’t add to the plot development, took away from the character’s persona, or were just weird. Now I am adding – adding details that will help make my character stronger and my plot more believable. I think after phase 2, I will be done editing, because I am getting to a point where I think “gee, that’d be a great detail to add,” only to add the detail then find the exact same thing a few sentences later.

Editing is a necessary but thankless task, and the biggest part of every writer’s life. I can’t wait to hire someone to do it for me next time 😛

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