Adventures of an Indie Author Update


Wow, no kidding, it really has been an adventure! The past month has been a wild ride. My thanks to the folks at Promotional Book Tours for arranging a phenomenal tour. It was great to get Legend of the Spider-Prince #1: REBEL in front of avid readers and even better to get reader feedback in the form of good reviews. Rebel made it to Amazon’s Top 100 YA Swords & Sorcery list almost as soon as the tour started and is still clinging there two weeks after it ended, despite the start of the school year. (How it ended up in S & S, I don’t know. I love S & S, but I categorized it as Epic Fantasy for a reason! So much about Amazon’s inner workings remains a mystery.)

So, what’s next?

A little bit of irony–one part of my editing process is to read aloud. I like reading aloud, and it was one of my favorite things to do with my kids when they were younger. In my usual, let’s-be-efficient-about-this approach, I did some recording when I was editing, you know, since I was talking anyway. Just used a USB headset and Sound Forge Studio, and I didn’t record the whole thing–I spent about eighteen years in my company’s media production department (on the admin side), which meant I acquired (by osmosis) an unfortunate appreciation for production values, and even I cringed at what I was hearing. I couldn’t justify the time I was spending recording crap and moved on. I didn’t seriously consider doing an audiobook because that meant getting an agent who wanted to spend time selling audio rights for an unknown author to some audiobook producer. Not! And frankly, I didn’t want to get tangled in yet another behemoth food chain. I like being an indie author, and getting into audiobooks (even if I could, without an agent) seemed too much like going the traditional publishing route.

Then I discovered ACX, an indie-author friendly platform for audiobook publishing and distribution that reminded me of Smashwords (can I say that in the same sentence with an Amazon company?) But they distribute to Audible and iTunes, and only for seven years’ commitment. My research hasn’t turned up any similarly-friendly platforms with that kind of distribution reach. So, I’ve looked into the whole thing more seriously and have gotten some great advice  from books and practical guidance from pros at my day job, and it’s a whole ‘nother ball game.

So, armed now with a nicely, affordably-professional front end (mic and preamp) for my writing dungeon/home studio, I’m heavily into pre-production of REBEL in audio, waiting on the weekend for my husband to help me build a sound-proof box for my noisy computer so I can cut another test audio clip. I want the audiobook out in time for Christmas, so that means nose-to-the-grindstone time again.

The narration decision was a tough one. I’m not a professional voice actor, but I have two big advantages that a voice actor doesn’t have–the words are my words, and I know all the characters, including what’s not in the book. That, coupled with the quality control that comes from doing my own recording and the tight timeline, means I’ve decided to narrate my own book. I know author-narrators aren’t the most common approach, but I suspect it’s more because production companies that buy audio rights want their own talent doing the talking. There certainly seems to be an interest in hearing an author tell their story in their own words, hence the popularity of author readings. And, of course, the other big advantage to narrating it myself lies in keeping down the overhead costs–there’s a reason so many audiobooks cost a fortune when you have to pay a cast of thousands. I’m thinking I can produce an audiobook worth listening to at a price my audience can afford to pay.

Since I can’t record the way I write (nonstop for hours), this means I’m still able to work on my next book in the series, ROGUE. But I will do one thing differently with the second book–I’ll record the book as part of the final proofread, but before I publish it. How efficient is that?

And maybe I’ll try podcasting…!

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Blog Tour Schedule–Today through Sep 5


This has been an amazing month. While I’ve been dealing with a nasty bout of vertigo for the last three weeks, and have done precious little on my computer to promote Legend of the Spider-Prince: REBEL as a result, it seems to have taken off without me. In its first month, it has smoked the watershed 100 sales that I’m told most indie authors don’t make, and has four great reviews–three 5 stars. and the one 3 star was still a good review and had me ROTFL–if there had been “more stabby stabby,” LotSPR would be a short story rather than a nine book series!

So, before the head-spinning gets worse, here’s the tour schedule:

http://www.margoander.com/new-release-blog-tour-.html

There will be reviews, interviews (including a character interview that was a lot of fun), and excerpts from the book, as well as a Rafflecopter drawing for a $25 VISA gift card and an autographed 18″ x 24″ poster of the cover art by artist Kirsi Salonen (my autograph, her art!).

 

 

 

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Coupon for 50% Off New Epic Fantasy Release


Just a short post today–I’m running a little behind. I’m checking out all the features at Smashwords to see how they work, so for the rest of the month, my debut novel, Legend of the Spider-Prince #1: REBEL has a 50% off coupon–just type-in “DU50G” for the coupon at checkout on Smashwords.

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Surprise Book Birthday!


A funny thing happened on Monday, July 15th.

I had just received my finished book cover and realized that for my book to be available in time for my blog tour that starts August 16th, I was going to have to get it into the distribution system well before that date. I also figured Murphy’s Law was still in force, so I expected surprise problems when I started uploading on Smashwords. (If I have a mantra, it would be, “it’s always something….”)

I uploaded, and sure enough, there was something wonky in the formatting, despite all my precautions to make sure there wasn’t—the known formatting issues stopped with Word 2007, and I’ve got Word 2010, though I saved the files as Word 97-2003 docs. So, I got rid of some surprise XML and hidden text, and tried again. The only change in the error message was the line numbers where the problems were—somewhere in the front matter and Table of Contents, which looked fine in EPUB. I fussed for a couple hours (it was already past my bedtime when I started) and called it a night, then discovered that while I was fussing and re-uploading, I’d had two of my sample pages downloaded!

That was a shock—but not a bad one!

I’d hoped to have the EPUBCHECK problem worked out before anyone discovered my book was out there. Except for this blog and my web site, and the FB author page and Twitter posts that go out whenever I make a post here, no one really knows about my book, so I figure the wonderful cover Kirsi made, and my blurb, were doing their job in those few hours when my book was at the top of the home page of Smashwords.

Long story short, I’d made my first sale on Smashwords in twelve hours, and three more in the next twenty-four hours! Not one for the record books, I’m sure, but I still take it as an encouraging sign.

Since then, I’ve uploaded Legend of the Spider-Prince #1: REBEL on Amazon as an ebook, and in the first twenty-four hours there, I also made four sales!

The score now sits at five sales on Smashwords and four sales on Amazon, with nineteen additional samples downloaded on Smashwords!

As for the mystery error, I rooted it out today, so my ebook is now set to go out to Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc. I also finished my paperback edition’s layout and ordered my proof, so it also should be ready to go when the blog tour kicks off in August. I also posted Chapter 4 on my web site.

After so many years of writing in total obscurity, it has been an amazing week, the more so for this all being completely unexpected. So, a HUGE THANK-YOU to those brave souls who took a chance on a completely unknown author—I hope my book delivered on its promise, and left you entertained and wanting more.

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Chapter Three of REBEL is now posted


Well, at last a nice, quiet weekend to catch up with myself.

Self-publishing continues to be a learning experience. Whole books have been written about what I don’t know about graphic design and printing–fortunately, my cover artist has the patience of a saint.

Caught up with my email and social media, and even had a chance to plunge back into writing Book 2, ROGUE, though getting out of the edit/proofing mindset may take a little doing. My Inner Editor has had free rein for so long, I hope it can do with a little rest!

I’ve put Chapter 3 of  Legend of the Spider-Prince: REBEL up on my website http://www.margoander.com

The book will be officially released August 15, 2013, with a blog tour starting on August 16th. More to follow.

 

 

 

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Chapter Two Is Up


Last night I posted Chapter Two of Legend of the Spider-Prince: REBEL on my web site: http://www.MargoAnder.com, but I was too tired to let anyone know about it!

Synchronicity…sometimes a good thing, sometimes not so. I’m still burned out by the latest concatenation of events (I love that word), but at least it ended on a good note–my 86 y.o. mother-in-law is home from the hospital feeling and looking better; I got to see my elder daughter and the grandkitties over the holiday while breaking up only one mild cat-fight with 15 y.o. Cookie Monster (who doesn’t think they’re cute, but decided not to brood over the intruders this visit); finally found allergy meds that worked for Amber (who can’t understand why a 50 lb dog and 4 lb kittens can’t play laser-dot together!); Circe (Firebrand’s inspiration) has gotten over whatever happened on July 5th while we were at the hospital that made her refuse to go near the barn even to eat (we hope it was nothing worse than the new neighbors using up their fireworks, though Circe generally weathers New Years and the Fourth with aplomb, thanks to four years in Tucson, where the base stables were across the road from the firing range!); I finished my last proof and got REBEL out as an ARC; I received the final sketch for my cover; and I finally got some decent sleep. (My semicolons have gotten a workout this morning!)

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Legend of the Spider-Prince: Rebel


I just posted the first chapter of my epic, YA fantasy novel, Legend of the Spider-Prince: Rebel, which is the first book in the series. No cover to show off, yet, but it’s coming soon.

Read it on my web site, http://www.margoander.com.

 

 

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A Turning Point


It’s hard to believe that it’s been only a month since I received my first cover sketch. A lot of exciting progress has been made since my last post.

 I took another look at my decision not to do a print edition—and changed my mind. It’s been a long time since I last bought a print book, and I guess I was behind the times on how competitive my print edition would be. It wouldn’t be against mass market paperbacks, of course, but it seems the big six (are there still six? lol) have taken to publishing in trade paperback sizes. Some of them are so proud of their books, I can actually beat their price by a significant amount and still not be giving the book away. That realization changed everything.

 I settled on a 6” x 9” size, about 406 pages. I now have my own imprint: Meander Creek Books—I can’t resist a pun! My final edit and proof were already done—or so I thought, but the print interior design presented some unique issues and in the course of resolving them, I made a few more tweaks that I naturally carried over into the ebook edition.

 Now that I’m just waiting on the final cover art, I’ve realized I will be able to release my book much sooner than October 31. I plan on doing a book blog promo tour, so I have to allow about a month for reviewers to read and review my story—which means I ought to be able to release it during the month of August.

 After too many decades of closet writing and revising, it’s thrilling to be working on my story as a book and from a different angle. This is all new, coming up with a cover design, distribution decisions, marketing plans, and all the mundane details of setting up a business—it’s a turning point in my life as personally dramatic as any in one of my stories.

 I’ve paid a price getting here that I can’t continue to pay, and that will require some changes on my part. I love to write stories, but the last three years of intensive work (40 – 60 hours of writing a week on top of a full-time day job) have left me with twenty more pounds I don’t need and the physical conditioning of a coma victim—definitely not a sustainable way of life. So, I need to make more time for family and activity away from the keyboard, ie. cut my writing time down to 30 – 40 hours. Maybe with my first book out, the need to write won’t be so obsessive. I’ve certainly learned a lot of crafting efficiencies over the last three years of writing with critical feedback, and with much of the rest of the series already drafted, I’ll be interested in seeing how long the process will take with Book 2, even if I can keep to a more human work schedule.

 But with the rest of the series gnawing at my subconscious and huge chunks of series details shifting and ker-chunking into place, that may be easier said than done!

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Happy day, it’s time to work on my cover!


I just received my first cover sketch for Legend of the Spider-Prince: Rebel last night—and I just about spontaneously combusted from excitement. My cover artist, Kirsi Salonen, has had a lot on her plate, and I’ve been anxiously waiting for my turn­—and now it’s here!

A cover is critical not only for the first impression it creates with the reader, but also for the role it plays in the life-cycle of a novel. Until there’s cover art, there’s no cover design. There aren’t many reviewers who want an eARC without a cover! The book cover also forms the centerpiece of my web site, provides the raw material to create a header element, and plays a role in promotional giveaways. There are timetables that hinge on the cover reveal—not just the lead time reviewers need for the release in October, but it also needs to be ready when I start my weekly release of chapters in July.

Now, to the uneducated eye, a first sketch is about as exciting as reading the first draft of a story—there’s still work to be done before it’s ready to be seen in public. I’m a better editor than I am a first-draft writer, so my excitement comes from having something tangible to work with, at last. I’ve seen Kirsi’s finished work, and I can see the promise shining through the sketch. Now, the challenge lies in finding the right words to steer the cover’s development to the effect I want. I’m more touchy-feely than visual, so it’s not like micromanaging the details so much as sharing a common vision, so I hope I’m up to the job. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but in this case, it may be more like 11K words—which is how many lead up to the cover’s image in the story.

I know in the traditionally-published world, something like this—being able to pick a cover artist and have a say in what my book looks like from its inception—is a rare privilege even for established authors, and it’s an even rarer privilege to work with an artist whose body of work already resonates with my story. I’m so excited!

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An Epic Journey Begins—Becoming an Independent Author


This was a tough decision for me to make. To me, writing is all about telling a story. Ideally, a writing career would enable me to devote more time to writing stories while still eating regularly and sleeping indoors. The sad reality, however, is that most writers won’t be able to live off their writing alone.

That being the case, my concern initially was, which route to publication would leave me with more time to write? Since independent writers run their whole show, it seemed a no-brainer that going the traditional route to publishing would leave me with more time to write, though going independent would leave me with more control over the final product, from cover to content.

I didn’t question those assumptions until a couple weeks ago. I’d completed the first book in an epic, dark fantasy series and was shopping it to agents, and several things were starting to bother me.

The first issue lay with the sheer number of gatekeepers standing between my book and prospective readers. First there are agents—who might have assistants to triage all the queries received. Many of those agents make a decision on representation based on the query letter rather than the story itself. There’s a considerable difference between a sales letter and a novel, or we’d all be avidly reading our junk mail for entertainment! Even the agents admit that a lot of good writers get overlooked—which tells me that this triage system doesn’t work very well.

Another issue was how hard it was to research agents—only a few of them give interviews, and not surprisingly most of those who do say what they’re looking for is “good writing”—however they privately define it. Duh. But in the process of trying to learn more about the agents, I was struck by how none of these prospective “business partners” were forthcoming on how they agented for their clients—not a single interview with an agent talked about how long they averaged to get a book deal for their clients, how long they tried to get one before giving up, how prompt they were in delivering royalty checks and statements, and who did their auditing and how often. Since the author is the last one paid in this food chain, picking a business partner based on whether they like your writing just didn’t seem a sound way of doing it. I couldn’t help noticing how many agents have moved on to partner their clients in self-publishing books if they couldn’t sell the manuscript to a traditional publisher. An agent has a number of clients to minimize his or her risk of starvation, but authors have all their eggs in one basket, and are essentially making serious decisions in the blind, based on a few phone calls—I may be very much mistaken, but I don’t think clients are invited to inspect an agency’s books before choosing to be represented!

The final blow against traditionally publish my work came when I finally asked the right question.

While I was writing my novel, I thought the question was one of control over the production of the book—covers, etc. Once Book One was finished, however, I realized control over the book wasn’t the issue. The real issue for me was that if I managed to get past all the gatekeepers—after the agent, there’s the editor, the editorial board, the publisher’s marketing and sales force, and the bookstore buyers—the book still has only anywhere from 30-90 days to find its audience and sell well enough, fast enough not to get pulled off the shelves and returned to the publisher. That’s also about how long it takes for a search engine to discover the book’s existence! It’s no secret that publishers don’t do much to promote a book by a new author—I’d be expected to do that myself in my scant spare time. If the first book in my series failed to take off in 90 days, it would be pulled off the shelves and set back, ending the hope of the other books in the series getting published. I couldn’t even self-publish it as a backup plan, because the publisher would own the rights to the book, print and ebook forms.

That was the point where going indie became a no-brainer. After so many years of writing, it’s the only decision that gives me peace of mind. I have already committed myself to writing the series, so there’s plenty of time for me to help it find its audience. No one devotes years of her life to telling a story if she isn’t convinced it’s a story worth telling—and reading.

I look at my bookshelves, real and virtual, and am struck by how few fiction books I’ve actually bought in recent years—and I own thousands (more than I have shelf space to hold). I read the kind of stuff I like to write, and I write the kind of stuff I like to read, and there just hasn’t been much out there for me. (I don’t enjoy books with a cast of thousands, no matter how epic the story.) The last epic series I got excited about and bought was The Queen’s Blade series by indie ebook author T. C. Southwell.

The traditional publishing world is made up of editors and former editors-turned agent who know what the editors are buying—but they haven’t been selling much to me. I have to wonder how many other readers are like me, looking for what we think is a good book.

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