What I’ve Learned About Publishing

July 19th, 2012 by Heather Marie Adkins

This isn’t a post to chastise people who self-publish unedited, unprofessional books.  I was that person.  Last summer, the indie world opened up before me, and before I’d put much thought into it, I uploaded my books.  A few read-overs by me to check for typos, a couple reads by close friends and boyfriend, and I was good to go!  Right?

Negative.  I’ve learned a lot in the past year.

I’m not saying that these are lessons from someone who has found success.  I am not an authority on the subject.  But, I have lots of friends in the indie world, and we share all of our ups and downs, as well as the lessons we’ve learned.  And these four lessons are hugely important.

Lessons Learned # 1: I’ve learned the importance of beautiful covers: Taking a photo you like and slapping a title and a filter on it does not a book cover make.  My first “covers” (I use the term loosely) looked like vomit.  My first cover for The Temple was actually a photo of the Smithsonian National Gallery, flipped, made black-and-white, and the title added using Picasa.  For my old short story, Underneath, it was my favorite picture from a cave in Ireland.  That I took.  In the dark.

It was only around August of last year that the simple truth began to sink in–it is absolutely necessary for one’s cover to be professional in order to draw in readers.  Human beings are aesthetic–we love pretty, shiny things.  Take for example the two different covers shown of The Temple.  There is an obvious difference in quality.  One looks…hideous.  It doesn’t give you any indication of what kind of story hides behind the picture.  It maybe gives off a “spooky” look, but it’s so innocuous that it could be anything.  The other cover, on the other hand, is GORGEOUS.  Designed by my usual artist, Stephanie Mooney, this cover has a feeling to it immediately–she’s looking over her shoulder, so something is up.  She’s being watched?  Followed?  And there’s a temple in the background with some kind of magical, glowy light…what on earth could that mean?  Is it something ghostly?  Divine??  Not to mention the crisp lettering and perfect font.  It is exactly what a book cover should look like.

Many people don’t grasp this concept when they first join the indie revolution.  I shudder to see some of the sludge on Amazon today–and I shudder even more to know that MY books used to be part of that ever-present, unprofessional deluge.  It took me a couple months to instigate the change, but once I did, I realized I was better off to spend the money and hire a professional artist.  While Stephanie is my *usual* artist, I’ve also used Jack Wallen and Athanasios Galanis.

Lessons Learned #2: Interior formatting.  Readers WILL complain.  Any number of books on Amazon sport reviews stating something to the effect of “The formatting in this book is so bad that I couldn’t even read it.”  A friend of mine received a Kindle for Christmas, downloaded a free book, and promptly returned it.  “There were no indents!” she told me.  “How could I possibly read a book without paragraphs?”

Proper interior formatting is just as important as a pretty cover.  This isn’t as simple as just uploading a Word doc to Amazon — please, for pete’s sake, don’t upload a Word doc.  Ebooks are meant to function like web pages, i.e. in HTML.  Word processors, no matter how meticulously formatted, leave uber room for error.  If you have no basic knowledge of code, hire someone.  Just like covers, you want your book to be as professional as possible on the inside and the outside.  This isn’t a plug for my ebook formatting services — I’m damn good, but I’m also closed to new clients.  Do your homework and choose someone who formats in code and NOT in a word processor if you want your books to be as nice inside as the trads.

Lessons Learned #3: The blurb.  Oh, dear goddess, the blurb.  It’s like a monster in the closet–you know it’s gotta be there, but you want nothing to do with it. How on earth can you sum up your 150-thousand-word epic tome in two paragraphs?? You need to mention the Roaries who run Planet Dayme and are in battle with the Hellios on Planet Rors, and how one hundred years ago, they lived in peace but then Planet Norax exploded and it all went to hell…and then there’s that thing with King Mordel and his five beautiful daughters and the suitors from Planet Snark…

Not so much.  The reader doesn’t need to know a Complete History of ______.  All they need is a short, well-written implosion that makes the reader go, “Huh!”  Every word should be a soldier on the battlefield, drawing the person to read on by downloading the sample or even buying the book.  Key words: Make Every Word Count.

This means asking for feedback.  Tweaking and un-tweaking.  Removing sentences that your friends say don’t fit or aren’t necessary.  Consult people who have read it and people who haven’t.  The blurb is one of the ways you entice someone to take a chance on your books; don’t skimp.

And for F*@K’s sake people, if there is a typo in your blurb, you should be strung up by your toes.

Lessons Learned #4: THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OF ALL.

Editing.

“But, my grammar is perfect!” you say.

No.  It’s not.

“I don’t need help.  I’m a great writer!  I’d never write in a plot hole!” you whine.

Nope. Not true.  In my first draft of The Temple, Vale took a shower, answered a phone call, and then turned right around to take a bath.  In Eternal Youth, Callie was in Guatemala, and I called it South America…and my brother was born in Guatemala!!  In Abigail, the protagonist is sold into slavery, and then immediately left alone to have a conversation with her brother…yet doesn’t try to run away?

EVERY AUTHOR NEEDS AN EDITOR.  Yes, your book is your baby, and you think it sparkles and glows like a vampire in teen fiction.  But the harsh truth is every book, whether written by a 14-year-old girl or by Stephen King, NEEDS AN EDITOR.

There are a couple different types of editing.  Let me begin this by saying EVERY BOOK NEEDS A SUBSTANTIAL EDIT. This is the edit that digs so deep into your book it makes you sweat. This is an edit that seems to know your own book better than you do.  This is the edit that will turn your work of art into an absolute masterpiece.  After you get a substantial, you should get a copy-edit.  This is the edit that cleans up your grammar and makes sure you don’t have sentences that make no them there sense.  Finish out with a proofreader or two for last minute typos.  Courtney Milan wrote a great post about her methods here.  Go. Read.

I learned editing the hard way.  The problem indies run into is that editing is soooo expensive.  An average novel is around 70-thousand words; that can put an author into paying nearly $1100 on JUST the substantial edit for that book.  Add another 250 for the copy edit, another 100 per proofread, and you end up with quite a tally.

Authors don’t generally have this kind of money.  We work full-time jobs that pay the bills paycheck-to-paycheck.  Where on earth are we going to get an extra two grand to edit our book??  So this is why you find so many books online that are poorly edited.

But, it’s a vicious cycle.  You can’t afford editing, you’re gonna end up with bad reviews.  You do shell out the money for editing, and you’re looking at a very long time before that book earns enough back to break even.  At the rate The Temple sells, the money I just dished out on editing won’t be earned back for between 3 to 5 years.  Long time, huh?

Editing is not a scary process.  You have to remove yourself from the edits and look at them from an outsider’s point of view.  Here is a picture from my Abigail edits (an insane work in progress; I received the edits from my editor in late May.  I’m STILL working my way through them.  But, I’m doubling my word count and digging deeper into the world…you just can’t beat that.)  That’s a whole lotta purple.  But that purple is making Abigail into the book I know it can be.  And when I’m done, it will go to my copy editor, then hit a couple proofreaders, before I format and reupload the brand new book.

I’ve just gotta survive the edits!

My editor is Sarah Billington.  She’s FABULOUS.  And while I’m only just now going through edits on my previous novels, all of my future novels will be edited by my team before they ever hit the interwebs.

***

That’s all she wrote, folks.  Edits, blurbs, covers, and formatting.  The four MUSTs of professional publishing.  Sometimes, we just have to learn the hard way.  Then we rush to catch up.  I wish the knowledge and understanding I’ve gained in the past year had settled in just a little bit sooner.

Posted in Lifely Updates | 2 Comments »

Introducing – Fictional Fridays!

September 16th, 2011 by Heather Marie Adkins

Me & David Foster Wallace

and “Chosen” by Jolea Harrison

 

So, there’s this really cool website where you can pop in an example of your writing and get told who it is among famous writers that you most write like. The badge wouldn’t work here at the blog, but I got “David Foster Wallace.”

I sez…who the hades is David Foster Wallace??

David Foster Wallace was born in New York in 1962. He received a Master in Fine Arts for Creative Writing at the University of Arizona in 1987. He published numerous short fictions and nonfictions in his lifetime, but only two novels — The Broom of the System (1987) and Infinite Jest (1996), the latter of which made Time magazine’s All-Time 100 Greatest Novels list, 1923-2006. He committed suicide on September 12, 2008 after a twenty-year battle with depression.

Wallace’s novels are said to be saturated in irony. He experimented with different voices and incorporated jargon and vocabulary that was sometimes made up. He made use of endnotes and footnotes, supposedly to interrupt the linear flow of his work and show his own perception of reality. In his words, “fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being.”

The novel Wallace was working on at the time of his death, The Pale King was published posthumously in April of this year — unfinished.

Bruce Weber from the NYT calls Wallace’s books “prodigiously observant, exuberantly plotted, grammatically and etymologically challenging, philosophically probing and culturally hyper-contemporary novels, stories and essays.” He goes on to say Wallace “wrote long books, complete with reflective and often hilariously self-conscious footnotes, and he wrote long sentences, with the playfulness of a master punctuater and the inventiveness of a genius grammarian.”

But, “Wallace was a temperamentally unassuming man, long-haired, unhappy in front of a camera, consumed with his work and its worth, perpetually at odds with himself. Journalists who interviewed him invariably commented on his discomfort with celebrity and his self-questioning. And those who knew him best concurred that Mr. Wallace was a titanically gifted writer with an equally troubled soul.”

When he died at 46, he had only been married to his wife, Karen, for four years :(

This is a long article by The New Yorker about David Foster Wallace.

A BBC documentary (45 mins) on Wallace

Plus, hey, he’s HAWT.

And supposedly, according to this crazy online thing, I write like David Foster Wallace. I’m okay with that. Now, I just have to read his books ;)

Chosen

by Jolea M. Harrison

Even though I’m reading MUCH less now than I used to, I feel like I’m reading BETTER.

Indie writers are a wealth of new ideas and talented writing.  I won’t argue — there IS crap out there.  But when you find the gold, it rises to the top and waves lazily with a smirk on its face.

“Chosen” by Jolea Harrison is one of those books.

 

For everyone else in the world, getting stabbed in the heart means instant death. All it does for Dynan Telaerin is send him to hell.

In Chosen, Jolea M. Harrison transports us to a world on the cusp of destruction, caught in a thousand year cycle of ever-repeating time, trapped between the warring Gods and the demon, Belial, with one young hero chosen to save not just the world, but the Gods themselves.

Dynan finds himself on a corpse-strewn hillside, uncertain if he’s dead or alive, charged with saving the soul of his ancestor, the most powerful telepath to ever exist. Dynan has telepathic powers of his own, only he doesn’t know how to use them. With monsters and minions trying to eat his soul, the demon’s lair isn’t a place conducive to learning anything, except how to run and how to hide.

Can Dynan find his ancestor before the fabric of time is torn beyond repair? Will courage alone be enough to face the greatest evil to exist? Will he lose his soul to save everyone else?

The running starts, and doesn’t stop to the end of this action packed adventure of a young man coming to terms with his life while he’s barely a spirit, through horrors he thought existed only in dreams.

Chosen is the first book of a 7 book series, entitled The Guardians of the Word.

This book literally blew me away.  Like I was sprawled against the wall.  Melted into a puddle of Jolea fan-girlness.  I highly recommend it.  And I don’t really read fantasy!

Desperately awaiting book two!!

Find Chosen at Amazon

Also in this week’s book news…

Dear friend, fellow author, talented Zombie King Jack Wallen has finally been able to get his debut Zombie novel “I Zombie I” FREE at Amazon.  Go grab your copy and find out just how awesome sauce he is.

Talia Jager, another member of the Indie Eclective, has uploaded her 5th book, Secret Bloodline, a 2.99 Young Adult paranormal romance.  I was lucky enough to beta read this book and I definitely recommend it.

The Eclective is seeing quite a few downloads of The Halloween Collection.  We hope to see it take off even more towards the holiday itself :)

That wraps up Fictional Friday for now!  Come back soon.

Even though no one ever comments when I ask a question, I’m still going to end with one…who do you hope you write most like?

Posted in Fictional Fridays | 4 Comments »

The Halloween Collection by The Indie Eclective

September 7th, 2011 by Heather Marie Adkins

 

It’s here!  The best damn group of indie writers this side of, um, Jupiter!  (What?  I couldn’t think of anything better.)

THE HALLOWEEN COLLECTION FROM THE INDIE ECLECTIVE

The Indie Eclective: What is it, who are they, and why can they spell neither “eclectic” nor “collective” correctly? The Indie Eclective is an ensemble of authors operating under the assumption that Readers like Good Books. The Halloween Collection showcases spooky reads from nine very different authors. Whether you enjoy light or dark paranormal, YA or adult-themed genres, there’s bound to be a story to suit your tastes. Thanks for reading!

In the Collection…

Rhyn Trilogy: Origins, by Lizzy Ford: Gabriel’s fate as an assassin seems set until he meets a courageous half-demon child named Rhyn, whose plight rekindles the humanity he thought he’d lost.

Ralphie the Special Werewolf by P.J. Jones: Ralphie doesn’t want to get snipped, but his pack is tired of watching him defile the sofa cushions. Now, he’s got to find a mate by Halloween night—or else.

Sunwalker’s Kiss by Shéa MacLeod: While searching for a magical bloodline, Sunwalker Jackson Keel discovers magic of a different kind.

The Village of Those Who Touch The Dead by M. Edward McNally: “All obligations will be paid. There are no exceptions.”’

Haunting in OR 13, by Alan Nayes: Halloween never frightened Sara McCaffe, until she stepped into Operating Room 13!

To Taste of Shimmering Revenge by Jack Wallen: A vampire is awakened after four hundred years only to find his kind embarrassed and shamed by the rash of shimmery, hunky vampires on the big screen. His revenge will be sweet and tasty.

Magickal Vendetta by Heather Adkins - Revenge is a dish best served up in a pink saucepan for accident-prone blood witch, Gretchen.  By harnessing the power of Halloween, she hopes to break the bond with the soulmate who did her wrong.

From the Keegan’s Chronicles series:  Haunted House by Julia Crane - Keegan, Lauren, and Anna find much more than they bargained for during an innocent trip to a commercial haunted house.  Someone long dead awaits them on the second floor…

From the Gifted Teens series: Mind-Blower by Talia Jager - Kassia and Daxton’s romantic picnic is interrupted by the arrival of creatures bent on her destruction.  Will her powers fail her when she needs them most?

It’s FREE.  It’s full of talent, whimsy, and maybe just a little bit of gore…pick it up now at Smashwords!

Coming soon to Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Posted in Ecrire, Indie Authors, Stuff I Write | 1 Comment »

Updates, Updates, Updates!

August 27th, 2011 by Heather Marie Adkins

I’ve been really bad about blogging because I’ve been insanely busy.  However, I do have about five draft blogs started and just hanging out in my dashboard–I’ll get to them eventually.

What’s happening now? A lot.

The Indie Eclective has launched! Yes, we know how to spell eclectic and we surely know how to spell collective, but we’re a group of authors flaunting (or flouting?) both.  The Eclective consists of:

We few, we proud, we are authors who spread across genres like peanut butter on pickles–um, or not.  From horror to paranormal romance to epic fantasy and parody, the nine of us talented, somewhat weird writers offer something for everyone’s tastes.  The truth of the ereading revolution is that many readers are stepping outside their comfort zones and sampling new and interesting genres simply because the price is right.   The hope we collectively (or eclectively) share is that we can bring quality books to people by working together.

The Indie Eclective will be releasing our first anthology of short stories in October as a promotion for our books. It will be Halloween themed–ooooo.

My hush hush project with a fellow Louisvillian author is about to commence, as well.  Keep Louisville Writing is the brain child of horror/thriller writer Jack Wallen and myself.  During the month of September, you may see flyers ALLLL around town pimping our books and our website. “Keep Louisville Weird” has been a motto for supporting local business for as long as I can remember, so Keep Louisville Writing is our petition for those Weird Louisvillians to support their local authors.

Both Abigail and The Temple are going in to Print form, hopefully this weekend.  I’d love to have them up and active by the first week of September for Keep Louisville Writing, but this is Print On Demand publishing we’re talking about here.  Nothing goes according to plan.

“Snowbunnies in Hell” will be released on or around August 29th!!  Check back, I’ll post as soon as it’s live :)

I am in the middle of several projects.

  • I’m formatting an ebook for my dear friend and beta reader, Katy.
  • I’m working on “polishing” a manuscript for an author friend.
  • I have finished Constant State of Disaster and I am getting ready to do a final revision before sending it out to betas.
  • Then I’ll be moving on to my first young adult novel, a paranormal romance that needs significant revisions before going to the betas.

In other news, I have a zucchini in my garden that could quite possibly kill a person.  The two roosters are still alive and crowing in my chicken coop, for now.  If they don’t find new homes soon, I’m dropping them in the sewer.  (Not really, PETA, relax…I kid I kid.)  Our neighbors are getting a new roof so I didn’t sleep for shizzle yesterday and I’m quite cranky.

Oh, plus, I’m REALLY upset with my place of employment. That enigmatic light at the end of the tunnel beckons…quitting the day job and writing full time.  Maybe one day :(

That’s the scoop, folks.  Busy girl here.

Posted in Lifely Updates | 4 Comments »

Indie Author Spotlight – Jack Wallen

August 3rd, 2011 by Heather Marie Adkins

It’s time for another edition of Indie Author Spotlight, and today, I want to scream praises for JACK WALLEN.

You may recall, Jack guest posted here at the Cottage several weeks back on how indie publishing puts control in the hands of the author.  A great post, and well worth the read.

I’m a fan.  Jack is a proponent of supporting indie publishing, as well as an eloquent and talented writer who can weave a story and keep you at the edge of your seat with it.  I haven’t read his zombie series yet, though it is on my to-read list.  Today, I’m posting my review of his thriller “A Blade Away.”  I just recently purchased the sequel titled “Gothica”, which I’m thoroughly lookng forward to reading.

From Goodreads:

Killers and victims on the fringes of society are the focus of the ‘Fringe Killer’ series. “A Blade Away” kicks it off with a murderous transgendered twist.

“I am the last true artist.”

Jamie Davenport is a struggling young officer on the Louisville Police Force. In her first homicide case, Jamie must track down a twisted killer who preys upon transgendered men to bring about The Change and transform them into their “true selves”.

“I am da Vinci with flesh.”

However, even with the help of her friend and mentor, Skip Abrahm, she finds herself fighting a war on three fronts: a victimized population reluctant to cooperate, a police force unwilling to take the crimes seriously, and a killer that is always one step ahead.

“I am a god with your gender.”

Warning: Contains adult situations and material.

My Review of A Blade Away:

This is an extremely shocking book. I dig shock factor, though I know a lot of people don’t. A Blade Away made my skin crawl. It is an in-depth picture of the inner workings of a serial killer’s mind–a serial killer who doesn’t know he IS a serial killer. It deals with the hardships of being homosexual, being a female police officer, and the identity issues transgendered folks face. It is touching, painful, and intriguing.  I’m looking forward to reading the next books in the series.

5 Stars!

According to Jack’s site, he will be releasing the second book in the Zombie apocalypse series, My Zombie My, TOMORROW!!

Jack’s Website

Jack’s Books Online

 

Posted in Ecrire, Indie Authors | 1 Comment »

IWU Blog Tour #3 – Guest Post by Jack Wallen

June 28th, 2011 by Heather Marie Adkins

Guest post by indie Jack Wallen from right here in my hometown.  Enjoy!

Control Issues:

Or why I decided to be an indie author

***

Notice I do not say “Or why I decided to self publish”. Why is that? Because “self publishing” carries along with it a stigma that implies a lesser product. That is not the case with “indie author”, because we are many, we are mighty, and our “products” are outstanding.

That being said…let me bend your ear a bit about the choice to go “indie”.

When I started writing, over two decades ago, I had no idea what I was really doing. Mostly I was writing stage plays that would wind up getting some production. But mostly my writing was serving a very simple purpose – cheap therapy for yours truly. But eventually the writing would take over and I would come to realize the words not only held a powerful sway over me, but others as well. People would “accidentally” read some of my work and beg for more. Short stories started turning into much longer stories and eventually books that would never see the light of day.

Those were the early days where writing a story with a meandering plot and dimension-less characters was okay so long as the emotional connection and conviction was there. And it was – oh how it was. Even though there was much missing in those earlier works, they served as a powerful outlet for the creative monster that lived inside of me. That creative monster would eventually dictate the only path for me that held any sort of truth…indie publishing.

I am not a control freak. Far from it actually. I know the only thing I can control is my reaction to an external stimulus. Outside of that I fully understand we are all just swimming in the chaotic pool of entropy known as life. However….

Thanks to my going the indie route, there is one thing that I can control and that is who has the last say in my work…me. To the core, I am an artist. I love to create. Creativity is the main course in my soul’s daily meal and if I neglect to feed that beast, it gets rather irritable. But still, that doesn’t fully answer the question – or does it?

Being an indie author gives me license to:

  • Mingle genres.
  • Break rules generally not broken.
  • Create my own covers.
  • Freely market my books.
  • Use my content in ways that might not be allowed otherwise.
  • Draw outside the lines.
  • Make my own deadlines.

I like those options. But most of all, I like that those options allow me to flex my creative muscles in ways traditional publishing would never allow. How can any creative type pass that up? But that’s not all…

When I was an actor I saw the writing on the wall early on. The economy of the country was about to drop the hammer on the arts, which would, in turn, negatively affect small theatres across the land. So, before I wound up becoming a statistic in the dying of the arts, I decided to call it a career. I think a similar death knell is being sounded for traditional publishing. Not that I think, in any way, traditional publishing will go away. It won’t. The consuming public still likes their hard back and paper back books. But traditional publishing, as we know it now, is on the outs. The model is broken and must be fixed. What that fix is, I do not know. I strongly believe traditional publishers are somewhat lost as to what to do. The indie author picked up a baton in the book marathon and bolted out of the gate like Usain Bolt chasing after yet another record. Those of us fortunate to jump into the race early won’t have to worry about playing catch up or learning the rules…because we are making the rules and that, my dear, feels really good.

We, indie authors, have assumed control and that is a powerful feeling. My creative monster is thrilled by my choice of being an indie author…and so am I. Because of this I now have the following published works:

I Zombie I

A Blade Away

Gothica

Soon, the following titles will be added to the mix:

  • Shero (super hero satire) Late July, 2011
  • My Zombie My (second in the “I Zombie” trilogy) August 4, 2011.
  • Die Zombie Die (third in the “I Zombie” trilogy) Late October, 2011.
  • Endgame (working title) Late fall 2011.

I also plan on creating a new post-apocalyptic series, based on the “I Zombie” trilogy, which will hopefully see the light of publication early 2012.

For more information on me and/or how to contact me, take a look at these sites:

  • Get Jack’d: http://www.monkeypantz.net
  • Twitter: jlwallen
  • Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jlwallen

Posted in Ecrire, Indie Authors, IWU Blog Tour | 3 Comments »

 
I am ALWAYS willing to give away ebook copies of my novels to anyone willing to read and review, so please don't hesitate to email me and request a book(s) at heather@heathermarieadkins.com

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