Monday, March 31, 2014

Transparent Ebook Deal

Excellent news! If you haven't had a chance to get your hands on TRANSPARENT, the ebook is on sale for the two weeks leading up to the release of HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW. Just $1.99! I highly recommend the book (as you would imagine)—especially if you like superpowers that kind of suck, sarcasm, and general weirdness. These are my specialties.

Feel free to let other people know about the deal. Use the image above. Whatevs. And if you love TRANSPARENT, don't forget that the sequel BLINDSIDED is also available for a very reasonable $6.54. Don't be deceived by the cover—there is about 2.5 times the mayhem of book one.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Look Back Every Once In A While

College graduation, 2006. Why yes, I have a baby—
this is how it's done at BYU, hehe.
Yesterday I went to my alma mater, Brigham Young University, to speak to a class that was about the publishing industry. I was asked by the lovely TA to present on Traditional versus Indie Publishing, since I've now had the chance to learn about both.

Now, even though I live pretty close to BYU, I honestly haven't been on campus in years. And certainly not since I've become a published author. As I parked in visitor parking (not the forever far away student parking like I'd done for so many years), stepped out of my car, and began the familiar walk to my old boss's office, that whole nostalgia thing came over me.

But more than that, this shocking sense of accomplishment. As I thought about the young 20-something I was when I went to that university, all the dreams she had…I realized that I was walking on campus today as the person I could only dream I'd become when I was a student.

I came extra early so I could visit with my old boss at Multicultural Student Services, Lynette Simmons, who gave me my first experiences as a writer, editor, and designer for Eagle's Eye, the Multicultural alumni magazine that has since disappeared. It was so great to talk with her, to be able to tell her all those things I learned while working for her were extremely useful (especially in going Indie).

I grabbed something to eat before the evening class, feeling strange in the food court with my very high heels, surrounded by students in much more comfortable footwear. There were so many times while I was in school that I sat in that same place, studying and eating before work. But it felt so weird to look over my notes before class, thinking that I'd be the one to teach that night.

It was so fun. The class was great, and my co-presenter, Courtney Alameda, was fabulous. The whole thing just went so well that even the snow and rain I had to walk through after didn't seem so bad (I was very glad I'd brought my umbrella just in case!).

As I sat in my car after, a little cold and barefoot since my shoes were soaked, I took a moment to be grateful. Sometimes I get so caught up in what I haven't gotten yet, in where I haven't been, that I forget I was once a student with a dream that felt impossible. Yesterday I got to hold up four books with my name on them, and I realized how much of a Big Deal that would have been to me when I was sitting in those seats.

Not gonna lie—it felt amazing. And you have to hold on to those moments in all this crazy we call the publishing industry.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Oh Yeah…I'm On Sub.

Me, not even a year ago (May 21, 2013), with my debut
novel at the bookstore, all signed and official.
(Yeah it's blurry but it's the only pic I have.)
Last week I was a big, grumpy ball of angst and general hate. By Friday I think I had snapped at every single friend or family member who'd talked to me.

Friday night was a particular mess, since I had to say goodbye to my parents and little sister, who moved all the way across country to Florida. They have always been within a 10-20 minute drive, and now…all my immediate family is either in New Zealand or Florida. And here I am in Utah, a little bit adrift.

But anyway, as I was crying and mad at the world, I kept thinking, "Man, what the crap is WRONG with me? Yeah, it's all hard, but at the same time I'm way more angry and upset than this merits."

And then the thought came to mind: "Oh yeah…I'm on sub."

Being on submission to editors is kind of like having a little monster on your back that gets heavier and heavier the longer it's there. Sometimes you hardly notice its presence, and other times it gets heavier and you remember what you're carrying and it all feels so crushing you just want to push it off and move on at normal speed.

That weight? It makes you cranky. It makes you sad. Sometimes you don't realize that little monster is the root of the problem, but it often is. Every time I've been on sub (and that's been many times now), I become a worse person. It's the depressing truth.

I feel like such a failure. Every pass is like that little monster getting heavier. Yes, even though I have three books coming out before I reach one year of being a published author, I feel like a total FAILURE. It's ridiculous. (But not uncommon, I believe.)

I know it's not rational, but all the "this was great but not right for me" and "your books aren't meeting expectation" and "I didn't connect with the mc" and "I felt like the plot relied too much on The Issues" (whatever that means)…it gets to you. You move past it for the most part, but there are days when they sneak up on you, all the little monsters in the forest following you around and waiting for you to look back and remember they're right behind you.

So as if sub isn't stressful enough, I have my family leaving me and another book releasing in three weeks and a rough draft I'm trying to FINISH in that three weeks. No wonder I'm such a wreck, right?

You have to cut yourself some slack during these times, remember that while you don't WANT sub to hurt—it just adds up. The weight gets heavier and heavier. So be kind to yourself. Try to remember how far you've come, even if it seems impossible to get where you want to be. I've been pulling out old pictures like this one above to remind me of my journey, both the good and bad parts.

And maybe more importantly, warn the people in your life that you will likely be cranky during this time. Tell them about the heavy monster on your back. Maybe they can't carry it for you, but they can support you along the way if they know it's there.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Indie Publishing: The Numbers To Get You Started

I don't think it's a secret that indie publishing in on the minds of many a writer these days, especially us midlisters who don't garner as much benefit from traditional publishing as lead titles or bestsellers. Since I originally announced that I would be publishing RELAX, I'M A NINJA myself, I've gotten many queries from writer friends and acquaintances who are curious about the process, time investment, and cost of getting that book out there.

Also, attending some conferences, I've heard fairly inaccurate information from traditional publishing about just how much cost (they usually over exaggerate this) and how much time (they usually under exaggerate this) it really takes. It actually drove me a little bit batty that I couldn't chime in and set the record straight. So I'm doing it here.

First, let's start with the misconceptions surrounding the TIME it takes.

1. You can publish a novel really fast if you go indie!
True and False. It really depends on how you plan to go about putting your work out there. While it is true that you can upload your novel direct to Kindle within a few days, this assumption disregards the preparation you have to put in.

At minimum, you have to at least FORMAT your novel for Kindle in order for it to appear properly on the device/app. If you do this yourself, it can be tedious and you will make mistakes the first time around. If you pay someone, you have to wait for them to do it. And that's just for Kindle. There are separate formats your book has to be in for iBooks, Nook, Kobi, etc. It is a whole process to upload all those and make sure they're right.

And if you are offering print copy options, it can take a lot longer to prep your novel. You of course have to at least do minimum layout work for the inside, choosing the print size of the novel (5.25x8, 5.25x8.25, 6x9, and more). There is also a full cover to design, instead of just a front cover if you go ebook only. You have to write cover copy. After you upload the novel, it takes up to 6 weeks for all the distributors to get it into their system.

That's the MINIMUM for those formats. Most indies go much further than that. The biggest factor of course being paying for a professional editor to put their book through the wringer. This can take many months, and that's after you get in your editor's queue. Because freelance editors are busy and they don't just drop everything to do your book. Indies also most often seek out a professional designer for their covers and interiors, and the design process can take a month or more. There is cover stock to find and purchase, along with fonts to find/buy and possible illustrations to commission if you are going that direction. Then there are layout proofs and all that jazz.

Especially if it's your first time going indie, this can all take even longer because there's a learning curve. And…this is only the half of it. The making-the-book part, never mind the writing part and the business part and the marketing part.

2. So how long does it really take?
I see veteran indies able to go through the editing, designing, formatting process in 2-3 months. Because they have the kinks worked out, have their templates set, and they know to schedule time with their editors and designers in advance. Yes, this is still much shorter than a traditional publisher (who puts out hundreds of books a season where an indie is putting out maybe 1 or 2 at best a season), but it's still a ton of work and time.

As a noob to this, it's taken me a lot longer. I'll have taken almost 9 months to put my first out, though I think I could have done it in 6 months if I didn't have other responsibilities with my traditional publishers.

NOTE: This doesn't even include the time it would take you to acquire a business license (which I recommend if you are considering publishing more than one novel yourself). Depending on your state, it can take up to a few months to work out all the approvals and get that shiny piece of paper. Mine personally took 3 months to iron out all the issues (after it's easy because you just renew each year).
To sum, here are times for each indie publishing thing if you "do it right," as they say:
Business License: 1-3 months
Editing: 1-3 months
Design: 1-2 months
Formatting: 1-4 weeks
Uploading To Distributors: 3-6 weeks 

Next up, here are the general COSTS surrounding indie. I'm using costs for what I've learned are about the minimum you can get away with and turn out a good product. This isn't the "cheapest," but like I said the emphasis is on a good to amazing product. Of course you can do everything yourself and pay less, but well, most serious indies don't do that.

3. How much can I expect to pay for my first indie novel?
It seems to average around $1500 for most people to turn out a respectable product. Adding up my costs, I'm about there. A little over because I chose to work through Lightning Source, which has fees for uploading your novel.

4. Where does that money go?
The biggest costs are editing and design, but there are also some costs people don't consider. Here is my basic breakdown.
Editing: $500+ (For a comprehensive editing process—big picture to line edits to copy edits. You can pay for less, for example just copy edits cost less, but it's in your best interest to get the full treatment.)
Cover Design: $150-300+ (Many designers charge less for an ebook only, because it's just the front cover. But a full paperback will cost more and then a full jacket for a hardcover costs the most.)
Cover Stock: $20-150+ (If you want an image on your cover that isn't yours, yes, you have to pay for it. Your designer will most likely not pay for it, or they will add the cost of the cover stock to your tab, so to speak. Also, if you commission art or a photo shoot it will likely cost more.)
Cover/Interior Fonts: $0-$100s+ (You can find some fonts for free commercial use, but there are many fonts that you have to pay for if you are using them commercially. They really vary on price and can be ridiculously expensive [like in the $1000s in some cases]. The font on RELAX, I'M A NINJA? I got lucky because it only cost $20.)
Interior Design: $50-100+ (This is for print book only, but you want the design to be nice and professional. If you do it yourself, you better learn what is standard for the industry on margins, gutters, leading, font size, indentation, etc.)
Ebook Formatting: $50+ (If you don't want to deal with learning every single ebook format, I highly recommend paying a pro to do it for you. They will be much faster and accurate.)
Business License: $30-100+ (It really depends on your state and city, but it's the government and of course there are fees.)
Business Name: $20+ (If your choose to register a business name, there is usually a fee attached to it.)
ISBNs: $125-250+ (Yes, you have to buy those! There are some ebook formats that don't require an ISBN, but if you want to be found in the system you really want one. The thing is, it's costs $125 for ONE ISBN, but $250 for TEN. And if you're doing print and ebook, you need a different ISBN for each format…so really you should just buy ten.)
Marketing: $0-$1000s+ (This is where it can get really crazy if you have the cash. And this isn't entirely necessary but I'm including it for kicks. There's the standard bookmarks and such. You can pay for ads on like GoodReads or I've heard some people pay for Blog Tours. You can pay to get reviewed by trades reviewers like Kirkus. You can shell out cash to get on NetGalley.)
Book Inventory: $100+ (If you want copies of your own novel to hand sell, you have to pay the distributor for them upfront. Plus shipping. It can get very pricey to keep a lot of your novels on hand [which is why the e-distributing is so awesome].)
5. How much do I have to sell to earn back my costs?
Ah, this is the magical question, right? I have The Maths for you! Well, the basic math. I'm not gonna do the in-depth because it's too early and also I just hate math.

So, we'll do ebook sales on Kindle only (you can usually price your paperback to give you about the same return). As indie, you get 70% royalty on Kindle (Usually 60-70% in other formats). I will present to you a few prices and the accompanying numbers to recoup your investment.

Ebook at $4.99: You will receive $3.49 in royalty per sale, thus you need to sell 430 books to make back $1500.

Ebook at $3.99: You will receive $2.79 in royalty per sale, thus you need to sell 538 books to make back $1500.

Ebook at $2.99: You will get $2.09 a sale, and need to sell 718 books to make back $1500.

NOTE: If you sell your novel below $2.99, you forfeit the 70% royalty rate for a much lower one.

And those are the basics! I will not get into what is or isn't more advantageous when it comes to indie vs. traditional—I only wanted to provide the information people now often ask me. No one can tell you which is the right way for you, and as a hybrid I really do believe there are advantages and disadvantages to both sides. If you have any questions, I will happily answer them in comments or direct you to smarter people.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Relax, I Have A Blurb!

*pets the pretty cover*
"A fun and exciting melee of romance, roundhouse kicks and espionage that will keep you guessing until the end."
 —Amanda Sun, author of The Paper Gods series (INK, RAIN, and the free novella SHADOW)
Yay! Thanks so much to Amanda for reading and saying nice things. I originally didn't plan to ask for any blurbs for RELAX, I'M A NINJA—mostly because I've done it twice already and it's the most excruciatingly awkward thing to do as an author.

But fate smiled upon me I guess. In truth, I approached Amanda while I was working on copy edits, because I wanted to do one last check of the Japanese I used in my book and I knew she had a lot of experience with the language because her novels are set in Japan.

Since she's an amazingly generous person, she offered to go the extra mile and read the whole book, rather than just the Japanese phrases. When she got back to me with her corrections and positive feedback, I was a punk and decided to go out on a limb and ask if she might blurb it as well.

So basically, I'm saying that Amanda Sun is awesome. And if you haven't read INK yet, you should check it out. Especially if you enjoy Asian mythology and books not set in America.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

NIL by Lynne Matson! Out Today!

Charley from NIL by Lynne Matson
A long time ago (maybe two years now?), I offered a crit and drawing for auction during the Alabama disaster. A lovely woman named Lynne Matson bought that package, and I got to read NIL. A mysterious island. A team of teens trying to survive. A year to get off or you drop dead for no reason.

I knew this book had potential, and Lynne took my crits and ran with them. She ran so well that she got herself an agent and sold NIL! Now that book is out today! And I couldn't be happier for this wonderful person and her wonderful book.

But here's the sad thing—I never made good on my part to draw her something from her book. She had even requested I draw Charley, and I was horrible and never got around to it. Being the nice person she is, Lynne let me off the hook and said it was fine. Except I've always felt guilty about it, because really it's the least I could do and she paid for it!

So I'm making good on the deal now. Lynne, happy book birthday to NIL! And here is your long-time-coming-very-first-fan-art of Charley from me! Hope you have an amazing day and do nice things for yourself and celebrate the big accomplishment it is to debut. May NIL find all the readers who will love it:)