Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

My NaNoWriMo Retrospective continues with a look back at 2003. I came, I wrote, I bought the t-shirt. And I wrote “THE END.”

nanoretro2003This was my second year of NaNoWriMo, and the year I wrote the first draft of One’s Aspect to the Sun. I learned a lot about novel-writing that year, including the fact that sometimes characters you intend to kill off in the second chapter just keep hanging around until you realize they’re not ready to die after all. I also found out how fulfilling it is to reach some semblance of an ending and type those two wonderful words.

I wasn’t certain if this was the year I became a Municipal Liaison, but I’ve just gone and checked my email (yes, I’m an email hoarder, I confess), and this was the year I started. So I’m glad to have that figured out, because I’m never sure when filling out the ML form each year. It didn’t occur to me before this to just go and check those old emails, for which I really have no excuse. As I recall, we were a pretty small group that year, and far-flung across the Island, as we still are, although there are definitely more of us participating now. I remember mailing out pins and possibly stickers to a few participants.

Anyway, this is a big year in the retrospective, because the draft I wrote this year became my first published novel (from Tyche Books) in…wait for it…2013. In November, even! Yes, ten whole years after I wrote that first draft. Now, I wasn’t working on it constantly during those ten years (I wrote a lot of other stuff in there, too), but I did write several drafts. I submitted it to the Atlantic Writing Competition (now Nova Writes) and took second place (which one of the organizers assured me meant that the novel was “publishable”), and rewrote it using the feedback I received from the judges. After a couple more rewrites and submissions, it found its home at Tyche. The beautiful cover art is by the talented Ashley Walters. The book was named “Speculative Fiction Book of the Year” by the Book Publishers of Alberta.

Here’s the blurb, which remained pretty much the same from the time I first wrote it in 2003 until the book came out:

When Luta Paixon, captain of the merchant trader Tane Ikai, looked in the mirror, she saw a woman in her thirties–even though she was actually eighty-two. Luta’s only explanation might lie with the mother who had disappeared over sixty years ago. But even if her mother were still alive, it would be no small task to track her down in the vast, wormhole-ridden expanse of Nearspace. With the ruthless PrimeCorp bent on obtaining Luta’s DNA at any cost, her ninety-year-old husband asking for one last favor, and her estranged daughter locking horns with her at every turn, Luta’s search for answers will take her to the farthest reaches of space–and deep inside her own heart.

Looking back at my spreadsheet from this year, I see that I finished November with a word count of 50,715. On the second day, my note says, “A little worried that I don’t know where I’m going,” but by the end of the first week I seem to have settled into a groove and flown straight on till morning. I actually finished on the 27th, averaging 1878 words per day.

Which year will we visit next? Stay tuned!

Connections

Apr. 11th, 2016 07:42 pm
sherrydramsey: (Default)

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

bridgesThe other day I wrote here about not being really keen on marketing and promotion, and for the most part, that’s true. However, I was thinking afterward about a side benefit that sometimes goes along with promotion, and that’s connecting. Connecting with readers, connecting with other authors, connecting with others in the industry. And that part, I do like.

Over the past number of weeks, I’ve been very fortunate to forge some new connections, particularly with other authors, through these promotional efforts. In the Rogues bundle from Tyche Books, I’ve been in the company of Rebecca Senese, Michael Wallace, Daniel Arenson, Jamie Grey, and Edward W. Robinson. In the Middlings Bundle, I’m sharing space with Anthea Sharp, Michael Warren Lucas, Michael A. Stackpole, Dean Wesley Smith, Blaze Ward, Mindy Klasky, Leah Cutter, Kristene Kathryn Rusch, and Daniel Keys Moran. And tomorrow evening I have a Facebook chat for Dreaming Robot with Dianna Sanchez and Susan Jane Bigelow. Some of these authors I already knew from various places like the SF Canada listserv, Twitter, or Second Life, but others are new connections, and for all of them, I’m grateful. One never knows where new connections will lead or what might grow out of them.

I don’t mean that I look on all these connections only from the point of view of how I might profit from them–not at all. I might be able to help someone else. Maybe they might benefit from something I share. I might learn something I didn’t know before, something that could be large or small and is valuable either way. I might just expand my network of friendly, fun, interesting, and helpful people–someone new to trade jokes and banter with on social media or get book recommendations from. And I might only bask in the reflected glory of having my name linked, even in a minor way, with writers who are far more luminescent than I.

Okay, yes, that last one sounds maybe just a little self-serving. I can live with that. ;)

When I look back at the trail of connections and interactions, especially in my writing life, that led eventually to something unexpected and wonderful, I feel quite amazed. We do so many things without any idea of where they may lead us. This is one reason I always encourage newer writers to become “immersed” in the writing world, whatever that immersion looks like to them. Writing groups (face to face or virtual), workshops, courses, critique groups, convention panels, speaking opportunities, professional organizations, library or school events, or whatever else may come up, say yes whenever you can. The connections you make can be one of the best parts of the writing life.

And I’ve found more great things to read in the course of the recent process. A not inconsiderable benefit all by itself.

Photo Credit: nicksumm at morguefile.com

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

stack-of-books-images-k4233733Another week when I was not at my desk very much–it was school book fair week here, so I spent a fair bit of time organizing and manning that. We had a good week and will be putting a lot of new books into the library as a result. The other payoff is seeing the students get so excited about books. Not to mention dropping a certain amount of my own money there…but we won’t talk about that.

When I was at my desk, I was getting files ready for a bundle that will drop next month–it includes a new story from what I like to think of as “the Nearspace files.” That is, it’s set in the Nearspace universe, but prior to the novels. So it gives a little glimpse into the history of Nearspace, while telling a story that stands in its own. You might already have found the other Nearspace stories I have here on the site, but this novella is something new. I’ll post all the details here when the bundle is ready to go, but I’ll just say that my story will be in some exciting company! Oh, all right–I’ll give you a sneak peek at the cover, as well:

RamseyWaitingToFlyCover

…do you like it? Probably in next Friday’s report (or sooner!) I’ll tell you what the story’s about.

So between editing the story, tweaking the cover, setting up the ebook formats, and miscellaneous other related tasks…that was the week. Add in meetings on three of the five weeknights, and it’s no wonder this isn’t a long report!

I do have one other piece of news, though, and it’s that One’s Aspect to the Sun will be part of a new Space Opera box set, also coming in March. Again, I’ll post all details and links as I have them. This is going to be a great deal, so you won’t want to miss out on it!

And I think that’s the report.

 

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Looks like we’re on track to reveal the cover art for Dark Beneath the Moon…tomorrow! I’m super excited to show you this cover because I simply adore the amazing art by Ashley Walters.

What’s that? You want a sneak peek? Well, okay, just a little one…

DBTMteaseOoh, wow. Who is that? What’s that behind her?

Nope. Can’t tell. Come see tomorrow. :)

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

My publisher for The Seventh Crow, Dreaming Robot Press, has launched its Kickstarter campaign to take pre-orders for the book. I’m pretty excited about this as some of the perks are pretty cool: mini-prints of illustrations from the book! I’ll give you a sneak peek of one here:

Rosinda&Traveller

…but you’ll have to click over to the Kickstarter page to see the rest! It’s right here. There’s also a very cool video you can watch to find out more about the book. Watch for my very own map of the fantasy world of Ysterad in the video!

You also have the option of ordering the book with color or greyscale illustrations, ebooks, multi-packs for classrooms–even a visit from me! (via Skype if I don’t live near you, unless of course you want to pay my way…haha)

The Kickstarter will collect pre-orders and funds will help cover the cost of the illustrations and additional printing costs. There are a limited number of Early Bird copies with special pricing, so don’t miss out!

The book is set to release this August in print and ebook formats.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

file1941286445708I’m so pleased to officially report that my YA fantasy novel The Seventh Crow will be published by Dreaming Robot Press, with an expected release date sometime in 2015.

I wrote the first draft of The Seventh Crow as my NaNoWriMo project in 2005. It’s been through several drafts since then, growing and maturing (I hope!) with every one. No, I would not say that I’ve “been working on this novel for ten years”! Novel revision seems to be a very on-again, off-again kind of thing for me. If we condensed down the time that I actually worked on it, it would fit into a ridiculously shorter period of time. But sometimes that in-between time is important for the book, and for the writer. In any event, I’m very excited that the novel has found a home!

When you can’t remember most of your life, you’d better be prepared for anything. The day a talking crow meets her on the way home from school, fourteen-year-old Rosinda is plunged into a forgotten world filled with startling revelations: magic ability flows in her veins, she’s most comfortable with a sword in her hand, and the responsibility for finding a missing prince rests solely with her.

While dark forces hover in the background and four forgotten war gods from Earth’s past plot to reclaim long-lost power, Rosinda struggles with waves of slowly-returning memories as she searches for clues about her past and the true identity of her family; a search that takes her back and forth between two worlds. In a race against time to recover her memory, find the prince, and rescue her loved ones, Rosinda has only her friend Jerrell and an unusual trio of animals as companions. And as the gods prepare to bring her world to war, Rosinda is unaware that the shadow of betrayal lurks within one whom she trusts the most…

Stay tuned for updates!

Photo credit: curlsdiva

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Today on the blog I’m starting what I hope will be an interesting series of interviews with other authors. First up is D. Emery Bunn. Emery is an author, editor, and engineer, though his pile of interests keeps on getting larger. He got his start in writing thanks to National Novel Writing Month, and is an avid supporter of free culture, the power of writing, and the creative arts. Darkness Concealed is his first novel, but he will be working on the sequel and a cyberpunk short story collection. He lives at his home in Clovis, New Mexico.


Darkness_Concealed_cover-(1500x940)Sherry: Hi Emery! Your dark fantasy novel, Darkness Concealed, releases soon. Can you tell us, first, a little about the book and what it’s about?


D. Emery Bunn: Darkness Concealed is a dark fantasy/mystery, with elements of horror, both psychological and physical, sprinkled throughout. It’s a story that feels dark, yet remains a hopeful vibe. And I could quote the synopsis, but what’s the fun in that?


The world suffers an apocalypse that it calls the Darkening. Well-named considering that the dawn doesn’t come, and the moon and stars bail out, too. In their place is a numberless horde of monsters, each of them more than happy to murder everyone they find, and tear civilization to shreds. Few survive the Darkening, but every other day for 149 years is peaceful and safe.


Nobody knows why the Darkening happens, and people have long since given up trying to find out when four strangers end up bound to each other by chance events. The strangers aim for the impossible: answering that “why”, no matter what it takes. And what it takes is more than they thought they’d ever be willing to give.


Sherry: It certainly sounds intriguing! Now, most writers–as readers–have a lot a influences over time. Who were three of your favorite authors when you were younger? What about now?


Emery: I started on “older” books at a fairly young age. I read Lord of the Rings, Dune, and the Foundation Trilogy at age 13. And in a lot of ways, J. R. R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, and Isaac Asimov are some of the greatest influences. Tolkien for his world-building, Herbert for his philosophical depth, and Asimov for his ability to make everything relate to everything else.


More recently, I’ve also been entranced by the door-stopping work of Neal Stephenson. I’ve read three of his works, including the titanic Baroque Cycle, and still I want to read more. I love how he can go off on a seemingly random tangent, and still take you with him, coming back to the plot at another time that works for him and me. I don’t have anywhere near the confidence to do such a strategy, but it is intriguing.


Sherry: Although writing is usually a solitary craft, most of us have a “support system” of family, friends, and writing groups or colleagues. Who are your biggest supporters?


Emery: I have supporters everywhere. As crazy as it sounds, the people at my work are mind-blown that I’m writing and releasing a book. Every single one says they want to read it.


I’ve also got a large (and growing) support network on Twitter. The vast majority of my publicity push for Darkness Concealed was drawn by asking the people I knew best on Twitter if they’d be willing to help me out. I love interacting with everyone, and offering my own support in one form or another in return.


Finally, my family is supportive, though from a distance. I live on the other side of the country from them, so I don’t draw on them to help me keep writing as much as I would otherwise.


Sherry: That’s wonderful! So let’s talk about the publishing side of things for a moment. Writers have a lot of options today–what made you decide to go the “indie” route? What did you do to prepare yourself to jump into the process of indie publishing?


Emery: I have a very unique view on copyright: I loathe it. I decided early on that anything I ever release will be available, full text, as a free PDF the same day on my site. And that decision limits me to exactly one option: go indie and release it myself.


But beyond that, I love what independent represents, and what it enables. You can market yourself, your books, and your style of writing in any way you want. You can aim for whatever goals make sense to you. Myself, I’m not really worried about making enough to replace my day job (which I do like a good deal), but a little bit of extra money a month would be awesome.


And in no way does my goal limit any one else’s. Going indie can mean anything that you want it to, and I love that.


Sherry: And you’re in this for the long haul. I understand Darkness Concealed is the first book in a series…do you have a schedule in mind for the subsequent books to come out?


Emery: I can’t speak for the third book, but the sequel I’m tentatively planning to have out around July 2015. The first draft will be my NaNoWriMo 2014 project in November, the second draft will be January/February, third draft April/May, final editing late June.


IMG_20131213_205925375Sherry: We’ll be NaNoWriMo pals, then. ;) What else are you working on? Any other current projects?


Emery: During October I want to finish the second draft (and maybe third, we’ll see) of a novella called Nikolay. It’s set in my cyberpunk dystopia/utopia setting Normalization. Everyone is required to be mentally and physically “normal”, and the technology exists to make it happen in both directions (dampening, or enhancing). In return, life is very, very easy-going.


Some people don’t like that, and deliberately break the law by disabling their cybernetic dampening and installing enhancements instead. They live a shadow life, but they get to reach whatever potential they can manage without getting caught and shipped to the asteroid belt. Nikolay is one such person.


Sherry: Sounds like you’re a project-juggler like me. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? What’s your best piece of writing advice for new writers?


Emery: Write a story you want to read. I did that, and no matter what feedback Darkness Concealed receives I will be happy with it. I’m mentally immune to the inevitable 1-star reviews.


For new writers, this is a long, hard road that there is no shortcut on. It might feel like a slog at points, but trust me when I say that the journey is just as fun as the result.


Sherry: Thanks, Emery! D. Emery Bunn’s novel Darkness Concealed releases on September 23rd, 2014. You can find out much more about the novel, Emery, and publication updates at his website, http://www.demerybunn.com. You can also catch up with him on Twitter @demerybunn.


Have a new project you’d like to talk about here? Let me know through the contact page!

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

MP-cover-FINAL-webIf you missed out on last week’s ARC giveaway or didn’t win, I have a consolation prize for you today. The first chapter of The Murder Prophet is live at my website so you can get a taste of the book.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a quirky story, a mashup of urban fantasy (not the sort with vampires, werewolves, or faerie folk) and mystery, flavoured with romance and humour. If you enjoy things like Janet Evanovich’s Lizzy & Diesel books, or Laura Resnick’s Esther Diamond books, or Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shamble, Zombie PI series, I think (without comparing myself to these authors!) there’s a good chance you’ll like The Murder Prophet.

Anyway, Chapter One is here, so check it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

typewriterOne more hard truth, fellow self-publishers, and then I’ll stop haranguing you.

Obstacle #5 – You, the Author

This might sound harsh, but all the other obstacles we talked about really stem from one source—the author. Here’s what a lot of authors miss:

Self-publishing does not mean that you can, must, or should do it all yourself.

I think that’s what trips us up. You may be passionate about doing things your way, sticking it to the “gatekeepers,” or just sharing your story with the world. But don’t lose sight of the fact that publishers do not do everything themselves, either. They use editors. They use cover artists. They use book designers. They use marketers. They use people who are trained in these skills, and like it or not, your book is competing with those books for readers’ money and attention.

Yes, it’s possible to do all those things yourself, and do them all well. Maybe you can. But don’t expect to. Don’t assume you can. Instead, assume you have to educate yourself. You have to learn how to do these things, all of these things, well. And you have to accept that sometimes your best effort will not be enough, and you’re going to need help.

Let’s face it, as writers, we all have to have a touch of ego. We want to tell our stories. We want others to listen. We admit, by the mere fact of writing, that we believe we have something to say. But that ego can be our downfall. It tells us we can make a good book cover—or one that’s “good enough”–with no training or experience at all. It tells us that our writing is pretty darn good without any expensive and time-consuming editing. It tells us that if only we shout and shout and shout about our book enough, make our work “discoverable” enough, people will listen and feel compelled to read it, because it’s just that good.

That ego lies. Don’t trust it. View everything it says with suspicion. Assume you can’t do all those things yourself, and educate yourself if you’re determined to try. There’s a much better chance then that I’ll buy your book, and not put it down after the first five pages. And that other readers will follow suit.

The best news in all of this is that it’s not too late. Even if you’ve made one or more of these blunders, thrown these obstacles up in front of your potential readers, you can fix it. You can upload a new cover for an ebook. You can rewrite and change your blurb. You can upload an edited version of your story. You can start promoting more (or less!) or more effectively. You can decide to educate yourself or get help in the areas where your skills are lacking. If you’re in this for the long game, it’s never too late to improve.

Good luck!

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

1164137_stacked_mailAre you mad at me yet? Do you think I’m being too harsh on self-publishers? I hope not. My goal is to help you make better, and better-selling, books. Keep reading for the next obstacle you have to overcome.

Obstacle #4 – No Editing

This is a big one. Huge. Overwhelmingly huge. Your future as a writer rests on this. Again, this is one of those admonitions that I’ve read over…and over….and over. And still a lot of writers aren’t listening.

I’m sad to say I stopped reading the last three self-published books I took a chance on. In one, the first three pages were entirely missing paragraph breaks. Yup, three pages consisting of one big paragraph. The content was pretty much just the main character explaining stuff that, at that point, had no relevance or meaning to me as the reader. Now, you may think I’m too picky, but for me, that was enough to kill the book for me. The lack of paragraph breaks, such a fundamental technical element of writing, told me that no editor had passed this way. The content was not vital, exciting, or interesting enough to convince me that I should persevere. I can and will overlook mediocre writing if the story is good enough, but if you lose my trust in the first few pages, it’s pretty hard to gain it back.

In another of those books, the first chapter was interesting, but it was liberally sprinkled with misused words and awkward, confusing sentences. It became too much work to keep going, so I stopped. Again, editing could have made the difference.

In the third book, I got a little further. The writing wasn’t bad, the story was interesting. But then things started to go downhill. Events stopped making sense. Characters acted without apparent or understandable motivations. The story went off the rails and again, I lost faith in the author. This book was in need of plot or substantive editing. As writers, we’re not always fully aware of points when the book on the page is not as clear as the book in our head. We need that second pair of eyes to find those things and point them out to us, so we can fix them.

You might say, “Well, so what? You bought the book, so the author got his/her money!” Indeed. But they won’t be getting any more from me, because they lost my trust. And they will also not be getting the good review that could have sparked further sales.

Editorial services are expensive, I get that. Not everyone can afford them. But they’re not your only option. You can swap manuscripts with writing group pals and edit each other. You can get some books on self-editing (I like this one) and teach yourself how to improve. If you can get honest feedback from friends and acquaintances who are avid readers, they might at least be able to tell you that your manuscript has a lot of spelling errors, or doesn’t hold their interest, or doesn’t seem “ready.” This kind of advice may be vague, but at least it tells you that there’s more work to be done. None of these tactics is going to produce the polished manuscript that a professional editor will, but at least you’re making an effort, and it will show in the finished book.

I know. You’re excited about this thing you wrote. You love it. You want to share it with the world. But here’s the hard truth: the world doesn’t want it straight from your keyboard. Look at this graphic from @TheUnNovelist. This is the truth of writing, and your writing won’t do well until you accept it.

There’s one more obstacle I’m going to talk about—the most important one of all. Come back for it tomorrow!

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

promotion-clipart-canstock17025706Here’s the third in this five-part series of posts about the obstacles I see fellow self-publishers still throwing up in front of their potential readers. Today, it’s all about promotion.

Obstacle #3 – No Promotion/Over Promotion/Bad Promotion

This is for books I might find out about online, for example on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. Well, obviously, if you’re not doing this sort of promotion, I’m not likely to hear about your book at all. There’s a slight chance that if it’s in a particular genre niche that I enjoy, I might discover it if I’m browsing that section. But the odds on that are slim, at best. Do you really want to leave it to chance?

1. No Promotion. I heard an author complain the other day that sales of a recent title had dropped off completely. So on a whim, I went looking for the book. I had to search around on the author’s site a bit to even discover the title. I found it on Amazon—but it had no reviews. I found it on Goodreads—again, no ratings or reviews, and the author has not set him/herself up as a Goodreads Author. I looked back over the last week of the author’s Twitter feed—no mention of the book. Granted, I don’t know what other promotional avenues this author has tried. But apparently he or she has not made an effort to get some reviews—not even from friends or colleagues—and is not actively promoting it on Twitter or the website. These are pretty basic promotional efforts, folks. No wonder it’s not selling. Remember, readers have to find out about your book before they can read it.

2. Over-Promotion. The other side of the problem, of course, is those authors who over-promote. To use another Twitter example, when I’m deciding whether or not to follow a writer, I look at their recent Twitter feed. If I see five or more promotional tweets in a row for the same book, I generally don’t follow. I know that I’ll only be annoyed when the same same same tweet keeps showing up in my feed, and there’s no chance I’ll go check out that book. Which is too bad, because sparingly-used tweets can serve as a gentle reminder about books that look interesting to me. There’s a good chance I will at least go to the book’s page at Amazon or elsewhere and see what the cover and blurb look like. But flood me with promos and you turn me off.

3. Bad Promotion. This is what I call shoot-yourself-in-the-foot promotion. This is another thing that makes me sad. The writer who posts an unedited (or poorly-edited) chapter of a novel on Wattpad or a blog to “generate interest.” The writer who shares a sentence, rife with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, on Twitter. These efforts to create interest in the work actually have the opposite effect. They say “Stay away, bad writing ahead.” I’m not saying you have to post only letter-perfect material in every Tweet or Facebook update. But be sure that what you’re sharing is as good as you obviously think it is, or you’re only harming your reputation as a writer.

I know, I know. There are famous authors who share their first drafts, chapter-by-chapter sometimes. But keep in mind that by the time they get to the point of being well-known, these authors are writing pretty good first drafts. They have experience being edited. They likely have considerable editing experience themselves. Writing is a craft where, if you are constantly trying to improve, you do improve with practice. They can do it. Maybe you shouldn’t.

Admittedly, promotion is a delicate balance. The keys, especially in social media, seem to be diversity (using many different vectors), and a consistent message that doesn’t become overwhelming.

Also, be sure you’ve overcome obstacles #1 and #2 before you move on to promotion. When I see a paid ad for a book with a terrible cover, I feel sad again. You’ve actually paid to alienate me from your book.

Two more obstacles left! Be sure to come back tomorrow for Part 4!

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

blurb-shape-mdThis week I’m talking (okay, maybe ranting just a wee bit, but it’s for your own good, fellow self-publishers!) about the fundamental things many self-publishers are still doing wrong, resulting in alienated potential readers and harm to the author’s reputation. Part 1, on book covers, is here.

Obstacle #2 – The Blurb

When I speak of the Blurb, I mean the description of your book that you’ll upload to online sellers. This is generally the next thing your potential buyer/reader will see, after your cover. It’s usually a paragraph or two long and basically explains what your book is about. Sounds pretty simple, right?

And yet I’m amazed at the number of books I come across that are not just missing out on the opportunity to hook readers with their blurb, but actively turning readers away with it. Let’s look at the most common problems:

1. Bad writing. The blurb contains spelling errors, poor grammar, typos and other mistakes. It doesn’t matter how polished and perfect the writing in your book might be, I am never going to get that far if the blurb is badly written. This is your “advertisement” for your book. This is where you tell me what I’m going to get if I invest time and money to read your book. And I’m not going to invest either if the blurb is a mess. I will–I have to–assume the book is, too.

2. Incoherence. Even if there are no overt mistakes in the blurb, it can still turn readers away. If what you have to say in the blurb is confusing, convoluted, or a mismatch with the cover, your potential reader is likely to pass on it. You must craft your blurb as carefully and precisely as you’ve written your book—if not more so. Again, get others to read, proof, and give you feedback on your blurb. It should intrigue and introduce your readers to your book, not alienate them, and it should complement the cover of your book in genre, theme, and style.

3. Invisibility. The author hasn’t even tried to write a blurb for the book, or if they have, they’ve simply provided a vague, generic description. “Detective X must solve the murder of Y before time runs out!” Well, that’s just about every mystery novel I’ve ever read, how about you?

The blurb is your chance to sell me on reading your book. Your chance to make me want to read it. Try to infuse your blurb with the excitement that made you want to write the book. What makes it special? What will keep me turning the pages? Be specific and try to make me care about the problem the character(s) face. If you can do that in your blurb and your cover is good, I’ll likely take a chance on your book.

However, the obstacles are not all behind us yet. Watch for Part 3 tomorrow!

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Hoe's six-cylinder pressBefore we get to this list, let me tell you where I’m coming from on this. I try hard to support and read independent/self-published authors. I have a self-pubbed book coming out soon myself. I’m not a literary snob or a believer in any “one true way” of publishing. Roughly 1 in every 3 to 4 books I pick up will be indie/self published. I’m happy to read them. I want to read them. I’ve discovered some wonderful books and authors this way.

But lately, I’ve been almost immediately putting down quite a few of those that I pick up—some after less than a chapter or only a few pages of reading. And many don’t even make it to the point where I will pick them up.

There are a LOT of books I want to read. I manage 50-60 per year and my shelves and e-readers are still overflowing. So despite my desire to support, I’m not going to waste my precious reading time, either. Your book has to pass several all-important obstacles for me to read it. We’re not even talking about whether I end up liking it yet, so you get that ever-more-important good rating/review. We’re talking about just getting me to read it, all the way through to the end.

Obstacle #1 – The Cover

We should all realize by now the importance of the cover in selling your book. The average cover in a bookstore gets about 8 seconds to interest a potential book-buyer—I’d hazard a guess that online, that window of opportunity is even smaller. I can’t even count the number of articles and blog posts I’ve read that stress the importance of your book’s cover.

And a lot of self-published authors are still getting it wrong.

Look, I’m not saying you can’t create your own cover. Some writers have experience in website or graphic design, art, digital art, etc. You may be perfectly competent to create a good cover. If you have zero experience in any relevant area, you still might be able to do it, but realize that you must tread carefully and do your research. Either way, whether you take a crack at it yourself or hire someone, be smart about it. Here are a few things to think about:

1. If you are inexperienced and can possibly manage it, hire someone to create your cover. There are many options, from pre-made designs to custom artwork, at a range of prices. If you go this route, look over the creator’s portfolio and make sure they create the kind of covers that would make YOU pick up one of these books. I’ve seen some folks offering cover design lately that I shudder to think someone would pay for. Don’t go for cheap over quality, or assume that all designers are equally adept. You wouldn’t dress your new baby up in dirty rags to get her picture taken. Don’t cheat your book of a decent cover.

2. If you feel moderately qualified, take a crack at creating your own cover. If you go this route, do your research first. There are loads of resources online to help you. Like here, here, and here, just to start. And don’t neglect the fonts! A decent cover design can be ruined by the wrong font or not enough attention paid to fonts and title design. At the very least, check here and here before you proceed.

3. If you are self-creating, please, please, PLEASE get a second opinion on your cover when you’re finished. And a third. And a fourth, fifth, and sixth. And not just from people (family and friends) who are going to say nice things even if your cover looks like an incensed monkey threw poo all over it. Ask other writers and readers in your circles, online or in person. If you know an artist or graphic designer, run it by them. Ask for honest opinions and advice.

If you have none of these resources, put your cover on your computer screen and load up some websites or blogs that specifically showcase BAD covers. Compare yours to theirs and ask yourself honestly if you have committed the same types of sins. You MUST be hard on yourself. This is the very first obstacle you have to get potential readers/buyers past.

You may get mixed opinions on your cover—perhaps some people like it and some people don’t. For those who don’t, find out whether their dislike is based on personal taste (they don’t like the colours, or the mood, or it doesn’t look like a book they’d pick up) or unprofessional quality (the fonts are unreadable, images look pasted-in or don’t match, colours clash).

You need a cover that looks professional, and if you can’t create it yourself and won’t pay for it, it’s pretty much game over. Readers are not even going to give you a chance. This is a sad but true fact in the world of self-publishing, and you ignore it at your own risk.

Watch for Part 2 of this series tomorrow, and we’ll talk about the next obstacle!

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

MP-cover-FINAL-webIt starts today! Between today and next Friday (August 22nd), you can enter to win one of the ARCs of The Murder Prophet I have to give away. There will be multiple winners, and one of them could be you!

I’m using Rafflecopter to run the giveaway, and the widget below details the various ways you can enter (and get multiple entries).

Here’s the book’s description:

Kit Stablefield is a detective with a secret and a crush on a guy she knows only online, in a future where magic is a part of everyday life. But when millionaire Aleshu Coro walks into the offices of Darcko and Sadatake with a message from the Murder Prophet and fourteen days to live, everything changes.

Suddenly Kit is questioning the decisions of her past, trying to find out if the man she loves is, in fact, a man, and hunting for a murderer and a mysterious seer. With her eighty-six-year-old grandmother insisting on helping out, and a sentient goose who simply won’t stop pestering her to watch his “killer” video game moves, Kit has more than her hands full as she races against the clock to prevent Coro’s murder…and possibly her own.

So, y’know, if weird magic and virtual worlds and magically-sentient animals are not your thing, you probably won’t like this book. However, if that all sounds awesome, enter below!*

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note that you can tweet about it once a day to accumulate more entries! Good Luck!

*If you are a book blogger or reviewer and would like a copy without having to enter the contest, please send me a message and I’ll get one to you pronto! :)

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

256px-Book_burning I’ve read some books I didn’t particularly like. I’ve read some books that I thought had many technical and craft-related flaws. I’ve written reviews on some of those books.


I’ve never felt the need or desire to destroy an author or their book in one of those reviews. I don’t think it’s necessary, professional, or entertaining.


I’m not writing this post because I’ve received any sort of review like this for my own work (or if I have, I’ve been lucky enough not to see it!). But I’ve read some others lately that alternately make me cringe, and make me angry. Have you seen reviews like this? Where the reviewer seems to take a sick delight in completely eviscerating the work–and by association, of course, the author? They can be cleverly written, sure. But their vitriol against the book is actually repulsive. I’m not going to do any of them the service of linking to them. Sadly, they’re not all that difficult to find.


Yes, there are probably more flawed books available now than there ever were before (although don’t think they don’t/didn’t exist inside traditional publishing since its inception). But I don’t know what can prompt a “reviewer” to write such a screed. Even if you think a book is the worst piece of drivel ever written, that opinion doesn’t give you the right to decimate another human being. You can discuss the flaws you found in the book; you can discuss why it didn’t appeal to you; you can even make suggestions for what would have improved it for you. Those thoughts might be helpful to an author in writing another book, and they might be helpful to other readers in deciding whether to read a book.


But if you’re not writing a review with those goals in mind, why *are* you writing it? If it’s to make yourself look clever and rapier-witted at the cost of destroying someone else–you’re just another online bully. And your credibility with me is a big fat zero.


Photo credit: By Patrick Correia from Northampton, MA, United States (Book burning Uploaded by mangostar) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Today I’m pleased to be one of the blog hosts of the cover reveal for A is for Apocalypse. I love the idea of this anthology (and the idea of the series, of which this anthology is the first title). Would I want to edit it? Heck, no! I stand in awe of editor Rhonda Parrish for taking on this Herculean task.

So what is this task? I hear you asking. Well, in a nutshell:

What do you get when you take twenty-six amazing writers, randomly assign them a letter of the alphabet and give them complete artistic freedom within a theme?

A is for Apocalypse

A is for Apocalypse contains twenty-six apocalyptic stories written by both well-known and up-and-coming writers. Monsters, meteors, floods, war–the causes of the apocalypses in these tales are as varied as the stories themselves. This volume contains work by Ennis Drake, Beth Cato, Kenneth Schneyer, Damien Angelica Walters, K. L. Young, Marge Simon, Milo James Fowler, Simon Kewin, C.S. MacCath, Steve Bornstein and more!

Editor’s Note: Keep reading, kids, there’s a giveaway further down!

What’s so Herculean about that? you’re asking now. Sure, twenty-six stories is a hefty anthology to edit, but longer anthologies have been done before.

Well, the rumour (and I believe it’s quite true) is that Ms. Parrish plans to edit an anthology for each letter of the alphabet, each with a new theme, and each containing twenty-six stories. So that’s, um…*gets out calculator, pokes in numbers, scratches head, pokes in numbers again*…that’s six hundred and seventy-six stories for the series. Phew. Having edited a mere sixty-two stories myself (and co-edited, at that), I can appreciate the enormity of the undertaking.

Well, come on, where’s the cover?

We’re getting there. First, you might like to read the answers to this question, posed by Rhonda to some of her writers:

In choosing a theme for this, the first of a series of anthologies, I considered and rejected a great many “A” words. Tell us about your favourite word that begins with the letter A.

Alexis A. Hunter – As an author — ‘acceptance’ has a beautiful ring to it. As a sci-fi writer — ‘apex’ is particularly engaging. In general — ‘angel’ is one of my favorite words, because they’re one of my favorite ‘creature types’ to play with in stories. Plus I have a thing for wings and feathers.

Damien Angelica Walters – My favourite word that begins with the letter A is anathema. It rolls off the tongue like a whisper, hiding its dark meaning in pretty syllables.

Simon Kewin – My favourite A word is (possibly) Archaeopteryx. I love the shape of the word. It’s exotic and fantastical and ungainly all at the same time – a little like the creature itself. It derives from the Greek archaeo (ancient) and pterux (wing). So, “Ancient Wing”. Archaeopteryx is a lovely illustration of the forces of evolution in progress; it’s a snapshot of a species in the process of changing from dinosaur ancestor to modern avian descendent. Here was a creature with a bony tail and teeth and feathers. And claws on its wings. I’d love to have seen one…

C.S. MacCath – My favourite ‘A’ word is ‘atonement’, because unlike ‘forgiveness’, it places the onus for righting a wrong where it belongs; upon the head of the person who committed it. If we were socialized to atone as much as we are already socialized to forgive, we might learn to be more careful with one another.

Okay, okay, very interesting. Now can we see the cover?

Oh, all right. I’ve made you wait long enough. We writers know the value of a good bout of anticipation, you know. But here it is! (You can click it to see it full-size.)
AisforApocalypse

I think A is for Amazingly Cool. :)

Here’s a little more about the book:

“In A is for Apocalypse, the world ends in both fire and ice–and by asteroid, flood, virus, symphony, immortality, the hands of our vampire overlords, and crowdfunding. A stellar group of authors explores over two dozen of the bangs and whispers that might someday take us all out. Often bleak, sometimes hopeful, always thoughtful, if A is for Apocalypse is as prescient as it is entertaining, we’re in for quite a ride.” – Amanda C. Davis, author of The Lair of the Twelve Princesses

“Editor Rhonda Parrish gives us apocalyptic fiction at its finest. There’s not a whimper to be heard amongst these twenty-six End of the World stories. A wonderful collection.” -Deborah Walker, Nature Futures author.

 A is for Apocalypse / Edited by Rhonda Parrish / Poise and Pen Publishing / ISBN-13: 978-0993699016 / ISBN-10: 0993699014 / Cover Designed by Jonathan Parrish

Available August, 2014

Hey, what about that giveaway?

I didn’t forget! Here’s what Rhonda says:

Giveaway

I’m giving away three ARC copies of A is for Apocalypse (tour-wide). These are physical copies but I am willing to ship them to anywhere in the world. The Rafflecopter draw will run from May 12th to May 19th. On May 20th I will choose three winners and email them in order to get their shipping address. Anyone who doesn’t respond by May 27th will forfeit their prize and I will choose a new winner to receive it.

The Rafflecopter Giveaway is here. So go, enter! What are you doing still hanging around here?

 

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

technical-drawing-551376-m

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

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

ladder

Look up…look waaaaaay up….

A long time ago, in 2001, when ebooks were barely a “thing” yet and the only format for them was .pdf (ancient history, I know), I self-published an ebook for writers. It was called The New Writer’s Guide to Just About Everything and yes, it’s still around, although it’s sorely in need of an update and a new edition. Another thing on my too-long to-do list. But I digress.

Today I am thinking about a piece in that ebook, titled “The Writer’s Ladder of Success.” In it, I talked about how some new writers think their first sale is the top rung of that ladder, but in reality, that’s only a few steps up. Writing, I said, is the first rung. Finishing is the second. Submitting is the third. You may be stuck on that rung of the ladder for a while before you can climb up to the next one, which is making a sale. That analogy still holds true, I think.

Then, I said, you climb back down and start climbing all over again, writing, finishing, submitting. I think now, with the wisdom and experience of my years of writing (stop laughing!) I’d look at it differently. I think instead of climbing back down, I’d say we can look at it one of two ways: either we go sideways onto another ladder and start climbing from there, or the ladder we started on just keeps going, stretching up into the distance ahead of us. Either way, we’re not starting from scratch; we’re building on what we’ve already accomplished in order to climb to greater heights. Some might find that long, long ladder too daunting to look up at, and like the idea of shorter ones that lead to another, so either way works.

And either view is far more encouraging than feeling like you’re starting every piece from scratch. Of course that’s true in a way, since each writing project is new and comes with its own unique challenges. But we always have the comfortable cushion of our past accomplishments to buoy us up as we tackle the new.

There’s a saying that a writer is only as good as his or her last book. It’s true that we’re often judged that way–and we have to keep our fans happy or we’ll lose them. That’s a lot of pressure, though. I think we’re much more likely to succeed if we continue to feel good about our past successes–and not lose sight of that part of the ladder we’ve already climbed, stretching away below us. One bad song doesn’t make a failed musician; one strikeout doesn’t make a failed baseball player. Why do we hold ourselves as writers to a stricter standard? Why do critics and readers? I’m not really sure.

I closed out that section of the ebook by saying, “…you were a writer from the time you reached that first rung. Don’t let anyone tell you the ladder is not yours to climb.” I think that’s still good advice. I don’t think I’ll change that, should I ever get around to producing a second edition of The New Writer’s Guide.

Keep writing. Keep climbing. Build on what came before. Good advice, and advice I have to keep reminding myself of as I tackle a new project and a new deadline. Because frankly, I like the view from up here.

Photo credit: mensatic

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

pizza-oven

Some things cook, and some things burn.


I don’t know about other writers, but I, for one, am always looking for a better recipe for writing success. Of course, no single recipe is going to work for every writer, and sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error before you find the combination of ingredients that works for you. Thus, the writer’s test kitchen.


Admittedly, we’re all working with a lot of the same ingredients. Twenty-six letters, check. Determination, check. Imagination, check. Mad wordsmithing skills…hopefully. But that’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking more about the practical methodologies, strategies, tricks, lies, and motivators we use to get the job done.


This year, as I mentioned previously, I’m working at being more consistent, and less procrastinate-y. (Is that even a word? If not, I’ve just coined it. Feel free to make use of it as you will.) So here are some of the ingredients I’m cooking up in my test kitchen to see what comes out of the oven at the end of the year:


One daily dose of writing at 750words.com. Yes, I’ve experimented with this ingredient before. It’s got a lot going for it: privacy, motivation, cute badges to earn, reminder emails. I think my longest streak prior to this attempt was 46 days, so I’m out to beat that, at least. 46 days is 34,500 words right there, so whether I use it for blogging, fiction, private rants, or stream of consciousness, it’s productive.


Public goals. Yep, I’m telling the world that I’m finishing some stuff this year. This is a good motivator for me, because I really hate to look like a failure. In anything. Ever. (Note that I have not yet said how many things I will finish this year. Because, see previous sentence.)


Treadmill desk. Although I logged a goodly number of miles at the treadmill desk at the beginning of last year, I did fall off (although not literally) as the year progressed. There were many reasons for this, which I will not bore you with here. However, I have found that I am generally highly motivated to keep writing as long as I keep walking, which should prove useful in trying to be more productive. Also, benefits health-and-weight-wise.


Storylines. Nothing helps me wrangle a manuscript into shape better than doing an index card layout in Writer’s Cafe Storylines. I can visualize the entire story arc, see where characters appear, note the flow of plots and subplots, and insert revision notes exactly where they have to go.


Nirvana app. This little online beauty is great at helping keep goals, lists, and next actions organized and focused. It works on the Getting Things Done principle, and I started using it partway through 2013 with pretty decent success. I’m hoping it will help me stay organized, focused, and also keep me from getting bogged down in those not-writing things.


Evernote. Invaluable for storing notes, ideas, lists, and everything else I will need to keep organized. I use it in conjunction with Nirvava because I like to use Nirvana for time-sensitive things, but Evernote is for, well, everything.


A batch of unfinished manuscripts. Of course, a core ingredient if this is to be the Year of Finishing. I’ll have to vet, assess, and categorize these right off the bat, to see how they might each fit into the yearly plan. For this, I’ll likely use Evernote.


Add all ingredients, mix well, and bake in a consistently hot oven for a year. We’ll see what tasty treats emerge at the end.


Photo credit: Lotus Head




Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

the-road-to-your-destiny-by-stealth37-nice-wallpaper-1600x1200In other words, looking back and looking ahead. :)


2013 was a great writing year for me. I started the year by completing revisions on One’s Aspect to the Sun, which then came out from Tyche Books in November. So far it’s been getting wonderful reviews and readers really seem to be enjoying it, which makes me very happy. That was my big news and my big accomplishment, but there were other writing accomplishments, too.


My story, “ePrayer,” came out in Third Person Press’ newest anthology, Grey Area, which also added another notch to my editorial belt. Grey Area was partially funded through our Indiegogo campaign, which was quite an experience in itself–time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately satisfying. Also with Third Person Press, we read submissions and made final decisions for our next anthology, Flashpoint, so we’ll be moving on to line edits for those stories soon.


I finished a short story for submission to another anthology, and that story became the jumping-off point for my NaNoWriMo effort. NNWM was a win, and although that story is far from finished, I’m pleased with it and will continue to work on it.


I also put two other novels into submission, in March. I’m still waiting to hear on those, and, to tell the truth, I’m getting impatient. Having been through the experience of waiting a long time for a publisher and eventually pulling the manuscript, I’ve vowed not to do that again. That’s a blog post all by itself, though, so I’ll talk more about that another day.


I worked on yet another novel manuscript, which is very close to being finished. I had planned a “novel swap” with a writer friend, but it didn’t come to be. I just couldn’t seem to finish the last few chapters in a way that satisfied me. With luck, he’ll still be willing and we’ll get to that this year, once I wrangle those chapters into shape.


I did preliminary revision work on two other unfinished novel manuscripts, and did some background work on Nearspace, the setting for One’s Aspect to the Sun. Yes, there are more stories to be told in that universe. No, I don’t have any details to share with you yet.


All of which is wonderful but…I could do more.


Once upon a time, I used to start more stories than I finished. Over time, I learned that this was, at least in part, due to starting to write too soon. I’d get an idea and start writing before I had let it “simmer” long enough in my brain. I don’t get along well with outlines, but I’ve learned that I do need to be able to see the structure of the story in my head before I start writing that first scene. That scene usually comes to me full-blown, so it’s very, very tempting to just “get it down” quickly. But as I said, I learned not to give in to that temptation, and finished more stories.


However, I find myself in the position of having a lot of unfinished manuscripts on my hard drive again. I’m not sure what the problem is now; partly trying to juggle too many projects, partly spending too much time on “writerly” things that are not actually writing, partly my propensity to procrastinate. (There, I’ve admitted it!) This time they are mostly novels, as opposed to short stories, thanks to NaNoWriMo, but still…they need to be finished. I came close to finishing that one I mentioned earlier, but didn’t quite make it.


Last year I set just one goal for myself for 2013; I would publish a novel. I’ve decided to make 2014 the Year of Finishing. I’m not saying I won’t start anything new this year, of course, but I really like many of these stories that are languishing only partially complete. I want to go back to them, finish writing them, and make them shine.


I also hope to blog more consistently this year. Last night at our New Year’s celebrations I threw two hopes into the resolution box: more consistency and less procrastinating in my writing life overall. With some luck and determination, they should combine to produce more finished manuscripts in the months to come. Stay tuned and we’ll see what happens from here.


Photo credit: Stealth37

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