Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Two Articles to Read About Self-Publishing

I'm in the middle of writing my next post regarding self-publishing, but in the meantime, have come across a couple articles about self-publishing that I thought really help people understand what being an Indie author is all about. The first is by the Huffington Post and gives a really great overview of how things are changing in the publishing world. I'm putting my favorite quotes from it below - it's very well written. The second is by and tells about four successful authors from Arizona. I love hearing success stories. :-)

Both articles mention things I disagree with. In the article by the Huffiington Post, Sticks & Stones: The Changing Politics of the Self-Publishing Stigma, they mention that Indie authors are practically taking money from traditionally published authors.

First off, most people read widely within their favorite genres, and just because they purchased and enjoyed one author's book, doesn't mean they'll never purchase and enjoy another person's work, including Indie and traditional authors. There are plenty of readers to go around.

Next, nearly any loss in sales of print or eBooks can be attributed to poor decisions made by publishing houses regarding the shifting focus in the publishing world (more and more people reading eBooks instead of paper) and the prices they set for eBooks. If you aren't aware of the lawsuit by the Department of Justice against five big publishers and Apple regarding the price of eBooks, I invite you to get yourself up to date through JA Konrath's blog and his article here.

The point is, Indie authors aren't taking money from traditional authors.

The thing that bothered me in the article wasn't a comment by the person who wrote the article, but a quote by an Indie author. Elissa Ambrose, Harlequin and self-published author said: "Without a traditional publisher to oversee the editing, packaging and marketing, I run the risk of my book not selling."

By writing a book and publishing it - self or traditionally - you run the risk of the book not selling. Many, many traditionally published books fail and they've got publishers behind them to "oversee the editing, packaging and marketing." Self-publishing doesn't guarantee success, but neither does traditionally publishing. As I've said in the past, both require hard, hard work.

Anyway. I really wanted to share my favorite quotes from the Huffington Post article. These are in order of when they appear in the article:

"According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), in 2011 e-book sales rose 117%, generating revenue of $969.9 million, while sales in all trade print segments fell, with mass-market paperbacks plunging by nearly 36%."

"Fact is, most people buy a book for one reason: they want a good read. Assuming the book delivers, they don’t care who published it; many don’t even notice."

"'The idea that all self-published books are sub-standard is erroneous,' says literary agent Jenny Bent, founder of The Bent Agency in Brooklyn, New York."

"Today, rejection by traditional houses says little about a book."

"Self-publishing can also be a practical way to build an audience. Today, publishers expect authors to have a solid platform. By self-publishing, emerging authors can build the fan base necessary to attract a traditional publisher for their next work."

"The opportunity to self-publish—to publish their books their own way—has given both emerging and established authors more freedom than ever before."

"Change is never easy; inevitably, there are bumps and bruises along the way. But, like or not, indie publishing is here to stay."

Boo yeah! :-) Yes, it's here to stay. Read the entire Huffington Post article. It's great!

Anyway. Back to the daily grind.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Self-Publishing Myths and My Publishing Story

I've presented the material in this post several times at writer's conferences, but decided to make it more accessible by putting it on my blog.

We've all heard many negative things about self-publishing, usually spoken by people who haven't fully educated themselves on what it and Indie publishing really are. I understand why these people say what they do, and a year and a half ago, I was on their side.

Let me tell my publishing story really quickly, so you know where I'm coming from. I don't bring this up very often, and mainly because I don't feel it's other people's business. :-) But I think it's important for the purpose of this post, and several more I'll be writing later, that you know more about my history.

Once upon a time, I wrote a book and named it The Key of Kilenya. Many author friends told me, "Congrats. You've written your first book. Now go write others; this book won't ever get published. First books rarely do. And if it does, it'll sink." But I didn't give up - I polished and perfected it and learned a great deal. I re-wrote it four times, writing fifteen completely new first chapters until I found the one that worked. I uploaded The Key of Kilenya to (run by HarperCollins), and it proceeded to gain support there very quickly. It went from being ranked #14,000 to #73 in two months, where a lot of books can take more than a year to move that quickly. It caught the attention of a few rather important people in the publishing community, and was read by three really huge authors who gave me great feedback. Sigh. I can't even tell you who they are without worrying about backlash.

Long story short: I turned down a contract with one of the Big Six and signed with a smaller press, where I'd have more say in content, editing, and the cover. At that time, even the thought of self-publishing disgusted me. However, after staying with that publisher for a year, I started noticing things that really frustrated me about the publishing world, and the mentality behind traditional publishing. The idea that you aren't accepted or recognized or validated as a writer until you have a publisher to back you up. The dishonesty in eBook royalties and marketing plans and promises made that are never fulfilled. Talking with author aquaintances, I found that this was very common in publishing. I discussed my options with close friends, family, and my husband, then made the choice to leave my publisher and go on my own.

As I've said over and over again: self-publishing has been the most liberating, amazing, and wonderful choice I've ever made. (Aside from a couple other life-changing events, such as marrying my husband. :-))

Some of those author acquaintances don't understand my need for freedom in this area. But I've seen how they work: they feel almost naked without a company backing them up. They don't have the confidence in themselves or their work that things won't fail without help from a publisher. They need the validation and the acceptance having a publisher brings. It's like my girlfriends in high school who were always, always in a relationship. If they didn't have a boyfriend all the time, they felt unloved or unneeded.

Publishing takes every type. I'm not here to tell all authors that doing it on their own will work for them. But I do want to open my readers' eyes to the myths that surround being an Indie author.

Myth #1: If I self-publish my book first, that will ruin all hopes for a traditional contract
Wrong. Very, very wrong. More and more publishers are looking to self-published successes to find future best sellers. Amanda Hocking, John Locke, Richard Paul Evans, and many other self-made millionaires became that way before signing publishing deals. The thing is, a publisher is not going to care if you self-published first, especially if your book made it big! You just did a ton of footwork they won't have to repeat. You're coming to them with a proven track record. And if you did it with more than one book, they'll be especially eager to take you on as a client. was put together by HarperCollins as a way to see which books rose to the top, giving HarperCollins the opportunity to offer contracts to already-successful authors. (Authonomy is NOT considered self-publishing. You upload your work to receive critique and be voted on.) Publishers find authors in many different ways, including searching out successfully self-published books.

Myth #2: This eBook self-publishing thing is a fad. After a while, people will stop and will go back to traditional publishers
I've heard this said many times by fellow authors. Something I've noticed, however: a lot of them, even while repeating this myth, have a look of self-doubt on their faces. They aren't sure if this myth is true or not, but really hope it is because they're working so hard at getting the approval of publishers. They don't want that hard work to have been wasted. My answer is this: Indie publishing is in no way a fad - too many are successful at it. You can't go back on technology. Music will never again revert to cassette tapes or eight-tracks. And even CDs are no longer the method of choice for obtaining new music. EBooks aren't going anywhere, and so long as they, and the companies behind them, exist, Indie publishing will always be a popular and successful alternative to traditional publishing. Read Nathan Bransford's article, The Biggest Challenges in the New Era of Publishing, to understand what I'm talking about. It's a great article. :-)

Myth #3: No floodgates equals too much bad stuff
I feel like this argument has been beaten to death, but I keep hearing it brought up, so apparently the answer hasn't been loud enough. Bad stuff doesn't get talked about, unless it's really, really bad. Readers won't tell other people to read a book that isn't up to par - they spread the good things they find instead. Readers are the watchers now.

Myth #4: Quality will drop, badly affecting books everywhere
Again, stop beating a dead horse. :-) In order to succeed as a self-published author, you have to put up quality books. And I've read MANY traditionally published books that should never have been published. Bad stuff has always existed. People forget about it and move on to the good stuff.

Myth #5: Self-publishing is really just vanity publishing
Definition of Vanity Publishing: paying a publisher to print your book. When you self-publish, yes, you're dishing out money, but it's not to a publisher. You're paying editors, cover artists, and sometimes formatters, trying to put out the best book possible. Self-publishing can be considered vanity if someone puts something up without working over it or hiring an editor. They only do it because they want to say they're published. But again, who cares about those books, and who cares about those authors? Hardly anyone will read 'em.

Myth #6: Self-publishing is a last resort
More and more I'm running into people like me who left the promise of traditional publishing to pursue things on their own, knowing they'd do a better job. Does that sound like a last ditch effort? It sounds proactive, to me. :-) In the past, self-publishing really was the last option for authors who'd tried everything. But now, being an Indie author is many writers' first choice.

Myth #7: Self-publishing is a get-rich-quick scheme
If this were true, it would only attract a certain type of people. Those who get involved in pyramid companies. The truth is, self-pubbing is very hard, honest work. Even the stories of people who make millions by self-publishing sometimes skim over the fact that these are authors who've written their entire lives and who've worked their tails off to get where they are.

Myth #8: People do it because it's easier
*Choke* *Gag* *Cough* Did you say, it's easier?!?!? Psh! Whatever! Both traditional and self-publishing have ups and downs and require a lot of very, very hard work! I'd say it's easier on the emotions - I know I'm fully in charge, and if things fail, they're more likely to have failed because of me. Not because someone somewhere dropped the ball by not following through on promises or contracts. Or made blatantly wrong choices regarding book covers, marketing, genres, etc., for their clients' books. Nearly every author I've ever met eventually mentions huge mistakes their publisher has made. Read The Insider's Guide to Getting Published by John Boswell (formerly titled The Awful Truth About Publishing) to get a better idea of all the ways publishers--big and small--go wrong where authors and books are concerned. You should be familiar with these blunders, regardless of which route you choose to take, because they will affect you.

Myth #9: The Success Wave has ended. If you weren't on the train when Amanda Hocking, Karen McQuestion, Joe Konrath, Blake Crouch, Selena Kitt, etc., were, you've missed your chance
NOT. :-) The "Success Wave" has not ended. EBook and eReader sales more than double every year, and this growth won't stop for a very long time. As a matter of fact, last year, Amazon announced it sells more Kindle books than paperback and hardcover combined (free Kindle downloads not included). And that was just last year - who knows how big the margin is now. One of my favorite questions to ask at writer's conferences is this: "How many of you own and use an eReading device?" Most of the time, only ten to fifteen percent say they do. I then ask them how many of their friends and family members use eReaders. It's roughly the same percentage. But it's evident that eBooks and eReaders have a lot of room to grow, especially as more books are available only in digital format.

The point of my post: the stigma that used to go with self-publishing is fading. Honestly, readers don't care where their books come from, so long as the book is good and they get their hands on it. I didn't even know the names of publishers until 2008, when I started writing. And I was a voracious reader: finishing a book every single day during my childhood and teenage years. There are many people out there like me, who are just searching for their next favorite book.

Help them find you - upload your books and make money while (if) you search for a traditional publisher.

Book Review: Women of Strength

Book: Women of Strength
Author: Tristi Pinkston
Author website
Amazon page 

From the back of the book:
The need for courageous, faithful women has never been greater than it is today. As we draw nearer to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, we are faced with temptations on every side. But we can prevail as we gain true strength from living the gospel.

In Women of Strength, Tristi Pinkston shares inspiring stories, as well as insightful quotes from Church leaders, to demonstrate the power and influence of righteous women. This book invites women everywhere to deepen their relationship with the Savior, rely on the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and learn what it really means to be strong.

Ever since Tristi and I were practically thrown together two and a half years ago, we have maintained a close relationship. I was single back then; she agreed that as part of our "arrangement" she would find me a husband. When I went to my first LDStorymaker's Conference, she took me around, introducing me to authors I'd long looked up to. We laugh together, vent to each other, and she's been an absolutely wonderful friend - completely true to our relationship. Hardly a day goes by without us communicating in some form or another.

She's only five years older than me, but because of different life experiences, she has a lot to offer in several very important areas where I often am lacking. Namely, that of marriage and all the wonderful challenges it presents: family, work, finances, callings, etc. I find myself presenting problems and sticky situations to her, wanting to get an outsider's opinion. Her advice and counsel never waver from several things: the importance of the gospel. The importance of prayer. The importance of the priesthood. The importance of open communication. And the importance of family and relationships, especially the relationship I have with my husband.

I've wished I could take her wisdom and put it in a jar where I'd be able to scoop out generous servings whenever I needed it. What a delight it was to find that the pages of Women of Strength were full of some of the best parts of our relationship: her advice, wisdom, love of the gospel, and understanding of the true relationship women have with their Father in Heaven.

My favorite part of the book was the one-on-one feel she maintains throughout. It's not as if she's speaking to a congregation, it's like she's speaking to me. And not only that, but I felt a strong confirmation that what she was saying was true; that I am a daughter of God. That I do have a role, and that I'm the only one who can successfully play that part.

The sections of the book are well thought out. Beautiful, applicable quotes from General Authorities of the Church are plentiful, with her experience and wisdom tying them together. Nearly every aspect of our lives as women is discussed.

If you're hungry for a book that enriches, uplifts, and edifies, consider purchasing Women of Strength. In these frustrating and often confusing times, we as Latter-day Saint women need to know where we stand; we need frequent reminders of God's love for us. And we especially need words of encouragement during the spiritual battles that rage all around us. Tristi Pinkston's Women of Strength will help us find that encouragement, along with the energy and strength to continue fighting.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Author Tip: Copyright Laws and Personality Rights

It's really, really popular right now to use stock photos as book covers. But are you making sure you're completely protected and have all of the necessary rights to use these pictures?

Here's a website that explains copyright laws for photos and other works of art (including books). The gist of it is this: the artist owns the material. Photographers OWN the picture. Even if it is of a person. And this applies not only to stock photos used for book covers, but also author photographs.

Photographers upload their work to websites like In doing so, they usually wave most of their rights. But in some cases, they still have certain rights, and the websites where we purchase those photos most definitely do.

For example, the fine print for many stock photos includes the agreement that you won't make the picture bigger than a certain size. Most authors like to blow up their book covers for posters and other displays, knowing it's a great way to get noticed at book signings, conferences, etc., but in many cases, it is potentially against the contract of the website where the stock photo was obtained to do this. Several of the stock photos my cover designer considered using wouldn't allow the picture to be blown up to a size bigger than three feet, and in some cases, even making it bigger than one foot would get us in trouble. Basically, if we used those stock photos, we could ONLY use them for something the size of a standard book cover or smaller.

Some of you may remember the original cover for The Key of Kilenya. 
It features a stock photo background. James Curwen and I decided to stop using it 
because we couldn't blow it up to be larger than two feet.

The best way to ensure your legal safety is to completely read all contracts, terms and conditions, and not to assume your publisher has made the necessary arrangements. Find out where the picture came from - which website - and research that website's rules.

Another, more extreme way to protect yourself is to purchase the copyright from the photographer, get it in writing, and have it notarized. But even then, it's possible for a photographer to get their copyright reversed if they feel it's necessary. There are loopholes in every contract. When I was a paralegal, I saw people get out of contracts in many interesting and diverse ways. :-)

 This is the cover we'll always use. I took the background picture myself,
so we know it's safe. :-)

Okay. You might think our discussion is finished. It isn't.

Ever wonder about the person who is featured in the picture? What rights they have, if any? If you haven't wondered, you should. :-)

Most of the time, the pictures found on stock photo websites are photographer rejects. This doesn't mean the pictures aren't good, but that the individuals didn't use them for the intended purpose. Because the photographer owns the copyright, they don't need to ask the people in the pictures permission to sale their photos to stock photo websites.

This is where Personality and Property Rights come into play. (That link will take you to Wikipedia.)

Even fonts and little decorations like the butterflies, grass, and tree leaves
in this cover can be copyrighted. When putting this together, I was very careful 
to use things that were guaranteed free for commercial use. 
And when I drew the girl's silhouette, I made sure it didn't look like someone else's work. 

Quoting directly from Wikipedia:
"The right of publicity, often called personality rights, is the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness or other unequivocal aspects of one's identity. It is generally considered a property right as opposed to a personal right, and as such, the validity of the Right of Publicity can survive the death of the individual."

It gets trickier.

"Personality rights are generally considered to consist of two types of rights: the keep one's image and likeness from being commercially exploited without permission or contractual compensation (Right of Publicity)...and the right left alone and not have one's personality represented publicly without permission (Right of Privacy)."

People can say whether their picture is used for commercial purposes or not. And even if they give that permission, they have the right to ask for compensation. Eeek. We already have enough people taking a chunk of our pie. Imagine if someone saw themselves on the cover of a book and decided they wanted to be paid every time a book was sold? While the laws differ from state to state, the individual basically has the right to do this.

James drew the metal symbol by hand, 
but he used stock paint brushes to create the fire and the embers. 
They were all free for commercial use, as were the fonts. James took the background picture.

Wikipedia's article continues:
"A commonly cited justification for this the...idea that every individual should have a right to control how, if at all, his or her "persona" is commercialized by third parties. Usually, the motivation to engage in such commercialization is to help propel sales or visibility for a product or service."

I think we as authors fall under that "help propel sales or visibility..." part.

Textures can also be copyrighted. 
James drew the lock, then put a metal texture over it (the horizontal metal brushings), 
along with a texture to make the lock look not-so-smooth
(you can see that texture better in the bottom half of the lock). 
Also, the background is textured, not including the smoke.

What James and I have decided to do is this: for my future romance novels, we'll hire a photographer (my brother, Glenn), have him help us find models, then have the models sign a release. This way, we know the photographer personally and the people in the pictures will have signed that they won't be suing or requiring future compensation. A lot of models charge around $30 to $40 an hour for this sort of thing.

Again, I took the pictures in the background here. James used three to create the brick wall.
He drew the trident. The title and my name are stock fonts.

Another thing you're going to need to research when choosing a stock photo: whether it has been used a gazillion times already. Some of the more cheap pictures will have been sold many times.

Anyway. I'm not saying that we shouldn't use stock photos for the covers of our books. I am saying, however, that it's very smart to protect ourselves and do the research before choosing a photo.
Copyright laws are great. They protect artists everywhere. And personality rights are great too--we, as individuals, need the protections they offer. But when it comes to stock photos, it's a scary world out there, so make sure your back is covered.