Monday, August 27, 2012

Character Interview: Matt Clark!!

I had a reader request I do character interviews. No offense to others out there, but to me, most character interviews are silly and boring. I realized I needed to take my interviews from a different angle. So.... without further ado, I give you:

The Fat Lady Interviewing Matt Clark!

Before you get upset with me for her name, remember from The Key of Kilenya that she insists on being called the Fat Lady. Don't ask me why, ask her. :-) You might get the chance in some upcoming interview! For now, enjoy the following scene as the Fat Lady interviews Matt Clark. :-)

The Fat Lady walked onto the make-shift stage, cheap wood flooring sagging under her massive, well over five-hundred-pound frame. She paused and stared at the furnishings, and a blush spread across her cheeks. With a growl, she turned and looked at someone beyond the camera's view. “I can't hold an interview here. This,” she motioned to the pink and very florally couch and armchair, “is disgusting! It's horrendous! My cabin back home would be better.”
“Sorry,” a woman from off stage said. “It's the best we could do with such short notice. Besides, you said you didn't have enough time clean up your place.”
“Hrmph.” The Fat Lady sat on the chair, adjusting her position several times. Her eyes continuously drifted to the clock on the wall. “All right, Andrea, where is he?”
“Almost here—he just texted.” Andrea, author of the Kilenya series, drifted in front of the camera for a moment, holding a cell phone. She held the phone out to the Fat Lady. “Want to see the text?”
“Text? What are you talking about?”
A door slammed somewhere, Andrea backed out of view, and Matt strode onto the stage, hand extended to the Fat Lady. “Sorry I'm late! And I just can't believe you're the lucky one to hold the interviews. So much fun!”
“Yeah, yeah. Sit.” The Fat Lady picked up a piece of paper from the coffee table and looked it over. “Who the heck cares about this sort of stuff?”
“Um . . . Fat Lady?” Andrea asked. “Would you please come here for a moment? The cameras are already rolling, and we don't have time for this.”
The large, over six-foot-tall woman thumped off stage. Whispered voices drifted through the room, while Matt obviously pretended not to notice. He examined his nails, played air guitar, then leaned back, arms behind his head. Finally, the Fat Lady returned with a fake smile plastered on her face.
She grabbed the paper, reading it over again. “Such great questions.” She leaned forward. “Matt. Tell your fans a little about yourself.”
Matt's face lit up. “I'd love to!” He turned and looked directly into the camera. “My name is Matthew Clark. I'm Jacob's older brother.” He paused. “And no, I'm not magical like he is—wish I were. But I'm better than him at basketball.” He snickered, then shot a glance at the Fat Lady. “Don't tell him I said that.”
The Fat Lady rolled her eyes. “Oh, I won't.” She looked down and started reading the next question. “How did—”
“Oh! And I'm also captain of the football team at my high school, Mountain Crest, and I like singing and playing the guitar.”
“Yes, yes, I'm sure the viewers wouldn't be able to live without knowing all this about you.”
“Gotta keep the ladies happy.”
The Fat Lady raised her eyebrow. “Speaking of 'the ladies . . .' How did you and your girlfriend, Samara, meet?”
Matt practically bounced to the edge of his seat. “Sammy! Oh, she's the coolest, best, most awesome girl I've ever dated.”
“I'm sure. Answer the question.”
“Okay, so it all started when I was dating her freaking hot older sister, Molly—”
The Fat Lady blinked. “Um . . . You do know that Sammy is going to watch this, right? Kid, calling her sister 'hot' is completely and totally stupid. No girl wants to hear that from her boyfriend! Unless you're trying to get out of the relationship?”
The blood rushed from Matt's face and he turned to the camera again. “Sammy. You're hot too. You know you're the only girl for me. Listen, we're always going to be together, and Molly never crosses my mind. Except that one time, but you were totally with me, and it wasn't my fault!” He looked at the Fat Lady, desperation on his face. “Can we please just erase all of this and start with the question again?”
“No, of course not.”
He turned to the woman off stage. “Please, Andrea? Pretty, pretty please?”
“Sorry, no. It's too expensive. One take is all you get.”
“Well, Sammy knows I love her.” Matt cleared his throat, loosening his collar, and looked at the Fat Lady. “Any more questions?”
“Yeah, but they're dumb. And I'm bored.” The Fat Lady jumped from her seat, grabbed Matt's hand, yanked him up and pumped his arm a few times. “Thanks for doing the interview. Get back to school.”
Matt nodded and dashed off the stage.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Awesome, Exciting, Freakin' Cool Experience at LDSBA!!

So, I put up a teaser on Facebook, saying I had a great announcement to make. I shouldn't have done so that early - waiting until yesterday or even this morning would've been better. :-) But that would've been so painful!

The gist of the news is this: I'll be signing in Costco! Starting next month, I'll be in the Lehi, Murray, Sandy, and West Valley stores. I'm sooo excited!

This is a huge opportunity for me as an independent author! There's more to the story, and if you're interested in reading one of those uplifting, right time/right places/right person type things, read on!

Last week, my editor and friend, Tristi Pinkston, took me to the LDS Booksellers Association convention (LDSBA). It's a closed convention where a bunch of people set up booths and show the things they produce while "buyers" walk around, deciding what they want to sell in their stores. Stores such as Deseret Book, Seagull Book and Tape, independent stores, etc. Authors go to sign books and meet people who would potentially carry their books at their locations.

At the start of the convention, Tristi asked me if it would be okay for her to tell people about my books. I said yes, of course. :-) Right then, one of her friends, a Deseret Book representative, walked by. Tristi grabbed her, spoke with her briefly, and the lady referred us to another woman. We'll call her Jamie. When I told Jamie I'd had several Deseret Book managers approach me, telling me they'd had many customers request my books, Jamie said that Deseret Book actually distributes for independent authors, and that they'd be very interested in representing me.

She asked me to send her my information, along with all three available books in my series, and let her know how my sales have gone, etc. She would get back to me in a couple of weeks. I was soooo excited! Being distributed by Deseret Book would be so cool!

But that's not the end of the story. :-) Deseret Book only distributes to their stores. And Tristi, who follows the Spirit, had a feeling to introduce me to another woman. We'll call her Savannah. Savannah was there as a food rep of some sort. She and I instantly hit it off--she's energetic, fun, and knowledgeable. When Savannah found out that Deseret Book wanted to be my distributor, she said, "No. We'll represent you." Tristi, in all her sneakiness, hadn't told me that Savannah also works for one of the largest distributors in Utah, and has for many years. When Savannah wants a book, the company takes it.

And after hearing how successful my eBooks have been, and the fact that Deseret Book wants to represent me, Savannah now wants my books. :-)

She spent a few hours telling me why I should choose Brigham Distributing over Deseret Book. After I got over my shock and excitement, I realized it was a no-brainer. I talked to my hubby and we both felt good about it. :-)

Brigham Distributing gets books not only into Deseret Book, but also all Barnes and Nobles, Costco, independent bookstores, etc.

The excellent thing about all of this: I still own my rights. They only take 25% of my royalties, where an actual publisher would own the rights to my books AND take around 90% of my royalties. As an independent author, this puts me in a very, very good position! My books go everywhere an author who has a publisher goes, and I can do whatever I need to do with my books, along with keeping a very large part of the royalties. So exciting!

While I was talking to Savannah, two well-known authors (one a NYT best selling author) walked by. Savannah stopped them and had them tell me how they started. They both said she was the one who got them on their current paths. She turned to me and said, "I didn't pay them to say that." It cracked me up!

I still can't believe how things fell into place!

A year ago, an author friend (Jenni James) told me to contact the owner of Brigham Distributing and ask them to distribute for me. I did so, but was rejected a couple of months later, which didn't surprise me - I imagine they probably reject a lot of authors who submit. However, I felt very, very strongly that I would end up being distributed by them, so I didn't do what some authors would be tempted to do: write/call them back and tell them they'd regret their decision. Or beg - telling them how successful my books had been, etc. And the night before the convention, I had a feeling to ask my husband how he would feel if a distributing option came up while I was there. He said, "That would be good, but don't go to them in a position of weakness. Don't act needy or desperate. They should be wanting you just as badly as you want them." That might sound a bit pig headed, but I agreed - they'd already rejected my books. No sense in begging!

And with how everything fell into place, it was amazing. :-) Savannah took me to meet the owner. He remembered my books, remembered why they were rejected (the young adult fantasy market was saturated), and said, "If Savannah wants your books, I want your books." Yay!

Tristi is a very inspired person. She knew I had to be at the convention, so arranged it. She knew who to talk to, in what order, and what to say.

Anyway. What this means for my hubby and me is this: Savannah is putting me in Costco next month. I'll be signing just the first book in my series at the Lehi, Sandy, Murray, and West Valley stores during the month of September. Since I don't have a publisher, I'll have to foot the printing bill for 300 books. That ends up being a nice chunk of money! Savannah is absolutely positive I'll do well, and that my books will be popular. In October, depending on how September goes, they want me to sign at all eight Costcos in Utah (not including the one in St George), with all three books in my series, and with a print run of 3,000 books. Wow!

I'm going to be very busy! But I've got a couple of independent author friends who also work with Brigham, and they've promised to help me quickly learn the ropes.

Anyway. I still can't believe how quickly everything fell into place and how good it all feels! The Lord is really watching over us. It's pretty neat. :-)

Wish me luck with this new endeavor!


Monday, August 13, 2012

Priestess of the Eggstone

One of my author friends, Jaleta Clegg, is having a book released this month. It's called Priestess of the Eggstone: The Fall of the Altairan Empire Book 2. I promised her I would post the blurb for it, cover, and an excerpt. Enjoy! I think it sounds great!

Pursued by the Targon Crime Syndicate bent on revenge, the Patrol intent on recruitment, and the Sessimoniss who want their god back, the last thing Captain Dace needs is a handsome copilot with romance on his mind.

But that’s exactly what she’s got.

She didn’t realize she was smuggling when she accepted the courier job. Now Targon wants her for stealing the shipment and the Patrol wants to arrest her. The Sessimoniss want their god back. And Jerimon’s aunt is planning their wedding.

She doesn’t know which scares her most.

Priestess of the Eggstone: The Fall of the Altairan Empire Book 2 by Jaleta Clegg

Here's a link to purchase it.
Here's Jaleta's website.

And here's the excerpt:

We rounded the last big moon into clear space. I checked the nav program one last time, to make sure we were headed the right direction before we jumped. The chatter of local pilots was steady as a background noise that dissolved into static as we passed into the moon's shadow. The ship lurched, then slowed, the engines whining.

I flipped switches, trying to find the problem. Jerimon pushed the thrusters all the way to the stops. The engine whine rose in pitch. The ship shuddered. The emergency lights flashed. Warnings hooted through the ship.

"Shut it down!" I yelled over the noise.

Jerimon stubbornly tried to pull more power from the engines. His face was pale and his chin set as he goosed the throttles. I reached across the controls to slam the switches off. Jerimon slumped in his chair, hands over his face. The engines spun down. The alarms shut up, all except one. It was a quiet, insistent beeping with a single, flashing red light.

I checked the screen, then muttered a bad word at the unknown vessel showing on the scans. "Who'd be using a tractor beam out here?"

The ship was bigger, but that didn't mean much. Anything was bigger than my ship. The scanners didn't show any ID traces from the other ship.

"Does it look like pirates to you?" Pirates weren't uncommon in this sector but Rucal had a major Patrol station out beyond the moons. What pirate would be stupid enough to operate under the Patrol's nose?
I knew of at least one, but he was in prison. I scowled at the screen. In a few moments, I wouldn't need the scanner. I could just look outside.

Jerimon dropped his hands to his lap, staring bleakly at the monitor. If he didn't know who was on that ship, I'd eat my socks—the ones I'd been wearing for three days without washing because I hadn't found the time.
"Who are they and why are they dragging us in?"

Jerimon shook his head, eyes locked on the approaching ship. He gripped the chair so hard his knuckles went white.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Indie Questions Post #1

I've received a few messages from other authors who are trying to figure things out. (By the way, if there's anything regarding being an Indie author you're interested in learning more about, send me your questions via a message on Facebook or to my email, and I'll try to answer them in a future post.)

Their questions revolve around the following:

1. My cover artist (prices, etc.) and whether he's accepting new clients

2. If I hired an editor

3. If I formed an LLC

4. How much marketing is necessary

5. Social Networking

So, in order:

1. My cover artist

My cover artist is James Curwen. He's really good to work with and enjoys helping Indie authors. James uses stock photos, but his main focus is original art, which works really well to keep your books from looking like some of the other cookie-cutter covers out there. Just like any other cover artist, his style might not suit your needs, but he's very diverse and able to adapt to what you're looking for. He charges between $50 and $150, and sometimes more, depending on how much original art is required. Check out his blog here. It includes samples of covers he's done in the past.

And yes, he's accepting new clients.

2. My editor

is amazing. :-) Her name is Tristi Pinkston. I've loved working with her, mainly because she puts everything into the edits, making sure to help me maintain my voice, whereas other editors I've hired haven't been so good at that. She charges $1.50 per page. This is quite a steal for her experience and talent.

If anyone is worrying about the cost behind self-publishing, read my blog post that addresses this topic here. And remember this: there are always really, really cheap ways to get things done, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a good product to sell. Going the cheap (or free) route rarely pays in the end. I've seen authors who uploaded books that weren't edited, or that were edited poorly. They made a bunch of money, but then discovered that their sales went downhill really fast, even after they hired editors. So yes, they got initial money. But they burned their readers by presenting unprofessional material, and now they're needing to work extra hard to earn back the respect they lost.  

3. My LLC

Yes, I formed an LLC. I don't really use it, though, except for the bank account I had to create to accompany it. Here's the thing: right now, I represent myself to companies who don't really care about my personal information. I'm not about to mess up my own life by making bad choices where my name is concerned. Back when I was with a traditional publisher, however, the contract was signed between them and my LLC, and that offered me some protection. If you plan to get movie deals, sign contracts with traditional publishers, or agents, or whatever, I'd recommend forming an LLC and having everything be under its name. (I'd suggest working with an attorney to do so. Mine is one of the best attorneys I've ever met - incredibly kind hearted. His law firm is in Provo, UT. Let me know if you'd like his information.)

But it's not completely necessary to form an LLC during the early stages of publishing. First off, you're unlikely to sign any movie deals within the first few months. Just make sure to get one set up when something looks like it's heading your way.

4. My marketing

Okay, that's a silly header, but it felt like it needed to go along with the other ones. :-) Here's what I do to market:

Almost nothing.

That's not to say I didn't used to market. Oh, heavens knows I did. We flung all sorts of time and money toward this fairly useless (for me) endeavor.

My success and sales didn't start to go upward until I'd published several quality books. After I released my first book (yes, it was edited. :-)), we spent a lot of time trying to get the word out through reviews and free advertising. I spent hours and hours contacting blog owners and reviewers. I hired someone to head up a blog tour for me. And saw almost nothing from it. Just a few sales here and there (and I'll be honest - my sales were more than a lot of Indie authors have during their first few months. They just didn't equal the amount of work I put in).

Success didn't actually start happening until a couple of things were in place:

1. I had a bunch of books available
2. We put up the first book in my series for free (across the board - Nook, Kindle, etc.)

I'm not saying marketing won't work for you. If you feel strongly like you need to do something, then do it. But remember this: the digital age is different from days of the past. Our memories, as readers, are shorter - if there isn't another book available when we finish an enjoyable story, we probably won't return to the author. Most people won't make it a point to return until they've read several things from an author.

Don't market to other authors. We're all in the same boat, and it gets annoying to hear messages over and over again from the same people. "Check out my latest book!" "Fan my author page!" I block people who are constantly spamming others in their search for new readers, fans for their pages, people to support their cause, etc.

Rather than searching for sales from other authors, we should be supporting and friendshipping each other.

5. My social networking

This is a pretty sensitive subject right now. To see what I'm talking about, check out this flawed article by the Guardian, one of the responses to that article on an Indie author blog, and then make sure to go back to the Guardian article and read all of the comments made by JA Konrath. He and the author of the article go back and forth quite a bit, and I have to say, Joe's arguments are pretty sound.

Indie authors, beware the trap that is social marketing. The majority of us have figured out that big sales don't really come from social marketing - not for 95% of people, anyway. Most sales come from readers telling readers about a cool new author they've discovered. Sales come from people having multiple ways to find authors who have multiple books out. The more books you've written and published, the more ways you'll have to find readers.

Basically, the best use of your time is in writing new material and progressing in your abilities. I use Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with readers, fans, friends, and family. I talk about the things that are most important to me: writing, family, movies, etc. I update on current writing projects, but almost never talk about books that are already for sale. I don't expect most family and friends to actually buy my books. :-)

I think that answers all of the questions. Just so we're on the same page: marketing and social networking do work for some. You might be that person. But play it safe - make sure you've got plenty of options for readers to choose from before you start a huge marketing or social networking campaign.

And don't annoy people with spammy messages. :-)

That's all for today.

Mini update on my books:
The Music of Anna Morse is with my editor. I'll be sending Britnell Manor (formerly The Forgotten Photograph) to her soon. About to start writing Whistle, and I'll Come. These are all novellas that fall under my Katon University umbrella. I'm really excited to have them ready! Feedback from beta readers has been extremely positive so far. These are creepy, fun stories!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Exciting Updates and Words of Encouragement

I'm pretty excited today. I was really excited last night. Mainly because I sat down and did the actual math.

A year ago, I had a really strong feeling that I needed to quit teaching orchestra at an elementary school (contracted position) so I could focus solely on writing/Indie publishing.

It's only been 11 months since quitting that job, and already, I'm making more off of royalties than I made teaching orchestra.

Not only that, but my royalties exceed what I made teaching both orchestra and private lessons. And I'm not a cheap teacher. :-)

All I can say to this is WOW, and that I feel so very blessed! What an exciting, liberating, and thrilling time it is to be an author!

I post this as a way to encourage other Indie authors. I'm not huge or best selling, but I don't need to be, and neither do you to feel successful and to make a living - even if it is a meager one.

As Karen McQuestion said in a recent post on the new Kirkus Reviews Self-Pubishing Blog, "I was one of the first, but many other authors have gone the self-published e-book route and had the same kind of results—some even better! It’s a good time to be a writer, maybe the best time in the history of the world. Three years ago my books were rejected. Now, they’re being read and I get to write novels for a living. It doesn’t get much better than that."

How is that for a nice warm fuzzy? :-)

And a really awesome quote from Mark Coker over on the Smashwords blog, talking about multiple best selling Indie authors hitting the NYT Bestselling list this week:

"Maybe tomorrow's bestseller is languishing on an undiscovered writer's computer, still waiting for a publisher to give it a chance. Maybe that writer will now realize they don't need the blessing of a publisher to become a published author, or to reach readers. Maybe they'll realize that the tools to publish and distribute a book are available at no cost, and the knowledge to professionally publish is available for the taking.

"It just takes effort.

"Give your book a chance. Get it out now. If you're exceptionally talented and work your butt off, then lightning might strike for you too. Or, if you're like most authors, you'll find the journey of self-publishing is reward enough, even if you don't make the New York Times bestseller list."

All right. Let's talk about what Mr. Coker is saying.

"It just takes effort," and "work your butt off"

Self-publishing IS NOT easy. Nothing worth achieving in life is - we've all heard that before, so don't be surprised to find out that it applies to this line of work as well. There are so many things to learn and understand, and so many avenues authors must use. If you aren't willing to make sacrifices, you won't succeed or achieve your goals.

Take your work seriously. Don't upload or make books public that haven't been edited and don't have professional covers. Give people a good impression. Help them feel confident that their investment - even if only $2.99 - is worth it.

Speaking of professionalism, Joe Konrath said, "Just because it's easier than ever before to reach an audience doesn't mean you should. Luck still plays a part in success. But so does professionalism. Being a professional means you won't inflict your crappy writing on the public."

He also said that being a professional includes being prolific and providing readers with multiple things to read, in every avenue possible (Smashwords, Kindle, Nook, etc.). And then he says that if, after doing all this, your sales aren't where you want them to be, you need to take a hard look at the writing itself. Did you have it read by multiple people/beta readers/editors before publishing? Is the writing actually good? Are you doing your best to progress? To give your readers something better each time you put up new work? If not, fix it.

Mark Coker said, "If you're exceptionally talented and you work your butt off, then lightning might strike for you too."

As with nearly any other field, inborn talent isn't always a requirement. Sometimes, working really hard, learning everything possible, practicing all the time, and listening to criticism from other people will actually get you farther than someone who was born with the talent to be a good writer.

And to those of you who complain about how much money self-publishing costs, you need to realize this isn't a get-rich quick scheme. You can't just expect to upload a badly-written book and start making money without actually sacrificing something. It's a business, and whoever heard of a business that didn't require an initial, upfront investment of the financial sort? Someone somewhere has to put money into the project. And you can bet you're going to be that person.

Here's another "blunt" quote from Joe Konrath (same link as above):
"A sacrifice involves choosing one thing over another. If you can't devote the time, energy, and money it takes to pursue this career, go do something else."

Something my husband and I have found, especially when it comes to the financial aspect of things: where there's a will, there's a way. Things have always worked out. We make the goals, work as hard as we can, and things fall into place.

The extra money we've needed has come along when we needed it. Perhaps this is due to the sacrifices we've made. In the beginning, and before we started, we set money aside every month. We still sacrifice going out to eat, going to the movies, buying toys and books and ice cream and even traveling to some family things to save on gas.

But I can tell you now, it is worth it. This is important to us and we made it a priority.

And it's paying us back. Things are still tight, but I can actually say I'm getting paid to do what I love.

What a great time to be alive!

A bit about the book signing (book launch for August Fortress) tonight:

It's official! The Molg (creature from my book) figurine/miniature will be on display!! We'll also have illustrations for you to look at and keys to sell along with my books. I'm so very excited! See you there. :-) (Click on the link above for details about the book signing.)