Sunday, 16 July 2017

Confessions of a self-published author - Part 2

Since becoming a self-published author, I've published three young adult novels (two were published by a small-press publisher but dropped with their entire YA catalogue), two sci-fi books in a series, one horror novella, a short story collection, and two short stories. Planned for release are books three and four in the sci-fi series, and up to twenty more of the horror novellas. These titles have already formed part of the catalogue of my self-publishing career.

But I'm not going to give up trying to secure a traditional publisher. Books that I plan to write and pitch to agents/publishers include a dystopian series, three romance novels I wrote years ago, and a thriller. Even though I'm self-published, picking up a publisher will broaden my audience and provide me with the support of a professional team that'll improve my writing, books sales, and overall career.

So why am I telling you this? Because I have a plan. And because as much as perception plays a large part in a character's story, it plays a large part in a writer's career. What we want and what we get are often two very different things.

Cue Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want, but you get what you need."


We authors write the Want versus Need scenario into a character's story arc. So why not our own?
  • What does this writer Want? To write every day and have someone else take care of the promotion.
  •  What does this writer Need? To know the ins and outs of their business.
When I began, I had no idea about author platform, or social media, or website design, or the power of a good cover and blurb. I didn't know that ads can be a huge waste of money nor that they are only one part of a marketing campaign. I didn't know about advanced readers or beta readers or street teams. All I knew what that I loved reading and writing and that's all I wanted to do twenty-four-seven.

Along the way I realized that I'm a control freak. I don't like being a passenger in my career. I need to know what's happening. I need a plan, a backup plan, an outcome, backup outcome. I need to make the decisions. And guess what, a self-published author gets to make ALL THE DECISIONS. And this isn't by choice. It's your circus, your monkeys.


That's perhaps one of the toughest things about self-publishing. YOU have to make all the decisions. If the cover is wrong, it's YOUR fault. If the blurb isn't working, it's YOUR fault. If you chose a matte cover instead of a glossy cover, it's YOUR fault.

You get the picture. When you're a self-published author, you make all the decisions about the book. That includes whether you self-edit, pay an editors, use beta readers, use a writers, group. YOU choose the cover (quite often you get no say in cover design with a publishing house). YOU write the blurb. YOU create the tagline. And the promo...yep, that's all yours, too. Budgeting, writing a plan, creating a Facebook page, Twitter page, yep, they're all yours to decide. The theme for your website. Do you even have a website? You got it. These are all your decisions to make.

The point of this post is to highlight that the decisions are all yours to make, and decision making isn't everyone's strongest skill. But it can be achieved. It used to take me ages to settle on a lampshade in a house. Imagine how hard it is to be the one who chooses the book cover.

Of course, some people are born to make decisions and they'll adapt easily to self-publishing. In fact, they thrive in this environment.

Are you a natural decision maker, or is it something you struggle with? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and I'll offer some tips that I've learned over the years.

I'll write some further posts on books covers, editing, and promotion, so stick around.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Confessions of a self-published author

I didn't start out a self-published author. I had a dream. Write a novel, get it published, sell millions, retire from reality. It was a good dream. Not that there is anything wrong with self-publishing, but I hadn't a clue how to do it. And when I started out writing, it was either traditionally publish, or vanity publish.

For those who don't know what a vanity publisher is, they take your book with all its structural flaws and typos, they create a cover, they produce this book, and charge you $7,000 for it. But they'll send you 100 or more copies which you've then to distribute yourself. They do not edit the book at all.

This is no lie or exaggeration. Way, way, way back in 1996 when I wrote my first horror novel, Poison in the Pond, I saw an ad in a writers magazine for a publisher, so I sent them my novel and they sent me back a lovely letter telling me that they'd gladly publish it, for $7,000. Back then!! What would the cost be now?

Of course I said no. I didn't have $7,000. So I continued writing and submitting to publishers. I continued learning more about the process of pitching to publishers. I took courses, joined writers groups, attended conventions and seminars. I still didn't want to self-publish. Was it because of a stigma attached to the label? Possibly. Was it because I didn't want to do this because I had no idea what this was? More likely. One does not hop into a helicopter and expect the fly the thing solo. Not if one wants to live and tell the tale.

I wanted a publisher because they had the expertise that I did not. Imagine my delight when I finally landed a small-press publisher for my first book, The Bird with the Broken Wing. I learned a lot during this process.

original book cover, amazing!! courtesy Eithne Ni Anulain
The publisher created an awesome book cover. I was assigned a good editor. The end product is the best I could do at the time. It could do with a little more smoothing out, but overall, it has structure, plot, characters, twists...all the good ingredients of a novel. This publisher accepted my second book, Feedback, and again they created a great cover and I got to work with an awesome editor.

I learned so much with these two books, that when it came to book three, Little Red Gem, and when I couldn't sell it elsewhere, I was confident to self-publish. What I did was create my own book cover, and I edited it myself using structural editing comments provided by an editor. Then the book went to beta readers, and I was happy with the end result.

So I continued writing and pitching, and then one day I received an email that my publisher was dropping all their Young Adult titles. I was without a publisher. I had two choices: shop the books around to another publisher, or publish them myself.

Self-pubbed authors typically belong to social media groups and often ask for advice. There are those in one group who would suggest a reboot in this situation, but at the time, I didn't want to reboot and relaunch, I was already writing another series of books.

I chose to self-publish. (One thing I've learned along the way is that agents and publishers don't like a book that's already been shopped around so this turned out to be the right approach and saved me lots of time I might otherwise have wasted.) At first, I created simple book covers and I got these loaded up to Amazon and Smashwords so I didn't lose all the reviews I'd slaved so hard to get.  Then I sort of left them there because I was writing other books. I didn't really know if I wanted to continue writing young adult fiction. It was incredibly hard to pitch and to sell. So I started writing a dystopian series.

My perceptions of self-publishing had changed through circumstances out of my control. And this was only the beginning. If you're considering self-publishing, maybe this short post has given you some insight. I'll write some more "confessions of a self-published author" posts. Stay tuned.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Top 10 apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic books, TV shows, and movies

I couldn't have written my sci-fi series "Welcome to the Apocalypse" if I didn't have a mild interest in the end of the world, both during and after. Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction/movies differ to Dystopian in one aspect - dystopia is typically a world that wants to revert back to an earlier version and this reversion usually involve a revolution. But for all dystopian to exist, there must first come the apocalypse, then the post-apocalypse.

For me, I think the fascination for apocalyptic fiction comes from two things: A) I'm a bit of a misanthropist. When I hear about cruelty in the world, I want humanity to burn for it. Secretly, of course. I don't want to government on my doorstep accusing me of terroristic intentions. And, B) an apocalypse gives consideration to a clean slate. Mankind is being given a second chance and the opportunities to do great things are limited only by our desire to do great things.
 
To celebrate the release of  "Welcome to the Apocalypse" Book 2, I thought I'd list my top 10 apocalyptic books, TV shows, and movies and anything else (in no particular order).
 
1. BOOK - Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson.
 
 
I grabbed this book at K-Mart one day, just a random purchase, and I read it within a few days. It's an easy read, and it's entertaining. The first thing I did after was take it into work and tell a friend that she would just love it' and she did. Then she went out and bought 'Amped" by Daniel H Wilson and we raved about that, too. Just a great read of action and some delightful characters.  
 
 
2. MOVIE - The Terminator franchise, directed by James Cameron.
 
 
Humans fighting a robot system that they invented, classic end of the world action. Some facts you may not know about The Terminator. James Cameron was living in his car when he pitched the idea. Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally going to play Kyle Reese. Source

 
3. BOOK - A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller. Jnr.
 
 
 I started an Amazon discussion group to get recommendations for some great apocalyptic fiction, and this book was the most recommended. So I bought it. I couldn't put it down. And neither the cover nor the title nor the blurb would ordinarily have attracted my eye. Which contradicts everyone we're told as readers and writers to judge. since it's release in 1960, it has never been out of print.
 
4. TV SHOW - The 100 TV series on Netflix.
 
 
 This is just some great candy-TV. It's full of suspense and action. It's an interesting concept that we go up into space to save the human race and when our new home is dying we return to the surface, thinking it's uninhabitable and that we have a claim to it. Will we never learn? And I simply love Bellamy as a character. Bob Morley, who plays him is fantastic. Did you know that he's an Australian actor. I didn't until I researched information on him. Squeal. Now I love him even more. Source
 
 
5. BOOK - The Stand by Stephen King.
 
 
 While this wasn't my favourite book of King's when I read it initially, it was paramount in forging my love for this genre, and it wasn't until years later that I appreciated the lack of a happily ever after. It left us with an open ending, as it should. It kept my brain ticking over for years.
 
 
 6. MOVIE - Planet of the Apes, 1968 version starring Charlton Heston and adapted from Pierre Boulle's novel.
 
 
 I remember watching this as a kid and enjoying it, and then that final scene emerged onto the screen and it blew me away. I've been hooked on unpredictable twists ever since. And I try to incorporate them into my books to give readers something unique.
 
Quote from the movie:
George Taylor: A planet where apes evolved from men? There's got to be an answer.
Dr. Zaius: Don't look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find. Source.
 
 
7. MOVIE - The Omega Man
 

It was made in 1971, so knock the campiness of it all you want, it is a classic movie. It was movies such as Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, and Logan's Run which have given me a love of sci-fi, so nostalgic reasons alone, this is one of those movies that must make the list. I'd include Logan's Run on this list, but to me, Logan's Run is pure speculative sci-fi. It doesn't really deal with the apocalypse, just a futuristic world.
 
  
8. BOOK & MOVIE - The Hungers Games trilogy
 
 
Whilst this series is dystopian, because the trilogy encompasses the oppression and battle for freedom, this book shows some survivalist skills necessary for any apocalypse. I devoured all three books one after the other. What can I say? It deserves the attention and accolades it received.

9. THING - Mankind versus Mother Nature


Pretty much the one thing that all books, TV shows, and movies show us is that mankind are the real monsters in any apocalypse. Without us, there would be plants and animals and no such things as the apocalypse. We are often the cause, but not always. It may be a contagion that causes the end of the world. Or Mother Nature may erupt all the volcanoes. A meteor from outer space might be the cause of our downfall.

Five things every movies gets wrong about the apocalypse is an interesting read. Source
 
 
10. THING - Fear from growing up in the 70s
 

I recall growing up in the 70s, and somewhat in the 80s, when around every corner was the threat of nuclear war. This fear of total annihilation spawned movies and books and an interest in what the effects might be and how we might adapt. So without "fear" there can be no apocalypse to contemplate. We even watched videos in school about the nuclear war that never came.
 


I hope you liked reading about the top Top 10 apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic books, TV shows, movies, and even things. Am I missing any? What are some of your favourite books and movies?