Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ask Away, It's Okay

A few weeks ago, I took my daughters to the optometry department of Sam’s Club. One of them needed glasses, having lost the pair we bought just last year! That, however, is a discussion for another time.

As I was saying, we were at the optometry department. While my younger daughter and I were perusing the frames and trying to find something that met both of our needs, affordable for me and stylish for her, my older daughter was chatting up the clerk. I don’t know how the conversation got started, but the clerk ends up telling my daughter that he’s a writer. In his spare time, he’s been working on his book. He then proceeded to trot out a bound, paper manuscript.

My daughter is one of my biggest public relations reps. She will tell anyone, anywhere, anytime that I’m a writer. Naturally, she told this man that I was not only a writer, but I had some novels published. This caught the man’s attention. In between our time selecting and ordering my daughter’s glasses, he plied me with a number of questions.  At some point during this exchange, he apologized for his questions, and I assured him no apology was necessary.

This is not the first time this scenario has played out. It seems that whenever someone new learns I’m a writer, that person either knows someone who’s a writer or is an aspiring writer, and the questions come out.

People want to know how I became published. Did I use an agent or submit directly to publishers or self-publish? If I used an agent, how did I find him? If I did, or even if I didn’t, how did I know whom to submit my manuscript to? How long did it take me to become published from the time I started writing? Is it as difficult to break in to the business as everyone says? And the list goes on.

What’s somewhat amusing is that the question about what type of books I write is often an afterthought, if it’s even asked at all.  You’d think that would bother me, but it doesn’t. Nor does it bother me to be asked the questions.

Believe it or not, I’m happy to answer questions about my personal journey in the hopes that fledgling authors will benefit from my experiences. When I was first starting out, I had my share of heartache, including being scammed by a dubious literary agent. Maybe if I’d known someone who was a writer, I might have been able to avoid that fate. If I can help someone else avoid it, I will.

So, if you see me in the store, at the game or anywhere, and you want to ask me questions about being a writer and getting published, ask away. It’s okay!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Moment of Truth

I’ve been a professional writer since 2005. Before I continue, I have to confess that was a difficult statement to write. For so long, I’d considered myself an aspiring professional writer because I didn’t have a book published with one of the industry leaders; think Random House and the likes.

The publishing industry has changed a lot since I started out in 2005. At that time, electronic books were still a far-fetched idea and being a self-published author was a stigma. Many literary agents even refused to take on self-published authors or consider their indie titles as part of their publishing credits. That may still be true for some agents, but there’s no denying the industry has changed as has my opinion of my career.

No longer do I refer to myself as an aspiring professional writer. With three magazine articles and several self-published novels under my belt, I feel no shame in dropping the “aspiring” and simply acknowledging that I’m a professional writer.

When I released my first novel in 2006, self-publishing was still very much frowned upon, but I didn’t care. I’d been rejected so many times the letters could have wallpapered my bedroom twice over. I’d also been scammed by an agent who didn’t have her clients’ best interests at heart. After so much heartache, I was discouraged and desperate to get my work into the hands of readers. I believed in my novel and I wanted it to be given a fair chance so I went for it.

Rather than secure my own ISBN and print the book myself, I paid for the services of a print on demand company. That initial experience left a lot to be desired. I had to format the interior of the book myself. The cover art didn’t fit my vision, but I was too afraid to ask them to go back to the drawing board. The price of my novel was set at $14.95. Although I wanted a lower price to attract more readers, I didn’t have a choice. The price was based on the length of the novel.

When it came time to release my second novel, I stuck with print on demand but changed companies. I chose one that allowed me the flexibility of setting my own price. I was also given the option of using one of their artists or submitting my own cover. Having found a wonderful designer in my husband, I opted to submit my own covers. And not only did they secure the ISBN but they formatted the interior. Not to mention, they would distribute the novel to the same major retailers the first company had; Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

I was so happy with how everything went with the new company that I stuck with them for two more novels not considering the future expense I was creating for myself. You see, this company charges a $25 annual storage fee for each title. On top of paying for the privilege of printing my novel, I have to pay a yearly fee for them to continue to be willing to do so. That means I’m presently on the hook for $75 per year.

Until recently, I’d forgotten about this $25 fee. The last time I used a print on demand service was four years ago. Since then, I’ve switched to e-books only. Doing this, I keep my costs low and pass that savings on to my readers.

A few days ago, I was reminded by the print on demand company that I was severely behind on my storage fee payments. I was told to pay within thirty days of receipt of the notice or risk the removal of my titles from their records which would also mean these three titles would no longer be available for purchase from sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Let me be clear. I have every intention of paying. I was aware of the fee going in. Forgetting to pay doesn’t forgive the debt, but I did find myself wondering whether or not it was in my best interest to continue to pay the $75 each year for these titles to be available in print. Besides the fact that the e-book has become the preferred format for many readers, I’m not sure I’m making more money than I’m spending on these books. I made the prices lower than was recommended because I wanted to reach more readers, but that makes my royalty checks anywhere from small to non-existent.

So the moment of truth is here. Once I pay the past due amount, do I continue to spend $75 a year on the off chance that someone might purchase one of my print books, or do I close that chapter of my career. It’s a lot to consider.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Look How Far She's Come!

A couple of weeks ago, the book blog tour drew to a close for my latest contemporary romance novel, This Time. In the course of this tour, I not only attracted new readers, but I garnered some favorable reviews for my novel.

I also noticed something interesting about all of these reviews. All of the reviewers took exception to one thing in the novel. What makes this so interesting is the fact that book reviewing is so subjective. Typically, you can give the same story to two reviewers and end up with differing opinions.

With the exception of one reviewer, everyone who’s been kind enough to post their review of This Time had issue with one thing; the exact same thing. All of them were put off by the fact that the female lead, a plus sized woman, didn’t have a healthier body image. Chelsea, the character in question, has always been overweight and always been insecure because of it. As a result, a great deal of what happens in This Time revolves around her feelings about her weight. 

I understand how they feel. I agree with them. Chelsea should have a better body image and feel better about herself. So, if we all agree, why didn’t I write it that way? After all, I’m the author. I control the thoughts and feelings of all of my characters. The answer, in two words, is character development.

Character development is the change in the dynamic of a character. Normally, it will occur throughout the course of the story. In a nutshell, character development is about the character growing and changing, usually for the better. The idea is for the character and the reader to step back and say; look how far he’s come!

This Time is the first in a four book series. The Time for Love series follows the ups and downs of the romance of plus sized Chelsea Schumacher and Justin Jacobs who’s always led a charmed life. In the first book, Chelsea and Justin are reconnecting after having been out of contact for several years. Their relationship is just beginning. Chelsea is just learning to trust Justin and let go of her insecurities. When the story ends, it’s really just the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. It’s also the end of book one with three more books to follow.

I wanted a realistic portrayal of Chelsea and her feelings on being overweight, but I also wanted her to learn to love the skin she’s in.  Rather than occurring over the course of one book, the development of Chelsea’s character unfolds over the entire four-book story. In the second book, readers will have a chance to see Chelsea’s feelings grow and change. That will continue in to the third book so that by the time the fourth book rolls around, readers will see her complete transformation.

With any luck, readers and reviewers alike will stick around to make that journey with me and Chelsea. If you do, you’ll probably find yourself saying ‘look how far she’s come!’