Why I chose not to self-publish before, and why I’ve done it now

Back in 2013, I blogged about the four reasons I chose to publish the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy through a small press rather than to self-publish. To summarise:

  • I wanted someone else to edit my book
  • I wanted someone else to do all of the other things that are required when publishing a book (cover design, typesetting, etc)
  • at the time, Amazon’s royalty payments to Australians involved sending cheques in US dollars; I wanted someone to electronically transfer me royalties
  • and because, in all honesty, I felt like it would give me a sense of validation.

And then, in October last year, I blogged about the reasons I was no longer with said small press. I suppose in hindsight I could have saved myself a lot of stress if I’d just self-published in the first instance, but I gained so much valuable experience in releasing the three books through Turquoise Morning Press that I don’t regret the decision.

In the four months since then (wut?!), I’ve self-published not one but four books. To be frank, that was an utterly insane decision, but I was already locked into the release date for Lucid Dreaming, which I’d decided to self-publish in the meantime, and I wanted to get the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy back on the market as soon as I could. I was just lucky my designer could work to those timeframes.

Now I’m out the other side I can finally think and breathe again. So how do those four reasons stack up?

Editing 

Obviously, with the trilogy, I got the external editing I was after. But I re-read and re-proofed each book myself as well, before self-publishing; I didn’t just upload them as they were, because there were a few tiny stylistic things I wanted to change. Normally it’s impossible to edit — even to copy edit — your own work, but when you take a several-year gap between finalising them and re-reading them it is a lot easier to be objective.

For Lucid Dreaming, several awesome friends critiqued it for me, and then I paid for it to be edited by a professional editor who is also a good friend. This was money well spent.

Cover and design

I paid for all four books to be professionally designed by another good friend. This was also money well spent. I can slap together a teaser or a meme just fine, but the finer points of cover design completely escape me, and there’s no doubt that all four book covers are beautiful and have a similarity of appearance that ties them together.

I expect I could learn how to do paperback and ebook layouts (though not the Smashwords table of contents procedure — I tried to read the instructions and my brain turned to mush). But the value to my mental health and stress levels of having someone who gets how it’s done and can apply a theme to the entire book was immense.

As for how to navigate Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords and Createspace, I managed to muddle through. Practice makes perfect, and by now I’ve had a lot of practice!

Amazon royalty payments

Now that Amazon Australia exists, Amazon pays via direct deposit. Hallelujah!

Validation

Well, this is a tricky one, isn’t it? I’ve read some excellent blogs by authors much more successful than me, in which they say that no matter how successful you are, there’s always someone doing better than you. Once the heady rush of having a three-book deal wore off, I found that I spent a lot of time qualifying my success to people. They’d be gleeful and I’d be self-effacing. So I guess in a way I never got the validation I was after.

The upside and the way forward

There are definitely perks to self-publishing, most of which won’t be a surprise to anyone. Being able to control the various design decisions mean that I adore all four of my covers, rather than having to compromise on and have less input into ones designed at someone else’s expense. Live sales reports are a mixed blessing (and can be downright depressing unless you’re a smash hit), but there are advantages there if you want to test out different forms of advertising to see what sales effect they have.

So, after all that, would I publish with a small press again? No, I wouldn’t. Although self-publishing the way I want to, with more professionalism than I can bring to bear, costs money, I’d rather do that. Small presses are a mixed bag, and the Amazon-dominated market is unkind to them. (It’s what killed TMP.)

Would I publish via traditional publishing, were the opportunity to present itself? Yes, because they can offer something I can’t get via self-publishing: market reach. The idea of being a hybrid author (one that does both traditional and self-publishing) has a huge amount of appeal to me.

Have you tried multiple avenues for publishing your books? Which worked best for you?


 

Isla3_Front_smlMelpomene’s Daughter, the final book in the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy, is once again available at all good (and some evil) online book retailers. You can find the buy links for it, and the rest of the series, here.

Isla struggles to embrace her fae nature while preserving her humanity in the final, exciting instalment of the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy.

Isla has spent months persuading the Canberra fae that she isn’t a tyrant like her mother, trying to prove that—despite her mixed blood—she’s human, not a monster. That she’s one of them, not one of the high fae who enslaved them.

But a vision of a fresh-dug grave warns that someone is going to die.

When the Old World fae once again move against her family, seeking revenge for old wrongs, Isla will stop at nothing to keep those she loves safe. She just wants to be left alone. But to win that right for herself, her family and all Australian fae, she must cross the oceans and take the fight to the country of her birth.

Isla must prove she really is Melpomene’s daughter after all.

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NaNoWriMo — the next steps

The folks at Grammarly sent me this infographic to share last month, but I decided that the last thing people who are trying to write almost 2000 words a day need is pressure to edit when they should just be drafting. Still, there are some decent (albeit basic/fundamental) tips here, and now that the pressure is off, the graphic is worth a look at to remind you of some of the things that you should be looking out for on a proofread.

Here are my basic tips for NaNo participants now that the November frenzy is over.

  • Finish writing the manuscript. Just because you got to 50k, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re done. (The average novel is closer to twice that length. Here’s a handy link with recommended word counts for different genres.) And if you didn’t “win” NaNo and didn’t finish your manuscript, that doesn’t mean you should give up. A slow writer is still a writer. I know. I couldn’t win NaNo without a time machine, but I’ve still finished five novels.
  • Leave the manuscript for a few weeks (or as long as you can stand it) before coming back to look at it with fresh eyes.
  • Re-read the manuscript. Do a structural edit and re-write as needed to deal with the bigger plot problems. Copy edit afterwards (but also as you go if you’re like me and can’t let a comma splice be).
  • Send it to your beta readers/critique partners.
  • Review their suggestions and incorporate them as necessary/appropriate.
  • Repeat the previous three steps until you’re done.

DO NOT IMMEDIATELY SEND YOUR NOVEMBER 2015 MANUSCRIPT TO AN AGENT OR PUBLISHER, OR SELF-PUBLISH IT WITH A COVER YOU MADE IN WORD ART.

That is a NaNo no-no. :p

Five Mistakes To Avoid in Your NaNoWriMo Novel Infographic


I think I’ve become a sports person (sort of)

Now there’s a blog post title I never thought I’d write. But hear me out.

A week and a half ago I got a sporting injury. I know it’s a sporting injury, because the very nice young physiotherapist I went to see called it that. And it certainly sounds like a sporting injury; see, I got a calf strain, which is something I usually associate with rugged footballers who have no necks, and whose thighs are as wide around as my car.

How did I achieve this thing? Me, whose usual idea of a strenuous physical activity is lifting a hardcover novel? (Hey, those suckers are heavy.)

I was doing a warm-up at karate.

I never thought I’d be a karate person. But, after it was recommended to a friend’s son to help him work on his coordination, she and I decided to enrol our two boys. A colleague recommended his old school, GKR, because it is friendly and low contact.

By the end of the second Saturday morning watching my boy get all this perfectly good exercise while I sat on an uncomfortable chair, I decided to sign up as well. It took a huge act of will; the class I go to is quite large, and has a mix of adults and kids. I am incredibly unfit, and hate embarrassing myself in front of strangers. Or, well, anyone. But the sensei is kind, encouraging and funny (sadly, he’s also married 😉 ), and I figured, what have I got to lose? Other than more weight than I need and a lifetime of awkwardness, I mean?

Hells yes.

Here are some reasons why karate is working for me

In-built babysitting

My son is six. If I joined a gym, I’d need to organise babysitting for him (or spend money on a crèche), all of which is expensive and requires more organisation than I have brain cells spare for. We have a gym near work, but finding the time to actually go at lunch when we’re so busy has proven difficult. Also, I hate having to shower at work afterwards. Communal showers: ugh.

Whereas at karate, the boy and I are in the same dojo. We can exercise in the same class, each at our own pace. And afterwards I can drive us home to our bathroom. It’s the best of all worlds!

Exercise

Because I hear it’s good for you?

I do feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in my gi, but after a few months I can see changes in my musculature, and I have more endurance than I used to. After I tore my calf muscle I actually cried at the idea of having to take a break. Also because I was sore. But still, how pathetic/awesome is that? I’ve never felt that way about exercise before.

Get rid of the hat, add glasses, and this is basically me.

Get rid of the hat, add glasses, and this is basically me.

Meeting new people

Although I have lots of close friends that I’ve met on-line, my circle of real-life friends is small. Close, but small. I’m an introvert, and doing karate has forced me to chat to strangers. Some of them I could see myself becoming friends with. Others I can oggle at a distance. It’s great.

Research

Fight scenes, my friend. Fight scenes. I now know how to throw a punch or …er, kick … a kick. I’m not very good at the latter, because I’m still working on my balance, but I spend a lot of time watching talented black-belts demonstrate, and I know what it’s meant to look like. That means I can describe it. It’s fantastic! Last weekend I missed a women’s self-defence workshop they were running because I couldn’t walk very well, but next time they offer it I’ll definitely go along to that as well. My characters will benefit, for sure!

Do you do a martial art? Have you tried acquiring a new physical skill later in life? Leave a comment, so I don’t feel so alone!


I finished writing a book, you guys

I had an amazingly productive week last week. It turns out all I need to have happen in order for me to get things done is:

a) have a medical treatment that means I feel fine but can’t be around people because I am slightly radioactive, and

b) send my son to his father’s place interstate for a week (see a, above).

Lead container

This is what a lead container holding a radioactive tablet looks like. Note the gloves. #TwoByTwoHandsOfBlue

I had my expensive tablet on Tuesday of last week and went home to my silent house. There, I spent all day continuing to work on my edits for Lucid Dreaming, finishing them by dinnertime. (If you need an editor for an indie project, I can strongly recommend Lauren K. McKellar.)

The next day, I cracked open my work in progress, the fantasy inspired by Ancient Greece, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before. I was only a few chapters from the end, so I wrote … and wrote … and wrote… By the weekend, when I collected my son, I had 12k words down, with only a couple thousand left needed to finish the book.

I wrote those couple thousand on Monday night this week.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll have seen me getting all giddy about it. Because although the draft is — like all first drafts — as rough as guts, and there are a couple of niggling plot holes I have to fix before I do anything else, it’s DONE! And that is the best feeling, because you can’t edit nothing. And because I am a super-slow writer, and the fact I’ve managed to finish five novels is just OMG wow, you guys.

Happy pointing

This was me, basically. Only with more glasses and less bow tie. #BowTiesAreCool

I started this project in October last year, around the same time Isla’s Inheritance came out. It was always a challenging project for me, because I’ve only ever written urban fantasy before, and I found fantasy a lot more difficult due to the world-building required. (That’s why I put off writing it for over a year.) But I attribute more of the delay to the fact I released two books after I started drafting — editing and promotion are time-consuming — and wrote two novellas for different projects as well.

The book doesn’t yet have a name; it’s working title was (wait for it) “Greek Fantasy”. I am a freaking legend at naming things! It’s currently 92k words, making it the longest first draft I’ve ever done.

The plan from here is to proofread Lucid Dreaming so I can give it to the formatter, and then I will read over Greek Fantasy and tidy it up for my critique partners. And then I will start the sequel to Lucid Dreaming, which also doesn’t have a name yet.

(send help)


Writing prompts

Today I’m over at Aussie Owned and Read, talking about writing prompts – two-to-three-sentence ideas to get your imagination firing and your fingers flying over the keyboard. (Or your pen waggling, if that’s more your thing.) Please drop by , say hi, and join in the conversation! 🙂

Aussie Writers

As I blogged about a couple of months ago, I’m a big Pinterest user. I have almost 2000 pins, and Pinterest has started suggesting pins I might like based on my boards. I think it might also be based on what I’ve pinned recently, which can end up in a spiral of me pinning what they suggest, so they suggest more of it … but since most of that is either Doctor Who or Firefly, I don’t mind too much. 😉

Disclaimer: Loki belongs to the Marvel franchise and I make no claim to own him. Although, let's be honest, I would if I could. Disclaimer: Loki belongs to the Marvel franchise and I do not claim to own him. Although, let’s be honest, I would if I could.

One of my boards is on writing. Originally it was just funny writing quotes, including motivational posters, but recently I’ve expanded the definition to include the occasional inspirational quote.

But most of what Pinterest suggests for this particular board are actually writing prompts, which got me to…

View original post 304 more words


The Anatomy of a Grammar Nerd

So when Grammarly emailed me about something called the Anatomy of a Grammar nerd, I thought they’d be talking about how we have dictionaries for brains or pain receptors triggered by dangling modifiers. But no, apparently that was me being literal.

Who’d have thought?

Anyway. I’m a little too old to be a grammar nerd, apparently — although the age range might have more to do with the fact these stats were derived from Facebook users’ profiles, and maybe those who aren’t in the 18-24 age range tend to hide their year of birth. 😉

As for the Oxford comma, I’m agnostic on the issue. I don’t think it’s necessary to use them all the time, but I will use one when to do otherwise would cause confusion. As for semicolons, they are my favourite and my best.

How do you compare to the infographic?

Anatomy of a Grammar Nerd Infographic

Posted with permission from Grammarly


My mini writing retreat

This week I’ve been on a long-anticipated mini writing retreat. Only I didn’t stay in a house by the beach, or in a rainforest cabin, but in my own home. I took this week off work, which meant that because of the public holiday on Monday I had four days where my son was at school and I could write in peace and quiet.

Four days.

And it was basically the best week ever.

This is NOT where I stayed. (Source)

This is not where I stayed. Gorramit! It looks so warm. I bet you don’t need a blanket on your knees to be comfy there… (Source)

For a start, I got to drop the boy off for class every day. Usually he goes to before-school care because I work full time and, although he loves it, we’ve both really enjoyed me being able to walk him up to the playground where they do the morning “meet and greet”. We’ve gotten there early every day so I could get a carpark, and even though it’s been below freezing as often as not he’s enjoyed showing me around the place, playing games while I watch, and insisting I listen to the announcements every morning. (I think so I have to suffer as much as he does?)

Another awesome thing is that, the one time I was exhausted after a writing stint, I was able to have a nap before I picked him up. And I also got to read in peace and quiet.

But the best part was all the wording that happened. I wrote over 9000 words during the past four days (I’m hoping to sneak in another thousand on the weekend, because … round numbers.) Given I usually manage 2000 at best in a week, I’m over the moon about that. My current WIP has been in progress since October last year, so I’m mad keen to get it finished.

I’m not quite there. But I’m close. So close. I should be able to knock it off in the next few weeks.

And then there will be celebrating. Oh yes.

The only sad thing about all this, of course, is that I’m back at work next week, which means it’s back to my usual snail’s pace. So if someone could see their way clear to paying me to write full time, that’d be awesome! [INSERT PLEA FOR PEOPLE TO BUY AND/OR REVIEW MY BOOKS HERE KTHXBAI]

For those of you reading this who are writers, have you ever been on a writing retreat, genuine or otherwise? Was it as awesome as mine?

Before I finish, in case you missed it, last Tuesday I was at Aussie Owned and Read, talking about ellipses and semicolons. It was really interesting, I promise! Check it out.