Hello again - a good time to resume writing blog posts with the release of NADI, the sequel to EKO! (Available on Amazon in either paperback
I'm pretty proud of NADI - I think it's a step up from EKO, since I know the characters and world so much better, and there's a lot of iconic scenes (and revelations) that people will enjoy - and maybe be a little surprised at. There are a couple of scenes, in particularly, that I will confess took WEEKS to write and rewrite - because romance/intimacy isn't something I gravitate to. But I love how they turned out. I'll let you discover what's going on behind closed doors with the Arazura
Still haven't read the first one yet? I dropped the price of EKO to 99 cents for the ebook - and it's even free for those participating in Kindle Lending Library.
Also, I'll be at Barrington Books Retold in Garden City, Cranston on Friday March 24th at 7pm to talk NADI and self-publishing, with fresh copies available for purchase!
And if you know me in person, and want a copy, just ask. =)
And this is a good time to announce that the third book of the NINE Series, INSYNN, will be out in September 2017.
Thanks for reading,
Happy New Year! Despite all the issues with 2016, I had a lot of good things happen too, mostly related to these books and meeting people and getting myself out there. If you've bought, or read, or left reviews, or even checked out this site - Thank you.
My last con appearance (for now) will be at Arisia 2017
in Boston - I have a table Friday and Saturday only (January 13th and 14th). I have 20 books printed and I want to sell out! I'll also have more sample chapters of EKO for free.
Then I'll go dark for the next two months, for the most part, and get Book Two: NADI ready for its publication date of March 9, 2017. First proof is in and being edited - next step is to send out this sequel to reviewers to preview and hopefully write about before the release date.
And at the same time, mustering the strength to continue with Book Four, the final book in the series. I'm about half-way through and it's been a struggle, this one. There's a lot of loose ends to tie up, and tricky to keep things straightforward and not too complex. Plus, there's all the people dying *shrugs* you know how it is.
But I'll say it openly - I'm struggling with my depression this winter and some other personal stuff, so I won't update the blog as much. Pretty exhausted, mostly, and finding that I'm doing a little bit more reading than I am writing - reading old stories from long-ago friends, going through my extensive Haruki Murakami library (just about done with the Wind Up Bird Chronicle). It happens in the winter, when the sun goes down, so not entirely unexpected, but still frustrating when all; you want to do is write.
It'll come, though! Always does. And I'm really psyched to release Books Two and Three this year, along with a poetry chapbook (my first!). More info as it all comes together.
Thanks for reading,
Two weeks after the Kings Canyon massacre, the crew of the Arazura is splintering apart. Haunted by what she witnessed, Sydel makes a fraught connection with a mysterious newcomer, CaLarca, who teaches the young woman about her abilities, but harbors dangerous secrets about both their pasts. Brothers Renzo and Cohen must deal with the aftermath of their absentee father’s sudden death, while their sister, Phaira, struggles with her drug addiction, grief, and the presence of a former advisory while traveling as a bodyguard. As pressure mounts to make an arrest in the Kings Canyon case, and as a separate, unidentified danger draws closer, the foursome must work through their deep-rooted issues, learn to trust each other, and come together in the wake of new enemies.
Publication Date: March 2017
I've been very fortunate to have been interviewed twice by Max and company at CityWide Blackout
, based in Cambridge. Full disclosure - I got the initial opportunity through the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA) by winning a lottery. Second time, that was just my natural charm (and their booth being across from mine at the recent Rhode Island Author Expo, and me yelling at them to remember me and interview me at some point during the day. Yes, indeed: CHARM).
Here's number one interview, which - my part begins at 1.04, and they actually asked me to stay after the official "goodbye" so you can hear a few more of my random comments through the end of the show. Interview One
Here's number two, from 12/2/2016, which repeats the first a little bit, but then we start talking nerd and it's all good. Interview Two
Here's what I've learned about doing radio:
1) You might be like me, and be amazed at how much you love it. I was scared to death going into that radio station, but there is something really appealing about having a conversation with one or two people in an enclosed space, and how freeing that feels to just be yourself. I really, really enjoyed both interviews, and it's got me thinking that maybe I should do some limited podcasting - or at least record some of EKO as an audiobook! I don't hate my voice as much as I thought I did.
2) Stay in the middle and try not to fidget. There is something very cool about being in the booth, giant headphones on, and the big microphone hanging in front of you. What I learned very quickly is that if you talk to the right or left at all, the sound cuts out. You have to stay still, stay centered, and speak closely and deliberately.
3) Don't worry about long silences or 'bad conversation.' I felt a little stressed about this part, wondering about what I'd say if there were awkward pauses. Beauty of radio? Not my problem. That's the interviewer's job, and Max and Matt and everyone did a great job of keeping the interview rolling. They are the ones who do the research, who have the prompt questions. You just answer them the best you can.
4) Prepare some soundbytes. For example, the pitch for EKO, give or take a few switched words, boils down to: "Three estranged siblings become the unlikely protectors of an evolving teen psychic." That's what I repeat when I have just a little time to summarize, and then I add in the bits about having good action, cool technology, and all the other stuff that makes EKO fun. I'm also ready with my background in comics, with growing up in a big family, with getting 100 rejections and going for self-publishing - all thoughts I've already processed and figured out, ready to speak outloud.
5) It's cool to be nervous. If you stammer, you stammer, big deal. Just keep going. I've always had a tendency to stammer when I get nervous or overwhelmed - it's something I'm very self-conscious about. For whatever reason, I felt very comfortable with the radio guys - it was like having a conversation with fellow nerd guy friends like I would any other weekend.
Here's where my previous experience as a mini-comic book maker really comes into handy, because I have a leg-up on exhibiting my books in public events! And you can too, and it's easier than you think.
First off, exhibitions. Where can you sell your book? Book fairs, book festivals or conferences in your area. If you belong to a writer's group or association, they will often have festivals where you can buy a table. Costs range anywhere from $25 to $500, depending on where you want to go. If you're like me and you don't have that kind of money to blow, you can still do some cool local events.
Inquire ahead of time - most shows book tables at least three months in advance. You'll send a check and an application form with all your details, which should lay out exactly what you're getting for your money (example: 8-foot table, two chairs, tablecloth, electrical output).
Figure out what you need for the table. You've got your books; do you want a sign? A standup banner? A custom tablecloth? How do you want your books to be arranged? Do you want to find a stand for them? Or just lay them on the table? Stand-up banners are extremely cool, but they will set you back at least $100. Some local printers will create foam-backed poster boards for you, 11x14 or larger, which can be a cheap alternative.
Get ready to give away some stuff. Postcards, bookmarks, posters, stickers, whatever might be appealing, get them printed, and give them away. Yes, it's tough to invest the money and not get a return, but one thing I've learned so far in this process is that you give a *lot* of stuff away when you're just starting out, because people don't know you. Do what you can afford. Steal other people's ideas. I saw sample chapters handed out a a convention; now, that's something that I do.
Have a copy of the book marked SAMPLE: this is the book that people can flip through, and keep your other books undamaged and ready to buy.
Get change ahead of time, and a Square device if you can. A lot of people will want to use credit cards to buy - make the purchase easy on them! Square fits right into your phone or Ipad, you enter in the cost, swipe the card (and the key with Square, I've found, is that you have to swipe insanely fast for it work. Don't ask me why) and it keeps track of all your purchases, and you can link it directly to your bank account.
Stand up. It's much easier to engage people walking by if you're standing up, rather than hunched over on your table. Trust me, I'd rather be doing that too!
Get to know your neighbors. If things are slow, say hello to the people around you. There's all in the same boat! You can make some nice connections doing this, and who knows, if they like you, they might direct people to your table.
Bring water and snacks, especially if you're alone. It'll be nerve-wracking to leave your table to go to the bathroom, let alone go in search of a meal.
Be cool with the fact that you might not sell any books. This happens! So much depends on the location, the weather, the people walking through, the advertising, etc. I have been to shows where I sold nothing, and to shows where I sold out. But at least your name and your book are out there, and ideally, you've made a few good connections with other authors.
For someone who swore that I'd never be a social media person, it's sure ramped up for me in the last three months. I'm posting almost every day. You can't beat the instant connect you can make on Twitter, whether by posting pictures, tweeting out lines from your book, or directly pitching to an agent, there's all sorts of opportunities perfect for budding authors.
Here's some of the neat things happening on Twitter for new writers looking to break in:
First, there's #PitMad: "#PitMad is a one-day pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 140 character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. The pitch must include the hashtag #PitMad and the category (#YA, #MG, #A, #NA, #PB etc.) The agents/publishers will favorite your tweet if they want to see more." More details on the blog: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/
The interesting thing about this, besides getting the interest of an agent, is that it's an excellent training tool to condense your story and really figure out the key words to make your story pop. And it runs quarterly, so you can try again and again! Here's a link to read some success stories: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad-successes/
Second, and related to PitMad, is #SFFpit:
"Writing a fantasy or science fiction novel is hard enough. Now, try pitching it in 140 characters or less. That’s the challenge set forth by #SFFpit, a twice-annual Twitter pitching contest. During a 10-hour window on the chosen day, authors with completed manuscripts who are seeking representation or publication can tweet a pitch for their books (at most, once per hour)."
Unlike #PitMad, this contest is only for works of fantasy or science fiction. More details here: http://dankoboldt.com/sffpit/Third, there's #PitchWars:
"Pitch Wars is a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents. The mentors also critique the writer’s pitch to get it ready for the agent round. Writers send applications (query and first chapter of manuscript) to four mentors who best fit their work. The mentors then read all their applications and choose the one writer they want to mentor for the next two months."
More details here: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitch-wars/All of this is not just about winning something from a company or agent; it's also getting your name and your writing out there for other people to see, and hopefully inquire more about.
Here's some other Twitter events for writers; just include the hashtags!
Muse Mondays #LoveLines
Share your lines about love and relationships from any genre
One Line Wednesdays#TwitterFiction -
this annual festival Festival is about embracing, exploring, and developing the art of storytelling on Twitter.
There are a number of regularly scheduled TweetChats - this is a great way to meet new people and build an audience.
I'm fresh off two consignment attempts so I thought it would be an ideal time to talk more about consignment, what it means, and whether or not it's worth your time and effort.
Consignment is this: when you are self-published, if you want to try and get your book on an actual shelf, you have to make a deal with the store owner. Smaller stores are more apt to have a consignment program; chains are more difficult, especially if you haven't gotten to the point yet of distributing through a major company like Ingram (which I am aspiring to with Octopus & Elephant at some point). So don't worry about the Barnes & Noble yet, and start small. Do a search of locally owned bookstores, look them up online, see if they have a consignment policy. Ideally, like Books on the Square here, it's nice and obvious on their website:
Also check online for any horror stories. There's a place in the city that I won't mention by name that has a bad reputation among local publishers for not paying what's due, selling books to a third-party without permission or percentage, etc. Do your research.
Here's what I've done for Books on the Square and Barrington Books Retold, my first two targets. First, I reached out to ask about setting up a meeting. I got an in-person one at BBR; BotS asked for just the form and a sample copy to drop off, no meeting yet. Before I did any of that, I reviewed all their policies and filled out their consignment form, which will ask all your contact information, title, number of copies you are leaving them, the percentage breakdown of what you will get vs the store if a copy is sold, and the amount of time the store is allotting to sell these books.
This percentage can range from you getting 50%-70% of the list price for your book, with the store getting the other half. They keep the records, and you are responsible for checking in on the status of your books once a month. If they sell out, awesome, they pay out and you bring more. If they haven't sold in the allotted period of time, you're responsible for picking up the extras. Some places give you three months, others give you a year. Keep track of all this in a spreadsheet.
Also offer to do an author signing or talk when presenting your title for consideration. They want to bring people in, so if you can serve as an incentive, go for it. Be friendly and personable - personality matters! Be polite and say thank you, even if they decide not to stock it. You're more likely to sell books online than you are in a bookstore, as a self-published author, so use caution in how many stores to approach. I'm sticking with these two, and maybe one more for now. I might also try a few places in Boston.
And maybe I'll sell more copies next Thursday October 13th at Barrington Books Retold, when I give an author talk on "From Idea to Amazon" - all my mistakes from inception to rejection to eventual publication.
My first author reading was on September 29th, 2016, as part of the Lively Literari Series at the Elephant Room in Cranston. It was probably the most afraid I've ever been since starting this process of publication. I panicked all day. I seriously considered bailing - who would know? Who would care? I was terrified that I would stammer (a problem with me when I get nervous) or sound stupid, or that people would walk out as soon as I started because it was so bad.
Well, I did it. To about 10 people, many of which were there as part of the LL event committee, so not too prolific. But I did it, with a handheld microphone: I read 15 minutes of EKO, I only stumbled a few times, and no one threw anything at me.
My tips for others in my precarious position: Practice beforehand. I paced my tiny house and timed myself in reading the first pages of EKO. I noted where I stumbled in pencil, so I knew to expect it. I practiced deep breathing, slowing down my speech, and changing my voice slightly for different characters. I brought books and business cards, in case there was any interest (there wasn't). I wore more deodorant than usual. I told myself it was 15 minutes, and as soon as I was done, I could bolt if I wanted to. I ended up staying an extra hour, listening to other poets. Then I went home, exhausted from adrenaline, and collapsed into bed.
Overdramatic? Maybe not for you, but for someone like me, who struggles mightily with social anxiety (though no one ever can believe I do - I have just learned how to work around it, and fake the confidence) this was a big deal. Hoping that the next reading goes smoother and less sweaty.
I've run three giveaways since the release of EKO - for a fairly small price, it's a great way to get the name of your book in front of hundreds of people, and a portion of those people will either enter the contest, or maybe look up your book's name to learn more. Added bonus: the polite thing to do when you win a giveaway is to provide a review on Amazon, Goodreads.com, etc., which also helps to promote your book! The more reviews, the better when it comes to self-publishing!
Here's what I've done so far:
Giveaway #1: Goodreads (August): Over 500 entered the contest, and about 150 people put EKO on their to-read list. Total Cost: $35 for three copies + media mailing to the winners.
Giveaway #2: Amazon (August): I was disappointed with Amazon's giveaway. Even with their scope of reach (and perhaps that's why it didn't make much of a difference) I had about 200 people enter the contest, with digital copies sent to the winners. But very little return thus far.
Giveaway #3: Goodreads (September): Well, see the stats below! Look how many people have entered, and with 20 days to go (at the time I am writing this), 30+ people have put my book on their to-read list.
When our books go live, an unfortunate truth is that you need to invest your own money to both promote and sell your book, especially if it's in print. You probably won't get it back - I sure haven't. But as I give physical copies of EKO away, send it to reviewers, display it at expos, sign up for author talks and hope to intrigue a few people, I'm glad that I have copies at the ready - some people only respond to that tactile feeling of paper in hand, and will never consider an e-book.
So: order in bulk, then? 100 copies to start?
First off, most of us don't have the money to buy 1000, even 100 copies of our books in advance. I sure as hell don't. Each copy of EKO is $6, flat rate, plus a shipping fee that ends up being around $10-$15 for the box of books I get (your book price may vary depending on color, page count, etc.). So for me, 100 books is a minimum of $615 to shell out, with possible no paypack. Again, might not be a huge number to most people, but that's a good chunk of change and as you can see by my sidebar, I'm watching my budget very carefully.
Thank goodness for technology, then! Used to be that you had to do a minimum order to any publisher to get copies; no such thing when it comes to CreateSpace. From your Author Dashboard, you can order copies and ship to yourself. So far, I've put in three orders over the past month through CreateSpace, one batch of 15, one batch of 30. In general, the processing, publication and shipping takes about two weeks, if a little less. Another nice thing about spacing out your shipping is that if you find some little error, you don't have 99 others to wince at every time you look. You can always go in and make changes as you go through your marketing plan. What could be better?
Ten years ago, I used to make mini-comics and sell them at comic cons and other exhibitions, on Etsy, too. I ordered 100 copies of each one, thinking that I'd sell all those for sure. Well, most of them are stacked in a crate, probably to end up in the recycling bin one day. Waste of money. Now I know better. Time moves fast, opportunities go even faster, and before you know it, your work is old news. You have about three months after the release date where you can really push your work. After that, it's much more difficult to move product (so I have read and learned, anyways). Be glad for progress - only order what you need. Look ahead at your schedule and make sure there's enough time for new books to be shipped.