5 Things I’ve Learned from E-publishing

NotoriousAtherton200x300Pat here, riffing on what I've learned from e-publishing:

1)    Readers want books that publishers have ignored for years.
2)    I can make more money on e-pubbing my backlist than I made when I first sold the books.
3)    If publishers don’t intend to keep a book in the store or sell it on-line, then they should automatically revert those rights to the authors so the authors can put the books out there for readers to find. To do otherwise is just plain rude.
4)    Social media is a time suck and I’m bad at it, but readers are beautiful and respond when I stutter abominably.
5)    All those geeks who declared that information just wants to be free are now driving Lamborghinis and wearing Rolexes by selling advertising.

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Ask a Wench

InonlyJo here. This month's question for the Wenches is: Is there a story type or a genre you haven't written but would like to one day?  What attracts you to it, and what makes it difficult to do?

We all came at this in different ways, but there are constants, the main ones being time and practicality. Time — we never have enough time to write all the ideas dancing in our heads. Practicality — we all earn our livings from our writing, and not many readers support authors who bounce around different types of books. As readers we're all like that, aren't we? Growling and grouching when our favorite author does something different.

True, or not true? 'Fess up.

So I'll go first.

There isn't a story type or genre I'd like to write but haven't, but that's because I've dabbled a lot. I did mystery in The Stanforth Secrets, which taught me that I didn't like that sort of plotting. I have always played among the imaginative freedom of fantasy and science fiction, and I've brought those elements into many of my works, especially novellas. Probably my most out-there one, in all senses, is the SF romance, The Trouble With Heroes. If you're in the mood for an unlikely hero having to save a world far, far away, follow the link.Ttsm

Tucked away on my computer I have a couple of contemporary romances written way back when, and a fantasy romance that was too odd even for the speculative fiction world! I have to say I thought one rejection puzzling. "Magic doesn't work like that."

Here's what the other Wenches had to say.

Cara/Andrea
TheCocoaConspiracy_APenroseAs a reader, I really enjoy a number of different genres. And as a writer I’m always curious to explore. So I suppose it’s only natural that I’m constantly thinking of things I’d like to try, even though they are out of my “comfort zone.” I loved stepping outside of historical romance and trying my hand at historical mystery, and I’ve got a few contemporary women’s fiction ideas that are percolating in my head for whenever I get the time to noodle out some exporatory pages (the day needs to have more than 24 hours!)

For a mysterious sip of cocoa, click here.

But what I would really love to tackle sometime is a non-fiction book in the spirit of “Seabiscuit” and “The Boys in the Boat.” I am passionate about history and how a specific era influences and intertwines with the lives of individuals. And of course I love a great, compelling story! Weaving both strands together would be a fascinating challenge.

Joanna
I guess maybe I always wanted to write Science Fiction. I read Sci Fi when I was a a kid. My first favorite books and authors were SF. I learned how to build a fictive world from the SF masters — how they tack down reality by using small specific details. The hundred ways a character makes the fictive world plausible.
No way home

I delight in happy endings, so I'd want to stay Romance centered. So I guess if I were to go outside Historical Romance, I'd head me over into some paranormal. I'd tune my settings just a little bit further on the likelihood dial and let some mystical in. Really, talking about it, I almost convince myself to try this someday …

Before you get excited, that's Joanna's imagination running wild. That luscious books DOES NOT EXIST! Alas.

Nicola. 
There are so many stories I would like to write! Years ago I wrote a contemporary women's fiction novel and I re-read some of it recently and really wanted to polish it up and do something with it. I also have ideas for historical fiction, time travel, paranormal and crime. Definitely crime. I love reading it and I would love to write it. I'm also planning a non-fiction history book. When I say planning, I've been researching it and intending to write it for about 10 years now.

As is the case with a lot of authors it's finding the time to branch out into other genres this is difficult. I'm not prolific these days which means I don't have the time to spare from writing historical romance. But it's fun to play with the other ideas in my head and one day soon I will take them out and do something with them.

Pat

DamnCould I wish for non-genre, please? I’ve written in about all recognized genres, and they all have their limitations. I understand the need for a reader to know what she’s buying, but my Muse really would like to take wing and fly and gather up all the goodies she finds and knit them together into something unique. Yeah, yeah, I know, we can wear sweaters if she sticks to a pattern, and anything woven from stardust is pretty

I’d like to be able to write an unlikable heroine. I want to write about revolution. Maybe I could have a couple of heroes, one quiet and nerdy, the other loud and athletic. Or maybe the real heroine is a granny and a kid. Or a space alien! I love alien stories. That's one scary looking heroine! If you're up to the challenge of Damn Him To Hell, click here.

But it’s rather lonely writing a book that I know no one will ever read, so I resist.

Susan

If you've got a good store of the writer gene in your DNA, even reading another genre can make you itch to write it. The urge bubbles up often to try this, try that, oooh and that other thing too. I've got ideas for stories in lots of different genres and areas, and I've started researching,
outlining and writing some of them — these are the books I play with now and then, and someday I'll bring some of them out into the sunlight.

I'd love to try my hand at historical mysteries — I love reading mysteries, both historical and contemporary — and I'd also like to try a multi-layered art history mystery-thriller-speculative
fiction thing. I'm developing some ideas along both these lines. I'd like to try YA sometime, and
books for small children too (I played with some ideas when my kids were small, but I was always so busy then – if I have grandchildren one day, I might try that for them). I love reading contemporary romantic thrillers, and I've got a few ideas there as well. And ghosts. I would love to write ghost stories.
Lady Macbeth paperback cover

I've always wanted to write historical romance, and I've been very lucky to be able to fulfill thatdream. And I've been lucky in another writing dream — big, deeply researched mainstream historical novels, which I've done in Lady Macbeth and Queen Hereafter, and I'm continuing along that vein. These books are a huge challenge in the research and in building a bigger story than we generally can pull off in a historical romance. I'm also keen on writing nonfiction history – I'm working on something now, and I've had some opportunity to write articles for historical and clan history journals, which I really enjoy doing.

But for a quick, part-time, dream writer's job – I've always wanted to be the person who names the paint colors. Whisper of Dawn Pink, Eloquent Aqua, Fairy Grove Green, Purple Tango, Cinnamon Cream … How do you get that gig? I'd love to give it a try!

Anne here:
My trouble is, I'd like to write everything. I have a sci/fi fantasy series that's been in my head for years. I also would love to write contemporary romantic comedy. I had a sequel planned for my contemporary rom/com sheriff story but the line  it was published in wasn't doing well, so I never wrote it. And before I discovered romance I was a big reader of crime fiction—I still am— and I'd love to write a crime novel.

The reason I haven't tried writing all of these different stories in different genres is that I'm a slow writer and I have to earn my own living, and swapping from genre to genre is a sure way to lose readers. I was advised early on to concentrate on my historicals, and I do love writing them. And readers keep asking for other characters' stories, and I do want to write them… But maybe one day I'll get to "play" in other genres.

Mary Jo

I read all genres, and particularly loved history, sf/f, romance, and happy endings. The great thing about writing romance is that just about all elements can be incorporated into a story as long as the romance is strong and the ending is happy.  I like adventure, so my characters get into trouble a lot. <G>

Occasionally I’ve written mystery, but more often suspense elements, since that’s easier. (Mystery requires an orderly mind and clues, while with suspense, you can get away with a maniac in the woodshed.) When the Muse began banging for more variety, I’ve mostly been able to indulge her. When I was bit by a contemporary idea, I wrote a trilogy of contemporary/women’s fiction romances. When I added fantasy to my historicals, I ended up with a Del Rey fantasy contract. I really wanted to write about Dunkirk, and that ended in a young adult paranormal/historical series. I’m not fast enough to successfully write in more than one genre, but these side trips have kept the Muse happy.

FR-Chriser
Another thing about the Brave New World of publishing is that it’s  possible to write short works to feed the Muse. Most of my creative energy goes into my historical romance, but I’ve done several short fantasy stories in the world of my Guardian magical series. Some of these stories are even contemporary, like “Toasted,” a contemporary fantasy set in New York city in Fiction River’s Christmas Ghosts anthology, published today. To be toasted,  Click here.

All in all, I’m pretty lucky writer. And I think I follow the old song: If I can’t be with the story I love, I’ll love the one I’m with!

So now you know the Wenches' wilder ways and secret desires.

Do any surprise you?

Which Wench's secret dream would you most like to see available to buy?

Have fun!

Jo

 

Thinking Aloud . . .

Crocus The-Banished-Bride-APickens-e-bookCara/Andrea here, musing today on evolution. Creative evolution, not biological evolution (though I suppose biology does indeed have something to do with the way we think.) It seems only fitting as yesterday was the first day of spring, a season that offers colorful reminders of how life as a whole is in a constant state of change.

Code-of-Honor-APickens-e-bookNow, what got me to thinking about how ideas change and evolve is the recent project I’ve been working on—preparing my old Andrea Pickens out-of-print Regencies for reissue as e-books. I decided to read through them to correct some of the dumb errors I made as a newbie author—I’m ashamed to say that it took me a while to grasp the nuances of British titles, plus I somehow got the date of the Peninsular War mucked up. However, other than that, I decided not to alter the original text. Not, mind you, because it was perfect prose. On the contrary—my pen was itching to rewrite a number of scenes, but I restrained the urge. 

The-Storybook-HeroDespite all the faults—and there were many—there was a certain style and exuberance in them that I didn’t want to alter. They were my first books, and I see that glorious excitement at creating characters and conflict. My writing style has certainly evolved since those early days, but it’s fascinating to see the similarities too.  From the start, I liked creating outsiders, people who are dance to their own drummer.. Still do. I have fun exploring the nuances of individuals who don’t quite fit in to Society’s expectations. And while I like to think that my heroes and heroines have evolved, that they have gotten even more complex and interesting as I’ve gotten older and hopefully wiser, it is really interesting to see the essence of who they are—and who I am as a writer—is reflected in those first works.

What are those qualities? A heroine who summons up the courage to be true to herself despite the fact that Society does not approve of her passions. And a hero is trying to come to grips with his own flaws, and is struggling to be a better man. (Right now I have six of my traditional Regencies available as e-books, with three more to come in the next few weeks. If you are interested, you can go to my Andrea Pickens website to read excerpts.)

Yale-notebookMy thoughts about creative evolution were also sparked by another project I’m just beginning to work on. It’s something totally out of the box for me, and at this point I have no idea if it will progress past the present stage of randomly scribbled notes and memories. In any case, it had me digging through trunks and boxes of personal stuff from the past.

BreakfastRoseAmong the things I pulled out were some class notebooks from my freshman year at college. It was fascinating to read through records of the lectures for History 59—Main Currents of European Thought. What seemed important to me, what I chose to emphasis, how I distilled concepts—the pages say just as much about my intellectual evolution as they do about Aquinas and Newton. Like my own storybook characters, my real life self is developing there on the page as the year goes on.

RoseInRainLgI also started sorting through some of my mother’s artwork. She was an immensely talented person, who was drawn to experimenting in a great many mediums. She loved watercolor paintings and did some really beautiful paintings of birds and flowers. But then her interest turned more to photography as she wanted to view the same subjects from a different perspective. Creative evolution.

WildPoppiesIt seems to me that all of us who are involved in any endeavor that calls for imagination and creativity are constantly evolving how we implement those ideas that are in our heads. “What if I tried it this way . . .” . . . “What if I added that . . .” Our minds are constantly questioning, our viewpoint is constantly changing. (To keep repeating the same old thing would be boring, right?” Exploration and inquisitiveness are part of the human spirit. So no matter the rough edges and glaring faults, my early endeavors made me sit back and smile.

What about you? Do you have a hobby or passion, and have you ever found a past project that made you laugh—or cringe? Are you like me and find it interesting to muse on how your personal perspective changes over the years, and to reflect on how you have “grown?” Or do you just like to live in the present?

Change

  Bookmark I’ve been thinking a lot about “change” lately. Obviously, Obama’s campaign touted change as a good thing, and on the whole, I enjoy doing and seeing different things and believe change is required for progress. But sometimes, change comes so fast and furious that resistance sets in. I found this great website that covers predictable human behavior when faced with change: http://tinyurl.com/26786jv . The writer doesn’t solve anything, but he does a good job of explaining how and why various people react as they do when faced with any kind of shift in their circumstances.

One of the reasons I’m starting to drag my feet on the enormous changes the publishing industry is facing is explained quite succinctly on the website: “my needs are met, I’m heavily invested” in print publishing, and I really don’t want to change totally to this brave new world because “the journey there looks painful.”

I’m probably a bit ahead of the curve on my resistance because I’ve already experienced the rosy optimism part of the change, and now I’m heading to the downside as I see what we’re facing. I am dabbling with two books I want to sell electronically, and the heavy issues of editing, cover selection, and promotion are giving me headaches before I even get started. I really need a publisher to handle all of this for me. I just want to write the blamed books. But that’s not necessarily how the next chapter of publishing will work.

I, at least, have the advantage of being able to make choices based on the huge amount of information at my fingertips. But can you imagine how our historical characters felt as the enormous changes between the Georgian era and the Train industrial revolution took place? If you’re afraid to try an e-reader, just imagine how Our Heroine felt when faced with her first steamboat or train ride.  We all know how the Luddites reacted to machine manufacturing, and I can certainly relate to wanting to smash machines to bits—if only because I don’t grasp the technology and I’m convinced computers hate me.  (photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/2dmzaff)

Men who were interested in the changes happening around them probably belonged to the various scientific, philosophical, and technical societies that formed, but on the whole, women had only each Spinning-Wheel other to rely on for information. How did they feel when their wool was no longer spun by the local weaver but mass-produced by some smelly plant miles from home? And the new chemicals used for dyeing fabric (see Kill Your Hero with Wallpaper) created fabulous wallpapers and gowns, but would Our Heroine be leery of fabrics shipped all the way from exotic places like India? Obviously, the Kasmir shawl became popular at some point. Did mothers agree to the expensive purchase simply because Lady Neighbor had one? Or did some resist such wasteful extravagance when a good English wool would suffice? (photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/2bbn358)

But shawls and gowns were just material evidence of change. The underlying, volatile change was the Cashmere-Shawl raising of the lower and middle classes to wealth as merchants turned industrial technologies to new uses. Child and slave labor became social issues that divided a complacent society in two. New science raised awareness of the dangers of inadequate housing, poor diet, and disease, and suddenly, people had to think of others besides themselves and their tenants. Their worlds grew larger rapidly—and it would be simpler if they could just turn a blind to eye to those changes. I’m sure many did. (photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/24j2xdn)

I’m thinking the modern world is also undergoing such a sea change, where underdeveloped countries are suddenly growing fast—at the expense of the wealthiest countries, and technology is speeding ahead so rapidly that many of us would rather bury our heads in the sand than face another new iPhone. 

At what point do you draw your figurative line in the sand and say “heck, no” to change? And do you understand why you’re suffering from resistance and denial of the changes ahead?

The times, they are a’changin’

Girlreading

Pat here:

I’m writing this in the week prior to Thanksgiving so I may enjoy next week with my family. Given all the uproar and hysteria in the romance world this week, I’m expecting to return to an industry in complete disarray. Or perhaps over the next ten days, all publishing will decide to pull up roots and move to Nashville. Or everything will have settled back to normal. So I’ll refrain from commenting upon the gossip flying about and wait to see the results.  Cornucopia (photos of disarray are limited, so this is as close as I can get to fruit basket upset…)

But I will use the lesson of Change for today’s ramble. The world changes every day. We can’t stop it or we would stagnate and all life would die.  If people didn’t change, they’d never learn lessons, never grow, and from my perspective, if nothing changed, the future would look mighty bleak because this world is far from perfect. Admittedly, a lot of change happening quickly can be terrifying, but technology has a habit of creating change, for better or worse, so we may as well get used to it.

Couch It would take a doctoral thesis to relate how the changes of history have brought us out of caves into today’s world, but I’m not much interested in earning a PhD. What set off this train of thought was a book I recently finished reading.  I’d been looking forward to this story because it has all the wonderful topics I enjoy—ghosts and restoring lovely old houses and secrets hidden in the past. I was prepared to curl up in my chair before the fire and spend hours wallowing in delight.

Instead, I almost ended up heaving the book in the fire because the protagonist never changed. Never. Ever. She lived in a state of complete denial for three hundred wretched pages. She wasn’t that wonderful a person to start with, but I’m ready to accept flawed characters who grow and change and take their lessons gracefully. But this one never had an opportunity because she never asked questions. How can you have a mystery without asking questions? It’s insane! Is it possible to walk through life Denial never questioning why? Just accepting that this is how it is and moving on?  Denying the evidence before one’s eyes and believing what others tell you instead?  What kind of dense, thickheaded idiot is that? And even if the character has reason to live in denial, what is the point of writing a book about someone who never grows out of a major flaw? The mystery solved itself, whoopee. Or maybe the ghosts solved the mystery, because this protagonist was too thick to think for herself. By the end, I didn’t care.

Have you ever looked forward to a book and suffered immense disappointment? Go ahead, rant away. I just did. Can you enlighten us and tell why you were disappointed?

And I would relate this to the uproar about vanity press and self-publishing that’s currently searing the internet, but I’m a little afraid the subject is too immense to tackle. How will we find good books in the future if everyone publishes everything on their own? Scary change.