Recently, I attended the first annual Indie Author Day at the Dove Library in Carlsbad, California It was informative, inspiring, and personally satisfying because I got to see some friends and even make some new ones.
The event was sponsored by San Diego publishers and writers organizations — Aionios Books, LLC, Konstellation Press, Publishers and Writers of San Diego, Read Local San Diego, and Top Reads Publishing.
It was timely for me to attend as I finish the last chapters of my manuscript, Blasted from Complacency — what’s unkindly referred to in the industry as the shitty first draft. The term is a not so loving reference to the fact that as authors — first things first, we need to get all of our thoughts down on paper. Now that’s not to say that we don’t personally do our best to do a great job, and we’d like to think it’s probably pretty good. But we know that a developmental and/or content editor will soon be coming to a theatre near us. Does the structure make sense? Did you actually get what you meant down on paper, or is it stuck somewhere in a brain synapse that blew a fuse, and you just thought you did?
It was a full day, packed with three enlightening panels: one on fiction, memoir and more, and non-fiction. Each grouping was moderated by an experienced publisher chosen for their commitment to advancing the efforts of indie authors. The authors represented everything I love about hanging out with writers: intelligence, creativity, humor, passion and humanity.
The authors pulled from their heart strings topics as varied as love stories of men and horses, aliens, the law, worldwide motorcycle adventures, Peace Corps volunteers harboring hidden deadly diseases from Zambia, to self-publishing — which given some of the horror stories discussed, sounded disturbingly like it fit right in…
The first panel was on Fiction and was moderated by Cornelia Feye, the publisher for Konstellation Press and an author in her own right of Private Universe, a book about a woman with three serious problems: drug addiction, a destructive relationship, and the need to evade the police. The authors were Anna Marie Abell, Carla DiMare and Tamara Merrill, each a creative creature who loves to frolick in her own imagination.
Anna is a self-described trailer park escapee who writes about the ancient aliens of the Sumerian culture. She mused her friend blamed her for the recent California fires and calamities in the news because the beginning of the title of her book is, Holy Crap! The World is Ending: How a Trip to the Bookstore Led to Sex with an Alien and the Destruction of Earth. As you can see there isn’t any problem with getting stuck for imaginative ideas here.
Carla is a local social justice litigator and believes the legal system is broken. Her life’s passion is to teach about this fact, by writing In Justice, her book written to entertain and teach. She tried to avoid getting active judges and lawyers involved who might fear damaging their careers. In truth, her ability to also maintain her legal practice once this topic is broached publicly is also one of her personal concerns. Another challenge she faces while writing her book is to make the complicated language and legal situations understandable for the lay person.
Tamara is the author of the popular Augustus Family Trilogy. FAMILY LIES: Book 1. FAMILY MATTERS: Book 2, and FAMILY MYTHS: Book 3. Tamara describes herself as “a left brain/right brain woman” — she enjoys writing of many types, from fiction to computer programs, and has succumbed to an excessive book reading habit. She published her first short story at the age of nine, in the official Girl Scout magazine; AMERICAN GIRL and went on to publish multiple short stories in women’s magazines.
The next panel was on Memoirs & More moderated by Teri Rider, the creative force behind Top Reads Publishing, a multiple National and International award-winning hybrid publisher focusing on fiction, historical fiction, children’s picture books, educational, memoirs, inspirational, and self-help genres. Joining her were authors Cherie Kephart, Annie Quinn and Deborah Smith Parker.
I was happy to see Teri again and learn from her expertise. She happens to be speaking this weekend, October 21, 2014 at Writers4Writers, my writers support group on the IBPA’s “Industry Standards Checklist for a Professionally Published Book.” Come join us if you are in town to learn the dos and avoid the don’ts of self-publishing a book that meets professional standards.
Cherie has written a memoir, A Few Minor Adjustments: A Memoir of Healing. It’s her story about how after serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia, she returned to the United States with an African souvenir she didn’t expect: a mysterious illness. She fell severely ill and almost died, and takes the reader on an entertaining journey searching for life-saving answers. Although the book has only been out for three months, it has already won three awards.
Annie, author of A Moment in Connemara: an Irish Love Story, tells the tale of her love story with her second husband that she met in Connemara, Ireland. Life had dealt both Annie and Neal traumatic losses before they ever discovered each other along the Irish coast — a traumatic childhood accident and lengthy hospitalization, the death of a spouse, and a divorce after thirty years of marriage. Together they found the beauty to transcend even life’s harshest realities and “enjoy the moments.” Amidst the magic of the land, and their blossoming friendship — they wove a healing path to love.
In her coming of age memoir, The Horse that Haunts My Heart, Deborah wrote about her experiences on a western ranch when she met her first love — a horse named Tank. She says of Tank, “he was a Clark Kent horse, his exterior disguised the Superman underneath…He was the best relationship I ever had with a man — he always acted like an adult.” They connected over their need to be themselves creating a story of poignancy, hilarity and drama that tested their bond. Deborah is a writer, poet, essayist, blogger and author of another book, Humanus Astrologicus (2010), that goes where no astrologer has gone before. Her other works have appeared in more than 25 different published outlets ranging from “Journal of the American Medical Association” to “The Mountain Astrologer” to “North County Times” to “Nuthouse” to “New Press Literary Quarterly.”
The last panel was on Non-fiction and was moderated by Carla King. Carla is both an author in her own right and a self-publishing guru. She has published adventure travel books including, American Borders, Stories from Elsewhere: Solo Wanderings on Two and Three Wheels, and a free book: Motorcycling for Women: Beginner Bikes and books on self-publishing including a free guide to self-publishing: A Consumer’s Guide to Self-Publishing Tools & Services, as well as Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, Editions 1-3, the 4th Edition will be out January 2018. Her self-publishing side of her business can be found at www.AuthorFriendly.com
The authors on her panel included Sue Hannibal, Lisa Longworth, and Janet Williams.
Sue Hannibal wrote the book, Spiritual Compass: Practical Strategies for When You Feel Lost, Alone and God Seems Far Away. This body/mind/spirit handbook will resonate deeply if you’ve been chasing healing for years and haven’t found it in medications and/or therapy. Her new book, to be released November 17, 2017, Out of the Kill Zone: PTSD, Big Pharma’s Deadly Drugs and Suicide, True Stories of Healing from Troops, Cops and Civilians Caught in the Crossfire, intends to provide relief for those suffering with P.T.S.D. through promoting holistic, non-drug, P.T.S.D./trauma treatment models.
In her book, Cocoon to Butterfly, Lisa Longworth, Ph.D, inspires you and guides you to authentically navigate into the next chapter of your life. The Cocoon to Butterfly™ process integrates psychology, creativity, and spirituality. It follows the natural metamorphosis of the butterfly that serves as a mirror for our own transformational change. I loved hearing about her passion for people’s journeys for the next chapters in their lives given my own that I describe as touring, terror and transformation.
Janet F. Williams is the author of the triple award-winning book, You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get: Proven Techniques to Get More Out of Life, and her company is Good Day Media. She is an oral and written communications specialist and ghostwriter. She helps businesses and individuals with their personal and professional development by providing writing, editing, presentations, workshops, and coaching on sales training, goal setting, business communications, stress management and lifestyle concerns.
The panelists as well as audience members offered excellent advice. It takes a team to produce a book.
Writing your tale: Get it down on paper, the good, the bad and the ugly. Don’t worry you will be writing and rewriting it probably ten times over — speaking from experience, they’re right. When writing it, join a writing class and have friends also review it and provide feedback. Then edit. One author said she reads obsessively to become a better writer. Of course, she added reading one book a day — they’re not Tolstoy. Get beta readers of varied backgrounds to provide critiques. Some should be writers from your same genre, and others who might shed a more creative angle that you’ve never thought of before. This will get your feet wet for when the professional literary surgeons take their turn.
You build your team…first of course, is the author who arrives with her heart-felt story. Do you go the traditional, hybrid or the self-publishing route? Deciding between these routes is a personal choice and the pros and cons of each should be weighed as well as how well suited is your book for the particular publishing route. Does the hybrid provide distribution to recover the market segment of bookstores and libraries often banned from self-publishers? Even in today’s favorable self-publishing atmosphere, you might still have a book that fits into a defined niche — traditional might be the preferred method. Then there’s the editing coaches — developmental, line and proofreading. Next the cover and internal and external design. Finally its production time and marketing your finished gem.
Choosing the right editor is key. You will be asked to make changes that at times will feel like open heart surgery — sometimes without anesthesia. One author told us about how she was asked to cut fourteen chapters and replace them with a line each. You have to keep an open mind — after all, you have hired them to help you and if you have hired the right person a trust will develop.
Do not use your mom or your best friend. Be sure you hire someone who knows how to listen and understands your story and what your intention is for writing it. You will have to relinquish some control, but all of the authors reminded us to keep in mind that it’s your work. Don’t let anyone take away your voice. The right editor, at the end of the story, will have made your book better.
They recommended interviewing a few. Give them sample chapters and have them edit them and tell you what changes they would make. You’ll like this, this part should be for free. This is a courtship no less intense than when picking a spouse, perhaps worse. I don’t know any people who marry, and pay what may be their life savings to someone, with the intention of their spouse looking at them with a flashlight to discover every flaw. No, our spouses find those lapses in character more slowly over time, but with no less pain..but to have a good marriage of author and editor, you do have to form a good bond of give and take.
Everyone knows that people are on their best behavior, in the beginning of a relationship…if the suitor is already not returning phone calls with lots of excuses as to why, or treating you as if you are last on their list to call — are you prepared to stomach even worse later on?
The publishing journey should come with a warning label…be careful. One panelist had a story to add to our Anthology of Publishing Horrors…
Pay attention to the details in your contracts. One author had signed with a big publisher. Initially the author was elated, she was going to be published and they were paying her what she thought was big money — twenty-five thousand dollars. I’m sure she thought she had won the lottery. What she was to find was a nightmare…
Although the industry standard for a publisher buying the rights to your book is eighteen months, the contract with this publisher held her captive for twenty years. You can imagine if it had one unscrupulous detail, there were others. It turns out if they don’t pay you at least $100K they aren’t serious. After many excuses and years of stalling without publishing her book, she was told — “you are a woman of a certain age, and we aren’t certain you ever will publish another, so they didn’t want to publish it.” Wow, so much for ageism being illegal. It took lots of money and a war of attorneys to get her book rights back.
Marketing is important to sell your book no matter how you choose to publish. Karla Olson, founder of Publishers and Writers of San Diego and Orange County, reminded us that we need to keep in mind in today’s publishing environment there are over one million books published every year.” We were told there are forty books added to Amazon every minute. How do you stand out? Self-publishing has made the industry an open playing field which has both positives and negative ramifications, not least of which is the possibility for authors to be taken advantage of. Author Beware.
Of course we all hear it — social media is key, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the list seems to expand daily. SEO, key words, the list of terminology expands as well. Try to grow a fan base. It’s important to build a strong audience before your book comes out.
One author lamented that she loved writing and getting her book published, but she hated marketing. If you don’t need to make money on your book, that’s fine, otherwise, get over it. Marketing your own book is a necessity in today’s industry. Always keep your business cards with you. Personally, I have two pretty business card holders that I keep stuffed in my purse at all times — you never know who you will meet or where, that you’d like to network with in the future.
My latest card I gave out was when I was waiting to sign the papers for my new car, to understand the reason for the purchase, click here. Another car agent introduced himself. I discovered he was Israeli, fought during Operation Protective Edge (the war that is the subject of my book), worked as a special agent during that time and I’m intending on interviewing him for a blog in the future — you never know when a card will be convenient…
In the U.S. giveaways are popular, in England they even have book fairies. These are books that authors package with a pretty green ribbon tied around them and they are left at different places for someone to take as their own for free.
Reviews — you have to have at least fifty of them. Ask everyone you know to leave a positive review. Many reviews are given because the reviewer was paid.
Be careful — does your book fit comfortably into one genre? An author told us of how she had a very hard time trying to get a publisher because her book hit across genres. Apparently the publishing industry is more risk averse than we’d like to think. It’s something we have to get used to, base our decisions on with eyes wide open, and possibly suffer the consequences. Traditional publishers like you to fit in a box so they can use their standard ways of approaching the marketing of the books. Also when getting reviews, readers often like a specific genre. If your book crosses genres, you run the risk of making a fan mad, because it would stray from the typical storyline and you might possibly receive a bad review like a sci-fi fan posting, what is this crap?
My ears perked up since mine is both a memoir and a travel adventure story. Once I make my publishing decisions, while I work with the professionals, we’ll see how this plays out and I’ll let you know…
Join reputable industry organizations like PWSD. I know I’ve found joining PWSD and PWOC to be a tremendous advantage in learning about the publishing industry, a way to network and make great lifetime friends. PWSD/PWOC publishes a monthly newsletter which I happen to write for, has monthly meetings, and also has vetted organizations listed on their website.
AuthorFriendly.com also has helpful listings of books and articles to help with your book publishing decisions. One author recommended using smashwords for a vetted list of authors by Mark Coker.
Some of the authors admitted they loved the writing and the publishing, but their marketing skills could be improved, starting with the fact you should always carry your cards with you. For me, I have two decorative card cases I keep fully packed in my purse at all times — you never know when you’ll run across forty new fans who want to keep in touch : ) But seriously, it’s important to keep your cards and contacts handy.
It was exciting to be present at the first annual “Aionios Books Indie Author of Year Award” ceremony, presented by Gerardeen M. Santiago and Dan Primbs. Kelley Kay Bowles, was selected for her YA book, Down in the Belly of the Whale, a story about a teenager with unique powers — the ability to know when you’re gonna get sick. But Harper, the protagonist of the story is frustrated because her powers didn’t help heal her best and only friend, Cora when she tried to kill herself nor help her mom, because there’s something big and bad inside her. She says . . . “This isn’t a gift, it’s a curse.”
Kelly’s book is due to be released May 2018. It’s important to note with this and others, there are contests you can enter BEFORE your books is released. As a recipient of this award, Kelly’s book will also be the Aionios Books entry for IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin Awards for 2019.
Here’s hoping your path to publishing will be packed with creative and fulfilling learning experiences, that the rolling ups and downs of the hills you encounter get smoothed out without too much pain, and at the end of the day, your proud masterpiece will be ready to share with the world.
As always, I invite you to Join Me on My Journey…