Saturday, April 25, 2015

Oops… I Did it Again...

When I published historical thriller The Vesuvius Isotope, I swore I would be smarter next time. I would allow *plenty* of time between editing and the launch party to take care of the details… the cover art, the formatting, the revised cover art, the revised formatting, the monstrous self-publishing checklist for first-time authors and the monstrous self-publishing checklist for second-time authors. I thought I had done this. I was SO wrong!

As it turns out, I had forgotten just how long artwork and formatting take to perfect. Especially if you've outsourced your formatting, as I have, and you have to spend a lot of time biting your nails while waiting for that next draft to come back instead of being able to control it yourself (this is a clear advantage for self-formatters.) So here I am: It's April 25, The Death Row Complex is still being formatted, the launch party is June 6, my editor has already bought plane tickets, my husband has already planned to reserve the restaurant for the event, and my best friend is moving to Hawaii the next day. So I really hope there are books by then!

Here are the financial implications of this mistake:

1) Because I'm now formatting and editing at the same time, which I swear I wouldn't do, I pay $1 per edit to the formatter for things that are "edits" and not "formatting changes." This adds up quickly. Ouch!

2) Because I'm going to be slammed for time to get the print books in my hand, I'll probably be paying exorbitant shipping costs. Meaning, even more exorbitant than they already are. Double ouch!

3) If I don't pull it together and convince myself that the books will be ready, I get to reschedule the launch party, pay for my editor's change of flight, and cry a bit about lost wages in the restaurant caused by rescheduling. (Do you see the irony of this? We're paying to close the restaurant for the launch party, and part of our income to pay for this comes from said restaurant… hehe… ) Thank God I have a day job.

So, please, readers and self: don't do this. Don't do this again. Instead, do the following:

1) Remember that formatting takes at least a month.
2) Read your book, ALL THE WAY THROUGH, three more times after editing and BEFORE you submit it to the formatter.
3) Remember that back-cover art won't be done until after the formatted manuscript is in (because the print book cover is made as one file which takes the final page count into account.) So the cover art will NOT be finished until after the formatting is done.
4) If you're tempted to think that a couple months is enough time for final editing, formatting, and printing, smack yourself upside the head.

That is all!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Are ARCs the Prologues of Marketing?

I have read a lot of criticism of prologues. The general theme of these critiques seems to be that the prologue is a false start, an easing in to the novel that should have started with a bang. "Just start at Chapter One," acquisition editors instruct. I personally have ignored this piece of advice and incorporated prologues and epilogues into both of my thrillers, because I like them that way and because I can, but that's a topic for a different blog post. Here, I want to talk about the ARC.

It seems to be standard protocol for publishers to generate ARCs--advance reading copies--of novels for pre-release prior to launch of the final version. The reason I assume this is standard protocol is because my PO box is constantly full of them. They come with non-glossy, simple covers upon which is plastered the disclaimer: "Uncorrected Advance Reading Copy," as if to assure that the reader that he or she isn't getting the real thing.

I understand the function of these, I think. You can give your novel out to a selection of readers and reviewers as a sort of beta testing and then make adjustments as appropriate before publishing. And you can generate some buzz, whet the appetite of eager fans, and incorporate the glowing reviews from your ARC into the final version. 

But can't you do all of that anyway? As I gear up to publish The Death Row Complex (without an ARC,) I'm asking myself what ARC advantages I'm missing out on. Why give readers a false start, a prologue, if you will, instead of blessing them with the final version from the get-go? Once those glowing reviews come in, and a subset of readers has caught your mistakes, can't you just make the tweaks and call it a new edition? And for the love of God, why give them the *uncorrected*--i.e. unfinished--version to base their reviews upon? Am I missing something there?

Having pondered this a bit, I've come up with (I think) three possible reasons for the ARC. 1) It must be cheaper to produce, given the simpler paper covers. So maybe the idea is to give away some freebies for publicity, but to save money by giving away cheaper versions. At the very least, it will save you the cost of the ISBN you would use for re-releasing the same novel. 2) Given that my PO box is constantly full of these, it's clear that they go to readers who will write reviews but aren't particularly important people. So maybe the idea is to generate some reviews on the down low, pick and choose the ones you want to highlight, and avoid the embarrassment of releasing your novel to Oprah until it's been vetted by some unimportant people. And 3) Perhaps the ARC is a way to make a subset of readers feel special, a way of saying, "You're one of the lucky few getting this book before its out!" And, let's face it, a good ego stroking is a clear avenue to a favorable review. 

Do you release ARCs? Why or why not?

Purchase the best-selling historical thriller The Vesuvius Isotope

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Sophomore Self-Publisher: The Checklist

When I self-pubbed The Vesuvius Isotope, I blogged this self-publishing checklist to help keep track of all of the details as I was going through the process. Subsequently, I offered retrospective advice for the "DOs" of self-publishing here and here, and the "DON'Ts" of self-publishing here and here, all of which were lessons learned along the way.

Then I solicited some advice on self-publishing for a SECOND time, courtesy of Doha 12 and South author Lance Charnes, as he had just gone through the process with his second novel. Those posts can be found here and here.

Today, I give you my current checklist as I prepare to self-pub my second thriller, The Death Row Complex. The Death Row Complex is a prequel to The Vesuvius Isotope.

My business and author channels are already established, so I won't reiterate how to set those up here. For first-time authors, please see the above posts for detailed instructions on how to do this. But there are still a lot of new and additional steps involved, and I'm hoping to learn from Lance's experience so I don't have to reinvent the wheel. I've gone through the writing and editing processes and am now on the final proofreading step. So... here is a distillation of the steps I have left, which incorporates elements of my previous checklist, my own dos and don'ts, advice from Lance's posts above, and a few changes. As always, please feel free to add to the discussion with your own experiences and lessons learned! And without further adieu...

The Checklist:
  • Before publishing:
    • Final proofreading
    • Assign ISBNs - I purchased a block of ten for Vesuvius, so I've now got them ready to go
    • Obtain LCCN
      • See previous posts to decide if you want to obtain one of these-- it's not required
      • I failed to do this properly the first time around, but I'm trying to get it right this time
      • It must be done after assigning ISBN but before finalizing, as the LCCN must be printed on the copyright page
      • Print both the ISBNs and the LCCN on the copyright page
    • In parallel, initiate artwork design - I've gone back to Damonza, who rocked the first time
    • When artwork and proofreading is done and ISBNs/LCCN assigned, format book
      • I let Damonza's handle all of my formatting for Vesuvius and it was worth every penny
      • The only mistake I made was not being 100% DONE with all edits (a comma here, a hyphen there…) before sending the manuscript for formatting. Damonza's offers unlimited formatting changes as part of their artwork and formatting packages. But if you ask them to change a comma, which is editing, not formatting, they'll charge you per comma. Which is fair enough. So, please, be finished editing at that point.
    • During final stages of artwork and formatting tweaks, this is an excellent time to update your websites and/or branding. I'm currently reading Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn, and it's got me really thinking about the business and marketing side of things. In keeping with this, I'm thinking it's a great idea to revisit one's brand with the completion of each book. So I'm planning to spend the time I have between drafts from Damonza's to consider this and my audience and to tweak my websites and social media pages accordingly. Stay tuned…
    • After artwork and formatting are completely done, register your copyright
  • Publishing:
    • Direct ebook upload to Kindle Direct Pubishing, Nook, Kobo, and iTunes
    • Print book upload to Createspace and Lightning Source
    • Order print copies for launch party and subsequent signings/promotion
    • Upload print book to Amazon, Barnes And Noble
    • Upload to author website and Murder Lab
    • Update Goodreads, Shelfari, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts to link new book
  • Post-Publishing:
    • My launch party is going a different direction this time, and to be frank, I'm taking a huge gamble. Last time, I sold thirty-three books at the launch party, which was pretty good for a self-pubbed debut historical thriller, methinks. It put a nice spike in my Lightning Source sales record. This time, I'm hoping to sell more than a hundred. But here's the gamble: I'm not doing it in a bookstore. Instead, my husband is closing Cucina Italiana and we're having the hard launch in our restaurant. Why? Because TONS of my local fans were found through this venue, and they love the place. So, we're using the enticement of free appetizers and wine to draw people who love both the restaurant and my first book. That's the advantage. The disadvantage is that none of these sales will go through a bookstore, and therefore none of them will "count" in the publishing world.  
    • See Lance's posts for some excellent advice about book reviews, library, and bookstore placement (or lack thereof…)
    • Regarding bookstore placement, I canvassed the entire Southern California area in the first few months of the release of Vesuvius, and here's what I've learned: there are three bookstores in Southern California that are REALLY helpful for me. Vesuvius is still selling in these stores, and I keep supplying copies when they need more (which is a great feeling.) The book also did great at my signings there. So… since I now have a full-time day job and don't have time for signings that won't sell, I'm focusing on these three stores. If I find myself out of a day job again sometime soon, I might do some signings elsewhere as well. But for now, it's these:
    • Stay tuned for additional posts about how else my marketing strategy is changing this time around...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

I'm officially declaring today, "Work-in-Progress Wednesday." I'm not sure if that's already a thing, but if it's not, then it is now. In honor of #WIPWEDNESDAY, here's a happy little diddy from mine. It's called The Death Row Complex and it's the prequel to The Vesuvius Isotope. It's scheduled for hard launch June 6! Details will follow, but there will be food and wine involved. That is all.

In honor of the new national holiday, please feel free to tease us all with a blurb from your own WIP in the comments below!

James Johnson glared at Guofu Wong and drew a breath. “OK, look Guofu,” he said. “First of all, if I was so greedy as to bulldoze some pissant girl for funding, I’d be running a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company right now, not working for the government. I’m not quite that desperate.”
     He laughed softly, and several others laughed with him. The two women at the table—not laughing—exchanged a glance.
     “You and I both know,” Johnson continued, “that I’m a pioneer in infectious disease research. I’ve been doing this since you were a child, and I’m most certainly not in competition with young Katrina Stone.”
     He turned to the rest of the task force. “Now, the fact is: the decision not to fund this woman’s grant was made before the emergence of the so-called Death Row strain of anthrax. I would like to review the data that Dr. Wong and his team have put together. If I agree with his conclusions, then I will absolutely agree with Dr. Wong. If Stone’s inhibitors are as promising as he claims they are, then she is definitely the most promising researcher to combat this bug. 
     “However, I have a much bigger concern.” He turned to once again address the other scientist exclusively. “How do you know she didn’t engineer it?”

The Death Row Complex
An anonymous warning is sent to the White House, and a genetically engineered biological weapon is released in a California prison. The unpublished data of biologist Katrina Stone may hold the key to harnessing the lethal bacterium--and to its creation within the desperate world from which biotechnology is born.

To read a free sample, click here.