Monday, May 26, 2014

Featured: NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author Bonnie Vanak talks about Self-Publishing

Day jobs, death and the NY Times: My adventures in self-publishing 

By Bonnie Vanak 


It began with a small story I thought no one would ever buy.

Traditionally published with Harlequin, I was between books and decided to write a short story for fun. I work fulltime as a fundraising writer for a charity, and romance writing is my outlet. The romance writing counters some of the horrific suffering I’ve seen in my travels to countries like Haiti and Honduras.

The story was about an overweight college graduate who happened to be a werewolf. After four years of living like a human, she returns home to her pack to find out that if she wants to remain at home, instead of facing up to life and finding a job like most grads, she has to shift into a werewolf. But she can’t, so she’s forced into choosing a mate. The hero is a cowboy on her uncle’s ranch who’s secretly loved her and couldn’t wait for her return. He’ll do anything to have her.

I added in lots of sex to give an erotic overtone and some mystery and adventure. And I had fun with it. Then I hired a designer to do a cover, an editor and proofreader, someone to format the book and self-published The Mating Chase, selling it for 99 cents.

The results stunned me. The Mating Chase became a Top Ten bestseller on All Romance ebooks and sales with other vendors, like Amazon, were very good. 

And thus began the series called my Werewolves of Montana, a series of PNR sexually-explicit books about werewolves who were cowboys, lived on a ranch in Montana and were searching for their mates. 

In August 2013, I published The Mating Hunt, Book 2, a longer book with a higher price.  A few weeks later, my good friend Jennifer Ashley asked me, “How would you like to be in a self-published book bundle with me and four other PNR authors?”

My response, “Oh hell yeah!”

The authors were Jennifer, Laurie London, Erin Kellison, Caris Roane and Felicity Heaton. I contributed The Mating Hunt to the boxed set. In October, we published Dark & Dangerous; six-in-one paranormal tales and sold the bundle for 99 cents. We promoted it heavily and it hit the USA Today list for three weeks straight.

The first week on the list, Felicity, who lives in England, emailed all of us. I was at work when I got the news and my coworkers wondered why I was screaming with joy.

I was a USA Today bestselling author! I’ve been published traditionally since 2002, but this was the first time I’d ever made a national list. Soon after, I published The Mating Seduction, a novella about a cowboy who promises the heroine she can ride a champion horse in a barrel racing competition…if she spends three days in his bed. Self-publishing was hard work, but it was fun and I enjoyed having control over my writing career.

About two weeks later, my joy at being a USA Today bestselling author turned into alarm and then real fear.

We received the news that my beloved sister-in-law, Glenna “Sissy” Fischer, was in liver failure. 

November and December turned into a nightmare, constantly worrying about Sissy. We live in Florida and my brother and Sissy lived in Tennessee. Our Christmas plans to visit them had been made months ago. We’d even planned a menu; Sissy’s delicious prime rib, and bacon-wrapped scallops and many other delicious dishes. I’d told Sissy, “I’d walk to Tennessee just for your cooking.”

Sissy was the sister I’d always wanted and never had. She had a warm heart, a terrific sense of humor, encouraged my dreams, helped me with book research, and every time I called, she’d tease me with, “How’s the writing of those sexy books going?”

Sissy had faith in my writing that I sometimes lacked. 

About the time Sissy was diagnosed, the other authors in the original book bundle decided to do a second bundle. They asked me to join them. I wasn’t certain I could contribute. It took everything I had to struggle through the day job. But they insisted. 

Caris emailed me, “But Bonnie, you HAVE to be in the bundle! It wouldn’t be the same without you.”

I promised I would have a story ready. We set a publication date and asked Alyssa Day and Erin Quinn to join us, making our bundle into eight stories by eight authors this time.

Christmas arrived. My husband Frank and I spent it in the hospital with Sissy and my brother. We were hoping and praying for the best, for a miracle, for a transplant.

Four days after Frank and I returned home, Sissy died.

Numb, I could not write fiction. But there was that second book bundle and I had promised the others I would contribute. 

I had barely started working on my story when my best friend’s husband dropped dead, two weeks after Sissy was buried. Another funeral. More grief.

But I’d made a promise so I forced myself to write. Baby steps. A paragraph here, a few sentences there. Finally, The Mating Heat, the prequel to my Werewolves of Montana series, was ready. 

Dark & Deadly; Eight Bad Boys of Paranormal Romance, was published on April 14. It hit USA Today’s bestseller list the first week of publication. Three weeks later, it was a NY Times bestseller. 

I was a New York Times bestselling author. The night I received the news, we were sitting at the dinner table. I screamed, “Oh My God!!!” My husband looked at me with panic and asked, “Oh no. Now who died?”

Later, we laughed about his reaction. A shared sense of humor has helped my husband and I get through many hard times. 

Thanks to Jennifer Ashley, Alyssa Day, Laurie London, Erin Quinn, Caris Roane, Erin Kellison and Felicity Heaton, I didn’t only make the list of all bestseller lists. I achieved something far more precious – I learned to push past the pain and learn to write through it. 

As I write this blog, I’m releasing The Mating Rite, Book 4 in my Werewolves of Montana series. This book is about Darius, a sexy werewolf who thinks his mate is dead and has grieved for her for years. He finds out she is alive and does everything he can to claim her. The book is bittersweet for me. In my personal life I have loved and lost so many people, loved ones I’d give anything to have back in my life again. But a part of them can live on in my stories and the happy endings I give to my main characters.  

I don’t know what my self-publishing career holds next. Publishing, like life, is unpredictable. But I’m on that roller coaster and riding it for all it’s worth. In my mind, I can see Sissy in Heaven, grinning like crazy, and telling me, “You go girl! Go write those sexy books!”
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You can purchase The Mating Rite on Amazon Kindle here: http://amzn.to/1o0Epmr


Welcome to the sensual world of the Lupine, where the burning drive to mate claims all...

Ten years ago, Darius Bryant fell in love and lost his mate before they consummated their union. He mourned her death and moved on, but innocent, carefree Samantha always possessed his heart, no matter how many women he had in his bed. When the sexy werewolf shifter discovers Samantha is alive, he becomes determined to claim her as his forever mate. He must convince the now-cynical Samantha that her heart, body and soul belong to him. 

Samantha Evers spent years waiting for Darius to return, and thought he’d forgotten his promise to make her his own. She’s vowed to live as a human, for she fears the sexual savagery of the wolf life. Now Darius is back and the only act that will seal them together is the intense sexual bonding of the mating rite. She will fight hard to resist Darius’ sensual allure and his tender words of passion. But a far greater problem awaits them both when they discover someone wants Samantha out of Darius’ life for good, and will stop at nothing until she is dead…

Find out more about Bonnie Vanak by visiting her website: http://www.bonnievanak.com/

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Trick of Light...Now in Print



A Trick of Light is now available in print on CreateSpace. It will be available on Amazon proper in a couple of days, and I'll go around and update the links. The back of the book reads as follows: 

A Trick of Light is a collection of four supernatural short stories. Find out how an old letter puts a woman face to face with a spectral train. Read the lost diary of a family man forced to make difficult choices in the midst of the zombie apocalypse. Witness a rebel angel's final battle against one of his own kind. A Trick of Light...where nothing is quite as it seems.

This is my first CreateSpace book, and I have to admit I'm hooked. I'm not entirely crazy about their cover builder for many reasons, but there is nothing to say you have to use it. Overall, there are so many good sides to having this kind of service. It's really fantastic. 

If anyone came to me and asked me if I'd recommend CreateSpace for self-publishing, I'd definitely say yes. Do it. If you've thought about self-publishing, but you've hesitated because it seemed too complicated or seemed to have too many steps, or that the process to produce a professional product is too difficult, or you were worried you might not like the result (I'm listing all the reasons I hesitated for so long!), I can honestly say it is worth it. And there is no reason you have to do all the steps yourself. You can hire someone to edit, to format, to create your cover. In the end, what matters is that you have a book in hand. It's worth it. 100%. I swear on my grave it is.

Wicked Obsession is next on my list to go to CreateSpace. I thought it would be harder to deal with because it's novel length, but it's actually been the book that has needed the least amount of work. I'm already working on the formatting. I changed had to convert the file from pdf to a word document, so throughout the text there are words pushed together and page numbers scattered throughout. I'm about 65% finished with the cleanup and it will be ready to go to a professional for formatting. I anticipate it being ready for release in June. 

I'm almost finished with the Crossing Borders expansion (for ebook release) as well. Slowly but surely, it's all coming together. Scary, but exciting at the same time. If nothing else can be said for the experience, it's definitely an interesting time to be involved in writing and publishing.   

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Writing (and Re-Releasing) Wicked Obsession

I wrapped up the edits for Wicked Obsession this afternoon. While reading the novel cover to cover, I ended up completely engrossed in the story. Written in 2011, this is the book where I believe I began to truly grasp the technique of subtle layering and the importance of characterization.

The actual writing of the book is a bit of a blur. I originally sold the story on proposal, and right before I began writing it, my husband's dad called to let us know he had an aggressive form on cancer and he had rejected going through more chemo. Our family went through a very dark period then, and here I was with this book I had to write. That after the news, I didn't want to write. Nevertheless, I had a contract, and I was on a very short deadline - three months to write, revise, and submit this proposed vampire novel.

To this day, it feels as though I wrote Wicked Obsession on autopilot. I vaguely remember applying butt to chair and going through the motions. It also remember it was tough to write. The first month after the proposal was accepted, I barely wrote a word. We had just gotten the call, and just about every conversation hubby and I had around that time was about death or dying, or how we would get to D.C. on short notice. How were we supposed to handle the death certificate and the funeral arrangements when we live half way across the country?

The following month, I knew in order to finish this book, I would have to viciously guard my writing time. I'd already wasted a month talking about writing it and growling at my family because I wasn't writing. One day, while sitting at my desk and feeling hopeless, I realized I needed to simply get out of my head, get out of the way of the process, and just write the stupid thing. Let it free flow and hope for the best. By then hubby and I were already preparing for the inevitable trip to Washington D.C. to take care of his dad's final business and to clear out his room at the Veteran's home.

During this time, I also had to sever ties with an old friend and her little sister, both of whom I loved, and still love, like they are my sisters. We grew up together, went to school together, played together since we were children. It wasn't an amicable split. That was a great big stake to the heart, losing those friends. The hurt and confusion, it's like a bad breakup. A really bad breakup. Because you care. You can't help caring. Loving someone like your sister then having to let go because they just didn't know how to be respectful about your pain and what you're going through is a horrible experience. What else can I say except the communication and timing was all wrong.  

It was a very miserable time for me, and every time I thought it couldn't get worse, I'd remember...that book. I have to write that fucking book. Finally, two months in, I put aside the exhaustion and the near-crippling anxiety and announced to the family I wouldn't be chatting on the phone during the day, going on outings, or doing anything for the next few weeks until the draft was written. And just like that, I sealed myself in the writing cave to complete my vampire novel.

I wrote for six to eight hours a day. I didn't beat myself up or agonize over every word choice. I finished the draft in about a month. The final month, month three, I did a down and dirty one-pass revise and edit. It was brutal. I was about a three scenes from finishing when I got the call that my father and law had passed away. I called my husband at work to let him know. Two hours later, our household dissolved into a flurry of action and chaos. There were arrangements to be made, and they had to be taken care of quickly. I ended up asking for an extension for the book. I was granted the extension with zero fuss, but the date of release had already been slotted, so I locked myself in my office and quickly finished it.

Sending this book off was like...catharsis. A burden had been lifted. It was definitely a hard won accomplishment. My first publishable (and later published) novel. Completing this book was one thing that hadn't been taken from me in that awful flurry of events leading up to, and directly following, my father in law's death.

Completing the re-edits of the book today...another moment of catharsis. There is a lot of emotional pain in this story. Not surprising given what was going on in my life when I wrote it. That said, I love these characters. I love this story. If I had to chose only one of my books to remain in print, Wicked Obsession would be the book I'd want to be remembered for.

I got the rights back on Wicked Obsession at the same time I got the rights back on all my other books, and now it's almost ready to be re-released. I'm very proud of this book. Not just because this is one of those times when I feel like I got the characters and the story right, but because this book was a test of sorts. I walked through the fire for this one, and I'm glad I did.

All that's left to do now is a light proofread and formatting and it will be ready to upload. As per the usual, once the book is available, I'll post all the appropriate links.

In the meantime, I have a fabulous line up of author appearances coming to the blog in the days and weeks ahead. Bonnie Vanak and Samantha Lucas will be kicking off a featured weekly author series. Each author will be talking a little about their writing process and/or their experiences in self-publishing. It will be both interesting and informative, so I hope you'll drop in to say hello.

If you're an author and you're up for telling others about your writing process and/or sharing a little about your self-publishing experiences, I'd love to host you here on the blog. There's a contact form on my website. Send me an email, and maybe we can set something up.

In a few day I'll be posting a follow up video where I talk more about CreateSpace covers. I'm waiting for my latest batch of proofs to come in. Once they're here, I'll share my latest experiences with you and show the results of my latest cover switch.

That's it for now. Until next time, happy wishes! 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bad Kitty...Never Say Never

One of the sexiest stories I've written to date is a flash fiction piece I wrote specifically for Never Say Never, Alison Tyler's lush new guide for lovers. My micro story, Bad Kitty, appears on page 112, and it revolves around two lovers playing on the theme of a master correcting his "pet".

A great deal of inspiration for Bad Kitty came from the latex fetish community as it's represented online and in the media. Women, and sometimes men as well, will dress up in leather and/or latex "cat couture" (primarily costume ears, tail, claws, and a latex body suit) then take on cat-like mannerisms to please their lover. Some of the cat-like mannerisms including biting, clawing, seductive stretching, walking on all fours, and licking one's arms (or their lover) to mimic the way a cat grooms itself and other cats. Some couples collar and leash their "pet", make them drink from saucers on the floor, and even provide special toys and sleeping spaces for their "kitty".

As shocking as feline role play may seem to an outsider, the practice of dressing up in cat-inspired clothing is nothing new. Cats have been venerated throughout the ages, so it should come as no surprise that fashion has borrowed heavily from the revered feline. Women today can be seen on the streets wearing leopard and tiger print clothing, cat eye liner, cat suits, cat eye glasses, hats and hoodies with cat ears, cat paw mittens, and "kitten" heels. Halloween and party stores provide sexy cat costumes in every imaginable pattern, color, and fabric. The list of cat themed attire goes on and on.

Dressing up in cat ears and a tail has been popular for decades. Feline fetish divas have appeared in television shows, cartoons, crawling through music videos, and back flipping their way through movies. Who can forget pouty sexpot Michelle Pfeiffer dressed in that stitched vinyl catsuit in Batman Returns? Her bold entrance had fans captivated at first "Meow".

A sensual, sultry tone and mood is what I have attempted to capture in Bad Kitty. More than that, I have attempted to present feline dress-up and role play as a way for a couple to mix it up in the bedroom. On both accounts, I hope I have succeeded.

Where to buy a copy of Alison Tyler's Never Say Never...
Barnes and Noble
Books a Million
Amazon
Cleis Press

Friday, May 16, 2014

Available for Pre-Order:: Alison Tyler's Nine-to-Five Fantasies


I was visiting Alison Tyler's blog yesterday when saw this gorgeous book cover on her sidebar. I did a double take. It's her upcoming anthology, Nine-to-Five Fantasies!

Not only do I love, love, love that cover... I also wrote one of the stories in that book.

My contribution to the anthology is called Body Work, and it's about a mechanic looking for just the right woman to fulfill his carnal needs. I had a lot of fun writing this story. If you like hot guys who are good with their hands, I hope you'll check it out.

Nine-to-Five Fantasies has a release date scheduled for November 11th, 2014. It will be released in both print and ebook formats.

Currently available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at BAM.

Nine-to-Five Fantasies: Tales of Sex on the Job
editor, Alison Tyler
publisher, Cleis Press

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Budgeting and What It Costs To Self Publish


Ever since I began self publishing my own books, I began to think more about what it costs to self publish, and where I should focus on spending most of my book creation budget. Notice, I didn't say marketing or promoting budget. That's a separate animal entirely. This post is strictly about the steps it takes to get a manuscript into a salable book form.

Often I don't have a lot of money to spend, so I have to make every penny count. In the past, I've made my own covers and edited my own work with the help of friends, all with varying results. Now that I'm wading into POD publishing through CreateSpace, I'm even more concerned about the costs of doing business. There are more stages involved with POD publishing, more steps which require a dollar here or a dollar there, such as ordering proofs. It adds up quickly.

The list below is no where near perfect, it is me simply thinking aloud. I visited dozens of websites to come up with the basic figures shown. If I came across a website and I knew I wouldn't use their service, I didn't include their numbers. I wanted to get a general idea of what it would cost me to take one manuscript, approximately 186 pages long (that's the average length of a Harlequin Desire) and turn it into both an ebook and a print book by hiring outside services. For each service I researched, whenever I was able to do so, I figured up the mode prices, which is the price that occurred most frequently among the sites I visited.

I have to admit, from a financial standpoint, I would probably have to skip some services when it comes to some of my projects. This list was created simply to give me an idea of where to focus my money, and where I might be able to cut corners.

Book Covers
Ebook cover   $25-$70   (mode cost) $50 basic cover, not always 300dpi
Print cover     $75+        (mode cost) $75
Ebook + Print package deals   $90 - $225+    (mode cost)  $150

**Stock art, for DIY covers. Cost per image $5 - $300+ (The cost varies greatly by website, size, and whether an author purchases exclusive rights to the image.) There is so much variation on cost when it comes to stock photos, this topic could be a post all on its own.

Formatting for print or ebook - $10-$70  (mode cost) $20
A 90k or shorter ebook seems cheapest to format across the board. Higher prices generally reflect formatting for POD publishing/print through CreateSpace books. In some cases, the cost may change based on the length of the manuscript. For example, one formatting service I came across charges an additional fee to format books over 400 pages.

For most of the formatting services I looked into, the way I understand it, I'd have to pay for two formatting jobs - print and ebook versions, which are of course formatted differently. A couple of the companies I looked at allowed you to pay for the print formatting rate, then they tack on an additional $5 - $15 dollars to do the ebook version, rather than making you pay for two full formatting jobs. Potentially that could save you a few dollars.

Editing
$1.00 - $2.50 per page.

I've noticed some freelance editors require you to send a sample of your work before they will agree to take on a client. Some editors won't touch a project unless the manuscript is a specific length - for example, no manuscripts above 100 pages. Or, no manuscripts with less than 150 pages. It varies by the editor/service. One service I came across charged a basic per page fee up to a certain number of pages, and then anything over that number of pages was charged at a higher rate - an additional, fifty cents per page. I can see how the costs would add up quickly.

Beta Readers
Free. Paid Beta Readers: $0.50 - $1.50 a page

About beta readers...not everyone uses them. Most of the fiction authors I know manage to find someone willing to read their finished manuscript for free. On the other hand, some authors choose to hire beta readers. I've worked as a paid beta reader for several authors. Most authors who do this will require you sign a confidentiality contract. The average cost to hire a beta reader is between $0.50 - $1.50 a page. Typically a beta reader for a technical manual or a how-to book runs at the higher end of the pay scale, but there are often fewer pages to read. Those authors tend to send sections, rather than the whole book. In general, a beta reader is expected to give feedback, offer a critique on what they've read, and/or sometimes even lightly markup the errors and typos they find in the manuscript.

My overall impression is that most of my self publishing budget will be spent on editing, and I can expect to pay around $186 for a 186 page book. I do have to factor in that there are waiting lists with most editors taking on freelance projects. So, I have to keep in mind there will be a downtime between when I write "the end" and when the editor can begin to work on my book.

The second largest cost for me will be the print/ebook covers I will need someone to make for me. I can expect to pay at least $100 per title if I'm buying both the print and ebook covers for that title. That seems fair to me. I posted a video recently about some of the headaches I faced with creating a print book cover through CreateSpace's cover builder. I will still probably create some of my own ebook covers, but for the print book covers I'll probably want to hire someone. It's worth the money to save myself the headache.

Like I've said before, I try to take on as many of those individual book building processes as I can to save money. I try to edit my own work and build my own covers, but I know with some projects I really do need outside help to see the book completed. I can't see myself paying for every service with every ebook I create. If I did that, I'd end up in the hole financially, probably faster than I imaged possible. However, I'll definitely be rearranging the way I budget my book building money in the future. By tailoring my budget to primarily focus on editing and covers, areas where I feel I need the most help, I'll be able to create the best quality book I possibly can without spending so much money I'm left crying into an empty wallet.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Adventures in CreateSpace :: Matte vs. Glossy

Glossy                                      Matte
As I've said before, this is my first foray into publishing with CreateSpace. After uploading my book multiple times, I ordered glossy and matte proofs for A Trick of Light. Now that I've had time to give the books a road test of sorts, I thought I'd share the pros and cons of each cover type with you. 

Overall, putting the cover together has been a headache, and if you don't have a good art program - or you're like me and have little tech savvy when it comes to using an art program - I highly highly recommend hiring someone to make your cover. You'll save yourself a lot of trouble. The problem isn't so much with creating the art, or even with uploading the files, it's with the lack of flexibility once your image is loaded into the CreateSpace cover builder. There are bleed zones to consider, and you can't shift the text around once it's uploaded to the cover builder. 

If I hadn't already put together my ebook for Smashwords before I decided to try putting my book on CreateSpace, I would have saved myself a great deal of trouble and simply hired someone to build a set of covers for me. I consider this a hard lesson learned. 

If you want to hear more about my take on covers, I've uploaded a video comparing the glossy and matte covers I have on hand. Also, I talk a little bit about my CreateSpace experience. If you wear earphones while listening to this, you'll probably hear my ceiling fan. Very sorry about that. I'll know next time I make a video to turn off the fan. As for the rest...Yes, I have a weird southern accent, and no, I'm not wearing any makeup. Nevertheless, I hope you'll find something in all my rambling that turns out to be helpful for you. 

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments here on my blog. I'll try to answer the best I can.



Monday, May 12, 2014

Crossing Borders Expansion and CreateSpace


Ever since I got the rights back on most of my ebooks, I've been mildly freaking out about revising the old stories for re-release. Without a doubt, it's a lot of work just to update a story. Then once you get into buying stock art for books covers, or paying to someone to make a cover for you, plus professional editing (if you can find afford it) and formatting for the interior, the costs start adding up. I try to do as much of the work as possible to keep the cost down, but there are some things I feel better about when I let someone else handle it. At the end of the day I'm only human, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to put out the best book possible. I go to bed thinking about books, and I wake up still thinking about them. I guess that's just the way my writer's brain works. Write, edit, worry, repeat.

I think there are eight stories left to tackle in my backlist. It makes my head spin just thinking about it. Through it all, I'm also working very hard to write new material. There are many days that go by where I've spent time on so many different things it honestly feels like I've accomplished nothing at all. Or even worse, it feels like my best isn't good enough. I know it's not true in both cases, but...well, it is what it is. I've repeatedly thought about retiring the old books altogether, it would be kind of nice to start over from scratch, but I have a sizable backlist and I don't like the idea of retiring that much work all at one time.

I updated and uploaded the new edition of Wave Rider in April, and I'm mostly happy with it. It's currently available on Smashwords and Amazon. I've been asked why I started reworking the backlist by tackling that story, and here's the deal. I decided I better start out small and move on to the bigger books until I got a better handle on what I'm doing. Anyway, uploading Wave Rider took some fear out of the process. Some. 

I'm currently proofing Wicked Obsession in prep for release on Smashwords, and just this afternoon I finished writing the expansion for Crossing Borders. The expansion has added...seven? eight? new scenes to Crossing Borders? Whatever the case, it's a big change. Lots of work, like I said, but I like the new direction the story has taken. I didn't set out to boost the word count 100% or anything like that, I simply wanted to address a few things that I've received questions about over years regarding that story. I tried to smooth out some of the tension between Laney and her brother, Seth, and I gave Cole and Laney more page time to better "cement" their love for one another.

I'll be releasing this version of Crossing Borders in both ebook and print, and gradually all the other stories in the Werekind series will be receiving the same treatment. But first things first - revisions. Then edits. Then proofs. Oh my.

Speaking of proofs...I have one more story to read in the print version of A Trick of Light. Once I've worked my way through that one, I'll be ready to submit the final document and hit the "publish" button. Very exciting!

One more thing before I close. This week, I'll be posting about the glossy vs. matte covers available through CreateSpace. I'll also be talking a little bit about the issues I had with the CreateSpace cover builder. If you have an questions, feel free to ask. I'll try to tackle them when the cover post is live.

Until next time...happy wishes!  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

In the very busy month of May

The merry merry month of May is officially the very very busy month of May for me. I've had a lot of running and businessy things to take care of lately, so I haven't been blogging or on social media very much. Rest assured, I read and answer every message and/or email you send as soon as I get it.

My grandmother is losing her battle with cancer, so I'm driving my mother to Texas to see her toward the end of the month, after I settle my taxes.

One of the businessy things I was talking about... Hubby's former employer jerked us around for months about his W-2, and we actually thought we were going to have to file our taxes without it. Talk about a nightmare. It sent my stress levels through the roof. But finally, his employer gave in, and now we have all the documents we need to file. We just have to wait for our appointment date, then we can take of it. Still, we are very behind schedule on everything, and I'm lucky to have a full head of hair left. It's a miracle I haven't pulled it all out during these past few very stressful months.

There are three family birthdays this month. Today is actually my dad's birthday - Happy birthday, Daddy! And we're closing in on the end of the school year for Mini. Hurray and cheers to that.

Through it all, I've been writing and editing daily. I'm deep in the editing cave these days. The print edition of A Trick of Light is almost ready for release, and Wicked Obsession - one of my Immortal Lovers vampire novels - is almost ready to be uploaded to Smashwords. I think it needs one more editing pass to clear the gates. Wicked Obsession will also be coming out in paperback, but I don't have a release date for that yet.

The Werekind books... oh my goodness. I have so much work to do on this series to get them ready for release. I have to commission all new covers for both ebook and print releases. I'm currently expanding Crossing Borders, and I have Gemma's story on my editing stack. The Under a Midnight Moon trilogy (Under A Midnight Moon, Feral Instinct, and Chasing Moonlight) is going to be printed together in paperback, but the stories will also be available individually on Smashwords. I'm not convinced yet that it would be worth my investment to put them on Kindle, unless it's in a bundle. I'm still debating it. We'll see.

Anyway, that's just the beginning for the series books. I still have to re-edit and format the other books. I'm working my way through my entire backlist, and I'll be perfectly honest with ya, it takes time to sort these books out. I'll post more about that as things progress.

Coming up this month, I'll be doing either a post or a video here on the blog about CreateSpace matte vs. glossy covers. I haven't found a whole lot of information about the differences. So, if you're interested in hearing about the different cover types, keep checking back. I'll probably have that post up next week.

There's still quite a bit of time left to register, I just wanted you to know I'll be giving a workshop on Critical Reading for Writers at Savvy Authors in July. Bring your unfinished or finished writing project of any length or genre, and you'll be able to analyze and markup your piece throughout the workshop as we go through the lessons. It's going to be interactive and fun. I'll be around to answer all your question, so I hope you'll join me in July!

That's what I got going on at the moment. I try to pop in at Facebook and Twitter at least once a day, because I do get messages at both sites, but like I said earlier, my social media use is way down at the moment. I have a contact form on my website should you need to get in touch with me for whatever reason. At any rate, I'm still scuttling along, doing my thing. ;o)

That's it for now. Until next time, happy wishes!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Adventures in Publishing :: CreateSpace


A Trick of Light will soon be available in paperback and for the Kindle. I'm super excited about the print edition. The quality of the book is really nice. I ordered proof copies, and I think after this next batch, the book will be ready for release.

The proofs turned out pretty good. Certainly not bad for my first time using CreateSpace. Like I said, the quality is lovely. I made one small revision to the cover. The text didn't look centered to me, so I opened my cover in Paint.net  (the free desktop art program I use to do just about everything art/cover/photo/logo related) and realigned the text all more to the left. After that, of course, I uploaded the cover again to CreateSpace for review.

The issue I'm having with creating covers is that the text is centered on my picture, but when you upload the file, CreateSpace shifts the image slightly, and it's affected by the bleed zone, so the text ends up being a few centimeters skewed to the right. Also, because there is a .5 centimeter area of spine space in addition to the cover, the text looks further skewed than what it really is.

To illustrate that .5 centimeter spine space...let's compare covers. Below is a mass market paperback. It doesn't have that spine space. Most mass market books don't. Usually, the cover simply folds back flush with the spine, like this...

Mass market paperback spine. Notice the cover crease is
all the way at the spine's edge. Compare with the spine
crease which doesn't go all the way to the edge
on  the cover for A Trick of Light.

I think that's simply called paperbound in mass market, but I could be wrong about that so don't quote me. I'm just trying to explain the best I can, in case someone else is having the same difficulties when creating their book cover. Because as far as I can tell, there aren't any tutorials on YouTube or anywhere else online for creating CreateSpace book covers using Paint.net.

Notice how the cover doesn't lift away right next to the
binding edge?  That space where the cover is
glued down, that adds roughly .5 centimeters to your
cover image. If your cover image wraps around it shouldn't be a
problem. But if you're uploading a front cover only, that .5 area
can make your text look off center...in my case,
more so than it already is.

Overall, I love the quality of CreateSpace books; however, I'm not impressed at all with the CreateSpace cover designer/builder application. It's entirely too basic, and the result is often a cheap looking cover. Right out the gate, you don't have a lot of template options to start with. A couple of the options would be nice and usable IF the builder allowed you to customize the placement of the cover text, and to remove the transparent and/or opaque text boxes, or heck...if the builder allowed the user to remove the title and title box entirely. But the builder doesn't allow for that on most of the templates.

The CreateSpace Builder offers roughly four or five different options within each theme, which basically just changes the color or the type of font on the book cover. But you still can't position the text where you want it on your cover when you're using the builder. So, if you select a theme with a visible text box because you think that font and color will be nice if only you could shift the box downward a little or even resize it to fit better, you'll be disappointed to find out you can't do that. And if you've uploaded a cover with a design element such as a model's face, chances are if you use a cover theme that has a title text box, that text box is going to go right over your model's face - and there's nothing you can do to remove or shift the text/box.

In addition to that, I ran into an issue with using black for the back cover in two of the themes, because some of the template options don't allow you to adjust the font color on the back cover. So if the text for that theme is black without any other options, and you change the background to black, your text won't be visible and you can't do anything within the template to change that. You have to use the original background color, or switch to another template design. It's little basic things like this that make the cover builder a real nightmare.

I don't understand why CreateSpace won't allow us to add and position cover text within the application. Ridiculous! Especially when you have to diligently watch where your text goes so it doesn't get cropped off because of bleed lines.

I started out with a pre-existing cover image. The image is I had made for my Smashwords release of A Trick of Light. I wanted to stay as close to that cover design as possible for my paperback and Kindle editions, but I wasn't able to simply use the pre-existing image in the CreateSpace builder and come away with the look I wanted. I created my own cover in Paint.net so I could have better control primarily over the text placement. But even then it's difficult to center the text. I had to upload my cover and adjust it several times to make sure the text is clear of the bleed area. Maybe the sixth time is the charm!

I'm still looking for a good template to use in Paint.net. There are no instructions with the current templates available through CreateSpace. On YouTube, most of the tutorials are for Photoshop or GIMP. GIMP won't work on my computer, I've tried it. Nevertheless, I watched a few of their tutorials to try to learn how to use/manipulate the cover template itself. Mainly because, when you download the template, it has a lot white space around it, and I have no idea if I should turn it transparent, cut it off, or leave it alone. At any rate, once I learn more about creating wraparound paperback covers in Paint.net, I'll post it here on my blog.

Like I said before, I would really, really like to simply create the cover image without text and add it within the CreateSpace building application, but for the time being, that's not possible. I hope text, font, and title issues will be addressed by CreateSpace in the future. Maybe they'll add it one day to their features when they update the builder. I feel like the cover creator/builder would be so much better with more text options available to authors.

Moving along...

I should probably mention that A Trick of Light is currently available on Smashwords for 99 cents. It's a collection of four supernatural short stories. Two of the stories are reprints from an anthology that is out of print, and there is one story that is previously unreleased. So, a mix of new and old stories. They all fit a dark, supernatural theme.

Once the paperback is made available on CreateSpace, I'll be giving away the proofs here on the blog. Signed, if you want them that way.

Pretty! The cover is gorgeous. Me loves.
Also, you can see the spine crease in this
picture if you look toward the bottom of the book.

That space is to the left of the crease is
what I'm calling the "spine space".  It
adds an extra half centimeter to your cover  -
at least it does with a 5x8 of about 105 pages. 

That's pretty much it for me today. I have editing and writing to do, so I'll probably be pretty quite on Facebook and Twitter until I get a few things off my plate.

This month, Alison Tyler is hosting a Never Say Never blog tour, and I'm participating! I have a micro snip story in Never Say Never called Bad Kitty, so I'll be blogging about that here on May 19th. I hope you'll drop in and say hello!

Until next time, happy wishes!