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Friday, November 9, 2012

Just Take the Compliment

I am filled with conflicting emotions and warm oatmeal at the moment. Did you know that oatmeal has only trace amounts of wheat in it, so that people who shouldn't eat gluten can still eat oatmeal? I was so grateful. This whole "no gluten" thing has been quite the wrench in my daily eating habits. But it's definitely the right thing for me- since I've cut it out I feel better, less lethargic, and less achy. Worth the sacrifice. Even if sometimes the only thing I want to eat is a biscuit with honey.

And now that my breakfast food tangent is over and my oatmeal is slowly digesting I can focus on all those conflicting feelings I mentioned earlier. My book, The Darkest Lie, came out on Kindle this past week and on the one hand it's doing really well. There's lots of good buzz about it and even a review on a reputable and popular blog site. (I mentioned it last time with the link). My sales for a self-published Kindle book are better than average. I have great friends and two giveaways for author signed copies of my book on other blogs:


both of which are awesome blogs run by great people. They're mommy blogs; Because I Don't Scrapbook is funny and engaging talking about the trials and enjoyments of being a stay at home mom, and My Name is Snickerdoodle is endearing and artistic and is geared more towards homemaking, crafting, and fantastic recipes. The author of that blog, Amy, actually won a Paula Dean cooking contest and creates her own recipes. Try any of them. They're amazing.

Apparently I'm hesitant to talk about my feelings, because I keep finding other things to go on tangents about. Okay, here's my concern: my reliable source of income cuts off next month. That's preschool, and I'm going to miss my kids. I am excited at having that time during the day to write. However, I don't get any royalties from my book sales until 60 days after the end of the month of the sale. So for every copy I sell in November, I won't get any royalties until February. And that concerns me, because there's that month in the middle where we still need food and bill paying and stuff.

Not that my husband doesn't have a great job, he does. If it weren't for all my medical bills and past medical debt we'd be good to go with no worries. All our debt is medically related, and it's all me. So I feel responsible for it. And no, it isn't all recent with the testing and neurology issues- about six months after my second son was born I slipped in some water and bashed my knee on a metal bar. It destroyed all my cartilage and I had two surgeries and a year of physical therapy. I had to use a walker with a basket wired to it to get around our condo and take care of my toddler and my baby while my husband was trying to finish grad school. So I am stressed about money, but trying to have faith that this is the right thing.

And then there's all the reviews my book is getting. Now I like my book. I think it's great and everyone should read it. But at the same time, it's my book. I don't expect other people to think it's anything out of the ordinary or special. How can I be so arrogant as to assume that self publishing was a great idea? Why should I think my book is so special that it could beat the horrible odds stacked against it? There shouldn't be anything so special about it or about me that would mean I could be one of the 3 successes for every 500,000 self published failures (those numbers are sadly not exaggerated).

This kind of stream-of-consciousness is pretty normal for me, so when I get reviews like these, I don't know what to do.

"I knew the author growing up and thought I would buy the book to support her. I was Shockingly surprised at how good it was. I had no idea she was that talented a writer. It caught my attention and held it. I had a hard time putting it down, and then couldn't wait to pick it up again. I recommend this book to anyone, young or old"

"I was lucky enough to be one of the first readers of "The Darkest Lie", a young adult fantasy novel that kept me on the edge of my seat, kept me coming back for more, and made me laugh and cry.

The book is well written, and my most favorite part is the way the author, Angela Day, describes magic. I have read probably more than my fair share of fantasy literature, and loop holes in magic, and unidentified or unclear magic sources are a big pet peeve of mine. This one is, put simply, BEAUTIFUL. And logical.

The characters are lovable, or despicable, which is fitting, and more importantly, they're relateable. Every kid alive has felt the way Thane feels at one point or another. And everyone wants the confidence that Remi has, or knows someone who has it.

This book is a MUST READ for the Teen target audience as well as their parents."

"If you like Urban Fantasy, or YA sci-fi or fantasy in general (as I know many of you and your offspring do, reading friends!) Give it a try! It has adventure, magic, complexity, humor, psychological depth-highly recommend."

Awesome, right? And then I'm getting feedback like this from people I don't even know, which is important because as much as I enjoy compliments from my friends and family I'm never sure how much of it is because of whatever it is I did and how much is because they love me. I know they're being sincere, that isn't the question- I just also know that they can't be objective. Which is fine, no one can be truly objective since we each see the world through our own belief windows. It's just a really good feeling when someone says something positive about my book (although being "Shockingly surprised at how good it was" didn't quite feel like a compliment).

Therein lies the awkward. I suck at taking compliments. I'm terrible at it. I don't know what to say or how to respond, because part of me feels like I don't deserve it and another part is flattered and pleased and another part of me wants to say something nice back and then I think I should be humble and deflect and by this point I realize I haven't responded to them and now it's just awkward because someone said something nice to me and I've been standing there stuck inside my head for way too long. Yep. I suck at compliments.

At taking them, anyway. I'm great at giving them. One of the biggest reasons that I'm any good at writing is because I've likely read over 2000 books in my lifetime. That's a lot of words and phrases to cram into one head. So when I find myself appreciating something about someone else, I have a lot of words to draw from and am able to be specific and articulate with praise. Never flattery or empty compliments- no wasting words like that. There is always something nice and true to say about someone else.

Which is a rule of mine, a seminary lesson from 9th grad that's always stuck with me. Speaking litmus test: Is it nice, is it necessary, is it true? You have to answer yes to the last question and one other before you can say it. If it's true and necessary, you say it. If it's nice and true, you say it. If it's nice and necessary but not true, don't say it. Good rules to live by, even for a fantasy writer.

So what do I do now? I worry. I stew. I write. And I obsessively check my kindle sales to see if people are buying my book. It's only going to get worse after Wednesday when the print copy comes out- if I can sell 2000 copies (two thousand?!?!?) then I stand a chance at getting picked up by a publishing house. Anything less than that, and they're not interested. And I don't have the same time table that everyone else does-- this isn't a hobby for me, it's a passion. Most books sell slowly, generating buzz over the course of years, rolling like a snowball on an inclined plane just past the angle of friction. (aka REALLY SLOWLY). But I'm already a month behind.

Remember that post about a leap of faith? Well, I can see the cliff. It's straight ahead. I can't see anything beyond it.

And I'm running towards it, hoping to fly.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

CreateSpace and Self-Publishing

And so it begins. My book, "The Darkest Lie," came out yesterday for the Kindle. Did you hear that? Can I say it again? MY BOOK CAME OUT FOR THE KINDLE!!! And I find myself excited, sure, but not as much as I thought I would be. Somehow in my mind having it available on Kindle isn't the same as having it in print. I don't know why I feel that way- decades of conditioning, I suppose. I have a Kinde, I love my Kindle, and the Kindle Lending Library and the Overdrive Media Console through the library are huge reasons why I have nearly 900 books read and rated on Goodreads. My Kindle gives me the freedom to check out books without needing to leave home. I can read it anywhere, indoors or out, and thanks to my book light, I can read in bed, too.

So yes, for anyone out there who has a Kindle, "The Darkest Lie" by Angela Day is out and available. And it's getting great reviews! Can I post some? 

Laura Shingleton, Middle School English Teacher in Oregon: "If you like Urban Fantasy, or YA sci-fi or fantasy in general (as I know many of you and your offspring do, reading friends!) Give it a try! It has adventure, magic, complexity, humor, psychological depth-highly recommend." 

Stephen Newman, Guitarist, Ice Hotel: "I stayed up until 3 am reading it. More books? Please?"

One of my editors, also a teacher:  "I think about it when I am not reading it and am wholly engaged when I am. I am invested in the characters. I can see my students loving it. You have something real."

If you have a Kindle or a Kindle app and you're interested in reading the book, click this link to be taken to Amazon's site.

If you don't have a Kindle or Kindle app, never fear. My book launches in paper back next Wednesday, November 14th! See, now THAT feels like being published! A real hold in your hands book, where you turn the pages and lend out and dog ear and go back to re-read favorite passages. That's a book. And mine is coming out next week! 

If that seems fast to anyone, remember that I've been working on my book for a year now. The initial idea for the story hit me last October, and I spent a few months kicking it around. I started writing the manuscript in January and finished the rough draft in August. The rough draft was huge, way too big to consider to publish for my target market. Not that my target market won't read big books- I wrote my book for anyone who read and loved the Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Percy Jackson series. And some of those books were really hefty. But the first ones weren't. A first novel is like a first date- you want to make a strong positive first impression, but not overwhelm your date. And no one is going to pick up a book for fun and light reading if the book is the size of the Bible. 

So I spent months paring it back and pruning and sending it out to alpha readers and editors to make it better. I wrote and re-wrote, edited and cut and re-arranged until I'd cut almost the length of a full novel out of my novel. I spent every free moment working on this, and can I say that I love my iPad? I wrote the whole book and did all the editing on the iPad, and it was fantastic. I'll write an entire post about that later.

So I started sending out queries to agents and considering publishers. I did research and more research, and then the bottom fell out of our financial world. My preschool had to be shut down. In addition to the emotional wrench suddenly I only had two months of income left. Yikes! A typical publishing timeline is 4-6 months to get an agent and then another year to get picked up by a publishing house. I didn't have that kind of time.

Self publishing became the only viable option for my writing career. I did research into that and found with the advent of the internet and how much easier self publishing has become the new query letter. Agents want you to prove that you're marketable. Plus the royalties are much higher when you self publish, although they're still not much.

There are lots of different self-publishing services out there, and after looking into several and hunting down recommendations and reviews, I chose to work with CreateSpace. CreateSpace is owned by Amazon so they already have a lot of clout in the publishing and audio book markets. They're also a POD service which was vital to my plan. POD means "print on demand," or that they won't print a book until someone orders it. This means that there isn't an upfront cost of thousands of dollars to order a full print run of your book that you are then responsible for selling all on your own. They do offer a variety of paid services, but we'll get to those.

Signing up with CreateSpace was very simple, requiring only a basic email address and password. Then they take you to your member dashboard, a central screen where the entire checklist of what you need to do to publish is on your left. The first thing they require is a title to work on, and you click to add title and author name. They offer free ISBNs if you're willing to have CreateSpace listed as the publisher, and those ISBNs come with some restrictions in use. You can purchase your own for $99 and retain all rights and distribution options with that, and name yourself or your company or other entity as the publisher. So far, the only paid options are optional.

Then you upload your file. This can be tricky because they have very specific submission guidelines regarding types of files, page sizes and margins, embedded font types, photos or illustrations, and a laundry list of other requirements. They are willing to do all the formatting for you for a fee of $249, which seemed much more reasonable after the hours and hours I spent doing it on my own. They do have free downloadable templates that you can use and with a 30 day free trial of Adobe Acrobat Pro I was able to get my manuscript to conform to guidelines.

They also want you to pick a trim size, or the dimensions of the physical book. How many inches wide by how many inches tall, in other words. You also decide whether the interior is black and white or color, and whether you want the pages to be white or cream colored. These choices all affect the cost of printing your book and how much you can charge for it. Because yes, they determine the base price, and you decide how much you want to get over that. 

Once you upload your file it does a preliminary check to made sure it complies with submission guidelines. This is done immediately online and takes about 10 minutes, and they allow you to use a program called Interior Designer to check any problems they find. This is a pretty thorough check. 

Next you design your cover. You can choose one of their free cover designs, design your own, or pay to have a professional design it for you. They give you the specifications and once again with the help of Adobe Photoshop I made my own cover. Again, hours and hours of work, but the cover design was something I'd been thinking about for weeks and had already, although inadvertently, worked on. I had to tweak that several times before it met approval, but I finally got that in.

Once those two things are submitted they take 48 hours and review your file. They go over the manuscript and the cover to make sure it matches all submission guidelines and will print appropriately. They do NOT check for spelling, grammar, funky spacing, or anything else that a good copy editor would catch. You can pay for that service if you chose, but that isn't free. Nor should it be. That's a lot of thankless intensive work. They're do a basic copyediting for $120.00 for the first 10,000 words, and $0.012 for every word after that. If the average length of a novel is 125,000 words, that's $1,500.00 for one basic edit. That's a lot. And that's the most basic service they offer.

I opted to do that myself and with the help of some other wonderful professionals. After the 48 hour review, they send you an email to say it's ready for the next step. The next step is either fixing issues or ordering a proof copy. If you fix issues you have to re-submit it and wait another 48 hours (they say 48, but mine was a lot closer to 24). Once it's good, you have the choice to either order a proof copy and pay for the printing and shipping or proof it online. I ordered the proof copy. I want a printed copy of my book to hold and read and look at. Mostly I want a physical copy because I want to make sure I like the trim size I ordered. I don't want to approve it and have it printed and in distribution before I realize that it could have been better. 

Once you approve the file, BAM, your book is on the website and they encourage you to publish it on Kindle also. Clearly you can publish on Kindle before you publish in print, but they don't give you that option until the file is ready for publication. They also offer a lot of publication promotional materials that you can purchase to help you sell, but they want a lot for those. I was comparison shopping and I could by twice as many bookmarks from Print Runner for the same price that Amazon was offering.

They do offer paid book reviews by Kirkus and Clarion, which are FANTASTIC tools for promotion, but they're pricey. $529.00 if you want a review in less than 5 weeks. Per review. And it's a little chancy, considering the reviewer isn't guaranteed to like the book.

All in all, I think CreateSpace is an easy to use self publishing service. I haven't completed everything yet, nor have I gotten involved in the CreateSpace community, so I can't give an opinion on those things. I would recommend it to anyone considering self-publishing, especially if they've never done it before. I did have someone from the company call and email me when I first signed up to ask me questions, but I never actually talked with him. I haven't received my proof copy yet so I can't vouch for the quality of printing, but I'll update on that in a few days when the proof copy of my book gets here.

I'm getting a proof copy of my book in a few days!!!

Also, if you'd like to win a free author signed copy of my book, check out


both of which will be doing free giveaways starting tomorrow. Thanks everyone!