Writing, YA Author Club

Advice to New Authors From the YA Author Club

YA Indie CarnivalThis week the YA Author Club is sharing insights into the editing process. All the authors in the YA Author Club are indie authors, so our experiences apply most especially to those authors looking into self-publishing. I’m a few weeks behind thanks to my little sabbatical, but I’ll do my best to catch up now. Here are my quick thoughts on formatting and editing:

 Editing

I hate editing. I really do. However, an author who wants to be taken seriously will invest both time and money in the editing process. Even the most famous authors you could name have been through rigorous editing and may have worked with multiple editors before their books became best-sellers. My first search for an editor landed me a fabulous developmental editor who worked with me on the fundamental story structure and character development of A Light in the Darkness and To Light the Path. She was very thorough and I ended up with a line-by-line edit of my final work. She is incredibly talented and I came away from that experience a better writer. THAT, above all else in my opinion, is the mark of a gifted editor. Then again, it only works if you are paying any attention to what they are doing and actually taking their advice. Many writers want to fight every step of the way which is immature and ultimately bad for your business. Stop fighting and trust the person you are paying. If you don’t trust them, then find someone you can trust and then soak up every word they shower upon you and your manuscript. Even the criticism I found most painful and hard to swallow I ended up using to strengthen my book. For example, my editor disagreed with the premise of my second book, arguing against the very point I was trying to make with my main character’s actions and beliefs. I literally sat and cried over her comments, frustrated and confused about how to move on and doubting my own conviction in the power of my story. I sat trapped in this doubt and dark depression for weeks before I was finally able to move forward. I began to see that her comments were exactly what I needed to strengthen another character, Justan, who was himself doubting the validity of the main character’s plan. Justan is the character I least identify with and so his dialogue is always the hardest for me to write. When I realized that my editor was asking the same questions he would be asking, I knew just what to do. I followed her train of thought, her emotions, her frustration, and I used it to build a stronger character, intensifying the drama. When I’m writing the rest of the series, I’ll be able to come back to those conversations and see a bit of his side peeking through. That is invaluable!

In the end my editor and I discovered that we didn’t have the same vision for my work. She couldn’t appreciate the direction I was going with it and I respected her enough to not force her to see it my way. Books, like so many other art forms, are subjective. What inspires me may not inspire you. So, we parted ways and I moved on in search of an editor who could embrace my hopes and dreams for the series. I agonized over that decision, but in the end it all comes down to “who will help me reach my goals?” That is a question you must always ask as you choose cover artists, editors, graphic designers, marketing people, and a slew of other people who will become your team on this journey.

If you are looking for an editor, I happen to know a fabulous freelance editor who is available. Jessie Sanders from Stormy Night Publishing is a very talented editor with experience in small press and self-publishing. Maybe she’ll be the right fit for you!

Formatting & Self-Publishing

I won’t say much about formatting because I am still learning. Here’s my advice if you aren’t naturally gifted in this area: Use Draft2Digital. It will cost you nothing to sign up with them and you can thank me later for introducing you. Many self-published authors use Smashwords because they were the first big guy on the scene to hold authors’ hands as they made the leap. However, Smashwords is messy and infuriarating! Skip the style guide headache and the weeks/months of waiting for your work to be approved by Createspace and iTunes. Go straight to Draft2Digital and you will be so glad I sent you. Seriously! I upload my file, fill out a short form online, review my document and click approve. Done! Within 48 hours my book is live and available across the globe. Amazing! And I didn’t have to know a thing about formatting to do it. They have complex computer coding that cleans up my messes for me. I love that! Also, their reporting is beautiful! Real-time charts show me how many books I’ve sold across all titles and they’re adding more sales charts/graphs as they go. Tax time was easy with Draft2Digital thanks to their accounting system. Do I sound like a paid advertiser? Sorry. I just really love them and can’t imagine trying to do this all without them. They make it easy and I love clicking over to my account and watching my sales numbers climb.

Curious what other authors are saying about editing? You will find other experiences, tips, and advice from the YA Author Club. Just click on the links below. Best of luck finding what works for you!

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
15. Heather Sutherlin – YA Fantasy
PubIt, writer's life, YA Author Club

YA Author Club: Barnes & Noble

YA Indie CarnivalHappy Friday! This week in the YA Author Club we’re all chatting about our experience with Barnes & Noble. I had a bit of trouble putting into words how I felt about this topic, so I snuck over to the blogs of my fellow club members, Bryna Butler and T. R. Graves, and scoped out their responses to this week’s question: What has Barnes & Noble ever done for you? Reading through their responses I am finally able to put my thoughts into words.

Nothing. I suppose that’s only one word.  Allow me to elaborate. When I first published A Light in the Darkness, I was thrilled to see my book listed on Barnes and Noble’s website. To me, that was the pinnacle of success – having your book listed at Barnes and Noble. I live just down the street from our local B&N store and I have many a time walked past their large Nook displays. It was easy for me to dream of all the Nook sales that would soon be pouring in now that my own book was available for their high-end device. Then, a week went by and then a month. No sales. It has now been six months and I have sold a grand total of two books on Barnes and Noble’s site. TWO!! 

Ahem. Where was I? Oh yeah! Disappointed. I was deeply disappointed. That is not to say that my book hasn’t sold. That would be different. If my books weren’t selling I would think “maybe I’m not such a great writer after all.” But that is not the case. I have had some success at Amazon and it seems to be growing, increasing momentum with each passing month and each new title I place out there in the market. No, this is a problem with Barnes and Noble and how they do business. You see, Amazon makes it easy for everyone to buy, sell, interact, and enjoy ebooks. They have multiple ways to encourage us as writers and you as readers to know each other, to share with our friends, and to recommend new writers to one another. On my Amazon author page you can even see a snippet of my blog or host a discussion about my work. I can even add a calendar of events showing where I’ll be for book signings or author talks. It’s remarkable and yet so very simple as though Amazon brought us together. “Author, meet reader. Reader, here is the author you were searching for. Say hello. Chat. Buy a book or two. Tell a friend. We’ll be right here when you need us.”

Oh wait. This was about Barnes and Noble. Well, you can see that I’m clearly not impressed with them. So, why are my books still listed with B&N for Nook? Well, remember that little discussion about KDP Select? The gist of it is this: I want my books to be available to as many readers as possible. I am willing to lose out on a few dollars here or there in commissions in order to be certain that the reader who is searching for my book can find it when and where she needs it and be able to enjoy it on her (or his) device. If I can’t place my book in their hands, then it seems to me that writing it was a bit pointless (not to mention the hundreds of other hoops I’ve jumped through to get it published.) So far my books are available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iTunes, and in print on Amazon. (You can find them here.) Sony will be next, I think. If there is a platform where you would like to see my books, please let me know. I’m doing my best to get into your hands. I promise.

And if you love Nook and buy a lot through Barnes and Noble, please let me know that, too. I appreciate hearing from all of you!

Happy reading!

Heather

Indie Authors

YA Author Club

Sometimes it feels good to be the new girl, especially when you get to hang out with such cool people as The YA Indie Carnival crew. I am thrilled to be apart of this smart and sassy group of writers. If you haven’t yet heard about them, here’s the scoop:

Every Friday, the members of the YA Author Club will discuss and post (on their individual blogs & the central website) topics pertinent to indie authors. This unique twist on a club allows our supporters to get to know us, our books, our opinions of other books, and our experiences with indie publishing.

So, not only will I get to share with you all sorts of fun blog posts about my life as an indie author, I’ll also include the links to my fellow YA Author Club members so that you can see what they had to say about that topic, too. AND you’ll get to meet a lot of fabulous YA authors along the way. Twice a month you’ll see a new author that we’ve interviewed so you can read all about how and why they write and then read an excerpt of their latest work. How cool is that?!

Today we’re all discussing KDP Select, a majorly hot topic in the indie publishing world. For those of you who are not authors, let me first explain a little about KDP and how it works. Kindle Direct Publishing is a branch of Amazon that allows us to upload our manuscripts and sell them to the public as ebooks for Kindle apps and devices around the world. It’s truly amazing and has opened the door for authors everywhere to share their work with the literate masses. This kind of technology is what allows us to call ourselves Indie authors and to hope for some measure of success.

Until recently, many authors were buying into a program offered by Amazon called KDP select which asks the author to list their work only on Amazon for a set amount of time. In exchange, the author could list their work for FREE for a specified number of days in the hopes of gaining a larger audience. This is how many indie authors grew to bestseller status very quickly because those free day downloads still translated as “sales” to Amazon’s computers, thus skyrocketing a few lucky authors to instant stardom (of sorts). In turn, more and more authors began to choose the KDP Select program, hoping for their own success. Over time, KDP Select has altered their program (or more to the point, Amazon has altered the process) so that it is much less lucrative than it first appeared.

So, when a self-published author finally has their completed work in their eager little hands, one of their first decisions is this: Should I list with KDP Select or list my book across multiple sales channels so that readers with Nooks or Kobo, or iTunes can read my book, too?

It’s a tough choice, I won’t lie, and the first of many you’ll have to make as an indie author. I decided to list my books EVERYWHERE. I’m still not quite there (Sony, I’m coming, baby!) but if I had chosen KDP Select, then my first rush of readers wouldn’t have been able to find me on their brand new devices. I wanted everyone who could possibly enjoy my book to have access to it and KDP Select would at best delay that goal. So, for me, I opted out. You can still find all of my work on Amazon Kindle and it often shows up there first before all others, but they can’t have it all to themselves. If that means I give up a few opportunities to share my book for free… Well, that’s okay. I spent seven years and money out of pocket preparing my first two books for the world, so I think asking readers to pay a dollar or three isn’t too bad. If it isn’t worth that to them, then they’ll pass. I’m okay with that. Maybe I’ll catch them next time around.

Now remember, I’m the newcomer here and completely new to the whole game of publishing, so this was just my opinion on KDP Select. If you’re curious how other authors feel, please visit a few of my new friends by clicking on the links below and read their experiences. In the end, I’m sure you’ll have a much better understanding of how it all works and how each of us makes the choice for ourselves. After all, that’s what being an Indie is all about.

THE  YA  AUTHOR  CLUB

1. Laura A. H. Elliott 2. Bryna Butler, author Midnight Guardian series
3. T. R. Graves, Author of The Warrior Series 4. Suzy Turner, author of The Raven Saga
5. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog 6. K. C. Blake, author of Vampires Rule and Crushed
7. Gwenn Wright, author of Filter 8. Liz Long | Just another writer on the loose.
9. Ella James 10. Maureen Murrish
11. YA Sci Fi Author’s Ramblings 12. A Little Bit of R&R
13. Melissa Pearl 14. Terah Edun – YA Fantasy
15. Heather Sutherlin – YA Fantasy
Indie Authors, My Books, writer's life

Ask the Author

Recently I had the immense pleasure of answering a few questions about what it is like to be an author. Mrs. Hayes third grade class from Nashville, TN created a fantastic list of questions for me and I was very impressed with how much they understood about the writing and publishing process. They had eleven questions and I gave them twelve answers. Today I’ll share with you the first half of our conversation and tomorrow I’ll reveal the exciting conclusion, giving you a chance to ask a few questions, too.

1.    How did you get the idea for your book?

I had a beautiful dream that was a little bit scary at the end. You see, I was this girl, dressed all in white, standing with a bunch of people near a waterfall. People were splashing and playing in the water and I laughed because they were grown-ups but acting like kids. I looked up to say something about it to my friend, who was the prince, but I saw a man in a black cape coming down the hill to attack him. So, I ran to stop him from hurting my friend the prince. I jumped in front of him and then… I woke up.

2.    When did you start working on this book?

Well, I woke up from this dream and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wanted to know what happened. I wanted to know how I became friends with a prince. I wanted to know who the girl in white was since she didn’t seem very much like me and I thought it was weird that she thought she could fight a big bad guy like the one in the black cape. So, I got up out of bed and found a notebook and started writing notes. I thought about it all day long and most of the day the next day. Then, I put it away. About a year later, my brother, who is a writer, said to me, “You should write a book. Let’s both write books in November for National Novel Writing Month.” So I did. I wrote the whole book just to see what happened next.

3.    Was your book rejected before it was published?  If so, how many times?

Oh Yes! Many times! I tried for a whole year to get it published and I received 14 rejection letters. Many agents wouldn’t even respond to my letters. They didn’t think my book would make any money, so they didn’t waste their time writing to tell me so. It was very depressing. I actually gave up trying to get published. BUT, I did not give up writing. Once I realized I could write a book, I wanted to keep writing books. It felt good. So, I wrote another and another and another.

4.    How did you find a publisher?

Actually, I never did find a publisher. I gave up, remember? But a funny thing happened. My brother had written a lot of really good books and he had been trying for many years to get published and then one day he decided to publish his own books. Now that many of us have computers, we can publish books for ourselves. So, my brother figured out how and he made so much money that was able to quit his job! Then, he taught me how to do it, too. Now I am writing every day and this year I plan to publish three books all on my own. That is called self-publishing, but most of us call ourselves Indie Authors because we are independent, we don’t rely on publishers.

5.    Did you type your book on the computer?  If so, what program did you use? 

What a clever question! I started out writing in a notebook. Nearly all of my stories start in a notebook. Then, I took the pages I had written and typed them into the computer using Microsoft Word so that I wouldn’t lose them. Also, it is easier to add more or to edit if you are using a computer. Then, when I started really writing on my book during National Novel Writing Month, I used Google Docs because I could easily share my work with friends or family and I could save it at home, go on a trip somewhere and open the internet and be able to see my document no matter where I was or what computer I was using. Isn’t that cool? Now I use Word, but I save everything I do in google drive so that I can still reach it from any computer.

6.    Why did you choose that candle for the cover?  Was there an illustrator?

I chose the candle as a symbol. The girl in my story is very special and she is asked to do something really unique. She is supposed to tell the people she meets about the god of light who wants to help them. While she’s trying to do that, the god of darkness is trying to stop her. So, she is like a little candle in a very dark place. If you blow out that one little candle, then the whole place will be dark.

My sister is an amazing photographer. I asked her to create the cover for me so that I could tell people that my family is awesome (because they are) and because I trusted her to make the cover the way I wanted. She did a great job and she is going to create all the covers in this series.

I met a girl who is a very talented artist and I asked her to read my next series which is about a few kids who wander through a portal into another world and follow a wizard to fight a mean woman who has kidnapped his queen. She read the book and loved it, so she agreed to paint a cover for my book. I think she did a fabulous job and I wish you could see it. I have the paintings hanging in my office and soon my sister will take special photos of them and turn them into a book cover on the computer. Isn’t that amazing?

Do you have any questions for me? Ask away and I’ll do my best to answer it for you.