Tag Archives: Book Covers

Achievement Unlocked: You Have an Editor!

About a year ago, I stumbled over a title minnowing through my newsfeed. It was a free promo, and the description intrigued me, so I downloaded it. The book was called Sweet Violent Femmes by Holly M. Kothe, and it was one of the best Indie products I have ever, ever seen.

I ripped through the book in one night. The theme throughout was the violent revenge of several women scorned. The tone and the writing left me stunned. I love dark fiction that makes me uncomfortable. Holly’s setup for her characters, how vulnerable they were, how driven and intent they were, were the perfect recipe to keep me locked in her pages.

I remember thinking that I wanted my work to read like that. For my books to be packaged that professionally. I considered Holly’s collection of short stories my benchmark.

Holly recently sent another minnow down my newsfeed. She had started an independent editing business. I wondered if this would be the chance for me to climb the writer’s stairs and improve my work. To get it closer to my expectations. It was time for me to take that next step.

I scrounged my lunch money and emptied my writer’s account and borrowed change from my son. (Not really, but almost). I had no idea how much Holly would charge me for her work. I knew that editors are ridiculously expensive and meant only for the marble halls in New York and Who-do-you-think-you-are-anyway-having-real-writer-expectations-of-yourself?

I looked into Holly’s site. Read the reviews by other writers. Counted how many writers she had edited. I studied their covers and Amazon pages. I narrowed my eyes a lot. These were pro writers with solid covers and there were a lot of them.

I sent off the manuscript to Holly on May 6th . I received my contract and bill for half of her (VERY reasonable) price that afternoon. I signed the bill digitally, pressed send, and left the rest to the will of the Gods.

I had the edited manuscript back in my digital hands on May 13th, and the invoice for the rest of her fee.

Eight days.

Eight.

Her work on the manuscript for my short story was exactly what I had hoped for. She was supportive, objective, clinical, and precise. I could not be happier with her work. With her edits and her suggestions for certain story flow mechanisms, Upon the Devil’s Shoulder reads like a polished, professional work.

And I’ve already finished anther short for the anthology to send to her.

See, because that’s what I’ve learned. How it works when you don’t self-edit, and leave that up to the pros.

You can just go write.

A LOT.

It’s a tough lesson to learn. I know not everyone is in the position to afford an editor. But, after spending 2 years rewriting To Drown in Sand (AFTER it’s been uploaded), when I could have used that time writing its sequel, I can no longer really afford not to. And I’m pretty confident, after seeing what this short story is becoming, that the result in quality will help me afford access to Espresso Editor a lot faster.

I did not for a moment experience the insecurity/protective instinct that I’ve had in the past. Having read Holly’s work, I knew THAT was what I wanted my work to look like. In a way, she is her own best promotion.

And I genuinely feel that I’ve stepped to another platform: from hobby writer to the real thing. Once you’ve read Upon the Devil’s Shoulder, you may agree with me.

If you’re an Indie writer, and are considering going to an editor, stop. Don’t consider it. Go do it. And one of the brightest young women you could ever hope to find will edit your work quickly and quietly at Espressoeditor.

Just don’t get her too busy. I would now be lost without her.

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What KDP Select taught me.

Kindle Select offers quite the pull. As in, towards the Death Star kind of pull. I wondered. I agonized. I rubbed my knuckles on the bones of my forehead. The seductive potential of larger markets tapped at the glass in my dreams.

Giving up other publishing venues for exclusive access to the Kindle Select pool makes sense to the hungry-for-reader writer in me. (Also, making money from someone reading 30% of my work, when the work can be a short story, REALLY made sense).

So, I ran an experiment in KDP select.

The results were poignant and huge.

Like the Titanic.

I wrote a (quite) short story, thinking that the 30% point would be quickly reached by a reader, and then no big loss if they quit after the first page (a theory of mine about free sample readers). I could still reap the benefits of the zillions of dollars in the KDP fund.

Yeh.

Not so much.

I’m not the type to whine. This was a marketing experiment, and I’m glad I dipped my toe in the Kindle Select pool. And, there were inherent process issues against me. I’m an Indie. I’m an unknown. The story may have been too short (although, I thought, for free under a Kindle Select membership, that wouldn’t matter). But in this pool, a shark took my toe, my leg, and pooped them out in the deep end.

I also wanted an opportunity to start my fantasy writing. I find that genre has a wider base than the Military Sci-Fi market has for my other work.

All this knowing that I still have not completed the ‘magic number’ acknowledged by most successful Indies by my research: Three Full Novel Titles In My Genre.

Bone was released on Dec. 20th, 2014. It contained about four pages of promotional material, with links to my other writing, and about four pages of story. It has an awesome cover by the brilliant Dylan Edwards, and, in my humble opinion, is really quite good for a short.

Bone cover final

My free short story, Juris Lunence, had been enjoying at the minimum a download every day that led to one purchase of either Upon a Wake of Flame or To Drown in Sand every ten free downloads.

On December 21st, 2014, all downloads of Juris stopped dead and have never recovered.

I thought it was a glitch, or lead-in to Christmas, or celestial working of ancient, playful, blind Gods.

But, no.

All of my work over 2 years digging through The Algorithm in KDP was undone in one night by signing up to Kindle Select. And, to challenge my sanity even further, I was now locked in for three months.

KDP Select destroyed the momentum I had built with my other titles. Free DL’s flatlined, and only now, FIVE MONTHS later, has the ‘once a day a new reader finds me’ process staggered back out of the KDP Select Sales Shredding machine. It’s wobbly and bleeding, but has started taking baby steps for me, as long as I promise not to do that again.

No problem with that commitment.

Because, after 3 months, Bone obtained ONE download.

One.

And that person did not read the required 30%.

So, lesson learned there. KDP Select is not the system for me. At least not now, and not for my work in the Fantasy Genre.

Bone is now released from the KDP Select isolation chamber. Amazon refuses to price-match it to free (like they did for Juris Lunence), so I gave it the cheapest price they allow, and left it on Amazon. It’s completely free on Kobo.

So, from all things, lessons.

KDP is great for some. Not for me.

I got the coolest new cover yet out of the deal.

And, during my promotional blitz, when Bone ran for free, it was downloaded in Japan, so we cracked another country.

We are retrofitting the cover, and I’m hard at work on several short story projects (more on that in future posts) that is a construct for an anthology to introduce my fantasy novel series.

Bend bad things into lessons, use lessons for good things.

Such is life.

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Of Very Busy Times and Such Things.

I’ve been a negligent Blog writer.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure whom I was writing to, until I checked my stats recently.

Wow. Peeps are reading stuff here.

Little surprises are the best ones.

So; quick update!

This happened:

 

Picture 1

 

It’s my first fantasy title. I just bought the cover from Dylan Edwards over at Rootwoodpress. Needed to get back to cobblestones and sword-blades for a break from the railguns, snarling madmen bent on Triumvirate destruction, and interstellar mists for a bit. Chew the mutton and gulp the mead, as it were. This will be the cover for a short story anthology that is currently underway. The first of which is right now being edited for final draft, and will be a freebie on Amazon and Kobo.

And how’s business, you ask? Well, I haven’t reached my goal of being able to buy a tank of furnace oil yet, but Princess (my wife’s insistence on the nickname, not mine) and I did go for a delicious coffee date using the sole proceeds of my writing income for the first time.

It’s the little things.

Before Juris went live for free, it was crickets. A few sales once in a while, but mostly just little red mountains on my Amazon horizon:

For blog 3

 

 

That has changed substantially:

 

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Only one ‘Dead Day’ since release. Every day, someone new reads a title of mine. And lots more little red mountains. That makes me smile into my pillow.

When Juris Lunence hit over 500 downloads in two months across three countries, I nearly screamed from my rooftop. (But, the pitch of my roof is too steep, so I settled for a quiet chuckle on my deck, thus avoiding startling my puppy and kids).

 

Picture 4

 

Then, the sweetest thing happened. My first cosplay fan, Joseph Crosby, designed a replica of Lunen gear, right down to First Squad’s shoulder-pads (Love shoulder-pads), and walked into our local Chapter’s bookstore, with a copy of Sand in hand, as a part of a Halcon Cosplay promotion:

 

Picture 6

 

Can’t really describe how Joe’s very kind gesture and incredible input of time affected me, but warm molasses coating my heart comes close.

And now, the planning for the new Fan Festival is underway (more on that later).

All this during my minor league football coaching season (Go, South Shore Seahawks!), replacing my deck, packing one son off to university, and working my Real Job.

None of which excuses my negligence, but perhaps explains it adequately.

Full lives are the best lives.

Thanks for reading!

Onwards!

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What works with Amazon: An evolving education in Indie publishing.

 

So. I conducted an experiment.

“You gotta have free stuff,” they said. “Folks love free stuff.”

My Indie Pubbing guru J.A. Konrath says it, too. More quality, more titles, more free. And Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt describe it thoroughly, using the concept of Funneling.

The Traditional Publishers still gnash their teeth, flap their tiny arms, and growl that not anyone can do this; that they have special services that guarantee quality and success.

They’re right; they do. But I say anyone can make their own success, if you learn the game, and demand quality of yourself.

Juris Lunence took only about four months to finish from initial draft, to polished, packaged, buffed, price on the windshield, and out on the lot. Plus, it was a lot of fun to write. So overall, not a loss of time in any way. It’s a short story prequel to Book 1 of my Trilogy, To Drown in Sand. 

Kobo went live with Juris Lunence first, and that was intentional. We loaded it to Amazon, didn’t announce it, and read the purchased copy while Kobo chewed on the upload. Since Kobo takes considerably more time to publish a title, we used that to proof the digital copy that went live on Amazon that was still priced at Amazon’s somewhat silly $.99 price. We caught our glitches, re-uploaded to Amazon, and the final copy was live before Kobo hit the market. Then we uploaded the corrected version to Kobo. Kobo’s copy of Juris went up for free (because they do that), and we reported Amazon being undersold by Kobo. The $.99 still appeared on the Amazon copy for first three days, but buyers received it free because of price-matching. At the end of the third day, Juris Lunence looked like this:

 

Juris Free

 

Then, the FB group blitz. My poor followers. Their feeds must look like I’m a megalomaniac. Over 40 groups in one night, then roughly 15 more over the next few evenings. They were kind not to appear on my lawn with rage and torches.

I purchased a small bottle of Goldschlager (one of those tiny airplane bottles, I’m not a drinker), my favourite Victory Juice. Parked it next to my laptop on the kitchen table, and waited. I was only going to open it if I hit 10 free downloads.

Then this happened:

photo 1

Those little buggers are hard to open when you’re excited. I had to use my pliers.

3 days later, there wasn’t a bottle big enough to celebrate cracking an Amazon Top Ten list, and the Top 100 in Kindle Books:

photo 2

10 days later, here’s what the 4 months of work did for my Author rankings:

Author Central Stats Sci-Fi and Fantasy Ranking Scince fiction rankings

 

And here’s the total snapshot of Juris Lunence downloads, and what it did for To Drown in Sand (the little red lines at the bottom).

photo 3

 

Did I sell a lot of copies of To Drown in Sand? Not really, at least not yet.

Did I sell more than if I hadn’t written and promoted a free release? Yeh.

Did I climb through the Amazon algorithm and increase my Author ranking? You betcha.

Did I gain new readers, and get over 100,000 new people looking at my title? Yip!

Is Konrath and Truant and Platt right? Absolutely.

The conclusion is pretty much irrefutable, which is rare in this Grand Indie Game.

Free works as long as it’s quality. And anyone can make that happen.

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Of Evolving Covers, Convergence, and How Lucky I Was To Meet Dylan.

Large things start small. Like seeds in the dark. I met Dylan Edwards in Grade Eight. He had hand-drawn comics spilling out of his saxophone case that I handed back to him. Talk about epic moments in time. We were the two biggest nerds consistently from then until we graduated. Nerd legends for our hobbies, interests, and isolation. We were instant brothers, kin in suffering the glacial pressures of growing through adolescence.

We started a comic company in grade nine; and we were the guys play-testing our Zombie Apocalypse role-playing game in study hall during exams. We rolled our eyes and ignored the jibes of the typical detractors through it all, with eyes locked on one another; that precious psychic bond of survival. He went on to become one of the best fathers I’ve ever been privileged to know, and the best friend a man could ever wish for.

He also became an incredible artist. Despite my constant, frantic texts, emails, mistakes, dysfunctional uploads, and endless problems, he remains, as always, stoically patient, and everwise. And waiting for his new cover drafts is better than Christmas. His idea for the cover for my new prequel short story, Juris Lunence, blew me away.

Here’s the first draft:

 

Juris cover 1 draft

 

And the final version:

 

Juris 2nd draft covr

 

Once you’ve read the story, I think you’ll get just how awesome this image really is. At least, it flattens me pretty effectively. Crazy to think how small things like me grabbing a dropped piece of drawing can turn into such things. Reminds me to keep looking for them.

Juris Lunence is available for free on Kobo, and, as soon as enough people tell amazon they are being undersold, free on Kindle as well.

 

~B.

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Just a quick mo’…

Just popping in to provide the means to acquire a professionally edited, reasonably well-written, and ABSOLUTELY FREE  story about a fantastic character.

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/juris-lunence

 

Juris 2nd draft covr

 

There. I’m done. Please return to your awesome day.

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Red Pen-marks are not scars on the soul.

Juris Lunence just went live yesterday. It’s the origin story of one of my favourite characters in To Drown in Sand, mainly because when he stepped on stage in my mind, I had no idea who he was. Then he started doing Very Awesome Things, and became a lynchpin plot figure for the climax of the novel.

Juris marks the first time I’ve gone beyond Beta and self-editing, and it shows. My amazing editor, Chad Horton, graciously offered to edit for me pro bono. His warnings were clear:

“I will be merciless.”

And, thank the Saints, he was.

This is what I got back,over a very nice lunch.

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What surprised me, though, was that no tears fell onto my Fish and Chip dinner.

Instead, I was more excited than ever before. He had magically taken my work, sensed exactly what I was trying to do with it, and pushed me back to tweak the language and structure. I learned so much from rewriting Juris that I shudder to think what it would have become without him.

Yes, there were rewrites and revisions afterwards. Typos caught and created, little mice to chase through the pages. But the PLAN was clear.

 

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It wasn’t like before. No doubt-filled story arcs and soul-squashing plot questions. I had a plan; a highway, with signs, little yellow marker-bars, and a destination. And I saw the difference in the end result between this story and other stuff. Not that it wasn’t good writing; I really think it stands up.

But not as pain-free as having a qualified eye take my work out of the jar that is my head, and look at it through the microscope of the objective reader.

Thus, my new rule.

Get It Edited.

I was editing before, but not in the way that created the separation required. It’s a lesson I’m ecstatic to learn, especially as an Indie.  Call it a corner in the path, I guess.

Nice view from here onward.

 

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