Monday, December 30, 2013

Geeky Monday Moment About Getting BIZAY

Happy Monday again! I took a nice week off from all things marketing, and enjoyed some Christmas-ey family time, as well as some quality writing hours! In case you were unaware, I finally graduated with my Bachelors this semester, so I don't have to worry about that on my plate anymore!

More importantly, I have been a writing fiend, and The Taylor Chronicles: Plane Walker is pretty much done. I'm very, very excited about this book! It's got everything: Paranormal suspense, action, mystery, cool dudes with out of this world power...some romance. Hot twins. You can't go wrong.

Anyway, I found this hilarious picture:

Besides the fact that I happen to have a four-year-old (not named Hermione) and grew up reading the Harry Potter series, I found it hilarious and appropriate for me to tell my husband as he went out the door to work, "I'm a writer...and gettin' BIZAY!" Don't worry, he already holds my sanity in question.

It makes me happy that a new generation of Harry Potter lovers has been born. I fully intend to introduce the series to my children when they are old enough. And that was my geek moment for the day, because realizing that Harry Potter is timeless and lovely, and worthy of being passed down through generations makes me inexplicably giddy.

Have a fabulous week, and stop by later this week for a post I've been dying to write. My experience comparing traditional publishing and self-publishing!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Using Pinterest as a Writer

Happy Monday Auchward buddies!

This is still technically a Geeky Monday Moment, but for SEO purposes, I made the title a little different. I mean, we're discussing technology here, and as we all know, there are several kinds of geeks to appreciate! Tech geeks have it going on, and they know what's up.

I am not that geek.

I'm the Sherlock Homles, Dr. Who, superhero, fangirl, writer, bookaholic geek. Tech and I rarely tango, and when we must, it isn't necessarily graceful.

That said, I'm still going to attempt giving you tech advice. If you are new to Pinterest, or unsure about how you can use Pinterest to your advantage as a writer, I've discovered a few things about the website, and I'm sharing them with you!

I know videos are a little annoying, but in this case I think this was the best way to go about it. I used Jing, and you'll be able to watch me use the website in case you don't know where these buttons and such are located. I'm making it tech-idiot proof, if you will. Takes one to know one.

So here are my short, quick tips on how I use Pinterest to making my writing better and my marketing easier! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Is a Christmas Story?

What could be better than an opinion article on Christmas themed writing techniques?

Don't answer that. I'm doing it anyway.

This article has no particular purpose other than to discuss a random topic that, whether or not it needs to, clearly exists. What makes a "Christmas Story" as opposed to a Christmas-themed story? Because there is a difference, and I intend to illuminate the two with my blaze of blinking, multi-colored Christmas lights.

Who approves these covers?
Let's start with a Christmas-themed story. I see a lot of these. My literary poison of choice, Regency Romance, is inundated with them, actually. And not just by indie authors like myself. I'm talking Mary Balough and Julia Quinn decking their 19th century halls with mistletoe and holly-patterned corsets. It's kind of hilarious, because I LOVE Christmas, but I always feel like a Frito chip when I give these yuletide tales a go. As in I smell pretty corny.

These stories have events happening around Christmas. As Christmas twinkles along, the characters have conflicts within the Holiday spirit. For example, fictional Leticia plays a game at a Christmas party, and has to kiss Buck McSteamy. Gasp! You know what I mean. Christmas has an impact on the characters.

A true Christmas story is one in which the characters make an impact on Christmas. A Christmas Carol, for example, is not only about Christmas, the spirit of Christmas, and all things theologically pertinent when it comes to the season, it shaped Christmas for us, in a way. Louisa May Alcott's Christmas Treasury is a literary interpretation of how we should celebrate the Holiday. It makes an impact on our thinking, on the season itself. It is stories like that, that are true Christmas Stories.

So hey, while we're here let's go through some popular books and movies to find the true Christmas stories:

The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLier--Christmas Story. This is one of those tales that takes the essence of Christmas, or one part of it, and creates a story as a metaphor for our attitudes during this time of year. It's not even about Christmas--but it's about the values thereof, and consequently during that time of year. It's a great example of toeing the line gracefully.

Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich--Christmas-themed story. Janet takes one of our favorite characters, Stephanie Plum, and tells a story about her during Christmas. No significant impact made on my Christmas heart.

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone the movie--What the jingle bells? Why do they play this movie during Christmas? Because it has a Christmas scene?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss--Christmas Story. Through and through, Seuss gives us a tale that is meant to change our hearts, and make them bigger and brighter.

Love, Actually--I'm calling this Christmas-themed. Christmas-ey stuff happens, but it doesn't touch on Christmas as a subject, as a principle. It's a relationship movie.

A Christmas Story--Duh. A Christmas Story. It's about childhood as related to Christmas. Clear cut one, but had to add it.

And the list goes on! I think you get the general idea.

So after reading all that, join in a pointless Christmas literary opinion exchange with me. What Christmas books do you like? Do you like Christmas Stories or Christmas-themed stories? Both? Think I'm wrong and want to stab me with your expertly pointed candy cane? Let me know!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Geeky Monday Moment--With Randomness

Good morning, friends!

Mondays get harder closer to Christmas, don't they? I'd much rather be doing all the Christmas things than teaching my kids or doing homework.

But alas, real life moves on, and so do my blog posts here! Right now I'm working on my paranormal thriller. Almost done with it! It's turning out to be seriously action-packed and lots of fun! I really think you'll enjoy reading it.

It's too bad all I want to do is read a book in bed. Which, consequently, has its own name.

You're welcome. And then I suppose I will leave you with this. Just so you can wonder:

Have a fabulous Monday!!

Friday, December 6, 2013

How I Got Published

How it really happened.

I get asked quite frequently, "How did you get published/become an author?" And I usually give the typical generic response of, "Oh, you know, I just wanted to write a book, and then I got lucky!" Ptththtt. Lame answer. A lot of us are happy being self-published (*raises hand*), but its also pretty legit to have a publisher agree that your work is worth taking some sort of risk on. Definitely fist pump worthy!

So okay, how did I go about it? Maybe if I kind of go through it, it will help my fellow writers with their possible endeavors. I get all giddy about organization, so I'll put it in steps:

Step 1:
 Write the book. Well, duh, and a lot goes into this part, naturally. When I decided to write Lunula, I had a 1 1/2 year old daughter and a chubby little 5 month old son, I was in college full-time, and mostly wore pajama pants every day. My school has three semesters a year with one 7 week break between semesters 2 and 3. I had had the idea in my head for some time, and just randomly I figured, heck, why not? Get it on paper!

So in those seven weeks, I set out to write a book. I have written books before. Bad books...terrible books that should never see the light of day, but still. I had some experience under my belt, and at least knew what to expect when getting a full story into a manuscript. I stayed up really late after the babies went to bed, and woke up early when the monsters saw the first shreds of morning sunlight. I don't drink coffee, but I found a love for caffeinated diet sodas. But I did it; I wrote it, and it was kind of awesome.

Step 2:
Put it away for several months because you don't think its worth doing anything with.

Step 3:
Realize that hot buttered popcorn! you wrote a freaking book, dude, and you should probably do something with that. 

Step 4:
Edit the thing. This is the really tough part, if you ask me. It's impossible to be objective as an author, but I did my best. I went through it about three times on my own, fixing typos and reworking some of it. It was tedious, especially because I had a full school load and crazy babies in the forefront of my mind, but I got through it and thought, heck, that's probably good enough.


Hold it right there.

This is where I made my first crucial mistake. I thought, "Well maybe there are some mistakes, but isn't that what the publisher hires editors for?"

No. Publishers hire editors to smooth wrinkles in the shirt, not mend tears or patch holes. That's your job. And I made that terrible mistake and went on to...

Step 5:
Send out queries. See, without really fine-tuning my book, I sent out queries with a less-than-perfect first chapter and no surprises, I got rejected. A lot. And I was so confused! Isn't this book the next Twilight? What was going on here?

Well, I have to tell you, this is where my luck really came in. My grandmother-in-law is not only an author herself, but she's a phenomenal editor and general wordsmith. She offered to read it over for me, and so I sent it to her...and then she saved me from my own noose. She tore into it (nicely, because hey, she's my grandmother) efficiently, and helped me overhaul the manuscript. So I basically redid Step 4 with her help, and finally came out with a finished product. A slightly wrinkled, but nevertheless very well-sewn shirt called Lunula. I wish I had some perfect advice for how to make sure your manuscript is as perfect as it can be on your own. I really think the best way is to find someone to read it...someone you trust, and someone who can give good advice. The more publish-ready that sucker is, the less apprehensive a publisher or agent will feel about taking it on. Less work for them means more chances for us. So NOW we can move on to...

Step 5 (for real):
The query letter. I've toyed with sharing my successful query letter, and hey, I'll do it if someone asks me to! But there really are lots of great sites with wonderful tips on making a splendiferous query letter. My best advice is to read the specific agency or publisher's guidelines, and do what they say they want. A lot of them will have blogs (with examples therein), or tips, or guidelines, and I advise you to follow these to the letter. So yes, that means I wrote new query letters for each agent and publisher I sent my manuscript to. I had a folder with the name of each one I had queried and everything.

After going after the big guys and some agencies, and being rejected the first time around, with my shiny new manuscript, I tried a different approach. I started looking for some small-press publishers who were actually accepting manuscripts without an agent. I found Malachite Quills Publishing on some random "here is a list of book people" website, and sent them a letter.

A few weeks later, I heard back! And that's really how it happened. And yo, I didn't land Random House or anything, but I did find a really rockin' publisher who has been kind and professional with me. They gave me the confidence to feel like a real writer, like I was actually worthy of sharing the stories in my head. Honest to goodness, I have the highest respect for self-published authors because it takes some serious courage to put yourself out there and just go for it.

Obviously I can't give everyone that spiel when they ask, "How did you get published?" So all of this is between you and me, my friend. But as a short version...

I wrote a book, and I got lucky.

Also be sure to check out my follow-up experiences: What Happens After the Publisher Acceptance Letter, Working With an Illustrator, and Publisher Contract).


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Working With an Illustrator--Traditionally Published and Self-Published

Hullo my Auchward friends! I hope you had a satisfyingly delicious Thanksgiving, and gained at least five pounds for good measure along with the rest of us!

So. I made this whole video where I talked about working with an illustrator, but then the more I thought about it, the more I realized you probably don't have time to watch me talk about something when you could read about it in half the time. Pleasant as my face may be, I've got your interests in mind. (Although dang, my hair did look fine that day.) But you can count this post as one of the "publishing experience" series of videos I have done thus far. (See what happens after the publisher acceptance letter and  publisher contract.)

Today's topic, continuing in that vein, is what you might expect when dealing with an illustrator or book cover maker. I'm going to break it down into two areas: Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing. Because I've done both! So I can.

Traditionally Published
When being traditionally published, the whole process could not be more simple. For me, the publisher sent
along a document to fill out. In this document, they asked questions about setting, main characters, descriptions, and even what I might like to see on the cover of my book. Because--and I'd always wondered this--the artist doesn't actually read the whole book! It was very helpful and certainly enlightening when I realized I had to give the artist everything they would need to bring my vision to life. There's one thing they didn't ask for in that form, and I'll cover it in my self-publishing section, because its something I learned on my own. Suffice it to say, it was easy as pie to talk about my own book and then send it along to my publisher, who then gave it to whichever artist they chose for the cover.

And then I waited! I'm sure they went back and forth a little bit with the artist and the publisher, but I wasn't a part of that process. They sent me a final version, asked for my opinion, and I guess as long as I wasn't demanding a complete redo, they were cool if I wanted little changes. I asked for a change in font (looked too...manly I guess), the artist did it, and blamo! The first time I saw the finished version was when my book went live on Amazon. Just sit back and let them make your work look good.

Self-made cover by Eileen Sharp

However, if you are doing this on your own, you're going to have a little more work ahead of you. First of all, you have to decide how you are going to go about this. The way I see it, you've got three options:

--Do it yourself
--Find premade covers
--Hire a graphic designer

For the first option, I'll just say this: I've seen some really bad self-made covers, and I've seen some good ones. Get an honest opinion. As in not your mom or spouse or best friend...I mean people who can hide behind their computer screen and give a non partial opinion of the thing. If you read my blog somewhat regularly, you might remember that I put Inito's cover up for everyone to see, and I got some great opinions. Mostly, "We hate the font!" So I changed it. Done.

If you're more like me and have no graphic design experience whatsoever, then you will likely need to pay some cash for the cover. It's no big deal really, especially if you find a premade cover you like. They've got lots of sites for this, and most of them hover around the $30 range. That's very reasonable, and some of them look great! Here's a top ten kind of list you can take a peek at to see if these designers have what you need:

If premade covers aren't your thing for whatever reason, then you'll need to find an illustrator. In my case, I liked the work done for Lunula, so although I hadn't corresponded with the artist originally, I tracked him down like a stalker and asked if he would do my second. Which he did! For a very reasonable price, too. (Check out John Phillip Cameron here)

When working with an illustrator, here's how it basically goes down. You will likely talk price first. I can't tell you what a normal range could find upwards of $1000 or more depending on the artist, but I don't think that high number is the norm (even though I was quoted that once!) I can tell you I didn't pay nearly that much, and I probably just got lucky. If you can find a young or new up-and-coming artist you like, you'll probably be able to snag a great deal.

After you hammer out prices, then you'll want to agree on a deadline with your artist. Be firm but nice. :)

Next comes the most important part. You need to give the illustrator an idea of what you want the cover to look like. Enter my epiphany. When I filled out the form for Lunula the first time around, I just gave facts when asked questions. When I began to work with John personally, I realized that he's an artist and he's going to need some inspiration! Lightbulb. I'm a writer, correct? Inspiring with my words is what I do! So I gave him excerpts. I included my most brilliant scenes, my most vivid descriptions. Anything that might put a picture into his head and inspire him to bring my words to life. And it worked perfectly. He latched onto a scene on a frozen lake, and we ran with that.

I have shared a document file with you that includes prompts and questions for when you work with an illustrator, just in case you are looking for a kind of guide. Provide as many examples from the actual body of work that you can! With any luck, that will inspire your artist and create a killer cover.

After that, you wait for your illustrator to do his/her thing, and they will send you drafts. My best advice when getting drafts is to stick up for yourself...but pleasantly. Give criticism with a smile. Make sure you get what you're looking for, but no reason to be a jerk about it!

So I hope this was a little enlightening for you if you haven't been through the process with an illustrator yet. One thing I really liked about having someone else do the cover for me is not having to worry about formatting. When you work with, there's a specific format (bleed...dpi...what???) that the cover needs to be in, and I don't have time to learn random things like that. So thank goodness for artists who know better! He gave me the cover in every format I needed, and all I had to do was download and upload.

Here is that document for you. If you are an author or an illustrator, this might help you hammer out the important details!