Weekly Update – November 22, 2016

I’m about to get a bit political here, so anyone who cares to respond I’ll tell you now: I welcome contrasting viewpoints and additional information, but if anyone goes off on a tangent or cannot keep their posts civil and based in verifiable fact, I won’t approve them.

As an independent author who relies on Amazon.com for the vast majority of my book sales, I am naturally concerned that the online retail giant has wound up on a list of businesses Americans are being urged to boycott because of its connections to our president-elect and his family.

What concerns me is why Amazon ended up on this list. It states that the company’s “business” with the Trumps is selling clothing and shoes with the family’s brand on it.

This, to me, seems like a bit of a reach. For starters, Amazon carries EVERYTHING. That it sells stuff with the Trump name attached is hardly surprising and doesn’t to me speak of a formal business partnership between the two entities in the same way Trump and Macy’s had a partnership — and note that I said “had,” because Macy’s dropped the Trump clothing line like a hot rock.

Now, could Amazon also purge all things Trump from its virtual shelves? It could, and there is precedent for Amazon removing items following a public outcry, but it wouldn’t necessarily be easy. A search of the site pulls up nearly 200,000 items with the Trump name attached to it in some way, from books to clothes to some amusing yet disturbing novelty items (the pen holder that allows you to insert your favorite writing implement in Trump’s ass, for example) — and only a tiny fraction of these items are in any way produced by a company with direct ties to the family, so it could take time to find and remove only those products. But I digress.

What I think is worth bearing in mind as you decide whether or not to participate in the boycott is that Trump and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos are NOT on friendly terms whatsoever.

The Motley Fool has a lengthy piece about the relationship between the men, and it does not paint a picture of two guys who like each other, much less do business with each other. Trump has chastised Bezos for buying the Washington Post, which was very critical of Trump throughout the campaign, and the president-elect has talked about using the power of the federal government to investigate alleged (or perhaps, imagined) anti-trust law violations by Amazon.

After the election, Bezos tweeted, “Congratulations to @realDonaldTrump. I for one give him my most open mind and wish him great success in his service to the country.” Some have interpreted that as at least tepid support for the candidate — Fortune.com called it a “neutral” response — and used it to fire up their anti-Amazon sentiments because it wasn’t outright condemnation.

I’ll make it clear here: I did not support Trump, at all, and still don’t, and I would be delighted if Bezos took a principled stand and purged Amazon of all its Trumpernalia, but I doubt it’s going to happen — not without a powerful display of opposition from the public (I’ll get to that in a minute).

So the question becomes: how do you, the consumer, respond to all this? How do you support indie authors who rely heavily on Amazon’s reach in the American and global marketplace without necessarily supporting Amazon itself?

Well, for starters, I’d say don’t just stop spending money on Amazon. What I mean by that is, a boycott doesn’t work simply because people stop supporting a business; it works because they let the business know in no uncertain terms that reasons X, Y, and Z and WHY they aren’t spending money there anymore. There needs to be context, so I’d say the first thing to do is go to that boycott list I provided, use the contact information to make your voice heard, and let Amazon know directly and explicitly why you don’t want to give them your money anymore.

I’ll also note that as a rule I do believe in boycotts as a protest tool, but they need to be constructive, productive, focused, and come with two expectations: you might cause unintended collateral damage in the process; and that the entity being boycotted might not accede to your message.

And if the latter happens here and Amazon doesn’t dump all things Trump, what do you do? How do you keep indie authors alive without going through Amazon?

Again, you’ll need to put in some effort here. A lot of authors use Amazon exclusively, but not all of them. There are numerous other retail outlets available to indie authors so you can check them out, and the best way to find them (aside from the almighty Google) is to hit up your favorite authors via their websites, blog, and social media platforms. They’ll be happy to hook you up. Some might even sell directly through their website, such as I do (he said in a shamelessly self-serving way).

I encourage everyone to follow their conscience, regardless of which path it takes you down. If you choose to avoid Amazon like the plague and buy through other retailers, great. If you decide that boycotting Amazon would only hurt indie authors and don’t want to punish them in the process of making a statement? Also great.

Regardless of whatever decision you make, make it an informed decision and make sure your actions are clear in purpose.

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins:  Audiobook recording in progress.

Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play: In the editing process, on-schedule for a winter/spring 2017 release.

Action Figures – Live Free or Die: In the editing process, will be included as a bonus story with Power Play.

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: First draft in progress. Got a lot of work done on this over the weekend, so it’s safe to say I’m back on the Black End War groove.

Action Figures – Issue Eight: Crawling from the Wreckage: First draft in progress.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Rough plotting in progress

The Adventures of Strongarm & LightfootBlades of Glory: Rough plotting in progress

APPEARANCES and EVENTS

MISC.

I hope to hear about my Arisia panel assignments soon. If I don’t at least get on the panel I suggested (about writing fight scenes) I’ll be rather unhappy.

Finally, I’ll say this again even though I’ve remarked on it recently, but it’s come up in some of the writing forums I belong to so I think it bears repeating.

If you’re an aspiring author on the hunt for a publisher, remember that money is supposed to flow toward the writer. If an outfit calls itself a publisher but requires you to pay for editing, formatting, distribution, promotions, cover art, etc., they are NOT a true publisher but a self-publishing platform. More specifically, they’re a vanity press — a self-publishing service that masquerades as a true publisher for the purpose of enticing writers to cough up significant sums of money for services that a legit traditional publisher is supposed to cover.

If you decide that’s the route you want to go because you need things like editing and cover art, that’s fine, but do your research first, because some vanity presses claim various rights to the author’s work, and losing control of your own novel is a nightmare you do not want to contend with.

Also bear in mind that many self-publishing platforms such as CreateSpace do charge for support services, but those services are purely optional. CreateSpace also doesn’t claim any rights to the author’s work.

The Best Week Ever – The Follow-Upening

This week stands to be a lot less eventful than last week, but that’s okay. I can’t run on full burn like that all the time.

First, thanks very much to everyone for their support throughout the countdown to the release of Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-Ups. Release day was great, not only because the book got off to a strong start (it landed in the top ten of three Amazon best-seller lists) but because so many of you blasted through the book within a matter of hours — yes, hours — of purchasing it and contacted me via this site and Facebook to let me know how much you enjoyed it. That’s always gratifying and humbling, so again, thank you.

There were also quite a few inquiries about the next installation, Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play, and when it might be out. One lesson I learned from Team-Ups was to be cautious about setting release dates prematurely, so what I’ll say is this: it’s in the pre-editing phase, so it’ll be a few months before the manuscript is ready, and then it’ll be up to my cover artist Tricia to do her thing. As I wrote here a while ago, this process can take several months depending on several factors, many of which are beyond my control. Optimistically speaking? Book six could be out in the last quarter of 2016.

At some point before that, Character References will be released, and you should definitely keep tabs on that project because I have something special in mind for my regular readers.

Next to finally, I’m happy to announce that Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women is now available for non-Kindle e-readers for the first time, and directly through me for the first time. Jump over to the Buy Now page and you can pick up Black Magic Women in epub or mobi format directly from me.

An added note for those of you who already own Black Magic Women for the Kindle: as part of formatting the book for e-readers, I took the time to address some unfortunate issues with the Kindle version. When I first released book two I had yet to learn how to do the formatting myself so I had CreateSpace take care of it. The results were less than stellar and it’s always bugged me. Those issues have (hopefully) been fixed, so you Kindle owners should have automatically received the updated file.

Finally finally, Tricia is finishing up the back cover art for the print edition of Team-Ups, and I got this sketch this morning of Nina Nitro, and I am jazzed to see the finished version. Enjoy!

Art and copyright 2016 Patricia Lupien.
Art and copyright 2016 Patricia Lupien.

The Making Of A Novel

As you may know, Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-Ups got delayed until January. I hated to make that call, but as I remarked to one disappointed reader, real life came calling and pushed the process back. It’s one of the unfortunate and sometimes unavoidable pitfalls of being an independent author.

When I talk to people about my work, they’re often surprised at what goes into creating a novel. The process is much more complex than they realized, and fraught with potential hurdles than can easily screw up a release schedule, so I thought I’d chat about the process of creating a book start to finish — or, more specifically, my process. There is no one single “right way” to write a novel, despite what some might claim.

For me, the process starts with what I call the “rough plotting” phase. This is when I hash out the story from beginning to end. I lay out the plot and character arcs, set up key scenes, etc. All this happens in my head; I am not the kind of writer who takes extensive notes or meticulously lays out a story in advance. I like an organic process that surprises me with where the story and characters go. It keeps my creative energy up.

Next, the actual writing begins. This part of the process can take a few months, and my day-to-day page output depends on several factors, such whether I’m having a high or low creative energy day, how confident I’m feeling about a given section of the story, and if I actually have time to write. Four days out of the week, I work for my wife’s company Storied Threads, which leaves me with Friday through Sunday to write.

…Unless she’s vending at a show, which occurs a dozen or so times each year; or if I’m involved with the Connecticut Renaissance Faire as a performer/assistant fight director, in which case I can kiss my weekends goodbye for two months; or if life stuff happens (social gatherings, holidays, emergencies, etc.).

I cant brainAnd of course, there are days when I’m supposed to write but can’t, because my brain hates me and won’t let me do anything. This condition is often called ‘writer’s block” but is also known simply as “the dumb.” On days like that I usually spend a couple hours trying to power through it, but when I write the same paragraph over and over again and it still feels like a big bag of suck, I usually give up for the day and try again tomorrow.

During the writing phase, I often come up with an idea for the cover art, which I throw over to my artist, Tricia, so she can start doing her thing. This is one part of the process that is completely out of my hands. I can request a deadline for the completed artwork, but all it will be is a request. Tricia has a family, a day job, other art projects (her own and for other clients), a life of her own — all things that just might take priority over whatever work I have for her. It’s in my overall best interests to be flexible and understanding when stuff comes up. She does great work for me and I don’t want to lose her!

Colbert Give It
This is not how you get results from your cover artist.

After I finish writing the novel, I begin the revision process. Depending on how confident I am with the first draft — and on how much time I have, and how much the creative juices are flowing — I can do a second draft in as little as one three-day weekend. More often it takes me at least two weekends of work. Measured in hours, that’s 30 to 60 hours to revise a full manuscript. Tack on another 30 to 60 hours if I decide a third draft is in order.

Once I’m pleased with the manuscript, I send it off to my test readers, which is another point in the process that I can’t control. They’re doing me a favor by reading and critiquing my book, so I have no right to put them on a deadline or rush them. Fortunately, they tend to be fast readers and I normally receive my feedback within two to three weeks.

Once all my test readers have reported in, it’s time to work on the next draft, wherein I correct any problems with the story, strengthen the parts that work well, and fine-tune the prose (I have a bad habit of over-writing, so I’m always on the lookout for superfluous material to cut for the sake of length and pacing). This takes another weekend or two.

Next step is to send the manuscript off to my editor, Julie. She is wonderfully thorough, insightful, and always offers meaty feedback. That level of diligence requires time on her part, and depending on how her schedule is — again, she has commitments above and beyond my needs — it could take her up to two months to finish editing a manuscript.

When she’s finished, guess what? That’s right: I do another round of revisions! Usually by this point all the major parts are set and all I have to do is make final corrections.

Hurry Up
My relationship with formatting.

And then it’s on to the boring part of the job: formatting everything. I have to format the base MS Word file, which includes scintillating tasks like making sure all the page breaks and paragraph indentations are where they should be; and then I have to format the whole thing for the print edition (which doesn’t take too long if I did that first part right); and then I have to format it again for the e-book edition.

That part finished, I then go into CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing to set up the books — which is quite a bit more than simply uploading my various files. I have to choose book categories and keywords for search engines, get my ISBN and AISN numbers, select my pricing and royalty options, and after my files are uploaded, I have to review the books cover to cover to ensure they formatted properly. And if they don’t? I have to go back into my master files to make the corrections, re-upload the new files, and start the review process all over again.

Throughout this entire ordeal, I’m doing things like maintaining my online presence, promoting the next release, setting up book signings and public appearances, and looking for new ways to spread the word about my work — and sometimes, during the “hurry up and wait” points in the timeline, I’m starting work on the next book.

All told, the process of creating a novel from the time I start writing to the day it sees publication is six months if everything goes smoothly — which it almost never does. More often it takes around eight months, start to finish, before readers get to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

And that, boys and girls, is how a novel gets made.

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So You’re Participating In NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is all about getting creative writers motivated to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. If you’re participating in this, awesome. Go you. Pound on your keyboard until it begs for mercy.

NaNoWriMo

Seriously, good for you. Whether you’re doing this for the first time just for the fun of it or you’ve always wanted to take a serious crack at becoming a novelist — via traditional or self-publishing — and you’re using NaNoWriMo to light a fire under your ass and finally get it done, I hope you find it an exciting and rewarding experience.

Now comes the “however” part…

I’ve known a few people who did in fact attempt to parlay their NaNoWriMo product into a published novel and failed hard, and what I’ve gleaned from their efforts is they made a critical mistake of thinking that once the novel is completed, all they have to do is run spellcheck once and that’s it — their novel is finished.

No. No no no. Your work has only just begun.

First of all, 50,000 words is actually not necessarily a novel; depending on your genre, that might only be a novella — which isn’t a bad thing, but if you plan to seek an agent or traditional publisher for your work, you might want to think about going beyond 50,000 words (and, honestly, 50,000 is a great goal to aim for, but I’d advise you not to hamper yourself by insisting that you fit the story you’re trying to tell into a 50,000 word box if it’s meant to be longer).

This piece by Chuck Sambuchino is a great reference for typical novel lengths, and you’ll see that once you start writing for any adult market, 50,000 words isn’t going to cut it as a “novel.”

Conversely, you shouldn’t pad out what you have just to meet a word count benchmark. Chances are you’ll edit that out anyway as superfluous fluff (more on that in a minute). Tell the story and don’t worry so much about the word count. Just be aware it will affect how you market the book, whether to an agent or publisher or, if you go the indie author route, to readers.

If November is National Novel Writing Month, December should be National Novel Revising Month. This is when you take your finished first draft, read through it, and recoil in horror at how truly not finished it is. You’re going to find spelling errors, grammatical errors, punctuation errors, continuity gaps, plot holes, inconsistent characterization, clunky dialog — all manner of major and minor screw-ups. Suddenly, the literary masterpiece you think you wrote will turn into a steaming pile of crap that will make you doubt your talents as a writer.

Welcome to the world of writing.

First drafts aren’t about producing a finished work; it’s about getting the ideas out of your head and onto the screen. Second drafts are about replacing or scrapping entirely everything that’s wrong with the story and strengthening everything that does work. Since you’ve given yourself a month to do this, take your time. Go through the manuscript a few times and keep fine-tuning it.

No, you’re not done yet, because January is National Novel Test-Reading Month. This is when you send your manuscript to some trusted friends to look it over and tell you what you think. Four to six people is a good number of beta testers, but make sure you choose people who will be brutally honest with you. You don’t want their praise, you want their criticism. You want them to tell you what still isn’t working so you can fix it in February, which is National Novel Revising Month – The Sequel.

Don’t undersell the importance of this step. By now you’ve gotten a little too familiar with your novel and aren’t seeing a lot of flaws anymore. Outside eyes will catch the problems you’re no longer seeing. And don’t dismiss this as “art by committee.” Just because your readers make suggestions, you’re not obligated to heed them (though you’d be foolish to ignore them out of hand. Think about their critiques long and hard before you make a decision one way or the other).

While the book is out with test-readers, you can consider whether you want to try and pursue a traditional publishing avenue or go the indie author route. Each approach has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so consider what you need, want, and hope to get out of putting your book out there, and see which path fits better. Personally, even if you decide to go with self publishing, going through the process of preparing your book for submission to agents and publishers is a good experience. It’ll help get you in a professional mindset, you’ll learn how to concisely describe your book and pitch it to a prospective reader — something you’ll have to do a lot as an indie author — and who knows? Maybe you’ll get picked up.

You can find an extensive list of publishers and agents in the Writer’s Digest market guide, along with many helpful hints for putting a submission package together. I’d also advise checking out the SFWA Writer Beware page, especially if you go looking at small presses.

If and when you decide to pursue indie authorship, this is a good time to start hunting down editors and cover artists — two things you do not want to skimp on. You want someone with a professional eye to review your finished manuscript for any lingering errors and perhaps make final suggestions for tweaking this or that, and you want a real artist to put together an eye-catching cover that will attract readers’ attention.

Services such as CreateSpace can help you put together a prefab cover that looks decent, and for little to no money, but if this what you choose to do, tread carefully, and never assume your skills as a graphic artist are sufficient to the task. Go check out LousyBookCovers.com to see what happens when a cover misfires if you need further convincing that hiring a professional is the right call.

An aside: yes, these people will cost you money. It’s worth the investment. If you can’t pay for them out of pocket, crowdfunding may be your salvation — but again, do your research to find out what makes a successful crowdfunding campaign or you’ll hit a brick wall pretty fast.

Assuming you’ve managed to stay on-schedule so far, dedicate March to preparing everything while your editor does his/her thing. Get your submissions list ready — or, if you’re self publishing, make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with your chosen platforms, because preparing a novel for publishing is a major undertaking in and of itself. Prepare your cover/query letter, synopsis, and any other required submission materials. If you need to, go back into your manuscript and fix any lingering problems, even if it pushes your timeline back (unless you want to be embarrassed by putting out a novel that isn’t ready for public consumption).

Once all your ducks are in a row, once all the Is are dotted and Ts are crossed, it’s time to face the scariest part of the process: pulling the trigger and actually submitting the novel to agents/publishers or releasing it via your chosen self-publishing platform. Trust me, it’s terrifying, but take the leap. The worst you can do is fail, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

There’s a LOT more to do once the book is out there — marketing, promotions, publicity, etc. — but that’s a dissertation for another time. For now, it’s time for you to get back to work. Go write something!

Debut Number Two – And More!

Oy, what a crazy week.

Obviously, the big news is that Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women dropped last week. The Kindle version and the print edition hit Amazon within hours of each other, and several copies have already gone out.Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00009]

I’m hoping to see some brisk business later on as a result of the free giveaway campaign last week. I was hoping to hit 1,000 downloads of book one, but I topped out at 850 — which I will not complain about! I’d call that pretty damn good, considering my avenues for promoting this giveaway were social media and an assortment of free e-newsletters and websites that list freebies.

Those results give me hope that I’ll be able to find ways around Facebook’s recent system changes, which suppress how many people organically see posts by business pages (in order to wring a few more advertising bucks out of them). Since I tap a lot of other social media sites, I should be able to continue to effectively promote myself to potential customers, but the Facebook situation is still annoying as hell, since FB is, for now, the premiere social media site.

More reason to stay positive: I recently did an interview with fellow indie author T. Michelle Nelson (the Lily Drake series) — who will get a reciprocal interview with me soon — did a taping for the show Book Talk with Amy Rachiele (the Mobster’s series), and this summer, I’ll be joining an old friend, T.M. Murphy (the Belltown Mysteries series), in my home town for a group book-signing event. Busy busy busy!

The last thing I need to do here is let everyone know that, on top of the new book, I’m be debuting a new Action Figures short story — as in, right now!

If you haven’t finished reading book two yet, take care of that now, then come on back. If you haven’t read either book, don’t worry: you can read the short without getting totally lost (though you’ll enjoy it more if you’re familiar with the characters already).

Sharing The Love: The Fussy Librarian

As you may or may not know, the self-published scene has exploded in recent years, thanks to the advent of print-on-demand services and e-books (such as CreateSpace and its sister Amazon subsidiary, Kindle Direct Publishing — both of which I used for Action Figures).

The question readers might have is: how do I sift through the mountains of crap to find something I might actually like?

There are a few sites out there that answer this question, but I’m spotlighting The Fussy Librarian, which puts out a daily e-newsletter tailored to your particular tastes. Just sign up for the newsletter, tell The Fussy Librarian what you like in terms of genre and content, and it sends you a daily e-mail listing e-books that match your preferences. The added bonus: all books are required to meet minimum positive reader rating requirements, so your chances of finding something good are increased.

TFL

Why am I mentioning this site today? Well, because Action Figures will be featured in the Sunday, January 19 newsletter! So do yourself (and me) a favor, and go sign up for the newsletter now!

Action Figures – Now Available On Kindle!

FINALLY! It took a lot longer than anticipated, but Action Figures is now available as an e-book for the Kindle!

AF CoverFirst, the nitty-gritty details: Action Figures for the Kindle is $2.99, and if you’ve previously purchased Action Figures as a softcover novel through Amazon.com, you can take advantage of Amazon’s Kindle MatchBook feature and purchase the e-book for $.99! Keep it for yourself, or give it to a friend as a gift (Christmas is right around the corner, after all).

Don’t have a Kindle? Then download one of Amazon’s free Kindle reading aps so you can check out the e-book on your browser, your phone, your tablet computer.

Now, a commentary, mostly for the benefit of authors considering publishing on the Kindle…

It was a pain in the butt.

I went with the paid conversion service because I didn’t know a damn thing about formatting the manuscript for Kindle, and — bonus — I had a discount coupon, and the first thing I realized: CreateSpace and the Kindle Direct Publishing do not communicate well, and in some cases weren’t even certain where I should be directing my inquiries. CreateSpace would send me to KDP, which would send me back to CreateSpace, and vice-versa.

CreateSpace also did not do a fantastic job of formatting the manuscript on the first go-round. Hyphenated words that should have stayed hyphenated were turned into portmanteaus, and I had to root through my original manuscript AND the e-proof to locate the goofs, and send a detailed list to a specific team, so I could wait an additional week for the corrected proof — and I only learned about this process because of a direct phone call to CS customer service. The website was less than helpful.

The final annoyance: I never received the promised e-mail telling me the work was done. I stumbled across the fact I had a corrected version by accident.

So: not all that impressed by the conversion service, and I’m not sure if I’ll use it again, or put in the extra legwork myself to format it by hand. Live and learn.

Progress(ish)!

This was the week I’d hoped to announce the e-book edition of Action Figures, but unforeseen circumstances have held that release up…and by “unforeseen circumstances,” I mean “a conversion process that isn’t terribly user-friendly.”

When creating the hard copy novel, CreateSpace was mostly clear and straightforward. There was a lot of futzing of the manuscript on my part to get the page-by-page layout right, but the instructions were not vague, confusing, and contradictory — unlike the instructions for converting my novel to a Kindle-compatible file.

I’ll skip over the gory details and simply say: Amazon, there is a LOT of room for improvement here, starting with the fact your customer support should be integrated, so customers don’t contact CreateSpace for help, only to have them sent over to the separately run Kindle division, which then sends customers back to CreateSpace. What are you, the federal government?

Anyway, I finally got the mess ironed out yesterday, so in two weeks, I should (should) have a proper e-book for the Kindle.

In the meantime, the paper push continues: promotional mailers have been sent to about 15 indie bookstores (and this is only the first wave), reviews have started to pop up on the book’s Amazon page, and I’m already being pressured by early readers to get a sequel out.

Well, work on that last one is underway, though I won’t be touching it this weekend, since I will be at (cheap plug) the Connecticut Renaissance Faire working at the Storied Threads tent for Time Travelers Weekend. I’m there because Kate, Veronica’s assistant, is enjoying a weekend getaway to New York ComicCon with her boyfriend, fellow writer J.M Aucion (of Jake Hawking fame).

Did I say boyfriend? I meant fiance. Congratulations, guys!

And Now The Real Work Begins

Action Figures has been out for a little less than a week now, and I certainly can’t complain about the response. More than a dozen copies sold in the first few days, and a lot of friends shared the launch announcement, which I hope will generate future sales.

Ah, but this is where the real work begins for me. Writing and prepping the book was the easy part, comparatively; now I need to push it so people outside of my circle of friends buy the thing.

In doing my research on self-publishing, I learned that the publicity phase is where a lot of self-pub authors fall down. Their business plan amounts to: Step One: publish book; Step Two: (mumble mumble); Step Three: profit. Maybe they’ll set up a Facebook page, send some e-mails to their friends and family, but too often indie authors’ attitude is, “If I write it, they will come.”

Fortunately, I have an edge: my experiences in the newspaper industry and in publicity for the renaissance faires at which I’ve worked have prepared me well for the task of publicizing my book, and that effort is now underway.

The first things I did were to create author pages on Amazon.com and Goodreads, which are a bit more passive publicity tools; aside from blog posts that auto-share on those pages, these will sit on the Internet, largely untouched, and show up on searches.

The next step: write up and send out a press release. My former place of employment, the Falmouth Enterprise, got the first one, and as soon as something runs there, I’ll be sending the release out to other news outlets covering my home town.

The more ambitious phase of the publicity campaign is coming up. I took advantage of CreateSpace’s expanded distribution service, which makes my book available to book stores, but how can they order it unless they know about it? That’s where this comes into play:

Buy me!
Buy me!

I plan to print up copies of this mailer in small batches, as finances allow, and send it out to indie bookstores to let them know this book exists and hey, maybe they want to carry it.

All these things have one end result in common, besides selling copies: generating word-of-mouth buzz, which can be as effective, if not more so, than any sort of formal advertising/publicity campaign. Thankfully, my friends are both very literate and very talkative.

The Wind-Up And The Pitch

Over the weekend, I sat down in the sweltering heat and began the first round of serious prep work for Action Figures, which involved formatting the manuscript to CreateSpace’s specs.

The process was a little more involved than I anticipated, thanks to the quirks of MS Word. CreateSpace helpfully provides MS Word templates with preset margins, so when the file is converted into a printed book, the text is positioned properly on the page (extra space is provided to account for page surface taken up by the binding, a detail I never would have thought of on my own).

The pain came from manually futzing with some text, since — for reasons I could not puzzle out — a paragraph that jumps from the bottom of one page to the top of the next did not do so automatically; huge chunks of text would automatically position itself, leaving some huge blank spots at the bottom of some pages, meaning I had to hand-divide paragraphs to avoid wonky layouts.

(If anyone knows how to make that happen automatically, please let me know. I don’t want to have to do that every bloody time I format a manuscript.)

Under the category of Maybe This is Only Interesting to Me, I decided to go with a common industry standard size so I can take advantage of CreateSpace’s expanded distribution feature. No sense in putting the book out in some esoteric size for no good reason.

On a positive note, reading through the whole thing yet again allowed me to catch some lingering typos and smooth out a few passages that struck me as off for one reason or another. Once my intrepid sister-in-law finished her typo check, I can upload the manuscript and get that out of my hair.

And then comes the wait for the cover art, which is somewhere in-process with my artist friend Tricia. I know she had a couple of jobs ahead of mine, so I have to force myself to be patient — which is actually a good feeling in light of my past several weeks of creative apathy.

In the coming days, I’ll be punching up the promotional end of this effort, launching a Facebook page specifically for my writing and popping some teaser material online to try and drum up some early buzz. Since I’m going the self-publishing route, the Internet is going to be my best friend when it comes to pushing paper.