Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Resources Part Two: Contacts

Let's face it, in any indie business it's all about who know and how well you network. I for one am someone who hates social networking and face to face networking is a huge challenge for me. However, getting out meeting new people can help. Before you groan and moan about it, I urge you to actually look at the people you know and see if they have any skills that can help you. I.E. When I write, I have an army of friends (who will be honest about their opinion, that is important.) to beta read for me. I have a friend that can do edits for me, and I have a friend who can do covers for me.

Talk to these people and find out if they are willing to help you out. I bribe my editor with coffee since I'm currently too poor to actually pay her for the wonderful service she provides me. As part of the deal, she gets to put the projects on her resume, so she can build that up. It's a win win situation right there. My beta readers volunteer to read, most of them come from the words, "I want to read something you wrote!" and I offer to let them become beta readers. Now, cover art is a little trickier because you want someone who is actually good. Trust me on this, the cover is the make it or break it. How many times have you judged a book by the cover? Hm?
Jamie Wilson's cover for A.L. Kessler's
Midnight Symphony, Feb 12th, 2013

I'm lucky with this again...I know a girl who can do amazing work and did the cover art for another friend's book. Jamie Wilson has amazing skills, knows how to do it, and knows the licensing needed. (Including Fonts, how many of you knew that fonts had licenses? Because until last weekend, I had no idea.) If you need a cover at a good price, check her out. Contact either Mia or I for the information on how.

So before you pay someone big bucks to do some of this stuff, look around at your contacts, see who know first.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cover Art, Part 1: Things No One Tells You

A good cover is imperative to a selling your book, we all know this. As much as we would like to not judge a book by its cover, all of us have seen a cover and immediately put it back on the shelf when the images on it didn’t convey what we were looking for from the title on the spine. The same is true for eBooks. But the problems arise for Self-Publishing Authors because after numerous web searches we are left floundering in an arena we have no experience in. Even if we have an artful eye, there is still the daunting task of finding artwork that you are “allowed” to use without getting sued by the content owners.

And then there is the issue of what kind of license to get. Reading all the legal jargon is important, but also exhausting.

So far the best deal I have found is Shutterstock, which has a pay-as-you-go option or monthly subscriptions. The subscription are an amazing deal but I am not financially well off and cannot afford to pay near $250 a month for art work that I am probably never going to use enough to justify the cost. But for $50 I was able to download 5 images and I have a year to download them. Not a bad deal.

I know there are sites that offer truly free artwork, but I wasn’t able to find any that had images that would suit my needs. As soon as I find some reliable sites I will post some links to them.

Now, on to the actual cover, okay, so the obvious advice to any Self-Publishing Author is: Get a professional to do your cover for you.

Great advice and I agree, except for the fact that some of us don’t have the $20-$40 per hour that some graphic artists charge, and to be honest that is low balling what Graphic Artists charge.  I did freelance artwork when I worked as a graphic artist for a design company and my going rate $40 an hour and that was just for creating logos. So don’t be surprise if the quote from a cover artist is at least that much.

So while going professional is best, if you cannot, or you think you have an eye for design and want to do it yourself some money will still be required, but with enough patients you can make a pretty damn good cover.

If you DIY your cover, make it stand out. Don’t be afraid to take risks, but also remember that you are never going to please everyone with your cover. And this goes for having a professional design your cover for you too. Someone somewhere is going to hate it, dislike it, and slam it on a blog. That comes with the territory, you’ll have to put on your thick skin and buck up. Sounds harsh, I know, but artists are emotional creatures. We don’t take criticism lightly, it’s hard for us to just brush it off, because our craft (be it writing, painting, digital design, sculpting, whatever it is) is our baby. It is parts of our soul we put out there for the world to judge, critique and award praise or slam in the arena of public opinion. And sometimes it will hurt, but this is your dream, it’s up to you to shrug off the negative people and focus on your goals.

One book I keep qued up on my kindle these days is “Quit Your Day Job” by H.P. Mallory. She gives some great advice on cover design. I won’t go into all of it but here are a couple of elements that need to be included in your cover besides the Title and Author name. If your book is part of series make sure to include what number the book is and the series name on the cover. If it’s not part of a series then it might be good to include on the cover other books you have written. Also, if you have any bragging rights, include them. Toot your own horn. It can only help.

This is Part 1 on this subject, Part 2  will come after I’ve compiled some links for you guys for free art. But these are the things no one tells you, where and how to find art. So for now, this is what I can tell anyone looking to make their own covers:

Look for deals that allow you to download a set number of pictures for a low price. Sites like Shutterstock, Getty, and iStock all have amazing art, but the prices do vary quite a bit.

The regular license should be sufficient for most needs, but read the terms. Once you’ve read them, read them again, and then if you are still unsure find someone you trust and have them read them. It is something you don’t want to take risks with. Stealing art is a still theft and the artist and copyright owners will come after you, especially if you use art that is watermarked, that is a big no-no.

Take your time, even if it means pouring through 651 pages of stock art, be patient. Don’t rush finding a design. A lot can be done to change up an existing photo into a stunning work of art, but it takes patience and persistence.

Lastly, remember the golden rule: You can’t please everyone.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Resources, Part 1: Conferences and Conventions

It became apparent to me the other day that there are resources that are needed to get through this project, and I'm not talking about the research and resources going into the storyline of the book. I'm talking about the knowledge and resources to use after the book is polished and gleaming. The first one I want to tackle is conferences and conventions. 

What's the difference you ask? Well from my experience, size and what is offered. At conventions more panels are offered than workshops (no always true), workshops provide you with a more hands on experience. Panels are great because you can normally ask questions and are geared towards specific topics.

Now there are some huge writing conferences out there, and since I haven't attended them all I can say is bring a notebook and make a schedule. I've attended smaller ones who put their schedules online so you can plan out your days. This is a great thing to do, take a look at the panels and workshops mark out which ones will be more productive for you and go from there. I love going to the panels at conventions because there's always different views on topics, it's nice to get a wide range of opinions. 

Most conference and conventions are geared towards traditional publishing methods, but that doesn't mean they aren't full of information for indie writers. I will be attending one this year geared specifically towards indie-writers and I'm excited to see what they have to offer. I also attend a convention for sci-fi and fantasy in Colorado Springs, COSine, and I love it. There is always notebook pages of information that I come back with. This one is geared towards the readers and authors so it's great. 

I'm not going to tell you, like a lot of people, that you have to go to one of these in order for your book to be successful. Because you don't, but if you get the chance (and the money) they are full of great information. 

Pros for going:
Networking with others
New Experience 

Travel (sometimes)

Over all they can be a great resource for writers. So Google some, and check it out. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Exercises for Writers

This past weekend I went to a bootcamp for writers. It was hosted by an author named Erica Olsen and it was held as a benefit for the towns Cultural Center. The premise of the bootcamp was to exercise your brain like people at a gym exercise their bodies.

I don’t think anyone expected the turn out that they got, we even heard someone say that they should have charged more than the $10 fee so that not as many people would have shown up. At best guess there had to be 50+ people crammed into the room. Once enough chairs were rounded up and everyone had a spot to write in we began the bootcamp.

First Round: Stretching 

Two Truths and a Lie

In this exercise we were supposed to write two true things about ourselves and one lie, in any order that we wanted. Then we went around our tables to share what we wrote and the table then tried to figure out which was the truths and which was the lie.

It served two purposes

1    1)      To break the ice

2    2)      To teach us that most often our lie is more detailed than our truths.

It was fun and definitely broke the ice. Although as a writing exercise to do by yourself it’s not all that effective. Bottom line, if you are part of a writing collective/group this would be a great exercise to start off with.

Second Round: Strength Training

Exquisite Corpse

This is a game that started with Surrealist artists. It goes like this. They would take a piece of paper and one person would draw a head, then the next person would draw the neck and then they would fold the paper over so that the only thing that the next person would see was the neck, then that person would draw the shoulders, fold over the neck and pass it along; each artist could only see the one piece that was drawn before they were given the paper. At the end they would unfold the paper and see what kind of a master piece they had come up with.

In writing form it worked like this. Every group was given a paper with the same starting sentence. The first person wrote a second sentence folded over the starting sentence and then pasted it to the next person.

This was a blast, but so hard. I thought it would be easy and the first time through was, but our group was fast enough that we got to go through twice, the second time around I stared at the page thinking “What the hell am I going to write?”

When it was finished our story cracked every one up. Lots of fun to be had, but again it is one of those things that you need a lot of people around to do.

Now that being said, we do something similar to this on FB on my page from time to time and on The Indie Writer’s Collective. We don’t have a way to hide other people’s posts but what we do is write a story using only five words per post. Each person contributes five words. It’s a fun little exercise to get the brain working and a little bit easier for those of us who can’t physically go to a group but still want to participate with others.

Third Round: Endurance

False Translation

This exercise made me want to pull my hair out. I fully acknowledge that it is a fantastic tool to make your brain work harder, I also acknowledge that this could drive a sane person mad. Seriously!

You take a poem, or literary piece written in a language you don’t know (mine was Basque) then without using any translation tools (like Google Translate) you try to translate it into English. You can either try to find English words that sound like they might be the proper translation, or you can just let your imagination run wild.

I however found it completely overwhelming and frustrating. Which I suppose isn’t all that bad, maybe it means that my brain needs to loosen up and not be so hung up on being perfect.

But to give you an example of my frustration, here is the Basque poem my son was given to translate:

Poesia- Gabriel Aresti 1963

Esanen dute
baina nik
esanen diet
mailu bat

Now… Here is the Basque poem I was given:

Hire potak, baziakiat, bertze gauza nahi dik.
Anderea, azti zira nihaurk erran gaberik.
Bada utzi ahal bainentzak ni  holakoz ixilik.
Horrein gaitz ziraden gero, eginen dut bertzerik.
Bizi nizan egunetan, bada, ez zitut utziren;
Nik zer orai nahi baitut, heben duzu eginen.
Uste diat eskuiarki ez hizala burlatzen;
Gizon hunek orai nuia heben laidoz beteren?
Eiagora, nik zer daidit? Zaude ixilik hanbaten.
Etai lelori bai lelo, pota franko, bertzea bego.
Andrea, mintza ahal baitzinde bertze aldain emeago.

See? Frustrating. Mine completely overwhelmed me. And just retyping it gave me a head ache. I’m sure it is a useful exercise, but for me it seems like it would be better as a drinking game.  Honestly I would have to get pretty drunk to be able to translate that mess, and then at least I would get a really good laugh in afterwards.

Last Round: Cardio

Word Sprints

This is an exercise that +Alexandra Webb and I are very familiar with.

We did a sprint for 10 minutes at the end of the bootcamp. Of all the writing exercises this is the one that I love, it is so helpful when you are struggling to get your words on the screen or on the paper, grab a friend and do some sprints.

Set your time for 10 minutes, 20, 30, hell even an hour if you are up for it. Set the timer and write. At the end it is always encouraging to share with each other who many words you wrote during your sprint.

Some people call them Word Wars and then the goal is to get more words written than the other person. If you are competitive this is the way to go.

All in all, the bootcamp was a fun way to spend 90 minutes of my Saturday, which meant 90 minutes that I didn’t have to watch Football (the playoffs totally ruin my perfectly good Saturday, bad enough that the regular season has to ruin my Sundays). The price was $10/ $5 for my son. Doing it together was great, but if we do anything like this again I hope that we can take a little bit more away from it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


The other day I went to Starbucks to write, those of you who know me know how rare this really is. Between watching extra kids every other week, a husband, and a baby, my time alone out of the house is limited. So there I am, sitting in the nice comfy chair, computer plugged in, Scrivener opened, coffee at my side and then it hits me. How am I going to write a sex scene in public? I got cold feed and switched to writing a flash fiction piece so that my time still ended up productive.

So what's my point? My point is that I need to get over that, there is a lot of sex in my SPE project. It's not often someone looks over my shoulder to read what I'm writing. It felt like an excuse for not moving forward with the book. Why would I not want to move forward? Fear. I'm terrified of what comes next. Sure I've revised and edited a book before. I've handed things out to beta readers. But there are somethings that are different with this book.

One: It's completely outside what I normally write. I was inspired to write this book despite the fact that it was outside my realm. Yes, it would have been easier for me to write something that was PNR, but this felt like the right thing to do. Part of me is scared that PNR is all I can write, while the other part of me is excited for this adventure.

Two: I'm putting it out there. This is different than just putting it out there for people on Facebook, this is going to be out there for the general public. My SPE contains things that may stir some things up in people.  I also don't want to be compared to a certain book. (I think that is probably going to happen anyways, so I will just have to deal with it when I come.)

The thing is, fear is part of the process. It is part of that self doubting voice that lives inside all of our heads. The only thing you can do is keep writing. Push passed it. That being said, next time I get to Starbucks, creepy old man or not, I will write and push through that fear.