Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Perceived Image of an Indie Author

Ah, the wonderful world of the internet. It's great for networking, wonderful to keep in touch with families, and it breeds drama, but it can also be a great place for open discussion. I tend to lean more towards conversations with indie authors, but occasionally I cross over and talk to traditionally published ones too when it comes to talking shop. My favorite is to talk to other hybrid authors, which Mia are now considered hybrid authors. That's important, because I'm getting ready to break down somethings that I found and or experiences on the internet this last week. I often like to pretend that there is no more perceived image of an indie author, that we can walk amongst traditionally authors with our heads held high, and no one will pick on us. Yeah, right. (Though to be fair, we pick on traditionally published authors.)

So let's quickly define indie authors, traditionally published, and hybrids.

Indie authors: Normally this refers to authors who have no affiliation with a true publisher. There are authors who are considered indie who have combined to make their own press, or even just one author who made their own press so there was a publisher name, but it's not a publisher that caters to other authors.

Traditionally published authors: Authors who has a publisher, regardless of it's a big five publisher or not.

Hybrid authors: Authors who are published both ways.

So now to the fun stuff, now that we're all caught up. On a Facebook post a traditionally published author poised a question in regards to the possibility to produce a large amount of writing as an indie author and it being quality writing.

When I was an aspiring author, I was completely against self-publishing, and this was one of the reasons why. I saw a particular author releasing something almost every month and I thought, there is just no way that it's polished enough. My Hubby tried to play devil's advocate and questioned me as to why it wasn't possible. In the end I shrugged my shoulders and thought, 'we'll see.' Now that I'm an author, under two different names, one which is indie and one which is hybrid, I know it is possible. Everything I'm writing, with the exception of A Demon's Heart, are things that will be published next year. Everything I'm planning on releasing this year is written and either just waiting on covers or is currently being edited. Under one name, I'll be releasing six titles, three that are novels, and three that are short stories. Under Alexandra, I'll (hopefully) be seeing the release of two books with Ellora's cave and two indie releases. At a convention, I met several authors that work this way and now that I know how it works, I know it's possible.

So naturally...I jumped in wanting offer the perspective of a indie author. I wrote a well though out response that invited conversation, did not bash traditionally published, and was hoping for a well thought out response. What I got instead was a simple thanks for responding. Hm. So I continued to follow the conversation, one person pointed out that I had valid points, and we continued to discuss, but the conversation ended basically with this: Traditional is better because edits take time and the publisher is the best at that.

That is an age old argument. Indie books are not edited. That is not true. Granted, there is stuff out there that is not edited, but that is not the whole lot. Just like people tend to think: Traditionally published have better story lines and knows what sells. No. I've read some awful Traditionally published books and though they follow trends, they can't switch as easily. (I'm not saying write towards the trends people, just pointing things out.)

Now as for the editing. Worried about downloading an indie book and having it been unedited? Check out the sample first, that's a glorious feature right there. It saved me $10 on an indie e-book the other week. On a book that helps give indie authors a bad name. But back to the point, traditional authors still hold that idea that they are better because they are with a publisher, that their editors know more than editors we can hire or our betas, who are normally made up of our target audience. Am I saying that indie authors are better? No, what I'm saying is that we are all authors, and yes there is good and bad writing out there and good and bad stories out there, but they aren't exclusively indie. There are those indie authors who think that they are better, though and that is the wrong attitude to have. We can all learn from each other here people, so knock it off!

That brings me to my next point. There was an article going around social media that had mentioned how different hybrid authors are. It talked about how we aren't indies, which is partially true, and we aren't really traditional, which well, is kind of true as well. We have a foot in each world, but here's the thing. We are still indie, we still know and do all the work for some of our projects. In the article it talked about how the only way a hybrid author could survive in this world is if they were a New York best seller before they 'turned indie' like we're vampires or something. Turned. According to the author of the article, if the author was not a NY best seller, than they were no better than the indie authors.

Hold up. That gives hybrids  a negative image too. Again, can't we all be just authors? Can't we all get along? Probably not, because this is how life goes, it's a uphill battle for us all, yes even traditionally published authors. The perceived image of an indie author is still a negative one in some people's eyes. What we need to do is find a way to change this, regardless of the category that we fall in.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Selling Out?

Selling out? I've seen a lot of posts crop up in social media about writers selling out and what supposedly constitutes being called a sellout. If we really want to cut the fat and get down to the bare bones of it, doing anything for money is selling out. Honestly. But from a more subjective view point we as egotistical, elitist, human beings have defined selling out as "anything we can accuse someone else of that makes us feel better about ourselves" To be more clear the actual definition is: Selling out is the compromising of integrity, morality, or principles in exchange for personal gain, such as money.[1]

So the question is this: (and the answers are solely my opinion)

Is writing to a genre selling out? No. Just because the genre you write in is a so-called "proven money maker" doesn't make you a sell out for writing it.

Is writing a freelance article selling out when you dream of hitting it big with the next big action/sci-fi/thriller book? No. You are doing what you have to do to get by so that you can pay the bills while you work towards making that big dream happen.

If you are writing to a genre you don't enjoy but are doing it to make a buck, and only writing in that specific genre because you feel like it is "easy" and a genre that "sells itself" without the author having to put any effort in, does that make you a sell out? No… Does it make you a disingenuous douchebag? Yes, it sure does.

For me it hits the same cord as stealth marketing. If you don't know the term let me give you this little scenario from recent events

This week it made headlines that certain YouTubers were sent an email from Machinima saying that if they mentioned the XboxOne in a positive light they would be paid an extra $3 CPM (per 1,000 views). All the YouTube content creators had to do was post 30 seconds of video, mention the XboxOne in a positive light, and include a tag which they could track so that Machinima and/or Microsoft would know how much to pay for these positive reviews. But they were also, supposedly, told that they were not supposed to mention the promotion.

That is stealth marketing. When you put something out there and keep hidden the fact that you are only promoting something for a profit. It deceives the public and fans and in the end it builds mistrust.

The same is said for writing in a genre only because it is a "money maker", it's putting something out there under false pretenses and while I wouldn't call it selling out, I would call it a dick-move. Saying that one particular genre is "easy" is an insult to every hard working author in that genre. It's insulting to say "you can sell thousands of books in this genre without even marketing it, it's so easy." No, it really isn't "easy", nothing ever is.

As a fan and an avid reader of paranormal romance I would feel a sense of betrayal to find out that my favorite author didn't like the genre they wrote and that I had invested years of time reading and money buying into it. I would feel like I had been faithfully supporting them for years, and in that event I would feel a sense of loss. More importantly the loss I would feel would be the connection I felt towards the author and the characters if I were to find out that they had no love of the genre and it was just a paycheck.

A genre is more than just a book's classification. We find life long friendships based on these genres, we gravitate towards people who like the same books as us. We form fan pages, conventions, we buy merchandise, books, we freely promote our favorite authors with our shout outs, word of mouth, and absolute adoration of them. Meeting our favorite author is much like a groupie meeting their rockstar, they are our rock stars. And if we were fans of a rock band we'd be pretty hurt if we suddenly found out they hated the music and only played it because it made them boat loads of cash. We'd feel betrayed, and as readers we have every right to feel that way about our authors.

If we label one thing as selling out then were do we draw the line? When it comes right down to it we all sell out. If we have ever done anything that resulted in a profit, money-under-the-table, goods, services, food, etc then we have "sold out" and we all have to make money. We all have to survive and some of us have families to support.

Money does, indeed, make the world go 'round. I acknowledge that.

Writing a freelance article for a magazine doesn't make you a sellout. Taking a job as an editor while waiting for your dream to come true doesn't make you a sellout. Making a profit doesn't make you a sellout.

And yes, even making a profit while writing romance when you don't even like the genre, doesn't make you a sellout. It just makes you a giant douche. No body likes to be tricked, and with the close emotional connections that readers make to their favorite authors writing something disingenuous just to make a profit because your "non-genre specific", "unusual", or "different" novels didn't sell as well as you thought they should, is an insult to the very people who spend their hard earned money on the book you just wrote and to the other authors who pour their heart and souls into the very genre that you mock with your "this genre sells itself" mantra.

So I guess in the end there are two paths to choose from:

1)   Be genuine. Write the stuff you love, the stuff you'd like to read yourself. And be rewarded with amazing and loyal fans. Even if they don't number in the thousands, be grateful for each and every one of them because they will enrich your life. And hey if you make a profit then congratz! That's just icing on the cake and no one can call you a sellout no matter what genre you write.

2)   Or write something you aren't passionate about, insult an entire writing community by stating that the genre "sells itself" completely disregarding all other authors hard work in that genre, and that you have no knowledge about having to take other peoples work, deconstruct it so that you can find the working formula and make a profit. It still won't make you a sellout. But remember that when your fans feel that sting of betrayal when they find out that you don't write with heart (and they will eventually) then just know, you could have chosen the first path and not been labeled a great big bag of dicks by the internet.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


So the one thing I have to remind myself over and over about is that success does not happen over night. Not even for authors with big name publishers. There's a lot of work, networking, marketing, a lot of everything that goes into success. The problem I'm seeing around social networking are authors who insist that they are entitled to success. They want it over night, they deserve it over night, because they are so much better than the thousands indie authors struggling out there. Sure there are authors who can drop hundreds of dollars on ads, hiring a marketing person, and using every possible resource to their advantage, but let's face it. Not all of us have that kind of money.

What we need to remember is to have patience. I'm not saying don't do any marketing, because that's not going to help the matter. But be smart about it. Explore your avenue, be open to trying new things. I've talked to several authors who have been indie authors for three years and they are doing great. It helps that they have a great product. Do your research, for example, did you know there is an algorithm on amazon that you can use to your advantage? You get the best change of being seen if you publish something every thirty days, your chances are lowered if you post something every sixty days, and after ninety days you drop out of their algorithm and start all over again. Am I suggesting you write crap and threw it up just to take advantage of this? No, no I'm not, because there is enough crap out there already, but start planning on it. Try to get a head of your writing and soon you'll be able to starting putting things up, short stories, novels, novellas, co-written books.

Sit down and write a five year plan, but be reasonable. Put down things that you know will be a challenge, but will be attainable. Set short term and long term goals and deadlines. Stick to them. Don't be afraid of making friends with strangers, network with authors inside and outside your genre. Talk to people and share what you know. Yes writing is a solitary career, but marketing is not done alone. Be personable, don't air your woes and marketing troubles on Facebook. Don't threaten to quit just to get a rise out of fans so that they'll stroke your ego. And most of all...don't give up.

I've come a long way in a year, with both names that I write under, but I know I still have a long way to go. Some days the road seems dark, but then I remind myself. Success doesn't happen over night and it doesn't come without work. We are not entitled to anything.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014- The Road Ahead

Last time I posted it was my year in review, so this time I thought I'd lay out the year ahead of me. My personal goals aside, I have quite a few professional goals I'd like to make happen this year. Most importantly will be writing more books. I'd like to have 3 releases under my belt this year, not counting the book I'm contracted for. I'd also like to submit at least one more thing to my publisher, but since this is about self-publishing let's just stick to that.

I'm currently working on a co-writing project with Alexandra. Hoping for that to be released some time in Spring, but for my solo projects I am working on Waking Up In Chains (book two in my Arcadian Veil series) which is paranormal romance, Mirage which is a paranormal erotic romance, and Steamworks- a steampunk BDSM novel.

Steampunk BDSM, you ask? It's a genre that has some very stiff cons but I think and hope I can do it right and put a new spin on some familiar tropes. First risk is that most people think that BDSM books are all about weak females (which it's not) and that steampunk is a genre about empowered females (which is very true). I happen to view both of these genres as having strong females (when written correctly and not having the female act like a wet noodle) and I think that my story fits the way I view things. It shows that there can be strength in submission and women who submit aren't always treated like children by their Doms. And that a good spanking with handcuffs can be fun. The other risk with writing in this genre is being compared to other authors. It seems that the BDSM genre really suffers from this type of stereotyping more so than any other genre. If I were to say to someone "I write science fiction." Most people would not respond with "Oh are you trying to be the next Orson Scott Card?" But if I say to people "I write Erotica." Or "I write BDSM." The first thing out of 95% of people is something snarky like "Oh are you trying to be the next EL James?" or "So you write that 50 Shades of Grey stuff?"

I don’t want to be compared to anyone else, I want to be my own person without having the cloud of everyone else thinking I'm trying to stick the same stuck pig to bleed out some money. It's about telling a story, one I want to read, one that is in my heart and my head, one that these voices tell me constantly and it is just my job to type it all out and hope one or two people read it and say "Wow, I really enjoyed that."

Bottom line is this: In 2009 I found my bliss again, writing. It's something that everyone in my day-to-day life told me I was never good enough for and that I could never do it. In 2010 I started to believe that I could write but only as a hobby. By 2011-12 I knew I wanted writing to be my career, but I still wasn't sure if I had what it would take. I listened to others tell me I was "okay at writing" but that I'd never be "one of the greats" I'd never be "elite" (whatever that means). But luckily I had some great ladies who told me the opposite, who said "You can do this. You are talented." 2013 was an up and down year but in the end I stood up and put myself out there and it paid off and now I have the belief I needed in myself. 2014 is my time to make it happen, learn, fall down, pick myself back up, and keep going.

But the one thing I couldn't do it all without is my friends and my kids. They are my much needed support system, they help me, encourage me, and stand by me. Which is a damn good feeling.

This year will be nothing but hard work, drive, and positive thinking.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Alexandra's Year in Review

2013 surprised the hell out of me. There was more than I expected in one year. It's been a wild ride and I couldn't have thought of anyone better to share it with than Mia.
-SPE is still hopping. What started out as a whim has taken off. I hope to better it in the coming year with more reviews and author interviews.
-I survived not one, but two rounds of the Fairytale blog. Mia did a wonderful job putting that blog together and keeping it afloat.
-I have landed two contracts with Ellora's Cave, one which has caused us to switch focus a bit on this blog.
-Alexandra has taken off more than I expected.
-We are half way through with our first co-written book in a new series.

What I've learned
-Drama is everywhere, just do your best to avoid it.
-More can be accomplished in numbers
-Being two people can get crazy and sometimes it feels like I'm being ripped apart.
-Marketing, Marketing, Marketing
-Everyone has their bitchy days, and some times we all need and ego boost.

And that's my year in review! Thanks for sticking with us guys! Happy New Year and I wish you the best in 2014!