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Monday, 27 April 2015

The Next MacGyver will be a WOMAN!

This. Is. Awesome!
To readers who dig Saira, and to writers who write strong women - do this! They're looking for a show idea for the next MacGyver - A WOMAN - to inspire girls and young women to science and engineering.
It doesn't take much to enter - a great idea, a compelling character, a couple of taglines for interesting episodes, but the deadline is this Friday, May 1st. Seriously, people - we need this show, and there's no reason in the world the idea for it can't come from YOU!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

IngramSpark vs. Createspace

To: Indpendent Authors:
Re: Createspace vs. IngramSpark:

A couple of weeks ago someone posted a link on Facebook to IngramSpark with free set-ups (I can't find it now - sorry), so I did some research into Createspace vs. IngramSpark.

Everything I found said do both.

Createspace distributes primarily to Amazon, but their expanded distribution isn't utilized by most bookstores because they don't give them a big enough discount.

IngramSpark gives the industry-standard 55% discount to retailers, plus the option to return books, which makes ordering our books attractive (I just did a signing at a Barnes and Noble, and had to bring all my own books because they won't order through Createspace). They also have printers in Europe and Australia, which makes international ordering cost-effective.

There is almost no money to be made for us on IngramSpark because of the discount to retailers. But it's the one way I've found to get into traditional brick and mortar retailers worldwide.

The account set-up on IngramSpark is fairly straightforward. It's when you try to set up your ISBNs that things get interesting.
     A. Your ISBN may NOT be Createspace-generated. You have to have purchased it yourself from Bowker.
     B. If you enabled expanded distribution on Createspace, IngramSpark will give you an error message that your ISBN is currently in use by another book.

To deal with this, go into Createspace and disable your expanded distribution. Then send an e-mail to IngramSpark with the ISBNs of all the books you want to transfer over to them. THIS WILL NOT AFFECT YOUR AMAZON DISTRIBUTION. It will, however, take some time. Createspace will eventually send you an e-mail saying they've done as you asked and released those ISBNs, and they'll tell you to call IngramSpark to proceed. I've gotten through to IngramSpark customer service in five minutes, and I also once waited an hour on hold, but when I finally spoke to someone, they were always helpful. Once they have your ISBNs, they will take care of transferring everything (cover, interior file) from Createspace, and there will be NO SET-UP FEE. A couple of days later your titles will show as available on your IngramSpark dashboard.

If you never enabled expanded distribution (I hadn't on one of my books), you'll need to go through the whole process of uploading the file directly to IngramSpark. They're fussier than Createspace about embedded fonts (I found a tutorial about how to do that) and graphics (manually went through to do that, too), but a couple of tries later it was up. I had to pay the set-up fee of $49 for that book, and I think in the future I'll go the backdoor route of enabling expanded distribution in Createspace, then asking to transfer it, and letting IngramSpark take care of the rest for free.

I did order a paperback copy of each of my books from IngramSpark to compare quality. Everything about it was more expensive than Createspace is (from the book to the shipping), and frankly, the quality is definitely less. The Createspace covers are more vibrant, and the paper quality is better.

One of the options IngramSpark offers is a $60 featured placement in their catalog that goes out to retailers and libraries. I've done that for book one in my series, which will apparently take two months to happen. I'll update this post when/if that produces results.

So, although there are a lot of reasons Createspace is superior to IngramSpark, (quality of experience, quality of product) I will keep uploading my books to IngramSpark for the bookstore distribution options, and for international printing and shipping.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Festival Aftermath

There's a thing my friend, Korry, and I do after every successful school event we put on  - the recap. It's a way to get each others' impressions of the event, to check our own assessments and interpretations, and just generally a way to download our experiences.

I got to recap the experience at the LA Times Festival of Books last Saturday with my friend, Elizabeth Hunter, on Saturday night as we sank into couches with a glass of wine and take-out Mexican food. We were both utterly exhausted in the way that seven hours of being "on" with people brings. The only other time I've been that peopled out was after a day of High School English class takeovers, during which I essentially taught six classes about all the reading and writing. Ever since then, my admiration and appreciation for the work teachers do is pretty much to the moon and back.

So, because I'd never been to the LA Times Festival of Books, even as a visitor, I'll share some of the highlights of our recap for any other authors or readers who might be intrigued.

1. Three was a perfect number of authors in our booth. There were originally six authors scheduled to share booth 132 that day, but only three of us turned up - myself, Elizabeth Hunter, and S.C. Ellington, who writes contemporary romance books. So we moved one eight-foot table to the front of the booth and split the space on it three ways. I took the side closest to the Scientology booth, because I'm the biggest and least intimidated by their personal-space-hogging ways, S.C. was in the middle, and Elizabeth took the other side. All of our books were equally visible to passersby, and having three of us there allowed us to slip away to grab food or drinks as necessary.

2. Sharing a booth with authors you like, whose work you admire, is KEY! To be fair, I haven't actually read anything S.C. has written, but I've known her for a couple of years from author events and she's lovely. Everyone knows how I feel about Elizabeth Hunter's books, and the fact that she's an awesome human being just compounds the love. But it wasn't just hanging out with cool chicks that was great - it was being able to genuinely pitch and sell EACH OTHER'S work that was so wonderful. Because there were three of us available to talk to festival-goers, we often had several people come up to the table at once. Each of us could talk about our own books, as well as give a pitch for the other two authors. And we had it down, too. My books were "time travel fantasy." S.C.s were "contemporary romance" and Elizabeth's were "paranormal fantasy." And somehow, that usually translated into something for everyone.

3. There was serendipitous genius in all three of us giving away a free e-book. Elizabeth and I each have a perma-free first book in our series, and S.C. was running a five-day free special. We all had cards with QR codes to hand out, and anytime I had the sense someone was interested, but wasn't really going to lay down the ten bucks for a paperback, I'd instantly hand them a card for the free book as my "gift." All of us did the same for each others' books when it seemed someone was intrigued, but not really sure, and it made us a very gifty bunch of authors.

4. The generosity with the public wasn't limited to conversations about our books. Because our booth was named "Indie Authors of LA," there were some people who came by looking for organizations that supported independent authors. After assuring people that we weren't a group, but rather just independent authors who had gotten together to pay for the booth, conversation tended to turn to independent publishing in general. Questions were asked, and answered graciously, and information was shared with generosity. It definitely made for a lot of high-traffic moments at our booth, often with three separate conversations happening at once. But that also generated interest in passersby - sort of a "I want what they're having" thing that served to draw attention to our books.

We talked about the possibility of doing this again next year - renting a booth, and staffing it with different authors to help cover the cost. But some of the things we would implement are: no more than three authors in the booth at a time, ideally authors who like each other and respect each others' work, and break the day into shifts of 2-3 hours each. That seven hour stretch of voluntary conversationalism was a killer, and by Sunday, I wasn't doing a whole lot of talking. But working for a couple of hours, and then being able to wander around the event for a couple of hours would have been an ideal way to experience the book festival. Then maybe I could have actually seen the conversation between John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton that my son would have paid money to see.

The LA Times Festival of Books is a fantastic event, and spending a day talking about books, at an event surrounded by books, was awesome.

Though if I never overhear another hard sell about Dianetics, it'll be too soon...

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

LA Times Festival of Books

I don't know about you, but I've never been to the LA Times Festival of Books. I know, right? I live in Los Angeles, and... BOOKS! But there's always the parking and the crowds and whatever (excuses) else I happened to be doing that gorgeous April weekend that the festival was held.

But then an opportunity came along. An author friend bought a booth and was selling space at the tables to cover the cost. So I bought half a table for Saturday, April 18th. And then another author had to drop out, so I did some quick switching and bought another half.

Now here's the thing. A full table at an event like this one seems like a great thing, but I've been to author events with a full table, and I've been to ones where I've shared the table. Here's a little (TMI) background on me - I almost never feel like I fit in anywhere, and I almost always feel like an impostor at author events. So when I'm by myself at a table, trying not to feel like an idiot (there's a better word, but it's not appropriate), and hating self-promotion, it's a painful thing. But if I get to share a table with an author whose work I've read, whose books are the ones I buy for discerning friends, and shout from the social media rooftops, I don't have to talk to people about MY books. I can talk about theirs.

My usual table-mate at author events is currently on pregnancy bed rest, and she's pretty pissed about it, so I didn't even bother to ask her. It would be a little like holding up a bottle of Opus One in front of the pregnant lady and saying "I'm so sorry you can't share this spectacular wine with me." Mean, just mean. But there's another author whose books I devoured a couple of years ago, and who I (stalked) met at an author event last year. And as I suspected, not only are her books outrageously good, she's a pretty fascinating, funny, interesting person to hang out with.

And she said yes to the other half of the table!

Ladies and Gentlemen, for those of you who have (been productive/getting things done) not seen my posts of Facebook and Twitter, may I present the incomparable Elizabeth Hunter!

And just in case you have been (living under a rock) doing other things besides reading, here are some of her truly exceptional paranormal romance books:

All of them are available on Amazon, and pretty much everywhere else, and book one of her Elemental Mysteries, A Hidden Fire, remains FREE for e-books.

I will not be wearing the eponymous white fisherman's sweater my mother made forty years ago that graces not only this picture (for facial recognition purposes only, and for those of my LA friends who haven't seen me in a decade), but my character, Saira, in my books.

And just in case you missed my previous post about the revised edition of Marking Time being available, also for FREE, you can find it here.

But here's the thing about ANY author event, no matter how many amazing authors (and boy, there are SO MANY coming to LA this weekend!) and no matter how big the crowds are, it's the friendly faces of people who have read our books, or people willing to stop by and chat that make all the difference.

So, although the published literature about the LA Times Festival of Books doesn't list our names, you will be able to find Elizabeth Hunter and April White, talking about books, signing books, and just generally hanging out at booth 132 on Saturday, April 18th from 10am-6pm.

We'd LOVE to see you there!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Marking Time - Revised Edition

So, there's this thing that happens when you do something a lot. Something like writing.

You get better at it.

It helps to hire an editor who knows more than you do. And it helps to have written two books with her, because then you create a style guide together. A guide for when to capitalize things that don't have hard and fast rules, when to add commas, and whether semi-colons have a place in the universe or can they just be replaced with em-dashes (seriously, I did NOT know there was a name for that kind of dash). It also helps that she knows when I'm using Saira's voice for someone else's dialogue, or when I'm rolling her eyes too much, and it REALLY helps that she calls me on it.

And because Tempting Fate and Changing Nature were so much cleaner (in a grammarly way - get your mind out of the gutter), with tighter storytelling (again, mind/gutter) than Marking Time, it was clear that had to be dealt with.

So, I worked with my fabulous, knows-way-more-than-I-do-about-these-things editor to clean up the first book in my series. We cut about ten thousand words, fixed about ten thousand commas (okay, not really, but kind of), and even found the last hold-out typos that had eluded my eyeballs the other hundred times I saw them. I added dates to a couple of chapters to make time jumps easier to keep track of, and even axed a chapter entirely that slowed things down too much.

THE STORY HAS NOT CHANGED (note the big, shouty caps). I couldn't change it even if I wanted to - which I didn't - because there are things in the rest of the series that rely on those plot points. But now Marking Time feels like it moves better, with less lag time, and fewer words to get hung up on. I believe I've become a better writer since I wrote Marking Time, and it was important to me that new readers of the series get the benefit of my education.

You guys had to suffer through the comma-weirdness and sludgy bits, for which I wholeheartedly apologize, and thank you for doing so graciously and with such kindness.

So now, while Amazon decides whether or not there have been enough changes to push an automatic update (I've assured them most emphatically that there are), you have a choice. Ignore this blog post if you're a one-time-through reader, or you're one of those rare, fantastic people who retain books so well you never have to re-read for details. I am not one of those people, and it is my deepest pleasure to re-read my favorite books every time a new one in the series comes out - just to remember why I loved the series in the first place. If you, like me, have any inclination to ever re-read Marking Time, or if you think you might want to loan someone your e-book copy (because, you know, free isn't free enough), consider deleting your current copy of Marking Time and re-downloading it from Amazon. You can tell it's the new version if your table of contents shows 1888 on two chapters, and 1861 on two. Then, just put it away until another day when you might feel like going free running with Saira and Ringo for a bit.

The e-book of Marking Time is still free, and I have no plans to charge for it, so please recommend it to anyone you think might like a little dash of magic with their history. Here's the link to it on Amazon.

If you download the edited version - thank you. If you read it again sometime - thank you with all my heart.

And mostly, thank you for just being readers.