My Marketing Revelation

November 18, 2013

Cover image from Sarah Pepper’s newest release.

Last week, I went to a community ed class about how to market your book put on by Sarah J. Pepper, a local author who has achieved success through both traditional and self publishing. I always wonder when I show up at these things whether I’ll learn anything new, and I always walk away from them glad that I went. Along with some potential freelance contacts, great handouts, and frantically jotted notes, I also came away with this revelation:

To really market, I need to stop writing.

Not forever (God no!) but long enough to not be distracted. Long enough to let my writing energy rest and build up. Long enough to really commit myself to marketing, and long enough to possibly see results.

This came when Sarah admitted that her husband told her she “can’t start” writing a new book until after her soon-to-be-released Death of the Mad Hatter is released. So all that writing energy goes toward … promoting the upcoming book.

I’ve never been good at marketing because I always try to squeeze it in on the fringes of my writing work (which I try to squeeze in on the fringes of my paid work). And since I don’t like marketing, it’s easy for it to fall to the bottom of the “to-do” list. It’s not so much that I don’t like talking about my work — like most writers, I enjoy that very much. But I don’t like feeling like I’m “bugging” people. And as an introvert who doesn’t really like to be “sold to,” I project that onto anyone I might try to sell myself to, and I sort of crumple up inside. And I retreat to writing. True, there could be worse ways to avoid a dreaded task. But I really, really, really need to give this self-promotion thing a try if I want to keep striving to make writing central in my life. And I do.

Now the decision point comes — I know that my focus needs to be on my Dark Crystal submission until I send it off, hopefully in early December. After that, my initial plan was to return to work on my Rapunzel novel and work on preparing my Rumpled ebook for distribution. But it may not be wise to pursue both at once, as I’m likely to hide from the ebook within Rapunzel. Still, I’m thinking a good strategy might be to complete my second draft of Rapunzel, then set it aside to work on Rumpled. I’ll probably have some fresh insight when I return to my Rapunzel draft afterwards. Now the real question is whether I can accomplish all this before next November, which is supposed to be my “on” year for NaNoWriMo. Stay tuned!

Advertisements

Fairy Tale Book Review: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

November 14, 2013

BreadcrumbsBreadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wavered between giving this a high three stars or a low four. It was beautifully written, with believable characters and motivations. For me its main drawback was how long it took to get going; for half the book, it’s really just literary fiction rather than fantasy or fairy tale retelling, which makes the occasional fantastical elements feel out of place. The writing style in the beginning half also felt a little distant to me, similar to the writing in fantasy classics like the Narnia series, which I’ve never really loved.

The book really picks up in the second half, though, and here we see Anne Ursu’s fantasy writing skills on full display. Hazel’s trip into the woods leads her through one surreal experience after another, many of them enough to cause a lingering shiver when you think of them. The woods are also rich with metaphor, longing, and darkness, where things are not what they seem. This is “hero’s quest” writing at its best; it changes the character and tests her mettle, and you know nothing will ever be the same again.

The winter ambiance was also incredibly rich. No surprise that the author lives in Minnesota! One comment on the audio version, which is how I read this book: they made the odd choice to have a male narrator even though the story is told almost exclusively from Hazel’s perspective, making a female voice seem the more logical choice. The reader did have a good “storytelling” voice, but that may have contributed to certain parts of the book feeling a tad distant as well.

View all my reviews


Rumpled ebook Cover – Your Opinions

October 14, 2013

I’ve been reading a lot about self-publishing ebooks lately as I slog through APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur and Publishing e-Books for Dummies. A few months ago I made a “final” decision about the cover for my retelling of Rumplestiltskin, Rumpled, but I’ve been second-guessing myself and overthinking it. So I’ve decided to open it up to “crowd wisdom” with a vote on the following designs, all of which come from artist Krystl Louwagie.

Cover 1

Cover 1

NewVersion2 copy

Cover 2

Rumpled Cover

Cover 3

RumpColorEmily1

Cover 4

Some of the covers have different taglines than others; please disregard those and consider design elements only (color, font, illustration, etc.) when you vote. You can click on the images to see them bigger, but it’s important that the cover look good in small scale, since ebook covers are often displayed as thumbnails.


Fairy Tale Book Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

September 1, 2013

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book had nice pacing, a good narrative arc, and perhaps most importantly, a good balance between its two primary storylines — the continuation of Cinder’s story, and the introduction of Scarlet. Initially I didn’t think I’d like this book as much as Cinder because I didn’t like Scarlet as much as I liked Cinder. I think I still prefer Cinder, but by the end of the book, Scarlet had grown on me.

I think what I really love about this series is the way that it melds so many different genres that I like — although it’s science fiction with spaceships and androids, it’s “light” science fiction, so I don’t have to feel stupid if I don’t get the “hard” science. The retold fairy tales bring something new to the table, but they also stay true to their source material. I felt a little ambivalent about how closely this one skirted toward the paranormal romance genre, but it’s still loads better than “Twilight” or even “Sisters Red.”

While these books have a nice balance of plotting and character development, I do feel uncomfortable with how cavalier they are about death. Characters who are vitally important to the protagonists die in both books, and their passing doesn’t seem to engender the kind of bereavement that it should, feeling too much like a plot point and not like a devastating loss. These books maintain my interest and my emotional investment, but they don’t bring me anywhere close to tears — which they should. Instead, the deaths make me feel indignant, like the character has been dealt an injustice not only in losing their loved one, but in not being allowed the emotional resonance that the situation calls for.

Still, I loved the way Marissa Meyer managed to intertwine Cinder’s and Scarlet’s stories, and I look forward to seeing how she will continue to weave ever-more fairy tale threads together in future books.

View all my reviews


Fantasy … Less Worthy of Publication?

August 5, 2013

Through my library work, I have access to Penguin’s “First Flights” program, which features interviews with first-time authors. A little over a week ago, I was listening to the interview with Derek Sherman, author of Race Across the Sky.

During these chats, the interviewer almost always asks the author about his experience of getting his first book published. (Most of these authors explain the process as “unexpectedly easy,” which is rather depressing to a passionate, unpublished author! Does this have anything to do with the fact that these are the books the publisher has chosen to promote? Was publication “easy” because what they wrote “happened” to be just the sort of thing that publisher was looking for and wanting to publish? At any rate, I hope this isn’t a truly “representative sample.”)

Beware the dragons’ wrath!

When the interviewer asked Derek Sherman this question, he mentioned how Googling “I’ve just written a novel, what next?” brings up a lot of blogs from disgruntled authors complaining about how it’s impossible to get anything published unless you’re already famous. Then he added, “Then you find out they’re all writing novels about dwarves, and dragons …”

As a writer of fantasy, I wasn’t sure exactly how to take this comment. As he contrasted the “ease” with which he was published against these “disgruntled” authors, was he saying that the reason such authors weren’t getting published is because they’re writing fantasy? Is this a genre that is somehow less worthy of publication, or new talent? My husband suggested the most positive take on this comment, which was that perhaps he was saying that particular field was already so “flooded” that it was hard for new folks to break in. But I don’t think so — despite breakout successes like Harry Potter and classics like Lord of the Rings, I still think that fantasy and sci-fi remains a very niche genre. At least, through my work in libraries over the past several years, I’ve noticed that few library workers read sci-fi/fantasy (among a sub-population who are very big readers), and the sci-fi and fantasy aisles are decidedly smaller than the “mysteries” or “general fiction.”

I’m curious about other potential interpretations of this comment. Is writing about “dwarves and dragons” a justifiable roadblock in and of itself to publication? I don’t think so, and it rankles me that any author would summarily dismiss unpublished authors in another genre, while he basks on his pedestal of publication.

As for me, I’ll keep writing about dwarfs and dragons, and reading about them, too. And I’m going to pass on Race Across the Sky.


Rumplestiltskin ebook, beta

July 22, 2013

I’ve brought Rumpled, my Rumplestiltskin retelling, through what is close to its final revision … for now. That is, I’ve implemented everything I intended to implement based on feedback from my writer’s group, and am ready to send it to someone who has never seen it for a proofread (my eyes might fall out of my head if I read it one more time at this point.) I still need to format it for Kindle and do a little more work on the cover, but in the meantime, I’ve uploaded the “beta” version to Wattpad. It’s free there, so I’d be delighted if you checked it out!


Knowing When to Turn it Upside Down

July 15, 2013

Although I hate to do it, I find my writerly energies pulled in too many different directions right now, so I’m taking a break from Rapunzel. Ironically, this is the story I most want to be working on, and I think that’s ultimately why I have to do this — so I can free myself up for it properly by wrapping up a few loose ends — the completion of my Rumpled ebook and a new piece for a contest I’m entering. I’m hoping Rapunzel will feel like my “reward” after all of this, that the time away will only increase my enthusiasm, and that we won’t come together feeling like strangers when everything settles.

And as of last Saturday night, I’m also wrestling with a somewhat offhand comment my husband made as we drove home from an out-of-town wedding, a comment that made me re-envision the entire Rapunzel story. Different setting, different time. I began to wonder if I was doing this all wrong. It fed into a bit of insecurity I’ve had about the story for a couple months now, as I think about retellings in which Cinderella is a Cyborg, Sleeping Beauty is traveling through space, and Red Riding Hood hunts werewolves. Against stories like this, my own retelling seems quaintly traditional, staying close to the time, place, and structure of the original Grimm’s tale. I found myself often asking, Is it different enough to hold any interest, to bring anything new to the table?

Recasting it in light of Ivan’s comments would take care of that issue, but I’m still don’t feel ready to go in that direction. I’ve made so many changes already between drafts 1 and draft 1.5-ish that I kind of want to see how my new vision pans out before I do a complete overhaul of it. As I talked to Ivan about this on our drive, he said, “Why don’t you write both? Finish the one you’re working on now, and then write the other one, and see which one you like better.”

I thought, But do you know how much work it is just to write one novel, let alone two, just for the basis of comparison?

And yet, it wasn’t long before I felt like that was the course I wanted to take. There’s a reason this story won’t let me go, in its current form … and I’m going to stick with it long enough to see what that is.

In the meantime, that car conversation gave me ample fodder for many Novembers to come.