Author Interview: KT Daxon

Today I spoke with author KT Daxon. We chat a lot offline, but we moved our discussion online so you could listen in on what her publishing experience was like, the roadblocks she ran into, and if there were any silver linings to the whole thing (of course there were!) Join me as I grill chat with KT about how it felt to release her first book! KT Interview

Vania Margene Rheault: I think I read somewhere you’ve worked on your book for about four years before your editor got a hold of it, is that right?

KT Daxon: Yes, that’s correct. Broken Tomorrows began as a Nanowrimo project in 2013. I’ve rewritten it like 80 times and shaped it into a piece of work I was comfortable sending to my editor.

Vania Margene Rheault: How did you start writing it? What compelled you to sit down and try to write a book?

KT Daxon: I had participated in NaNoWriMo two years before, though that book never saw a second draft. When we moved to Virginia, I had a rough start to the year and sought writing as a way to manage the dark cloud that loomed over me. Writing the first draft was a form of therapy that turned into a passion. 1

Vania Margene Rheault: I think writing is a form of therapy for a lot of people. How did you come up with the plot? I have to admit, your twist surprised me.

KT Daxon: Some people have told me the twist was confusing, others, reacted the way you did, surprised. The original plot is a 180 from what Broken Tomorrows ended up publishing as. I wanted to write about a single mom running from a past, but as the years went on the plot changed. My antagonist, Landon transformed into a guy I actually began to care about. In the end, it became his story as much as my female main character, Gabby’s.

Vania Margene Rheault: When you think of plots, or need help nudging loose an idea, do you brainstorm with anyone? Use writing prompts?

KT Daxon: Most of my plots are pulled from real life events, some happen to me, others to someone else. For Broken Tomorrows, I had a friend read the first draft and we talked often about different aspects, including figuring out plot holes. Luckily, the story has changed since the last draft she read, so she gets to read the twist and all the new goodies I’ve included. I only use writing prompts if I am 100% without an idea.

Vania Margene Rheault: You’re already writing another book, aren’t you?

KT Daxon: I am! I’m very excited about this new work in progress and I think that if I can get it to work like I envision in my head, it’ll be a great addition to any bookshelf.

Vania Margene Rheault: How will you mesh that sentiment, keeping your story your own, while improving your story from beta reader feedback and editing advice?

2KT Daxon: It won’t be easy, but I think if any writer were to listen to their editor/beta readers advice with an open mind, and then consider the possibility of making a change that has a meet in the middle aspect to it. I’m trying to think of an example with Broken Tomorrows but I’m blanking right now. Bottom line for me is I need to be open-minded to the suggestions the editor/betas are giving. To understand and know that it’s not because they want to take over your story, but they really are there to help and at the least cause you to pause a moment and consider the possibilities.

Vania Margene Rheault: Sounds like you’d have to think seriously if you ever decided to query. The editing process for books that have been picked up scares me, honestly.

All this background information has been fun, but let’s get to the real stuff, shall we? You launched, ah, early. I’m sure you’re not the first person who has done that. How many plans did that mess up?

KT Daxon: When I hit “approve proof” and published earlier than planned, I won’t lie, I panicked. I had planned to publish on my 35th birthday, make it a big party/celebration day. I had an ARC contest set up, an Indie Feature spot right around the launch date, my bookmarks and swag hadn’t been ordered yet…it got scary. But, it all worked out in the end. The four people who entered the ARC contest ended up getting autographed copies of my book, the indie feature is still on which will be helpful, and my swag is here so I can work on marketing. It also allowed me to begin my next WIP, so, all in all, it worked out.

Vania Margene Rheault: The process of putting the book together after the final manuscript is ready sounds daunting. How did you go about the cover and formatting? How did you decide what platforms to publish on, and what vendors to use?

KT Daxon: I had planned to do the cover myself, but I had to admit to myself it just wasn’t something in the cards for my debut novel. I’m still learning. I was lucky and had a couple of offers for assistance and stumbled upon my cover designer, Aila Stephens. She offered to the read the book to get a good idea as to what we could do and I was thankful for that consideration. I think she did an excellent job and between the two of us, she produced a solid cover. As for formatting, I got lucky there too and a friend helped me with that as well, Rebecca Yelland. CreateSpace has a template that even I seemed the screw up so Rebecca used it to shape up my paperback. A few adjustments from myself and we whipped it into shape. As for what platforms to publish on; that is something I’m still learning. I used CreateSpace and clicked all the channels I qualified for.

Vania Margene Rheault: With so many books being published every day, launches don’t go as well as we hope, or think they will. Care to share numbers? How did your launch really do as compared to as how you hoped it would?

KT Daxon: I wasn’t sure what I expected for launch day, but as of this interview 3/16 I am just under 30 books (paperback and e-book combined) sold. It could have been worse but had hoped it would be better.

Vania Margene Rheault: I don’t think I sold any of Don’t Run Away the first week. But that was my fault–I didn’t tell anyone it was available.  What are your marketing plans for the foreseeable future?3

KT Daxon: For Broken Tomorrows, I am going to try something risky next month. To celebrate my birthday and make it fun for everyone, it’ll involve gifts! But, those details are a secret, so readers will have to be on the lookout on my social media and website on April 1st. 🙂 I’m also going to renew my bookmark order and distribute those pretty much anywhere I can; dentist office, airport, housing office, and anytime I go out to eat. Just today, I left one with my receipt for lunch asking the waitress to share with a reader in their life. I also plan to craft a Facebook ad soon and use that to promote on FB in May.

Vania Margene Rheault: That’s a great idea! How are you going to promote that? I notice you’re quite visible on Instagram. Is that your primary social media choice, besides Twitter?

KT Daxon: Twitter is my primary social media choice because there’s more engagement here. Instagram is next because it’s easy and I also get a bit of engagement. However, I’m on FB as well but it kinda lacks in engagement. I plan to post a video, but Instagram only allows for 1 min videos, so that’ll be my challenge. I’m currently working on a “script” for the video now, LOL.

Vania Margene Rheault: Right. I’m rarely on Instagram, so I’m not sure of all the ins and outs. Do you have a tentative publication date for your next book?

KT Daxon: The only publication date I have for the next book is Spring 2019. Ideally, I’d love to publish in December of this year, but with my upcoming move, I need to be realistic.

Vania Margene Rheault: Right, as you know these things sound quick, but once you’re in the middle of things, you never know what can slow you down. Now that you’ve had your launch and you’ve gone through the publication process, can you share one thing that surprised you the most?

KT Daxon: One thing that surprised me the most was how hard it was to sell a book. I didn’t automatically think my book would be flying off the Amazon shelves but, selling a book is hard work!

Vania Margene Rheault: Yeah, it’s difficult to get your books out there. It’s something us authors struggle with on a daily basis. Is there anything else you want to add before we wrap this up for the evening?

KT Daxon: One thing I am learning is that you have to spend money as a self-published author. Biggest lesson learned is that writing is not a job; it’s a craft that when passion takes ahold of it can spin into a spectacular journey. I just want to add that I recommend our readers to feel free to download the preview offered on Amazon and keep an eye out for the giveaway information to be posted.

Also, final thought: If writing is your dream, if writing is your passion; never ever give up on it or yourself. There will be days where you’ll want to burn your laptop, but the reward of publishing is so worth the bad days.

Vania Margene Rheault: Sounds like advice we all need to hold on to at night! Thanks for chatting with me, tonight, KT, and for being so forthcoming. It’s always a nice reminder that while things look rosy on the outside, the reality is, writing and publishing is a struggle. Good luck and keep us posted! I know we’ll all be looking forward to your contest.

KT Daxon: Thank you for having me! It’s been fun, as always. I’ve enjoyed sharing some background information on my book and the whole process. Have a great night, Vania.

Vania Margene Rheault: Goodnight!

kt's cover

Look for KT’s book on Amazon, now available on Kindle and in paperback!

Follow her Amazon author page.

Check her out on Goodreads.

Check out KT’s Instagram here.

And follow her author page on Facebook!

And as always, follow her blog, on her website!

Thanks for reading!

Basic Rundown of Terms and What They Mean

It seems as if there is a lot of confusion in the way people post things online referring to who is what and what they do, and I see this mostly on Facebook. Let me clear up some confusion for any new writers who may be looking to self-publish in the near future. Here are a few basic terms and companies described.

  • CreateSpace
    CreateSpace is the paperback publishing arm of Amazon. This is where you go to create a paperback of your book, if you’re not choosing one from a myriad of other options. You can find free templates for your cover, and free formatted templates for the interior. They are free. You don’t need an account to download these. They also have a Cover Creator with templates and font/font placement. Choose a photo (available for commercial use) and the creator will create a cover in accordance with your book’s measurements. They also have a CreateSpace Community. If you have questions, they have most likely been answered 1,000 times already.
  • KDP
    KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing. This the Kindle arm of Amazon. Some people only publish on Kindle (or e-reader/tablet if they go wide {see definition below}.) The set up is much easier than putting together a paperback. Just format your file, upload your cover art, fill out all the fields for price, etc, and you’re done. Your ebook will be published on Amazon in 12 hours. They say to give them 3-5 days, but it has *never* taken that long.
  • KDP Select
    KDP Select is OPTIONAL. When you enroll your book into this program, you are promising Amazon you are not selling your e-book anywhere else, in three month blocks. That means you are not published on Nook, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, or anywhere else e-books are sold, including your own website, during that time frame. This does not have anything to do with your paperback, and you don’t have to enroll in Select even if you don’t plan to publish your e-book elsewhere. It seems people use KDP and Select interchangeably, and this is not accurate. If you enroll in Select, your book will be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, or KU. Readers with KU subscriptions can read your book as part of their subscription costs, and Amazon will still pay you for the page reads. If you want to know more about Kindle Unlimited, look here. You can unenroll any time, but KDP makes you finish out your three months, so plan ahead if you want to begin selling your books on other platforms.
  • KDP Print
    KDP Print is the paperback arm of Kindle Direct Publishing. With CreateSpace closing their online store and the creation of KDP Print, it is rumored that eventually Amazon will shut down CreateSpace. Why have two services doing the same thing? I’ve looked around KDP Print, and the submission process is similar. Even the downloadable templates are the same. The only difference is how your purchase your author copies. There was a lot of complaining at first, because KDP Print didn’t offer the same things as CreateSpace does. They are slowly changing that, though, and to me, that’s another indication that soon you won’t have a choice between the two. I only hope their customer service remains the same. I’ve had to call CreateSpace customer service on occasion, and I have always received polite and helpful service.
  • Going Wide
    Going wide means that you are not selling your e-books only on Amazon. That’s it. Lots of people don’t understand what this means, or they get confused because they don’t realize there is more than one place to sell books. There are a lot of opinions on this topic and you need to do what’s best for you and your writing and marketing plan. Currently, I’m in Select, but I feel as I add more to my backlist, I will expand. It’s never good to have all your eggs in one basket, but it may be a while before I have more than one egg.You have a couple options on how to go wide: You can upload your file to all the places yourself. Kobo recommends you upload directly to them so you can take advantage of marketing opportunities. But you can’t upload directly to iBooks unless you have a Mac and can download the necessary apps. Most people use a 3rd party aggregator such as Draft2Digital to distribute their e-books. But be aware if you do this, your royalties are lower. You pay D2D to distribute, but then you also pay the vendor for selling your book.
  • IngramSpark
    IngramSpark is the other company indies use to publish their paperbacks. They have better distribution (CreateSpace uses them to distribute) and The Alliance for Independent Authors suggests you use CreateSpace to sell your book on Amazon and use IngramSpark for other distribution. CreateSpace will give you a free ISBN number, which is why a lot of indies go that route, and CreateSpace is free (besides taking their cut of your royalties) and IngramSpark is not. Also, IngramSpark makes you purchase your ISBN through Bowker. If you decide to purchase one from Bowker, however, you can use that one for both IngramSpark and CreateSpace. That is another personal choice, and you will have to do your research and see what is best for you. If you plan to do any book signings, IngramSpark is the way to go. That way a Barnes and Noble can order your book from IngramSpark and return any that you do not sell at your signing. The cost is on you, for returned books, but bookstores do not like to deal with CreateSpace, as they view Amazon as a competitor.
  • BookBaby, Lulu
    If it all seems too much for you and you just want to upload your book and walk away, there are reputable self-publishing companies who will help you. Though I haven’t used BookBaby or Lulu, I have heard they treat you well, and don’t pressure you to buy services and products you can’t afford. Be aware that if a company offers “editing” that they do a light proofread or line edit only, and if you want developmental editing or a deeper sweep of your MS, you will need to hire that out before you submit your book to these companies. These companies are legitimate as far as I am aware. Joanna Penn even had the founder of BookBaby on as a guest on her podcast, and Joanna would never endorse a company that is not on the up-and-up. She is a member of the Alliance for Independent Authors and they are committed to helping the indie-publishing industry.These are not to be confused with other self-publishing companies run by Author Solutions. Companies such as Author House, Xlibris, and iUniverse are listed on the Writer Beware website, and you should use extreme caution when deciding with whom you will publish.

    Thanks for reading this quick guide. If you’re new to the writing and publishing scene, it may seem overwhelming, and there is never a lack of information on the internet. As always, check and double-check before you make any decisions, and always, always, be careful if you decide to pay someone for a service. It’s nice to think you can trust people you meet online, but in reality, the only person you can, and should, trust is yourself.

    Tell me what you think! And let me know how I can help.

Happy writing Vania Margene

Indie-publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT–Front and Back Matter

Indie Publishing Chats

The other day, I chatted with KT about front and back matter. Unfortunately, she received her edits back from her editor and is currently in the hellish throes of revising and editing. So while we intended to do these through her entire publishing journey, she realized putting in her edits would take more time than she thought, and we decided to suspend them.

While it was a disappointing decision on both our sides, I am going to make the most of my free time and finish publishing book 3 of my Tower City Romance Trilogy. I have also started a new book, and I’m about 3500 words into it. I’m very excited as this plot has been nudging me for quite some time.

Enjoy the last chat between KT and me, and we both wish you the very best with your own publishing journey!

Hands holding an open book with blank pages

KT Daxon
So. Let’s talk “inside matter”. The goodies of the book. What is the most important thing to remember when crafting the inside of your book?

Vania Margene Rheault
To format it correctly. Unjustified margins and spaces between paragraphs are unacceptable. It’s amazing how many people forget what a “real” book inside looks like.

KT Daxon 
What is the difference between a dedication, and Acknowledgement section, and are they both needed/required? Formatting. Is it centered? How do you advise an author to go about doing it correctly? You mentioned to me before about looking at other books?

Vania Margene Rheault
Looking at other paperbacks helps tremendously. The margins are justified, there aren’t any spaces between paragraphs. No headers and footers where there aren’t supposed to be. I can’t tell you the number of books I’ve bought that aren’t full-justified. It’s insane.
The CreateSpace template, for those of us who don’t know how to set those kinds of parameters up in Word, is a big help. They have almost everything you need set up in the file already. You just need to copy and paste your book’s text into it.

KT Daxon
I bought some books myself that had either big print, then small, or weren’t centered correctly. It’s definitely important. Thank God for templates, LOL. What all needs to be included?

Vania Margene Rheault
CreateSpace includes the Title Page, the Copyright Page, the Acknowledgement Page, the Dedication Page. They also include a Table of Contents that I delete. I don’t believe a fiction book needs a Table of Contents, it’s a pet peeve of mine. Besides the About the Author page in the back of the book, CreateSpace says, “You’re on your own.” So you can include anything you want back there.

the writing cooperative

KT Daxon
Good to know. Let’s go back to the pet peeve. I agree; I don’t pay attention to most of the front matter unless it’s a dedication or Prologue. What else do you believe isn’t needed, but people throw in there?

Vania Margene Rheault
I don’t think front matter is the place to ask for newsletter sign-ups or ads for your other books. I think that can go in the back. Keep in mind when a person uses the look inside feature on Amazon, they want the first page–the meat of the story. They don’t want to wade through five pages of acknowledgments, or “A note from the author.” They want to know if they’re going to buy your book or not. That’s it. So don’t crap up your front with a lot of junk. Keep it professional. Paperbacks you can find in a store can do what they want–the reader has the power to skip through to the parts they want to check out. Online it’s different, and you only can read what Amazon will show you.

KT Daxon
I always forget about Amazon having that feature to “look inside”. I should use it more often. So, let’s discuss back. What do you usually include in your back?

Vania Margene Rheault
What I included in the back are my other books, my author page, my website. A plea for reviews. LOL For books one and two of my trilogy, I added the first couple scenes of the next book. But I couldn’t do that with book 3 since I don’t have another book started well enough I would want to include it.

KT Daxon
What should authors NOT include?

Vania Margene Rheault
I’m not sure. I haven’t come across anything that turned me off. As a reader, I’m not sure how many people keep reading after they’ve finished the story. I’ve read a couple books where the acknowledgments were so long the author did put them in the back. That can be something to think about if you have a ton of people who helped you with research. If you write fantasy and have created a language or made up words, I suppose you could add a glossary of sorts.

KT Daxon
What about maps? I’ve seen some people do those.

Vania Margene Rheault
Maps are hard to format. I wanted to include one in Summer Secrets but decided it was too much work to make it fit. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to certain things. Formatting for the Kindle is a pain in the butt, and not everything you want to insert will convert correctly. If you want to get fancy, I always recommend hiring out so your files convert correctly.

KT Daxon
Good to know. Formatting…the thing that may scare me more than getting edits back from the editor lol.

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah, formatting sucks. Conversion is iffy–you never know what will work and what won’t.

KT Daxon
True. Well, I don’t think I have any other questions about inside matter. Is there anything you want to add?

Vania Margene Rheault
Just that with the table of contents, if you publish outside of Kindle, other platforms for their e-readers will make you have one. Smashwords will put one in if you don’t, and so will Draft2Digital. I think it’s silly; I don’t think fiction needs a table of contents. But it’s a good thing to know if you decide to go wide and they put one in when you didn’t want one.

KT Daxon
Hmm, def makes me reconsider going wide.

Vania Margene Rheault
For your paperback, table of contents is a personal choice. But to me, it’s some kind of weird myth spread among indies. I guess they think it makes the book look more professional or something. I have no idea. But it just goes back to taking a fiction book, looking through it. Seeing what’s in it.

That is where our chat fizzled out. We always get to talking about non-chat related subjects, but if you have any other questions about front and back matter here are a couple more articles you can read about it.

Thanks for joining us!

Writing: Front and Back Matter for your Self-Published Book

Anatomy of a Book: Front Matter, Body and Back Matter

What’s it Matter?: The Front and Back Matter of a Book

 

Vania Blog Signature

 

Thanks to the Writing Cooperative and Bookstand Publishing for the photos.

Indie-publishing chat: 411 with Vania and KT–Author photos

Indie Publishing Chats

Today’s chat we talked about author photos. Lots of people go with the casual photo, even a selfie, on social media, and if that’s the image you want to convey, that’s fine. But when you publish a book AND WANT TO SELL IT, you’re opening a business. I feel like you will be taken more seriously as a business person and an author if you look professional online.

Here’s a sample of author photos: EL James, Jennifer Weiner, Hugh Howey, John Green and Stephen King.

 

Let’s open the floor to chat. Thanks for listening in!
KT Daxon
Let’s talk about author photo first, what do you think?

Vania Margene Rheault
Author Photo sounds great! My brother in law did mine about a year and a half ago. I guess I need an update.

KT Daxon
Awesome! I have a friend who agreed to take mine. It’s a matter of matching schedules around appointments and kids. I may have to take my own. What should a new writer consider when getting an author photo taken?

Vania Margene Rheault
Well, I guess for me, it’s a question of the kind of presence you want to convey online. Some people go totally professional, some people use a selfie, that looks pretty good, some use a selfie that definitely looks like a selfie, and some don’t us a real photo at all, only an avatar or their logo

KT Daxon
What do you advise against? You mentioned before that obvious selfies are a no-go.

Vania Margene Rheault
I suppose if you want to maintain a level of professionalism, you should find someone to do it for you. If you’re going to query, what kind of picture do you want a potential agent to find? S/He has to work with you. First impressions are important.

KT Daxon
As with everything one does in life is.

Vania Margene Rheault
It’s like people saying they don’t judge books by their cover–yeah they do.

KT Daxon
If I take it myself, I planned to use a tripod and a remote. Ha! So there are ways to not have to pay out or have a friend do it, correct?

Vania Margene Rheault
Sure. I asked my brother in law to do it. He has a decent camera.

KT Daxon
What should the photographer (no matter who it is) think about when taking the photo? Full body? Headshot? Etc?

Vania Margene Rheault 
Well, that’s up to you, but a headshot seems to be the best. You have to think like Twitter, or Facebook, your Amazon Author page and your Goodreads page, they all will have a photo, and sometimes the space isn’t that big. Also, you may want your photo on the back of your book, or in the back matter with the about the author section. Those photos aren’t big either, so you want something that looks good, in a small size.

KT Daxon
Plus, most people don’t want full body photos of themselves. LOL. Do you recommend getting a number of poses to have on hand?

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah, no thanks. I have a few poses, but I use the same one almost everywhere. It’s important to stay consistent so people online recognize you. You want your readers to be able to find you. I have a few different poses in my media tab on my website though, in case I get famous and a reporter wants to use a different picture. 😛

KT Daxon
Ha! Love it! What about IN the photo? Backgrounds? What should the picture NOT have in the background, etc. I’m not wording this right so hopefully you know what I’m asking.

Vania Margene Rheault
Well, I’ve read to not have a brick wall behind you. And I actually see that a lot. I had my best ones taken in a breezeway at my local library. Natural light is the best! Joanna Penn goes into this a little bit in her How to Market a Book. She advises you to do your hair, put on some makeup, don’t wear a busy print. Outside looks good, if you’re near a tree or something. Or go to a cafe, so you can pose with a coffee mug and maybe a book. But turn the book so you can’t see a title.

KT Daxon
Oooooh, good tips! I would have never thought a brick background would be bad!

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah. Or a chain-link fence can make you look like you’re in prison.

KT Daxon
I’ll have to check out that book, sounds like it could have excellent tips in it. BTW- you should write your own “How to Publish” book…*wink* just saying. ❤
Hahaha. That’s funny.

Vania Margene Rheault
Thanks. Not sure I want to go into non-fiction right now. Maybe when I have the sales to back up my knowledge. 🙂 I was thinking of doing some kind of planner or journal with my trilogy theme. All the couples had a ton of photos and I could pull quotes from the book.

KT Daxon
That would be awesome! I love that idea.

Vania Margene Rheault
So do you have any ideas for the author who doesn’t want to put their picture out there? That has always kind of mystified me.

KT Daxon
Well, I believe each their own, but it baffles me why an author wouldn’t share with their readers what they look like. This could be a whole other blog post topic but, I think it’s important for a reader to know about the book and the author. Why do you think authors hide behind their words? What are your thoughts on those that do?

Vania Margene Rheault
I actually am not sure. I guess they are concerned about privacy. But what happens if their book takes off? Will they not do signings? Or do interviews? Will they not do face to face meetings with anyone who wants to sell their books? I guess they don’t think that far ahead.

KT Daxon 
Maybe it’s self-doubt? Like, they don’t think they’ll ever make it that big? Could be a great guest post idea for a future blog? I know for myself, I think big with low expectations

Vania Margene Rheault
That’s true. I kind of feel like, if they act like no one is going to read their work, then no one is going to read their work.

KT Daxon
I agree. If they think it’s bad, everyone else will too. That’s why I think it’s important that through the doubt, anxiety, and stress; you stand behind your work and have faith in it.

Vania Margene Rheault
That would be an interesting blog post–find someone who is not willing to put their photo out there. But I only know a handful of people who do that, and they probably wouldn’t talk about it.

KT Daxon
Hmm, tempting to do it myself.

Vania Margene Rheault
Although, on Twitter, there are lots of people do that–I’m just not friendly enough with them to ask.

KT Daxon
See what I can come up with…lol

Vania Margene Rheault
Sounds good! Anything else for our author photo chat? I can’t wait to see yours! Here’s a list of the places it can go– Amazon Author Page, Goodreads, your FB author page, if you have one, your Google + page if you have one, LinkedIn, Twitter, of course. Your website. Even a business card at some point.

KT Daxon
I think that’s it for Author Photo, but thank you for telling me where all it can go. Many of those places you wouldn’t normally think of, especially as the anxiety rises with the publication date nearing.

Vania Margene Rheault
Right. It helps to have a list. There’s a lot you need to know, but on the bright side, when you’re a relative unknown, no one is watching you make mistakes. 🙂

Like usual, our chats bleed off into things not fit for chat, and we started talking about something else. But here are a couple more articles on having an author photo, if you’re on the fence about having one, or even revealing your true you to your fans:

The Relevance of a Professional Author Photo

A Picture Says It All Or Does It? Judging an Author by Their Photo

An Author Photo Is Worth a Thousand Words
Your book jacket photo will follow you for years. What do you wear? How do you look?

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you again at our next chat!

Indie Book Reviews: My Unpopular Opinion

There’s been a lot of talk lately about writing indie book reviews. You know, it’s a kind thing to do, you’re giving the book a bump in the Amazon algorithms. You see it everywhere on Twitter: support an author, leave a review.

And I’ll be honest, when I jumped into the indie world, I read a lot of indie books. I was supporting my Twitter friends. But when you are just starting out, when you’re new to Writer Twitter, the thing that no one tells you is that there are bad books out there. Maybe I was naive, maybe I was just inexperienced. I was in awe of anyone who had published books. I hadn’t been exposed to the indie world, and I had no idea that a published book could be bad.

So I bought books, tweeted I was reading them, showed my support. The only problem was, some of them were good, some were okay, some were dumpster fires.

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Then I would have to write a review. I admit, I wrote a handful of 5-star reviews for books that were mediocre. (I realize that is a moral dilemma for some, and I have stopped doing it since it’s not fair to anyone). There was a lot of telling, or the characters were flat. Maybe a plot hole here and there.

After I bought two books in a row that I did not finish (DNF), I stopped buying indie completely. Because let’s face it, indie books are expensive. I buy paperback, and to get any kind of royalty, CreateSpace makes you price your book at a ridiculous price. So spending $17.99 on a book I won’t finish is a blow to my wallet.

But lately, the review talk is getting out of hand. While writing a positive review for a book that is well-written and well-edited is one thing, writing a negative review for a book that isn’t good is something else.

What makes a book bad?

Poor or complete lack of editing
The formatting is wonky, so wonky that it takes away from the reading experience
Flat characters
Plot holes
An all-around boring story

I’ve read my share, and if you read indie, you have too. I once read a book that had so many typos in it, I used it as a proofreading exercise (a quick run through Grammarly could have fixed 80% of those mistakes). I’ve read two books that I did not finish because the formatting was so terrible I couldn’t focus on the story. I read one book where nothing happened for three chapters. I was still waiting by chapter four and eventually toss the book aside.

Did I write bad reviews for any of those books? No, I didn’t. Did I reach out to those authors, my friends? No, I didn’t.

See, here’s the thing that you probably won’t agree with, but something that I live by:

When I pick up a book at Target, Walmart, Barnes and Noble, I’m picking up a traditionally published book. I’m reading a book that has been read several times by an agent, by several (and different kinds at that) editors. If the book is bad, say unlikeable characters, maybe a slight plot hole, or just a boring story, several people are to blame for the all the book lacks. I’m also reading that book as a readerI don’t know the author, probably. I’ll never interact with them. I can leave an honest review, and for a traditionally published book on GoodReads I have left, you know, two or three stars (which technically isn’t a bad review anyway).

When I read indie, I’m doing it because they are my friends, or I know them peripherally, or I thought it looked good and picked it up in a show of support. What do you get when you purchase an indie book?

Maybe something that hasn’t been edited all that great due to cost, resources, what have you. Most times editing is a favor, and it’s not always done by someone who knows how to edit.
A book that has a cover that was maybe done by the author to save a few bucks. I do my own covers, and I like to think they look decent. I know decent isn’t what we’re aiming for here, and I realize that if I wrote in any genre other than Romance, I would have to pay to have my covers done. Romance is the only genre you can get away with slapping a kissing couple on the front and adding the title and your name and be able to call it good.
A book that hasn’t been properly formatted. This has always bothered me because CreateSpace has free templates for you to download. And there are lovely templates you can purchase at a low cost you can use over and over again. Copy and paste your book into it, and you’re done. You’ve got your headers, footers, the pages where there should be numbers, and where they shouldn’t be. Gutters, margins. The templates aren’t perfect, and I’ve had to tweak mine, but even just using a template as a starting point will put you ahead of hundreds of authors who don’t know they exist or are too stubborn to use them. Pick up a trad-published book for God’s sake. Copy it. Page numbers, title, author name in the headers and footers. Full-justify the damn thing. Take out the auto spacing between paragraphs. A 200-page book shouldn’t be 600 pages. It costs money, for you and your customers, to print all that space. Stop it.

But you know what, a review is not the place to say all this. By the time the book is published, it’s too late. It’s not your job. You might say, well I have to warn other readers, or I’m giving my feedback.

When you read an indie, you are doing so as a writer, and that is not the same as reading a book as a reader. It’s not the same. When you read indie, you are peer-reviewing their books, and giving a poor review is a low blow. Reach out to them in a DM if you absolutely must, but be prepared for the backlash.

Look, there are a lot of readers out there, and eventually the book you want to “leave feedback on” will receive an honest review from someone the author doesn’t know. That’s an honest review, and maybe if your friend receives enough of them, they’ll pull the book and have it edited, or whatever.

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This blog post is really long, and I haven’t even touched on the thing that makes me the maddest. I’ll write another blog post about it. But anyway, I don’t leave bad reviews for the simple fact that I am a nobody in the world of indie publishing. I don’t have thousands of sales, I don’t make six-figures. And when I do become an authority, I still won’t leave reviews. I’ll write blog posts like this.

Let’s try to save these books before they are published. Instead of reviewing, maybe offer to beta read, be a CP. Tweet informational articles about formatting. If you find services you like, tweet about it! Share when you find a paperback interior template that you LOVE. Share tips, tricks. A good editor that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Maybe you can get the information out there; even if you can help one person, it’s worth it.

It’s hell for an author to pull a book to fix it, and by then, their reputation may already be ruined. All it takes is one book for a reader to be turned off by an author, forever.

Let’s stop it before it starts. It can only help all of us.

no one heals themsevles by wouding another

Tell me if you leave bad reviews. Feel bad about it? Proud of yourself for being honest? Let me know!

Vania Blog Signature

It’s Beginning to Look a lot like . . . Something the Cat Dragged in

I’ve been blogging close to nothing these past few weeks. I’ve been sick, but not like, a flu/head cold/stomach bug thing that wouldn’t go away. I’ve had an infection in the cartilage of my nose, and while the pain has been annoying and uncomfortable, it’s been the antibiotics that have made me feel off for the past few weeks. I went through two courses in the past 24 days. I just finished my second course a couple days ago, and I think my body is finally getting back to normal. Though now I have some weird sinus/fuzzy ear/ face pressure thing that won’t go away. It can’t be anything bacterial-related since all the antibiotics I’ve been on would have killed it. I’m just biding my time, waiting to see if my body will right itself after all the drugs I’ve pumped into my body lately. (With the second round of antibiotics I was also put on Prednisone; that didn’t do me any favors.)

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Tired of this BS. I want to get better!

Anyway, so I’ve been fuzzy, sleeping, and my nose hurt until the antibiotics kicked in, and the tip of my nose still tingles and aches in the cold (I live in MN). I admire anyone who can function on a day to day basis with any kind of chronic illness. Not only does the pain do things to your body, it preys on your mental health. I couldn’t concentrate while waiting to see if the drugs were going to kick in or not. And yes, I have to force myself to stop poking at my nose to see if it hurts. The short answer, yes. Anything you poke at long enough will start to hurt. LOL

Through it all, any mental wherewithal I had went into my books. I released book one of my Tower City Romance on November 18th to little to no fanfare. My fault. But that’s okay. My second book is loaded into CreateSpace and KDP and is ready to go on December 18th. I’m editing and scrambling to get book 3 ready for release on January 18th. I might be behind on that one, and I may need to settle for the end of January, or even the beginning of February. I don’t want to sacrifice any part of editing just to publish, and I know Christmas is going to take a little time whether I want it to or not.

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On the bright side I already know the next book I’m going to write–it’s a stand-alone and once I get going on it, I should be able to write and publish it rather quickly. I’ve already got it plotted out, and I’ve been playing with the cover. I’m so used to dealing with a million words at a time (Summer Secrets was about 160,000 words all together and this trilogy is 210,000 combined) that working with only a 70,000-word book will feel like a dream come true.

Anyway, so that’s what I’ve been doing these past few weeks.

I’ve also been fiddling with what I can do to break into the reader/social media barrier that eludes a lot of writers.

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I read a lot of books so, for now, I’m going to focus on reviewing them. But not just any books. I’m going to read romances (what I write, naturally) pick at them, and compare how they are written to what I’ve learned in the world of self-publishing. That way I’ll be reading my genre, get a blog post out of it, but also I can compare what’s being published to what indies are “learning” in the Twitter Writing community. A win-win for everyone.

I’ll start with The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin. I watched the movie with my sister and bought the book to compare. But that is another blog post.

I realize 2017 is coming to a close, and I’ll be writing another blog post or two about what happened in 2017 both in the publishing community and in my own career. I have a lot to share–if my nose and my ears stop doing weird things.

Fingers crossed!

 

Vania Blog Signature

Aila Stephens’ Interview and Giveaway (Updated post. The giveaway is closed.)

Aila StephensI got to know Aila wasting time networking on Twitter, and I read her first book, Sex, Love, and Technicalities, when it came out last year.

In celebration of her sequel’s release, Sex, Love, and Formalities, I’ve interviewed Aila, and I am also hosting a giveaway! (More on that later.) Settle down with a cup of coffee, and listen in to my interview with her! Enjoy!

You chose IngramSpark over CreateSpace. Can you explain why?
I was drawn to IngramSpark because of the reported quality of their paperbacks. I don’t know how many YouTube videos I watched where people had ordered copies from both Ingram and Createspace, and most authors liked the paper quality of Ingram better. I also liked the fact that my books would potentially be more attractive to brick and mortar stores—because you know, we Indie authors become household names so quickly. 😉
To be honest, I’m now convinced that using a combination of IngramSpark and Createspace is the way to go.

You published your first book in July of 2016, and now you are releasing the sequel in November of 2017. Can you give our readers some pros and cons of waiting over a year between books?
After SLT came out, life slapped me in the face. It wasn’t just one or two little things, it was more akin to a typhoon of problems pounding at my shore. I tried to keep writing during this rough period, but it was easy to see my creativity suffered and I knew I needed to step away if I wanted to even remotely be proud of my work. It stung…but in the long run, I think Sex, Love, and Formalities is better since I waited. The first storyline was weak—so I suppose that’s the pro. During the absence, I wasn’t writing, but I was thinking.
The cons are numerous. People forgot me. I wasn’t selling copies of SLT, therefore it’s hard to build hype around SLF. I will always worry I lost some of Briella’s voice.
All in all, I don’t recommend waiting over a year between books if it can be helped.

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The gorgeous cover for Sex, Love, and Technicalities. Love!

Now that you’ve released two books, can you tell us some of the things that surprised you about the self-publishing industry, or maybe the publishing industry in general?
It surprised me how much I enjoy the process. I love the fact that with self-publishing everything is up to me…which is also terrifying. There are a lot of rules. Marketing is the bane of my existence. That was one thing I hadn’t expected: How much I dislike marketing. I like creating marketing materials…it’s what to do after that baffles me.
I am glad I self-published these first two books. I think it was a great learning process, and I’m sure I will self-publish again. But the two books I am writing next, I plan to pitch. I’m still uncertain about how long I will pitch them before I decide to self-publish them, but I am excited to learn another side of the publishing industry.

Having gone through the publishing process twice now, can you tell us what you would have done differently the first time around with the knowledge you have now?
With the first book, I would have done more editing. I would NOT use IngramSpark for eBook publication. I also would have formatted the eBook myself from the beginning. I would force myself to market more.
With the second book, I wouldn’t have put my passion on hold for so long. I’d force my unsociable self to be more sociable.

In your opinion, what is the best part of the self-publishing process?
It may sound odd…but making my own book covers. I absolutely love making them. I hope people like them half as much as I loved making them.

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The dazzling new cover! Her cover design skill is proven here. Great job!

Will you ever query and try for a traditionally published deal?
Yes. That’s the plan with the next two books. Alabama Rain is a book I’ve been working on intermittently for the last year and a half, which will now get my full attention. Then I have a project I’m currently outlining and preparing for which has a placeholder title of Underthings.

Thanks for having me, Vania! I am sure I speak for all your readers when I say thanks for all you do for the Indie writing community. You’re an inspiration!

Thank you, Aila, for taking the time to answer my questions. If anyone has other self-publishing questions, ask in the comment sections or tweet us. 🙂 We’ll be more than happy to help!

Please follow Aila on Facebook Twitter (mandatory to enter the giveaway) Goodreads and of course, follow her on Amazon! Keep up to date on her blog posts, and please take a moment to check out her website.

The giveaway for Aila’s release includes:
An assortment of coffee and tea
A coffee mug
Signed paperback copies of Sex, Love, and Technicalities
and Sex, Love, and Formalities
A $25.00 gift card to Amazon sent to the winner’s email address

The giveaway is open internationally, so don’t be afraid to enter!

Click here to enter!!!

 

Updated to congradulate Rebecca Yelland on winning the giveaway! I hope you all enjoyed Aila’s launch–she had a blast! Thank you all for helping make her day a huge success!