Writing about Writing

Posts tagged “novel

Getting Out There

I haven’t written a post here since December, and for that I apologize. I did, however, have an absolutely glorious 5 week holiday that included time in Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

Since coming back though, I’ve been fortunate enough to pull off a few successful promotions for my novel What Dark Passages.

The first was an author signing session at Murchies. For those who aren’t familiar, Murchies is a chain of stores that sells tea and coffee and some locations – the one I was at included – have cafe’s in them as well. I worked out a deal with management where we bundled the book with two small boxes of tea – Library and Editor’s Blend – for the package price of $19.99. I was there for 5 hours on a Saturday, normally a busy time. However the weather decided to be stupendously good and the mall ended up being rather dead. That’s ok, though, because I still managed to sell 8 books. Even though I’m not a social person, I did enjoy talking to people about the book and it made me more than a little happy every time someone bought one.

The second was a bit of a surprise. The Mrs has been sending emails out to various local newspapers and morning shows since November and one finally replied. A reporter for the New Westminster NewsLeader emailed back asking for more information. After exchanging a few emails, we set up a meeting.

In a lot of ways, that meeting was a surreal experience. I thought to myself “There is a reporter here. Interviewing me. For the newspaper. About something I did.  Wow!”. I don’t mean this in an egoist way, because I don’t. I mean it in a sort of ‘holy crap someone is interested in a nobody like me’ kind of way.  Just shock and a whole lot of apprehension at putting even a tiny part of myself into a spotlight for others to see.

The end result was this story.

A few notes about the story/picture.

– Yes, those are socks sticking out from my jeans. I really didn’t think my feet would be in the picture so I didn’t bother putting shoes on. Next time (if there is a next time!), I’ll put shoes on regardless.

– He took a few liberties in the article. For example, I knew I was going to self-publish right from the beginning, and never applied to any publishers. I’m pretty sure the ‘sting of rejection’ was added for dramatic flair. But it isn’t factual.

– I wonder about some of my wording. Like editing a book, I wish I could tweak the dialogue to make sure it’s just right. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad, but I think I could have done better.

Overall I’m really happy with the story and it was super cool to see my face on the cover of our local newspaper! Especially on Wednesday when I sat down on my 5:30am bus, looked over, and saw my face plastered on the page and a guy reading the article about me. One of those moments I’ll remember for a long time.


Fighting the Urge

Now that What Dark Passages is available on Amazon both in ebook and paperback, I’m afflicted by a powerful compulsion to constantly check the sales graph.

I clearly remember seeing the first ebook sale on the Kindle Direct Publishing reports graph. I knew exactly who bought it, but it still resulted in a rush of excitement. It’s happening, I’m selling my book! Then the second one sold. I knew who that was too, and it still felt just as good. The feeling was addictive.

Now I wake up in the morning – did I sell anything last night? Go on break at work – any new sales? Get home from work – I wonder if I have any sales in the last 3 hours? You get the idea. It’s become one of those ‘a watched pot never boils’ kind of situations.

Taken in context, my overall sales haven’t been bad, but checking every couple hours definitely isn’t healthy. Every time I log in and see no change I feel a small burst of sadness. It’s probably not rational, but it is there all the same. Those small bursts can add up to the point where they overshadow the accomplishment.

So I’m fighting the urge to check. It’s been hard, but I’ve reduced my sales checks from 4 or 5 times a day down to 1 a day. I’m feeling a lot more relaxed about it. The sales will come when they come, regardless how often I look.


1 Year Anniversary and Big Announcement!

For my 1 Year Blogiversary I have something special to say:

I’m happy to announce my novel, What Dark Passages, is now available for purchase worldwide on Amazon. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

It is currently available only as an Ebook, but a paperback edition is forthcoming (and I will be dedicating a blog post to that process).

I’d like to send out a huge thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read my little corner of the internet and hey, if you’re so inclined, you can now find me on Amazon.  Go take a look :).


More Book Covers!

I received a lot of great feedback on my last post (Thanks everyone!) and spent the last few days creating some new mock-ups.

Option #4 was the overall winner last time, receiving far and away the most votes. I kept that one, with a few modifications: I darkened the red and changed the font size and adjusted the word locations on the page a bit.

As for the new covers, I made a few using blue as the title cover instead of red. The reason is thematic. Through the novel, depression is a major theme, and depression is often linked to the colour blue. When I did my initial mock-ups a month or two ago, I nixed blue because I didn’t think it jumped from the page enough, but with the changes I’ve made to font, font size, and word location I think I could get away with it now. I still have red as an option as well, it is still easier to see and there are themes of anger in the novel as well, and yes, there is blood. Not a lot, but it’s there.

I also switched my name from the bottom to the top and moved the title to the bottom. I like this idea because my name can fit into that convenient dark spot above the light at the end of the alley and the title and sit on top of the ground. I also tried switching from a sans serif to a serif font. You’ll notice between the last two options my name dramatically decreases in size, yet in spite of that, it stands out better than it did before.

And so, here are the 5 new options.

 

Revamped winner from last round.

Option 1: Revamped winner from last round.

New Beta Cover 3

Option 2: Swapped name/title and changed title colour.

New Beta Cover 1

Option 3: Blue version of all left oriented design, new fonts top and bottom. Also now all caps.

New Beta Cover 1.5

Option 4: Red font version of the previous cover.

New Beta Cover 4

Option 5: Same fonts as the previous two, title centered on bottom on two lines. I really like these fonts. Is it just me or does the title stand out *slightly* better on the previous option? It’s pretty close.

Remember to let me know what you all think, and thanks for looking!

 

P.S. I just realized I didn’t cut/paste the images perfectly so there are white lines in some cases. My apologies. I made the files in MS Word and since WordPress won’t upload Word or PDF files as images, I print screen/pasted the images into MS Paint and made jpegs. Feel free to ignore those ugly white lines :).


Book Covers!

Today I’d like to talk about book covers. I’ve been working on mine off and on for the last few months and I think I’m close to deciding on a final version.

When I started thinking about what I wanted to do for the cover, I didn’t have a lot of ideas. All I really knew was I wanted it to feel dark and moody, something that suited my novel title, What Dark Passages, as well as the content within.

So I began to scour stock photo websites looking for an image I could use. Not wanting to do anything illegal, I made sure that I only searched images with explicit open licences or ones where a licence could be purchased. There are a lot of options out there, both for paid and for free. Finally, after searching through what seemed like thousands of images, I came across one that evoked exactly the kind of feeling I wanted: a dark alley filled with shadows.

This is the original image:

Original Image I found to use for my book cover.

Pretty cool right?  After finding the image, I set about making the cover. I won’t get into the steps here, as there are a number of helpful sites out there that cover those (I used them), and it was surprisingly easy!

The next step was to try and find a cool font for the title and my name. A lot of guides I found online recommended against using the stock fonts in Word, something I definitely agree with. Word is great, but the fonts included can be…lacking in emotion.

A few dozen downloads later, I had a series of options. Once again, I had to check the licence info for every download and for anyone else using fonts I recommend you read up on it too. Some websites may host a font for free, but don’t actually have the right to distribute it. The best place to ensure you have the right to use a font is to get it directly from the source.

Next up was playing with where to place those fonts, what size to make them, and what colours to use. I experimented with a white font for the title but realized that simply wouldn’t work, as I wanted the title to be at the top and name at the bottom.

Tried the title in white, didn't like it.

Tried the title in white. Didn’t like it. This was also with a boring stock font.

The white light at the end of the alley negates any attempt to use a white font for the title. I needed to pick a colour that would stand out. Red was the obvious choice. Eventually I came up with a series of covers, some I like, some I don’t. I’ve decided to post them all here for your perusal. Here they are:

 

 

Beta Cover 1

Option 1 – Title near the bottom, was worried about the light at the top being a problem.

 

Beta Cover 2

Option 2 – Decided to spread the title over three layers. The alley light isn’t as much of a problem as I feared, but it still interferes with the ‘a’ in Dark a bit.

Beta Cover 3

Option 3 – This one seems to work really well. I don’t think the light is a problem, and I kind of like the messy writing. Almost looks bloody.

Beta Cover 4

Option 4 – Tried another font, also tested reducing font size across the three layers.

Beta Cover 5

Option 5 – Darkened the red by about 30 points to get out any orangish hue, also added a slight dark to light gradient. Font is cleaner than the other messy one, but still has similar elements. Probably my front runner.

And there you have it – 5 different cover options, ending with my current favourite. Feel free to let me know which ones you like (or don’t like) and why.


A.A. and Intellectual Property

While writing my book, What Dark Passages, there was a point where I was going to reference a song. It was going to be something just in passing, a character singing the lyrics at work. But right before I started typing, I had a feeling I should check if I was allowed to quote those lyrics.

Turns out, I wasn’t. If I wanted to quote lyrics, I was going to have to get permission. So I cut the reference down to a simple ‘she sang this song, people laughed at her’.

Whew, dodged a bullet there.

Unfortunately, my research skills failed me later.

In the course of the novel, one of my primary point-of-view characters, Richard, goes to Alcoholics Anonymous. I downloaded various freely available pamphlets and information about A.A. and did all sorts of research to make sure I was portraying it as accurately as possible. On the pamphlets and booklets, I didn’t find anything copyright related, so I thought it was ok.

My editor, however, knew better (thankfully!).

Turns out A.A. has an intellectual property policy that states I’m only allowed to freely use their material if I am a member of A.A. writing material specifically for A.A.. Otherwise, I need to get permission from their IP Policy group.

I’ve been in contact with them and, at this point, I’m still hopeful I’ll be able to get this ironed out before my planned release next month. If the approval takes too long, however, (or if they flat out say ‘no’), I’ll be forced to remove the quotes and rewrite those sections. Not something I want to do.

So let this be a lesson to always double, triple, and quadruple check for relevant IP policy anytime you ever want to quote something when writing!


Finding and Selecting an Editor

I’ve reached the stage of my self-publishing saga where I need to find an editor. And, like most things, it’s turned out to be more complex than expected.

I have a few qualities I am looking for in an editor.  First, I want someone who is interested in the genre of book I’ve written.  Getting a children’s book editor to copy-edit a psychological literary fiction isn’t necessarily going to be a good fit.  You would prefer someone with experience in your genre.  So that’s my first qualification.  Second, I would like to find someone that either lives in, or has spent time in, the Vancouver area.  A lot of my scenes are based on real locations in the area and I think it would be useful to have someone familiar with the actual location to give input on my descriptions.

Initially, I went to the BC branch of the Editors Association of Canada (EAC) for my search.  They have an online directory of editors where you can input some specific qualities and it spits out a list.  I did this, and picked out 3 editors who looked like they’d be up my alley.  I sent them emails and awaited their replies.  I received responses and, unfortunately, all of them were booked up.  However, one editor was kind enough to direct me to another resource listed on the EAC webpage that I’d managed to overlook – the BC Editors Hotline.

So the gist of it is: I email the hotline my request and key information about my project, the hotline coordinator sends the request out to all of the members, and anyone interested is free to respond to my post.

I didn’t know what to expect with my post, but the response was far greater than expected.  I received 18 emails within a day and a half.  Yay!  People are interested!

So I set about the task of separating out the editors who sounded interesting to me and the ones who did not.  Cutting the list down was easy to begin with.  Three people spelt my name wrong.  My name! How could I ever trust an editor who can’t even spell my name correctly in the email they send asking me to hire them.  It’s not like it wasn’t right there in the hotline post, right above the email address which, by the way, also includes my name.

Boom, down to 15.

Next up was availability.  I posted the date I aim to have the manuscript back by, but a few folks still put their hats in the ring for a later date.  I’m ok with that, and if anything changes they could move up the list, but as is their ranking dropped relative to those who were more likely to complete the editing in the timeframe I need it by.

Next – experience.  Some people directed me to websites, others listed relevant experience in their email.  I tried to pick out the ones who looked like they’d worked on a similar genre.  That relates back to the first quality I posted above.

Then there is attitude – in a tight field of what looks to be really skilled people, I turned to this.  Some emails were very business-like, and that’s ok.  Other’s seemed downright friendly and genuinely interested.  I like kind people, so I gravitated to these emails.

In a related note – I was disappointed with one individual in particular.  I’m not going to name names of course, but I just want to point out that I’m not a fan of overly pushy or rude people.  I’m certainly not going to work with someone who makes me feel uncomfortable just by reading their emails.

Finally – price.  One of the most important and hardest things to talk about is price.  It’s like when you negotiate a salary with a possibly new employer – it’s a little awkward.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much I like someone if I can’t afford them.  And the range of quotes I received has been nothing short of surprising.  The lowest quote was $650USD, while the highest was up to $3700CAD.  That’s a huge range!  And the worst thing is, based off what I’d heard at the self-publishing seminar I attended earlier this year, I was expecting to pay around $600CAD.  Basically, I wasn’t ready for how high the quotes would be, and my bank account wasn’t either.

That said, I slowly whittled the list down from 18 to 3.  And last night I made my final decision.  It wasn’t easy, and I’m really dreading contacting the people I didn’t choose to give them the bad news.  I would probably be a terrible manager – I hate giving people bad news.  And I hope they all know I appreciate their time and understanding.

But I’m looking forward to getting this done.  Judging from the samples I received, this editing is going to be huge for helping polish my novel and ensuring it looks as professional as possible.  And that is something that, in the long run, will pay for itself.