Saturday, October 25, 2014

The stigma against self-publishing

Last weekend I was at GenreCon here in Guelph when a neighbouring vendor told us about an Ontario Arts Council grant that helps writers.

So out of curiosity, I looked it up, because having some money to help out with the costs of bringing out books would be amazing! No longer would I have to crowd-source!

It all looked so promising, until right there in the eligibility criteria it says they won't look at your application if you're self-published. Same story for the Canadian Arts Council.

Does that seem backwards to anyone else? I've got one book under my belt, a short story collection, and a short story published with HDWP Books. My second book will be out soon, I've got a novella awaiting editing, and I'm 28,000 words into my third full length novel.

I'm doing all this on no budget, relying heavily on the generosity of others to chip in to my Indiegogo campaigns (I'll be running my second one next year to help fund A Hero's Birth). Yet those who already have publishing houses on their side can apply for funds? Aren't they already being paid to write?

If a self-published author is obviously dedicated, hard working, and putting out quality books, why are they immediately screened out of the application process?

I wrote to the granting agencies, my MP, and MPP regarding this backwards practice at both the federal and provincial levels. There's little chance I'll be able to get anyone to budge on the issue, but I think it's time that self-published authors got some respect. Sure, screen out the ones who don't meet some base criteria, but don't just shut us all out. I've read some amazing self-published books, and to lump us all together and say we're not worthy of financial aid feels like a kick in the gut.

In other news, I did up the cover for Demon Invasion for CreateSpace. After talking to Alexander Dundass, I think I'm going to do a print run of the novella to give away as "freebies" if people buy both of my other books, or charge a small price for them if people just want a sample of my writing. And of course it will be available as an ebook, too!

And I edited/fixed/wrote a bunch for A Hero's Birth. Go me! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

GenreCon - Good, Bad, Ugly

I spent three days hanging out at GenreCon, and I think the words "hanging out" are pretty apt. It was a very casual conference. So casual it seemed like hardly anyone knew about it, most of the time.

We got very, very little traffic in the marketplace. I mean, most of the people we talked to were bored vendors who were wandering around seeing what other people had to offer.

I sold some books and had fun!

The Good: 

But when we did get people coming through, we were having some great conversations! I loved telling people about my book, A Noble's Quest. And with the response I was getting from people, I think they loved the sounds of it, too!

I got people's attention right away...

It's about a couple lumberjacks who get into a fatal brawl at work and flee. 

I actually had a woman stop me a couple sentences later and say, "I'm sorry, I'm still stuck on the lumberjacks and the fatal brawl. Can you go back to just after that?"

The rest was...

A nobleman then takes them in and gets him to do his dirty work. He teams them up with his niece Eliza (point at beautiful cover art), and she takes control of the group and they travel through the empire and beyond on odd jobs that never seem to go as they expect. And they don't know why they're doing the odd jobs. There's an overarching mystery through the book, and I'm happy to say I haven't had anyone figure it out before it comes up at the end. And it's not because it's one of those bad mysteries where there aren't any hints. It's an "ah ha!" moment when all the pieces fit together.

Of the few people who came in, I got a lot of people interested. I gave away a ton of business cards to people who said they wanted digital copies. On the second day I sold my first paper back after a 20 minute chat. We talked about more than my book - we talked about similar interests like D&D and Forgotten Realms.

And that was one of the nice aspects of the slow business. We really got a chance to connect with people, and I love that!

The downside, of course, was low sales. I had 1 sale by the end of the second day.
Fortunately, someone who attended the Princess Leia and the Gold Bikini panel that I was on liked what I had to say and was interested in checking out my book. Two people came back who said they would (Alexander said that's very rare), and I sold one last copy while we were closing down shop to another vendor.

So in the end I made enough to pay for my part of the table, plus a few bucks (which I'm putting back into my writing... +Harvey Bunda, I'll be commissioning the next map very soon!).

Empty aisles do not happy vendors make

The Bad:

GenreCon felt disorganized, and I think that's why there was low traffic. It wasn't well publicized, and the website was poorly done. I mean, they didn't even have all the pages up by the time the conference started.

There were no big names there. And I don't mean I was expecting A-list celebrities. But last year they had the actor who played Xander in Buffy, and a couple others I knew. They weren't huge, but it was still cool.

The Ugly: 

We almost didn't get a table at GenreCon this year. I saw the list of vendors come out, and although Alexander had paid for our table a month in advance, we didn't show up. He contacted them, said he would cancel his cheque, and - funny enough - they managed to find us a spot. Fast. And a prime spot right by the front door, too! 

I missed a panel, because I had no idea I was even on it. I didn't find out until after the fact when someone came by and asked me why I wasn't there. I checked the list and found out I was supposed to be on three: Starting out in publishing (the one I missed, and would have loved to be on!), The Curse of the Slave Leia Bikini (pretty good turn out, and an interesting discussion), and The Desolation of Smaug (we had three panelists, and two people in the crowd... one of whom was supposed to be on another panel, but no one showed up for it, so he came to ours).

For the two I made it to, it was fun. There were great discussions, and I learned some neat things. The small numbers and no moderators meant there were a lot of tangents, but they were usually just as interesting as the chosen topics.

The Amazing: 

I'll be honest. After the second day, I was pretty sure I was not going to bother going to GenreCon again. One book sale over two days, and few potential readers to talk to made it long. Fortunately Alexander Dundass and Luke Hill were sharing the table with me, and we had a riot. They're really funny, quirky guys, and I'd share a table with them any time!

The third day really saved GenreCon for me. And not just because people came over and picked up my book. That was great, but it can't match the sheer joy of watching my daughter geek out over seeing Stormtroopers and an Imperial Guard.

Kill Jedi! - We can do that!
 I wasn't sure when I wanted my daughter to watch Star Wars. I figured she was too young for it, but this summer she found a little The Clone Wars book at a yard sale, and desperately wanted it. We got it for her, and after reading a good chunk of it in one sitting, I asked if she wanted to watch the movies. Well, a few weeks later we'd blasted through all six of them, and she was hooked. Anakin/Darth Vader was her clear favourite. When we asked her what she wanted to be for Halloween, she repeatedly answered, "Darth Vader."

So we ordered her the costume. After seeing so many costumed people at GenreCon, I got the bright idea that she might want to wear her Halloween costume early and join me.

It was the best decision ever. Ever!

"The Stormtroopers are coming..."
 Judge Daven Brown, who I'd met and chatted with over the course of the conference, came into the market after I brought Darth Daughter in, complete with her Darth Vader mask and whispered, "One of the Stormtroopers saw you guys come in, and she's going to go get the others to find your daughter."

My daughter, however, couldn't wait. So we wandered around the hotel looking for the Stormtroopers. When we got back to the market, we heard that they'd been there to meet us, and we'd missed them! So Darth Daughter insisted we go scour the hotel for them once again!

And find them she did. Across the lobby she spotted them and yelled at the top of her lungs, "STORMTROOPERS!" She grabbed my hand and pulled and dragged with all her might. She was literally shaking with excitement.

And they were amazing. My hat is off to the 501st Legion members, Andrea Pickles Loar, Steve Chiu, and Aaron Beam. She remembers everything about their meeting, and was filling in the holes in my story when I was telling it to my wife afterwards. She loved getting the high fives. When a Stormtrooper asked her for orders, she said, "Kill Jedi" and the trooper answered, "We can do that!" She thought it was hilarious that they were playing on the equipment outside when we came out and found them (after someone gave us a tip that they saw the Stormtroopers heading outside to cool off). One of the Stormtroopers sneaked up behind her when we were in the market and surprised her - the look on her face all of these times was absolutely priceless.

Afterwards, she also played with Judge Daven Brown on the equipment and had so much fun.

The community at GenreCon was unbelievable.

I'm still not sure if I'll attend next year. I'll take my time and see how organized it is. But I'd love to go and bring my daughter again, because I'm sure this day will stick in her mind for years - maybe even for the rest of her life. And for that, I can't express enough gratitude. Thank you a million times!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Recognition, and conferences, and writing, oh my!

I was so happy to have my family there with me!
The University of Guelph runs a Campus Author program where they recognize the achievements of those who work at the university and write books. That recognition came this week, and my family came with me to celebrate the paper back publication of my first book, A Noble's Quest.

One of the library staff members told me she and a colleague are really excited to read it, so that's pretty cool! 

I look forward to doing it again next year when I submit the sequel, A Wizard's Gambit.

Will I be able to get the last book, A Hero's Birth, out for the 2016 Campus Author event? I hope so. That would be pretty awesome.

In other news, I am spending the weekend at GenreCon, a local conference aimed at the SF/F, Action, Horror, and Anime communities. I've got a table set up with another local author, Alexander Dundass, and we're splitting the table with Vocamus Press, a group that is building up a community of Guelph-area writers.

Here's some photos!

A Noble's Quest central!
View from our table (right)

View from our table (left)

And finally...

I've started writing more of the third book in the Empire's Foundation trilogy, A Hero's Birth. It's great getting back into creating new content! I went back over some of the stuff I've already written because I wanted to better portray Sarentha's new-found burning rage. It's going to be great writing new content again. I've been editing stuff for so long, and as much as I like making my writing shine, I love spilling ideas onto a blank screen!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Back on track

I've completed my latest round of editing on Demon Invasion. I think it's ready for a professional round of editing, now! I'm sure my aunt will be thrilled to know that I've got a follow-up project for her. Heaven forbid I let her rest and enjoy her accomplishment of working through my 140k+ word tome... twice!

Thanks to +CM Stewart and +Andy Goldman for beta reading and offering me some great suggestions.

This week is going to be awesome!

On Thursday there's an event for campus authors at the University of Guelph. I submitted A Noble's Quest, since the paper back was published this year. And next year I'll be submitting the paper back for A Wizard's Gambit.

I think I even get a a bookplate, which is pretty cool.

And then Friday-Sunday is Genrecon, where I'll be trying to sell my book to random strangers who walk in the door. Literally. Psychologically, we have one of the best positions in the place, because we're sitting right at the entrance. Primacy effect, baby. People will see us first, and that means we'll stick in their minds.

At least that's how I hope it will work. I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for the "I don't read" people. I don't understand them, but I know they exist, and I need to coach myself not to laugh, cry, or assault them.

Well, okay, I'm not the assaulting type... but patronizing laughter? Yeah.

So as long as I don't get assaulted for being a jerk, I should have some great photos to share next weekend!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Back to Demons

After a break from writing/editing Demon Invasion, I waded back into it this week. I worked on beta reader notes, edited, and even added a short scene that will help me refocus my efforts to make this a complete story, rather than feeling like a back story/world building.

I also played around with the cover art, because I wasn't happy with how it looked. The image is fine, but the font didn't speak to me. So after seeking opinions, cover artist and author +S. A. Hunt, Novelist gave me some suggestions and I put together something new that I like much better.

Click to see larger image

 I then asked for more opinions and what I heard back was probably what you're thinking when you look at that small picture: it's illegible as a thumbnail. Fortunately, everyone had great advice so I went back to the drawing board to see what I could come up with.

Again, click to see big

So, what do you think of the new font design? Better? Worse? Don't care?
Me, I love the new look! I can't wait to see it with subtle demon eyes peering out of the flames!

I'll be giving credit to everyone who offered advice to make this a better cover, because I'm so grateful to everyone who chipped in with advice and opinions!

+Matthew Graybosch - suggesting the use of GIMP to do shadows on the letters to help them stand out
+Shar Banning - advanced thanks for trying to work some photoshop magic to put some demon eyes in there above the natural flaming "teeth."
+R. K. MacPherson - increase font size and nixed intermediate stage author name font (IMPACT)
+Andy Goldman - center title instead of left justified
 +Jefferson Smith - pointing out my first attempt was completely unreadable as a thumbnail image, and pointing me toward articles about font pairings
+Brian Rush - suggesting that simpler fonts are better, and having less blank space

I also re-did the cover for Dawn and made a couple minor tweaks. After I finish this round of editing on Demon Invasion, I'm going to go through Dawn one more time. For those of you who hate Smashwords, I'm planning on bringing it over to Amazon.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Beta reading

This week I finished beta reading a book for the first time. +Brian Rush and I swapped books, so he went through A Wizard's Gambit and gave me some great feedback. I read through the first book in his series, The Order Master before beta reading The Ingathering.

I'm not going to give any spoilers. This is more about the experience of beta reading.

It was interesting going through someone else's rough work. I'm extremely self-conscious about my writing, so I don't like to share it until I've gone through it at least twice, usually more than that. I know it's still far from perfect when I send it off for others to take a preliminary look at, and I expect some suggestions for changes to be made - anything from changing out repetitive word use, to cutting/adding scenes.

But I know the process will help make the book better. When you're writing a manuscript, you're close to it. You know what you meant when you wrote a scene. No matter how many times you read it, it's crystal clear to you. Then someone else gets their hands on it and they come back with, "I don't understand what you mean here." I sometimes wind up cutting those parts because I realize it's extra verbiage that slows down the story.

Brian's work was an interesting mix between too much, not enough, and just right. There were entire chapters I read through where I couldn't think of any comments to make. There were sections that were walls of dialogue... too much talking, not enough getting into the characters' heads.

So I brought up the issues as I found them, and I realized something - I think this process is really going to help strengthen my own writing, too. Going through a story keeping an eye open for critical analysis forces you to question everything. There were a few times I stopped to do fact checks to make sure things were correct. That's something I haven't really done with my own writing, but I probably should.

There will still be things I'll miss in my own work. I'll never be without beta readers and editors. But I wanted to thank Brian for giving me the chance to get a sneak peek at his book and learn more about writing and crafting a great story. I'm still pretty green at all of this. I know I've got one book out, and another on the way, but it's such a complicated process with so many intricate details that I feel like I'm always learning new and interesting things.

I hope my sense of wonder never fades.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

On again, off again

We got jerked around a bit for a table at GenreCon. Fortunately Alexander had his ducks in a row and had all the paperwork to show he had paid for a table a month in advance, so they managed to accommodate us.

So we're going to GenreCon! Yay. :)
I'm excited to attend my first convention as a vendor.
I've got my box of books, I've got my advertising poster, I've got my business cards... I'm ready to go meet some people and maybe even find some new readers!

In other news, I joined a new social network that promised not to treat users like commodities... only to find out they founded the network with cash that assures they will sell the network in the future. So it was Hello, Ello. Goodbye, Ello.

I had fun with their emojis, though, so for posterity I took a screen capture of my sneak peek post for A Wizard's Gambit