Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On Falcon's Wings - The Proof

It's a rare moment when I squeal like a little girl, but I did just that on Monday, as the proof for On Falcon's Wings had arrived. Although the Kindle version of the book has been available for more than a week, here, finally, was something I could hold. It was a great feeling, and the continued support of family and friends just makes it better.

Thanks to two great co-workers, with several years in the publishing industry, I've had invaluable lessons on interior layout, including line spacing, section breaks, alignment, trim and formatting page numbers on odd and even pages. Now, I understand perfectly why Quark, rather than Word 2007, can save an indie author a world of frustration.

So, now I'm reading through the book to ensure it's perfect, and of course, I found the obligatory typo. Damn. Better now, than never, I suppose.   


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Self-Publishing: A Brave New World, Or The Same Old One?


I knew I had no business going on to Salon.com and reading Laura Miller's article on the "brave new self-published world" especially since I have a particular sensitivity to the topic. Still, I like living dangerously, so I stepped right into the fray...and almost had my eyeballs pop out of my skull. The section that really stuck out in my mind, aka bugged me, was how writers see agents and editors as gatekeepers, thwarting their humble efforts for a little recognition, a little money. If the same agents and editors would just move out the way, a million adoring fans would snatch up all those great books. I'm paraphrasing here. God, I hate sweeping generalizations.

Please excuse me as I rant. Sorry, Laura Miller: FAIL. Who in the hell really thinks that way? Please, let's find such writers and clue them in. If you're a writer considering self-publishing because it will bring fame and fortune overnight, I'm going to tell you what Susan Powter used to tell people in her 90's infomercial: STOP THE MADNESS. I'm about to burst your little bubble of insanity - fame and fortune will never come just because you've self-published. Why? It doesn't often come to midlist, traditionally published authors, who actually have large publishing houses behind them with a marketing department. The fact that most of that marketing money seems to go to the big names is a topic for another blog post. Back on topic, no right-minded author really thinks that self-publishing is the key. Those of us who've done it have a variety of reasons for not going the traditional route, and often, it's not for lack of trying.  

The article suggests that instead of editors and agents separating the wheat from the chaff, or as I liked, finding the good stuff among the "really, really, really, really terrible...vast majority", now the readers will suffer that mind-numbing task, as they choose among the 700,000 (!) self-published books and God knows how many traditionally published ones. So, I have to ask (and I did in a comment on the article), how is that any different from what readers have always done? Readers have always chosen with their wallets and they will continue to do so. Books of merit will rise to the top (of the sale's ranking, that is), and the dregs will remain where they belong. Self-publishing hasn't muddied the mix, it's opened up the field for some, notice I wrote some, who haven't gotten the lucky break they may otherwise deserve.

Ok, rant over.

The article did raise a point I found particularly interesting: Why should extroversion be required of a great novelist? It's interesting for me, because at heart, I am an introvert. I can still count on both hands the number of true friends that have gotten to know me, the real me, over the years. When I decided that writing was more than a hobby, I also quickly figured out that in order to get people interested in my writing, the naturally shy, reserved me would have to go. After all, how could I get people to buy my books, if I avoided talking about them?

Geniuses who once lived in their own insular writing world are relics of the past, and in the competition for critical acclaim and those all important dollars, can't afford to stay silent .  If that means you tweet your little heart out on Twitter, friend a random stranger on Facebook, keep updating a website and blog, just get over it and do it.  Also, it might be helpful to keep a working email or comments form on your website where people can write to you.

Case in point, I recently came across a beautiful synopsis of a SELF-PUBLISHED medieval on an author's website. Since I LOVE medieval settings, particularly the early Norman period, I emailed the author expressing interest in a review copy for the Historical Novel reviews blog. What did I get in reply? A bounceback because the email account was no longer valid. No comments or contact form either, but that didn't deter me because this person must have a Facebook page. My mother has a Facebook page. Anyway, I thought luck was with me. Instead, I found "Author Name only shares some of her profile information with everyone. If you know...."  Maybe I'm being too judgmental, but if you don't list an active email on your website AND you put up obstacles, however minor, for people who may contact you, you've just made it that much harder on yourself to connect with readers in this brave new / same old world of publishing. 

P.S. Even Anne Rice agrees with me: http://www.facebook.com/annericefanpage/posts/131658676868510

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On Falcon's Wings

In the summer of 2005, I started a new manuscript, the story of a medieval falconer's daughter who fell in love with a Saxon lord, on the eve of the Norman Conquest in 1066. The knowledge and careful attention of members in my critique group kept me on my toes, particularly when we debated the value of the Bayeux Tapestry as a research tool, or a clever piece of propaganda.  A fateful day arrived when my friend Mirella Patzer, who was also editing the manuscript, said "...A falconer was a serf - in essence, a slave, and NOT a commoner - so a nobleman would have kept her - but not married her as the church would not have recognized their interaction...." My plot was in jeopardy, and all those months of research on the art of falconry seemed a waste, but Mirella helped me to re-structure and save the storyline.

Self-publishing this or any other story never seriously crossed my mind - if it did, it was the option of last resort. I was determined to follow the traditional route in publishing. So, I kept at all the things which I was certain would bring me what I wanted most: a contract. I kept active in my writing groups, self-edited my manuscript and queried agents and editors.  Requests for partials and fulls came and went, while my goal remained elusive. Frustration grew, as I watched other members of my critique groups reach their goals, and I found it increasingly difficult to read anything just for the pleasure of it. In September 2009, I attended a Writer's Digest conference, and finally heard the words that motivated me to re-consider self-publishing. Months later, I took Bill O'Hanlon's words to heart and used the emotion inside me, in this case, being pissed, and committed to self-publishing the manuscript languishing on my computer for almost five years.

Today, I received the notification that the Kindle version of On Falcon's Wings was available for sale, and the proof of the paperback was ready for me to order. So many emotions are churning inside me, I can't even describe them, but I think fear, coupled with an overwhelming sense of happiness are right at the top.  I will admit, I've checked Amazon a few times this morning, just to be sure that beautiful cover is really there.

Speaking of covers, here it is with a huge thank-you to my cover illustrator, Lance Ganey, one among many who helped make my dream come true.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What's In A Name?



Apparently, a lot.

I've spent several weeks preparing my self-published title, On Falcon's Wings, for its debut on Amazon.com and the Kindle. You know how they say, the devil's in the details? I learned that happens to be very true.

Either, I had completely lost my mind, or became mired in so many other details, like the right trim, crazy margins, haphazard indents, and that darn Kindle upload, that I paid absolutely no attention to the author name on the cover of my book, which I've only seen sir or seven times. Didn't notice a thing, until, I received this email from CreateSpace today: The author name for this book was listed as Lisa J. Yarde but the cover indicates the author name is Lisa Yarde and the text file indicates the author name is Lisa J. Yarde . Please make sure the author name listed in the book information matches with the author name appearing on your book's front cover and interior title page.  When you've signed up with CreateSpace, you cannot change the author listing, once you've submitted the title properties!!!!!! So, the Lisa J. Yarde listed with CreateSpace must be Lisa J. Yarde on the cover. Sigh.

God bless my illustrator, Lance Ganey, who got back to me with a quick response that he could edit the cover. Otherwise, it would be just one more thing on my list of worries today, like the whole marketing and selling the book thing.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Covers and Titles: Decisions, Decisions...

I'm moving right along with self-publishing my medieval novel, On Falcon's Wings. A dear friend, Gemi Sasson just finished her beautiful first novel, The Crown in the Heather, but also took time from her busy schedule to do some hand-holding with me. Thanks to Gemi's recommendation, I'm now working with a great cover illustrator, Lance Ganey.

Since I've had several years to think about this particular book (you know, those years spent begging and pleading and waiting for agents / editors to take it on), I knew precisely what I wanted: "...A lone, female figure on the right, viewed either from the back or profile, in a long, red mantle, her hair and face partially concealed under a hood. She stands on a high bluff in a snowbound or graying landscape, overlooking a seascape, perhaps leaning against a withered tree. In the distance, a falcon is flying toward her from the left. I like the red mantle to represent passion and the blood spilled during the major conflict in the story, the bluff and seascape representing the physical divide between my hero and heroine. I also feel the background should be a bit bleak or murky to represent the uncertain future everyone faces in the story."

Yeah, not a hint of indecisiveness about the cover. I do wonder at Lance's initial thoughts when he got my email, but hopefully nothing like "book Nazi" flitted through his mind. Wait until you see what he came up with! I'm so thrilled by his initial design, it really captured the idea beautifully.

The choice of a title was much harder, and in my case, it became design by committee. Years ago, more than I want to remember, I wrote Love, Remember Me about a Norman woman in love with a Saxon on the eve of the conquest of 1066. Subsequently, it was re-titled Bound by Blood, but when my two longtime friends Anita Davison and Mirella Patzer suggested that title often related to vampires, it was time for a change. Both ladies suggested some titles during our weekly Skype conversations, and after talking with more fellow writers, I had a list of more than 20 titles. So, late at night I sent an email to nine of my most trusted writing friends, with a sample "back cover blurb" and asked for their opinions. Ultimately, my final choice was not among them. When Kristina Emmons, the author of Roeing Oaks, suggested On Falcon's Wings as an alternative, I knew it would be a perfect fit. Thank you, Kristina!

My concerns about covers and titles come from my own experience as a book buyer. The cover is the first thing you see and should meet reader expectations, a little taste of the true flavor of the book. As for titles, there's something strange about picking up a book with an evocative title, only to find it has absolutely nothing to do with the story. I hope I've managed to capture a good sense of the story with my choices. Stay tuned for the final cover version in a future post.

How do you feel about covers and titles? As a writer, how much effort do you put into choosing the right cover and title to reflect the story elements? As a reader, how does a book's cover and title influence your purchase?

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