Authors for Oklahoma ~ Book Bundles #1-3

Authors For Oklahoma started up in the wake of the Moore tornado in the spring that was so devastating in the area. We decided to put together a book raffle, with proceeds heading to the American Red Cross, which continues its work in the area. Authors have donated books and ebooks for the cause, and today in advance of that, we’re going to show you the first three book sets, with details on each book. The sets are bundled with five or six books, some titles turning up several times, as some of our authors donated several copies.

Collage 01Book Set #1

Norma Beishir, Angels At Midnight

Suspense-thriller, ebook

Ashley Hollister’s fairy-tale world fell apart when she lost custody of her only child. Collin Deverell’s vast inheritance was all but destroyed by his devious twin brother. Together, Ashley and Collin vowed to reclaim what was rightfully theirs.

Mary Yungeberg, Consummate Betrayal

Thriller, paperback

FBI Special Agent Rowan Milani doesn’t expect his life to be turned upside down when he arrives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for an Anti-Terrorism Task Force operation. But the clandestine side of his life catches up with him as he circumvents the target on his back one too many times.

Rosanne Dingli, According To Luke

Thriller, ebook

Shattered by the breakdown of yet another romance, Jana Hayes becomes a recluse in her tiny Venice apartment and buries herself in her work as an expert art conservator, until an ancient religious icon brings Roman Catholic priest Rob Anderson into her life. The secret they discover hidden in the mysterious artifact is not only devastating, but deadly.

Jamie Eubanks, Hidden Doors, Secret Rooms

Mystery- thriller, ebook

A ground-breaking and unsanctioned surgical procedure results in a cure for a dying woman’s Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The surgery, however, is not without its negative ramifications for Jillian Braedon. On the run with her young daughter, Jillian finds herself stranded in a blizzard and at the mercy of retired musician, John Mills. John finds himself caught up in her torment and the danger arising from the pursuing covert agents, who will do anything to keep the surgery a secret, and to see the woman and her child dead.

Nancy Thompson, The Mistaken

Thriller, ebook

Tyler Karras is an honest man, a transplanted Brit living the American dream, but his charmed life takes an unexpected turn when his brother, Nick, is coerced into joining ranks with San Francisco’s Russian mafia. Ty intervenes to secure Nick’s freedom, yet only succeeds in incurring their wrath.

Barry Parham, Blush: Politics and Other Unnatural Acts

Comedy, ebook

Online humorist Barry Parham is back with another acute collection of satire, targeting politics and other, less evil things. And when Barry’s in the beltway, no party or platform is safe.

Book Set #2

Collage 02Rosanne Dingli, Camera Obscura

Thriller, ebook

Photojournalist Bart Zacharin’s camera doesn’t lie … but his mysterious new lover Minnie Cuff lies for a living. Love-struck Bart can’t get that into focus until he follows her from Australia on her flimsily excused trip to Europe and becomes embroiled in an obscure web of international organised crime, deception and death.

Tabatha McGowen, The Tied Man

Erotica- contemporary fiction, ebook

Lilith Bresson, an independent, successful young artist, is forced to travel from her home in Spain to the wild borderlands of northern England, to repay her feckless father’s latest debt by painting a portrait of the enigmatic Lady Blaine Albermarle. On her first night at Albermarle Hall she meets Finn Strachan, Blaine’s ‘companion’, a cultured and hauntingly beautiful young man who seems to have it all. But Lilith has an artist’s eye, and a gift for seeing what lies beneath the skin.  She soon discovers that Blaine is more gaoler than lover, and if the price is right, depravity has no limits. In a dark, modern twist to an age-old story, Lilith Bresson proves that sometimes it’s the princess who needs to become the rescuer. Please note that this storyline contains depictions of drug abuse, violence and non-consensual sex.

Jamie Eubanks, Hidden Doors, Secret Rooms

Mystery- thriller, ebook

A ground-breaking and unsanctioned surgical procedure results in a cure for a dying woman’s Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The surgery, however, is not without its negative ramifications for Jillian Braedon. On the run with her young daughter, Jillian finds herself stranded in a blizzard and at the mercy of retired musician, John Mills. John finds himself caught up in her torment and the danger arising from the pursuing covert agents, who will do anything to keep the surgery a secret, and to see the woman and her child dead.

Mary Yungeberg, Consummate Betrayal

Thriller, paperback

FBI Special Agent Rowan Milani doesn’t expect his life to be turned upside down when he arrives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for an Anti-Terrorism Task Force operation. But the clandestine side of his life catches up with him as he circumvents the target on his back one too many times.

Lucy Pireel, Red Gone Bad

Short stories- adult fairy tales, ebook

Once upon a time … Little Red Riding Hood took matters in her own hands And the miller’s daughter struck a flawed deal with Rumpelstiltsken In these–and two more–twisted fairy tales there are no happy endings and you’ll find out those heroines are not what you might expect from them. Parents, read them but let the children keep their dreams.

Lucy Pireel, Bound

Erotica, ebook

A young, successful woman finds herself attracted to a man who is known for his promiscuity. She has no idea he wishes to play with her the way she wants him to. While working together, they become closer. When she dares to reveal her wishes, he only only asks her if she’s ready to say ‘please’. After she does, the games begin. But where will they end?

Collage 03Book Set #3

DeAnna Felthauser, A Million Wishes

Romance, ebook

Mikayla Johnson… Growing up in a poor, abusive household after her father is killed in a car wreck; Mikayla had very few things in life that gave her joy. Her writing, the old oak tree, her big brother Callum and her childhood crush Noah. Could he help her heal from her past and give her the family she has always wanted? Noah Cane… Noah is a Navy seal war hero coming home to the Georgia peach plantation he was raised on to recover from losing his leg in war. His heart was stolen by Mikayla the moment they met under a peach tree where she was stealing peaches off his parent’s property. Can she help him heal from his injuries and give him something worth fighting for?

DeAnna Felthauser, Reflecting On Wishes

Romance, ebook

Six years ago, Dakota was adopted by Noah and Mikayla Cane. Even with a close-knit, loving family, nothing prepared him for falling head-over-heels in love with Angel Vega. When a game of cat and mouse begins between the pair, Dakota is persistent in what he wants. It may take him months to win her over, but he knows she is worth the effort. Deemed the Latina Goddess of the race track, Angel is a Pro-Stock Motorcycle racer that has been burned by love more than once. Letting down her walls and believing in a man again, was the last thing on her mind. Just as Angel finds herself falling for the ruggedly handsome Dakota, tragedy strikes and shatters her racing dreams. Devastated, Angel retreats into a world of doubt, fear and broken dreams. Will Dakota do as she wants and walk away, or will he be the strength she needs and fight for the girl that owns his heart?

Charlotte Kent, A Clue For Adrianna

Romance, ebook

The first novel in the women’s fiction series Captain’s Point Stories, A Clue for Adrianna, written by multi-published, internationally known From Women’s Pens authors Annie Acorn and Juliette Hill under the pseudonym Charlotte Kent, offers the reader romance, mystery, humor, and adventure in a story of love and personal growth. Forced to return to her ancestral home in Captain’s Point, a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Adrianna Montgomery receives a shock and a challenge when the terms of her great-aunt’s will are read. Faced with a haughty attorney, a crumbling old house and a clue, she must draw upon the resources found in those around her as well as her own inner strengths in order to solve the riddle and secure her inheritance. Little understanding the adventure and danger she will encounter along the journey ahead, she accepts the challenge and ultimately learns who she is destined to be and discovers the meaning of true love. Don’t miss this chance to fall in love again!

Tarah Scott, My Highland Love

Historical fiction- romance, ebook

How does a woman tell her betrothed that she murdered her first husband? Shipwrecked in the Scottish Highlands, American heiress Elise Kingston quietly plans revenge for the deaths of her daughter and the brother who sacrificed his life to save her. When Marcus MacGregor, Marquess of Ashlund, returns to his Highland home to discover a stunning American woman has been taken in by his clan, his attraction is instant and he resolves to make her his–no matter what secret she’s keeping. Elise is shocked by her need for Marcus and, too late, discovers that her feelings make him a target of her enemy–a man powerful enough to destroy even a Scottish nobleman.

Tarah Scott, My Highland Lord

Historical fiction-romance, ebook

London Heiress kidnapped by the Marquess of Ashlund, reads the headlines. Yet no one tried to save her. Phoebe Wallington was seven years old when a mass assassination attempt rocked Regency England. Her father was the only accused traitor to elude capture. Now as a grown woman and a British spy, she is no closer to learning what really happened that day. Phoebe’s quest for the truth takes a sudden turn when she’s kidnapped by a suspected traitor. But Kiernan MacGregor, the Marquess of Ashlund, may not live long enough to stand trial. Someone wants him dead. And Phoebe stands in the killer’s way.

Our Crowdrise Link, for Authors For Oklahoma:

http://www.crowdrise.com/AuthorsforOklahoma

This is a giveaway for 10 dollar donations to The American Red Cross, for Moore Oklahoma.

This will run through to July 22nd. One can make as many donations as they wish since your names will be drawn at the end. We also ask that you let us know what bundle or bundles you are interested in along with your email address. Also, please make your donation in the
Crossrise link before the comment boxes. This lets us know immediately that you’ve made your donation.

Self-Publishing Expo: My Impressions

This year, I made the decision to become fully self-published under my company, Sagido Publishing and I recently released the 2nd book in the 7 Scorpions Trilogy, 7 Scorpions: Revolution under said label. I made this decision knowing that there are, unfortunately, many self published books that are garbage and us Indie Authors have to work that much harder to show that we are the real deal. That’s fine, I don’t mind a challenge, it keeps things moving and keeps us on our toes.

Worth It

When I made the decision to do this, I also decided that I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure that what I published would at least be of the quality that a large publisher would put out (of course, seeing what some of them are publishing, that wasn’t the stretch I thought it would be). One of the steps was to attend the Self Publishing Expo in New York City back in October. I attended with a friend and fellow author of the Last Witch Series, Liz Kolodziej. For the price tag of $125, I figured it was worth scoping out but I will admit to not having high expectations going in.

emergency

I attended three presentations (Liz and I each attended different ones so we could compare notes, the whole divide and conquer). The first one was presented by a representative from Lulu, which is a company that offers services to self-publishing authors. Interestingly enough, the presenter had a Macbook and the projector was not set up to interface with it so I let him use my netbook for his presentation (probably should have had a Plan B but I don’t mind lending a hand). To be honest, it was probably a good thing because I would have left within the first 15 minutes if I hadn’t lent it to him. The first half of the presentation was really about the company and, though some of the history was interesting, it was really irrelevant to what I was there for. The second half, however, became interesting. Apparently, LuLu has decided to open up their platform to programmers who wish to create apps (not just web based apps but also iPhone, Blackberry, and Android apps) by releasing an API (Application Programming Interface). What’s nice about this is that you can use their services and distribution with your own apps. The power behind this is really cool. There are more details on their site so check it out. There are plenty of phone app developers out there who don’t charge all that much if you wanted to go this route. I actually had some ideas as a result of this but they don’t have anything to do with my sci-fi publishing.

Donotwakemeup

The next presentation I went to was the complete opposite. The first half was good, the second half I ended up leaving because I almost fell asleep. Literally. I was actually going to be grumpy if someone woke me up, hence the pic above. It was a panel discussion. Typically these are good but two things went against it:

  1. Has anyone ever told you that there is no such thing as a stupid question? Well they lied. There are stupid questions, and, like a lot of panel discussions, this one was plagued by them. They weren’t ignorant questions, I can deal with those. They were questions that could have been answered if the people had listened to the presenter in the first place. That pisses me off.
  2. The majority of what the presenters were saying was either them patting themselves on the back for a job well done, or information that is available on about 1000000000000000000000 different blogs out there.

It wasn’t all bad though. Some of what I heard was nice, simply because I’m already doing it so it was good confirmation that I have done something right because, like many writers, I assume I’m screwing everything up. Among these are:

  1. Author Partnerships: Strength in numbers everyone. That was one of the reasons for founding WMD.
  2. QR Codes: I’ve been playing around with this for awhile. QR codes are intriguing and most of all, you can create them for FREE. I’ve actually got labels that I print them out on and stick them to packages I send out. I’ve also put them on posters, bookmarks, cards, etc. Smartphones are on the rise and pretty much every carrier out there is pushing their customers to get them so take advantage of it. Also, young adults tend to have these so if your writing appeals to this group, you should be incorporating these.
  3. Mock interview with myself: I did something similar to this with my FAQ on my website. It reads a bit like an interview. I’ve done some updates as I’ve gotten interviewed. Often times members of the media, including bloggers, are looking for content for their website. If you have a ready-to-go interview, it cuts down on their workload and yours. They may want to tweak a few things or add a couple of questions but, for the most part, the content is prepared.
  4. Book Trailers: This one I have mixed opinions about, which I have already posted about here. Needless to say, despite my doubts about it leading to sales, it is another way to get the word out, especially in release preparation and I have created some for my own writing just for fun.
  5. Google Alerts: If you haven’t signed up for Google Alerts, you really need to, well, right now. This allows you to enter search terms to create bots that will send you alerts anytime your keywords pop up in a newly indexed page. This includes blogs, news, etc. At the minimum, you should have your name, the name(s) of your book(s), unique terms from your writing (like unique character names or names of fantasy locations), series names, and the name of your publishing company, whether you are self published or traditionally published. This is a great way to keep track of what’s going on. I also use terms such as eBooks so I know what is going on in that world, since almost all of my sales have been in electronic format.
  6. Website: If you don’t have a website yet, you need one. Along with that, a blog. Realistically, you can create these for free but I would recommend you get a professional web designer to design your site (they can do it in WordPress) with custom graphics to really make you stand out. I did this and the feedback I’ve received has proven to me time and time again that I made the correct decision.

Another item mentioned was Facebook Ads. I’m not sure how I feel about this, because formal advertising in general has mixed results in the publishing industry (as well as pretty much every other industry), especially now that there are so many ways to block ads. It can also get expensive and if you’re anything like me, your marketing budget isn’t all that big. Liz had actually made a good point. A more targeted approach may be better so advertising on a site such as Goodreads, which targets readers specifically. I believe it’s also cheaper but I’m not 100% sure about that. One piece of advice the panel gave, and it’s so simply that it’s genius: When advertising, compare your writing with someone well known or the premise of your book with something that is already well known. For instance, I’ve had reviewers compare 7 Scorpions to Terminator, Mad Max, and Star Wars (which was actually a huge honor), so I’ve actually quoted that. One of the reasons is that when people search out those subjects (or if you compare yourself with another author, the name of that author), your work might come up.

The presentation was not a complete waste, but it was good that I got out of it. Besides, my bladder was about to burst and I know you wanted to know that. Yes, I’m out of my mind and I make no apologies for it!

approval

The final presentation itself was worth the entire trip. It was presented by a literary attorney out of New York, Renee L. Duff, Esq. I used to work for lawyers and, though I am not a lawyer nor do I profess to be any type of legal professional, it has been a side interest of mine and I have some level of understanding (which also means I’m the first to tell someone to hire a damn lawyer and not rely on a random person’s opinion). Realistically, legalities are a huge concern to the self published author because that person is responsible for his/her own work entirely. There were several subjects covered here and I would urge you to pay attention and/or seek legal council to make sure you are covered:

  • Copyright mailing myth: When I first got started in this industry, I found out that you automatically have a copyright on your work when you complete it. However, you really have to be able to prove it’s yours to legally protect it. One method that has been perpetuated is mailing a copy of the manuscript to yourself, keeping it sealed. It will have a time and date stamp from the post office so if there was ever a question, you’d just have the judge unseal it. Has this worked? Yes. Is it dependable? Not at all. Matter of fact, pretty much anyone with experience in this field or with copyrights will tell you that your only true protection comes from registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office (or the country you reside in). I have registered both of my published books with the copyright office. It was only $35.
  • Copyright/Trademark Enforcement: The responsibility for enforcing copyrights and trademarks, even the ones that are registered, rest on the party who holds said copyrights and trademarks. In other words, you. It is up to you to keep your feelers out for violations. That is one reason to get Google Alerts (which was also mentioned in this presentation). Keep in mind that there are cases of copyright infringement that probably wouldn’t go anywhere if you challenged it. First of all, you have to show that there is some type of damage being done, whether it’s to your profits or to your reputation. For instance, if a blogger gives you an unsolicited review using your cover image and some quotes from your book, that is a copyright infringement. They did not have permission to do that. However, if that review is absolutely fantastic, it not only isn’t damaging, it’s probably helping you make money so you wouldn’t fight that. If someone decides to post your book image up and tell the world that you stole the idea from them, then you may want to do something about that.
  • Fair Use: Not every situation where quotes are used from a book are copyright infringement. You will want to refer to the Fair Use Act, which spells out what you can and cannot use legally without permission from the copyright holder. This mainly applies to the media, education, and situations with no commercial gain (like reviews). Also keep in mind that much of what is in law is based on precedent, and not necessarily YOUR interpretation of the law. In this field, it is generally acceptable for reviewers to quote from your writing, within reason, even if it is a negative review. In turn, it is generally acceptable for you to quote pieces of a review (so even a mediocre review may have a line or two that you take so when someone reads the quote, they feel as though the reviewer loved it). This is done all the time by the big guys with the New York Times and USA Today, as well as other major publications.
  • Public Domain: These are works whose copyrights have expired. You see this a lot on older pieces. Does this mean you can grab the text and call it your own? Nope. Plagiarism is still theft. There are, however, more freedoms with this work than normal. Check with an expert if you want to use anything from the public domain in your own work, especially if it is for profit.
  • Get Permission: Despite the Fair Use Act, if you want to quote someone else’s work in yours, especially if you are going to be making money (i.e. you are writing a non-fiction book and you want to reference another one), get permission from the copyright holder, in writing. Most won’t care because it’s free advertising for them but in our litigation happy society, you might as well be cautious. Keep in mind that emails are admissible in court so an email giving you permission to use something is enough, just make sure you keep the original email electronically so that it’s authenticity can be verified (a printout is not authentic).
  • If you are concerned that your text may infringe on the work of another, there are services out there where you can upload blocks of text and have it checked against other sources. This is used in academia all the time. A great one for use for web sites is Copyscape.
  • Trademarks: Trademarks are different from copyrights. The first major difference is that they can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to register. The second difference is that, unlike copyrights, you have to maintain them (i.e. show the government that you are actively using the trademark) or it will expire. The third is that it can take months, even over a year to trademark something because others have the right to contest your trademark if they have something similar. Finally, there are only certain things you can actually get a trademark on. In this industry, that would be your company logo, the name of a series (individual titles cannot be trademarked, but a series name, like the For Dummies series can be trademarked), and various symbols. If you have a question, you can refer to an expert or to the Copyright Office.
  • Defamation: This applies somewhat to fiction but mostly to non-fiction. Defamation is liable slander. You are permitted to discuss facts. In the case of fiction, you can use landmarks and other such things in a fictitious manner (in 7 Scorpions: Revolution, chapter 2 takes place in the ruins of New York City and it is mentioned by name, as is the Empire State Building). You will need to be careful when it comes to individuals, or even private residences. For instance, if you have a distant cousin who you hate, you probably should not mention them by name and have them butchered to death in your fiction writing. In the case of non-fiction, you can write about provable facts. The rules are a bit different with public figures, but there is also not a clear definition of what a public figure is. Obviously, President Obama, major movie stars, etc, are all public figures and are the subject of all sorts of things that would be considered defamation if they weren’t public. You should definitely seek the advice of an attorney on this one if you have questions. A great protection for fiction (but not fool proof if you blatantly defame someone) is to put, at the beginning of your book, some type of text block that says the contents are either products of the imagination or places used fictitiously. You can see an example of the one I put in 7 Scorpions: Revolution on the copyright page here (yes, that was a shameless plug, deal with it).
  • Copyright Transfers to Company: If you own your own publishing company (and you should if you’re self published, it’s easy to establish a LLC or S-Corp), you should consider transferring the copyright to the company. Realistically, you still own it but that takes any liability away from you and puts it in the business. I’ve already done this. When you register a new copyright, you will have to register it to yourself but in the registration, you can put in the transfer so it’s done right away. You will need to follow it up with some type of written and signed document, in case it’s ever challenged. If you have already created a copyright, you can do a copyright transfer (no formal process in the copyright office, just have a lawyer draw one up or grab one from a reputable legal site online, sign it, and submit it tot he copyright office, they have instructions on how to do this).

In summary, the expo was definitely worth it. There were other services available (appointments with agents and editors) but I wasn’t interested in them. If they hold it again in 2012, and you are either self-published or considering self-publishing, you might want to make your way there if you can.

Unexpected~A Viator Legacy Novel by Erin Lausten

       “Daughter,” he said, his voice rumbling deep and silky. It sent shivers of unease up her spine. Could she seriously be related to this rat?

     “You must be Nikki.” Hailey held out a hand. “I’ve heard so much about you.” Taken aback, he paused and she pressed her advantage. “So I hear you want to rule the world–or something like that.”

Dude!

Wow! What an action packed story that you won’t want to put it down! If you like action, thrillers, fantasy, time travel and the occasional bout of sexual tension between the two main character’s, you will definitely love this book. I feel honoured that this author allowed me a chance to read this book before it goes to publication.

This is the story of a woman who is leading a relatively normal enough life until a stressful event causes her to “disappear”. She wakes up in another time, on a pirate ship. She is about to be brutally attacked by the pirates when a strong, handsome man tries to rescue her. The stress of the event makes her disappear yet again, where she ends up in the middle of Nazi Germany during World War 2. Hailey has no idea what is happening to her, or why.

Dude! Enter a strong, young, handsome guy named Derian. He is a viator that is centuries years old, and Hailey is his charge, a novus. Hailey learns that she has some pretty amazing abilities, jumping through time being one of them. But Hailey is different from all the other viator’s. She has the ability to jump with objects and she can even jump to the viator’s main headquarters–the domus–where even Derian and the others can’t do that.

While hiding out, Hailey is kidnapped from Derian’s house. When she wakes up, she realizes that she has a sort of “leash” stuck to the back of her neck. The leash is an electronic-type device that prevents her from being able to ‘jump’ to another time to get away. Luckily another woman named Poppi, knows all about this apparatus. She had been kidnapped as well at one point a long time ago, but got away.

They settled in a heap of limbs and pain. Lot’s of pain. Centuries of experience told him his body would mend. Nothing serious or permanent had happened in the crash. But his certainty did not extend to Hailey. She was uncharacteristically quiet. He untangled himself and looked down to see her face blossoming with bruises and blood trickling from a shallow slice at her temple.

“Hailey! Leof, please wake up.”

     “Shit! I thought she’d land better than that.”

     Derian swung around to where Poppi stood beside them. “What the hell are you doing here?” She flinched at his tone, but he didn’t care. With a snarl he turned back to the woman that had somehow found a chink in his armor. The terror he felt at that moment was unlike any he had faced. No army or rogue was as daunting as losing her before he knew why her loss would haunt him.

I don’t want to give everything away, but bad guy, Nikanuur is after Hailey. Hailey was an experiment of Nikanuur’s and now he wants to know all that she can do.

I could go on. This book has so many twists and turns, making it a great novel that seriously, Dude, you won’t be able to put down. Just when you think you’ve read it all, and thought that the character’s couldn’t possibly go on, something else always comes up.

Who can they trust? Hailey’s great-grandmother, her father, any of the other viator’s? You’re going to have to read the book to find out the rest. Add in the character’s of Lucius (Magister), Nikanuur (Hailey’s father), Moina (Hailey’s mother) and Roderic (head of research), rogue viator’s and all the people who are trying to kill Hailey, and of course, all the time travel, this story has the makings of a fantasy bestseller.

And, while all this action is happening throughout the book, the sexual tension between Derian and Hailey grows. Every time they are together in the same room, you just want them to get together already. The sexual tension just makes the book hotter.

This book was beyond all my expectations. I was sort of expecting something like The Time Traveler’s Wife, (a book that was ok, but Erin’s is way better) but instead, was pleasantly surprised by everything in this novel. Erin has provided something for everyone and you won’t be disappointed. An excellent read, you won’t be disappointed in buying this book. Dude, out of five stars, I give this one twenty.

It was that good.

I look forward to reading more Viator Legacy novels from this author.

Reviewer’s note: I loved the “Dude’s” in this book…it reminds me of a girlfriend of mine who says “Dude!” all the time. Every time the character said it, I pictured my friend in Hailey’s place.

You’ve Got A Lot To Learn, Grasshopper.

Unbeknownst to Daniel, Mr. Miyagi was actually teaching him karate moves with his “Wax on-Wax off” motion. When the time came to fight, Daniel knew what to do, because of all the work he’d done at Mr. Miyagi’s house.

We all start out at the bottom of the totem pole, just like the executive who might have started out in the mailroom or cleaning toilets. Only a very few exceptional writers actually make it right out of the starting gate the first time and I’ll bet most of them probably weren’t that lucky. Case in point, J. K. Rowling.

One thing we shouldn’t do is ignore professional advice. If you can find someone who has “been there”, someone who will show you the ropes, to teach the craft of writing to you, you should jump on that chance. For goodness sake, don’t ignore it, disrespect or put them down. You might regret that someday.

Sure, reading a book about writing can give you some of the basics, but it can’t give you the personal advice of someone who is knowledgable, someone who has been around the same block a few times that you’re trying to get around once on.

Books can vary in their content, confusing the heck out of you. One book I read said that there should be some dialogue at the beginning of each chapter…to kind of pull you into the scene. Another one said that the beginning of the chapter should be  there for you to build up the scene with imagery and the surroundings. So, which one is right?

With a teacher showing you the way, you’ll find you’re a better writer for it. I’ve been blessed to find not only one teacher, but many teachers, published and unpublished alike, who have taught me more than what I could ever learn from a book.

Many people, myself included, learn mainly by doing. Oh sure, I’ve read several “How to write” type books, but my association with the Writer’s of Mass Distraction has taught me so much more than what a book could teach me.

No book is ever as encouraging as a friend, co-worker, teacher and advisor. I’ve learned from my critical colleagues what I’ve needed to change to make a story better, and maybe they’ve learned something from me. At some point, we make it to teacher status, in some way, shape or form. Just recently, an aspiring writer read my novel “Remember The Eyes” and was inspired to finish her own manuscript. I don’t know what I might have done to inspire her, but I was glad I was there to help.

Some writers have this pre-conceived notion that they know how to write already, without the courses and the degrees. I recently read a novella that was so poorly written, the author had obviously not taken the time to edit it. It looked like maybe a teenager had written it. Of course, maybe the thrill of the written word was all this person wanted (the book was free from Amazon), but obviously no teacher, or friend even, taught this author that just because you can self-publish, doesn’t always mean you should.

What makes a great teacher? How about a good student. If you’re willing to learn, then a great teacher will be able to get you where you need to be.

Some writers are the Never-Ending Mistake. Advice is given to them, whether it’s about a book that they have written or a question that they have asked, and you give them the information that they will need. Do they take it? No. And, therein lies the problem. Apparently the “Wax-on, Wax-off” method of repeating things to them endlessly, doesn’t get through to them.

I consider my colleagues here at WMD excellent teachers. Each and every one brings something to the table. As I said, I consider myself blessed to be in the company of such a great lot of wonderful teachers.

So, instead of reaching for that “how to” book, why not find yourself a teacher who will teach you all that you need to know to write a decent book. There are lots of Mr. Miyagis out there…you just have to go out and find one.

Thankfully I found mine.

Book Review: “Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual”

Self-Publishing Manual Cover Image

Dan Poynter is a very well-known self-publishing guru. Of course, the word guru is overused all of the time. Poynter has had much success as a self-publisher with his company Para Publishing and there is no denying he has a level of expertise in the field that not a lot of people have. This is why I picked up his Self-Publishing Manual, which has had several editions and numerous updates.

First, an overview. The book is laid out nicely and is extremely easy to read. It brings you through the process from conceiving of a book idea all the way up through production and distribution. Lots of imagery and examples are packed in here along with some quotes for good measure. Now onto the guts.

One of the falling points of most books that I have read or at least looked into in regards to self-publishing and/or marketing make the claim that these techniques are applicable to both fiction and non-fiction, but they are specifically written for non-fiction. That, of course, is a load of garbage. Marketing fiction has some major differences from marketing non-fiction. Fortunately, Poynter indicates up front that he is not an expert in the fiction market, which I appreciate. Being a fiction author myself, I will review this book mainly from that point of view.

The recommendations Poynter uses for researching and writing a book are pretty much geared toward non-fiction. There are a few items that may be of interest to a fiction author, but this is an area to skim. If you are a non-fiction author, this will probably work great for you as Poynter is obviously very organized and thorough. One technique any author can try, fiction or non-fiction, is to send query letters to agents and publishers, just to see if anyone thinks the book is viable. This is good, even if you plan to self-publish as their feedback could be quite valuable. Who knows, someone may end up offering you a huge advance that you didn’t expect.

Book production is a good section for any author to read who is planning on having an actual printed book. It gets highly technical but is good for you to know. Keep in mind, this edition is a few years old and was really written before the rise of print on demand (it’s getting less and less taboo, especially since some large publishers are planning on utilizing it in the wake of the eBook boom). He makes the assumption that you are going to have your own print runs, which you may do, but it will be costly. If you use a service like CreateSpace, even if you have your own publishing company, a lot of this is taken care of for you with an easy-to-use interface. Again, it is still probably a good idea for you to understand how the technical side works, just so you can understand industry standards and insure that your book looks and feels like a traditionally published book.

The marketing section is great for a non-fiction author but is only worth a skim for a fiction author. There are some marketing techniques that carry for all authors, but remember this book is specifically for non-fiction authors. Many of the techniques to rope media coverage are based off of expertise, which will not have the bearing on media for a fiction book as it does for non-fiction. Matter of fact, it’s the “expert author” angle that helps with a variety of marketing techniques for non-fiction. Readers of fiction, at least in what I have read and seen, don’t care what you’re an expert in. Matter of fact, Poynter indicates that it is, for the most part, easier to market non-fiction than fiction (ugh, too bad he’s right about that).

The section on reviews is quite thorough also. Again, there is some material specific to non-fiction but reviews are important for fiction also. Matter of fact, empirical research has been done on the effects of reviews on book sales and it does indeed have a huge impact. There is quite the extensive list of reviewers in here so have a look. Like any other book related to marketing or publishing, take opinions with a grain of salt. There are some points in here that I don’t necessarily agree with but others that I do. Actually, he specifically mentions avoiding paid reviews. In the last couple of years, paid reviews have been on the rise (within reason, see my posts on the mysterious review or getting reviews), especially since some of the big reviewers now charge money for their reviews (like Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly).

The biggest downfall of this book is simply that it needs another update. With the rapid changes in the industry, some of the viewpoints are a little old fashioned. You’ll probably be able to tell what those are. An example is distribution and booksellers. First, there are book selling chains listed that are not in existence anymore. Though Poynter does not overly harp on the importance of bookstores (even in 2007 he recognized the downfalls of brick and mortar bookstores), there is still a lot of information on getting into them, information you can probably skim if you are a fiction author (although if you’re curious on Barnes and Noble, see my earlier post on how I got my book carried by them).

Another issue here is one that is in most non-fiction. The viewpoint is skewed to what the author is trying to defend or is the main subject of the writing. That’s fine, just make sure you allow yourself to look at multiple viewpoints. A specific example is his opinion of the traditional publisher. He discusses an Indie author who ends up going traditional as “selling out” to a big publisher. Obviously, he’s an expert in self-publishing so that’s going to be his forte. There are ups and downs to each type of publishing and that includes traditional but there are plenty of people who have made a good living in the traditional world, as well as in the self-publishing world so don’t feel bad if you end up garnering the interest of a traditional publisher and going that route. Do what works for you, considering the argument over of traditional publishing vs. self publishing is not going to have a conclusive winner anytime soon.

There are supposedly some updates in the Self Publishing Manual Volume 2, which is a condensed book that goes side by side with this one. I haven’t reviewed it yet but I will and let you know. Regardless, this one still needs an update.

Conclusion: This book is worth picking up if you are self-published or are considering your publishing options, regardless of your genre and regardless of whether you are a fiction or non-fiction author. A non-fiction author will get more out of it but a fiction author will get a lot too. It gives you a look into the publishing world and provides some inside information that may help you in your decision. There is a ton of information and lots of examples you can use and it’s reasonably priced.

Amazon Author Central

Author Central is a free tool that Amazon offers to all authors whose book(s) are listed on the site. If you use no other feature of Amazon, make sure you use this one. I’ve been surprised at how many authors have no knowledge of this opportunity. It is quite a robust tool and it costs you nothing but it serves numerous functions. First, it adds credibility to your listing. An Amazon listing where the link to the author is blank is just one more item for someone to be hesitant over when they are deciding whether or not to try you out. Second, it is a great spot to post material about you and your writing (bio, videos, blog feed, etc). Though you may have this on your website, you can’t link to it from the book listing but you CAN put a lot of this Author Central page, making it more accessible (people can and will click on this link to check you out). Finally, the page gets picked up by the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc) so it’s just one more aspect of Search Engine Optimization.

How to Get Started:

If you are a published author and your book is listed on Amazon you can claim your Author’s Page without the assistance of your publisher. If you are traditionally published, there is a good chance your publisher already did this for you or will work with you to do it. If you are self published or subsidy press published, you are on your own so the instructions that follow will assist you.
Visit the Author Central page to create an account and “claim” your book. Login with the same email address you use when making a purchase on Amazon. The site will direct you on how to claim your book, follow the steps Amazon provides you with. This is very simple. If your book does not automatically appear refine your search and type in your book’s title followed by your author name.

Once you make your claim, Amazon will send you a verification email to authenticate you are the author of the selected book. Confirm this as soon as possible. Once Amazon receives your verification they will create your Author’s Page. Note this can take up to 7 days after verification is complete (although it usually takes an hour or two). After you have verified your account, you can add content and below is an explanation of that process.

Author Central Features

Author Central Toolbar

Home is the page you land on.

Books is where you actually “claim” your book. Within is an “Add more Books” button so you can add books after you publish them. All of your books that you’ve “connected” with your account will be visible here, complete with the number of editions (paperback, hardcover, Kindle, etc), sales rank, and average review score. If you have more than one version (paperback, kindle, hardback, audio, etc), the stats for the one with the best sales rank will be displayed.

Profile is the next big one. There are multiple sections here. For each, click the “add” or “edit” link (it’s in blue in the upper right corner of each section). In each circumstance, a window will pop up with specific instructions. They change them sometimes so the screens are not posted here, but it is quite simple to use.

  1. Biography: This is your author biography. It’s fine if you use the same one that you typically use; just remember to update it when it changes. I use the one from my website.
  2. Blogs: This feature allows you to start an Amazon blog. If you already have a blog, you can add the RSS feed here. You can add as many as you like so if you have multiple blogs, you can have multiple feeds. It creates a sort of 1-stop shopping and you do not have to copy your individual blog entries to Amazon. It can take up to a day for one of your new entries to make it to the Amazon page but it will go automatically.
  3. Events: Any author-related events that you have (speaking, book signings, etc), make sure to add them here.
  4. Pictures: This is where you can upload various pictures. Keep in mind that this is actually regulated, so make sure you have rights to these pictures (i.e. they’re ones you’ve taken or created yourself, no images of your favorite movie characters that you found on Google). If you have pictures of yourself from events, these are good to post.
  5. Videos: Just as with pictures, you must have rights to any video that you post here. Keep it book related so any video trailers for your book should go here. They allow videos of up to 500 MB so feel free to upload high resolution (although, depending on your connection speed, it could take awhile). They now allow more than one video to be posted so have at it. Remember, this page is indexed by search engines. From a SEO (search engine optimization) standpoint, video(s) increase the page’s rank.
  6. Twitter: You can add a twitter feed from your twitter account here. It only displays your most recent tweet. Make sure this is a professional twitter account. In other words, this isn’t the one you use to make obnoxious comments (which you should avoid doing anyway since anyone can see your tweets). You never know who’s looking.

Sales Info is a free tool for tracking sales. There is a map displayed here with areas shaded as to where your book has sold (hard copy only, eBooks are not tracked via this medium). The system uses a service called bookscan, which counts the number sold via several mediums, including brick and mortar stores (not all stores report to this service, but the big ones like Barnes and Noble do). The lined areas are “combined areas”. The population of booksellers in these areas is spread out to the point where reporting numbers may diminish the anonymity of the store reporting, so they combine these into one. Below the map is a bar graph which tells you the numbers per week of the last 4 weeks. The last graph is the charting of the sales rank. In this area, you can switch between the various formats and look at how they have done historically. You can change it from 2 weeks to 1 month, to “all available”. The key with this area is not to get too obsessed. This does not report every sale as Nook and other eReaders are not part of it, or every bookseller. Also, the books you sell on your own are not counted here.

Customer Reviews is a tab that shows a list of the reviews for your book(s). You can switch between the “short” view and the “full” view and you can also change the sort order.

Help is the last tab and this is where you go if you are having trouble.

Remember, this is not the same thing as your Amazon Profile, which is what you write reviews under, make purchases through, etc. This is what people will see when they go to your book’s page and click on your name, so it is important to have something for it.

Storm Chaser Shorts to be released in May, 2012

I’m officially announcing what many of you already know: In May, 2012, Whiskey Creek Press will release Storm Chaser Shorts, a collection of short stories featuring the characters from Storm Chaser. The 14,000 word work features 10 stories, and will be available as an e-book only — so save space on your e-readers/phones/computers/whatever the heck else someone comes up with between now and then!Here’s the blurb that sealed the deal for me:

Just like the weather, a person’s story changes all the time. Sometime it’s a romance, sometimes a comedy, and when things go badly it can be a fine line between action-adventure and tragedy.

Storm Chaser Shorts follows two converging stories. One involves the family and friends of Indiana State Trooper Chance Hamlin, who struggles to defend his hometown of Hurricane and his family from all manner of threats – whether they want him to or not. The other follows disaster photographer Allie Craine and those pulled into the wake of her passing, as she’s tailed by the shadowy and disaster prone Luther Magee.

Seven stories are set before, and three after, the events of Storm Chaser. Like the weather – and life – the tales are diverse, ranging from humor and adventure to what may be downright mystical.

After all, life with a Storm Chaser is as diverse as the weather.

Storm Chaser is still available through amazon.com, amazon.com.uk, fictionwise.com, whiskeycreekpress.com, and markrhunter.com., and in print on my website, at the Albion New Era and Churubusco News newspaper offices, and at The Bookmark in Fort Wayne.  Here’s a new review I just stumbled across:
http://longandshortreviews.blogspot.com/2011/08/storm-chaser-by-mark-r-hunter.html

And I found the video Emily made for the book here:
http://wn.com/Chaser_(novel)

Yes, I Googled myself. Don’t mock me!  As of today, Storm Chaser is still listed as #5 on the Whiskey Creek Press top 10 list.