Launching a Book! (Panic Room to the Left)

My first book is releasing in ten days.  TEN DAYS!!!  I think it’s safe to confess that I am completely and totally freaking out right now!   I still have to reformat my manuscript for distribution on Smashwords.  (Apparently, e-books don’t do tab indents.  The only way I start a new paragraph is with tab indents!  Maybe it’s my academic background, but tab indents are like breathing to me.  I don’t think about it; I just do it.  And now they all have to come out.)

It looks like my print copies will be arriving on the actual day of my release, so that’s a load off.  I’m doing a release party and book signing that Saturday here where I live, and it kind of helps if you actually have books to sign…at a book signing.  But now comes another problem–I ordered 30.  (I have to pay for this upfront, and I am NOT Bill Gates, you feel me?)  I figured that would be enough for my friends and family to get one to Oooh and Aaah over for a couple days and leave me a few to send out for promotion.  Well, since announcing the event, I’m getting a lot of great response. Even people at my day job that I wouldn’t have thought would be interested are saying they’re coming–and want a copy.   Is 30 enough?  Should I get more?  If so, how many more?  (Wait–how much money was in my checking account again…….)

Promotion.  This, I feel, is quite possibly going to turn out to be the bane of my existence.  I have a FB account and only FB for years.  I now have an author page on FB, this blog, and a Twitter account (when I swore for years I would NEVER “tweet”.  I have now had to eat those words in a very large slice of humble pie).  I don’t feel like I’m on any of these nearly enough. Not like all the other authors are.  Is this bad? Does it make a difference?  Heck, is anyone even reading this post out there?   I have no idea…the indie world is now a vast ocean filled with hundreds upon thousands of great books and crappy books and kinda-good books, and I’m over in the corner going “PICK ME!  OO! PICK ME! (For some reason, I saw myself as Donkey from Shrek just now.)  Then, comes my other fear–Dear God, what if they pick me, and they HATE IT.  Most people assume that authors fear not making any money.  I’m not afraid I won’t make a million dollars–I KNOW that won’t happen. My absolute fear is that this story I have enjoyed for 18 months won’t resonate with anyone.

The upside to promotion– a wonderful book blog I follow, Book Club Gone Wrong (check her out, she’s awesome!), was celebrating 1,000 likes on their Facebook page with a 12-hour author take-over.  I figured “what the heck” and submitted an interest form.  I really didn’t think she would select me to participate since I’m virtually unknown and am “technically” still not published yet.  Lo and behold, a couple hours later I got an email asking which time slot I wanted on the event!  I couldn’t believe it!  Turned out I was going to be the closing author.  Wow!  Then, the panic set in.  What was I going to post about?  What if everyone dropped off when my turn came up? (Boy, my mental panic room has been getting a lot of use lately!)  I did two giveaways, and let the rest of my posts be about letting the lovely folks know about Seeking Solace and about me.  They threw me some really great and serious questions about my writing process, how I’ve managed self-publishing, what inspires me to write.  It was a great conversation with people from all over the globe!  (I felt like a pin-ball machine at times trying to make sure I kept up with all the comments, but I loved it.)

The other thing I’ve been freaking out about–smut (or the lack thereof).  It feels like all the book teasers you see for contemporary romance are RACY.  Which, let me clarify, is NOT a bad thing.  I read those books.  I love those books. Here’s my thing–my books (at least so far) really don’t tend to get that explicit in the love scenes.  There’s physicality, but in the end, I leave the really good stuff to your imagination, not in black and white on the page.  So, the visuals on my teasers are rather tame.  My panic about this— are readers going to bypass my book because there isn’t some almost naked couple on a bed in the teaser or a naked male torso on the cover?  I hope not.  (The semi-pathetic flip-side to this panic— my mother is going to have a stroke if she ever reads this book. For her, my tame little book would be the equivalent of reading erotica.  At least in her mind.)

So there’s the freak-out going on in my head.  It will likely continue for some time.  Heaven help me!  In the meantime, I’m going to leave you with my 2 tame, but lovely (I feel) teasers.

Teaser 1

Teaser 2

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The Cover!!!!!!!

Cover Teaser

 

OMG!!  The cover is finally ready!  I must also here state that I am currently in a constant of vicious heart palpitations given my release date is 24 days away~!  So. much. to. do.  So. little. time.  But for the next few moments, I am going to sit here and grin.  This has been a long journey, but the end is in sight.

**runs off squealing like a little girl and throwing confetti everywhere**

Cover Art Victory!!

Do you remember my blog post from late October?  The one where my cover art plans disintegrated into dust.  Yeah, well that little disaster actually was a prime opportunity in disguise.  I knew I wanted to use a photo for my cover art, given that Seeking Solace is a contemporary romance.  However, the cover was going to require someone with a lot of contacts—models, stylists, etc.  I live in the middle of nowhere in Eastern North Carolina (Yes, we capitalize Eastern here; it’s a thing.), where in heck was I going to find that?  And on top of that, how was I going to find someone local who wouldn’t completely hatchet my miniscule budget.  (Key point to self-pubbing—budget, if you have one, is a prime commodity.)

So, after a week of wringing hands and muttering to myself about “What about I going to do?”, I made a contact through my local writing group.  I was able to meet with the owner of Siberius Photography.  He had the team, he had models, he had equipment, he had ideas.  This guy was the complete book cover package.  On top of that, he was EXCITED TO DO IT!  Bonus!  I mean, let’s face it…if other people can get excited about your own pet project, then the work they do for you is going to be even better than you anticipate.

There we are, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, setting up shop to shoot the picture that would become my book cover!  I hardly slept the night before.  Honestly, I felt like I was waiting for Santa to come!  We had managed to get a local pub to agree to let us shoot there, which was perfect since the majority of my novel takes place in a small pub.  Rich, the photographer, was there setting up lights and tripods and different equipment.  Elizabeth, the stylist, was bringing in wardrobe options and bags of makeup and hairstyling supplies.  Me?  What I was doing?  I was standing in the corner by a fake suit of armor, grinning like an idiot and trying not to get in the way.  (I was petrified of becoming “the annoying observer” and someone finally just yelling “Out!  You, just OUT!”  But they didn’t and were absolutely gracious about me being there and often asked for my input.)

Then, our models came in.  Elizabeth had already gotten them styled and prepped for the most part, and I wanted to jump up and down and squeal in delight.  I restrained myself…barely.  Kate and Kris absolutely looked just like my characters, Sarah and Bret.  One year earlier, when I was typing away at my keyboard—sleep-deprived, anxious, addicted to the story, and trying to finish my blasted novel in thirty days (which is INSANITY, people, glorious insanity)—and picturing these two characters, they were what I had been seeing in my head.   It was kind of surreal, watching them during the shoot.  They had a sweet chemistry (they’re married, which was just perfect to me given the novel’s story), and Kris would do or say something that would Kate laugh, or they’d have this expression as they looked at each other.  I was watching my story come to life in front of me.

I was nervous and awed at the same time.  It was just so right that I was afraid it was really just a dream, and I’d wake up still wondering what I was going to do for a cover photo.  But it wasn’t a dream, and I’m sharing with you a first look at what came out of that shoot.  This is NOT the cover for my book.  This is NOT even one of my teasers, but rather a little prequel of what is to come over the next month.

 

Leaning on Bar

 

You can check out Siberius Photography on Facebook at Siberius Photography and on the web at www.siberiusphotography.com .  Check them out.  They’re good!

Love Your Beta (and Other Thoughts on Self-Publishing from a Whirling Mind)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on my writing blog.  I find that I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to juggle this writer thing with the day job and still finding time to just “be me” and “have a life”.  Hopefully, one day I’ll get it all figured out, but until then, I hope those of you who are reading bear with me.  🙂

Since I’m going the indie route, I’m finding that I have to be all things to all people as I work towards publishing the first novel.  I am author, editor, secretary, finance manager, public relations staff, social media analyst, CEO, and I don’t know what all!  I’m in the middle of final edits to my debut novel, and in and around finishing those, I am also researching blog tours, who will take an ARC to review my book, which site is the best distributor for ebooks, Kindle Select—Do I?  Don’t I?, planning a release party, setting up my business name so I can collect royalties…. “ET CETERA, ET CETERA, ET CETERA (**cue Yul Brunner from The King and I here).

More often than not, I’m left just wondering if I’ll ever get it all figured out.  The successful indie authors I follow and love make it all look so easy and effortless, although I am positive they’ve been where I currently am at some point when beginning their life as a publisher/author.  The one thing I can say is that many of them have been so very kind to share their insights and tips and tricks with newbies like me out here.  That means the world to someone carefully inching their way down the path to publication.

The other thing I am finding is my life preserver in the ocean of self-publication—my beta-readers.  Do not underestimate the contribution of an excellent and thorough beta-reader.  At this point, two of them are more like critique partners than betas.  Line by line, page by page, chapter after chapter—copious notes and markings indicating what is working and also what isn’t and habits I tend to have with phrasing.  (Apparently, my characters were tending to blink and wink a LOT, also cocking/raising/lifting/wagging/shifting eyebrows.  I’m guessing when I was writing the original draft during NaNoWriMo I was giving them temporary Tourette’s or something… )

For a long time, I’ve been very apprehensive about giving my drafts away for first-looks and/or beta-reads.  You spend countless hours over many months crafting and writing a book that feels like it has become part of your soul, and you don’t want anyone else telling you it sucks (or your characters have so many facial tics going on that people will think they’re tripping on some kind of experimental drug).  It’s scary revealing this deeply personal work of art to the world.  It’s your baby, your “precious”, and you don’t want it harmed.   So I put it off for as long as remotely possible, afraid of what people would say about it.

Nevertheless, if I want to become a published author, then I have to eventually let people read my book.  So I finally sent it out to my betas.  Surprisingly, when I got my draft back, marks and notes on every line, I found that my feelings weren’t hurt.  I found that I was excited!  I was dying to clutch those pages to my chest, speed away home, and begin working on “my precious”.  Why?  Because I knew that going through the feedback would only make my story better.  The notations weren’t only just corrections or negatives; they were also positive comments on what was working or what my beta was liking.  I also found that many of the second thoughts or changes I had already been thinking about myself were often being confirmed by my beta’s notes.  That made me feel secure in the knowledge that I was in tune enough to the story to know what needed shifting and confirmed my hope that I wasn’t so attached to the story “as it was” that I would be too obstinate to make it better.  That in itself was quite liberating.  I have embraced completing this final revision of my novel and know that in the end, this story and these characters will be even more engaging and touching than I had originally conceived them to be.  Don’t be afraid of your beta-readers!  Love your betas!  (Especially if you have awesome ones like I do!)

 

**Publication update:  Seeking Solace now has an April 2015 release date!  Stay tuned for cover reveal and release day announcement!

**Meme credit to compositionatthebeach.com

Look Out! Curves Ahead!

Look Out!  Curves Ahead!

As some of you may be aware, I’m in the process of self-publishing my debut novel.  However, I must admit I haven’t completely given up on the hope of breaking into traditional publishing at some point.  In truth, I’d really like to settle into a hybridized career, doing both.  In the midst of this very laborious (and sometimes surprisingly fun) path towards publication, I have found that just when I think I’ve figured out my course, I’m suddenly facing a hairpin curve on the side of the mountain…my poor little novel-train desperately clinging to the tracks to keep from falling off the edge to its doom.

So far, they’ve been curves I can negotiate fairly simply by doing my homework and researching options or asking some of my growing network of author friends for advise and suggestions.  The biggest curve I’ve had so far, I think, has been the issue of cover art.  I’m on a budget, so naturally my initial instinct was to gravitate towards stock photography.  It’s certainly being used, and used successfully be a number of indie authors.  I selected a few shots that I just fell in love with.  They fit the mood of my story.  The models were remarkably similar to my main characters in physical appearance.  I scrolled through pages and pages of romance novels on Amazon, checking the cover art for any similar shots.  I wasn’t finding the shot I really wanted to use.  Paydirt!  I had my cover art.  About every two weeks since then, I had continued to monitor new releases on Amazon to make sure no one was using my photo.  Several months went by (during which I was editing and doing beta reads on the story), and my photo was still in the clear.  I’d become secure in what was going to be the cover to “my precious”.  (I totally turn into a slightly more attractive Gollum when it comes to my novel. It is “my precious”.)  I could see the title…what type of font and color I was going to use…oh, it was beautiful.  Then—disaster.

One of my FB author friends shared a post of someone’s new release.  There it was in all its horrifying glory.  My cover photo.  Or at least, a zoomed in portion of my cover photo.  My heart completely sank to the depths of my stomach.  I know some books have either similar cover shots or the same exact shot from stock photography, but I didn’t want to do that.  I didn’t want to use the same shot someone else already had.  Back to the drawing board for me, and I didn’t know what to do.  Because my novel is contemporary, I really wanted to use photography rather than drawn art for the cover.  Here goes the novel-train, barreling around the side of the mountain, and I can’t see the other side of the curve.

Here’s where networking everywhere you can is absolutely vital to moving forward towards becoming a professional writer (or anything else, really).  Through our local NaNoWriMo group, I remembered that the brother of one of our members is a photographer.  I had seen his work before and went back and checked his sites.  If this guy could work with my budget, he could my ticket back to getting a cover and finally setting a release date.  He had the contacts that I didn’t—makeup artist, costume designer, models.  After a very enthusiastic meeting, we decided to give this thing a go.  I’m about mid-way around the curve now, but at least I know that my novel-train will get to the other side of it.

He’s about to start shooting for my cover, and I’m excited to see what he comes up with.  When we get to the other side of this curve, I’ll give you all a sneak peek!!!

**Photo credit: https://southwestdesertlover.wordpress.com