Tag Archives: Keycon

A Mountain of Goals, Part Two

A guest post by Sherry Peters.

Cover image BlackBe sure to read A Mountain of Goals, Part One, published yesterday right here on the Fictorians.

I always knew that if I were ever published, I would do everything I could to make my books succeed. The same is true for self-publishing. I’m not going to do what I did with my previous book, Silencing Your Inner Saboteur, which I gave very little promotion (though I may be stepping that up soon as well), because that book was a bit of an experiment and a useful tool.

Once I made the decision to publish Mabel, I began doing a lot of research on the self-publishing/indie industry. It is my responsibility to make my book succeed. I have no one else to blame. Some days I love it. Some days it is incredibly overwhelming. My to-do lists are pages long every week. I could probably make a book of those alone once they’re all compiled!

Aside from the obvious “write the best damn book possible” advice, building a platform is the main form of advice. Platform means building a mail list, blogging, sending out a regular newsletter, facebooking, tweeting… to paraphrase William Shatner, it should be “all Sherry all the time.” I’m supposed to be super interesting and fun and likeable, and apparently highly opinionated in a likeable fun way. Now, I think I am a likeable person. I’m not sure how interesting I am.

What’s interesting about me? What do readers want to know? I’m not really of the generation that wants to know everything about my favorite author. Just write another book; that’s all I want from them. I don’t follow celebrities, and the only authors I friend on Facebook are the ones I already know personally.

You can get a lot of advice on pricing and giveaways, including free books. I must say, I find this a touch on the offensive side. Not that I’m actually offended by the idea, maybe just hurt or disheartened. I can’t imagine a traditional publisher putting out a book on Amazon for free for a day, or even at $0.99 for a day in the hopes of driving up the sales numbers. It feels like I’m cheapening my work, my product. It may be to my detriment, but I’m not sure I’m going to do that.

I realize that I’m at a disadvantage, putting out Mabel this August. I haven’t finished Book 2 in the series yet (though I’m hard at work on it). And putting out a single book means I don’t have what is called a product “funnel,” where readers can get the first book at a discounted price to lure them into buying the second book. That’s why I’m giving away three Mabel Goldenaxe short stories prior to the release of the novel as an incentive/thank you for signing up for my newsletter.

Promotion doesn’t end there, of course. I printed beautiful postcards (through Vistaprint) with the cover on it, and a “call to action”—for people to go to my website, sign up for my newsletter, and get a story—which I put out at my local convention (Keycon). I’m having my book launch at When Words Collide this August, and I’m going to have one at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg.

Promotion, then, is probably the biggest headache which all authors, traditional or indie, have to deal with. That is the reality of the business. Publishers have less and less money to give to it, so we’re doing a lot of the same things. The biggest difference is that traditionally published authors get distribution, and get reviewed by major newspapers (well, they can, if they’re a big enough name, or local, or a specialist). That is to say, most newspapers still won’t consider reviewing a self-published book.

What about the book production? I go for coffee every other week with a friend, usually to a Chapters, and half our time is spent looking at books. I’ve turned this into a great time for surveying what’s out there, what I like, what I don’t, what works and what doesn’t. It’s amazing how many crappy covers there are. And there are some spectacular ones. The artwork matters. It matters. It matters. It matters. So do the interior aesthetics. If the type is too small or too crowded, if it doesn’t feel good in my hand, I don’t pick it up. If the art looks like the pulp editors would have rejected it for being cheesy, I won’t pick it up. If I can’t read the title or the author’s name, I won’t look at it.

There are three main categories for YA covers. Take a look the next time you’re in a bookstore or on the Amazon/Chapters/Barnes & Noble websites. First we have the uber close-up of the face. Usually this means the focus is on the eyes or the lips. Sometimes this pulls out a little further to where we have more of the body, but part is cut out of the frame so it’s only half a face. Sometimes it’s just the torso to show off a plaid pleated skirt (a lot of pleated skirts on headless girls). These are usually in the genre of what used to be called “chick-lit.” I’m not sure what they would be called now.

Then we have the full body, most often with the back to the reader, the head in half-turn. This fits mainly into the urban fantasy or paranormal romance category. But not always. There are some like this that are much more pure romance, as evidenced by the character on the cover wearing a ball gown of some kind.

And finally, we have the symbol on the cover. I think this was made most popular by The Hunger Games. Divergent is another example of this. We see this much more often in the non-YA books, like the adult editions of the Harry Potter books, and the Game of Thrones books are going the same way.

Given the prose style and content of Mabel, I opted for the semi-close-up. I had intended to go with a symbol, but there were already a few books out there with axes on them and while it could be stunning and unique, I couldn’t picture it. So I did my research. I spent days researching fantasy artists, finding out about their work, their rates, etc. To be honest, once I saw Jordy Lakiere’s dwarves, I knew he was the one I wanted. I didn’t think I could afford him, or that he’d want to do a cover for me, but I took a deep breath and e-mailed. Needless to say, it worked out great. I love the Mabel he did for me.

Cover art, in some ways, is just the beginning. I wanted to put out the most professional book I could. And what do traditionally published authors have that indies don’t (besides distribution)? A copyeditor. So I did more research, and I happened to also know a good editor personally, Samantha Beiko. She posted on Facebook that she was looking for freelance editing right when I was looking. Budget, of course, was a consideration, but copyediting was an expense I was willing to pay for. She also did my cover design and the back cover copy.

While the production of the book is well underway (thanks to having done Silencing Your Inner Saboteur, I’m confident in doing the interior layout myself), the promotion is still my biggest mountain to climb. I’d call it a hurdle, but it’s more of a never-ending process. I hope that at some point down the road, I’ll reach a plateau of sorts where, as the gurus keep telling me, promotion will generate itself.

I was going to conclude by saying that I’m off to go learn more about building my platform, but I think I’m going to go work on Mabel, Book 2. That’s one of the working titles. The others are Mabel the Misguided Dwarf—or my personal favorite, Mabel the Mafioso Dwarf. But for now, let’s just call it Mabel, Book 2.

sherry1Guest Writer Bio:
Hailing from Winnipeg, Sherry Peters is a writer and a certified Success Coach for writers specializing in the areas of goal-setting and eliminating writer’s block. She has taught her “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” workshop online through Savvy Authors, and several Romance Writers of America chapters, and in person at When Words Collide in Calgary and Word on the Water in Kenora. Her book, Silencing Your Inner Saboteur, has sold internationally and has been recommended to graduate students at the University of North Carolina and the University of Winnipeg. Her first novel, a YA fantasy, Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf, will be available August 2014. She attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop and earned her M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. For more information on Sherry, her workshops, and her coaching, visit her coaching website or her author website.

A Mountain of Goals, Part One

A guest post by Sherry Peters.

Mabel coverThis was not my plan. A part of me still wants to be rescued from this and put back on the track that was supposed to be. But the more I learn about the business of self-publishing, the more I realize that even authors on the track-that-was-supposed-to-be have to go through much of the same. And I’m a bit of a control freak at times, so being in control of every aspect of publishing my book is fabulous and terrifying at the same time.

Making the decision to self-publish Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf (arriving August 9, 2014) wasn’t an easy one. I waffled on it for months. A number of factors played into my decision, most of them personal. I’d first seriously considered the self-publishing route at When Words Collide in 2013. I was chatting with my friends Adria Laycraft and Gerald Brandt, discussing the industry, when I declared that I would be launching Mabel at When Words Collide 2014. I didn’t finalize that decision until the end of February 2014.

What were the decisions? Most of them were personal, and I firmly believe that everyone needs to decide for themselves whether it’s the right route for them, and their particular book. But here’s what went into my decision-making process:

  1. At When Words Collide, I had taken a workshop with one of the Acquisitions Editors from Penguin Canada. She was very clear in saying that a lot of publishers now look at what is rising on the indie publishing bestseller charts. Those are the manuscripts they’re picking up, not necessarily agented ones. Why? Because the writer already has a readership—a platform—that has been proven. Guaranteed sales.
  1. I had an agent who doesn’t represent YA. I’d seriously considered revising the novel and giving her first dibs on representing it or allowing me to find a YA agent. That process is glacial, but I was willing to consider it. Until I remembered the seventy-five or so agents who had already rejected it (it is a much better novel now than when they read it), and most of those were YA agents, so what was the point? Of the agents who bothered to respond to my query, even asking for partials, fulls, and revisions, it seemed to come down to “it isn’t marketable.” This was before The Hobbit movie had come out. Perhaps I should have mentioned that Peter Jackson was working on making the movie in my query letter. Ooops.
  1. In March, due to serious health issues, my agent had to let me go. Yes, I’d already decided to self-pub at this point, but I was concerned about the six-month window to put out Book 2. As sad as it was for me to lose my agent, and I continue to hope and pray that her health improves, it freed me up to work on Book 2 rather than try and fail to get another manuscript to her. (She had another one, unrelated to Mabel, that she was shopping around).
  1. The Hugh Howey reports on Author Earnings were somewhat eye-opening. Sure, they aren’t perfect reports, and there are probably a million ways to question the data—people have done so on Facebook—but the bottom line is this: self-published books sell. It takes a whole lot of work, but they sell. It isn’t like the old days when you had to print a thousand copies and have boxes in your apartment taking up room and wondering why you weren’t on the bestsellers list or on Oprah’s Book Club.
  1. I have a decent-paying day job, and income from my coaching business. Printing books on demand is inexpensive, creating e-books is free, and I could afford a decent artist and a copyeditor without having to mortgage my home. I am by no means well off, but I do need to be economical in my grocery shopping, and I don’t have as much money for extras like going to a movie, but I’m easily willing to make that sacrifice for a beautiful, professional product that I can be proud of.
  1. This is probably the most personal part of the decision. I was tired of waiting. I can be really impatient about a lot of things, but when it comes to the publishing industry, as frustrating as it is, I accept the glaciality. Mabel has been a character in my head for almost nine years (as of the time of writing). She started as a joke, but she wouldn’t let go. I wrote stories about her. She became my Master’s Thesis, becoming a novel. Since grad school, I’ve had former classmates of mine ask about Mabel, wondering what was happening with the novel. I’d put it in cryogenics, likely to never see the light of day again. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let her go. And neither, apparently, could my classmates. So I had some of them read it. I also contacted a few teens to read it, to see if it was worth putting out there, if it was, indeed, marketable. Their feedback was phenomenal, and a resounding “Yes.”

Between August 2013 and February 2014, I wrote a first draft of another novel, editing Mabel from what had been my M.A. Thesis at Seton Hill University, and researched self-publishing—not a lot, but enough to make the decision and feel that it was the right one.

Publishing has always been a career choice for me. That is to say, I have always wanted a career as a published novelist and I strive daily to be as knowledgeable and professional about it as I can. That’s why I attended Odyssey and Seton Hill. Have I made missteps? Absolutely. For one, I really wish I’d learned how to write short stories better. But that was a somewhat conscious decision on my part, not to focus on short stories.

I have always done my best to be disciplined in my writing, because I truly believe that while I can take all the time I want to write my first book, once I sign that contract, I don’t have the same freedom, and all my excuses for not writing won’t play with an editor and a deadline. The sooner I eliminate those excuses, the better shape I’ll be in when that contract comes along. But that contract isn’t coming, and so I’m self-publishing.

Now I need to be more disciplined than ever.

Come back tomorrow and join Sherry as she dives headlong into the myriad everyday goals and decisions she now faces as a self-published author.

sherry1Guest Writer Bio:
Hailing from Winnipeg, Sherry Peters is a writer and a certified Success Coach for writers specializing in the areas of goal-setting and eliminating writer’s block. She has taught her “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” workshop online through Savvy Authors, and several Romance Writers of America chapters, and in person at When Words Collide in Calgary and Word on the Water in Kenora. Her book, Silencing Your Inner Saboteur, has sold internationally and has been recommended to graduate students at the University of North Carolina and the University of Winnipeg. Her first novel, a YA fantasy, Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf, will be available August 2014. She attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop and earned her M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. For more information on Sherry, her workshops, and her coaching, visit her coaching website or her author website.

Conventions: Not Just for Gamers and Cosplayers

A guest post by Sherry Peters.

I’d been writing science fiction and fantasy for a number of years before I attended my first local SF/F fan convention. I’d hemmed and hawed over attending it for several of those years. Often I forgot what weekend it was on. I didn’t think I knew anyone who went, and as an introvert I’m usually not great at introducing myself to new people, so I wasn’t keen to put myself in that awkward situation.

In 2008, an acquaintance of mine, a fellow alumnus of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, posted in the Odyssey email forum that she would be attending Keycon with some of her friends that year, and that Keycon was hosting the Aurora Awards, the top fan-voted award for science fiction and fantasy in Canada.

As usual, I’d been thinking about going to Keycon, but wasn’t really sure until I saw her email. Throwing caution to the wind (she might be a closet serial killer, or I might be), I contacted her, said that she could stay at my place for free, if she wanted, and we’d go to the convention together. It was probably one of the better decisions I’ve made in my life, especially in my life as a writer.

You see, there’s a fairly large writing community here in Winnipeg, but most of the science fiction and fantasy writers stay hidden, unknown to each other. I knew a lot of writers in Winnipeg, but none like me, until I went to Keycon. That weekend, I attended every writing/literary-oriented event on the program. I made a lot of friends, all of whom are writers, including my current best friends and writing group.

Over the years since 2008, I’ve made many other good connections through Keycon, with established writers and editors. I’ve also learned a lot about the fan community and the place of writers in fandom. I’ve even gone so far as to volunteer to plan the literary track of programming for the 2013 convention. (One of the best years for literary track programming ever, if I do say so myself.)

Some years, your local convention will be better than others. They are planned by a committee of volunteers which changes from year to year. Off-years should be expected. But even on those off-years, there’s always something to be gained by attending, even if it’s the Saturday evening dinner with your friends and fellow writers.

So, why should you plan to attend your local convention?

  1. It’s a great opportunity to meet other writers who live in the same city as you. Writing is a solitary occupation, usually. This one weekend of the year, the party is in your backyard. You get to meet with others like you. The possibilities for networking and shop-talk are endless.
  2. Volunteer to be on a couple of panels, or to do a reading. This is a great way to get your name known among the fans in your city. Remember, these are the people who are going to read your work and create a fandom out of it. They’ll be your biggest fans and be the ones to spread the good word about you to others.
  3. If the programming isn’t great, hang out in the hotel restaurant or bar. That’s where the other serious writers will be. While the connections may or may not be as big as the kind you’d make at a World Fantasy Convention or WorldCon, depending on the guest of honor and attending list, they could be just as important to you. We know from World Fantasy Conventions and WorldCons that all the good stuff happens in the restaurant and bar. We’re trained that way, so hang out there when you have an hour or two of down time. And while you’re there, be open to sharing a table with others. You may just find yourself sharing a glass of wine and a laugh with your favorite author, dream editor, or number one fan.
  4. The Dealer’s Room. As a book lover, not much more should be said. However, at a local convention, you’re not just going to find books in a Dealer’s Room. There will be all kinds of other retailers there as well. It’s fun to see what’s going on in the fan world, and maybe pick up a few souvenirs—and books.
  5. The Dealer’s Room. Of course, this is also the place where your books will be sold. Frequent the room, sign books for the dealers (and your fans after your panels), and be friendly with the book dealers. If you’re self-published and thinking of getting a table of your own, remember that not everyone is your ideal reader; you’d rather they buy your book because they’re interested, not because they’re guilted into it. So be friendly, have someone to help you run your table, consider tag-teaming with another author or two, and enjoy meeting new people. They’ll buy your book because they like you, not your sales pitch.

One final note, as someone who has planned literary programming: often it’s only as good as its panelists and attendees, so if you find that your local convention hasn’t had great programming in the past, then get yourself and your fellow writer friends on the panels and in the audience. Contact the programming committee with your ideas for panels and what would help you get the most out of your weekend. And don’t forget to visit the convention suites (also known as the themed party rooms)!

Most of all, enjoy your local fan community. It will soon become an annual must-attend event.

sherry1Guest Writer Bio: Sherry Peters lives in Winnipeg, where she works as a Life Coach for students at St John’s College at the University of Manitoba, and spends her evenings and weekends writing. Sherry is a trained Life Coach specializing in the areas of goal setting and eliminating writer’s block. She attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop and earned her M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She credits the year she spent in Northern Ireland as not only being one of the best years of her life, but for being a daily inspiration and motivation in her writing. For more information on Sherry, her coaching, her book Silencing Your Inner Saboteur, and when she’ll be presenting her workshops, visit her website.