Tag Archives: Sojourner Tales

The Magic of Jutoh

jutohAs I said about Scrivener in my previous post, Jutoh is also a software program that can make you cry with joy or frustration…probably both. In both cases, I had to spend a lot of time on Youtube, forums, and the help page in order to figure it out. Other than the fact that they’re both extremely useful, the similarities end there.

Jutoh is a program designed to take your already written book from word processor format to ebook format, and it does its job well, including links, artwork, font, drop-caps, etc. You can write within the program, but I wouldn’t generally suggest it. My only exception to that might be game design. When I put together my game module, The Hologames, for Sojourner Tales, I outlined the game elsewhere but because of the intra-document links required, it worked well to do the writing within Jutoh.

jutoh sampleThough I don’t generally use the program to write, I’ve never seen a program that can compile ebooks better, especially if you want some professional touches. To the right, you’ll see an example of a book manuscript in progress.  This is the way it will look in epub format. This is a rough version, and I’m not finished with it yet, but it should get the point across. I can use graphics in my title or with my title, drop caps are a cinch, I can customize page breaks, etc.

When I’m done assembling my chapters, copyright page, title, contents (all linked, of course), glossary, author page, etc. I hit the “Compile” button and it puts everything together in the format of my choice: epub, mobi, ODT for smashwords (yes, this is a little different), and a number of other formats. I find that running my book through Jutoh then sending it back to Word  in odt even makes for a cleaner document to prepare for pdfs and paper publishing markets.

Loading a document to createspace or kobi can be a fairly easy process, but often there are mistakes that you won’t see until your readers point them out to you. After compiling, Jutoh has another handy button, “Check.” Though problems that don’t really exist might come up, it tells you that it’s not likely a real problem. And real problems always come up. Wouldn’t you rather deal with them before you send your book out to the world instead of finding something you need to fix months after readers’ annoyance.

Last, but certainly not least, is the “Launch” button. With the download of a couple of other free software programs, Jutoh allows you to view your finished document in mobi, epub, and other formats. I can’t tell you how many mistakes I’ve caught just by looking at my book as it will appear to readers. It may be aggravating to fix, but it’s nice to get that aggravation over and have the confidence of a well-done product when you launch.

Last year, I won the first-ever IndieRecon Live Total Package Book Award. I credit much of that success to Jutoh. I put in a well-written novel, and Jutoh helped me knock out a great looking format. The combination allowed me my blissful moment of fame.

How about you? What’s your favorite way to get your book out into the world?

Bio: Colette BlackAuthor Pic
Colette Black lives in the far outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona with her family, 2 dogs, a mischievous cat and the occasional unwanted scorpion.  She loves learning new things, vacations, and the color purple. She writes New Adult and Young Adult sci-fi and fantasy novels with kick-butt characters, lots of action, and always a touch of romance.

Second Person? Yes, You Can

SojournerOne of the infallible rules that I’ve always been told is that you can never write a good story in second person. First person stories let us see the character in depth from a single person’s point of view. Third person, while not quite as personal, allows us to easily switch viewpoint characters and see the world from multiple points of view. But second person? Who wants to read a fiction story that keeps taking the reader out of the story by insisting that they are the character. “You went to the store. You bought a gallon of milk. You chugged it down so fast you made yourself sick.” Nope. Doesn’t work. But can it?

There are two scenarios in which I think second person works beautifully. First, is the choose-your-own-story scenario. These are books, sometimes online and sometimes sold in stores, where the storyline can change according to the choices the reader makes. I haven’t read many of these. Okay, maybe only one, but I’ve seen calls for them. One online publisher in particular–I can’t remember the name–wanted stories for YA girls. It seems that many of these girls enjoyed a second-person story with a bit of romance and adventure, where they could decide how their story progressed and how it ended. I think there’s some value in this. Just as first person, present-tense, makes a story more immediate, second-person can make it more personal. There’s a unique opportunity to entertain while teaching about the inevitable consequences to our choices, especially if the story is done realistically well.

Another scenario, my current favorite, is writing for games. After struggling for over a year with the technicalities of creating a story for the board game, Sojourner Tales, I finished the module, The Hologames. It’s a take off my Mankind’s Redemption series, going back to the early years of one of the side characters, and introducing the inception of one of the series’ fun elements, the hologames and hololympics. The story modules are written in second person, present tense, and like a choose-your-own-story, the players select the direction in which the story proceeds. There are a lot of great reasons to present the story modules this way:Hologames (2)_smaller

Second person makes the game feel like a personal adventure. In A Knight’s Tale, you are the one trying to find the princess. Will you find the clues, get lost in a dungeon, eaten by a dragon…? In The Hologames, you’re trying to win prizes and glory along with your chosen partner. Will you pick human or alien, which species, what battle themes, and will you select the right environments to win? Second person increases the fun of the scenarios.

In a board game scenario, having the story in second person coordinates with moving tokens, having unexpected events, and the eventual closing chapter and game conclusion. They integrate well.

By putting a tell-your-own story with a board game, Tracy Hickman has brilliantly made a game that can be played multiple times for each story module and the players will have a slightly different game each time. It may not be strategy with the complexity of Twilight Imperium, but the inherent variety is an interesting twist on traditional board games. It’s a lot of fun.

So, never write in second person? Generally, no, but when given a chance to take a risk and step outside the box, I took it. It’s been a great ride.

Bio: Colette BlackAuthor Pic
Colette Black lives in the far outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona with her family, 2 dogs, a mischievous cat and the occasional unwanted scorpion.  She loves learning new things, vacations, and the color purple. She writes New Adult and Young Adult sci-fi and fantasy novels with kick-butt characters, lots of action, and always a touch of romance.

Kicking out a Kickstarter

NobleArk_Left ThumbnailKickstarter is crowd-funding, right? Not promotion. It’s more than both of those things. Let me explain.

So, you have a finished novel and you want it to see the light of day. You have some options: get an agent to love it and leave it in their hands, go directly to a publisher, or publish it yourself.  My book, Noble Ark, had gained interest from agents and then found a wonderful one. She was putting the book out to the different publishers, but I pulled the book before I’d given it enough time to sell, deciding to self-publish. I loved my agent, but she’d told me herself that she wasn’t a Young Adult agent and everything else I had written, and was writing, was YA. So I decided to seek traditional publishing for my YA material. My New Adult book, Noble Ark, I would self-publish.

This is where Kickstarter comes in. It’s crowd-funding to help make artistic projects happen while giving back to those who contribute. I particularly like this explanation from the About Kickstarter page, “Mozart, Beethoven, Whitman, Twain, and other artists funded works in similar ways — not just with help from large patrons, but by soliciting money from smaller patrons, often called subscribers. In return for their support, these subscribers might have received an early copy or special edition of the work. Kickstarter is an extension of this model, turbocharged by the web.”

Why take this route?

1) Funding: Who can afford the costs that publishing companies put out for a book? And trust me, you WANT to compete with these publishing companies. With Kickstarter, everyone comes together to supply that funding, while everyone gains something from the process. It’s a win-win.

2) Promotion: What better way to get friends, family, and fans involved with what you’re doing. They have a stake in it, because they’re making it happen. This is exciting stuff, people! And getting everyone involved is what we’re always doing as writers, and what we’re talking about for the month. This is the essence of promotion.

3) Connections: As I let people know about my project, I’m connecting with friends and fans that I’ve been too busy to stay in contact with. They have busy lives, I spend all my free time writing, and we understand how that happens, but those good intentions to talk or get together have continued to fall by the wayside. Kickstarter has given me an opportunity to reconnect. It’s also given me a topic of conversation to create new friendships. Who knew that the receptionist at my car repair shop is an artist? She asked about my weekend, I mentioned putting together a Kickstarter, and now we both have new fans. Her work is edgy and interesting and I wish I’d known about it sooner. (Find her on Instagram at: thee_empress23)

Since this is promotion month, let me make some suggestions on promoting a Kickstarter. Many of these come from Kickstarter guru, Heidi Berthiaume, who will be putting a book together–via Kickstarter, of course—on how to run and promote a Kickstarter. Her help has been invaluable. (Full Discolosure: some of these suggestions come from Kickstarter and many are my own opinion.)

  • When you get close to release, let your fans know that a Kickstarter is on the way. Take this opportunity to introduce them to the concept.
  • Don’t think you can put up a post on fb or twitter and be done. This project is professional, but also personal. Send personal notes, email or IM, to everyone who might be interested. Make sure they understand the basic points: they pay nothing unless the funding goal is reached, there are pledge amounts to fit any budget (make sure that’s true when creating pledge amounts), full funding is required in order for your project to go forward.
  • Don’t ask for help, ask for participation in your great project. Focus on rewards they earn in the process of bringing your art to life.
  • Ask for help. Contradictory, I know, but this means go to the professionals you’re friends with, who already have marketing venues: the people with blogs, podcasts, etc., and ask them for suggestions. They’re familiar with getting the word out and may be able to help you find other avenues for promotion.
  • Don’t overwhelm, but don’t neglect. You don’t want every word people hear out of your mouth, or read on fb, to be Kickstarter. Put up regular content, but don’t harp on the cause. At the same time, people need to be reminded. Add something to the Kickstarter and let people know it’s there. I’m considering lengthening my video, and/or adding some bloopers. Throw out the occasional progress report. Get a short video from your editor or artist, talking about why they’re excited about your project and post it. Remind people in interesting ways that aren’t annoying. Remember, you still want these people to be your friends, whether they participate or not.
  • As it gets close to the ending date, build momentum. This is when the posts might come a little closer together, as you encourage everyone to reach a little farther to get the goal, or to attain a stretch goal. This is where you might put in add-ons, individual rewards people can add to what they’re already getting, in order to build interest. The perfect example of this is Tracy and Laura Hickman’s Sojourner Tales Kickstarter. It finished with over 200% funding, but in the last couple of weeks they were putting in add-ons, offering video chats with the authors participating in upcoming stretch goals (like Kevin J. Anderson), and put up a you-tube game play sampler. And they made sure everyone knows they can still join in by going to their website.
  • Almost forgot this last important bit—timing. Don’t start a Kickstarter in the middle of a government shutdown. A lot of people who would have contributed, have told me they’re waiting for the shutdown to end so they have a paycheck to work with. December is also usually not a good time for a Kickstarter, as everyone is thinking about Christmas. So think about what is going on in people’s lives and time your Kickstarter better than I did.

I hope this helps some of you understand Kickstarter a little better and be prepared to make a success of it. Another suggestion the Kickstarter team makes on their website is to participate in funding a Kickstarter before you start one. I volunteer mine, because I’m nice that way.


If you want to know more about my Kickstarter process, you can go to my blog, Black Space, where that will be my focus for the month.