Friday, August 26, 2011

Social Media: Don't Like It? Don't Use It

While dining with a friend of mine this past week, the subject of Google+ came up. Her reaction. "Oh God!  Another social media site I have to learn about and join!" As she is my very dear friend who also visits this blog, I didn't roll my eyes and ask, "Who says?" Instead, I told her, "You don't need to. They can't hunt you down and make you join."

Social media can seem overwhelming between all the "twatting" - thanks, my darling cousin and Vince Vaughn. With Facebook, MySpace, Foursquare and Tumblr, even this blog, doesn't it just feel like you have to be connected all the time? Well, no, you don't.

I say this as someone who loves Twitter. It's not intervention level just yet, but pretty darn close. I'm on Facebook, started a Facebook author page, and joined Google+. Still, of all of these social media sites, Twitter is my favorite. Why do I love it so? The connections. It's evened the playing field for me - where else could I chat with my writer gods, like Jeanne Kalogridis and Colin Falconer? I tweet while on my way to work, at work, on the way home, even on vacation. Two applications are always open on my PC: Outlook and Tweetdeck. Yet, when I'm busy with books, family concerns, the 9-5 gig etc. no problems checking out. Two extremes puzzle me - the true Twitter addict, who tweets everything in their life, and the Twitter recluse, who hides from this and other social media as if the bubonic plague went viral on the Internet.

If you do engage in social media, you have to do it well. My example? Be yourself. I share general aspects of my life, my work as an author, and articles that interest me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. If you're considering social media, remember, just be you. Let others know what you're passionate about, the things that fascinate you. Who knows, they might like them too.

Are you an active or inactive user of social media? Why? What do you love / hate the most about social media?

P.S. For my fellow authors on Twitter: want me to unfollow you? Then, I suggest you tweet about NOTHING except your books, your brand all day, every day. That's you, the author. How about you, the real person behind that Twitter account?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Help! The Blurb

I've already begged for help from my ever-patient beta readers and on Kindleboards, so now I'm asking YOU! Trying to decide on a blurb for Sultana's Legacy; the text will appear on the back. Drowning in the different versions, but I've narrowed down a few. Thoughts?

I'm thicker-skinned than most, so don't worry about offending me with your honest opinions. I just want to get the right feel for this book with the cover AND blurb.

Version 1
How far will one woman go in a quest for vengeance? Can love survive the test of divided loyalties?

In thirteenth-century Moorish Spain, the kingdom of Granada faces a bleak future. Fatima and Faraj have enjoyed peace and prosperity, until treachery brings a swift end to their happiness. A madman has seized the throne. He has killed almost everyone Fatima once held dear.

Fatima must preserve the enduring legacy of the Sultans of Granada, at all costs. Yet, her greatest triumph leaves her unprepared for the most shocking betrayal of all.

Version 2
How far will one woman go to avenge terrible losses? Can love survive the test of divided loyalties?

In thirteenth-century Moorish Spain, the kingdom of Granada faces a bleak future. A tyrant has seized the throne. His reign brings a violent end to years of peace and prosperity.

Now, Fatima risks everything to preserve the legacy of her forefathers, including the love and trust of her husband, Faraj.

Version 3
In thirteenth-century Moorish Spain, divided loyalties test the fragile bonds between families, and a husband and wife.

Amidst treachery and intrigue, Fatima must confront a once beloved brother. A power-hungry madman, he has seized the throne and murdered almost everyone she has ever loved.

To preserve the enduring legacy of her forefathers, she must also risk the years of trust she has shared with a devoted husband. The bitter consequences and a final, shocking betrayal threaten to undo her accomplishments.

Thanks for your thoughts!

P.S. Yes, you can even say "None of them work for me! Go back to the drawing board" PROVIDED you suggest one line where I can start. Remember, help is the operative word here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sultana's Legacy: Final Cover Art

Got the best email tonight from Lance Ganey, very brilliant cover artist. Sultana's Legacy is ready, at least the cover. The various elements of this book were a struggle to find and settle on. I wanted something that captured the darkness of the period, the sadness of my heroine, Fatima. It had to be a female figure that was similar in some ways to the one for Sultana, somewhat older and more world-weary, but familiar. Again, Orientalist art proved a goldmine. Then I needed a background. Fotolia was a great resource for royalty-free images. GIMP is also one of a self-published author's best resources; never thought I'd learn to layer but it happened.

First, here are the originals.

This is Femme Orientale by Jean Francois Portaels Belgian 1818-1895; available through an attribution license from Creative Commons. If you've seen the cover of Sultana, do you notice the similarities between the figure on that cover and this one? Amazingly, they were done by two different Orientalist artists.

Looking for a fantastic, royalty-free background for your commercial projects? Check out Fotolia.

The layered image. I reversed both the background and female figure, cropped the background and figure separately, and then layered and enlarged the figure to dominate more of the space. All with GIMP. Then I turned to Lance, for his magic. So, here it is:

The final cover final, FINAL with blurb. Lance added the font, which he had drawn for Sultana, enhanced the depth and created some drama. For the back, he used textures and patterns that compliment the front. As he explained, he was aiming for the effect of looking at a light source behind a thin curtain.

I love it. I almost cried when I saw it, but that's just because I'm a sap. What do you think?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Writer should be spelled W-A-R-R-I-O-R

Wow. I've slogged through the blood, guts, muck and mire over at one of my favorite boards this weekend. I feel just as bruised and battered by the experience as those who lived through and posted it. People in tears over 1-star reviews, writers vowing to quit, another episode of "vote that bitch down" AND the reviewer from hell can make anyone, even leather-skinned me, want to come in from the cold. 

Word of advice to you would-be published writers: bring your armor (your rational half), your best sword (your best BOOK) and your best shield (those people who will still love you even if you never write another word) when you step into this arena of publishing. You will need it all for your sanity. Arm yourself with a bit of patience, common sense AND business sense too, and you'll survive. 

What's waiting for you? Your worst nightmare. People who do not give two shits of a rat's ass who you are, what you think you've written and why they should read it. These trolls folks thrive on a writer's misery and guess who they'll eyeing be someday?

What's a writer-warrior to do?

1. Stop thinking of your book as your baby. A parent will do anything to defend their baby against all harm. Granted, even the fugliest baby in the world has parents who adore it. But's that all about your heart. I'm asking you to bring your HEAD to this fight. Your book is your BUSINESS. Sometimes, business stinks. Learn to recognize that it's about the book, not about you. Stop making things personal. Focus on the book - not the one you put out that the critics have almost slashed to death. It's already out there. The other side has seen it and judged its worth. Time to put that rusty sword away and come out swinging with another one, an even better one.

2. Stop giving other people control over your emotions just because they didn't like your book. I say this as someone who's received wonderful and piss-poor reviews in turn, so believe me, it will feel like crap when you receive the latter kind. Just remember you're in good company; all the great writers have a 1-star review too. Do not let anonymous or mean comments from people whom you will never meet or interact with face-to-face make you anything other than who you are. If you drop your armor, that rational side of your brain that should say, "This is one person's opinion," they've already won. Your next adversary, self-doubt won't be so easily defeated.

3. Stop judging your self-worth by your books. If I had to, I could walk away from self-publishing tomorrow with full confidence and no regret. Why? Writing is not my full-time career (not yet!) and it sure doesn't define my existence. It is a portion of the sum of my parts, not my whole being. Writers are so wrapped up in the lives on the page that sometimes, we forget the other people. You know, the real ones? The folks who loved you before you even thought of writing. Who will still care about you even if you stopped. Remember them? Keep them at your side cause they don't judge you by what you can do or write, but for who you are. You'll need them when the first form rejection, first bad review, first pittance in royalties comes in. Trust me, they are your best shield against what's out there.

For now, I'm waiting for you in the trenches. Come out fighting!           

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Great Self-Publishing Lie

Most people relax and go to the beach when they're on a tropical island. Apparently, I just have deep thoughts, such as the state of the great indie / self-publishing movement. Are self-published authors also independent publishers going it alone, with every intention of continuing that way? Or, are we putting our books on Amazon, while awaiting the “real” deal?

Are self-published authors honest with ourselves about what we really mean by going indie?

Someone once asked in Kindleboards whether authors there thought of themselves as indies for life. I do. My books will never have mainstream / commercial mass appeal, because they're foremost about people and periods which I find interesting. In six years, I've worked with two agents. Yes, that's past tense. My last "break-up" wasn't the most amicable, in part because my agent felt I wasn't patient enough. As of last month, she still wishes I would just stop all this “self-publishing nonsense” - her words, not mine. Right now, I’m not looking for an agent or publisher. That's my plain and simple truth. What happens tomorrow is anyone’s guess.

Each time another “indie” signs with a traditional house, I wonder, what motivated the decision? No, it's not just about dollar signs. The two-million dollar check doesn't go out the day after the deal. Is it the potential for increased exposure? Some of the recent signings are for authors I’ve never heard of – hard to believe in our little microcosm of writers, isn’t it? Does the cachet that supposedly comes from traditional publishing affect the indie author’s choice? Maybe. Are there people for whom the publisher’s name, not the author’s own, still matters? Sure. Judging by some of the best-selling indies, some readers don’t care.

As an aside, in my 13-month stint as a self-published author, only a former member of a critique group has ever asked about my publisher. When I answered, I should have also mentioned I was Hitler and Satan's misbegotten hellspawn, for the look she gave me. Still cracks up when I remember it. Anyway, I'm more likely to get questions about the cover art on my books.

What does an indie's crossover to traditional mean for authors who choose to remain indie, or see a new future in self-publishing? Some have passed on deals most would kill for, but they seem to be writers in two categories: (1) indies who make a boatload of money on their own and don't need a publisher's "help" or (2) established, traditional writers with a backlist, who've figured out they can control their sales 100%. A no-brainer, but it doesn't mean we'll all have that choice. 

There's only one real reason for me to surrender my indie-for-life card: marketing. Did I mention I LOATHE marketing AND would rather endure a root-scaling at the dentist EVERY DAY for the rest of my life(!), than spend time marketing my own work? Ok, now I've told you. If a publisher took me on and would actually market my work (I’ve heard this still happens with newbies, sometimes), I’d sign the deal. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't. Maybe.

I’d love to hear your opinion. In particular, what does the “indie” label mean to you?

P.S: M. Louisa Locke, best-selling, self-published author of Maids of Misfortune posted a FANTASTIC article on her blog this month, which sums up the current state for indies better than I ever could.

Time flies when you're having fun, or writing novels.

It's been a tremendous twelve months. A new job and health issues have impacted my writing time, but I'm still at it, trying to wrap...