Archive for November, 2011

Being Indie Part III — One Man Band, by Tony Healey

Posted on: November 27th, 2011 by Carrick Publishing

“Being Indie” is more than just a business model. For many of us in the writing and artistic community, it’s a state of mind.

This week, as part of our on-going series on the “Indie Experience”, we’re pleased to introduce you to our friend and fellow-author Tony Healey, who shares his unique vision on what Being Indie means:

One Man Band ~ by Tony Healey

Writing is a solitary pursuit. Every writer knows it. Sure, I might discuss a story with friends and family,using them as a kind of sounding board for my ideas, my doubts and for when some kind of epiphany hits… but apart from that, in the long space between those moments, the writer is alone on his or her journey. And there is only one true destination: the unknown.

Even with an entire novel fully plotted-out, down to every chapter and every scene, the course of the story can change. The river meets a boulder that you didn’t anticipate being there and ends up going somewhere totally unexpected. You set off heading East, but before you know it you’ve taken a wrong turn and you’re back facing West, in the direction you came from.

When you sit down and start tapping away, unfolding each beat of the story as if it were a little mystery-trinket wrapped in coloured paper, you don’t know what you’re going to find.

The journey is a ponderously lonely one, and as an Indie writer, that doesn’t really change once the work is done. Because the work is NEVER done.

Unless you’re using a high-quality service like the one offered by Carrick Publishing and others, there is no publishing house to fire your book off to. There is no editor (unless you’ve arranged for someone to do that for you). There’s no promotion team, ready and waiting to pimp your book to the masses as the *next big thing*.

You’ve gotta do that yourself. You have to make sure it’s the very best it can be; that it doesn’t like it’s put together by an amateur. It has to have that BIG PUBLISHING HOUSE LOOK that says quality, time and effort. And more importantly that the consumer is getting value for money by buying your book, whether it’s an ebook or a paperback.

There is no publicity but that which you create and cultivate yourself. A friend of mine, the author Russell Brooks, has been promoting his book CHILL RUN for about a month now, prior to its release, pulling-in reviewers and beta readers. He’s building word-of-mouth and securing people to post reviews of the book on the major sites (Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, etc) and their blogs. And it’s a good plan. He could have published it straight away. But why not build that anticipation for it first? You might as well have a game plan going into it. It’s one thing to finish your book and get it ready to reach the masses… but who’s going to bring the masses to you?

You can’t fish with just a hook and line. You need something for bait. In a way, YOU are that bait. You’re the draw. If you don’t get off your bottom and sell that book YOURSELF then it won’t get sold. Indie writers like Russell know that, as do Donna and Alex Carrick. If you don’t shout from the rooftop about your book then nobody else will.

I’m a contributor to the short story anthology Kindle All-Stars Presents: Resistance Front. Amongst about 31 Indie writers are two heavyweight A-listers Harlan Ellison and Alan Dean Foster. They got involved because it was for a good cause. Every penny from the sale of the anthology goes directly to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. But even with two such titans of publishing attached, it’s still been a slog for everyone involved to build that essential word-of-mouth. Only we’re slightly more fortunate. There’s not just one person shouting about it. There’s over 30. So, we’re hoping, our collective voice will be that much louder.

Still,will people hear it? Who knows. Maybe. I hope so.

Either way, I know one thing: WE’VE SHOUTED SO LOUD AND SO LONG OUR VOICES ARE GONE.

And that’s what you need to do. You’re a one man band… on your own.

Start shouting.

Tony Healey can be reached at:
Twitter: @fringescientist
fringescientist.com
http://www.kindleallstars.com

Being Indie – Part II: Why I became an Indie Author ~ by Steven M. Moore

Posted on: November 20th, 2011 by Carrick Publishing

At Carrick Publishing, one of our greatest joys is the interaction we’ve experienced with our fellow authors. Some are self-published, some traditional, and another fast-growing group are published via Independent publishers.

Our guest this week is one such author, SciFi Thriller writer Steven M. Moore, who recently joined Carrick Publishing with his “Clones And Mutants Series”, including Full Medical and Evil Agenda (Carrick Publishing 2011).

Without further ado, we’ll introduce Steve and let him tell you, in his own words, what it means to him “Being Indie”.

Why I became an indie author… by Steven M. Moore

I’ve been writing all my life. I finished my first novel in the summer I turned thirteen. It wasn’t very good (most first novels aren’t), although it was similar in plot to the movie City of Angels (the “gender” of the angel and the protected human were interchanged and there was a Revelationary war that took place). It landed in the circular file when I cleaned out my room to head for college. Up to a few years ago, my fiction writing was limited to many short stories and many sketches of ideas for novels—like many erstwhile writers, I had a day job that allowed me to better provide for my family. I never stopped writing on the job either, but the techniques for writing, reading, and editing scientific reports and papers are usually not topics taught in an MFA program (maybe they should be?).

When I became more serious about waltzing down that yellow brick road to writers’ nirvana about seven years ago (I was still at my day job), I thought I knew what it required, namely a good product (i.e. an interesting and original MS), an agent interested in pushing the work, and a publishing house willing to give me a contract and provide the editing, cover production, and marketing to make my book a success. What I just described is now called “legacy publishing,” mostly by its detractors. I have learned during these last seven years that the legacy publishing paradigm will go the way of the dinosaurs (thus becoming a detractor). As much as we might not want it to happen for sentimental reasons, bookstores will too, especially those big brick boxes with their coffee and pastries, establishments that are tied by an unsnippable umbilical to the legacy publishers.

It’s not a wild guess to say that most indie authors followed this tortuous route, perhaps coming to the same conclusion a long time before I did. Nevertheless, let me outline what circumstances contributed to my decision by critiquing the steps in the legacy publishing process, i.e. examining what is now wrong with that business model. First, there is the observation that the general assumption made by legacy publishers is flawed. They assume that there are other important elements in the process besides readers and writers. “Readers rule and they demand new and interesting content” are the first two commandments in publishing. The writers’ job is to provide that content. There might be other people between writers and readers, but these people are unnecessary middle people who really don’t deserve money from readers or writers.

Legacy publishers have forgotten these commandments or distorted them so much that they’re unrecognizable. They think they have the power to determine what the public should be reading. They did—but not anymore. They have platoons of agents who act as gatekeepers—they know what the publishers like. Note that I didn’t say they know what the reading public likes. No one can know that. There are just too many cases (Grisham, Clancy, and Rowling are three famous ones) where the agents and/or publishers got it wrong. They probably get it right relative to what the publishers want more times than not, so they do the job asked of them—for the publishers, not the writers or readers.

I danced the legacy publishing paso doble for a few years (this Spanish dance is often associated with bullfighting—the bull is the legacy publisher, in this case). I’ve had an agent that kept one of my books for a year and tried to sell me on another year’s contract—he wouldn’t show the list of publishers that he approached, so I Trumped him. I’ve had an agent that, after a successful query (i.e. I received a positive response), asked for the full MS to read. She liked it but couldn’t imagine any publisher that would be interested—she Trumped me. Other agents either didn’t bother to respond or else stuck a form letter in my SASE (there were even a few PostIts). I can’t remember any agent who said anything helpful like she thought my MS needed this or that. At best, there was just the polite but firm, “I’m sorry, but I can’t use this material right now.” I soon developed the following practical rule: after 50+ form rejections, I would put the MS in a drawer and forget about it. I became the pathetic image of the “Cancer Stick Man” on X-Files.

B.D. (“Before Digital”) there was no alternative to the legacy publishing paradigm. Now there is. When I discovered POD (“Publish On Demand”) I had already come to the conclusion that there was a fatal flaw in the traditional paradigm. Instead of readers determining the authors and genres they want to read, agents and publishers were determining them. If you think back to authors like Charles Dickens or Edgar Rice Burroughs, or even the dime novels lauding the exploits of the heroes of the Old West, the reading public had more of a direct participation in making an author famous. These popular stories appeared in serialized form long before they became bound and released as normal books.

Let me clarify that POD is not the same as vanity press. This was the old alternative to legacy publishing where the author paid for an expensive print run comparable to what a publisher might have given him. It was expensive and B.D. left the poor author holding many books that he couldn’t market effectively. (The beauty of POD and the digital revolution in general is that it’s a natural for internet marketing, but more about this later.) Consequently, my first books were POD trade paperbacks. Those dusty old manuscripts in my desk drawer began to come in handy—I still have a backlog of material, in fact, thanks to many rejections from agents over the years.

I still believe that an agent could be a tremendous help if she would focus on the writer and his potential readers. Many have some kind of literary training or a “sixth sense” about what an MS needs. Their focus on the publishers was determined by the almighty dollar and probably still is, but, as time passes, they will become dinosaurs too, unless they focus either on writers or readers or both. The problem right now is that there is no other mechanism to protect readers from a bombardment of schlock—there are certainly not enough reviewers out there to do the job. With the digital revolution, almost anyone can write a book if he puts his mind to it. How is the poor reader to know whether a book is worthwhile? Remember Sturgeon’s Law (I will touch on this theme in my next post.)

This problem is exacerbated by the tremendous gain in popularity of eBooks. For me, as a writer, the eBook is liberating. I can prepare one for release at a fraction of the cost of a POD book. I can control the price and have sales that aid in my marketing. POD trade paperbacks tend to be more expensive than legacy publishers’ (but they also cost less to produce, so someone is getting the money). I was always worried about that price differential. eBooks have become such bargains that they’re also liberating for the reader. They’re today’s versions of the Dickens or Rice Burroughs novel!

You say, “But the legacy publisher pays for all that marketing!” Yep, I see those ads in the NY Times and those trailers on TV, but I also see the authors. Those ads correspond to already established writers, ones with a proven track record, what one publisher called “the sure thing.” Your average legacy publisher won’t spend money on marketing for new, unproven authors—they rarely have such authors in their portfolio anyway and, when they do, they’re on their own for marketing.

I have gone completely eBook now. Writers like Konrath and Eisler have confirmed what I had already learned—I’m much more in direct control of my own destiny with eBooks. My books will be listed in online retailers many years longer than an author’s books in a bookstore that enjoy an average stay of only a few months. I can gift one of my eBooks to a reviewer and avoid all the hassle with the U.S. Post Office. I can manage prices and create sales of my books. I can spend more time writing, producing new content to titillate my readers. It’s a brave new world and I feel more in control than ever.

Steve Moore is a full-time writer who has written six sci-fi thrillers, one of which is a novel for young adults (many released as eBooks via Carrick Publishing). See his website http://stevenmmoore.com for a full bio, a list of his books, free short stories, and a blog where he often posts reviews and comments about current events and the business of writing.

On Being Indie — by Catherine Astolfo, author of the Emily Taylor Mystery Series

Posted on: November 13th, 2011 by Carrick Publishing

At Carrick Publishing, we’re pleased to have forged friendships with a diverse community of creative people, writers in particular, who share our enthusiasm for excellence. Not all of our writer-friends are Indie, but a good number are independently or self-published. Their drive to share their stories outweighs any obstacles they might encounter on the way.

This week, we’d like to welcome crime-writer Catherine Astolfo, author of the Emily Taylor mystery series. Her new book, The Bridgeman, is now available at fine retailers.

On Being Indie — by Catherine Astolfo
Being independent, according to the dictionary, means self-governing, free from the control of another, and self-reliant. Being Indie, in the publishing world, has more often been synonymous with being vain and inferior. I’ve had many a heated discussion with published authors re the self-published phenomenon, arguing that “being under the control” of someone else does not necessarily equate with quality.

I was interested in the opinions expressed by John Locke (the guy who sold a million ebooks) in his book, creatively titled, How I Sold A Million Ebooks. He compared self-publishing to the computer world and asked, if we think it’s vain and inferior to put money into our own creation, then why don’t we criticize people like Bill Gates who funded their own inventions initially? I thought it was an excellent point of view.

I went “Indie” because I began my publishing career after thirty-five years of doing something else (so I could eat, live, etc.). In the interim, several of my short stories and poetry were published in small literary magazines around Ontario. After retiring I’d sent my novels off to several large publishers and actually came close to being chosen. Close, but not close enough. It was my daughter, who works in the film industry, who suggested going Indie.

I resisted at first, but I’d already built a small fan base, so I figured why not? And here’s where the rewards came in.

Being Indie meant I could design the book the way I wanted. A friend painted the cover. Another friend designed the map inside. (I love maps in books.) Luckily I have a great number of friends in education, so they were fabulous editors and proofreaders.
When I opened that very first box of The Bridgeman, the first Emily Taylor Mystery, I actually cried.

Being Indie meant I could have parties to flog the book and pocket the entire profit. (Not that there was much, to be honest.) But oh, it was fun. Signing my books, getting feedback, reading aloud the words I’d created – it was a thrill that can only be compared to watching your child succeed. A lot of work, but worth it.

When The Bridgeman won a Brampton Arts Award, I was excited, humbled, and ecstatic. My picture appeared in the newspaper; I went on the local Rogers television station. I wrote and published the second Emily Taylor book, Victim. This book received rave reviews from a respected book reviewer, Don Graves of the Hamilton Spectator. I was Indie, but I was successful. I went on to complete the series with a total of four books, all of which sold well. Later I became the President of Crime Writers of Canada. Another great experience.

But there was a caveat to all this Indie fun. I continued to feel second-class. Whenever anyone would ask, who is your publisher? I felt obliged to explain. Moe Publications, though a registered publishing company, has only myself as a client. Many people still believe that the adage a “lawyer who defends himself has a fool for a client” applies to publishing, too.

Was this a lack of confidence in my product? Not at all! I’d received enough accolades to know that my books are well written and well loved by lots of people. The inferior feeling came from a steady judgment by some published writers that condemned the entire Indie movement as a watering-down of the quality of literature.

I beg to differ. James Joyce, Mark Twain, Beatrix Potter, John Grisham, Deepak Chopra, Gertrude Stein, Edgar Allan Poe, and e.e. Cummings all self-published. Many famous books were turned down by various publishers hundreds of times. In this economic climate, there are fewer publishing companies and even fewer who can take a chance on a new author or an unorthodox (creative!) novel. It makes sense to self-publish. To go Indie. Some authors have even gone from traditional to Indie because their publishers either aren’t publishing fast enough or because they aren’t getting enough of a return on their work.

It’s time we gave respect when it’s due. Try reading an Indie book and see what you think. Just this year, I was lucky enough to find a publisher who took a chance on my books and has converted them to eBooks. Imajin Books’ publisher and acquisitions editor, Cheryl Tardif, has taught me so much about marketing and has transformed a good product into a great one. I’m no longer Indie, though luckily for me my publisher still encourages her authors to be self-reliant and self-governing. But I’m proud to have been independent and won’t be a bit daunted if I go that route again some day. I’ve read an enormous number of beautifully written stories published by the authors. As they say, don’t judge the book by its cover (where it states: self-published).

PS I’m running a contest, so if you buy one of my eBooks, let me know!
The Bridgeman is available at:
Amazon.com
At Smashwords
At Imajin Books www.imajinbooks.com
cathy@catherineastolfo.com

Catherine Astolfo, Author of the Emily Taylor Mysteries
www.catherineastolfo.com

What’s with this 99¢ e-book Craze?

Posted on: November 6th, 2011 by Carrick Publishing

There’s been a lot of discussion in author chat groups recently regarding the flurry of Free and 99¢ e-books available through Amazon Kindle, Smashwords and other e-book retailers.

Within the writing community, opinions on the matter appear to be split. Traditionalists argue the low-priced and free e-books are undermining the value of quality books.

Meanwhile, many independent authors and publishers are thrilled with the trend, convinced that, while these prices may not be designed to garner maximum profits, they are a potentially powerful ticket to expanding readership.

At Carrick Publishing we don’t claim to have all the answers. In fact, we encourage our authors to set their own prices, experiment and employ strategies that will work for them.

After all, we don’t claim any portion of their author royalties. This means they are free to move their e-book prices up and down as they see fit.

With regards to our own 14 titles, the mysteries by Donna Carrick and the short story e-books by Alex Carrick, we only know what works for us.

And what ‘works’ is keeping e-book prices low, while offering a small selection of Free titles for Kindle, Nook, iBooks and Sony.

Before an author can decide on his most effective business plan, he must first be certain of his goals. We took a good, hard look at ours, both short and long term.

What we realised is this: we’re in the writing and publishing industry for the long term. We view our current efforts to reach readers as an investment. We’re not looking for a “get-rich-quick” approach to writing and publishing. We’re prepared to spend time, effort and even money to establish ourselves as authors and publishers of quality books and e-books.

So for us the current trend toward 99¢ e-books is a golden opportunity. Do we make a ton of money on these e-books? No. But what we gain is far more valuable.

Slowly but surely we’ve laid the groundwork for our business. We’ve reached out to a base of quality readers we might never have connected with had we set our prices higher.

We’re thrilled to discover that many are repeat readers.

We believe firmly in the unique bond that is forged between author and reader. A good book is a connection that, once made, lives on within the reader’s memory.

We also believe in the power of reader satisfaction. Word of mouth is an Indie author’s best form of advertising.

That’s why we work so hard to present quality novels and stories in a format that is readily accessible at extremely low prices.

Again, I’d like to emphasise that we don’t have all the answers. What works for us, low prices combined with a great deal of elbow grease, may not work for someone else.

But it does work for us.

Thanks to the technology of Kindle and Smashwords, we can publish an e-book without lengthy delays. It can be downloaded by a reader thousands of miles away within minutes, and that reader can connect with us through Social Media to share feedback!

It’s a brave new publishing world out there. And make no mistake about it: the road to success is not an easy one.

But if you’ve got the time and the talent, the tools are available.

Our advice to writers: Get out there and publish something. Get your feet wet and find out what works for you.

If, in the process, you discover that you need our help, we’ll be happy to hear from you!

Best in writing,
Donna and Alex Carrick