A Time for Being Thankful

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I’m coming to the end of a beautiful fall month of having fun with family while my blog has ticked along in fine style. I have some big thanks to send out.

First off, to my wonderful guests – Patrick O’Scheen, author of Dreamer and Seer; Laekan Zea Kemp, author of Breathing Ghosts and Kevin Brennan, author of Yesterday Road. Having these three authors on my blog, discussing their work and the self-publishing industry, has been a real treat. I’ve had the chance to read three thought-provoking books, learn a few things and I’ve gained a number of new followers thanks to my guests. I’ve had a great experience opening up my blog to other voices. I highly recommend the practice.

Next, a huge thank you to Carolynn Arnold over at Celebrating Authors for the author interview she did for me and the great twitter traffic that has resulted from that post. (Which, by the way, is still going on!) Please pop over and check out her site and my interview.

I want to send out a big thank you to The Fussy Librarian. Yesterday, Disappearing in Plain Sight was one of the book selections featured on The Fussy Librarian’s daily email. This new site is connecting self-published authors with readers. Indie authors often go on about the difficulties we have getting our books out in front of readers. Our blogs, Facebook author pages, and Twitter feeds are jam-packed with other authors (and that’s great, don’t get me wrong) but we often wonder how to connect with readers. Well, this new site is solving that problem. Why not pop over and sign up for their daily email alerts. You let them know what you like to read and every day they pick a few books for you.

And thanks to all the bloggers I follow for your patience. I’ve had time here and there to check in with some of you but I haven’t seen all the great posts I wanted to.

Finally, thank you to my two beautiful granddaughters for making this month fly by in a whirl of fun and delight.

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Brit checks out the corn maze at The Laity Pumpkin Patch

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Emma stops for a well deserved rest during a wonderful walk checking out all the great fall sights – including this amazingly beautiful bee hive!

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Oyster Books–A Raw Deal for Authors? Guest Post by Kevin Brennan

 

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Thank you, first, to Francis, for asking me to contribute a post to her blog. She maintains such an eloquent tone here that I’m a little afraid of tarnishing the silver, but since she reads “What The Hell regularly, I’m sure she knew what she was getting into!

 

As a self-publisher with a newly released novel Yesterday Road I’ve been exploring lots of ways that writers like Francis and me can find and attract readers, so at first I was intrigued by a new concept in “book delivery” – Oyster.

Have you heard of it? No? You will, and probably sooner than later.

Oyster has been described as a Netflix for books, and it works like this: Subscribers pay $9.95 a month and get to browse, download, and read as many books as they want. Pretty simple. And, you can imagine, pretty attractive to a certain kind of reader. According to the web site, there’s “No limit to the number of books you can browse or read simultaneously.”

Currently, subscribing is by invitation only, though you can request an invitation here. As yet, Oyster is a mobile service for iPhone and iPod Touch. The developers are promising an iPad version of the app soon, with something for Android coming down the road. So far, readers can choose from over 100,000 titles, mainly from HarperCollins, but that’s expected to increase when Oyster works out deals with the other big publishing houses. A deal with Smashwords is also in the works, and that’s where we come in.

The practical question is, What’s in it for the writers? Mark Coker of Smashwords, on the verge of releasing a statement with details on the arrangement, claims it’s “an author-friendly deal, so I think you’ll be pleased.” It will be interesting to see what Mark considers “author-friendly” compared with our own sense of fairness.

In the long term, will it be better to sell individual copies of our books via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and other online systems, or to participate in server-based distribution like Oyster? The closest real-world model is not really Netflix so much as Spotify for music distribution, and believe me, musicians are not happy with the payment structure there. Anecdotally, some songs getting streamed hundreds of thousands of times yield the rights holder less than twenty bucks. I fear that a service like Oyster will begin, or rather continue, to devalue the product it’s ostensibly supporting.

But what is that product? Is it really books? If you get a chance to read Jaron Lanier’s fascinating, Who Owns The Future, you’ll get a glimpse of the hidden foundation of the new economy – what he calls Siren Servers. These are the monopolizing entities that control the flow of information, and they don’t care about “product” (or compensation of the content creators) so much as influence and reach. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple — they’re all about big data, centralization, and making themselves indispensable. Just as the recorded music business has essentially collapsed thanks to the Siren Server phenomenon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see publishing fall into that black hole as well. Newspapers are already there.

The Oyster model fits right into this idea. It isn’t selling books per se but rather access to a trove of books. Individual titles will yield some level of micropayments to the authors — probably already-popular names — but there’s no way to know yet whether they will be mere tokens or might actually pay some bills for less well-knowns.

Laura Hazard Owen, who wrote a detailed piece on the app in the online publication GigaOm says, “Oyster wouldn’t get into details with me about how it’s compensating publishers and authors, and wouldn’t state whether newer, more well-known titles are getting better royalties than older ones.” Frankly, this reticence makes me think we’re looking at more of a Spotify model than a royalty system based on copies viewed (as if they’d been sold). Would you rather, as an author, receive a few pennies per view or a set percentage of cover price per copy sold? And what will count as a view? Completion of a book, or the downloading of more than a sample? It seems like these little details will matter.

Another angle altogether, though, is the exposure we might gain by hopping aboard a potentially popular trend. Oyster will have a recommendation algorithm much like Amazon’s, so an unknown writer might well gain some new eyeballs in that lottery. Readers browsing by category could pick up an indie writer’s novel on the basis of cover art, ratings, and books that it appears to be similar to. That’s not a bad thing at all.

I suppose we have to face facts, here in the early part of the 21st century. The game has changed. These “advances” are coming, and we’re not in control. Sure, we can advocate for our own interests and fight for a fair deal, but most of all we have to stay educated and make sure we understand the marketplace.

We don’t really have a choice, do we? The successful independent writers will be the ones who learn how to use these new tools to their advantage. Oyster is probably just the beginning of a new paradigm.

Additional links:

Business Insider

Tech Crunch

Publishing Perspectives

Links to Kevin’s work

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Yesterday Road on Amazon.com – right here

Yesterday Road in other formats – right here

 

 

 

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Our Children Are Not Our Children on Amazon.com – right here

Our Children Are Not Our Children in other formats – right here

 

 

Kevin’s book, Parts Unknown, is available directly from the author – right here 

Kevin can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Blogging Pal – Kevin Brennan

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Today, I begin a two-part series on the work of self-published author, Kevin Brennan. I’ve been following Kevin’s blog – What the Hell – for a while and I enjoy his eyes-wide-open approach to the whole self-publishing industry.

 

 

Things are pretty exciting for Kevin right now. He’s in the midst of a book launch forYesterday Road photo his latest novel – Yesterday Road. And hasn’t he created a fabulous cover? I’m looking forward to the read – just downloaded it today. You can pop over to Kevin’s blog and read the first chapter and see what you think, then follow the links to purchase.

Yesterday Road on Amazon.com – right here
Yesterday Road (other formats) – right here 

 

 

Our Children photoI recently reviewed another of Kevin’s work – a book of ficlets (isn’t that a neat word!) – Our Children are not Our Children. I thought I’d share that review.

A trip through the disturbingly selfish realms of the parental soul

The price is right for a quick read – load it onto your e-reading device before you commute to or from work and you’ll have an engrossing read that is well worth the effort. Brennan takes the reader on a trip through the disturbingly selfish realms of the parental soul. Fathers seem uncaring and, at times, cruel – mother’s selfish and unavailable. The writing style – from a story of straight dialogue with no quotation marks at all, to the man packing for a dangerous mountain assault, running through his list of supplies, everything that happens around him described with the extended metaphor of the climb – rushes the reader along to the conclusion of each piece, breathless to turn the last page. The stories pick away at our own parental composure. Let the one free of sin, cast the first stone.

Again, follow the links to purchase.

Our Children Are Not Our Children on Amazon.com – right here 

Our Children Are Not Our Children (other formats) – right here  

 

Kevin can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. His first book, Parts Unknown, is for sale direct from the author – right here.

 

Tomorrow, in part two of this series, readers will find a guest post by Kevin. He has done a great expose on a new self-publishing resource called, Oyster. You’ll want to read all about what this new service might and might not offer to self-published authors.

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Disappearing in Plain Sight – Indie Book of the Day

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A strange thing happened the other day when I was goggling Disappearing in Plain Sight by Francis Guenette. You might be wondering why I was doing this. I read a tweet by a woman saying that she goggled her name and the title of her book and found, to her horror, that her book was being pirated on about five different sites. I decided to see if I shared her fate. Okay, I admit it – I was a bit jealous and sort of hoped worried someone might think my book was worth pirating.

Anyway. I didn’t find Disappearing in Plain Sight being pirated anywhere, but I did find something else that was super exciting Open-mouthed smile

On June 23, totally unbeknownst to me, I was Indie Book of the Day over on the Indie Book of the Day site. I’m sure they sent me an email that, somehow, I missed. This discovery felt a bit like finding buried treasure. What a pleasant surprise.

I’m not one to let a small thing like a four month delay get in the way of my bragging rights. Ergo this post, plus a few Tweets, and a Facebook author page announcement. Oh, and check out the cool badge that came with the recognition. A badge is pure joy to the heart of an indie writer.

Thank you Indie Book of the Day people – just sorry it took me so long to clue in. Have any of you ever had an experience like this – recognition of some type that you totally missed?

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Just had to share this one – these two granddaughters are too cool.

Guest Post–Choosing Self-Publishing by Laekan Zea Kemp

bio1As writers we know about solitude. We know that it’s an essential ingredient to cranking out a first draft and we know it’s the birthplace of some of our best ideas. We’re comfortable there and maybe even relish in it. I know I did. But solitude can also be the birthplace of our greatest adversaries—self-doubt, guilt, comparison. When we’re alone with our thoughts we don’t just make masterpieces, we make monsters. And the truth of going it alone, of becoming an indie author, is that we’re often forced to fight these monsters alone.

There’s a lot of freedom that comes with choosing to self-publish. I control the look and feel of the final product from every paragraph and chapter heading to the cover art to the blurb. I have final say during revisions. I can genre hop or create new ones. I can explore any topic I want. I can write for me. Those are the things I love about being indie. But along with the freedom and absolute control, I also shoulder all of the responsibility. Because if I fail, I fail alone, and I’m forced to pick up the pieces alone.

If you make the choice to go indie there will be no cheerleaders glancing over your shoulder, no team of PR people behind you doing the grunt work or telling you it’ll all be worth it. You’ll spend months refreshing your sales page or Goodreads reviews with nothing new to show for it. You won’t make a dime and you’ll second-guess all of the money you spent on copy-editing and cover art and marketing that could have gone to something else like groceries or gas. You’ll feel discouraged and like you made a huge mistake. And you’ll want to give up.

But if you really want to be a writer you won’t quit. Because even though there’s no one in your corner, reassuring you or stroking your ego or cutting you a check, you should still believe in yourself. You have to. That’s what separates the successful career indie authors from the failures and one hit wonders. To make it, there is just one secret. One rule. You have to know your own voice and even more than that you have to trust it. Absolutely.

So when that voice says to you, I am a writer, believe it. Follow it. Do whatever you have to do to live out that purpose even if that means self-publishing because you couldn’t get a traditional deal. Even if that means going it alone with no support from friends or family. When you’re called to be a writer it’s not a dream, it’s a responsibility.

This means making a commitment to write every day or every weekday or while you’re sitting at your daughter’s gymnastics class or waiting at the doctor’s office or riding in the passenger’s seat on a road trip.

It also means making the commitment to hone your craft whether that’s through a degree program or free classes at the community center or by reading books on craft or joining a writer’s group in your area.

And even though some people might not agree, it should also mean investing in you and your work financially. Invest in your skills, invest in professional cover art, and, if you can, invest in an environment that’s conducive to creativity. Buying yourself a new laptop or a new desk—these are the kinds of things that let the universe know you’re serious. They remind you that you’re serious too.

Self-publishing is a slow and thankless pursuit. And even now, a year after self-publishing my first book, I’m still not seeing the kind of results I’d hoped for. Sure, there are writers out there hitting it big with their first book. But those people are lucky. Like winning the lottery lucky. That’s not real life.

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone considering self-publishing it would be this—be sure. Be sure that this is what you love to do. Be sure that this is what you were meant to do. Be sure that even if you never made a dime, you’d still write every day. Because that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. You’ll churn out book after book, fingers crossed until one of them finds an audience. That might take six months or that might take six years but sitting down in that chair and writing is the only way to make it happen.

There are no marketing tricks. In fact, I’d say forget marketing altogether until you have some kind of backlist. That should be your focus. I didn’t plan my first blog tour until the release of my third book. Why? Because if I do get lucky and finally find my audience, what’s going to keep them from forgetting about me in a couple of months? Prove that you’re in this for the long haul and readers won’t be afraid to invest in your books.

That’s really the only strategy you need. Be honest with your readers, provide them with a quality product, and thank them every chance you get. No gimmicks. No marketing tricks.

Write. Invest in yourself. Write some more. And be good to your readers.

The success you achieve from this strategy might not be monetary but if you choose to look at self-publishing as the ultimate form of self-expression, then you will be rich beyond your wildest dreams. Because these are the things that I’ve learned from self-publishing—your belief in yourself should be unwavering and if you treat success like an inevitability, it will be.

I haven’t sold thousands of copies of my books. But I do have the privilege of writing every day and I have reached more readers than I could ever have imagined. And to me, that’s a huge success. Because regardless of the scale, I’m still fulfilling my purpose. I’m still a writer.

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You can find Laekan’s newest release, Breathing Ghosts, right here.

Check out her blog – here.

Laekan can also be found on Twitter and Goodreads.

Many thanks for this great guest post!

Writer and Explorer Extraordinaire–Laekan Zea Kemp

bio1Today’s post will be the first of two featuring writer, Laekan Zea Kemp. She is author of three self-published books. Yes – I’m serious – three! I’m thinking this young lady must be doing more than a few things right in the writing world! I’ve been following Laekan’s blog for a while and when she recently put out a call for bloggers interested in hosting her as part of a blog tour, for her new release, Breathing Ghosts – I bit. I found myself wondering why this approach to putting together a blog tour had never occurred to me. Just ask the people who already follow you. After all, they follow you for a reason, right? How brilliant is that?

I purchased her book, read it and did a review.

Breathing Ghosts by Laekan Zea Kemp

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Feel like going on a fast-paced, quirky journey of emotional self-discovery?

In her novel, Breathing Ghosts, Kemp does an amazing job of exploring the varied dimensions of grief through the eyes of her troubled protagonist, River. The reader is drawn along with the suffering young man as he literally journeys through the painful loss of his dead girlfriend, Nia. For years, Nia worked on a map in the desperate hope that she and River could escape the boxes that their families were determined to seal them into. After her death, River runs wild across state after state, chasing Nia’s ghost, finding a few friends along the way and dropping in on the most out-of-the-way, quirky tourist attractions one can imagine.

The author allows River and Nia’s story to unfold, over the course of the young man’s journey, through a series of well-placed flashbacks. They have been high school sweethearts but, two more opposite young people one is not likely to meet. Nia is a born adventurer. In her own words – she is not afraid to get lost in things that might disappear. River is trapped in a web of intergenerational dysfunction that binds him to an emotionally unavailable mother and a violently abusive step-father. River is filled to the bursting point with fear. By the end of the book the reader longs for the same lesson River so desperately needs. “Because maybe the truth is we are all made of star stuff.” We have to let go of the past and move forward – there is no other choice.

Kemp brings it all to life with stunning descriptions. This little gem is Bourbon Street in New Orleans, “. . . the sulfur smell of the pier dribbling in with hints of cayenne and gasoline . . .” At another stop, River learns that, “Makin’ things ain’t about being right or wrong. Makin’ things is about takin’ a piece of you and leavin’ it for the rest of us to find later.” Kemp has certainly taken these words to heart and has given us a stunning piece of her own imagination.

I would recommend this book for mature young adults and for anyone who wants to go on a fast-paced journey of emotional self-discovery. And just check out that cover art – a perfect fit for the story.

Breathing Ghosts is available through Amazon.com – check it out here.

You can find Laekan on Twitter and Goodreads as well.

Tomorrow, Laekan will appear on the blog for a guest post. I’ve asked her to share some of her experiences along the self-publishing journey. Please stop by and hear what she has to say.

21st Annual Writer’s Digest Annual Self-Published Book Awards

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Entry Title: Disappearing in Plain Sight

Author: Francis L. Guenette

Judge Number: 45

Entry Category: Mainstream/Literary Fiction

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

Structure and Organization: 4

Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 3

Plot (if applicable): 3

Character Development (if applicable): 4

Judges Commentary*: This novel seamlessly weaves together a coming-of-age story with several coming-of-middle-age stories. All of the characters in Disappearing in Plain Sight are compelling and complicated people. By making Caleb’s death the central tragedy of the novel, the author does a great job joining together each character’s struggle. Lisa-Marie is, necessarily, a bit more problematic in terms of incorporation into the central narrative. However, her jealousy of Izzy, her pursuit of Justin, and her struggles with Beulah help make her story often as compelling as the adult’s.

However, I did not understand the function of having multiple point of view shifts in each chapter. Shifting from Lisa-Marie to Beulah, for instance, could help progress the plot by showing us what another character sees/remembers. We move so frequently from one character to the next, though, that we often get the same information repeated, and it’s difficult to tell how much time has elapsed between shifts.

Finally, Liam’s comforting of Lisa-Marie was highly problematic for me as a reader. There was nothing in Liam’s character prior to the incident that would have suggested this possibility. I had a hard time accepting that he was able to stifle his desires for the age-appropriate Izzy because she was vulnerable, but was not able to see how what he did to Lisa-Marie had the potential to traumatize her.

*Commentary may be quoted as: “Judge, Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards”

There you have it – Disappearing in Plain Sight’s official judge’s evaluation from the Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards. Sure, it would have been nice to score all 5’s and win a big prize – like a trip to New York and maybe an interview with a hot agent. (By hot I mean established with a good track record for landing great book deals rather than hot on any other scale – LOL).

I am very proud of this evaluation. For me, it represents an objective take on my work and, as a writer, that is more valuable than gold. Okay, I’ve got to run because I want to pour through The Light Never Lies for possibly confusing point-of-view transitions and/or repetitions.

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