Several days ago, I clicked ‘save’ then closed the document on the first draft of my sixth novel. ‘The Rising; Book One of the Painted Maidens Trilogy’ is now with my awesome editing team, and an equally awesome bunch of beta readers. I welcome the break as I wait for the feedback, but my fingers can’t stay idle for long – it is a curse and a blessing. They itch to get back to the keyboard.
I’ve already started on the second book of the trilogy, but want to take some time to reflect on my writing journey, and how it came to be. My first novel, ‘Water, Book One of the Akasha Series’, took nearly ten years to write. It started in high school, when I would be stuck in class daydreaming. I daydreamed of a cute boy coming into the classroom to sweep me off my feet. I’d dream of an equally cute villain coming into the classroom to take us all hostage. I dreamed of fighting the snobby girl next to me. How would I react? What would I do?
I went through the same daydreams over and over in my head, changing minor details until the scene was perfect – then I’d go over it again. I couldn’t stop. Finally, in order to keep some level of sanity, I began writing them down. They were just scenes; not even complete short stories. It worked well in class, I looked like a very studious note-taker.
I graduated high school and tried my hand at college. It was…boring. So, I joined the Marine Corps. Boot camp wasn’t so boring. And neither was the first two years in the corps. But things settled down, and the daydreams started as once again, I sat behind a desk, this time at work but in cammies and boots. I can’t sit still for long.
I got married, had a child, and went back to school to earn my bachelor’s degree. I also resumed writing.
After five years, I left the corps for a career in the translation business. The job was good, but I still continued to write. Eventually, I took all these little ‘scenes’, saved in a folder from my high school years, and melded them into a story. I typed them up, working on my lunch break at work, in the early morning, or in the evenings.
In September of 2011, more than ten years after I started, my first novel was finished. My second novel, ‘Air’, only took two months. Since then, it has been a whirlwind of writing, editing, and marketing. I have six books and seven short stories to my name, and I still have so much to learn and do. The ideas are still flowing – I’m not sure I will ever be done writing.
One thing I’ve learned from writing on scrap paper, literally on the back of my biology notes, and eventually turning them into an actual published novel – even if it takes ten years, never give up!
Keep pushing for your dreams. If you never quite get there; the journey itself will be worth it.
A couple big things happening to The Akasha Series. First, the second e-book ‘Air’ will run at a promotional rate of $0.99 for the next four days (as you know, ‘Water, Book One‘, is always free across all platforms.). Be sure to get ‘Air’ at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, or iTunes and start getting caught up with the series!
Patchwork Press is not a traditional publisher. All authors keep 100% of their rights and royalties, but by joining forces with other skilled independent authors, each book we publish as a team becomes stronger.
I’ve taken the plunge and hope to start building PWP’s First Readers Program, as well as getting my titles up on NetGalley (‘Water’ is there already, for those of you who use it).
Finally, to kick off what I think will be a long-lasting, cohesive relationship, I’m having a giveaway!
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.
1 Grand Prize: A $25 Amazon gift card.
Here is how you can enter:
Follow the links below to like and follow for extra entries (all extra entries will be verified). Then, fill out the form at the bottom.
For three extra entries each, follow us by email:
– Go to Patchwork-Press.com, and scroll down the page. At the bottom right-hand corner, sign up to receive the Patchwork Press Newsletter via e-mail.
– On the right hand side of this page, follow Terra Harmony by e-mail.
Now complete the form below and good luck!
This giveaway is open internationally. Giveaway is open until 11:59 PM EST on July 14th, 2013. Must be 13 or older to enter. Winners are selected at random and will be emailed. Winners will have three days to respond, or new winners will be selected.
Very exciting news! ‘Water, Book One of the Akasha Series’ is now available as an audio book via Amazon, Audible, and iTunes! The rest of the series is already in production. You can purchase or listen to a sample of ‘Water’ right here.
I want to send a special thanks to my narrator, Emily Gittelman, who was patient enough with a newbie to get me through the process, then take on three more books! I am so impressed, I decided I had to share her with you all! Below is Emily’s interview – and seriously, let me know what you think about the audio book!
Emily: Audiobooks keep me very busy. I started out doing it part time last year, but it’s become my full time job. I’m also an actress, so I sometimes have auditions to go to and projects I’m working on.
T: Which job(s) do you enjoy doing best and why?
E: I’m lucky that I love all my jobs. I can’t think of anything better than making a living doing what I love: acting and narrating audiobooks.
T: As if being a narrator/actress/author doesn’t keep you busy enough, what do you do in your spare time?
E: I’m an avid reader, which is what drew me to audiobooks in the first place. I like to be informed, so I read four newspapers every day. I love to travel, though I haven’t been able to recently. I spent most of 2010 traveling in Europe. I lived in London and Prague each for four months and went on weekend trips to other countries for a total of 23 countries in Europe. I kind of miss it, but traveling that much is exhausting. I also spend time with my wonderful boyfriend, who lives with me in Los Angeles. And I occasionally LARP on weekends (I’m a bit of a nerd).
T: You are finished with narrating ‘Water, Book One of the Akasha Series’ and are gearing up for the rest. Maybe you can tell us a little about why doing audio books, even for Indie authors, is a good idea?
E: Well, I love listening to audiobooks myself. There’s something about having a book read to you that just makes it come alive (with the right narrator). For me, narrating audiobooks is just acting with my voice. I love scenes that are really emotional or dramatic because it allows me to really get into the moment and express the emotions the characters are experiencing with my voice.
T: Any advice to give authors when they are ready to do an audio book – or even what to keep in mind as they are writing their novels?
E: Make sure you find a narrator who brings your imagination to life. This is especially important with a first person narrative, where the narrator’s voice is the character’s voice. Also, if you can, try to put together a budget for your project. Most of the more professional narrators won’t do a royalty share unless the book is selling really well. For the sake of quality, it’s worth raising the money to pay for a decent narrator.
T: Now the fun stuff – tea or coffee, Coke or Pepsi?
E: Er… None of the above. I don’t drink caffeine or soda… sorry!
T: You live in New York (right?)? What is life in the Big Apple like, especially for your line of work? Give us all the glamour and the down and dirty!
E: I grew up in NY, but I moved out to Los Angeles about a year and a half ago. I very much enjoyed living in NY. It has a certain energy to it that you can’t find anywhere else. And I loved being able to walk almost everywhere. The thing I miss most about NY is public transportation. Traffic in LA is awful.
T: Favorite TV shows/movies/plays?
E: I’m not a big favorites person. I don’t usually have one thing that sticks out above all others. HOWEVER, I do have a favorite TV show: Six Feet Under. It was on HBO from 2001 to 2005 and in my opinion, it’s the best show that has ever been on television. It’s heartfelt and profound, full of substance, while still having moments that make you laugh, and some that make you cry. It asks really important questions that leave you thinking for days afterward. I wish there were more shows like it! (HBO didn’t pay me for that. Promise. Though they’re welcome to if they see this.)
T: Do you have any funny stories about narrating? Or even in some of your other jobs?
E: … Not that I can think of? Sorry. That’s so boring.
T: Finally, tell us more about your books!
E: Well, this question has two answers depending on what you’re asking.
I’ve narrated dozens of audiobooks. Mostly teen or young adult fiction. I’ve done a lot of books with author Morgan Rice, including books three through eight of The Vampire Journals series, books one and two of The Survival Trilogy, and books one and two of The Vampire Legacy series (which will be released soon!). The other books I’ve done have been mostly fantasy or romance (or a combination). Lots of vampires.
While I was in college, I co-authored a few books with my dad, Steven H. Gittelman. Literally since the month I was born (August 1989), my dad has been volunteering at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport, NY. Because of this, I volunteered there from the age of eight until I moved to Los Angeles at twenty-two. Our life-long association with the museum inspired us to write several books about the Vanderbilts. The first two books my dad wrote on his own and I’m credited as chief editor. Those books were Willie K. Vanderbilt II: A Biography and J.P. Morgan and the Transportation Kings: The Titanic and Other Disasters. The former is a biography of the Vanderbilt who owned the mansion at which we volunteered. The latter details a conspiracy between J.P. Morgan, the Vanderbilts, and other tycoons to dominate global shipping and transportation circa the turn of the twentieth century. After, that, we wrote two books together. The first was Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt: The Unlikely Hero of the Lusitania. Alfred was Willie K.’s cousin, and his story is one of lust, power, and tragedy. He was basically a playboy who, at the age of 22, inherited a huge amount of money. For sixteen years he behaved like any playboy would, resulting in the tragic suicides of at least three women. Then, he gets on the Lusitania and spends the last eighteen minutes of his life saving women and children. It’s such a great story, I’m currently working on a screenplay version that I’m hoping to get produced. The publisher keeps pushing back the release date, but right now it’s set for June 24th. The other book we wrote together was a historical novel inspired by Willie K. Vanderbilt II’s second circumnavigation of the globe in 1933. That one is being privately published by the museum, and will hopefully come out soon.
The works I’ve authored, edited, and narrated, can all be found by searching my name on amazon.
Emily Gittelman grew up in New York and received her BFA in drama from New York University in 2011. Shortly after graduation, she moved out to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting under the name Emily Lawrence. More information about her acting career can be found on her website at www.emilylawrence.com. In the last year, Emily has narrated dozens of audiobooks, which can be found on audible and amazon. In addition to this, she’s also a published writer and editor of mostly non-fictional works. She writes creatively in her own time, but hasn’t worked up the nerve to publish any of it yet. Maybe one day!
This is what my husband told me after I became seriously heartbroken after another two-star review for my eco-fantasy novel, Water. His point was, my book will not be for everyone, just as Picasso’s work isn’t for everyone. I understand that. Hell – I embrace some of the more critical reviews and have made my novel better because of them.
To give you some perspective, as of today on Goodreads ‘Water’ has an average 3.86 stars out of 77 ratings. Here is the breakdown:
Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful to have 77 ratings at all. But why am I so obsessed with the fact that I have a below four star average?
Probably because I, myself, hesitate to read anything that has below a four star average.
Why do I spend countless hours gritting my teeth and analyzing the one and two stars and significantly less time celebrating the four and five stars?
Because I am human.
As authors, and especially as indie authors, we can say we have a thick skin all we want. But years and years of work go into one novel, and very often, we have given up so much to make it a reality. So when someone tears our baby apart, basically encouraging others not to give it a chance, it hurts.
But this is the reality of putting your creative work out there. Musicians, actors, and artists all go through the same thing. Under constant criticism, good and bad, how do we find the motivation to continue? Here is what I will try to keep in mind:
- I can’t stop writing, any more than I could stop breathing. Even if the outlet of self-publishing wasn’t available to me, I would see my series through to the end – and then start on another series.
- Despite his haters *glares at husband*, Picasso remains the top ranked artist (based on sales of his works at auctions as of 2004 according to the Art Market Trends report).
- There are plenty of very popular and successful books with sub four star ratings on Goodreads to include Fifty Shades of Grey ,every single book in the Twilight Series, and plenty of Amanda Hocking’s books.
To be clear, I am not comparing my novels with these books – I aim to be better. I will also keep in mind that I don’t play it safe with my novels. I tackle tough issues; rape, violence, relationships that escalate too quickly, suicide, mental disorders, as well as gay characters. If that wasn’t enough, my third book of the series, Fire, which releases this October, opens with a birth scene. Squeamish? You won’t last the first chapter.
So I will take a deep breath, vow to stop starting my day by checking Goodreads, and….well…I will:
Since joining the self-publishing community, I’ve come across a great group of people whose support and help rival that of the Mormons (I know this because I lived in Utah for two years). Small press and indie authors alike have been large contributors to what small success I’ve had so far, and I couldn’t be more grateful. One great resource is Ashley Barron, author of the Love + Family Series, a short story collection, and the upcoming Priya novel, Ava. She graciously agreed to do an interview for my blog:
Q: You have a large presence as a blogger and on twitter. A lot of your posts involve interviewing other authors. What has this done for you? Why did you choose this route?
Thanks for having me here today, Terra!
When I first set out on this journey, I didn’t know anything about the role of social media in self/indie publishing. I started my blog in June 2011, got a few posts out there, and soon realized no one but family and friends were reading it. In July 2011, I followed the advice of a smart man I like to call ‘The Godfather,’ and joined Twitter.
What a difference! Twitter opened a whole a new world for me, and for my writing.
All those links to people, information, and ideas inspired me to get serious about this process of self-publishing. I was open to learning, and I knew I had a long way to go, so I reached out to a few authors and asked if I could interview them for my blog. I’m an outgoing person, the type who likes to know everyone in the room, but even a more reserved personality would find many opportunities to form friendships on Twitter.
So don’t be shy! Put a little effort into it, take a few risks, and enjoy the rewards.
My first interviews were with Michael Hicks, Jon Merz, Chicki Brown, Richard Jay Parker, and Melissa Foster. I knew that each of them had sold a lot of books, but I didn’t yet have the context to understand the stunning significance of that achievement. Richard is the only one of the five who is traditionally published, but he works his social media with all the vigor and focus of an indie.
Forming these relationships early in my development was very helpful. As the interviewer, I was able to ask them questions that were of interest to me, personally. All five of those authors were supportive, prompt, and receptive. For a newbie writer, there is no greater encouragement than that of an author who is, in every respect, miles ahead, and who takes the time to stretch out a hand to help others move forward.
It’s team building at its finest.
As I say on my blog’s “About Me” description, I’m not on this journey alone. Nor would I ever want to be. I’ve learned from others, and now I’m passing on my own learning to help shine a light on the joys and challenges of the business end of self-publishing.
Q: The interview by author Stacy Eaton on your main character was an interesting twist, and a great way to introduce your novel. Talk about generating interest! Tell us more about your novel and the Priyas.
Thanks! I adore Stacy Eaton! She is so motivated, so outgoing, you can’t help but catch the fever. She kindly offered to host an interview with me on her blog, and she gave me the option of responding as me, Ashley, or as my main character, Ava. I think I shocked us both when I chose Ava’s voice.
It was a fantastic exercise in getting to know more about a character I thought I already knew inside and out. Some of the answers “Ava” gave surprised me. I highly recommend doing one or two character interviews. I’m looking forward to future character interviews with the other Priyas.
The Priyas are the main characters in my romantic thriller series about a group of women who’ve grown up together in Washington, D.C. The first book is Ava, and there is a funny scene in it, a flashback, where readers get to learn how the Priyas named their secret society. Come to think of it, I might pull that chapter out and post it on my blog.
Bonner, the second novel in the series, has a planned release date of December 2012. I say “planned” because I had originally thought I would be releasing Ava in September 2011. When that didn’t happen, I rescheduled it for February 2012. Guess what? That didn’t happen, either.
I wasn’t ready. I didn’t feel as though all of the pieces were as evolved, as strong as they needed to be to support a book launch.
Remember, becoming a self-published author may begin with writing the book, but I would estimate that a completed novel accounts for only about twenty percent of the checklist. Your blog, your social media, your promotional materials (interviews, guest posts, free short stories, etc.) make up the remaining eighty percent.
If you skip any of the steps, you’ll have to go back and fix them at some point. Build them into your plan sooner rather than later. Yes, there are exceptions, always, and if you are one of them, a straight-to-number-one-make-it-into-a-movie self/indie published author, I sure hope you’ll do an interview on my blog.
Seriously though, for an author, marketing is all about building a readership. There are tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of people out there, readers, who want to know about your book. Get out there. Find them. Give them materials—links to your social media, samples of your work—both for themselves and to pass on to people they know who might be interested in your writing style, your genres, your plots.
Along those lines, always remember to reciprocate when a fellow writer or author gives you an opportunity. Always.
Q: Your novels are set in Washington, D.C. (as are you, I gather). Tell me about your experiences with the area and why you love and/or hate it!
There is a line in one of those old Judy Garland musicals, Meet Me in St. Louis, where a character asks the rhetorical question, ‘Wasn’t I lucky to be born in my favorite city?”
That’s precisely how I feel.
DC is an exceptional town. Everything is here, just on a smaller scale than in the big cities like New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, etc. Growing up, my brothers and I were constantly packed into the car and taken on day trips to museums, historical sites, plays, farms, restaurants, gardens, anything within driving distance that my parents felt would add value to our minds, hearts, and worldview.
The neighborhood in which I grew up is uniquely multi-cultural. We have Embassies, the World Bank, and the IMF here in DC, and spending so much time in the homes of neighbors from places like India, Greece, Iran, England, Argentina, and Germany was a glorious way to learn that we are all as alike as we are different.
The story of the Priyas could only be told here in Washington. Whatever you think you already know about this town, and its layers, the real twists and turns extend far beyond any one person’s ability to uncover. That makes it a ripe setting for fiction.
The idea of buried secrets is an underlying theme in the Priya series, with arcs that travel through several books at a time. The main theme, of course, is love. I write about love, first, last, and always.
Q: Coke or Pepsi?
Tea! Hot tea, cold tea. Ice, no ice. Black, green, chai. Milk, no milk. Sugar, more sugar. My only requirement is that the cup or mug must be large. Very large.
Q: How long did it take you to build your current number of followers? What techniques have you found to work the best?
I’ve been blogging for ten months and tweeting for nine months. I have invested real time in building up my Twitter community. I believe the authors, writer, and readers on Twitter are among the most engaged book lovers I’ve ever encountered.
At the very beginning, during my first week in this online world, I created a marketing plan. It wasn’t perfect; I look back at it now and realize how far I’ve come. But it was a starting point, a place to focus, to gather ideas and track results.
I cannot stress this enough: you need a marketing plan.
You need to know where you are now and where you want to be next month, in six months, a year. You need to update your marketing plan at least every few weeks. Why? Learning happens that much faster when you immerse yourself into a new culture, a new community. You will likely make changes to your marketing plan, some small, some large. If you stick to your plan, you will achieve some or all of your goals—as long as the goals are set in realistic increments, naturally.
One of my goals is to reach 10,000 Twitter follows and followers by the time I launch Ava, the first novel in my Priya series. It is working out that way, I’m happy to report.
One thing to note: I don’t generally follow people who don’t follow back. I don’t use auto-follow, either, as I’m interested in the exchange of ideas, not a one-way subscription to your tweets or mine.
When you walk into to the “room” on Twitter, give a shout out to a few people, whether you know them or not, and get the ball rolling. Ask a few questions, offer a few answers. Retweet. Original tweet. Share a favorite quote, a corny joke, a cool picture.
Ultimately, you are the one responsible for your own experience. You make your own success. Your attitude, your preparation, and your willingness to open new doors, and take new risks, will determine the level of your achievements.
It’s simple, really, and so unbelievably hard.
Q: If you can, share with us some of the best hints/tips you have learned from interviewing authors.
There are so many talented, giving, motivated, supportive members of our community. If one of the self/indie published authors you admire is a step in front of you, or fifty steps in front of you, read their interviews. Pay attention to their blog posts, their quotes. Ask to interview them for your blog, so you can get to the heart of the areas that you find most interesting, most helpful.
Here is great advice from some of the self/indie published authors I’ve had the honor of interviewing for my blog:
“I learned a lot by publishing my novella first (formatting, marketing, etc.) that would have been hard lessons learned in a full length novel.”
When writers decide to publish, the game changes. That pure time spent writing the first book will never happen again, when your creative juices gush and there is no expectation beyond writing the next sentence. Once you decide to let others read what you wrote, you graduate to authorhood. The time you spend shifts to marketing and promotions. I think this reality is a shock for new writers, and it’s true whether you’re independent or traditional.”
“Start working on your marketing NOW, regardless of where you are with the book. If you are not finished with the book yet, even better. You can’t get a large enough head-start on the marketing but you will always be behind, so work on it now.”
“Your cover is just as important as what is written on your pages. The cover will have a great influence on a lot of buyer’s choice, it tells who you are. Edit, Edit, Edit, and then edit until its’ perfect. Nothing will turn away a reader faster than a boat load of mistakes.”
“‘If you build it, they will come.’ This is not meant as glibness so much as a testament to tenacity and the belief that, yes, doing what I love is its own reward, and the incredibly gratifying reviews and responses to my collection continue to hearten me.”
“As much as you think you can find your own typos, you can’t. After initially publishing, I probably uploaded corrections over a dozen times when my readers pointed them out to me. It was a very humbling experience and one I hope not to repeat.”
Q: For us readers, what can we expect from you next?
Ava debuts in a few weeks! It’s a moment I’ve been working toward for years. Literally. The day my first novel debuts will be a serious marker in my life, and a small celebration is planned. I might insist on reading a few pages aloud, with limited staging and full drama, just to annoy my brothers. That’s a temptation I’ve never been able to resist. Though, admittedly, it’s been duly reciprocated.
A standalone novel is in development for 2013. One morning I sat down at my computer to work on the Priya series, and, before I knew it, was writing a whole new book. For me, becoming witness, storyteller, to the natural birth of an entirely new set of characters is my rarest and most prized moment as a writer.
A big thanks to Ashley for taking the time to do the interview, and for all the time she puts in interviewing other authors and sharing their wisdom with us! Please be sure to connect with Ashley on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, B&N, or Smashwords.
Please be sure to check out her new novel; Ava!
Please welcome Stephen Hise, author of Upgrade, described as a bodice ripper with a Twilight Zone twist. He also runs the website Indies Unlimited; a great resource for authors that is both fun and entertaining! If you haven’t signed up to follow him yet…do it. Do it – I dare you. Stephen is here to talk about Indie publishing and it’s future:
We are at the beginning of a technological revolution in how books are written, published, marketed, purchased, and read. The hallmark of the technological revolution is that the changes in technology occur faster than society on the whole can adapt to them.
Everyone wants change. No one wants the change that actually happens. Remember all the tumult and furor generated when humankind moved from cave paintings to stone tablets, and again to scrolls before settling comfortably on bound-paper books? No? Well, I’m sure there was quite an uproar.
Technology has put on her running shoes. You can stay behind, faking a cramp, or run along and try to keep up. It may be that the big six publishing houses will somehow adapt and survive. Maybe they won’t. Maybe the big chain bookstores will adapt and survive. Maybe they won’t. The systemic changes will come gradually. It is not that print is dead, but there is little doubt that it is on the way out. It may take a generation before a child hoists a paper book up from some trunk he was exploring in the attic and asks Grandpa what this thing is.
The vaunted gatekeepers of publishing are in disarray. Now writers who could not navigate the labyrinth of agents, publishers, and publicists can get their work directly to readers without any intermediaries. The readers will now decide if this is “what they’re looking for.”
Some of the writing now available is excellent. Some is crap. Know what? The same thing was true when the gatekeepers controlled things. I’ve bought some titles from well-known traditionally published authors that made me wonder how such a thing ever got published. In truth, all the same sins that the traditional publishing houses so easily see in indie-published books are the same sins of which they themselves are guilty.
So the big traditional publishers can cry, whine, and point fingers all they want. The fact is that now readers have more choice and they can buy more books with less money than ever before. That is a good thing.
Indie authors are also accessible to their readers. Most have websites, blogs, and Facebook pages where a reader can communicate directly with an author, get to know them, and ask them questions. I see that as a very positive change. I think readers appreciate that as well.
I wouldn’t hold forth for a minute that everything coming down the pike will be all sunshine and roses – It never is. On the whole, I think we are witnessing some very interesting creative destruction that will change the landscape of writing, publishing and reading for many years to come.
Stephen Hise is the author of the novel, UPGRADE. You can learn more about him at his website, http://stephenhise.com/ and check out his blog celebrating independent authors at: http://www.indiesunlimited.com/ His book is available as an e-book at Amazon and Smashwords, or in print from Wordclay. Also be sure to visit him on Facebook!