June Recap

It’s strange how things come and go in waves. Some months are busy and stressful and I get next to nothing written, barely meeting word count goals, struggling to find the inspiration to make the stories work and some months, while busy, are blessed with hours of racing to get the words down on the page at the same rate they’re going through my head.

On the personal front, June marks the end of the school year, but also the start of a new endeavor, one that thankfully doesn’t add too much to my already full plate. I’ve transferred branches within my Taekwondo Academy so I can take on the role of Assistant Instructor. My new ‘home’ is a small but growing group, a little rowdy perhaps, but fun.

The kiddos wrapped up school this year with a bang. My 7-year-old daughter did a Taekwondo pattern for her talent show and even broke a board in front of the whole school. My nine-year-old son’s class wrote books (they were 5-12 pages), many choosing to write comics or graphic novels, and did a book reading for the parents. Visitors could go around the room, from author to author, to hear the stories and ask questions. We had snacks and drinks, which is a necessity at any book launch event. My son is a perfectionist (not surprising since I’m more a ‘basher’ than a ‘swooper’) and wound up having to work on his book at home – a lot. The stress of meeting the deadline was hard on him but the finished product was worth it.

He did a comic in his sketchbook for fun, one about Supa Baby. It is heavily inspired by the fast-paced, silliness of Dogman. His comedic timing is shining through. I’ll be drawing up good copy frames for him so he can do up a clean version, and I hope to upload a sample page here, and to my Patreon.

This month hasn’t been all joy, I’m afraid. Early in June, a family friend lost her fight with cancer, and a few weeks later, one of my local author friends had a second stroke and did not bounce back. The older you get, the more funerals there are to attend, but it doesn’t get easier.

My husband and I are up to our eyeballs in this garage we’re building. We were lucky to get the cement pad poured before the rains started (the rains messed us up last summer, we couldn’t get the gravel to dry enough to pack it properly). We’ve got the frame and plywood up (walls and roof) so it’s time to get it okayed by the inspector again, then on to the siding.

As for writing, I finished the novella Cheyanne and the short story Fifty-Fifty which finishes out The Underground series. I finished Whispers in the Dark (Book 1 of the Chronicles of Zoedar series) and sent that off to the beta reader. I’m just over halfway done Darkness Falling (Book 2 in the Chronicles of Zoedar series). Book 2 is largely a rewrite so that has helped boost my word count numbers this month – a good thing, since the kids are out of school and will be underfoot for the next 8 weeks.

  • Cheyanne + Fifty-Fifty – complete at 25,000 words. They’ve been to the editor and come back. In July I need to do the edits and get the e-book pre-order set up.
  • Sunlight – complete back in the spring. Since I have to sit down and do the edits on Cheyanne, I’ll sit down and do the edits here too. e-book pre-order will be set up, as well as the pre-order for Turncoats.
  • Whispers in the Dark – I won’t get this back from the beta reader until August, most likely. We set end of August as the deadline, because summer vacation and all that, but we’ll see if I get lucky and get it back earlier.
  • Darkness Falling – over 60k written. I’m aiming for 90-120k finished so mid-to-late-July at this rate.
  • June’s total word count: 100,033 (A RECORD!!)
  • 2019 word count so far: 335,794 (184,000 words to go)
  • Chronicles of Zoedar: this is a 4-book series, with books 3 and 4 targeted at 100k, give or take 10k. I’m hoping to have book 1 done and polished in time for #pitmad this fall, with the others completed in quick succession (all first drafts done by the end of 2019). You can read more about this series here

And, we are now halfway through the year! I’m quite a bit past halfway on my word count goals but at this point, I don’t think I’d increase it for next year. Having old drafts of Zoedar kicking about, and Rose at the End exploding past its estimated word count helped boost my speed and productivity this year. Next year will be all new projects, and possibly a lot of marketing – we’ll see what happens!

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Race to the Bottom

Race to the Bottom is a phrase that is most often associated with rapidly decreasing prices or quality controls within an industry. As it applies to write, it can refer to book prices, book quality, and burn out.

 

“If it’s not free it costs too much.” With the advent of e-books, followed closely by independent publishing platforms, we’ve seen a steady drop in e-book prices. A lot of readers won’t pick up an ebook by a new or unknown author for more than $2.99.

The way I see it, a book’s price should reflect its length more than anything else. 99 cents is great for a novella or for an introductory offer (say, the first book in a series).

$2.99 is minimum for a full-length YA or adult novel (so, 250 6×9 pages if it was a paperback). For writers, this is roughly 65,000 words. $4.99 is still decent for this length. I often pay five and six dollars for an ebook without batting an eye. It’s still half the price or less than the paperback.

$9.99 is about the most I will pay for an e-book unless it’s a monster (400+ pages, dense text).

Really, you should charge no more than 50% of your paperback price for your ebook. Yes, you have editing costs and cover design costs, but that 50% mark puts prices at a reasonable place for both writers and readers.

Sadly, a lot of readers look at $4.99 on an ebook by an indie author and balk.  They email authors and ask when the book will be available for free giveaway. They go to places like Quora and ask for links to free books. (And users on Quora are happy to provide links to pdfs of popular books for free. And Quora doesn’t care one bit that its platform is being used to pirate books.)

This leaves writers in a bind. How do we compete? I don’t have a well-known name like Stephen King or JK Rowling. I don’t have a publisher’s stamp of approval, or a publisher’s distribution network, or a publisher’s marketing budget. A lot of indie authors look at this situation and think, “The only way I can compete is to be cheaper, more readily accessible to the reader,” and that’s sound logic – if consumerism worked that way.

I understand where readers are coming from – poorly edited indie books, indie books with bad plots, book stuffers, it all leaves a bad taste in the reader’s mouth. They don’t want to spend their money on a product that may or may not be satisfactory, in production value or entertainment value. Short of adding “this book has seen 5 rounds of copy edits” to the description, what can the writer do to prove to readers their book is worth taking a chance on?

There are no easy answers. Contrary to what a lot of book coaches and marketing gurus will tell you, there is no fast track, no one-size-fits-all solution, no magic wand or magic hashtag. I do have a few ideas, but they’re slow, they require a lot of people to get on board, and they smell an awful lot like work and waiting.

  1. Value yourself, your work, and your brand. That means taking pride in how you present yourself to potential readers (a clean, easy to use website or blog, well-produced covers, good response time to comments and queries), but it also means setting your prices at an appropriate place (high enough to say ‘I have value’ but low enough that the reader doesn’t feel ripped off).
  2. Produce quality work. Get a beta reader or three. Get an editor, a paid professional. Take the time to polish your work instead of rushing to publish. The only way we can change the reader’s mind about the quality of indie work is to change the quality of indie work – let’s make the crappy stuff the minority. Make sure your interior formatting, be it for paperback or ebook, is professional and to industry standards.
  3. Review everything you read. Even if you just leave a star rating, it helps. And this goes for readers and writers both. If something is good, review it. Put in your review “this book was clean of technical errors” or “the editing was really good too” so other readers know they’re not wasting their money on garbage. And if you find a book with a lot of errors, here’s the polite way to write that in a low-star review: “I feel this book could benefit from further edits” or “It feels like the author rushed to release this book and did not take the time to make it the best it could be”. Again, this alerts future readers to poor quality products. Indie authors don’t answer to the traditional gatekeepers, so we need new gatekeepers, and reviews is one way to provide that. Keep your comments polite, to the point, and professional.
  4. Be a mentor and an advocate. If you are a member of a writer group or two, or if new writers seek you out for advice, emphasize how important the editing is. Let’s teach this to every up-and-coming hopeful author – HIRE AN EDITOR. There is no skipping this step, there can be no cutting corners here. Also, stress the need for professional covers. This goes with point 1. Let’s teach new writers to have pride in their work and their brand.
  5. Be respectful of costs. Editing and cover art cost money if you want the job done right. Just as we want readers to pay fair prices for our finished books, so too must we be willing to pay a fair price to the people who work for us – editors and artists. Familiarize yourself with the Editorial Freelance Association rates and respect people who follow these rates in their pricing. Share information on professional artists and editors instead of advising people to visit fiverr and other such sites (because these are causing a similar race to the bottom in editing and art that is frustrating our fellow creators and freelancers).
  6. If you edit or ghostwrite – charge fair prices. Value your work, don’t undercut other freelancers, and demand a fair wage for what you do. As a ghostwriter, I was making less than a penny a word and I was still being undercut.

This is an uphill battle for all of us on all sides of this. The economy isn’t great. Everyone with a love for books thinks they can be an editor and everyone with photoshop thinks they can make covers and that floods the market with cheap options that undercut professionals and make it easy to resent people who want to make a living doing what they are trained to do. If we stick together, work with professionals who value themselves and us, and refuse to cave to the “free or cheap” consumer mentality, maybe, just maybe, we can salvage the indie e-book industry before we’re all reduced to monkeys at typewriters.

Breaking News & Important Updates

I know this is mid-month and I generally update at the end of each month, but this post isn’t about balancing writing and life, or word count goals, or project milestones. These are the big important updates about Patreon, release dates for The Underground books, and some updates on the new project.

PATREON

When I put Schreyer Ink on hiatus, I shut down the Patreon page. I didn’t feel it was right to charge people a monthly fee for a page that wasn’t producing the promised content. I have a new Patreon page set up under my own name, and things will be a little different this time. I am charging “per creation” instead of “monthly. What does this mean for you?

If you choose to support my creative endeavors through Patreon (and thank you if you do), you’ll be charged whatever you choose to commit each time I post exclusive content. I’ve decided not to post more than 2 exclusive posts per month so if you pledge $1/post the most you’ll ever spend in a month is $2. There will be some months with only 1 post and some months with none, but I’ll try not to go over 2 to keep costs reasonable for everyone.

Second thing, EVERYTHING I post on Patreon will be available to ALL Patrons regardless of pledge amount – $1 or $10 or $100, you’ll all see the same thing.

When you get there, you’ll find 6 exclusive posts waiting for you. (All Patrons can view ALL past exclusive posts as soon as they sign up to support the page for no extra charge) This is the only time I’ll be posting more than 2 posts in a month and it’s just to give everyone something to check out while they wait.

What’s going up? The new covers for The Underground books 6-8 and an excerpt from each book.

THE UNDERGROUND

In May I completed book 5 of The Rose Garden series, completing the series, the story, everything. It felt really good, but my work isn’t over yet. I have to finish the Underground Series too. As of June 11, Book 6 is done, Book 7 just needs the edits done, and Book 8 is over half written. Covers for 6 and 7 are done, cover for 8 is being done this week.

So, when will they be available?

I have 1 final show/event at the end of June. I suppose IF I worked like a madwoman and got Book 6 approved for print today and rushed the shipping I could have them here on time. I don’t have time to do that. I’m taking the summer off from most events to help my husband build our new garage.

Shows pick up again late in October so the plan is to have ALL THREE books done, edited, proofed, formatted, printed, and here by the end of August. MAYBE I will have a launch event at the Jake Epp Library, maybe I will do something with a few of the schools in September. Not sure yet. But the COMPLETE series will be available for the Christmas sale season. And here are the official titles:

Book 6: Turncoats

Book 7: Sunlight

Book 8: BONUS NOVELLA: Cheyanne (includes the short story Fifty-Fifty)

FUTURE PROJECTS

With both series wrapped up, what comes next? Andy and I are working on redoing the picture books and rereleasing them, but that’s mostly on him. I’m in talks with another artist to do the Underground Graphic Novels – we’ll probably get a start in the fall.

As for writing, I’m already working on a new series in a new world with new characters and plots and magic and intrigue. My plan is to have book 1 completely ready by the time Pitmad rolls around this fall/winter. I’d like to take this new project the traditional route, just to see if I can. I have a few places lined up for it and I’m feeling pretty excited about it.

If you’d like to see a bit of what I’m working on, you can hop over to the official page for that new world here. You can follow the Thelara blog for world-building posts as well as summaries and previews.