Author Spotlight – LV Gaudet

Today’s post is an author spotlight/interview with LV Gaudet. This post, and the review I’ll be posting next month, were scheduled by the author via Silver Dagger Book Tours.

LV Gaudet writes dark mysteries and thrillers. She also writes for YA audiences under the pen name Vivian Munnoch. As LV Gaudet she has 7 books, as Vivian Munnoch she’s published 3.

Let’s head straight to the interview!

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Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?

When you are writing about serial killers and you ask someone, “Do you think I should just look this up online or go ask the RCMP (Canadian federal police)?” the answer will be, “No!”

If your McAllister series was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Groot. Just kidding. But, hey, wouldn’t that be fun? An evil Groot who scares the daylights out of the movie goers?  Honestly, I couldn’t say. I’m going to say the killer is that lead, since that’s whose story the series essentially follows. Someone charming but not too charming; and not too good looking. I would want the character to ring as real life and you just don’t get that in a gritty movie with plastic good looks. They would also have to play the mood swings well and be able to be disarmingly charming one moment and terrifying black rage the next.

Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

At some point in reading the McAllister series, you might wonder where the story takes place. You might search the books for a name, a location, any clue where the story is happening. That’s kind of the point. Hint: It’s near you. Surprisingly near you, wherever you are. I don’t give it a location because it can be anywhere. It is anywhere and everywhere.

How did you come up with name of these books?

Coming up with the name for Where the Bodies Are was horrible. Nothing felt right. I finally settled on taking a line literally out of the book, ‘…where the bodies are.’ I had to think fast because I had an Indy publisher putting the book out and I needed a title then and there.

The McAllister Farm was easier. They are the McAllisters and they live on a farm. Hunting Michael Underwood and Killing David McAllister are pretty much just explanatory names. They describe what the books are about. And titling the whole thing the McAllister series just made sense since the series focuses on them.

What is your favorite part of this series and why?

That’s a tough one. I’m not sure I can pick just one. Writing the scenes with Nathan, the character who was not even supposed to be in the story, was fun. When timid Marjory McAllister is forced to stand up against the bullying town ladies, watching this nervous little thing shine with her own inner strength. When Lawrence Hawkworth, the cowardly and not-so-moral reporter visits the old town hardware and lumber store and the old guys yank his chain. I laughed at that. I can keep going and going.

If you could spend time with a character from one of your books in the McAllister series whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Little Sophie McAllister from The McAllister Farm. Frankly, she’s the only one that doesn’t scare me. We would probably pick some flowers and play with those kittens in the barn.

Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

My characters are all purely fictional people. I use random observations of people and their behavior to build their personalities, but I do not base them on anyone. I even try to avoid using names of people I know just to avoid anyone wrongly thinking the character is based on them. I had to change Jim McNelly’s name for that reason. It was originally John McNelly. Then I knew a John and changed it.

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?

I’ve seen this analogy used many times in writer groups and blogs, that the characters somehow developed a life and will of their own and refused to listen to the writer. I kind of get where people feel that way, the story can feel like it takes on a life of its own. I think it’s more of where the story needs to go isn’t necessarily where I wanted it to go as the writer. And sometimes I get off track and take the story in an unexpected direction.

Convince us why you feel your series is a must read.

Do you like a story that is dark? Scenes that might shock you out of your comfort zone? Do you want to know where the bodies are?

Maybe I should convince you and your readers why you should not read this series. What if you can’t put it down? What if it makes you second guess what you thought you knew about the world you live in? What if the things you believed you knew about serial killers was just so … much less than the possibilities?

Here are two poems I jotted off that might help convince you why you should not read this series.

Walk In the Woods

When you walk in the woods and your nose picks up that slightly unpleasant musky smell.

When you look at your neighbor with new eyes and wonder… Could he? Is she?

When you see two vehicles parked tail to trunk, alone, silently brooding.

When that car seems to be following you just a little too long.

When someone does not answer their phone.

Do you know where the bodies are?

Where the Bodies Are

Where it is dark, cloying, musky. In

The place no person treads. Where

Bodies silently rot flesh from bone. Secrets

Are hidden in undisclosed graves.

The corpses silently cry. On

McAllister ground far away. In the

Farm of graves insects feast.

Hunting the lost and forlorn. Not a

Michael or any other can hide. In the

Underwood, the dark earth beneath the cowering trees.

Killing is desperation to send the darkness away. Where

David is the man of no name, no face, no man. On

McAllister ground far away corpses silently cry.

Thank you, LV Gaudet!

Even with these warnings, I’ll be reading the McCallister series this month and posting a review of the series on October 17th.

Individual reviews of each book will be posted on Amazon (.com and .ca) and on Goodreads.

Silver Dagger Logo

LIST OF BOOKS:

Where the Bodies Are

McCallister Farm

Hunting Michael Underwood

Killing David McCallister

The Gypsy Queen

Garden Grove

Old Mill Road (New Release)

The Latchkey Kids (as Vivian Munnoch)

The Latchkey Kids 2: The Disappearance of Willie Gordan (as Vivian Munnoch)

Madeline and Mocha (New Release as Vivian Munnoch)

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Comma Little Bit Closer

Sorry, I’m a sucker for a good pun … and a bad pun…

Today I want to talk about punctuation specifically as it applies to dialogue. Authors should keep in mind that the US, UK, and Canada may have slightly different rules for this. I’m Canadian, and I read mostly works published and formatted for a North American audience.

Quotation Marks

North American industry standard is to use the double quotation mark to indicate spoken dialogue. “Like this”. Depending on the font you use, they will be curlier or straighter. ‘Single quotation marks’ are used to indicate thought (more on thought and inner dialogue later) or indicate that a word or phrase is being stressed or singled out in some way. (No, not ‘those’ apples.)

Dialogue Tags

A dialogue tag is the ‘he said’ or ‘she asked’ that is put before, after, or in the middle of the dialogue line to tell the reader who is speaking it. Generally, they are separated from the dialogue with a comma.

“Talk first,” she said. (Here, the comma is inside the closing quotation mark and the s in she is lower case)

He said, “Talk later.” (Here the comma is before the opening quotation mark and the t in talk is upper case)

“Can we compromise?” she asked. (Here, the question mark replaces the comma but the s in she is still lower case – this also happens when an exclamation mark is used)

He said, “No, we cannot compromise!” (Here, the comma remains between the tag and the opening quotation mark, even though the period is replaced by the exclamation mark. Note, too, that the period in example 2 and the exclamation mark in example 4 are inside the quotation marks)

“Please,” she pleaded. “I just want to know what’s going on.” (Here, the comma comes inside the closing quotation, as in example 1. The period between the tag and the second portion of the dialogue can be a period or a comma, but it must come before the opening quotation mark)

Using words other than said is a contentious point of debate in the writing community. My preference is to let the spoken words and the action/description tags (which I’ll talk about next) convey the emotion and intent of the dialogue. However, if used sparingly throughout the book, words like pleaded, moaned, groaned, gasped, chortled, etc. can be useful in conveying tone of voice.

 

Action/Description Tags

When you replace the ‘he said’ with an action that happens alongside or immediately following the dialogue or replace it with a description of the scene or the character’s emotions, the rules around the tags change.

“Talk first.” She slammed her hands down on the table. (The comma has become a period because these are two different sentences now instead of parts of one sentence)

He shook his head. “Talk later.” (Again, 2 sentences separated by a period)

“Can we compromise?” Her lip trembled as she struggled to hold back tears.

His chair dragged loudly over the floor as he burst to his feet. “No, we cannot compromise!”

 

Combined Action and Dialogue tags

When you combine the ‘he said’ with the action he is performing as he speaks, the rules shift slightly again.

“Talk first,” she said, slamming her hands down on the table. (Here, the comma inside the closing quotation has returned and the action is added to the sentence with another comma)

He shook his head and said, “Talk later.” (Here, the comma before the quotation mark is back and the action has been added before the tag, joined with an ‘and’)

“Can we compromise?” she asked, her lip trembling. (The ‘s’ in she is lowercase again, indicating it is one sentence and the action has been added with a comma)

 

Speeches

Sometimes a character talks too much and the dialogue requires paragraph breaks. To show that the same person is still talking, you open the quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph, but do not close them until the end of the speech.

He stood before the crowd and began to speak. “My dear friends, it is an honour to speak before you today. Lots of talking. Talking. More talking. Gee this guy talks a lot.

“That is what it is so important to address this issue today. So, I’m going to talk about it a lot. And some more. I have a lot to say!

“I don’t want to keep you all day, but I like the sound of my own voice so I’m going to talk a little longer. So, thank you for coming to listen to me.”

 

Adverbs

Adverbs generally end in ‘ly’. They are words that add a condition to another part of the sentence.

He ran. He ran quickly. He ran desperately. (Quickly and desperately are adverbs).

Adverbs are overused in writing. One suggestion I came across was to use an adverb if it turned an expectation on its head.

She smiled. We know a smile means happy so saying “She smiled happily” is a waste of a good adverb. It doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence or clarify a detail. “She smiled sadly” on the other hand means something very different from “she smiled.”

In dialogue, we often add adverbs to the end of a dialogue tag to add emotion. “He said sadly” or “She said happily”.

As I mentioned with words other than said, I prefer to let the dialogue itself, the actions, and the descriptions, do the heavy lifting. Adverbs in dialogue tags should be used sparingly.

“Talk now,” she said angrily. (because the adverb is tacked on the end, there is no change.

Angrily, he said, “Talk later.” (Again, no change, except to add the adverb to be beginning with a comma.

Don’t combine adverbs with words other than said. Shouted angrily. Sobbed sadly. Cried loudly. One or the other UNLESS it is required (and really, really consider if it’s necessary) for clarity in some way.

 

Thoughts and Inner Dialogue

There are several options, and all of them are correct. The key to writing a character’s thoughts or inner dialogue, or to writing telepathic exchanges in fantasy or speculative fiction settings, is consistency.

Option 1: single quotations. “Speech is written with a double quotation,” he said. ‘But what I think is written in single quotations,’ he thought. (Note that the comma usage around the quotation marks is the same whether it’s double or single.

Option 2: italics, no quotation marks. “Speech is written with a double quotation,” he said. But what I think is written in italics, he thought. (Note that the comma usage at the end of the italics is the same as if there were quotation marks)

Option 3: italics with either single or double quotation marks. “Speech is written with a double quotation,” he said. ‘But what I think is written in single quotations,’ he thought.

I use option 2 for thoughts and option 3 with single quotations for telepathic dialogue. Whatever you choose, you must use a single option for the entire book to avoid confusion.

 

Written Communications

Emails, text messages, PMs on social media, scrawled notes, written letters … sometimes our characters need to write things down or read things that are written down. As with thoughts, there are a few ways to do this, and consistency is key.

Option 1: single quotations

Option 2: italics

Option 3: italics with quotations

(Do not use the same format for written communication as you do for thoughts)

Option 4: Bold

Option 5: Other punctuation marks. In The Underground I use ~ for short messages like texts. ~Answer your phone. ~

Option 6: Block quotes/modified margins – this is when you adjust the margin, so the body of the text has a 1” margin on left and right but a letter or email (especially if it’s several paragraphs) has a 1.5” margin on left and right

Option 7: Use the narrative to indicate it’s written (He read the letter) and use the same quotations as a speech

 

Questions? Leave me a comment and I’ll answer it for you. If you feel I’ve missed a special case/type of dialogue or if you have other options for thoughts and written communications, comment and let me know.

The Story Bible

That’s not a typo. I’m not talking about Bible stories – I’m talking about story bibles, or story canon. A story bible is a document, folder, or other reference device used by writers to keep their fictional world straight and consistent.

But how do you create one?

Start by recording all the unchangeable facts about your “world” – how your magic works, the climate, the seasons, the calendar, distances between locations, etc.

Next, make a list of characters – their birthdates, gender, name, family connections, backstory. Add to this how they are tied to various plot lines or other characters (best friends, romantic interests, enemies, allies).

Make a list of changeable facts – government, titles, corporate positions, allegiances, etc.

Lastly, make a list of all major plot points, the dates they occur, where they occur, who is there, and how that event changes any of the above facts.

Add to this as you add characters and events.

Why do you create one?

For consistency. Sometimes you have a single author building an extensive universe and a world bible will help them keep their facts straight. It is essential if you have a co-author so you can both stay on the same page. It is common for TV shows as well, where they employ multiple writers, often with a different person handling each episode. Events from each episode are added to the story bible so the next writer knows what has happened, what everyone knows, and the key personality traits and plot points.

It’s all about keeping your facts straight.

The Underground Cast Overview

I don’t want to pull a JK Rowling with this series of books, so I’ve done my best, in the books themselves, to make the nationality and sexuality of each character, as clear as the story allows. Now, as the final books are coming out for the Christmas season, I want to be even clearer by introducing some of the main characters and clarifying what the canon stance on their sexuality and nationality is.

Shawna Grieves – she comes out as a lesbian in book 4 and by the end of the series she has a steady girlfriend. I didn’t know that about her when I started writing book 1. She came out to me as I was working on book 3.

Maggie – she never explicitly comes out but by the end of the series, she’s Shawna’s girlfriend.

GIRL2 – she is one of Cheyanne’s friends in the bonus novella. While nothing is explicitly said about her, her friends go on about her hating drama and the “kissy faces”. She is Asexual and I really wanted to show her as a normal person with great friends who totally accept that she has no interest in dating.

GAY – he’s one of Cheyanne’s friends as well and is openly gay. He has a boyfriend and the two of them exist in the background of Cheyanne’s story.

Cheyanne – while Cheyanne is straight, she is unique in the story because she’s the only character who is expressly stated to be not-white. Shawna and Ethan’s father is of Irish heritage while their mother is German. Ethan and Shawna mention someone they’ve seen around the Complex as being black but he’s an off-page character. Cheyanne is the only other character whose nationality is mentioned, and she’s Ojibway (Anishinabe).

These books are geared towards 10-15 year old readers. I wanted the books to be fun, fast-paced, and full of drama, but I also wanted them to be safe reads. There’s no swearing and minimal violence. There are a few kisses but zero sexual content. And because of that it gave me the chance to portray a variety of characters without sexualizing them – they’re kids, pre-teens, on a mission, trying to survive, trying to find answers, first and foremost, and everything else is just a part of who they are.

As for why? My answer is, why not?

August Recap

I’m a few days late but here’s August in a nutshell. I wrote zero words.

That’s all folks!

Okay, so July ended off with me taking on a paid editing gig for a talented writer from the US. 80k+ words, epic fantasy, real D&D spin sort of thing, right up my alley. I spent all of my available computer time in August working on that and finishing up other projects.

  • Finished a paid editing job
  • Finished the edits and formatting on The Underground books 6-8, including fixing a major plot hold in the ending sequence (like series killing big)
  • Did the edits and reformatting on the Nothing Everything Nothing second edition
  • Published The Underground books 6-8 and Nothing Everything Nothing second edition in paperback and ebook

On the personal front, we started off August with a trip to BC to visit my sister-in-law. When we got home, we finished up school supply shopping and fit in all the remaining “things to do during summer vacation” – including the swimming pool and taking my husband to the zoo to pet the stingrays (so cool).

We ended off the month by adopting a cat. He’s a 4-month-old rescue from the Humane Society, came in as a kitten with his mother and litter-mates. He’s a white and silver short-hair tabby with a beautiful swirl pattern on his back and yellow eyes. We’ve named him Zephyr (but he’s often called Shithead or Dingus by me and Fluff Butt by the kids).

What’s up for September?

We’ve got to get the cat acclimated to the house and eventually introduced to the dog. The kids are going back to school (hooray!) I have a show on the 8th and possibly one on the 14th if all goes well. My baby sister is turning 30. Oh, and there’s a black belt test at the end of the month (I’m not eligible to test but my master is testing for his next dan so I’m excited to go). We also have the academy award dinner at the end of September.

Writing goals include finishing Zoedar Book 2 (we’re at 83k right now and 21 scenes to go), write up all the TV, movie, and book reviews I haven’t gotten around to yet, and look over the notes on Zoedar Book 1 that my extremely awesome beta reader provided.

I’m at 344k words this year. That leaves me 17.5 weeks to write the remaining 176k. That’s just over 10k per week, which is right on my usual goals. Guess I ate up all the buffer time I’d built up earlier in the year. It’s nose to the grindstone time to finish off the year strong.

Wish me luck!

I’ll check in again in a month.

July Recap

I’m a few days early but it’s a busy week so I need to get this out of the way now.

I barely wrote anything in July. Seriously, like 10k.

But, I picked up a paid editing job for a first-time author. 80k of high fantasy adventure. And I need to have all of it finished by the end of August.

On top of that, I’ve been working at cleaning up the house since it’s a disaster. With the garage and the writing, the cleaning fell behind. Oh, and the garage. And my brother-in-law came to visit for a week. And I took the kids camping for 3 days. And we’re prepping to travel to BC for a week at the beginning of August.

And the kids are home full time for summer vacation so we’ve done bowling, splash pads, and many visits to friends and family.

Life is good, I’m tired but feel accomplished, even if I haven’t written much.

The second Zoedar book is at 80k and about 2/3rds done. No, a little more than that. Maybe. It’s going to be a long book. The first book comes back from the Beta Reader this week.

The Underground books will be completed by the end of August. No excuses. All I have to do is make the corrections, double-check the formatting, and do up the back covers.

I did manage to watch a few shows on Netflix and I’ve got a long list of reviews to write up. Maybe I’ll get to that in September.

Enjoy your summer!

 

Prolific Works

I received a troubling email this morning from an app/site called Prolific Works.

prolific1

The rest of the email was simply inviting me to click the link to upgrade my account. So, what’s so troubling?

I’d never heard of Prolific Works before today and I’ve never given them permission to distribute my books, let alone give my books away.

I went to their website intending to search their database to see if my books were indeed available there or if this was some new site trying to get me to sign up. It’s a little of both. First, though, I couldn’t search via their website, I had to download the app.

I downloaded the app and registered (I will be leaving a review before I delete my account and the app later today). I searched my name and bingo! 1 result listed under fantasy.

The good news is that the only book they have listed is a short story that I offer for free on Smashwords and their associate sites. Which gave me pause. Perhaps this is a Smashwords affiliated distributor? Turns out they are not.

I emailed Prolific Works next and this was their reply:

Hi Casia,

Sorry for the confusion regarding this message! Our company used to be called Instafreebie, and it looks like you ran a giveaway on our site in 2017. Our system automatically generates these emails, so it didn’t realize that you haven’t been active since that time. You do have one book and one giveaway on the site, and the book is called “Roses of Airon.” If you don’t plan on using our services in the future, I’m happy to deactivate your account for you! Again, I’m sorry for the miscommunication, and you won’t be receiving an email like this from us again. Let me know if there’s anything else I can clarify for you.

Aha! So, in 2017 I ran a freebie on my free short story, a prequel to a series I recently finished. If Instafreebie sent me an email about the change in name, I didn’t get it, because I didn’t get any results from the giveaway I ran with them at the time. But in the last 2 years, apparently, the story has been downloaded 200+ times. Sadly those downloads have NOT translated into sales for me. There was no “end” date on the giveaway, which is how it was still live on their site.

I have replied to their email, asking them to deactivate my account.

In the grand scheme of things I’ve lost nothing in this ordeal. The readers who downloaded my short story for free were never going to purchase my books, no matter where they downloaded it from. I’ve written about Free Culture before, and how it is killing the arts, and this is further proof.

I’m glad this turned out to be harmless. I’ve received some predatory emails in the past from sites that want to publish my work for free for their profit. If you have free stories and want to put them on another platform, you can look at Prolific Works. I’m in no position to review, rate, or recommend them, but they’re out there.

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!

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.