Getting closer to progress bars, and more from A Wasted Land

I want to thank you all for the tips on getting progress bars set up on my blog. I’m hoping to experiment with that in the next couple of days, and do some other tweaking to my blog as well. Hopefully you will see some changes by next week!

Progress on my various projects continues to be slow but steady. Last week, I wrote about 3200 new words. I haven’t made much progress on getting back into the marketing swing of things, however. My Mondays are largely spent writing the blog posts for “Starting out as an indie author.” I may have to take a break from that for a week or two to get the marketing machine rolling again. Besides, if I’m not selling anymore, how can I write about how to sell your ebooks? I have to figure out how it works, in this new marketing environment (which in a few months will probably be completely different). Oh, isn’t life fun in this brave new world we’re living in? :)

Another thing I’ll be taking a break from is working on A Wasted Land. I don’t want to publish the ebook of Island of Glass until I at least have the rough draft of Facets of Glass finished — and as you can see from my word counts below, I am very far from that yet. I may, however, continue posting from AWL on Wippet Wednesday, since I still have quite a few words you guys haven’t seen yet.

Anyway, here’s how my ongoing projects stand now:

A Wasted Land
44,200 of 70,000 estimated

Sooper sekrit project
12,600 of 60,000 estimated

Life in the Fjord Lane
1500 of 3000 estimated (travel, mostly pictures with little text; work largely formatting)

Killing Twilight (short story / shared world)
500 of 7,000 estimated

Facets of Glass (YA novella)
1200 of 25,000 estimated

Starting out as an Indie Author (non-fiction)
7600 (no estimate)

On to Wippet Wednesday. This snippet follows immediately after the excerpt from last week. Celemon and Kustennin are examining the hill-fort of Sarum. Celemon has just thanked him for giving her a new purpose in life as Master of Horse, since she’s certain she will never marry now — to which he reacts very strangely. I give you 20 sentences for the twentieth day of the month:

Celemon shrugged. “I would not want to be a dependent in my brother’s family, and I see little chance for me anymore of starting my own.”
“No!” He pulled his hand away and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “You are talking as if you no longer have any chance of finding a husband. I do not believe it!”
At Kustennin’s brotherly defense of her, Celemon was tempted to smile, but given Kustennin’s wrought up mood, she suppressed the impulse. “Kustennin, I am over twenty,” she said instead, reasoning with him. “My father, who had much influence over Arthur, once the most powerful man in Britain, is dead. Without that influence, there is little reason for anyone to ally themselves with the sister of the man holding the modest fortress of Caer Gai. Not to mention that so many men died in the recent wars, there are many women in my generation who will be left without husbands. But at least I am not left without a task, and I have you to thank for that.”
“You value yourself too little,” he said, his voice sounding strangely angry. “Not only are you an excellent horsewoman, with a knowledge of the training and breeding of horses that is itself a prize, you are young and comely. You could surely have your choice of men. If you were to leave my service and start stables of your own, you would have customers the length and breadth of Britain. Do not let Aurelius’s disloyalty define your image of yourself. Think on it.” With those words, he turned on his heel and stormed away in the direction of the inner defenses of Sarum.
Celemon gazed after him, disturbed and flattered at the same time. But where did his anger come from?

And since last week I shared the cover art, this week I give you the cover:

Cover for A Wasted Land

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

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Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers

Hire a cover artist or make it yourself?

Ruth Nestvold covers
Some of my covers*

I’m starting this post off with a random selection of my covers — what came up when I searched for covers in my Flickr account, since I just don’t have the time to put together a banner specifically for the purpose right now. Still, it’s a pretty good selection for what I want to explore today: how professional do you want your covers to look? What are you willing to invest to ensure that your covers don’t scream thrown together in an hour with free art found on the internet? (That was the basis for the only cover above that I did completely on my own, in response to a challenge on Joe Konrath’s blog, to write, create the cover, and publish an ebook within 8 hours. It shows. *g*)

Aside from the cover I slapped together just in time to make the 8 hour deadline, I think the differences between these covers are most obvious in the typeface. My daughter — the architect with all the Photoshop expertise who helps me with my covers — can manipulate images wonderfully, much faster than I can, but when we work on a cover together, we often seem to spend much of our time tweaking fonts.

Those who follow this blog probably know which of these covers were designed professionally, and which I designed with my daughter. But if any random visitors want to pipe up in the comments as to what they thought, I would be very interested to see if it’s as obvious as I think it is!

I already talked a little bit about covers and how to find cover artists in my post on the cost of self-publishing. In this installment, I would like to go into covers in a bit more detail, in particular, resources for those who want to try to make their own. But a word of warning up front — if you don’t have any background in design (or someone to help you who does), it will very likely show when you make your own covers.

Then why even bother if you can get a cover on Fiverr for five bucks? When you buy stock art on Dreamstime or Shutterstock, it usually costs more! Here are a few reasons for doing it yourself:

- First off, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to like that five buck cover. Most of my experiences with cover artists have been great, but one of my forays into hiring someone turned out to be a waste of time and money — and it was quite a bit more than five bucks. After that experience, I stuck with making covers with my daughter for a while, since I really didn’t feel like throwing any more money out the window.

- Another advantage of making your own covers is that you can tweak the information on the cover without having to go back to the cover artist, possibly paying more. Let’s say, for example, that you win some big award, and you want to add that information to the cover. Or you decide to make a book into the first in a series, and you need to add “Book 1.” If you created the PSD file in the first place, it’s much easier to do.

- It’s almost as much work finding a cover artist as it is making a cover. It takes plenty of time to go through lists of cover artists, look at examples of their work, and decide which one might fit the tone and genre of the work you need a cover for.

- Perhaps you’re a bit of a control freak, and you have very precise ideas about how you want your cover to look — and you don’t trust anyone else to get it the way you want it.

- You have a background in design, photography, art, or something else along those lines. You enjoy making covers, and for you it’s a part of the creative process. Bestselling indie author H. M. Ward even does the photography for her covers herself. You can read about her cover making process here.

Stock Art

So if you decide to get creative and attempt to make your own covers, where are the best places for getting stock photos? And how much will you have to pay? And is it possible to find stock that isn’t already being used by everyone and her sister?

Some of the main stock art sites:

Shutterstock

Canstock

Dreamstime

iStock

Bigstock

123rf

Depositphotos

Fotalia

Envato

Razzle Dazzle

On most of these sites you can either buy packages of credits for the purchase of stock images, or you can subscribe and download a certain number of images a day. Prices for individual images vary from site to site and also according to the size and start at a couple of dollars. For larger images, however, you can easily pay $20 for a single photo. So if you are going to be making a series of covers and you have a general idea in advance of the kind of images you’ll be needing, it can worth it in the long run to subscribe for a month and download your daily allotment of images during that month. I did this about a year ago, and now I have an excellent collection of images for use on covers, in banners, on my web site, you name it.

Unfortunately, most of these sites do not tell you how often an image has been downloaded, and you just might find the image you wanted to use on another cover in your genre. The license you buy from these sites is not exclusive. As a result, it makes sense to search by popularity and skip the images on the first page.

Another possibility for finding cover art is through Deviantart. This would involve contacting the artist / photographer directly and working out terms and pricing.

A reminder: make sure that the license you are purchasing allows you to use the art in ebook covers, and if you intend to make a POD book, print as well!

Fonts

When making your own covers, you may also want to use fonts that you don’t by default have on your computer. Here are some places where you can get new fonts:

Dafont.com

1001 Free Fonts

Font Squirrel

What if you decide to hire a cover artist after all?

There are a couple of threads on Kboards which I mentioned in this post which include links to cover artists and premade covers. The article also has a couple of other links to help you find a cover artist to do all the above work for you. :)

* The professional covers are the first and the fifth in the row.

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

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Progress but no progress bars, and #WIPpet Wednesday

My writing goals got a little waylaid again last week, but I’ve mostly managed to catch up with myself again. My total word count for the week was 3100 words. I posted the latest installment of “Starting out as an indie author” a day late, but at least I didn’t give in to temptation and put it off even longer. (*patting myself on the back*)

In my continued battle to keep myself honest, I also looked into adding progress bars to my blog, but I couldn’t figure it out without spending sh*tloads of time on it. If anyone has done it before and has tips for me, do leave me a note in the comments!

In lieu of progress bars, I have put together a list of my works in progress, word counts, and estimates (I *hate* estimates! *g*):

A Wasted Land
43,700 of 70,000 estimated

Sooper sekrit project
10,600 of 60,000 estimated

Life in the Fjord Lane (travel, mostly pictures with little text; work largely formatting)
1100 of 3000 estimated

Facets of Glass (YA novella)
1200 of 25,000 estimated

Starting out as an Indie Author
6500 (no estimate)

I will keep posting the list until the day, when and if, I learn how to add progress bars to my blog. :)

On to Wippet Wednesday. The day’s math: 8 + 13 = 22 — 22 short sentences from A Wasted Land. In this snippet, I am returning to where I was two weeks ago, before I wrote last week’s scene of loss to deal with loss of my own. Kustennin and Celemon are inspecting disused military sites on the border to Cerdic’s lands with an eye to setting up a new base of operations:

A gust of wind tugged strands of hair out of her thick braid, and she pulled them back with one hand as she turned to her childhood friend. “Have I told you yet how grateful I am that you appointed me Master of Horse?”
“There is no need to be grateful –“
She held up her free hand, stopping him with a gesture. “Yes, there is. You redefined the role in such a way that I, a woman with little knowledge of warfare other than what I hear and experience from a distance, could take the position.”
“I have many men who can lead a cavalry unit,” Kustennin said. “But no one who can see to the purchase and the breeding of the horses needed besides you — at least no one with your knowledge of horseflesh.”
Celemon did her best to tuck the loose strands of hair behind her ears. “Except your step-father.”
“Who begged me to find someone else as Master of Horse,” he reminded her.
“Nonetheless, please be graceful enough to accept my thanks, Kustennin.”
He smiled at that and inclined his head in acknowledgment. “A hit. You are welcome.”
She smiled back. “I feel I’ve done little so far, but I love the work.” She laid a hand on his forearm on the balustrade near her. “Besides, I do not know what I would have done with myself after Aurelius married Bethan — I no longer have a father whose household I could run, and my brother will surely soon marry and start a family of his own.”
Kustennin shook his head, the smile slowly vanishing from his face. “What are you talking about?”

Cover-I-Want-for-Kustennin

Cover art for A Wasted Land

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

* Note: I’m exceedingly p*ssed off at WordPress right now, because it seems to have decided it’s smarter than me and won’t do blockquotes where I want them — it kept adding all the info from the list above my snippet, and I’ve had to redo this post four times. Even when I switched from visual to text and redid the code, WordPress still moved the beginning of the blockquote up! So I ended up italicizing my excerpt rather than using blockquotes.

One thing I hate more than anything is software that thinks it knows what I want better than I do … grumble, grumble …

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Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all.

Starting out as an indie author

Why hire an editor?

Hiring an editor or proofreader for your manuscript before you publish is one of the costliest pre-publishing expenses you as an indie writer can incur. For a lot of us who aren’t selling thousands of copies of our books each month, the temptation might be great to skip booking any kind of editing services for our ebooks.

But the thing is, it’s very, very important to have (at least) a second set of eyes go over your manuscript. Yes, we all have spell-checking in our word processors these days, but what about those pesky typos that happen to be a word too (like “to” and “too”)? When the words came out of your own fingers, it’s often very difficult to see the mistakes. Someone with more distance to the writing and the story is also more likely to catch all those bloopers you and your beta readers missed. Who tend to be friends and fans, after all, and thus by definition might not have the necessary distance.

What exactly do I mean by “distance”? As I see it, distance in this respect means being able to judge your writing as a reader, and not as the author. We as writers tend to be invested in the words we write, the characters we create, and the stories we are telling, which can make it difficult to judge them objectively. But not only that, when we are still to close to what we’ve written, our brains have a greater tendency to translate an actual mistake on the screen or the page to what it is supposed to be. As an example, in one of my books, the word “lucking” for “luckily” went through nearly a dozen beta readers and critique partners before it was caught by the editor I hired.

Types of editing

Proofreading – Checking for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. This is the most superficial level editing which only looks for the most basic mistakes.

Copy editing or line editing – General proofreading plus checking for consistency and stylistic errors. Some editing services separate proofreading and copy editing, but I’m not quite sure how an editor would be able to correct only consistency and style and not spelling and grammar.

Content editing – All of the above, plus feedback on the structure of the story as a whole.

Developmental editing – Substantive feedback on the “big picture” elements of the work, including plot, character, style, and pacing. Editing of this sort should be done separately from copy editing or proofreading, since the whole point is for the editor to help the writer fix the story — and that in turn will require serious rewriting. Most writers with a completed manuscript will not be looking for developmental editing, which is very expensive. Rates for an 80,000 word novel start at about $500.

Here’s a list of editors from the Kboards site. As I implied above, there is some fluidity to the editing terms I listed. For example, some editing services refer to content and developmental editing as the same thing, while others differentiate between copy editing and line editing. When deciding on an editor, you also need to decide exactly what kind of work you think your manuscript needs and book accordingly. As I mentioned in my last post in this series, if you have never worked with an editor before, I would suggest first trying a few with good referrals or testimonials who offer free samples of their editing work.

When can you get away with not hiring an editor?

In “The Costs of Self-Publishing,” I listed editing and cover expenses (whether in stock art or hiring a cover designer) as the only two price points I think a writer starting out seriously needs to consider. Can you skip this price point? In my experience, it tends to be the biggest expense pre-publishing. As with all rules, there are exceptions. While I think most beginning indie writers should invest in an editor, there are a number of cases where the expense can safely be skipped, and several more where it’s a toss-up whether or not you really need to invest in an editor.

- Your book / novella / short story has been previously published elsewhere, where it went through a professional editing pass

This one to me is a no-brainer. Most of my ebooks were previously published before I brought out my self-published editions, and I trust the editors of the magazines and publishing houses where they first appeared to have done their job. Of course, no one sees all the mistakes in a manuscript, and I’ve gotten “needs an editor” reviews for some of those works which very definitely did have an editor. But they are relatively rare.

So if you are publishing your backlist or anything else that has been previously published, you can safely skip hiring an editor or proofreader.

- The book has been workshopped extensively and/or gone through several beta readers, at least one of whom took the time to also do line edits

While this was the case with Shadow of Stone, I hired an editor anyway because I wanted to make the book as good as I possibly could. At the time, however, my ebooks were selling quite well. With the sales I have now, my decision might have been different — but I believe the quality of the book would have suffered.

- You have editing experience yourself and you are willing to lay the work aside for at least three months (preferably more) before doing a final editing pass

While I have not actually used this method yet on any of my own self-published works, I could imagine it would be effective in combination with critique partners or beta readers. I have a Ph.D. in English, I’ve taught both literature and grammar, and in my former life as an English professor, I helped edit a number of scholarly papers and collections. That, of course, is not the same thing as fiction (something painfully brought to my attention when I was at Clarion). But I do have the professional editing skill set.

I have often set fiction I’m working on aside for several months, and I am always astonished how, after such a break, I can see my own work with fresh eyes. What also helps me to see what I’ve written more critically is to print it out and read it with pen in hand. Mistakes I don’t catch on screen I might catch on paper.

- You have a friend / critique partner with editing experience who writes in your genre and is willing to trade manuscript edits with you

This is also a method I have not yet tried, but it is something I’ve discussed with friends and can imagine would work — as long as both sides take the editing seriously, and neither one is too inclined to take edits personally — with the subsequent danger of ruining the friendship …

- Possible alternative: read the book out loud

So what if none of the above applies and you absolutely do not have the money to hire and editor or proofreader? On a couple of blogs, I have seen a method the respective authors swear by: either read the book out loud to yourself, or have it read to you by text-to-speech software. I have never used this method, so I have no experience to relate, but by all means, read the blog posts I linked to and give the method a shot.

I would love to hear of any experiences you’ve had with professional editors — or any other editing methods you’ve tried — in the comments.

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

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Plagiarism and Petulance

Ruth Nestvold:

In case you haven’t heard about it yet, another amazing plagiarism case has come out involving Rachel Ann Nunes and someone who calls herself Sam Taylor Mullens. This post has some pertinent links. You can also read more in the comments on The Passive voice here: http://www.thepassivevoice.com/08/2014/standing-against-plagarism/

Originally posted on Pete Morin:

In the most recent display of mind-boggling dishonesty, one indie author who goes by the pen name of Sam Taylor Mullens has been caught plagiarizing from a 20 year old novel written by Rachel Ann Nunes.

When Ms. Nunes discovered the plagiarism, she gave the author an opportunity to explain herself, and she got back a lot of malarkey (she wasn’t smart enough to have her story straight, so she offered two completely different ones) – which Rachel lays out in detail at the link above. Apparently, Mullen was also trying to “destroy the evidence” by asking her ARC recipients to delete the file ebook file she’d forwarded to them, and not turn one over to Nunes. (This reminds me of Tiger Woods, don’t ask me why.)

Not to be content with mere copyright infringement, cover-up and sheer intellectual sloth, the author then had several anonymous minions (hint: could it have…

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“The Leaving Sweater” finally free on Amazon!

After repeated attempts, my short story “The Leaving Sweater” is now finally free on Amazon!

The Leaving Sweater: Tales from far Beyond North

The description:

So you think magic isn’t necessary in order to leave? Think again …

Victoria Askew doesn’t want to leave remote Rolynka, Alaska when she finishes high school; it’s all she’s ever known. At least not until her mother knits her the most beautiful sweater she’s ever seen, a sweater imbued with magic — a leaving sweater…

Even if you’ve already read “The Leaving Sweater” on Strange Horizons, where it was originally published, do please download the ebook! I’m hoping that with a permafree story in the series “Tales From Far Beyond North” I might be able to sell a few more tales in the series, which in turn just might inspire to me to write more about the oddball community in Rolynka, Alaska near the Bering Strait, with its strange forms of everyday magic.

The stories were inspired by a combination of my mother’s background in Nome, Alaska, and my love of the brilliant TV series, Northern Exposure. So I guess the stories are a sort of fanfic, even if several of them have been published in professional publications already. :)


Trailer for Tales From Far Beyond North

And if you are so inclined, please tell your friends to download too!

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In which I use fiction to deal with reality for #WIPpet Wednesday

After I stumbled upon the news I blogged about in my last post, I wasn’t intending to participate in WIPpet Wednesday today. But I found myself needing to do something with the renewed bout of pain. (This is turning into a really shi*ty summer, sorry.)

So I decided to take the pain and use it to write a scene of loss that I had planned but not yet written. I have no math today — my only math is learning about my friend’s death and using it for the scene I wrote today:

The weanling tossed her head at the unfamiliar halter, and Celemon spoke to her soothingly, stroking her neck. “Whoa, Arantia, it’s all right. Time for you to get used to a lead rope, you know.”
The filly shook her head again, calming down reluctantly.
“That’s the way, girl.” Celemon looped the rope gently around her neck with one hand, the other tight on the lead beneath her chin. Arantia’s golden chestnut coat glinted in the late summer sun, a shade darker than that of her dam, who stood calmly by, providing the safety the skittish filly needed.
Slowly Celemon let out the lead while keeping a loose loop around her neck. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Taliesin leaning on the fence, smiling as he watched.
Then behind the bard, she noticed a horse and rider heading straight for the paddock where she was trying to break Arantia to the halter. The horse’s pace was far too fast for it to be anything other than urgent news.
Celemon unlooped the rope and dropped the lead, hurrying towards the fence. Taliesin straightened and glanced behind him to see what was the matter.
She reached the paddock gate the same time as the rider. He used the fence to help dismount and then knelt in the grass at her feet, panting to catch his breath.
“Come, man, what news?” she rapped out. “Is it Kustennin?”
He drew a deep breath and shook his head. “No, Lady. Caer Gai is taken. Your brother is dead.”
Celemon put her hands to her cheeks. She felt tears streaming down between her fingers, a sudden onrush at the unexpected news. “Taken?” she choked out.
“Maelgwn,” the messenger said. “Garanwyn refused to acknowledge him as High King of Britain, even laughed in his face, it is said. I am so sorry, Lady.”
She felt an arm go around her shoulders and turned to the comfort of a solid chest. Taliesin. She did not sob, but the tears kept coming and coming, a well she hadn’t known she possessed. Since they were children and had gone into fosterage with different relatives, she’d seen so little of her brother. She should have visited him more, or at the very least, written him more often.
Now he was gone, and she would never be able to make good on all her intentions to reforge a family bond with him.
Garanwyn.

Love you, Ardie.

Arden

My eyes hurt.

All the rest of you friends stay alive, ok? I’m getting tired of this mourning business.

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

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