Late update and #WIPpet for Wednesday (Thursday …)

Can you say tomatoes? That’s one of the reasons I’m late this week. Big fat tomato harvest and the need to make stewed tomatoes and spaghetti sauce and tomato consomme and freeze a bunch so it won’t all go to waste! Add to that the fact that I’m on my own little personal writing roll, and yesterday I just didn’t feel like interrupting that for an extended blogging session … So far this week I’ve written 2300 words on Facets of Glass. For about the last month, I’ve been consistently writing at least 4000 words a week, even taking a day off for marketing each week — AND with a glut of tomatoes. :)

I know that for some people that’s a daily word count, but I’ve been stuck for so many years at 500 words a day, five days a week, that for me this is starting to look like the beginning of a breakthrough. I’m not going to celebrate too much yet. First I want to see if it really does become a habit — and maybe even something I can improve on!

Anyway, on to your WIPpet for Thursday. 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.

This week I’m going to inflict another book description on you guys. Today I’ve been working on getting Book II of Yseult ready for publication, so that’s how it relates to the date. *g* Here’s the cover I have:

Yseult, Part II: A Man and a Woman

And here’s the blurb:

The second book of Yseult, a #1 bestseller in Arthurian and Historical Fantasy!

Drystan had imagined his homecoming very differently — not returning to a father who is breaking treaties and sleeping with his niece. In order to save the family honor, Drystan fights a duel and is seriously wounded. His only hope lies in the mysterious land of Eriu, with the famous healer and queen, Yseult the Wise.

When he sets out for Eriu, Drystan does not expect to survive the journey. Nor does he expect to fall in love with the queen’s daughter, Yseult the Fair. If only the man he had killed in the duel had not been Yseult’s uncle and the queen’s brother.

Yseult is a retelling of the tragic love story of Tristan and Isolde, an Arthurian romance with roots going back far into the realm of legend and the undying tales of King Arthur.

So what do you guys think? Is it too much reciting what happens and not enough suspense to intrigue the reader? Please do rip it apart! I was very happy with your critiques last week and completely redid the description as a result. Thank you all so much!

Part I of Yseult published – and a request

The last few days have been all about marketing, and I haven’t gotten much writing done. But I did have a fairly successful week last week, with a total word count of 4100 words. Oh, and if you haven’t seen the interview with our own Kate Sparkes that I posted on Monday, check it out!

The marketing activity this week has to do with the experiment I wrote about in my last blog post, splitting Yseult up into four parts and uploading each individually. I started on that yesterday, publishing Part I to Amazon and Draft2Digital. It is now available on Amazon, iTunes, and Kobo (hasn’t published to B&N yet).

Yseult, Part I

That is where the request comes in. Amazon doesn’t allow you to set the price to free, so I have to get them to price match. Which means I need people to tell them about a lower price. Some of you guys have helped me with this before and will know how this works. For those who don’t, here’s how it goes:

- Go to the Amazon page of Yseult, Part I here: http://www.amazon.com/Yseult-Part-I-Two-Women-ebook/dp/B00NFPE1T8/

- Scroll down to the links beneath the product details and click on “tell us about a lower price”

- In the box that pops up, click on “Website” and enter this URL for the iTunes store where the book is free:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id917430003

- For price and shipping cost enter “0” and click on “Submit feedback”

Thanks in advance!

On to WIPpet Wednesday — and another request. I’ve been messing with the description for this first installment and I’d really like some help, which is why that’s what I’m posting today. On the one hand, I need to make it clear that this is part of the novel that has already been published. On the other, I have to get something in about the main plot line of this episode. Finally, I have to let potential readers know that this is not all going to end happily — or else those who get to the fourth book might be inclined to hunt be down and shoot me, despite the fact that in all the versions I know of the legend, either one or both of the lovers dies at the end. (See some of the angry reviews I’ve gotten for Yseult if you don’t think this is necessary. *g*)

Anyway, here’s what I have right now. (It’s not the same as on Amazon, since, as I said, I’ve been messing with it.) Please tear it apart!

The #1 Amazon Bestseller in Arthurian Fantasy for 14 Weeks!

Yseult: A Tale of love in the Age of King Arthur is a retelling of the tragedy of Tristan and Yseult, a story older than Romeo and Juliet or Lancelot and Guinevere; an Arthurian romance with roots going back far into the realm of legend and the undying tales of King Arthur.

“Part I: Two Women” is a re-imagining of Yseult’s youth, never part of the legends — until now.

The tragic love story of Tristan and Yseult has been told many times and in many ways, but always Yseult is a princess of Ireland, a land on the fringes of Europe, a land that had never been conquered by Rome. But what would her life have been like in that pagan land before the advent of Christianity?

Yseult the Wise and Yseult the Fair, mother and daughter, are members of the proud race of the Feadh Ree, the Old Race in Eriu. But new ways and a new religion are coming to their land, and despite all their magic, they are powerless to stop it …

Yseult was originally published in German translation with Random House Germany as Flamme und Harfe, and followed by translations into Dutch and Italian.

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.

On splitting up a big book: Turning Yseult into episodes

As many of you following this blog know, I started my career as an indie author after I got the rights back to the original English of my novel Yseult, which was published in German as Flamme und Harfe by Random House Germany in 2009.

Flamme und Harfe, Ruth Nestvold

I published the English original in January 2012 on my own with this cover from the talented Derek Murphy of CreativIndie Covers:

Yseult, Ruth Nestvold

Since the original publisher of Yseult / Flamme und Harfe, Random House Germany, told me they were interested in a sequel (which they decided they were not interested in after all), when I published Yseult, I already had the next doorstopper waiting in the wings, Shadow of Stone, which I published in June of 2012.

That too sold quite well, and I began to imagine that I was on my way to a wonderful career as an indie author.

Halt.

Readers started wanting to know when the next “installment” would be available. Of books that were both close to 200,000 words, or over 500 pages long. Unfortunately, I don’t write fast enough to produce novels of that size every year, and I lost readers.

I started writing a prequel to The Pendragon Chronicles, Ygerna, hoping to make it free and attract more readers that way, but I soon noticed that the story of Arthur’s mother was too complicated for me to finish off in a couple ten thousand words, and it ended up on the back burner. I do have a free short story from the second novel available, Gawain and Ragnell, and that has helped my sales somewhat, giving potential readers a taste of the world of The Pendragon Chronicles. So I know for a fact that permafree can help your sales.

Then at some point I started noticing something new happening in ebook publishing: it seemed as if a lot of the most successful indie authors were publishing their ebooks in episodes or as serials, in chunks from between 50 to 200 pages. Like with a TV show, each episode might bring a single plot thread to a conclusion, but there was also often some kind of cliffhanger to make sure the reader came back for the next installment. An added advantage of the episode format is that the author can make the first “book” of the novel free in order to entice readers to give it a try.

Slowly an experiment started to take shape in my mind. I had these two Big Fat Fantasies, after all, together close to 400,000 words. But in the era of ebooks, when the reader can’t judge a book by how heavy it is in her hand, books seem to be getting shorter. And while the true short story has yet to make a comeback, readers appear to be increasingly accepting of novella-length books. (This is all totally subjective and unscientific, so don’t quote me on it.)

Anyway, as a result of these observations, I have decided to launch an experiment. I am going to take the four books of Yseult apart — which, btw, is how I organized the novel long before the advent of ebooks — and offer them separately. I will try to make the first book free on Amazon as quickly as possible. Here is the pricing structure I’m considering for the serial version:

Part I: FREE
Part II: 99c (my take, 30c)
Part III: 2.99 (my take $2)
Part IV: 2.99 (my take $2)

My goal is not to make more money than with the complete novel, although that is what would happen if readers were only to buy the individual parts. But when I do this, I do not intend to unpublish Yseult. That will still be available for 4.99 for anyone who is enjoying the series enough to want to buy the novel. Mostly I’m just hoping that with parts 1 & 2 at free and 99c respectively, a few more readers will try out the series.

So recently I’ve been working on a template for the covers of the individual episodes. I wanted to use the cover of Yseult as a basis, to make sure that no one bought any of the episodes thinking it was a new story in The Pendragon Chronicles. At the same time, the covers should be distinctive enough to stand out from each other. Given those considerations, here’s the template I came up with for the series:

Yseult template

And here’s my first attempt at a single title:

Yseult-Part-1

My thought is to use different colors beneath the “celtic fringe” *g* on the left / west side of the cover as a visual signal of the differences between the books. And now, as I write this, it occurs to me that the color for the first book, which takes place in Ireland / Eriu, should be a dark green rather than the dark purple I have now. *g*

Anyway, I welcome any thoughts / feedback you have in the comments below!

I might land flat on my face with this experiment, but I’m not out of much more than a couple days worth of work making the new covers, formatting the individual sections, and uploading them to the various venues. Wish me luck. :) And do please let me know what you think!

Starting out as an indie author: Interview with Kate Sparkes, author of BOUND

For this week’s installment of “Starting out as an indie author” I offer you an interview with new writer Kate Sparkes, who — to judge by her rankings in the Amazon store — “did it right.” She published her first novel, Bound, in June 2014. The novel is a YA fantasy and the first in a trilogy – and has a beautiful cover that makes me drool. :)

Kate Sparkes, Bound

As of today, the book already has 88 reviews with an average of 4.7. The rankings in the Amazon US Kindle store are also impressive:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,212 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery
#4 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Coming of Age
#17 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery

Especially for an author just starting out, those are excellent numbers. I think we can all learn from Kate on what and what not to do when self-publishing. On to the interview. :)

Welcome, Kate, and thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. First off, please tell us a little bit about your work.

I write stories.

More specifically, I write stories that I want to read, and that usually means there’s a good dose of magic or other-worldliness in my stories. I’m easily bored by real life, so I write Fantasy and Urban Fantasy. The first series I’m publishing is the YA Fantasy Bound Trilogy. Bound (book #1) came out at the end of June, and Torn (book #2) should be out in late February or early March.

How do you go about plotting and world-building?

It took me years for “my” world to come together in my mind. For the physical aspects of the world, I used a heavy dose of Earth, and Newfoundland specifically. It’s not my home province, but it’s where I live and where it feels I was meant to be. The landscapes here are rugged and beautiful, and seem to already be filled with magic. Geography doesn’t translate directly, but people from here who read Bound sometimes comment on how familiar the land seems. Things like cities, the Grotto, buildings and such come from my imagination. Often it feels like I’m exploring them as I’m writing, which is fun. As for the creatures in that world, I use many that are familiar from our legends and stories, but try to put my own unique twist on them.

What kind of magic systems do you use?

I suppose I use something between a hard and a soft magic system. Things tend to be well-defined, but there’s still a sense of mystery and wonder. Magic as it relates to humans is something like electricity. It’s there and available to be drawn on, but the amount a person can use and what they can use it for depend on the individual. Most magic-users will have at least one natural gift, but they can work and study to learn other skills. They do have to be careful, though; trying to work unfamiliar magic can lead to unexpected and even deadly consequences.

I could go into a lot more detail about ways that magic can be used and controlled, how Potioners differ from Sorcerers, how lineage affects power, and the effect of ambient magic, but it would take forever! And that’s just humans. Creating the magic system was a huge challenge, but a rewarding one.

Do you have a writing routine?

I hope to soon! Up until now, my routine has been “fit it in whenever I can.” I have two kids, and even during the school year always had at least one home most of the time. It made it difficult to set a routine. Starting this month, I hope to write in the mornings (plotting, drafting, revising, editing), and work on business and promotion-related things in the afternoons. My routine could also use a tweak in that right now it tends to start with WAY too much distraction before I get down to work.

What made you decide to go indie with your first book?

A lot of things factored into that decision. I thought I stood a better chance of finding an audience and making decent money by publishing independently, even if it meant never seeing my books in stores. The odds of getting an agent and a good contract were just too slim for me to invest time into that path. It was also important to me that I have full creative control over my work, that I be able to choose the cover and decide which advice to take from an editor. I also knew that as an unproven author I wasn’t likely to get a big advance or much promotional help from a publisher. There are risks and benefits with any road to publication. It’s a personal choice, and indie isn’t right for everyone. I respect and support writers in whatever path they choose. I certainly have no regrets about my choice for this trilogy.

How did you prepare for getting ready to publish a book on your own, i.e. what resources were most helpful for you in learning the ropes?

Ooh, big question! I list a lot of resources on my blog that helped me make the decision to go indie and that taught me the ropes. I read a lot of blogs and a few books, listened to podcasts, and asked experienced authors questions when I needed to. I didn’t focus on publishing too much while I was drafting. In fact, I didn’t know anything about indie publishing until less than two years ago, and assumed I’d go the traditional route. The information is all out there, and I’ve found indie authors to be incredibly helpful.

What services did you outsource before publishing Bound? (editing, formatting, cover) Were you happy with the results? Would you do it the same way again?

I hired an editor (Joshua Essoe) for developmental and line editing, and I will absolutely be using his services again. I knew I had a good story, and my beta readers were amazing, but I also knew it could still be better. My editor saw opportunities I had missed, helped me get my magic system in order, pointed out errors and character inconsistencies that I and others had missed, and slapped my fingers when things got too melodramatic. I’m glad I went for the full editing package, even though it was a bit of a financial gamble at the time.

My cover artist, Ravven, was amazing. I had no idea of what I wanted, except that I didn’t want a character on the cover. We tried to find something symbolic that worked, and she did mock-ups, but it just wasn’t working. She suggested a few ideas and we talked about how character covers might sell better, and worked together to come up with a cover that I love. I’ve lost count of the people who have said they gave the book a chance because of the cover. Obviously it was money well spent, and I’ve already asked her to do Torn.

I was going to do my own formatting, but when the time came, the learning curve was just too steep and I couldn’t get the professional look I wanted. Colin F. Barnes is an author and a friend of a friend who stepped in and gave me a beautiful book for a reasonable price, and I’m so grateful for that. I still want to learn the skill some time so I can go in and make changes myself (adding links, fixing typos, etc), but for now I’m happy using someone else’s skill.

The one thing I’ll do differently next time is that I’ll pay a proofreader. ARC readers were helpful with that, but a few typos still slipped through.

What steps did you take leading up to the book launch of Bound? Did you contact book reviewers? Use Facebook? Twitter? Blog? Did you organize or book a blog tour?

I didn’t plan a lot of promotion. Bound was my first book, and it didn’t make sense for me to put a lot of money into promotion when I had nothing else to offer to people who loved the book, or a lot of time that I should have spent writing the next one. I contacted a few reviewers, but most advance copies went to blog readers, book-loving friends and acquaintances, and fellow authors. Several wonderful author/blogger types helped host the cover reveal and announced the release to their blog followers, which was wonderful. I posted chapter one on my own blog, and set up a Facebook author page about a month before release. I shared that first chapter and cover image on Twitter and Facebook (and the cover copy when I finally had it), but was careful not to spam.

There was no organized blog/book tour. I think the best promotion was word-of-mouth recommendation from people who read the book early on and loved it. I frequently thank those people, but it never feels like I manage to express just how grateful I am!

I did have a launch party, just for fun. I live in a tiny town and don’t have enough local friends to have an in-person party, so Facebook it was. We had a great time, I gave out some e-books and a signed paperback. It might not have led directly to sales, but I think it helped drum up some interest in reading the book, and got the ball rolling on recommendations and reviews.

I’m doing a Goodreads giveaway for a signed paperback now, and that’s got a bunch of people to add it to their TBR list, but I’m not sure whether it’s had an impact on e-book sales. I think reader awareness is always a good thing, though.

What are you working on now?

I just sent Torn (Bound Trilogy book #2) out to beta readers. Now it’s on to planning and drafting Book #3, which is both exciting and terrifying.

What advice would you give to an author considering going indie?

Do your research, and then follow your instincts. I did a lot of things “wrong” (I actually have a blog post about that), but it has all worked out so far. I didn’t let myself feel pressured to do it anyone else’s way, but I did keep my eyes and ears open to learn from other people’s experiences. I would also say to try to put out the most polished, professional work you can, out of respect for readers if nothing else. This is your career, and it’s worth investing in.

Thanks for the informative and inspiring interview, Kate! I wish you the best of luck with Torn. :)

Kate Sparkes

How to get in touch with Kate Sparkes:

Blogs: – Disregard the prologue- http://disregardtheprologue.com
– Sparrowcat Press- http://sparrowcatpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katesparkesauthor
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8282527.Kate_Sparkes
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kate_sparkes
Google+ page: https://plus.google.com/+KateSparkes
Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/KSparkes
Pinterest board for the Bound trilogy: http://www.pinterest.com/k_sparkes/bound-trilogy/

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

Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers

Hullabaloo Steampunk animated cartoon on IndieGoGo

This looks so amazing, I just have to post it:

I haven’t decided yet what I’ll contribute, but I know I will. :) Me, I’ve only written one steampunk story until now, which hasn’t been published yet, but I get a kick out of reading them, and my late great friend Jay Lake was one of the proponents.

I can only wish them good luck!

Battling Plagiarism: The case of Rachel Nunes against Tiffanie Rushton

A few weeks ago, I posted a link to another blog post regarding a very blatant and nasty case of plagiarism. At that time, the author who had been plagiarized, Rachel Ann Nunes, did not know the identity of the person behind the the pen name of Sam Taylor Mullens, the author who had plagiarized her work.

Now she does, and she has filed suit against her. Passive Guy linked to a copy of the complaint here.* Despite the fact that it is legalese, it makes for very interesting reading.

I can only hope that this case is a resounding and much-publicized victory for Nunes, putting fear into the hearts of potential plagiarists. These kinds of cases seem to be increasing lately, and I suspect they will only let up if there are some prominent cases of plagiarists brought to justice — making it clear how expensive the consequences might be.

* I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again: I highly recommend following The Passive Voice to anyone interested in self-publishing.

Success! Progress bars, a new blog design, and an excerpt

I decided I was not going to post today until I got the blog design and progress bars figured out, and I did! There’s obviously still some tweaking to do. I don’t understand what the thing is with the big white patch in the upper right hand corner, frex, since the header tool cut my image to the size it is now. I may just need a much larger image, something I will have to mess with. (*Figured it out, I think — looks good on my browser now. Please let me know in the comments if you still have any issues!) But not today. That’s enough formatting for one day. After this, I want to get some writing done.

Speaking of writing, my word count last week was down a bit from the week before, but with a total of 4300 words for the week, I’m still happy with it. I also got the first draft of the new Mars cover made with my daughter, and got good feedback on that — which means I’m closer to uploading to Amazon and making it free.

I did skip posting anything for “Starting Out as an Indie Author” this week. I really needed that time to get a few other things off my to-do list. Besides, while the series is getting me a lot of traffic to my blog, it isn’t doing anything for my sales. As a result, I think I will switch to a bi-weekly schedule with the series, so that I will have more time for actually working on marketing my books.

As to the progress bars, I got the link from Critique Circle, as someone suggested in the comments of one of my previous posts. Thanks! For those who are interested, here’s what the code maker looks like:

Progress bar code maker

Once I had my base code, I made a Text widget in WordPress, replaced my word count with the code, and copied the list into the text box. And now I have my progress bars! :)

With progress and progress bars out of the way, I can move on to WIPpet Wednesday. The excerpt I’m offering today comes again from A Wasted Land, a little after the one I gave you last week. After a confrontation with Celemon, Kustennin has headed to the town at the foot of the hill-fort of Sarum in search of Bedwyr. My math for 9/3 is to take the 3 from the 9, leaving me with 6 paragraphs:

The town at the foot of the hill-fort was not laid out in a grid of straight lines like the cities planned by the Romans. Instead, it hugged the base of the hill, the roads curving with the landscape — aside from the Roman cross roads, that is, around which the town had sprung up. There was no forum or principia or amphitheater, although there was a private bath house, catering to travelers, more modest than the Roman baths of Caer Leon or Isca, but more than one might find elsewhere on the road in Britain. Despite the organic layout of the town, the houses were built in the Roman style, although many of them were of wood rather than stone and stucco.
The house of the magistrate, which held both living quarters and administrative center, stood near the junction, and Kustennin followed the curving road away from the river toward the center of town. Here, on the outskirts just below the hill-fort, a number of tents had sprung up — the inevitable camp followers that seemed to know where troops would be before the leaders knew themselves. Kustennin had only brought a force of twenty warriors with him to inspect the sites on the borders to Cerdic’s lands, doubling the number of soldiers in residence at Sarum, and yet there were over a dozen tents here.
He was reminded of Celemon’s words, of how many men had been lost in the recent wars — and how many women would never be able to found a family as a result.
A woman with long, wheat-blond hair, sitting in front of one of the tents and darning a woven blanket spread out across her lap, looked up at his approach. As his eyes met hers, she rose, laying blanket, needle and yarn aside. He saw that she was tall, like Celemon, probably almost of a height with Kustennin.
Slowly, she walked towards the road in the same direction as Kustennin, at an angle and pace calculated for them to meet. He found himself anticipating the moment their paths would cross, knowing what would come of it. Briefly, he thought of what his foster father Cador said about casual sexual encounters, that they were not worth the complications involved if the woman got with child — and there were many women who would be happy to bear the bastard of a king. But even as he recalled Cador’s words, he turned and began walking to meet the camp follower.
This woman promised much better distraction than discussing travel plans with Bedwyr.

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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