Guest Post – Marie Kammerer Franke

Guest Post – Marie Kammerer Franke

Today I have the privilege of bringing you a guest post by author of science fiction and fantasy, including the book A Charming Nightmare. Marie Krammerer Franke tells us about how she became and indie author.
1We’ve all been there; lovingly turning our stories into print, cringing at the words we just wrote and holding down the backspace key for hours. You love it, it has a name, it’s a member of your family and now you are staring at the send button wondering what form of rejection your child is going to receive this time around.

Or, at least, that’s how I felt.  Hell, if I’m completely honest with you I couldn’t hit send.  Not the first time. It took a very dear friend to look over my shoulder and say “whatcha doin’?” and in the time it took me to turn around to mouth a syllable she had reached over my shoulder and hit that damn button for me.

And then we waited…
And waited….
And waited…
And then it came; “Thank you for your recent submission, we feel that your work is not the right fit for us, but we wish you well blah blah blah yadda yada yadda…”

That wasn’t so bad, they were polite in their mass-generated rejection.  Let’s try that again!

The more I hit send the more brazen agencies became:
“We feel that your novel is not suited for us, we feel that it is too ‘girly’ to be classified as true science fiction…”
“Thank you for your submission, if you could change A,B,C to this, that, and the other thing we would be happy to reconsider your work.”
“We would love to take on your story, it will be a challenge for us to market as is, please change blah blah blah and resubmit.”

This went on for a year.
It wears on you.  No matter how much you adore your baby, you start questioning it, I started considering their suggestions.  So, I took about 4 months away from my child.

When I went back to it, I fell in love all over again.  With it just the way it was.
 
And that is all it took for me to become an indie writer.
 
An Indie write is someone who is in control of every single thing having to do with the piece you created.  You are your books sole advocate, the only person who has any right to change, decide, suggest, ‘yay or nay’ anything having to do with your novel.  No agent asking for more innuendos, no editors highlighted re-writes, no lawyers, publicists, designers, advertisers, accountants, or loan officers.  Those are all hats you wear now as a single parent to your epic story.
 

This is how I did it, a sliver into one indie writer’s mind..

 

#1 Introduce yourself to the neighborhood
 
I tell people to become a drug dealer using free samples; give them a little bit and before the release they’ll be at your door twitchy, itchy, licking their lips, wanting more.  In that same breath I remind them that not everyone is their target audience.  I write science fiction/fantasy with a side of chick flick lit.  I’m not going to ask someone who solely reads Christian fiction if they want a hit off what I’m dealing.  Not at first at least. 
 
Remember that friend who hit ‘send’ for me?  She’s not only the only person in the world who can get away with such an action, but she’s also an amazing artist who owns a shop (mortalthreads.com) that is dedicated to everything fandom.  Months after my whole ‘I’m going to be a strong independent woman, you will not change my book!’ declaration she asked me if I wanted a spot on her website.  Never in a million years would I have imagined as a writer would come in the form of a clothing store!  But think about it…science fiction-fandom…chick flick lit-nerd girls!  Okie dokie, I’m right at home, let’s do this!  Each week Mortal Threads brought you an excerpt from A Charming Nightmare via Mortal Reads.  All in prelude of the book’s grand release.
 
Not everyone has a Mortal Threads at their fingertips (I licked it, it’s MINE), but you have everything you need to build a name on your phone.  Social Media is full of a plethora of people waiting to get their hands on stuff.  Writer’s Digest is another avenue to tap into; several times a year they hold writing competitions, if you place in their contests your writing gets displayed on their site, their magazine, and numerous other sites.  Google it, go ahead, here I’ll give you something to cut and paste…I promise you will not be disappointed.
 
How to promote your book before it’s published
 
#2 Don’t be afraid of the words Self-Publishing
 
Don’t be afraid when I use the term self-publishing, I know we all have visions of Xeroxed papers stapled together to be sold as our life’s work dancing around in our heads when someone suggests self-publishing.  I know, that’s exactly what I thought;  the folded sheets of copier paper, unprofessional 3 ring approach for binding, missing cover art.
 
Self-publishing has grown out of its baby babble into something overwhelming in choices.  I used Create Space (owned by Amazon).  Even before I uploaded my work into its system the choices took days for me to go through.  They cover you, literally, cover to cover. You can choose page colors, fonts, page sizes, numbers, cover art, gloss, matt. Once choices are made Create Space tells you to order a copy, a proof.  This is hands down a must, order it, and read every individual word.  Why?  I looked it over on the website.  I’ve read it a hundred times already.  Once you click the done icon you’ll get approved within 24 hours. You can make changes from there, but once you choose to go live Amazon can take 6-8 weeks to make changes and then those changes are considered a new edition of the book.  One that you’ll have to add into Goodreads and any other book groups you belong to including your copyrights.  This is how I ended up having a sentence that will forever read ‘I looked over to the person closet to me’ instead of ‘I looked over to the person closest to me.’
 
I didn’t touch on what I am sure is a vast wealth in cover art only because I didn’t use it.  Mortal Threads designed my cover using the Create Space specifications (again MT is mine…back off!)
 
The finished product was something that looked ‘store bought’, not handmade!
 
#3 It’s all about the Benjamins
 
Truth, it is all about the Benjamins.  While Create Space is free and they’ll help in getting the product out there once you hit ‘go live’ (they’ll make it appear on Kindle, Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Audio Books, make it accessible to library databases, and even give schools the opportunity to get it) you still have to decide on a price, and most of all YOU have to purchase your own books from them.  Don’t go beyond your means expecting to get rich instantly.  Not even J.K. Rowling was J.K. Rowling overnight.  Under no circumstance should a loan payment come out of your need to publish, nor should the opening of a new Master Card.  Instead I talked to my own Benjamin about Benjamins and together we set up an accounting system that would completely separate ACN from our personal finances, including a money max that we both could easily afford.  Remember, every penny invested has to be accounted for; you now have another thing to write down on your taxes.
 
#4 Your eyes ARE bigger than your stomach
 
I say this because you will want to purchase 10,000 copies of your own book…don’t (instead purchase 10,000 copies of mine, someone should benefit from your gluttony) Don’t say you won’t want to over order, I know you will, and I’ll prove it. 
“I’ll buy a copy, can I get it directly from you?  Will you sign it if I do?”
You’ll hear this from mom & dad, grandma, friends, cousins, your next door neighbor, the mailman, the checkout person at the grocery store.  In your head you’ll start a list ‘I bet Sally will want one, then there’s Uncle Don, my 10th grade English teacher, my co-workers, so and so, whoosy-whats-it. Before your first page is printed mentally have sold a thousand copies.  So you’ll buy a thousand copies at around $7.00 each and with a shipping rate of $25.00 per 50, anyone want to do that math?  It’s not common core so we should be able to see its $7,500 before tax.  But that’s ok, its easy money, Beth from accounting wants two, the barista at Starbucks wanted one-
But do they? 
Do they really? 
I ordered a book proof, and walked around with that proof proudly within reach for a month before the final product came out.  I showed and bragged and sold about 3000 copies in that time.  Do you know how many followed through when the shipment arrived?  13 Yup, you heard me right, 13 out of 3000 excited promises.  Luckily, I had bought 50, and 10 of those 50 I had other plans for.
 
#5 In a writer’s world free works both ways
 
So after your guaranteed sales from grandma, mom and dad, and your BFF, have a plan.  My plan was to do a giveaway or two.  Everyone loves free stuff right??? I did an Amazon giveaway. On an Amazon Giveaway you can set up requirements, I was new to twitter so I made it a requirement to follow me on twitter.  After 3 weeks I had 321 new followers, which may seem like nothing to you, but I created my twitter account the same day the Amazon Giveaway started so I would call it my free for their free.  An Amazon Giveaway is also your bank accounts cheat, you buy what you want to giveaway-5 Kindle copies of A Charming Nightmare-and in return Amazon gives you the royalties on 5 Kindle copies of A Charming Nightmare sold.
My Amazon Giveaway cost me $24.98-$17.24=$7.74
 

I also became a Goodreads author and did a Goodreads Giveaway.  5 signed 1st editions of A Charming Nightmare.  3 weeks.  900 people wanted a free book, surprise surprise, and what was my free?  Well, if you win a Goodreads Giveaway you HAVE TO review the book you won!  And here’s a bonus free, you as the author write up their ‘Congratulations you won’ message.  I simply added; ‘if you enjoy A Charming Nightmare feel free to write a review on Amazon as well!’ Amazon is a ratings run website, the more reviews and stars you get from verified Amazon customers the lower in ranking you get, the lower in rankings the closer to the top of their search engine you go!  On the day of its release ACN was ranked as 469,003 out of over 1 million, now, 2 months into its release, some sales, even more Kindle sales, and two reviews ACN has jumped to 21,157th in the science-fiction category.  Again, not even Stephen King was Stephen King when he started.

 

My next adventure in giving things away is going to be a Free on Kindle week.  A couple of other indie authors I’ve talked to said it is hands down the way to go (just don’t think about the lost sales when you see your download numbers).  One of them did 7 days free on Kindle, his books went from 50 downloads in 8 months to 152,265 in 7 days.  That was 2 months ago, as of today he had 3,200 in verified Kindle book sales, and a 30% increase in physical books sales.  A far cry from where he was a year ago!  Andy will tell you though, it is initially a kick in an author’s self-esteem to see how many people only want your book when you’re giving it away.
  
That is a very small list of commandments.  I know, it doesn’t even cover all the hats an indie author wears, but in essence you’re my competition!  Why would I tell you all my secrets?
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Guest Post – F J Curlew

Guest Post – F J Curlew

Author of To Retribution, F J Curlew has kindly agreed to write a Guest Post for Books and Beyond Reviews today. You can find my review for To Retribution here. In the mean time, please be upstanding and welcome to my blog F J Curlew!
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I’m tearing my hair out. Second book syndrome. Can’t get it right. Or so I think. I become
totally engrossed in the story, write, write, write. Several thousand words later re-read it and think rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. Cut it, maybe save it for later…And so the circle continues.

It’s just that something isn’t quite working this time. My first book, ‘To Retribution’, was easier, wasn’t it? The words flowed. The plot revealed itself to me. The characters spoke through me. Maybe this time the story isn’t right? Maybe I should give up on it, start something else? But I’ve written so much, 60 000 words for goodness sake! Spent so many hours on it. I can’t do that…I decide I’m too self critical. Too caught up in being a writer, too intense.

I’ve become very methodical in my writing, sticking to a routine. Writing time is writing time and I love it. I do. But it isn’t just when you write is it? Your whole life becomes the story, the characters, their journey. Now I’m used to that. It’s been a part of my life since I became a primary school teacher. You seldom switch off. It’s always, ‘Oh, I could do that with them,’ as you’re out at the shops, or ‘Maybe if I tried that with wee Johnny?’ as you’re washing the dishes, or ‘I could try and show it that way,’ or…you get the picture.

But writing? Well, it sneaks in to your breakfast, your favourite television programme, movies, music, casual conversations with fellow dog walkers, everything becomes your story, or the next one. Always switched on.

I try to put it away. Let it settle but I can’t. I have to work. I have to finish it. I have to, I have to, I have to. Now what does all of this have to do with football? Well. I’m a massive fan. Love the game. Shout and scream etcetera. The only time my neighbours hear ascending ecstatic cries of, yes, yes, yes coming from my apartment it’s because of some fabulous sequence of skill on the football pitch, not the bedroom! I get so caught up in it. So excited. It’s EURO 2016 time and I have hours, days, weeks of fabulous football to watch. That’ll do it, won’t it? Switch me off. Give me down time. And so it begins. Yes. My attention has been grabbed, snatched, taken for a wee wander. Great! Just what I need. Intent on the football, the art of the game, the skill of the players, the passion of the fans. GOAL! Brilliant.

But the scorer isn’t celebrating. He looks despondent, sad and I can’t understand it. No run at his team-mates, no little dance for the fans. Nothing. Just turns away, walks off the pitch and up to the trainer, gives him a kiss. Turns back and carries on as if nothing has happened. Then the commentator explains that both of them, the player and the trainer, lost their fathers that week. I gasp, hold my hand to my mouth. It makes me cry. The sadness. The awful contrast of feelings. And I think, That could make a great premise for a story.

Guest Post – J.M. Richardson

Guest Post – J.M. Richardson

So just a few short days after sharing my very first Guest Post from the fantastic A.K. Alliss, I have the great pleasure of bringing you my second post. Today, I would like to welcome back an author of four books, someone who is an old friend here at Books and Beyond having had two of his brilliant books reviewed here and having kindly sat down with me for an interview as well. I present to you author of The Apocalypse Mechanism and The Barataria Key – J.M. Richardson. Today, he presents us with a post on writing. Or more specifically writing a sequel soon after the launch of the prequel, and the work that goes in to a book whose main location is not one familiar to the author.

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So I’m writing a new book. I almost forgot to. My newest novel, The Barataria Key, was released on December 21st, and as you might imagine, I was elated. It was my fourth full novel, and the second in its own series. That feeling never gets old—the excitement over a new release and the anticipation of how it will be received. Still, I hunger every day for new feedback, reviews, and the chance to talk about my stories with readers. Sometimes, however, you get to a point where you’re so caught up in promotion, social media, and in-person events that you have little time to actually write. At some point in the last couple of months, I realised that I’m going to need another instalment in this series. I forgot. That was a terrible feeling because I knew full well that this book was going to take at least a year to write, and once that manuscript is delivered to my publisher, so many other things have to happen. I have to wait for the contract, and then edits begin. That takes quite some time because there are other books in line for their own edits. This takes months. Then we get into the fine tuning. They’re editing, I’m editing, we’re approving each other’s changes, and we haven’t even begun to talk about cover art, cover reveals, proofing, galleys, and typesetting. Imagine my anxiety to realise that from that moment, a new James Beauregard novel would not make it to readers for at least a year and a half. So I set to writing.

I remember when I had only one book. It was easy to say, “Hey, read my book”. It was a fresh story. A reader didn’t need to know anything prior to it. There were new settings and characters, fresh from my imagination. But when I wrote the next book, a frightening thought occurred to me. How do I get people to read the second book if they didn’t read the first? That thought was terrifying. It seemed like my market had just shrunk from literally everyone (potentially) to the relative handful that had read the first story. So I had to look to other storytellers on how to make this work.

It’s pointless to ignore how much influence I take from Indiana Jones. Sometimes I hate to admit it. I know it’s not literature. I wish I could say I was molded in the pages of Hemingway or Tolstoy; something classy. But I loved Indy as a kid. It was fun, and it sparked my imagination. I found myself in another time and in another place. Even when I wasn’t watching, I obsessed about ancient civilizations and faraway lands. That’s when I started writing stories of my own. I always say that reading (and writing for me) allows you to travel for the price of a book. One thing the Indy movies taught me was that you could watch any one by itself and still have fun. You could start with the second or third, and go back to the first. It didn’t matter. It was perfectly clear that there was a common back story, and it surfaced in every new movie. The viewer is reminded of it in common, but subtle ways, and you still get to enjoy the new adventure. They were all loosely connected along the line; stand-alone but part of a chronological story line. That’s what I did with The Barataria Key as a continuance of the story from the original book, The Apocalypse Mechanism.

Each book can stand alone even as I hint at situations from the previous book. There is an underlying narrative that continues with some mainstay characters and background story. An example would be the loss of James Beauregard’s family. It was quite central to his character development in the first book, and so it had to be present in the second. It’s part of who he is. But if you didn’t read the first book, I had to drop that into the story through dialogue, both internal and external. It works, and if you read the first one after, then great. But it doesn’t take away from your experience to read them out of order.

I would say that to some degree, one of those commonalities that give each stand-alone book some voltage from release to release is setting. The city of New Orleans, Beauregard’s home, is a character in itself. The city bursts with trumpeting jazz riffs on some molasses-slow French Quarter street and fragrances of a gumbo roux someone is nurturing around the corner. But just as New Orleans is present in each book, James finds himself exploring the mysteries and forbidding shadows of human history. From ancient cults in The Apocalypse Mechanism to secret societies and Mayan mystique in The Barataria Key, he ends up in locales that lend a different set of flavours to the story.

I have always been a bit of an Anglophile. As a kid interested in history and anthropology, medieval England fascinated me, followed later by other eras of interest. I swoon over thoughts of how people lived in distant times and places. I obsess. I’m the type of person that could spend all day in a single museum or historic town just marveling over artifacts and buildings, trying to imagine life for those people way back then. I don’t know why England interested me so. Maybe it was the common language, despite the sprawling distance. Maybe it’s in my DNA. The ancestors of my namesake can be traced to early fifteenth century Hertfordshire, in the tiny town of Westmill. Nevertheless, I could not wait to visit, and last year I did for the first time.

My time in London was one of the greatest travelling experiences of my life. I made sure to experience all that I could, from visits to the British Museum to enjoying pies and pints at some of the most colourful pubs in the city. I hit the big attractions in Westminster and the Tower. But I was sure to duck into the alleys, and hunt down nearly forgotten sections of the old city wall. I visited the location of William Wallace’s execution. I viewed the historic books and documents in the British Library. I have officially fallen in love with the city. As I sat to begin the next chapter in James Beauregard’s adventures, I needed him to be far from New Orleans, as the last book hit far too close to home. What better place to carry on his story than in London?

It helps me to set a book in a place that I’ve visited. I’m from the New Orleans area, I’ve been to Galveston, Texas many times, and I’ve seen the Mayan World, so these were natural places for me to set The Barataria Key. I do write about places I’ve never visited, but that’s where research comes in. I want the historical references and locations to be factual, at least in foundation. I always imagine that I’ll look like a fool if I get it wrong. There will always be that person who pulls up Google while reading my books, and I want to be prepared for that. But I also research because I personally want to know. I want to know as much as I possibly can about anything and everything that piques my interest. For years, I dreamed of visiting London. I read full histories of the city, how it’s laid out, how it grew, and who influenced it. I wanted to know the neighbourhoods, especially as I was about to travel there. I wanted to know the Bayswater area in which I would stay. I studied the Underground maps and how to get around. I sought out maps and researched little-known churches and museums. I wanted to drink where Dickens did. I wanted to see an altar where Richard II prayed and a chamber once occupied by Edward I. I walked the streets. I conversed with the people. I took in the culture.

This next book will be a testament to my love affair with London, its history, and its people. James will not have as leisurely of a time there as I did. I only hope that I can do it justice. Either way, at the end, I’ll raise a glass and toast this fine city. I’ll clink a pint glass with Beauregard and enjoy the renewed adventure inspired by yet another amazing city. Cheers.

Guest Post – A.K. Alliss

Guest Post – A.K. Alliss

In a new feature to my blog, I am pleased to welcome A.K. Alliss, author of Frame, to Books and Beyond Reviews as my first ever guest post. I had the pleasure of reading Frame, which I reviewed here. In this post, he discusses the period of time running up to the launch of a new book. So without further ado, welcome A.K. Alliss!

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Releasing a book traditionally, in a lot of ways, is a game. It’s a game of patience, of nail-biting worry and sleepless nights. To the new author, the world and characters that they have created are everything, but to everyone else, they are undiscovered, unknown and largely, unimportant. While that might sound pessimistic, the author will reach a point where they’ll have to posses a fairly pragmatic attitude when considering expectations of success.

Transitioning from an independent to traditionally published author is an exciting, yet daunting and lengthy process. It’s quite humbling to be confronted with the staggering amount of effort that actually goes into a title’s release when done the old fashioned way. Instead of relying on your own humble experiences to guide you, you are now being led by the practiced eye of those that have been there and done that, perhaps long before you had ever considered writing a book.

I was fortunate in the fact that I had a very collaborative publisher in Atlas Productions for my first published novel, Frame.  Today’s authors have to be marketing savvy, this was something that I thought I knew about only to receive schooling to the contrary. Genre, demographics and the most effective conduits to promote your work are all things that have to be considered. This is where the value of having a publisher was, I found, invaluable. It is no longer enough for an author to rely on the vagaries of social media to promote their work successfully. That avenue, while sometimes beneficial, does not present a lot of follow through traffic to your product.

That’s right. I said product. Because, while your lovingly crafted story containing plot A and protagonist B might mean the world to you, this is an age of consumerism and your work has now become a part of that. You have to step away from your passion and your creativity and start thinking about the best way to reach customers. The love and celebration of your literary brilliance can come later, but right now, you have to get people fired up about what you’ve written without sounding as if you are.

Ever tried to write a blurb? It’s actually harder than writing the book to be honest. Condensing a solid plot into a paragraph will have you breaking into a cold sweat when you’re used to having no limit to word count. The first couple of attempts ended in what resembled an essay, but slowly and surely (with guidance from my publisher) I was able to do it. Reviewing the blurb, you wonder if you have missed something crucial that will relay what the story is about, but you have to let that go. Hopefully, that one short description of your months of work will have to suffice.

Finally, if you haven’t stressed yourself to an early grave by the time it happens, you hit release day and this is where you really have to brace yourself. Yes, it’s a time filled with a mixture of pride and cautious optimism, of relief that you have made it there. But. Once you’ve had a moment to congratulate yourself, don’t even think about resting on those laurels. Get up soldier, there is still work to be done. If you want your novel, your baby, your love to go the distance you have to keep marching beside it, supporting it in any new and creative ways that you can conjure.

The finish line is not distinct. In my opinion, there is no finish line. For me, release day marked another part of a journey that has no end. I can’t ever forget about my novels. I can’t ever release the memory of everything that I’ve accomplished by creating and displaying my dreams. Even when I start writing something new, I still have to hold onto the feelings surrounding what it meant to write what has gone before. I feel that every part of anything that you have ever written should remain important forever. To you, but more importantly, to your readers. Because that’s where the real value of a book lies.