There Are No Mistakes

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The four capital mistakes of open source

Almost five years ago, I self-pub­lished my nov­el An Unpro­duc­tive Woman with Xlib­ris.

If I knew then what I know now… well, let’s just say I would have hung up the phone when they called me and offered me a pub­lish­ing pack­age.

Once the book was in the world and pub­lished the first three years with them were fine. They real­ly were. Xlib­ris did exact­ly what they said they would. They helped me design a cov­er (which I lat­er changed), they helped to edit a man­u­script that was already amaz­ing­ly pret­ty clean, and they made it avail­able at mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent out­lets.

Fol­low­ing pub­lish­ing I was busy with school and fam­i­ly so I admit­ted­ly did very lit­tle in the way of self pro­mot­ing, but once I made up my mind to actu­al­ly pay atten­tion to the An Unpro­duc­tive Woman I real­ized a num­ber of unfor­tu­nate truths.

  1. I nev­er need­ed Xlib­ris.
  2. I could have done all of this myself for far less mon­ey.
  3. Xlib­ris is a busi­ness, which explains why they kept try­ing to sell me one new ser­vice after anoth­er.

I wasn’t angry with Xlib­ris because of truth #3. They are a busi­ness and as such they were doing what busi­ness­es do. Try­ing to make mon­ey. They did. While very lit­tle, I did ben­e­fit from their ser­vice. Using them made things very easy for me at a time when I had none to spare. Because of them, I didn’t have to wor­ry about the details.

A year and a half ago I decid­ed that the time had come when I need­ed to take a more active role in my writ­ing, that I would net­work and pro­mote and try to make more sales. About this time last year I also made the deci­sion to join Amazon’s KDP pro­gram. While not extra­or­di­nary, I did notice an increase in sales. An increase in sales is great. I mean, I nev­er thought that An Unpro­duc­tive Woman would make me wealthy, (One can hope, right?), but no sales turned into some sales and some sales are def­i­nite­ly bet­ter than none. Then I start­ed to have prob­lems.

KDP kicked me out of the pro­gram at least three times because my ebook kept pop­ping up at oth­er out­lets, thanks to Xlib­ris, even after I’d asked that they remove my ebook from all mar­kets. Need­less to say, they didn’t. Each time I thought things were a go again, Ama­zon would find it some­where else. I’d get kicked out of the pro­gram again. I noticed a drop in sales as a result. That’s when I got annoyed with Xlib­ris.

$3.99

$4.95

Two weeks ago I noticed that Xlib­ris snuck their ebook ver­sion of An Unpro­duc­tive Woman up on Ama­zon and actu­al­ly set it for a low­er price than I have it list­ed for. They were com­pet­ing with me for sales of my book. I have asked and asked them not to make an ebook avail­able any­where because I’d for­mat­ted and pub­lished the ebook ver­sion on Ama­zon myself and because it is a req­ui­site of the KDP pro­gram. And still, there it was.

At that point I was more than annoyed. I was incensed.

Last week I draft­ed a brief let­ter and faxed it to Xlib­ris telling them that I want­ed to with­draw my book from them 100% in all forms on all out­lets post haste. It hasn’t hap­pened yet because appar­ent­ly it can take up to six weeks. I’ve turned into the cus­tomer from hell because I have emailed them on a dai­ly basis ask­ing the equiv­a­lent of “Are we there yet?” It’s just that I am cooked and want to be done with them.

I rarely admit to mis­takes. This isn’t because I’m so arro­gant that I don’t think that I ever make them. I don’t often admit to mis­takes because I think that doing so miss­es the point, which is that there is always some­thing to learn from almost each mishap, tragedy and flub. To call these things mis­takes negates the good that can come from them. I also believe that some­times our per­son­al tragedies aren’t always for us. Some­times they are for oth­ers to learn from as well. With that, allow me to share some lessons I’ve learned from this.

  1. If I’m bright enough to write a book, chances are I’m also bright enough to self pub­lish said book with­out the help of ser­vices like Xlib­ris.
  2. I have more time than I think I have. Its bet­ter to real­lo­cate my time in order to do the things that are real­ly impor­tant to me.
  3. The indie com­mu­ni­ty of writ­ers are gen­er­ous, smart, and savvy. Net­work, ask ques­tions, and ask for help.
  4. Nev­er pub­lish with a van­i­ty press. You give up your mon­ey, your con­trol, and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn how to do some of this stuff your­self.
  5. Don’t get angry.

Just remem­ber. There are no mis­takes.

What choic­es with your writ­ing have you made that you wish you’d done dif­fer­ent­ly?

Starla Huchton On Her New Novel Entitled Maven

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MAVEN_450x600I’m so hap­py to have Star­la Huch­ton back that if I was a gig­gler I would, uhm, gig­gle. Need­less to say, I’m excit­ed to bring her back to talk about her new book Maven which is set to be released on June 3, 2013. That’s just over a week away! She’s such a busy woman, which I can total­ly under­stand and appre­ci­ate, so the fact that she spared the time to do this inter­view makes her pres­ence here that much more sweet.

So Star­la, talk to me…

1. For the sake of those who don’t know you yet, give us a lit­tle bit of infor­ma­tion about your­self. You write, yes, but what else are you up to?

Most of what I do these days (out­side of chas­ing my kids while my hus­band is deployed) is design book cov­ers. I work with both inde­pen­dent authors and pub­lish­ers alike. I believe my job as a design­er is to get to the heart of a sto­ry and try to con­vey that into the visu­al. It’s not the eas­i­est of tasks some­times, but I love what I do and I’m thank­ful that oth­ers like my work enough that I can con­tin­ue doing it.

Some might know me as an audio­book nar­ra­tor. I’m cur­rent­ly work­ing on the fourth book in Lind­say Buroker’s The Emperor’s Edge series, though I am woe­ful­ly behind in this. It’s been a rough few months with mov­ing and hav­ing the hus­band deploy amongst oth­er things, but it’s com­ing.

2. Tell us about Maven. What was the inspi­ra­tion? How long did it take to write it from inspi­ra­tion to com­ple­tion? Where do you hope to take the series and how long do you plan it to be?

Maven is the first book in my new Sci­ence Fic­tion Romance Endure series. There will be four total when the sto­ry arc com­pletes, and I plan to have all of them out in the world before my birth­day in March 2014. It’s an ambi­tious sched­ule, but I’m more than on-track to meet it. The major­i­ty of the sto­ry takes place in an under­wa­ter lab in the year 2050 (at the begin­ning of book 1), but by book 3 you get to see some of the out­side world. It’s not a huge stretch from mod­ern day, real­ly, but enough so that it’s firm­ly plant­ed in Sci­ence Fic­tion. Even with these futur­is­tic lean­ings, it’s still a very acces­si­ble sto­ry, even for read­ers that are not typ­i­cal­ly fans of Sci­ence Fic­tion. I don’t gen­er­al­ly like hard Sci-Fi, but I do like some of the ele­ments, so I want­ed to cre­ate some­thing that oth­ers like me could real­ly enjoy. As I’ve man­aged to sway at least two Para­nor­mal or Urban Fan­ta­sy-only read­ers over to the dark side of SF, I’m count­ing this book as a suc­cess.

As for the inspi­ra­tion, well… that’s a long sto­ry. Basi­cal­ly, as a teenag­er in the 90s I was a huge Jonathan Bran­dis fan­girl. How­ev­er, I didn’t dis­cov­er him until one sum­mer I hap­pened to catch a rerun of the first sea­son of a show called SeaQue­st DSV, of which he was a cast mem­ber. In re-watch­ing the show now, I inevitably wind up in fits of gig­gles over the “future tech” and some­what cheesy scripts, but for a geek like me, espe­cial­ly back then, it filled a huge enter­tain­ment void in my world. I took my love of that show so far that 16-year-old me even tried my hand at writ­ing my own scripts for it, nei­ther of which I fin­ished and nei­ther of which will ever see the light of day because they are absolute­ly awful. But, there was some take­away from it. The hero­ine of the Endure series, Dr. Lydia Ash­ley, was born from those pre­co­cious, imma­ture scrib­blings, and she has stayed with me all these years.

So, that leads into anoth­er part of your ques­tion. If we’re talk­ing how long it took from it to go from orig­i­nal inspi­ra­tion to com­plet­ed nov­el, the answer is sev­en­teen years. How­ev­er, I didn’t real­ly pur­sue the sto­ry until Jan­u­ary 2012. In six weeks I knocked out 68,000 words of Maven, but then I hit pause. The rea­son for this is prob­a­bly because my Steam­punk nov­el became a final­ist in a con­test, which it then won. My focus shift­ed to that book and its sequel and Lydia and Daniel got put on the shelf. Fast for­ward to Jan­u­ary of this year, at which point I had 3 or 4 unfin­ished first drafts of things in var­i­ous states. I decid­ed it would be my goal to fin­ish sev­er­al of these up over the next year and went look­ing at each one to see which spoke to me the most. Hon­est­ly, I didn’t think Maven was the one that would make the cut, but the moment I opened the file I was imme­di­ate­ly drawn back into that world. A week or so lat­er, the book was com­plete, but I real­ized their sto­ry was not. I jumped right in to the sec­ond one, and then imme­di­ate­ly the third right after that. At some point in book two, I fig­ured out this was not going to be a tril­o­gy. Four full nov­els would be required. It didn’t feel like a heavy weight to bear, how­ev­er. This sto­ry is easy for me to bring to the page now. I would think so, after think­ing about it for 17 years!

3. Maven isn’t your first nov­el length work. Tell us about your oth­er writ­ing endeav­ors.

My first fin­ished nov­el was The Dreamer’s Thread. It’s a mod­ern fan­ta­sy sto­ry and very much a first book. My writ­ing style has changed and grown so much since I put it out as a pod­cast. Peo­ple still enjoy it, how­ev­er, so I leave it float­ing around the inter­webs, wait­ing for unsus­pect­ing folks to stum­ble across it.

My sec­ond book, which isn’t out any­where yet, is the first of my Antigone’s Wrath series, a Steam­punk adven­ture called Mas­ter of Myth. It’s the one that won first place in the Crest­ed Butte Writ­ers Con­fer­ence annu­al con­test, The Sandy, and, as a result, was request­ed in full by a senior edi­tor at TOR/Forge (nev­er did get an answer either way on it, but that’s nei­ther here nor there). I’m a lit­tle over halfway done with the sec­ond in this series, Mas­ter of Machines. I was actu­al­ly hop­ing to put the first one out this sum­mer, but with all I’m doing with the Endure series, I’m no longer sure if I’ll have the time to devote to it that I think that sto­ry deserves. I know there are a lot of folks wait­ing to get their hands on it, so I hope they know I’m going to do my best here. I am only one per­son though. 🙂

4. Will you be podi­o­cast­ing your book? If so will you read it, or will you have some­one else do it?

At this time, I have no plans to pod­cast or audio­book the Endure series. Lydia and Daniel have unique voic­es to me, and I just don’t feel like I could do them jus­tice if I were to nar­rate it myself. First and fore­most, I’m con­cen­trat­ing on get­ting the writ­ten con­tent out, so peo­ple can enjoy the entire sto­ry arc as fast as I can toss it out there. I know how hard it is to wait between books in a series, so this is an exper­i­ment in rapid-fire con­tent for me. I’m curi­ous to see how it plays out.

5. Where do you see your­self and your writ­ing in ten years or so?

In ten years? Good­ness. Right now I’m just try­ing to get through the week!

I don’t real­ly know how to answer this. In an ide­al world I’d say “on top of the NYT Bestseller’s List”, but, real­ly, who wouldn’t want that? I sup­pose what I hon­est­ly want is for my writ­ing to be enjoyed by as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, and hope­ful­ly make a lit­tle mon­ey for me. I like to keep my goals real­is­tic and achiev­able. That way, I don’t get too bogged down in how I’m not mak­ing any progress towards suc­cess. There will always be anoth­er mile­stone ahead, and anoth­er brass ring to grab. Def­i­n­i­tions of suc­cess change all the time and vary great­ly from one per­son to the next. Today I might tell you I’d be hap­py to sell even 100 copies of Maven. Tomor­row, it might be land­ing a great review on a book blog I admire with a lot of fol­low­ers. A year from now I could be com­plete­ly burnt out on this whole thing and just want six hours of unin­ter­rupt­ed sleep. I have no idea. That’s prob­a­bly a ter­ri­ble answer. Feel free to chuck­le.

I can total­ly relate Star­la. I wish you lots of luck get­ting those six hours of sleep, catch­ing up to the kid­dos, pub­lish­ing and find­ing a gid­dy appre­cia­tive audi­ence to read all of your work.

*****

 

starlaStar­la Huch­ton released her first nov­el, The Dreamer’s Thread, as a full cast pod­cast pro­duc­tion begin­ning in August 2009. Her first for­ay went on to become a dou­ble-nom­i­nee and final­ist for the 2010 Par­sec Awards. Since her debut, Starla’s voice has appeared in oth­er pod­casts includ­ing The Dunes­teef Audio Fic­tion Mag­a­zine, The Drab­ble­cast, and Erot­i­ca a la Carte. She is also a voice tal­ent for Dark­fire Pro­duc­tions, and nar­rates sev­er­al of their projects, includ­ing The Emperor’s Edge series, This Path We Share, and oth­ers. Her writ­ing has appeared in the Erot­i­ca a la Carte pod­cast, a short sto­ry for The Gear­heart, and an episode of the Tales from the Archives pod­cast (the com­pan­ion to Tee Mor­ris and Philip­pa Balantine’s Min­istry of Pecu­liar Occur­rences series), which gar­nered her a sec­ond final­ist badge from the 2012 Par­sec Awards. Her sec­ond nov­el, a Steam­punk adven­ture enti­tled Mas­ter of Myth, was the first place win­ner in the Fantasy/Science Fic­tion cat­e­go­ry of The Sandy Writ­ing Con­test held annu­al­ly by the Crest­ed Butte Writ­ers Con­fer­ence. Maven is her third com­plet­ed nov­el and the first in a planned series of four.

After com­plet­ing her degree in Graph­ic Arts at Mon­terey Penin­su­la Col­lege, Star­la opened up shop as a free­lance graph­ic design­er focus­ing on cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful book cov­ers for inde­pen­dent authors pub­lish­ers. She cur­rent­ly lives in Vir­ginia where she trains her three Min­ions and mil­i­tary hus­band.

You can find Star­la here:

Twit­ter

Goodreads

Face­book

Designed by Star­la

Upon the Wings of Greater Things

Permission to Suck

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I’ve been writ­ing for the past four or so hours and I’ve man­aged about 1600 words.  That isn’t a lot.  I haven’t been writ­ing straight, mind you.  I keep tak­ing breaks to drink, surf the net, post sta­tus updates on Goodreads or com­ment on oth­er peo­ple posts, wor­ry about my diet, post to Twit­ter, con­sid­er cut­ting fresh let­tuce in the gar­den, chang­ing out the movies in the DVD play­er, con­sid­er start­ing a new game of ME (I know!), chat with my kids, play a few games of Scram­ble…

It’s just that I know that every­thing that I have writ­ten sucks like a vam­pire.

Do you know how hard it is to just let your­self suck?

Learning: the meaning of SUCCESS Pis­to­Casero via Comp­fight

In the past, I wouldn’t put down a word unless I had good clear pic­tures in my head and knew almost to the let­ter what I want­ed to write.  Let me tell you, going for per­fec­tion will promise a wretched bout of writer’s block if noth­ing else will.

So, I have this sto­ry, Bilqis, the first install­ment of The Hin­ter­land Chron­i­cles that I want to write.  Bilqis has been talk­ing to me for years now.  At first she was just whis­per­ing, then chat­ter­ing, and now she is straight up yelling in my head.  Oh the echos.  I need to write her.  I need to tell her sto­ry.  Good lord, I’ll go nuts if I don’t.

So, new tac­tic.  I said to myself, “Khaal­i­dah, just put down the bones.  You’ll clothe those bones in love­ly sup­ple flesh lat­er.”  Yeah?  Sounds sim­ple.  Right?

Only it isn’t.  I feel like a fail­ure for not being just so, per­fect, excep­tion­al right out of the gate.

I’ve been read­ing books about out­lin­ing (Thank you K.M. Wei­land, your book is great.) and edit­ing, and how to this or that.  A cou­ple of posts have come to my inbox recent­ly that basi­cal­ly say “just do it”, so here I am, just doing it.  And I am suck­ing like I’ve brushed my teeth with alum.

But, despite my appar­ent ADD, and my moan­ing, and my sad­ly low word count after so many hours, I feel exhil­a­rat­ed.  After all, 1600 words is bet­ter than 0.  Yeah?  Okay, so get out of here and let me write.  And hey!  Don’t you go wast­ing time.  Do some­thing you’ve been mean­ing to do, some­thing you keep mak­ing lame excus­es for not com­plet­ing.  And while you’re at, suck as hard as you please.