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:

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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.