Mar 18, 2014

Book Cover, Editors, and Friends

A lot has happened over the last two weeks. I must say that, at this point, I'm more committed to self-publishing than I was before. Why?

Monetary investment.

The beauty of publishing traditionally is that there are no expenses for the author. Editing, marketing (to a degree), book cover design, print, etc are expenses the publisher takes on. That's not the case with epublishing.

So far, I estimate I'll spend about $550 for a book cover and an editor. Cover designer costs $150 USD, and the editor costs $435 CAD (That's about $400 USD). Admittedly, I could have easily spent twice that for the same services. Easily. But I'm not made of money, and the cover designer and editor seem topnotch, with great reviews and happy clientele.

My cover designer is Annette Tremblay aka Midnight Whimsy. I found her by accident while browsing the AQC forums. I saw some of her cover designs, and read customer reviews. The designs blew me away, the reviews were icing on the cake. Her process is straightforward: you make a $50 advance payment to hold a spot, then you pay the remaining balance when you choose a concept/mock-up. Just after you pay the deposit, Annette sent a very detailed questionnaire to gain a better understanding of your story and what you're looking for in a cover.

My editor is Cynthia Shepp. I found her via Google. First thing that caught my eye was her prices. Charging $0.0065 (Max) per word is a great deal. Admittedly, I've found individuals who charge less (and more. So so so much more) but her experience and customer reviews were the reason I contacted her. I hired her because of the detail sample edit I received. Which leads me to my next bit of advice: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO EDIT YOUR OWN WORK FOR PUBLICATION! YOU NEED A KEEN/EXPERIENCED SET OF EYES!

I had JUST finished a round of edits to kill time. When I got my chapter back from her, you would think it was my first draft. She makes excellent suggestions, and explains why she made those suggestions. I'm super eager to officially start working with her. She start my manuscript on April 10th, 2014. Annette starts working on my cover on April 28th.

My plan is to publish on June 8th, 2014.

The last person I want to give a shout out to is Nicole Conway, author of Fledgling. We met in the chat room on AQC. She was a previously self-published author who sold an impressive number of copies of her book. With her success, she found a publisher and an agent. I message Nicole because I wanted to know what she did differently, and how she stood out in the crowd. I expected an email interview, but she gave me her number instead.

Just speaking with her lifted my spirits. She's very personable, eager to share her experiences, and genuinely excited about telling stories. We talked for about half an hour, and though she didn't reveal any trade secrets (not that she had any to tell), she did share what she felt added to her success. She also gave me advanced knowledge of things I should prepare for, and what to do in the event of being contacted by a publisher. You can expect everything she told me and more to be shared throughout this blog series.

As always, if you have an questions or comments...

Leave them below.

In other news, I made it into the second round of the ABNA contest, and Query Kombat discussions have started. Great things to come.

Mar 12, 2014

A Nightmare Query Success

Success in this industry is a beautiful thing, especially when the writer shares her story. Straight from the Nightmare on Query Street contest, I'd like to introduce the wonderful Aimee Hyndman, and let her share with your her journey to success. 

I don't know about you guys, but I can't wait to read her novel. I wonder if she'll sign it for me... :o)

Aimee Hyndman
Author of Hour of Mischief

I've wanted to write a story like this for some time. Mostly because 'How I Got the Call' posts were always really inspiring to me. Every time a rejection got me down, I read a success story and I felt a little better. And I thought maybe, just maybe, I might get to write a post like this someday. 

Well, here we are, and as I sit here typing this, I am floating in surreal clouds of happiness. 

I was a sophomore in high school when I finished my first book and decided to get it published. Not that I had any knowledge of what publishing entailed. For all I knew, the magic book fairies came by and *poof* a book was made. But, just in case book fairies didn't exist, I plunged into research. I wanted to educate myself before sending my query into the great unknown. I wanted to find the best agents for me, write the best query, and have the very best book. So when I finally sent off my query, I was sure I would get a positive response. After all, I'd done everything, right? I'd done my research and it was going to pay off. 

Well, I didn't get any bites. Because no matter how much research I did, my first book really wasn't ready. It belonged to a saturated genre and the pacing wasn't where it needed to be. In the end I got two partial requests in all: one from the slush pile and one from a contest. But both partials were rejected because, honestly, the writing wasn't ready. No matter how many stories I heard about failed manuscripts from other querying writers, I never considered that mine might also fail. I thought I had done everything. I had gone through all the motions. But it didn't matter. I still needed practice. I loved my first book but in the end I set it aside, deciding to work on other projects before I took it back to the editing stage. 

I wrote HOUR OF MISCHIEF, the YA Steampunk Fantasy that would eventually be my winning manuscript, for fun in the fall of my senior year of high school. I expanded it off of a short story I had written at a writing camp and planned to expand later on. I started typing and before the month ended, the manuscript stood completed at just over 60,000 words. I edited the novel over the summer, but I hadn't really considered querying it any time soon as I wasn't sure I wanted to jump into the fray again. After all, it was my freshman year of college and I had a lot to focus on, so querying would just cause undue stress and-- 

Yeah, that lasted about two weeks. And within those two weeks I stumbled across #pitmad, a twitter pitch contest. Without giving myself much time to think about it, I cast my story to the wind. Just like that, I was back in the trenches. 

This time, I was met with different results. Agents actually requested partials and fulls, a phenomenon which I hadn't been expecting at all. I mean, HOUR OF MISCHIEF was something I wrote for fun because I liked the characters. I didn't consider the possibility of it being my winning manuscript. 

I guess that shows you what I knew. 

The surprises continued with one too-good-to-be-true event after another. I entered in the Nightmare on Query Street contest, hosted right here on this blog. Again, I expected nothing. Again I was surprised. Michelle selected me for her group of minions. The contest was better than I'd ever hoped for and I walked away with several requests. And the same weekend I got a full request from another agent with my partial. I didn't even know how to handle myself. 

I didn't know it at the time, but my road to an agent started with that weekend. As the end of the year hit and things slowed down, I tried to distract myself from the waiting game with homework and more writing. But a few agents had had my manuscript for longer than their stated response time so I figured I should nudge. I'm so glad I did. The agent who requested my full during the weekend of the contest had never gotten my email. In fact, I had email problems with this same agent, with my initial submission back in the fall. Apparently our emails didn't want her to see my MS. From the get go, this agent was super helpful and communicative. When I nudged her about the full, she told me that her email had eaten it. And, even more excitingly, that she had been thinking about my MS the other day, wondering why she rejected it. 

Wait really? Thinking about my manuscript? Really? 

I was over the moon as I resent the full MS to her and she promised to get back to me quickly. My mind flip flopped endlessly between 'maybe this is the one' and 'maybe it isn't'. A few weeks later, I woke up to an email asking to schedule a call. Perhaps THE call. I recall rolling out of my bed, crawling over to my roommate's bed and poking her until she woke up so I could scream about it with her. Then I breathed and tried to keep a level head (which worked for two seconds), and emailed back to schedule a time. Then I waited for the call, trying to convince myself that I shouldn't get my hopes up and this was probably a revise and resubmit at best. 

I was surprisingly coherent for the call. I didn't black out which I think was a good sign. Not even when she offered me representation, though I came close to swooning at that point. I certainly started belting Let it Go at the top of my lungs as soon as I hung up (As that is the only proper expression of happiness). 

In the end, this agent did up being the one. I only received one offer but several congratulatory step asides. And I was fine with that. Because my now agent, Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary, was the perfect fit for HOUR OF MISCHIEF. 

When I look back on my querying process, I realize that ALL of my major success came from contests. Laura found me through #pitmad and most of my partial requests came from Nightmare on Query Street. I got a few bites from the slushpile but not nearly as many as I got from contests. My point is: enter in contests. They help you stand out from the pack and they help you connect with other writers. They're subjective of course (I entered into several contests with HOUR OF MISCHIEF and only got in one/ THANKS MICHELLE!) but they can really pay off. Take a risk and enter. You might find the beginning of your own success story. 

 And now what everyone wants: Query Stats- 

Books queried: 2 
Books picked up: 1 
Queries Sent: 52 (27 for first book, 25 for second book. I am not a mass querier) 
Contests Entered: 6 (2 for first book, 4 for second book)
Contests Accepted into: 2 (1 for first book, 1 for second book) 
Partial Requests: 12 (2 from first book, 10 from second book) Full Requests: 4 (0 from first book, 4 from book second book) 

Offers of Rep: 1 
Offers Accepted: 1 


Aimee picked up a pencil as soon as her toddler fingers could and started writing stories in the underappreciated language of gibberish scribbles when she was four years old. Since then, she has always known she wanted to create, and whether on stage, in video editing software or on a blank word document, she has done just that. 

Aimee is currently a freshman at Coe College, attempting a triple major in Creative Writing, English, and Film Studies because, according to friends, she is crazy. She is also an intern to the Kimberley Cameron Agency and enjoys reading the work of other aspiring writers every day. She is now, of course, represented by Laura Zats and crossing her fingers for good things in the future. 

On Twitter: @AimeeHyndman 
On Pintrest:

Mar 3, 2014

By Hook Or By Ebook

As you can tell, I've changed some things.

In preparation for my self-publishing venture, I wanted to update my blog to make it brighter and more inviting. After a lot of research, I discovered that something like 70% of people preferred brighter webpages to darker ones. Trivial in the scope of epubing, I know. But every little bit counts. I think it will be interesting to see if my daily page views increase. Either way, I'll keep you posted.

For those who don't know, the title of the work I'm going to epub is My Best Friend Death. Below is a brief summary of the novel for those interested (This is also a subtle attempt at marketing, but don't tell anyone).

Damien Crown dedicates his life to being his little brother's superman. Like all superheroes, he's constantly at war with a formidable adversary: his brother's depression. Instead of going out in a climatic battle as the comics suggests, Damien dies at the screech of tires and the blare of a car horn. Sadly, it's in his last moments that he realizes he hadn't quite gotten around to taking off the cape and living his own life. 
But all that changes when he meets Death. 
Waking up in someone else's body is...odd, but having Death volunteer to be his life-coach takes the prize for the world's screwiest conundrum. Given one year to make the most of life as a new kid in his old school, Damien seizes the opportunity to shed his superhero persona and live among the ordinary. With Death guiding the way, he discovers a new side to life among a zany and lovable group of friends.  
At least, until his brother comes to school with bandaged wrists and bruises. 
Damien wants to don his cape once again, but Death warns that the laws of nature forbid him to make contact with his old family. Stuck between living his new life and fixing his old one, Damien has a choice to make: put on his cape and die for his brother, or hang it up and live for himself.

Along with my manuscript, the above pitch was entered into Amazon's ABNA contest. Self-publishing is still my plan A (because I have terrible luck with contests) so I'm going to proceed accordingly. My goal is to publish just before Query Kombat (so mid to late May). Blog traffic will be high so that means more potential readers. Genius right :o)

Back to the subject at hand:

Self-publishing takes time and money. How much time? I'm still not sure, but I clocked about twenty hours last week (I'll get into that more later). How much money? Conservative estimates: $200 for ebook cover design, $500-1000 for editorial services, and $20 for a domain name. That's all the expenses I've discovered so far. If I find more, I'll let you know.

Time: Redesigning my blog took a lot of time, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of Googling. I'm not a web designer so everything I've learned about HTML and CSS code are the product of extreme dedication. EXTREME. I spent about four hours on this blog. It may not look like it, but the few things I added (header, updated contact page and bio, social icons (I have RSS now!), larger profile image, etc) were time consuming. That doesn't even take into account the things I tried to do but failed at. My Google-fu was no match for my high hopes.

My website (which I will reveal when it's finished) took about twelve hours. Going the cheap route, I purchased a domain name and redirected it to second blog (And ho-ly shit. Redirecting is way more complicated than it needs to be).

I'm currently in the process of completely restructuring my second blog so that it resembles a regular website. Is it hard? Sort of. Is it time consuming? Yes. Is it worth it? I don't know. I think epubing is a game of luck and preparation. If I'm going to dive into this pool, I'm going to prepare as much as possible, and pray that lady luck is on my side.

More next week.