Whoopee! The great Jen Frankel and I are almost done editing this Trump book! Instead of 20 stories as planned, we have 30 stories. Too much of a good thing won’t kill you…I think…depends on what…
Anyhow, we revamped the cover too to make it a bit stronger. There were debates over changing the title too, but in the end, we stuck with the same title as Trumptopia, Trumpocalypse, etc were all taken.
It was great to work with all the writers and although sometimes we agreed to disagree, everyone worked hard on polishing their stories. We hope that reader will enjoy the book as we had a fantastic time editing!
This week I’m off to read a new piece about Toronto convention no-nos at the Tartan Turban Secret Readings #5. I honestly don’t know what to expect. There could be 5 people in the room or 50! Looking forward to connecting with local authors and seeing if they know more secrets about success than I do.
I had a talk with the organizer who asked me about where I published other than self-publishing. I said only Ricepaper Magazine and their anthology. Then after hanging up, I realized that I had either written or contributed a bunch of stuff to rather large outlets such as Entrepreneur Magazine, Women’s Health, Book Baby (blog), Authors Helping Authors, etc. I’m just not used to taking credit for stuff. The lesson from my MBA marketing prof: ‘ if you don’t toot your own horn, no one will do it for you!’ obviously didn’t stick to my brain that much.
Over the weekend one of my American friends told me about some course on selling millions of books. I told her that at the end of the day, I believe it’s about creating a good quality story. Marketing/selling is a different skill set than writing, but first you have to write something worth selling!
(Oops, posted day after Valentine’s – forgot to hit publish button)
Today the landlord and men at my office gave out free breakfast, snacks and roses which was really nice of them. I could not resist the heart donuts at Tim Hortons either. Gosh, it’s been a calorie packed day!
A few weeks ago I had answered some queries about relationship questions and didn’t hear back from the people. Well, today two of the people contacted me and used my advice in their articles!
Similar to television channels, on YouTube you can open your own channel to upload videos to. You can even make a trailer to promote it, add your social media links and pay for ads to advertise this channel. It’s like opening a free mini tv station which you can brand and upload whatever content (within YouTube guidelines) you want the world to see.
There are step by step instructions and technical tips on Buffer Social’s site write up on how to open a YouTube channel. Basically you need a Google account which will also give you an email account, brand account, YouTube account and Ad Sense account (for collecting revenue from ads or to pay for ads). It’s handy that everything is linked and the interface is quite user-friendly for newbies.
One of my friends told me that somehow they got banned from opening a YouTube channel because someone close to her somehow had access to her email and did some odd stuff on YouTube pretending to be her. Hence she was banned for a few years. Remember that the internet is like an elephant, it never forgets! So be careful of what you write and read the warning emails if they appear because you can get banned!
After opening a brand account and YouTube channel, you may want to think of a logo. This is an extra touch which helps promote brand recognition and it’s kind of fun to have the chance to make a logo for your own channel! To make a logo, you can either 1) DIY with original art, 2) DIY with free royalty-free stock art from Pixabay, 3) DIY with design programs such as the fabulous free Canva (you can upload your own images if Canva doesn’t have exactly what you want) or 4) hire an artist. If you hire someone and buy the copyright, the content is yours. When you use stock art or Canva, read the fine print for license details for what you can and can not do.
Here are a few of my YouTube channel logos which were created either on my own or commissioned an artist for the art:
Once you have things set up, you can actually open up more than one channel. Why do this? Well, for me, I wanted to have a few different channels due to different interests that don’t really intersect. I actually created the JF Garrard channel years ago to upload a book trailer for my multicultural vampire novel, The Undead Sorceress (looks so cheesy when I re-watch it!). Now that I have a new project, to organize things better, I created a playlist specific to my project on depression, Pessimist to Semi-Optimist (PTO) project so people interested in this project can watch all the videos on this project in one go. It’s like using setting up your PVR to record all the Big Bang Theory shows in a row to watch them non-stop.
“Po Po Gets Results!” is a channel I opened to make Chinese language videos with my mom to drill some Chinese into my son because it’s hard to find Chinese/English videos with toys that he likes to play with. “Po Po” means grandmother in Cantonese. Viking husband thought that “Po Po Gets Results” was a funny phrase and describes my mom’s relentless nature in shoving food into our offspring. Anyhow, getting him to learn numbers from a Thomas the Train that sounds like his grandmother seems to be working for now!
Over Christmas, my husband went crazy while watching super boring videos of Disney toy openings with children that we were babysitting. I looked up the person that made these videos and it turns out they make over $1M a year! We have a lot of toys at home, so why not try to make some videos about toys which children would want to watch? However, my interest in attempting to making videos about toys (openings and reviews) does not really fit into my channel on author and depression stuff. As a parent, I would be confused if a channel has videos on toys and advice on how not to commit suicide or vampire book trailers. It might fit into the Po Po channel, but I want to keep that exclusive for Chinese educational videos, so I opened a channel called “Kid Creatures” for toy reviews and toy opening videos.
Finally, some friends wanted to get together to make comedy skits. Good comedy is extremely difficult to do and very subjective, which makes me a bit nervous about doing this. As a big fan of BBC’s Absolutely Fabulous I always wish there was more female comedy that was not only about hot flashes, women being mean or sex. “One Hand Wave” is the comedy channel I opened to upload funny things to. My friends and I haven’t gotten together yet because everyone seems to be busy. Maybe that can be a skit in itself! Funny how the one person with a toddler is the one that set up everything and bought equipment but the single people are still “thinking” about things before they want to do anything…sigh…ok, I’m being a bit mean now…
I admit it’s a hassle to switch in between channels or personas when doing updates, but I think it will be worth it in the long run. Within each channel you can create playlists, so when people are on your channel, you can create lists to link all your videos. This will help people find your videos as YouTube is a vast place with millions of videos.
One software I highly recommend to spread messages about your message on social media is Hootsuite, which allows you to schedule posts. For example, you want to send ten Twitter messages about a new video. Instead of logging into Twitter and typing it ten times every day (and trying to remember!) – you can schedule all ten posts over ten days in a few minutes in Hootsuite. There is a free version you can link to 3 accounts, but if you have multiple things to upkeep, a paid version costs about $200/year for up to 10 accounts.
Opening a channel is the easy part! Now it’s off to the races by making videos to upload!
YouTube appears to be the new gold mine of our century. Are you going to pan for gold? I am! Seriously, as much as I would love to make millions every year, I know that the people making lots of money also work very hard. We can’t see the amount of hours, money spent on equipment and sheer sweat they put in before they became a success. A little bit of gold dust would be nice, nevertheless!
Business Insider has a great article which calculates and breaks down the amount of money people earn on You Tube. PewDiePie (YouTube’s biggest star who critiques video games and makes jokes about them) supposedly pulled in revenue of $10.5M in 2014. After taxes and YouTube’s share, he may have made $4M. That is fantastic, but keep in mind he started doing this many years ago and the big payoff is only now. Another YouTube star is Michelle Phan (beauty and makeup) was calculated to have made about $150K in comparison. These stories are great, but how does one actually make money?
YouTube has ads that you see before and during video viewing. This is called “YouTube monetization.” The person who made or uploaded the video signs a digital agreement with YouTube so that ads can be placed into their videos and there is a split of roughly 50:50. The amount of money made depends on how many people watched the video and if they clicked on the ad or not. Also, longer videos have more ad placements. More details are available on this “Ad Rates Report” page about how YouTube and ads work.
Setting up a video to be monetized is not difficult at all, maybe 30 minutes, tops. However, to make any money, you need lots of eyeballs and different people to watch your video (and yes, YouTube can tell if the clicks come from the same household). Other than professional media (music videos, clips of tv shows) or cute home videos (babies, dogs, cats) which are sometimes bought by the news media; highly viewed videos are either technical (video game, makeup, space rockets, educational, amateur tv shows) or really low brow (pooping, barfing, falling).
Everything comes down to marketing. In our day and age, social media has opened the doors to people to do their own marketing instead of relying on professional companies. However, people are bombarded with marketing from all over the place, so it’s become harder to get someone’s attention. Having good content is always the most solid base for success, but if no one knows about it, then the content will become lost in cyberspace.
One area getting some attention are toy reviews and toy unboxing (opening a toy). Since I have a child, I thought that a good start would be making videos with toys. That $10 piece of plastic I bought should be good for something after it’s been played with for 5 min, right?! Actually, I spent more than $20 on secret Lego Disney figurines because there was a frenzy at Toys R Us with moms feeling up these packages for the figure they wanted while the men shook their heads in the corner. Still, it was quite exciting to open the secret Lego Disney package on camera because I didn’t know what was in it either (felt like doing toy porn and I’m sure that’s out there too)! This is sounding pretty sad…but I’ve had too much excitement lately over a health crisis in my family, so being excited about something boring is good!
In addition, I want my son to learn Chinese, so I have asked my mom to make videos of us playing with toys in Chinese. I have had a maximum of ….wait for this…30 hits!…so far on our video of Thomas the Train counting in Cantonese. The threshold of any money being released by You Tube is $100 and given I’m at $0.02 today (videos have been up for a week), it’s going to take a while!
Since having a child is like opening a black hole near your bank account, I think doing YouTube videos for fun in hopes of earning some money is a good idea anyways. I’ll be blogging about this occasionally when I’m less depressed because I think it’s a funny thing to do. Until then, I’m calling my mom to ask her to think of more video ideas, since our video of Thomas and Mickey buying fruit was viewed as “too Asian” by a friend!
Now that National Novel Writing Month and my Kickstarter are both done, I wanted to work a on new goal – to revamp my website! I had looked around for a few weeks while procrastinating during my writing sessions and found a few awesome sites which offer free WordPress themes. Well, there are actually hundreds of sites which offer free themes, but most of them look the same, quite frankly. The premium stuff (fully set up site, video tutorials, tech support) is not free, it’s about $50 USD (depends on theme) which isn’t too bad.
WordPress has revolutionized the way websites are built as it’s really website building for dummies who don’t know code (aka – me!). You install templates and you keep adding “widgets” to customize the site. Widgets are all those things on the side of websites and at the bottom which display social media icons, posts, calenders, etc.
After a few months of building a basic WordPress website, I felt ready to set up a more complicated site. Of course, my Viking husband laments that I’m not coding much and things could be more beautiful, but I can live with using a standard theme.
These are the two sites I found which offered great free themes with nice designs and lots of widget options:
This website uses “Alium” from SM Themes. My first choice was Memento from YI Themes, but the preview wasn’t working properly and the free one looked too limited. Second choice was Diablo (yes, like the game name), but the words on the demo site were too dark.
It was exciting to learn how to use sliders (the moving thing at the top of the site) as I always wondered how people did that! The only thing I haven’t learned how to do is build a nice portfolio gallery with pop up words. I found a few widgets for displaying pictures, but the problem with me is that I have too many words describing the artwork. Oh well, I’ll figure out how to display things more nicely over time.
Until I met my husband, I never listened much to the radio. His family are huge fans of CBC radio and grew up with this station always on in the house. My family has Chinese television on all the time instead.
Looking for different ways of promoting my Kickstarter campaign, I stumbled across Dr. Wright, a crowd funding guru who has a web tv and radio website. She offered to do a quick interview with me for her radio podcast and I jumped at the chance. There was no equipment to set up, which was nice and all I had to do was call into her LA radio station. She had mentioned a few questions in her email so I wrote up answers for those, but in general I wasn’t sure what to expect!
It was a good experience overall as I learned a lot about what I didn’t know. Such as how to answer questions properly when the host improvises. I was really nervous, so that did not help things as I stumbled across my words like a drunken sailor. In general now I know that I have to think harder about what messages I want to convey for my book, including themes, unique characteristics, cultural matters, etc. My friend was surprised at all this. “You wrote the damn thing, you should know everything!” He admonished.
Writing is such a solitary, introverted activity that it feels odd to suddenly switch on an extrovert personality in order to explain what the heck you created. As well, growing up in an Asian culture, tooting your horn is a bad thing and you never want to draw attention to yourself because you will appear to be a narcissist. So generally, I find talking about my work and myself in a positive light hard to do as I grew up learning to do the opposite. My husband says I’m the worst salesperson in the world as he listens to me degrade myself after receiving any good comments on my work. He’s trying to train me to say “thank you” and not continue on to say anything bad afterwards, but it’s going to take a lot of effort on my part.
Here is the interview for those still interested, hopefully I’ll do better next time!
The whole idea of commissioning art for me began when I started spying on other people’s Kickstarter pages. The ones that did fairly well with supporters all had incredible artwork. The artwork was what grabbed you on the kickstarter page, and then the text. People are very visual and if the book cover/art sucks, you start wondering about the quality of the book.
I had started speaking to a number of Canadian artists I knew over the last 2 years. But scheduling was a problem as my contacts had a full time jobs and art was something they did on the side. So I started to search globally – writing to people I found with portfolios on deviantart.com and researching other websites for online freelance services such as elance.com, fiverr.com, freelancer.com, odesk.com and 99designs.com.
In the end of my long search and “testing” many people on their styles/workflow, I found some fantastic artists which I hope to maintain relationships with on a long term basis as I continue to write more books. There are links to their great portfolios at the end of this post. Over the next few weeks I’ll be putting up the artwork I’ve commissioned for The International House of Vampires series on this website along with a Q & A with each artist so you can learn more about them as they are all fabulous people!
The Steps to Commissioning Artwork:
1) Think about what you want to commission – it could be for a gift, book, game, etc. It’s important that you spend time developing a vision as this is something you are hiring to bring to life. If you are not clear what you want, believe me, the artist will have a hard time delivering the goods.
2) Write down specs – you know what you want, but now you have to communicate it to someone. I try to provide as many details as possible. If the artist doesn’t read this – they aren’t very good with clients then!
* Intro sentence about what the art is about, what it’s for
* Do you want to own the copyright for future reproduction or is this a one-off that will never be reproduced? Usually the artist retains all copyrights unless you ask for it to be transferred, usually for a price ($ depends on artist).
* The style you want. Western realistic? Manga? Cartoon?
* Find some references of stuff you like. The idea is to let the artist know what kind of style, color palette and “feeling” you want to invoke in the art.
* Describe each person if any. How old are they? Height? Facial features, clothing, etc as if they are real people to the artist.
* Find specific references for things such as poses, fashion style, faces, etc.
* What’s in the background? Do you want nothing or a specific environment?
* Hope that they understand and don’t freak out if the first piece isn’t what you imagined – sometimes it take a few tries before the artist can draw what you had in mind!
3) Search for an artist – Like I mentioned earlier, there are many websites for you to do your search. Look through their portfolios and see if they have done similar work to what you want for another client.
It is not fun looking for artists as you will be overwhelmed by the different styles and prices available for people. A person may be super cheap at $5/piece, but can they deliver your vision? Another person’s art looks fantastic, but they want $1200/piece. Can you afford this?
For your book you may have a picture or style in mind already, but you have to search hard for the right people to make your dreams come true. Don’t settle for something your gut tells you is not right…this is not very scientific advice, I’m afraid, but gut feel is super important!
4) Make contact – Depending on which site, you will either have to fill in a form for a third party or you can email the artist directly with specs. The artist will send you a quote based on that. If you go through a third party (website service) usually there is some sort of guarantee so you can get your money back if something goes wrong. Sometimes to get better prices you may be asked to pay direct. There is always a bit of risk with dealing with a new person, but usually if the artist has a decent website and looks legit, I would take this risk to save some money.
Keep in mind of a budget of what you can afford. Commissioned art can range from $0 (bartering for future favors) to $2000 USD in my experience, for one piece of art. Sometimes the price varies depending on how many people in each piece or if you want a nice background. Read the fine print of what the artist is willing to do!
5) Evaluate options – Each artist will quote you different prices. To help with making the decision, I go through their portfolios once again to determine if it’s worth both of our time to go through with making a deal. Sometimes you can barter, but it depends on the artist. I’ve learned that you do get what you pay for; don’t cheap out so much that you can’t hire a decent artist! Otherwise, what’s the point?!
6) Make a deal with one, send payment and send out sorries to the rest – It’s only decent to let other people know that you hired someone.
7) Finalizing the Artwork – Usually the artist will send you some drafts to look at to ask for your opinion. There should be some back and forth but this depends on the price as well. For artists that don’t earn much or if you drive them crazy, they will sometimes ask for more money per change. But usually you can ask for at least one to two changes before finalizing.
8) Copyright transfer – From the beginning I ask for this, so at the end I write up a contract for them to sign to transfer copyright to me. For personal artwork, it’s usually not done. I only started doing this based on an editor friend’s advice as she was worried about long term consequences for me. Most artists will charge you a fee for this (sometimes close to the price of the commissioned piece), it’s usually not free. However, I do think it’s fair for them to have the piece in their portfolio even if I have the copyright as they should keep a copy of the hard work they have done!
9) Show off the art! It took a lot of time and effort to bring a vision to life, so brighten someone else’s day with something fantastic!
Virtual Artist Team for The International House of Vampires series
This is a continuation of a conversation with Robert Altbauer, a cartographer who lives in Salzburg. He was kind enough to take on a commission to draw two maps for me: a world map and an invisible fortress map. The fortress map is a place where the main character visits at one point in the story. The first part of our conversation is here.
If someone wanted to become a cartographer, what tools would they need? Do you use tablets or certain software? What tips do you give in general?
While traditional materials like a sheet of paper and pencils (and some talent) are a good way to start, I think that a tablet is a necessary tool nowadays. Combined with graphic programs like Photoshop or Illustrator, or GIMP and Inkscape – very good, free alternatives to the both aforementioned programs – tablets provide a powerful possibility to make good maps. They combine the ability to draw with your hand with modern and versatile technology.
Generally, mapping follows – like many other things – the philosophy of learning by doing. The more maps you do the better you get. If I look at the maps I do now and the ones I have made two years ago then I can see the progress I’ve made.
What is your most favorite map (that you didn’t draw)?
Well, that’s a difficult question. I can’t point to a certain map because there are so many excellent and different maps.
What is your most favorite map that you have drawn? (You don’t have to say it’s mine, it’s ok!)
I made a rather huge world map called ‘World of Maargard’, which I think is one of my best.
What is the oddest or funniest map that you have had to draw?
I sometimes make personalized maps which can be quite funny. I use the affections and aversions of a person to draw a map – mountains of chocolate, sea of cocktails, plain of spider, pit of the mother-in-law etc. with appropriate illustrations.
How should people contact you if they want commissions?
The easiest way is to write me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It should contain the preferred style (description, link or image attached), the size and the average level of detail – how many labels, is a lot of decoration necessary etc. If there already is a sketch this would be helpful, too. The deadline and usage rights are also important information on which I give then a cost estimate.
I have never been to Salzburg or the Alps. So lastly, tell me a little bit about your country and anything interesting I should do if I can ever afford to visit you?
Austria is in general a nice little country, but often too old-fashioned and too slow to catch up with modern developments.
Salzburg is a very beautiful place, but don’t make the mistake to reduce it to Mozart or Sound of Music. We have a very good cuisine and excellent beers and wines, so you should visit either a restaurant with Austrian food or a Heuriger or Buschenschank – Austrian taverns where you usually get wine and simple but very good dishes.
You have been a great part in bringing my book vision to life and I wish you the best of luck!
The book series which I’m about to launch (International House of Vampires) in 2014 is considered a dark urban fantasy genre. Many fantasy books in general have maps in the front as it helps build up a world for the readers. So I decided to seek out a cartographer to help me make two maps for my book: a world map and an invisible fortress map.
Here is the world map of places where various characters travel to in the book. Then I realized, what the heck are 3 Canadian places doing on the map? Oh right, Canada is such a big remote country, it’s easy for cults to hide in the north…
With a stroke of luck, I connected with Robert Altbauer, a cartographer who lives in Salzburg. I keep enviously envisioning him as a polite, handsome man who lives near the Alps somewhere eating bon bons and drawing maps in an ancient library somewhere. You can see some of his fantastic work at www.fantasy-map.net – Where visions become maps and www.sapiento.deviantart.com – deviantART portfolio.
Hi Robert, thank you first of all for taking on my crazy map requests. First, can I ask how long have you been doing this cartography craft and how did you start?
Hi Jean, thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my profession.
I have been making maps since the beginning of 2010. I had an idea for an alternate history setting and wanted to do a map for it. So I bought a graphic tablet and started mapping.
At what point did you become serious and form a website, etc to make cartography an entrepreneurial business for yourself?
This was a few months after my first map, in mid 2010. I applied for a cartographer job – a novelist needed a map for her setting (sounds familiar, I guess 😉 ). I got the job and soon afterwards I decided to turn this into my second profession. One of my first clients created websites and we did a quid pro quo – he got a map and I got my new website.
Do you also have a day job as well? Or what do you hope to do? Or would your dream be to only do cartography?
I’ve studied law at the Universityof Salzburg, Austria. I quit my last job a few months ago and now I’m looking for a new job where I can use my study. While mapping is really great and I love it, I like the changes in working within another business that uses my other talents.
I found you on the Cartographers’ Guild forum – do you think having online guild website such as this one has raised the bar in cartography? I mean, before the internet age, I’m not sure where one would go to find mapmakers. Now, it’s a global competition for freelancers. Do you think it’s a double edged sword?
More or less, yes. While you get a whole world of potential clients you get a world full of competitors, too. The Cartographers’ Guild is a very friendly and helpful community. Of course, everyone applies for the same jobs and sometimes I come off second-best, but on the other hand it is a great place to learn new things and exchange your experiences. The cartographers influence each other with new ideas, so this leads to many excellent maps that are made by the guild members.
Do you see any future evolution for cartography? More 3D video game stuff? I mean, where do you think changes are happening?
3D is certainly something that has the potential to change a lot – but at the moment only for certain areas, like gaming or TV. As long as there are no 3D capable e-readers I don’t think that a lot of maps will be true 3D.
The greatest challenge for human cartographers will probably be sophisticated computer programs that can produce maps by just giving them a set of parameters. While they cannot substitute real creativity – at least not until we have some kind of artificial intelligence – these could become a competition for humans. But that’s a general problem of modern society and one that still has no satisfying solution.