Cover reveal for The Literary Elephant!

Another book I have on the go is The Literary Elephant: The Beginner’s Guide to Indie Publishing. This book was started way back in November as part of National Novel Writing Month. People have been asking me where to buy this and alas, I have to tell them that it’s not done yet!

theliteraryelephant

This cover was completed by a fabulous graphics company based in Bosnia I found on Fiverr.com. They also helped me with the “How To Make a Munchkin” cover. I have to kick myself in the butt to keep going on finishing the manuscript for both the Munchkin and Elephant book as I have been so distracted by marketing activities for The Undead Sorceress.

However, I’ve learned a lot since launching one book and I predict things will be easier for me to release my other books.

One of my friends said I was getting too ambitious in wanting to release two more books by the end of the year, but what the heck, the manuscripts are 70% complete at this point! As an author, I don’t think you can survive on one book, so I need to keep going! Another thing I’ve been busy with is trying to write short stories as those are easier to sell than novels…yes, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me!

Paperback of The Undead Sorceress Released!

The paperback version of The Undead Sorceress was just released yesterday on April 24, 2014 ahead of the May 8 schedule. I don’t think this will ever happen again! I am maximizing the number 4 it seems with an April 24, 2014 release date. The number 4 sounds the same as “death” in the Chinese language and is typically avoided. Well, this book is about vampires who are undead so perhaps they are a lucky bunch and having so many 4s around this book is ok!

Retail list price is $15.99 USD and it is available on Amazon for now. In the near future it will be uploaded to other distributors to make it available at Barnes & Noble, etc.

Meanwhile, I’ve been prepping for book launches and Anime North, so I’ve ordered a stack of 300 books to carry with me everywhere. The book is damn heavy at 500 pages! The matte cover is beautiful though and the colors translate well from digital to print. And I’m a picky person when it comes to books! After going through 12 proofs, I’m finally happy, so I hope you will like how the book turned out too!

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Ebook and Print Book Publishing on Amazon

Over the last month I have been uploading my Kindle and Print version of the book onto Amazon for sale. The Kindle version was uploaded onto the KDP site and the Print version onto the Createspace site. Although both sites belong to Amazon, the structure of each site is different as they are considered separate entities.

Generally, the KDP site was much easier to work with, as you can upload your tax information digitally, obtain real time sales data and chose to be paid via direct deposit. Sadly, the Createspace site had only the option of mailing in your tax information, monthly sales data and only cheque payment options for Canadians. No cheques are mailed until you hit $100USD in royalties, so that might be a few years from now!

The 3D cover software on Createspace also impressed me as you can spin your cover around to make sure you “covered” the template you built your cover on. Alas, I still need to see the book in my hands to make sure the cover and pages printed properly.

3d cover 3 ides

For both sites after you upload, there is a 12-24 hour wait period as an Amazon staff needs to make sure that the file is properly formatted. For my Createspace cover I kept getting messages about the file not being big enough although I used their template. Of course, I have the option of not selling the book until I make sure the cover is perfect, which is great.

Amazon does tend to listen to their customers, which in this case, are the self-publishing authors. There was a demand for matte covers for print books versus glossy, so now there is an option for matte covers. People wanted real time sales data for kindle ebooks, so that is now available. When I had issues with uploading my cover to Createspace, I had the option of having someone contact me “now” or in 5 minutes. I chose “now” and my phone rang right away, connecting me to a service representative immediately.

Over the next few months I’ll be uploading onto other platforms, but Amazon is a good place to start. The software for uploading may not be as user friendly on other sites and there are extra fees if you need to re-upload again due to any mistakes in the file (free on Amazon to take down and upload again). Amazon has set a very high bar for self-publishing services and they can’t be beat at the moment. They are just so good! It’s only a matter of time before they take over the world with their other plans!

 

The Undead Sorceress is available on Amazon Kindle!

Finally, one book is available online after lots of difficulties with IRS forms, last minute formatting changes/deletions and waiting for what seemed like an eternity for Amazon to approve of it for sale. Yes, there is a process in which Amazon looks at your book to make sure it’s not offensive stuff you are putting onto their site.

Although I’ve learned to read legal documents for work, reading IRS forms and documents are totally different. I am convinced they are written by aliens to destroy our little minds as they are so difficult to comprehend.

Things turned out ok in the end, but there was lots of sweating and panicking. Uploading onto Amazon was a breeze though, but what took me so long was that I would “test” the book on different kindle programs and find glitches in the file. So I went back and forth with my very patient Australian formatter to perfect the book. Then I set up an Amazon Author page, changed the book status on Goodreads, updated all websites, then announced its availability via Facebook and Twitter as well. Is giving birth easier? Not sure…

The print book manuscript takes a bit longer to format and after that’s done, I can finish the spine/back for the print cover. I have been going to bookstores in my spare time and studying other people’s books to see what they put on their books. Perhaps I am vain, but I like well designed books and I hope to make a good looking book as well. For a panel on self-publishing on the weekend, I’ll try to remember to make this point: once the writing is over, you have to shut off your writing brain. The book becomes a product next and it has to be able to compete with other books. This means that the inside must be polished with professional editing and the outside has to be well designed. Book covers do matter and sometimes people will pick up your book because the cover is pretty if nothing else.

Due to my enrolment in Amazon’s KDP Select, I had to take down my preview of the book as it is available on Amazon now. KDP Select puts the book into a Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, so people enrolled in the library can read the book for free. Amazon does compensate the author regardless and it’s a new business model for people to subscribe to Amazon’s library service.

Click the cover below to visit The Undead Sorceress’ Kindle book page. Happy reading!

kindle cover jpeg

 

Promoting Your Free Book

Recently, a question came up on the Goodreads forum about why people hired on Fiverr usually do promos for free books?

I speculated that a lot of them will only promote “FREE” books because there are lots of lists available online that this Fiverr person can fill in forms for free promotion on your behalf.

If the book isn’t free, it is much more difficult for them to do promotions. They would actually need to take more time to contact people and convince them to do book promos.

Generally, promoting a free book by filling in forms only takes a few minutes and they don’t have to negotiate.

If you are running a promotion for your book and giving it away for free for a few days or forever, you can post the links online to various sites yourself to spread the word. Or you can hire someone to do it for $5 as well.

Here is a list of 72 sites for promoting free ebooks to get you started along with Facebook, Twitter advice::

http://www.sarkemedia.com/free-kindle…

Another one at Indies Limited:

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/book-p…

If you google “list kindle free promotion” you will find several more sites. Of course, some of the sites listed may be the same over and over again.

Good luck on your freebie campaign!

Cynthia Vespia's Writing Process

On Goodreads I recently met Cynthia Vespia, the acclaimed author of the fantasy saga Demon Hunter.  Her first novel, a medieval fiction entitled The Crescent was published in August 2005. The novel was unanimously praised as “an engaging, descriptive read” which prompted a sell-out at Borders Bookstore in less than one hour during the first official signing.

Demon_6x9DustJacket_Front_EN copy

As part of the Writing Process blog hop, she was kind enough to share tips to upcoming writers:

What am I working on?

I’m currently working on the sequel to my acclaimed Demon Hunter series, titled DEMON HUNTRESS. It follows the daughter of my lead character as she follows in her father’s footsteps and takes up the role of hunter.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Every author has a different voice. I have been told I’m a multi-genre writer. I’ve included romance in horror novels, and comedy in thrillers. I write what comes naturally to me to make the best story possible.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what I like to read. I’ve been a fan of fantasy since I was a kid reading Piers Anthony or C.S Lewis. As I grew my tastes grew into more mainstream thrillers. So I still dabble in both genres. I can’t help where I get my story ideas.

How does my writing process work?
I get a spark of an idea and develop it from their with a rough outline. My character profiles will go in depth but I tend not to flush out too much of the actual story because it ruins the spontaneity.

Cynthia’s Goodreads profile contains links to her books and book trailer videos, check them out!

 

The Writing Process

Lately I’ve been on Linked-In and Good Reads a lot, learning from other writers about what they have been going through in their publishing journeys. Usually there are discussions about how to find readers, build blogs and how useless it is to go after people who pirate your book unless you have hard evidence.

Anyhow, I saw a post from fellow author CR Hodges, inviting authors on a “My Writing Process” blog hop to share what is going on in their writing life. Below are questions and answers for this blog hop on what is going on at this stage of my author career.

I should also mention that CR Hodges is a fairly versatile writer with books on the US civil war, sci-fi stuff and lots of short stories. Stop by his site if you get a chance!

Every writer has a different path and next week I’ll be posting details of the writing process of acclaimed Demon Hunter Saga author, Cynthia Vespias!

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JF Garrard’s Writing Process

What am I working on?

At the moment I am finalizing proofreading for my first novel, The Undead Sorceress before sending it to my formatter in Australia.

This is the first book in a series called International House of Vampires which has vampires, magic users, robots and people all rolled up in the cast of characters. I wrote this book because I love fantasy, sci-fi and horror books, but didn’t see much diversity in them. There is a female lead and characters of different ethnicities as well as LGBT. This book has a theme about filial obligations and how far one is willing to go for family.

The second book, Dark Evolution is 50% done, but I am a bit stuck as I keep rewriting it and then getting distracted by other things. All I can say is that there are mermaids in this and it has an environmental theme to it.

My non-fiction works are in various stages as well. The Literary Elephant is a book I started as a guide for beginning Indie publishers. I’ve learned a lot on my self-publishing journey and there is no need for people to reinvent the wheel every time! I hate books that wave a stick in a general direction, so this book will have links and lots of advice on how to implement action steps!

How to Make a Munchkin is a book about modern tools of baby making and the pressure on women to have babies. This was written after I had a “natural” miscarriage which took over a month and I was really scared for a long time. None of my medical books on pregnancy really described what happens during miscarriages, so I hope this will help others realize that they are not alone if they have issues and not to be too worried if they have to go through the same miscarriage event.

I need to update some statistics before sending it to my editor. As well, I have a family doctor and a nurse lined up who are very interested in reading this and will contribute to the forward of this book.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m actually entering The Undead Sorceress into a novel competition for the “Visionary Fiction” category. This work is different because mixes up fantasy, horror, sci-fi and contains a global cast. My background is in Nuclear Medicine, so I tend to incorporate some science into my stories. As well, growing up with concept of Taoism, I inadvertently wrote a lot of that into the book since Taoist philosophies explain the concepts of magic and vampires so nicely.

For my non-fiction work, I try to incorporate useful information in a simple manner. Many times I read self-help books that are not very helpful and that pisses me off. So I do my best to offer valuable advice and realistic outlooks on situations.

Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always wanted to write and still remember the day when I had to choose between Science or English. My parents were against English as they thought I would starve to death as a writer and convinced me that Science had more opportunities. I loved Science very much too, so I headed down that road and now work in the Healthcare Sector.

One day, I discovered a fellow hospital administrator self-published a book and this sparked my interest in writing again. Self-publishing? What is that?! I thought that the life of writer was becoming depressed over rejection and then dying early, usually by starving or suicide.

Inspired that someone made a book, I started writing again and it was done fairly quickly as I had a story in the back of my mind for the last ten years. It was the idea of how I would sacrifice my life for my grandmother as she suffered different setbacks over the years (fish bone poisoning, stroke, etc.) The Asian notion of filiality is self-sacrifice for the older generation as they sacrificed themselves for the younger generation while raising them.

Generally, I write because I like sharing different truths in fiction and non-fiction. It is a way of disseminating knowledge and contributing to society via this “artform”.

How does my writing process work?

I think too much. I overthink. I hypothesize a lot because I have spent too many years with the scientific method. I am not a healthy writer because I also procrastinate and tend to overdose on chocolate.

Generally, I like reading anything and everything from newspapers to books to magazines. I also like watching lots of films; doesn’t matter what language as long as there is a good story. Also I like travelling, visiting museums, art galleries and random places. I absorb a lot of different cultures and things just spark as I figure out if I want to write a story featuring a certain element I’ve seen or not.

Ideas are scribbled into notebooks and as I’ve learned in the past, I shouldn’t write ideas onto receipts or napkins as I tend to lose them. Eventually, after I’m inspired by enough ideas, I will have a skeleton of a story – I know the beginning, middle and the end. Then I have to fill in this story with people, events, conflict, incentives and plot.

As I write and eat lots of chocolate, the characters will take on a life of their own and unpredictable things will happen. I’ve discovered I can’t have a super rigid outline, as half the time I won’t follow it! I like books with realistic people so I spend a lot of time thinking about how a character will react to a situation.

While writing I am absorbed and I get very grouchy when interrupted as I’m in “the zone”. I used to paint, so writing to me is seeing scenes in my head and then creating a piece of art with words.

Eventually after a manuscript is finished, I edit and ask my Viking husband, along with any willing friend to edit. Then I edit again. After these rounds of edits, I’ll find my editor and pass on the manuscript to them. More rounds of editing. The final step is then proof reading before sending manuscript to formatter.

To give you an idea of timelines – I wrote The Undead Sorceress in three months (thought about it for 10 years!), then it took over a year to edit. Editing takes a long time and is also when what you write gets torn to pieces as people may not understand what you are trying to say. So you rewrite and rewrite until it is good! Then illustration work, formatting, cover design, etc took many months as well. From start to finish, it’s been a two year process.

My last piece of advice is to not worry about what is right or wrong as everyone is different! Just write and get started!

 

Conversing with a Cartographer Part 2

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.

Fortress in the Sky Final s logo

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 contact@fantasy-map.net. 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! 

Thank you, Jean. Good luck with your book!

Once again, remember to check out these 2 links to his awesome works of art: www.fantasy-map.netand www.sapiento.deviantart.com!

Conversing with a Cartographer Part 1

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…

World Map smaller logo

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.

Continued into Part 2

Ramping up for self publishing!

I was a shark in my last life, as I can’t sit still on any project…Agents and publishers only take 1% of the pile of stuff they get, so I think I will have to go the self-publishing route as my multicultural vampire book query has received multiple rejection letters. Apparently there are too many vampire books on the market right now.

I was hoping for a happy ending to avoid self-publishing as it is a very expensive endeavor to undertake! You have to do everything from hiring an editor, to doing the marketing, to creating the print book and ebook.

It feels like I’ve stepped into a tornado! I know, I should think about things as I need to cross the bridge…but I’m the type to scope out the bridge ahead of time and consider the different possibilities before I cross the bridge!

(Think I’m also feeling super hyper on this Chinese medicine stuff. Can’t sleep properly because I feel too awake all the time. Will have to tell doctor when I see him next…)

Come rain or shine, The Undead Sorceress: Book 1 of the International House of Vampires will be available May 2014.

The next steps I need to do over an 8 month period I’ve scheduled for myself to make this book happen:

1) Find editors who offer consultation services, ask for quotes from different editors

2) The editor quotes determine how much money I should try to raise from Kickstarter to cover some project costs

3) Running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds – write and rewrite text for campaign page, shoot and reshoot video to explain the project and why I need the $$, look around other people’s pages/videos and decide what incentives to entice future investors in the project (aka what carrots should I offer?)

4) Learn video software properly to add close captioning, splitting scenes and not to overuse special effects as my first video made my producer friend nauseous

5) Follow up with artists I’ve hired to do artwork for Kickstarter campaign. Have 3 of them on hand, hoping one of them will give me some drawings to buy from them! Got a 4th artist name, will wait a few weeks before I overdo it with asking artists for stuff…they need time to ‘create’

6) Start looking at books on my bookshelf to determine size of paperback I want to make.

7) One editor who wrote back said that I used 2 spaces between sentences instead of 1 – which led me on a route to read about formatting stuff for printing. OMG! Have to destroy all formatting and start over…after editing is done.

8) Found out I shouldn’t think about pretty text for the first letter of each chapter or life will become more difficult. But I want pretty text, so when I reach that point I will have to decide what to do.

9) Decide if I should hire someone to format for print book, Amazon e-book and Smashwords e-books. They all have different formatting rules = pain in the butt.

10) Can’t make the cover for printing until I know how many damn pages the print book is, as this will determine the size of the spine which affects front and back covers. So I have to wait on this one. If it is too complicated to make, will have to hire someone to do it for me.

11) Upload book into print book and e-book formats, look at proofs (print book could take a few weeks to receive in mail) and make sure things look ok. If something goes wrong, start over with formatting.

12) Amazon and Smashwords have different programs you can take part in. For Amazon, to get into publishing catalogues, it’s an extra $25 USD per year and then there is some Kindle borrowing program thing.

13) Then there is the issue of different ISBN numbers. Print and e-books have to have different numbers. I can also apply for my own ISBN for more control or just get a free one from Amazon or Smashwords…decisions, decisions…

14) Look for tax forms. Eventually if I make more than $10 profit I will have to ask Amazon or Smashwords to send me a letter to vouch that I’m not American. Then I have to contact IRS and ask them for a special number to avoid paying US taxes which are automatically taken off all book sales through Amazon and Smashwords.

15) For the book launch, I have been talking to a convention I volunteer at annually in May, so this is my drop dead date to have everything done by then. Hopefully they will let me do a panel on vampires, do a book reading and throw a party there. After confirmation of permission, need to think about banners, what to give away, food to bring, etc.

16) Once Kickstarter campaign and convention confirms things are a green light, start emailing, blogging, posting a link with details to people. This is where you find out how many friends you actually have and if you have to depend on the kindness of strangers to make things happen!

17) Keep blogging, posting when I don’t have a headache!

There is a wedding in between all this in Korea, so a few weeks is a write off as I travel. Or maybe I can do research on stuff for the next book! My end goal is to break even in regards to expenses, although time is net negative! But if this all works out, maybe I can end up with a series that gives me some money to buy a few cups of coffee every year!