Unexpected Goals, Who Knew?

First, thanks to those who volunteered to beta read my Casey Holland novella. I truly appreciate your taking the time to read the book and offer comments.

Last week, while I was sitting on the floor with my granddaughter and not really thinking about anything, ideas started popping into my head. Some of the ideas had occurred before but I’d dismissed them as too much work. Something’s now telling me that 2022 is the time to get moving. A couple of the newer ideas occurred after attending an online publishing workshop a few days ago.

One of the earlier ideas I dismissed came from an online course from marketing guru and author, David Gaughran. He advises re-doing covers on older books and sprucing up book blurbs prior to launching a marketing campaign for a new book in the series. I need to do this for the first four books in my series, as the covers were designed by my former publisher. I also have decided to use IngramSpark to make print books available to libraries etc., another idea I’ve put off for a long time.

When I acquired the rights to the cover art back in 2016, I didn’t realize until much later that the resolution was too low to publish on Amazon. Unfortunately, I had a lot on my plate back then, so only ebooks are available.

I’ve been using Draft2Digital for platforms aside from of Amazon, but one of the new ideas (again from the workshop) is to add PublishDrive to the roster, as they apparently have a larger audience in other countries than D2D does. If any of you have experience with PublishDrive or IngramSpark, especially pitfalls to avoid, I’d love to hear them.

Lastly, for those of you who might not have picked up a copy of the third book in my series, Beneath the Bleak New Moon, this book is now on sale until February 8th for $.99. I really enjoyed researching this book, as I learned a lot about street racing, legal and illegal, for my story. The book can be found through the BookFunnel link HERE:

Tough Times in the Publishing Industry

Image from Pixabay

We live in unsettling times, not just because of the pandemic and climate change devastation, although they certainly play key roles. Lately, much has been written about the uncertainty and new challenges facing the publishing industry. By publishing industry, I mean indie and traditionally published authors, publishing houses of all sizes, distributors, and bookstores.

An article from IG Wealth Management, which focuses on the situation here in Canada, reports that supply shortages in paper, ink, and glue have hampered the ability to make books. Also, what used to take weeks to produce and ship now takes months and at a much higher cost.

One result of the shortages is that successful books which have sold out aren’t getting their second print runs. Nor are new releases being shipped in time for the Christmas market. Transportation challenges, which you’re likely aware of, further diminish the prospect of full shelves.

This means that bookstores, distributors, publishers, and authors are not going to make the money they would have under normal conditions. If you’d like to know more from the perspective of well-known Canadian publisher, Dundurn Press, please read the important article HERE.

As a geographically large country with a small publishing community stretched thousands of miles apart, distribution has long been a challenge for Canadian bookstores, but as this article clearly shows, things have become much worse and aren’t likely to improve quickly.

Another article from Friesen Press, which addresses some American issues, also stresses the lack of supplies, right down to printing plates. As stated in this article, paper production was becoming a major problem before COVID, as a significant number of paper mills have shut down in the U.S. over the last 5 to 10 years. Things have now reached a point where paper is being rationed to publishers. You can read more HERE.

The last print run I did was just over a year ago, when I had 100 copies printed of The Opposite of Dark locally. There were no issues with shortages at that time, but I wonder if this is still the case.

These challenges now force publishers, large and small, to be even more careful about releasing new books and assessing print-run size. What hasn’t been said yet, but which I sense from anecdotal information, is that publishers, and perhaps agents, are far less likely to take on new authors right now.

Of course, I know of a number of Canadian mystery authors who are releasing their latest titles this fall, but they signed their contracts a while ago and their publishers likely know how many books they can reasonably expect to sell in various formats.

A new author trying to break into the market is a huge uncertainty. Think about it. Even if publishers come across a fantastic author with a surefire blockbuster, how will they print enough copies to meet the demand? And what will they have to charge for those books to break even?

Some of you might think, well ebooks and audible books can step up, and I agree. But based on articles I’ve read (and I’m sure some of you have seen them) over the past couple of years, print still sells, especially at Christmas. It’ll be interesting to see what the stats show for 2021 and 2022.

Writers have had to endure a variety of challenges for many decades, but we keep creating and find ways to adapt under changing conditions. We might not have enough paper, ink, glue, or truck drivers, but we have plenty of ideas about how we can pivot and perhaps even help make things better.

Thanks to author Julie Ferguson, for forwarding me the IG Wealth Management and giving me the idea for this important topic.

Clearing Out Information Overload

The other night, I was browsing through one of my bookmarked file folders on publishing and marketing. It was a shock to find nearly 200 articles going back to 2013 and I wound up deleting plenty. Some links no longer worked. Some of the information had been saved more than once at different time periods, and some was simply irrelevant now.

A number of how-to articles bragged about how easy it is to self-publish. Hmm. While writing and producing a book might not be rocket science for some, it’s incredibly challenging for others. For me, production is a months-long process that requires a lot of attention to detail.

I was also struck by the contradiction in marketing strategies. Again, many of the articles and blogs made their ‘5 steps to successful marketing’ sound simple. Some articles recommended getting on as many platforms as possible. Others said don’t bother with social media at all, just create a website and a mail list. As I write this, I’m still trying to sort through the articles which resonate with my current needs.

One thing is clear. The number of how-to articles on self-publishing and marketing articles is mind boggling. If authors are confused and overwhelmed, I get it. Because I have a clear understanding of my objectives, my budget, and the time it takes me to write, produce and market a book, I’ve also become more realistic and less patient with the ‘5 easy steps to self-publishing’ guides.

I imagine many of you are inundated with information on social media or blogs popping into your inbox. I’d love to know if you find any publishing or marketing articles that have been especially useful for you. Or are you paring down like I am?

Making the Most of Writing Time

Before, I get to today’s post, October’s mystery sales promotion is half over. If you haven’t had a chance, please take a moment to browse through a diverse roster of mysteries and thrillers. The $.99 sale for my books, Knock Knock and The Blade Man ends on the 31st. You can find the link HERE.

I have the entire week off from babysitting fourteen-month-old Ellie. At our Thanksgiving dinner last weekend, she discovered a love of pie, especially with a tiny bit of whipped cream on the side. She literally vibrated with excitement after her mom placed the spoon in her mouth. As you’ll see from the photo, meals are generally happy occasions.

Loves her scrambled eggs and veggies

I find myself with plenty of extra writing time this week. One of my ongoing challenges is to write and edit more efficiently, so I’ve implemented a strategy that’s worked before. First, I gave some thought to the projects I want to work on.

These days, it’s three novels. The urban fantasy is currently under weekly critiquing and my Casey Holland novella is nearly ready for beta readers. After working on notes, character profiles, and an outline, I’ve also started writing the first draft of a paranormal mystery.

Each project is given one hour during the day, give or take. After the first hour of work on a book, I stop for exercise. After the second hour on a different project, I stop for lunch. After lunch, I work on the third, and so far. If I want to work longer I can, or I can switch to marketing tasks.

This strategy works well if I don’t have appointments or other commitments, but because I find it tiring, I use this approach in spurts rather than month after month. I’ve always found that working on the same project all day, even with breaks, doesn’t always bring clarity, focus, or new ideas to the page.

On Monday, I’ll be back with Ellie for the next three days and feeling like I’ve accomplished a lot. 🙂

The I-Think-I-Can Approach

Planted in April 2021

A story starts with an idea, like a flower starts with a seed. It’s planted. It germinates.

As with a book or the sunflower that just bloomed in my garden four days ago, it can take a while. Weeks. Months. Even years. The process is often unpredictable.

But one day, something starts to happen. Something fresh pokes through the many thoughts, or the dirt in the ground, and you’ve begun.

The journey isn’t easy. There are periods when nothing seems to be happening. This is because you can’t truly see what’s percolating in your subconscious, or what’s going on underground. Self-doubt creeps in. Maybe unintentional neglect. Or impatient waiting for some sign of progress.

Through the period of early growth, there are setbacks and obstacles. Illness, emergencies, accidents, or natural intervention. For my sunflower it was a summer of heat domes, toxic smoky air, and water from a hose rather rather than thirst-quenching rain.

Time passes. Obstacles fade. Dry toxicity turns into breathable air. Thoughts begin to gel. The story is making sense now, and then it really takes off. One day you look up and the stem is strong and two feet tall. A bud appears. The logical sequence to an approaching climax.

Finally, one day, you spot a vibrant little flower peering down at you, and you realize it’s survived a pretty long journey. Sure, the surrounding vines and tree are stronger and larger, but my sunflower stands just as proud, basking in the light of day.

May everything you create and grow, flourish.

It’s World Rhino Day!

Pexels Image by Alesia Kozi

When I wrote about World Elephant Day a few weeks ago, I also wondered when world Rhino Day would appear. My blogging friend, Jane Fritz, who writes incredibly interesting blogs, by the way, kindly looked it up for me. Thank you, Jane!

So, September 22nd is World Rhino Day! These large animals are among my favorites. Until this week, I didn’t realize there are five species. The white, black, Sumatran, Greater One Horned, and the Javan rhino.

You’ve likely already heard that they’re often killed for their horns, which are supposed to have curative properties, but they actually don’t. Also, the loss of income due to COVID-19 has led to more poaching and killing of these magnificent animals.

To learn more about the species and what you can do to help protect them, please check out the link HERE. You’ll also find a rhino-themed soundtrack of 35 songs on the World Rhino Day website, for your listening pleasure. Who knew?

Pexels Image by Mike van Schoonderwalt

World Elephant Day

My babysitting duties are in full swing, which has been great fun so far. Ellie’s started dancing to songs in one of her musical books. Thursday to Sundays are my days off, which also means catching up editing, blogs, book reviews, and other things, so these week’s blog is a short.

My World Wildlife Fund calendar reminded me that today is World Elephant Day, so I thought I’d share a link for further information on how to protect these beautiful creatures before it’s too late. You can find it HERE.

World Elephant Day began in 2012 and is acknowledged every August 12th. All elephant species are in danger, and given the state of the world these days, I’m going to focus more on how I can help the environment. Donating and writing about are just two of those things.

The Challenge of Fictional Voices

Photo from Pexels-Pixabay

I used to read a lot of cozy mysteries. In fact, they launched a lifelong love of mysteries…Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayer, and so forth. As the years passed, I found plenty of new cozy authors whose protagonists were bakers, bookshop owners, and artisans, among other things. The plots weren’t overly complex and there was usually only one subplot, but part of the attraction of cozies is that they’re light, fun reads, and sometimes I need that.

Whenever I came across an author I really enjoyed, I tried another of the individual’s series, but it usually proved to be a bit of a letdown. The reason for this was the protagonist’s voice. That character sounded identical in vocabulary, tone, and favorite catch words to the previous series’ protagonist. I felt as if I was reading the same book. For some readers the similarity might be okay, but I wanted a little more. What I’ve learned from firsthand experience, though, is that doing more isn’t easy.

Many of us create protagonists that are composites of people we’ve come across in our lives. These characters might also be completely fictional, however, the phrasing, word choices, and reaction to situations, are often drawn from our own background and experiences. As a starting point, that’s fine, but do we want to spend our entire writing lives creating the same protagonist?

Maybe the answer’s yes for some, particularly if you’ve created a complex, multi-faceted character; however, I’m trying to create something different from what I’ve done before, especially now that I’m working in a separate genre. It’s been challenging. All those notes I’ve made about unique and hopefully memorable characters don’t always fully appear on the page until a few rewrites later, and even then I still wonder.

One of the many things I admire about Agatha Christie is that although Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot are both intelligent, thoughtful, and introverted, they’re very different characters, beyond Hercule’s accent.

I read somewhere, quite some time ago, that authors (regardless of genre) also tend to focus on the same theme in their work. They focus on a certain type of character, a certain type of problem, which is tackled from different angles with every book. Have you noticed this? Is repetition in characters’ voice and theme a problem for you as a reader? As a writer?

How I Spent My Break

If you’re looking for free mystery and suspense novels, I have one more BookFunnel promotion I’m taking part in this summer. This one ends on August 1st and there are nearly seventy authors participating. My Casey Holland mysteries, Deadly Accusations (#2) and Beneath the Bleak New Moon (#3) are also free, but only through BookFunnel’s newsletter campaign till Aug. 1. You can find the whole roster of books HERE.

I’m not sure that writers truly ever stop writing, even while on holiday, but I sort of managed it. I didn’t look at my urban fantasy for eight days, which became kind of difficult after four or five days. The thing is, when your mind is relaxed and all is quiet, ideas pop up.

This is how I found myself working on characters and an outline for the paranormal mystery I’ve mentioned in the past. It was great fun exploring ‘what-if’ concepts and creating characters. It was even more fun coming up with ideas for monsters. I’m trying to stay away from old familiars like vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, at least with this book. Creating monsters is a whole new challenge in my writing life, but I’ve read a couple of good books on the topic.

Speaking of reading, I read a terrific how-to book called Mastering Your Mystery by Cheryl Bradshaw. She goes through the basics of writing a crime novel, but takes it further in the second half of the book by offering helpful advice on marketing, publishing, and promotion. I especially liked that she went the extra mile to provide a list of awards and competitions to submit to, and a list of sites to help promote your work. Although I’ve read my share of how-to books, I always find that reading these books sparks ideas for current projects.

Last, but definitely not least, I spent a great deal of time with little Ellie, who’ll soon be one year old. Last week, she learned to crawl up a couple of steps and had her first ‘swim’ in the lake with her mom and dad. I’m always amazed by the astonishing changes during a child’s first year of life, and can’t wait to see what the next year will bring.

She’s hold a favorite new toy, a bowling pin.
She loves her food.