Candy Pizza Is Here!: A Video Message From The Author

Super exciting stuff happening here in Charsville; today’s the day you can finally get your hands on a copy of my new book, Candy Pizza: Poetry’s that’s Fun and Healthy :) As promised, here are the links for where you can order yours! Amazon: Createspace: Kindle edition: *Note* – Amazon periodically can […]

So You Want To Publish A Book? Part 3: Getting Started With The Self-Publishing Process

Ok, so you’ve figured out that you want to publish for all the right reasons and you’ve determined that self-publishing is probably the best option for you. Wonderful! So umm… where in the world do you start?!

It can seem incredibly daunting at first, when you don’t know what you’re doing. But the cool part is that it’s a learning experience- you basically get to teach yourself. For some people that’s nerve-wracking, but I like knowing that my success/eventual satisfaction is directly related to how much research and work I put into it, as opposed to waiting around for some arbitrary third party to finish proofreading or designing the cover or whatever, while I stand around helplessly hoping things turn out the way I’d like. As a self-admitted control freak, I can’t work that way.

The first thing I did and the first thing you need to do is get on the internet and research, research, research. A simple Google search of the word “self-publishing” will give you loads of useful information, including many of the most popular self-publishing services as well as a slew of blogs and articles with helpful hints and advice.

Don’t be afraid to allow yourself enough time to research. Take notes. Make sure you’re learning enough about the process before you even begin so you can know what to expect and so you can make an informed decision about which route to take. I can’t stress enough how important it is to let the process take as much time as necessary. You’re not gonna walk into a dealership and buy the first car you test drive, and you’re not gonna marry the first person who buys you dinner, so why hurry the process of something as important as publishing your first book?

From the time I first started seriously considering self-publishing to the final, finished product, the whole process took me about 4 months total. Mind you it was for a short collection of poetry, so my processing time was considerably faster than what you might expect for a novel or lengthier work. Still, whatever it is you’re thinking of publishing, don’t rush it. Give yourself more than enough time because believe me, you will hit unexpected snags that will make you crazy if you’re trying to adhere to a rigid schedule. Take your time and learn as much as you can.

While you’re doing your research you’ll be presented with several options for websites that will help guide you through the process: Smashwords, Lulu, Createspace, Nook Press, Blurb, Author House, Xlibris, etc. It’s hard to keep track of them all yet alone muddle through and figure out which one’s the best for you. That’s why it takes some time. I ended up choosing Createspace because it was easiest for me to understand, cheap, gave me a lot of control, and is well-respected among the self-publishing community. But what worked best for me may not be best for you; here are some important things you’ll need to look out for:

1) Cost. Some sites charge an upfront fee and some take a portion of the royalties. Some give you the option of purchasing services from their company professionals, such as cover designers or copy editors. But be aware that self-publishing will always cost you some money. Createspace doesn’t charge an upfront fee, but they do take a percentage of the royalties you earn. (Through a partnership with Amazon you have the option to earn up to 70% of the royalties if you agree to expanded distribution, which means anybody on the internet can sell your book. You still get the royalties from those sales but it makes it a bit harder to control the marketing.) Other than that, the only money I spent was the $12.00 it cost to buy and have two proof copies shipped to me for approval.

2) Ease of use. This is going to be specific to you and a personal preference. Whichever site is easier for you to understand and use, go for that one. Especially since this is your first time publishing, you’re going to want to use a site that lays it all out for you in black and white. Createspace’s format was very user-friendly for me. The ordered steps of the process are checked off as you complete them, and there are additional resources such as community forums and tutorials if you get stuck.

3) Perks. With so many sites out there wanting your business, each of them offers perks to get you to decide to use their services. Every site is different, but for example, Createspace gives authors a significant discount on ordering copies of their book. My list price is $9.99 but I can order as many copies as I want for $2.15 each plus shipping. This is especially useful since I want to fill up a bathtub with copies of my book. (Just kidding!) But if you’re into making the rounds around town on author tours, it’s pretty cheap to order a bunch of copies and then sell them to people at coffee shops. Also they give you the ISBN for free, which some sites make you pay for. And best of all, Createspace has the Amazon/Kindle partnership so it’s super easy to get your book (in printed and e-book format) on a selling platform that’s popular and familiar to customers.

Have I convinced you to go with Createspace yet?! That’s okay, I’m not suggesting it’s the best at everything or the best for everyone. But it is what I used, so if you want to use something else, then great! But I can’t give you any advice about that because I didn’t use it. So stay tuned for So You Want To Publish A Book? Part 4: The Ins And Outs Of Createspace.

And don’t forget to get your hands on a copy of Candy Pizza: Poetry that’s Fun and Healthy now available in paperback from Amazon and Kindle e-book!

candy pizza

Blessings and happy reading,

New Blog Project Ideas?

My 365 Poetry Project is over and the blog now has a new name, as you may have noticed. I’ve compiled links to all the original 365 poems, in order, for easy access. You can now click on the 365 Poetry Project link on the top menu to see the whole list and find “y’know, that one about sunflowers she wrote around January.” I find it especially useful because even I don’t remember which is which sometimes!

I’m stifling my post-partum depression about the end of the project with my So You Want to Publish a Book? series of informational blogs about the self-publishing process. (Hopefully they’re proving helpful to you!) But I’m the kind of person who never needs much of a break and is always looking for the next big challenge. (Seriously, I take 10-minute lunch breaks and 1-day vacations.)

I’m debating between a few ideas here and there, but nothing seems to quite meet the challenge of the poetry project. And there’s the added challenge of, no offense, the short attention span of readers. One of the reasons I think the poetry project worked so well was that they were small chunks of writing that didn’t involve a huge time investment from readers.

But I’m anxious to stretch my prose muscles again… How would you feel about reading The 365 Flash Fiction Project? Any takers?

Comment below if you’ve got a better idea, wise guy.

And don’t forget to get your hands on a copy of Candy Pizza: Poetry that’s Fun and Healthy now available in paperback from Amazon and Kindle e-book.

candy pizza

Blessings and happy reading,

So You Want To Publish A Book? Part 2: Choosing Your Method

So you’ve determined that your heart’s in the right place and you still want to publish a book even though you know you won’t make a lot of money and you won’t please everyone. Good for you! That part, at least, was pretty easy. Now comes the part where you curl up in the fetal position and breathe into a paper bag because OMG HOW DO I PUBLISH A BOOK?!

Okay, nutso- calm down. The good news is that you really only have two choices: the traditional publishing method and self-publishing. There are pros and cons for each, so you need to consider both carefully.

1) The traditional publishing method- This involves getting yourself an agent/editor who will help you get a contract with a publisher. It’s a very competitive venture because there are way more authors who want to publish than there are agents, editors, or publishers. It’s dog-eat-dog and only those writers who are able to convince the suits to stand behind them will likely ever make it very far. (Notice I didn’t say the best writers; being talented is certainly a big key but you also need a great capacity to promote yourself as well as collaborate with others.) Everybody wants to make money and big publishers are looking to publish writers who will help them do just that. Remember that talk we had about money not being important to you? Yeah well, publishers aren’t like that.

But I know of more than a few writers who can’t seem to get over the starry-eyed romance of finding an agent, working with an editor, signing a contract, going on book tours at Barnes & Noble, etc. That’s all well and good. If that’s your dream, go for it. But don’t delude yourself- unless you’re delivering a genius, innovative, pristinely-edited product that’s hot right now and everyone in the world wants to read, you’re gonna have a hard time. If you’re a novice writer, if you’re still getting the hang of the publishing game, if you’re in a niche market, or if you have trouble accepting people changing your work, you’re gonna find it near impossible to get the suits to take a chance on you. It’s nothing personal, but nobody wants to risk losing money for something they don’t believe in.

Not to mention that it can take forever and a day to get anything done. Looking for an agent or editor can take upwards of a few months to a year or more, since most want at least several weeks to read over your work before making a decision. Same with publishers. Then if you actually succeed at winning these people over, the publishing time is lengthy and involved. Do you have two or three years to go through that process?

Now, I’m not saying the traditional publishing method is bad. It’s actually very efficient in preserving the quality of published books that we as readers enjoy. No one wants to go to the bookstore and spend $20 on a book to find typos, bad writing, ugly covers, and generic, overdone stories. Traditional publishing ensures that whatever’s released to the public is in tip-top shape. That’s part of why it takes so long. Again, I’m not saying this is true in ALL cases- occasionally some awesome writing gets overlooked just as occasionally some sucky writing gets published. It’s all part of the money game. If you’re willing to play that game, (and probably invest a chunk of your own as well,) then by all means, go for it.

2) Self-Publishing-  This method bypasses the need for a third-party publisher by allowing you to publish your work yourself. Obviously you probably don’t have a printing press in your home so you will need to work with a self-publishing company, but they leave the entire publishing process up to you until you tell them what to print. Some charge an upfront fee, others take a cut of the royalty check. But by all accounts it ends up being cheaper and more time-efficient and you get more say in how your book is produced. Actually, you get all the say. That’s the point.

The drawback here is that you don’t have experts on your side. Everything that needs to be done, from text formatting to cover design to proofreading to setting up distribution channels to marketing, has to be done by you. (Unless you want to shell out some serious dough for these independent services; that’s also an option.) And since you’re on your own as far as marketing, it’s a lot harder to get your book noticed, i.e. make any money.

Another drawback is that there’s a potent stigma surrounding self-publishing. The fact that the average didn’t-pass-eighth-grade Joe can publish a book just as easily as you can tends to be discouraging for a lot of writers. There’s an extra bit of glory, a little bit of pomp to be earned if you succeed in publishing the traditional way that you just can’t get by self-publishing. This isn’t the fault of the all-powerful publishing industry, either. It’s just what happens when you give everyone their fair shot. We’ve all seen our share of shoddy self-published books, most of them with a stock photo of flowers or a waterfall on the cover with the author’s name in fancy, unreadable cursive. You know what I’m talking about.

But if your goal is simply to release the book you want to release and maybe sell a few copies, to learn as much as you can about the process and feel proud of your accomplishments, this may be the choice for you. It was definitely the choice for me.

As stated in yesterday’s blog, Part 1: Determining Your Motivation, I never really cared about the money. But I couldn’t stand the thought of releasing something that wasn’t completely done my way. I didn’t think I could handle being told that my niche poetry wouldn’t sell in big bookstore chains. Um yeah, duh. The lack of marketing help didn’t really scare me because I’d been slowly building up a following of readers for a year beforehand. And I was hungry to figure out as much as I could about publishing in general (that’s my nerdy librarian streak showing.) So for me, self-publishing was the way to go.

Ok, so now you’ve got a choice: traditional publishing or self-publishing? That’s up to you. If you’re into traditional publishing, well I can’t really help you there because I haven’t tried it. But if you’re seriously considering self-publishing, stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog, Part 3: Getting Started With The Self-Publishing Process.

Blessings and happy reading,

So You Want to Publish A Book? Part 1: Determining Your Motivation

With the release of my first book, Candy Pizza: Poetry that’s Fun and Healthy, I thought it would be helpful to write a couple of blog posts about my experience with self-publishing for those of my readers who are in a similar boat. (Note: This is also partially because yesterday was the first day in a year that I didn’t write a poem and already I’m jonesing to get back in the writing saddle.)

So you have something you’d like to publish: a novel or a collection of poems or stories that you’ve written and you love and you want to share with the world. Awesome! But before you start on any kind of publishing journey, you have some serious thinking to do. You’ll need to dig down deep and determine your exact reasons for wanting to publish, and figure out your true motivations and expectations. This is important because:

1) You’re not going to make money. You’re just not. The research is out there (I’m serious, Google it) – even the most prolific, famous, talented authors like Stephen King or James Patterson, who make enough to be excused from having a day job, are still not making football-player salaries. And remember, they’re the exceptions. I know it’s tempting to look at Stephenie Meyer or E.L. James and think, “I could write something better than that crap, and just look how successful they are!” But if you’re really going to shoot for that one-in-a-million chance at fluke success, prepare to be disappointed.

In my case, I knew early on that not making any money wasn’t going to be a deterrent for me. I mean, come on, I’m a teacher. If any group of people knows about not doing something for the money, it’s teachers. I make enough to share a lovely little apartment with a good friend (who’s also a teacher) and be able to keep myself in books and Starbucks to my heart’s content. That’s all I want, really.

The thing about writing, like teaching, is that your reward has to come from something besides money. You have to be satisfied with kids making you scraggly-looking cards that say “Best Teecher Ever”, or from a few people on the internet saying that your poem or story touched their hearts. You have to be able to be proud of your accomplishments no matter how many books sell.

But hey, neither teaching nor writing is for everyone. If you’re intent on being paid handsomely for your work, I suggest you apply for law school ;)

2) Not everyone is going to love your work as much as you do. This goes without saying but a lot of writers seem to forget that when it comes down to it. That old cliche about how writing a book is like having a baby is true, and it can turn you into one overprotective mother in no time. But it’s just something you’re going to have to face: not everyone’s going to like your baby. One of my favorite quotes on the subject is from Dita Von Teese: “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” You’ll have to be prepared  for this so a couple of poor reviews won’t send you spiraling into depression.

And maybe your work is generally well-received, but you’re in one of those less-popular niches that will just never sell as well as something more in vogue at the moment. I’m well aware that poetry is in its own seldom-visited corner of the literary world, and the demand for Emily-Dickinson-meets-Charles-Bukowski style poetry like mine is even smaller. I know this. I sold 2 copies of my book on the first day it was released. But do I think that’s evidence that the world doesn’t want it? No. I think it’s awesome evidence that 2 people in this world (who are not family and don’t know me in real life, mind you) DO want it. That’s very encouraging to me.

To keep your spirits up and not succumb to disappointment, you have to have the sort of mindset that sees silver linings. You have to be the sort of person who knows that if even one person is moved, encouraged, or changed because of something you wrote, you’re a success. You have to be motivated by the small good you’re doing, and not be affected by the massive amount of people who don’t know who you are and may not have any interest to find out.

When I started this blog I had zero followers, and I wasn’t too concerned with getting them. I knew that my ultimate goal was to practice and to rise to a personal challenge; I could’ve done that in a journal I kept in a drawer and never let anyone see it and at the end of the year I still would’ve counted that as a success because MY goals would’ve been met. But I didn’t do that because I wanted to give other people the chance to read my work (and to hold me accountable so I wouldn’t get lazy.)

The fact that my poetry has been well-received is the cherry on top but it has never been my main motivation, and I think that’s been an extremely important part of why I’ve been able to stay grounded and to truly appreciate every level of support and success I’ve known so far.

If there was only one piece of advice I could give to other writers considering publishing, it’s this: do it for the right reasons. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment, and don’t overlook the little bits of success you earn because you’re too busy reaching for something bigger.

And if you determine that you ARE going to do it for the right reasons, stay tuned for Part 2: Choosing A Method!

Blessings and happy writing,
Char :)

Day 365 – It Was You (For My Readers)

You’ve chatted with me at the bus stop,
waved to my passing train window,
walked along paths less traveled by
and kept me on my way.

You were the ones holding lanterns,
bowls of soup and bottles of ink,
slipped plane tickets under my door
and gas in my tank.

It was you who sponsored a voyage
to find El Dorado in me,
you who stand at the finish line now
waiting to see what I’ve brought:

little jewels from underground,
little stars from the cloudless sky,
little presents I’ve been honored to give
to a kindred world.

Day 364 – It Don’t Mean A Thang If You Ain’t Funky-Fresh

He comes with a sonnet ’bout South American macaws
but he got no cause
to sing that.

He comes with quatrain verse ’bout Grecian tragic romance
but we can’t dance
to that kinda jive.

He spoons us the prerequisite vocabulary,
a synopsis of verse structure and use,
and the bits of little-known trivia we’ll need
to comprehend his flow-

and I’m yellin’ “No, boy! No, no, no!
You makin’ a mess of the thing!
I see a thousand years of red tape
comin’ out of y’mouth,
but where’s you?”

I find myself thrown in the street after that
’cause he’s got a book to sell
but I’m writin’ him a letter first thing in the morn
about why it ain’t doin’ so well.

Because people ain’t zombies, they don’t want y’brain
but they do wanna walk in y’shoes,
and if you do ‘em right with y’funky-fresh heart,
then they’ll do right by you.