Saturday, August 23, 2014

Writing and Reading Updates

Writing

As you can tell by my other posts recently, I have been reading and researching the aspects of self-publishing and I've decided to try it, so now I'm switching my focus to my own writing so that I have something to self-publish. I have at least four books to consider: my novella that's half finished with a working title, The Wedding Crasher, The Kidnapped Bride, Honeymooning on Cape Cod, etc. (many of the titles I'm considering) - this is the third novella in the Lana Malloy, paranormal suspense series; or full novels: All This time - a romantic suspense novel that is three-quarters completed, For the Love of Money - a mystery novel about one-quarter completed, or Shattered Hearts - mainstream women's fiction novel that's about three-quarters completed and it's the first book I started writing that was meant for publication. You can read the short blurbs on these at my Web site kimcoxauthor.com.

Right now, I'm leaning toward the Lana Malloy series but the only problem is that the first two novellas are already published in anthologies. I would like to pull my novellas from the anthologies and self-publish them but I have to consider the other authors involved in the anthology and I asked myself, could the anthology be sold without my novella and I believe it can. I would not want to cause the other authors problems or be selfish, but in the end, don't we all have to do what is best for our own writing careers? So while I will finish writing the novella, I will shelve the idea of pulling the published novellas from the anthology for a couple of months until I can consider my options and the other authors' circumstances. If I could pull my novella without hurting the other authors this is what I will do. I plan to also work on the All This Time romantic suspense novel at the same time. I have toyed with the idea of dividing this book into two books but as I reread parts of it yesterday, I think that may prove to be harder than I thought.

If I could pull the novellas, I would have all the control in their pricing, and I could even put them on sale or offer them for free if I self-published them. Right now, I have no control over any part of the publishing. Plus the publisher, Ellora's Cave Blush imprint is no longer publishing books in this line except from well-known authors who want to re-release their out-of-print books. Their reasoning is that most readers who come to their site are looking for erotic romance books; however, if we submit erotic romance books they would consider publishing our books again. Sorry, not my cup of tea! I get that, and for me, that's even more reason for pulling my novellas, since it is actually a paranormal suspense with romantic elements. I'm very interested in your opinions on this subject.

My writing/reading preferences: I don't like writing regular sex scenes much less erotic sex scenes. And I don't read erotic romance. I don't have anything against those who do write erotic romance but it's just not something I'm interested in writing or reading. Some of my author friends write erotic romance and they make very good money from those--more than they do for their other writing, so I understand the draw. Some of them now write exclusively erotic romance. I read mostly romantic suspense, mysteries, paranormal, time travel, historical of all eras, and science fiction.

Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on my dilemma or about what you think of Ellora Cave's new policy regarding their Blush imprint.

Reading

Last week, I finished reading Red Rose of Anjou by Jean Plaidy--the thirteenth book in the Plantagenet saga. This book featured King Henry VI and his wife Queen Margaret of Anjou. Whereas Henry was weak and more conditioned for a religious order, Margaret was the total opposite, very strong but overbearing in the minds of the English. Margaret being French did not help her at all. This book also deals with Henry's struggles to keep the crown, called The War of the Roses - the white rose (Yorkist) against the red rose (Lancastrians). I have one more book to read in the saga,  The Sun in Splendor. This book will give more details on the life and reign of King Edward IV and his Queen.

I've already mentioned in my last blog review that I also finished reading Self-Publishing Books 101: A Step-By-Step Guide to Publishing Your book in Multiple Formats by Shelley Hitz and Heather Hart. You can read my review of this book on this  blog or at Goodreads or on my profile page at Amazon.com. I also have other reviews and ratings on my Amazon profile page and at Goodreads that you can read. Something you need to know about me and reviewing books, if I don't like a book, say less than a 3 out of a 5 rating, I don't bother leaving a rating or a review. Just because a book wasn't written to my liking does not make it unlikable to another reader. Now if the book was terribly written, littered with errors, I may make a comment and leave a less than 3 rating--it depends on how bad the errors were. All books have some errors. I've found many in books that were written by best selling authors. As long as it doesn't have many errors and doesn't take away from the entertainment or distracting, it doesn't really bother me if it is a good read.

What am I reading now? I just started reading Terri Reid's Loose Ends, the first book in her Mary O'Reilly Mysteries and only 99 cents at Amazon.com. I started reading this because these are similar to books I like to write and read. What are you reading now?--I'm taking recommendations on good Paranormal Mystery books. I also recently purchased Dear Viking by Lori Soard and The Journalist by G. L. Rockey which I hope to read soon.

Most Resent Web Designs

It has been a productive year in Web Design. Actually it started the last half of last year. Since then, I have obtained three new clients. The new clients already had Web sites that I upgraded to a better, more productive design. The first, contract with last year, was Mountain International, a small manufacturing plant in Brevard, North Carolina. From their Web site: "Mountain International is a manufacturer  of custom packaging bags and protective pads, filtration, and sonic bonded fabrics, premoistened wiping cloths, and a wide variety of items made from disposable woven and durable fabrics."

This year, I contracted with American Garage to revamp their Web site. American garage basically sells flooring products for garages, manufacturing companies, gyms, etc. This has been the most complicated site I've worked on so far, creating a database with literally hundreds of products. From their Web site: "American Garage has over 50 years experience with Chemical Processing, Heavy Industry, and other specialized applications. Since every requirement is unique, our field technical representatives are available for for site visits to survey current conditions and assist in determining the correct product and application at no cost. Customer satisfaction has been an integral key to our success." Their mission statement: "When Conditions are demanding, Demand the best!"

Prime Grind Inc. was the second company I contracted with  this year. Prime Grind installs and restores all types of flooring. They worked with companies such as the Biltmore House, Grand Bohemian Hotel, Inn at Biltmore, Grove Park Inn, Forsythe Career Center, Grove Arcade, The International Civil Rights Museum, Haywood Park Hotel, Hotel Indigo, The Flat Iron Building, Renaissance Hotel, BB&T Highrise, and Clemson University Science Building. From their Web site: "Prime Grind Inc. is the one-stop shopping spot for all of your hard surface needs--from concrete to natural stones. With over 30 years of experience, PGI is considered one of the nation's leading service resources in the concrete, natural stone, and terrazzo industries."

Last, and definitely not least, I finally transformed my husband's Web site, Lee's Chainsaw Art. Lee carves statues of different sizes out of wood with a chain saw. I had been putting this one off for a long time because I had to scan a lot of photos. First my printer/scanner wasn't working so I eventually broke down and bought a new one. But I'm pretty excited about the results. If you have any advice on his site, please contact me.

Next, I'm planning the reconstruction of my own author Web site which is probably the last one that has received a face-lift and much overdue. Kim Cox Designs is the name of my Web Design business.  And I almost forgot, at the beginning of this year, about January, I added a site for Kim Cox Designs . Then I have two author clients who may want a new look. And I gladly do these for free if I feel it is time and have the time to devote to it. First, though, I would like to give a face-lift to a local non-profit charity that I know about. I was very impressed with the help they provide to the community.

Check out my Web site for prices. I want to add that if we can agree on a pre-made template without a lot of changes to that template, my prices are cheaper (in other words, more pages for less). All of the sites shown on this post were from templates purchased or found for free and I did not create these from scratch. I can but if there's already a template and you don't require a lot of format changes, it can be easier. But if you want a lot of changes to the format it can be harder with a template. With Prime Grind Inc and Lee's Chainsaw Art I used templates through Themeland purchased through my Dream Templates membership. Mountain International also came for Dream Templates though I don't remember who the creator was. American Garage was created through Wordpress and the design is from WooCommerce who has created many e-commerce designs. My own site was a free template through Templatemo.

Book Review - Self-Publishing Books 101

Self-Publishing Books 101: A Step-By-Step Guide to Publishing Your Book in Multiple Formats by Shelley Hitz and Heather Hart


Self-Publishing Books 101 is a free Kindle eBook on Amazon.com right now.This book is very informative and helpful and I gave it five stars; although, I don't believe this book should be the first book read on self-publishing. The mere volume of information can be overwhelming for someone just beginning to think about self-publishing. I didn't realize this, since it wasn't the first book I'd read and I'm a bit technologically inclined, until an author friend pointed out her confusion, and I will explain that statement at the latter part of this review.  That said, I think Self-Publishing Books 101 is the best of all the books I've read on self-publishing so far due to all the options and choices introduced. First, lets look at the book's contents.

Part One: Foundation for Publishing Success
This section starts out with chapters on the actual writing and editing of the book. I almost skipped over this part since I am a published author looking at self-publishing, but I'm glad I didn't. It reminded me and reaffirmed information I already knew. The third chapter is on marketing--something I've never been very good at, so I definitely found this chapter informative. It talks about areas that are important to any type of publishing and those specifically targeted to self-publishing: Your target audience (who will read your book?), keywords to use (determining which ones will give you the best results), and there's 5 steps to building your marketing platform.

Part Two: Self-Publishing Your Book
There are six chapters in this section on how to self-publish in multiple formats, but it doesn't delve right into these formats. It starts out with Chapter Four - Pre-Publication Decisions. This chapter deals with choosing your book title and has six steps for that. It really has me rethinking my current working title. I have made a list of possible titles but keep going back and forth on which one to use. I plan to use the advice in this chapter to make my final decision. This chapter also explains other decisions you have to make on pricing, your book description, and choosing a category and keywords for your book. Chapter Five - Book Cover Design 101 is self-explanatory, from what is included on the front, back, and spine to whether to design your own cover or hire it out. It also gives you Book Cover design company options. Chapter Six - Self-Publishing in Print Books is about the different options you have when going through this process. I will not go into everything this chapter includes but just suffice it to say you have many options. Chapter Seven - Self-Publishing in eBooks delves into the different platforms and if you want to self-publish directly to each platform or use eBook distributors. Again there are many options from which to choose. Chapter Eight - Self-Publishing in AudioBooks and Chapter Nine - Translating Your Book. These two areas were not part of my plan until I read these two chapters and now, these are options I think I will eventually try.

Part Three: Other Publishing Decisions
This section includes two chapters: Chapter Ten - Obtaining a Copyright and Chapter Eleven - How to Form an Independent Publishing Company. I already knew about "Obtaining a Copyright" but again it reminded me and reaffirmed what I already knew. I wasn't really interested in forming my own publishing company but after reading this section I can see the benefits and may rethink the options at a later date.

The rest of the book includes: Conclusion - Self-Publishing in a Nutshell (goes over the basic steps), an excerpt from another of their books, "Marketing Your Book on Amazon", Additional Resources, and About the Experts (about the authors of this book).

Overview
The authors of this book have a Website dedicated to helping and training authors at Training Authors. They have a free newsletter and advice, videos, and they also have books and other tools for free and for purchase from themselves or others in the publishing industry.

Back to the Confusion
My author friend knew I was researching the self-publishing idea and she was also interested and emailed me about "Self-Publishing Books 101" after she read it. Her email stated, ". . . it sounds awfully complicated . . . besides writing the book, editing, formatting and getting cover art, you have to get an ISBN or ASIN number, it needs different formats for different websites" and I wrote her back explaining that she could do as much or as little as she wanted, and that most of the self-publishing outlets provide the ISBN/ASIN for you when you use their services. Now, I admit, I didn't see the confusion at first. I had taken a two-week break from my research to redesign a Web site. So, I had to go back and reread the sections on ISBN and publishing in print books and eBooks. I think the background I have in technology also helped me understand better as well as I had read other books on the subject before this one.

When I wrote her back, I explained she could start out with Amazon's Kindle for eBooks and CreateSpace for print books first, see how well her book sells, then move on to other venues like Smashwords (a publisher/distributor service). At Smashwords she could format once and they would distribute her book to multiple online bookstores; such as Barnes & Noble, Apple iBook, etc. My author friend and I decided, she would edit for me and I would format for her. Editing my own writing isn't a strong area of mine. I also received an email yesterday from Joel Friedlander at The Book Designer, advertising Two-Way Templates from Book Design Templates, where you can format once and publish twice (ebooks and Print books). They are also offering 40% off until Sunday night for these new templates.

I can see how it can all be a bit overwhelming and confusing in the beginning. In my day job I'm responsible for training others on software, policies, and procedures in my field. Sometimes it is hard to explain to others what you know. Even in writing fiction, you know what you want to write, but getting your information across to readers is sometimes the hardest part. For the reader it may be that they are looking for specific information, but while looking at the many shelves of multiple options (like looking for a candy bar in a candy store), it's hard to find what you're looking for without your head swimming from all the choices. Most of the people I have met are hands-on learners, doing it and delving in helps us to remember what to do. So that's the best advice I can give: Make your decisions on how you want to proceed, go to the sections of this book on the step-by-step instructions and just do it. Each time the process will get easier. Or you also have the options of trading processes or hiring out the publishing process which leaves you open to just writing your books. Your options are almost limitless in self-publishing.
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