How Prolific Do I Want To Be?

Lately I’ve been wondering what kind of writer I am. In some ways the answer to that is obvious. I’m an indie author. I write fantasy. But in some ways I feel like I don’t measure up to other, “similar” authors. I put similar in quotes because these authors are also indie/self published who write fantasy in the same sub-genre but they write a lot more than I do, and seem to do it more professionally.

thumbnail_Elle s mIt took me about four years to write Beautiful, and another year to publish it. Some of that was because I had to figure out elements of publishing for myself, while working full time.  Now I’ve been working on the follow up, Frozen Heart, for about three years. It’s pretty much written, in that I have a manuscript with a beginning, middle and end. I’m somewhere between the second and third drafts  right now. I’d like it to be ready by early 2020. If I’m not able to manage that I might have to wait until the end of 2020. Beautiful was published in July 2018.

Indie authors usually try to write at least a book per year, preferably more. I’ve seen authors publish as many as three books per year. A lot of the research I did before publishing Beautiful actually recommended waiting until you have several publish-able manuscripts before publishing your first, so you have more ready to go. I decided not to do that because I wasn’t sure if/when I’d have a ready follow-up and I felt ready to send Beautiful out into the world. I don’t think that was a mistake but I don’t think I’ll ever be a writer who can publish one book a year.

I read a blog post once by an indie author who said she writes only one draft of each novel before having an editor look it over, making a few, small tweaks, and then publishing. I can’t imagine doing that. My first drafts are a mess! My second drafts are a little bit better, and so on.

I’m not criticizing anyone who can turn out great work on the first try! I’m envious! I don’t think that will ever be me.

Maybe as I go on, I’ll get better at self-editing. Already, I’m noticing improvements between my first book and my second. When I wrote Beautiful, I would see something in a draft that didn’t quite work but I’d stubbornly hold onto it until several beta readers had told me it didn’t work. Now I’m quicker to kill my darlings.

But I want my published novels to reflect my best work. In order to do that, it takes me longer to write a book than is generally recommended for indie authors. Obviously the more I publish the more opportunity I have for sales, but right now, compromising quality doesn’t seem worth it to me.

Do you prefer authors to be prolific or careful with what they publish? Does it have to be an “either/or” situation?

 

Beautiful: Reader’s Guide

The Reader’s Guide to Beautiful is now available on the books page of my website.  It features some discussion questions, a bit “about the author”, some information about the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, and a sneak peak of my upcoming novel Frozen Heart. It’s free so check it out!

Coming Soon!

I’ve been working on a reader’s guide to Beautiful. I had initially planned to have it out by the book’s first birthday but some other things go in the way. But it’s coming soon, so keep an eye on the “books” page of my website. I’ll also share on my blog when it’s up. But it’ll have:

  • Discussion questions
  • Background information
  • A sneak peak of Frozen Heart
  • more…

Plus it’s free!

A Bit More Shameless Self Promotion

I promise not to do this again for a while!

Firstly, I’m pleased to share that Beautiful is included in Enchanted Quill Press’ Festive Fairytale & Fantasy Book Fair. If you haven’t read Beautiful yet, it’s a lovely way to escape the stress of the holiday season. It’s free for Kindle Unlimited customers and only $2.99 for an ebook. Also, check out some of the other amazing books that are included in this promotion.

Festive Book Fair Image

Also, today I skyped with a middle school class that is learning about fairy tales and retellings. I remember a few occasions when authors came to my school and spoke to my class. It was always such a thrill for me to feel like someone who had actually created a book was taking the time to answer my questions. Today, I was about ten times as thrilled to answer some of the questions that these kids posed. I don’t imagine they were as thrilled as I was to have me there, but they asked some great questions and I really enjoyed talking to them as an author. I suppose that I don’t feel like an author most of the time. Usually I don’t identify myself as an author unless I’m writing (and sometimes not even then) so it was a bit odd to talk to people who know me only by a book I’ve written. Odd but exciting!

#NaNoWriMo and #PerNoFiMo

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Last year I posted about my first #NaNoWriMo experience. Beautiful was the  result (after several years of revision and editing!). This year, I’m going to do a  sort of modified #NaNoWriMo. Instead of writing 50,000 words of a rough draft, I’m going to finish the rough draft of my current WIP. It’s currently ~35,000 words, and instead of setting any hard goals for each day, I will write every day in November until it’s done. I don’t have the time to write a full novel this month, and I also don’t want to lose momentum on my current project, so wish me luck on my Personal Novel Finishing Month, or #PerNoFiMo

The Real Cost of Indie Publishing

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A little research into the publishing industry will tell you that there are a lot of options on there for a writer. All have their pros and cons. The only one I can speak to is indie publishing, because it’s the only one where I have had real experience. At the same time, I feel like I’m still very much in the learning process, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt.

I decided to publish Beautiful independently for a number of reasons. Was money a factor? Yes and no. I certainly didn’t go into this expecting to be able to quit my day job. I figured any money I made was just a bonus. I wanted the experience and I wanted to get the book out there. But I also didn’t want to lose too much money.  My day job (elementary school teacher) doesn’t leave me with a lot of disposable income, so I couldn’t spend as much as I wanted getting the book ready for publication, or on publicity and marketing. Financially my goal for this book was to break even.

Editing/Proofreading

I did get a few discounts freebies in terms of editing and proofreading. All I can say is that sometimes you have to get lucky. I joined a number of communities for writers. I found some freelance editors who were willing to provide services at a discount in exchange for testimonials, and used a lot of beta readers. It takes a village!  I also used the Hemingway Editor and Grammerly at various points.

Book Cover

I went with a pre-made cover design here which made things a bit cheaper. I was just lucky to find one already made that I felt really suited my book. But an ebook cover is just the front.  I really wanted a physical copy of Beautiful which means you need a spine and a back cover. In order to know how big the spine had to be, I needed to know how many pages the physical book would be.

Formatting

So I had it formatted for Createspace. That includes table of contents, page numbers, headers, title page, copyright page, author page, and dedication. But most indies do the bulk of their sales as ebooks, it also needed Kindle formatting including  clickable links and an author page. I could have done the formatting myself, but I felt that it was important that the book was physically pleasing in both formats, as well as structurally sound. I didn’t want any glitches.

In total I spent a few hundred dollars to make Beautiful a book. thumbnail_Elle s m

But I also wanted people to read it. Recognizing that I’m an unknown author and people buying Beautiful would be taking a risk, I set the price for the ebook at $2.99.  This was the low end of pricing in my genre, but I didn’t want anyone to feel priced out. Hopefully readers will think that it’s worth risking a couple of dollars for a potentially enjoyable experience.

I’m still figuring out the marketing and publicity aspect of things. Amazon’s algorithm favors books that have a certain number of reviews. I’ve seen some that number as anywhere from ten to fifty. I have three. All are five star reviews. Most of the feedback I’ve gotten on the book has been very positive. But it’s hard to turn that positive feedback into actual reviews.

I’ve sent copies to bloggers, so hopefully I’ll get a few blog reviews soon. I’ve also taken advantage of some sites that provide free publicity to indie authors. I’m taking it very slow with any paid promotions at this point.  As I said, I don’t have that much money to lose! But if anyone knows of somewhere I can boost my books profile, please let me know so that I can check it out.

So what is the REAL cost of indie publishing?

It’s a question I’ve been asked a few times. I’ve tried to lay out the decisions I made and how they’ve affected my wallet above. But I don’t feel like the real expense of this project was financial.

How many hours of sleep did I miss because I was in a good writing place and didn’t want to stop? It would probably add up to several weeks altogether.

How much hair did I pull out when things weren’t working out the way I wanted them to? Well, I’m not bald, so I guess that it was less than it seemed…

How many fingernails did I bite through in the week leading up to publication when I was convinced that like three people would read the book and they would all hate it? All ten. Actually in memory it seems like more. Let’s just hope I limited the nail biting to my own fingernails only!

But what was the feeling of holding an actual physical copy of Beautiful worth?

Priceless.

Why is Beauty and the Beast Retold So Often?

51noohzpcsl-_ac_us218_Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favorite fairy tales. I didn’t set out to retell it when I wrote Beautiful. I had actually just started off writing a story (a short story, mind you, not a novel) and I found myself doing inspired by the fairy tale about a quarter way through the first draft. But ever since I was a kid I loved the mysterious gothic castle and the idea that you can’t always trust your eyes. It’s odd that those are elements that I did away with in my own version. Instead, I found other aspects more interesting. I  wanted a dual redemption arc for both my Beauty and my Beast. I wanted some ambiguity regarding who qualifies as the “beauty” and who is the “beast.” I also became interested in the idea that we don’t always appreciate beauty when we first encounter it. Sometimes it’s something we need to be ready to appreciate. I’d like to say that I’m the first person to re-imagine this fairy tale, but I’d be lying if I did. A lot of great writers have done interesting fresh, diverse things with this story. These are some of my favorites that have gone before.

51pwjyt4e0l-_ac_us218_Beauty by Robin McKinley– This is probably most similar to the classic fairy tale that most of us know. For that reason, I found it a bit dull but I know a lot of retelling fans love it. And it’s well done. It just doesn’t do much that feels original or new. But it was written in 1978, so there’s a good chance that at the time, it did feel fresh!

 

 

51ck4irm2cl-_ac_us218_Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley– McKinley had more than just one Beauty and the Beast story in her! Unpopular opinion time: I actually prefer this one. McKinley moves outside of the box and puts her own spin on things. She even throws in a bit of a twist ending.

 

 

41oyve54sgl-_ac_us218_Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier–  Marilier is one of my favorite authors in this genre and she doesn’t disappoint with this offering. The conventions or fairy tales are mixed with gothic romance and it’s all set in 12th century Ireland. When Caitrin takes refuge in Anluan’s garden she is hired as a scribe to sort through family documents. Anluan’s family is under a curse that Caitrin must unravel if she, Anluan or anyone in the household is to find happiness.

51spwrt1xrl-_ac_us218_The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey– This is one of those books you shouldn’t judge by its cover. It’s part of Lackey’s Elemental Masters series but since each book in the series is very much standalone that shouldn’t be a problem. It’s set in San Francisco in the early 1900s. Rosalind is a medieval scholar who is hired as a governess, but when she arrives at her employer’s house she discovers that he has no children. Indeed she isn’t even able to meet him face to face. Her job is to read to him from ancient manuscripts through a speaking tube. She assumes that his interest in medieval spells and sorcery is just an eccentric trait. But she discovers that his interest isn’t academic at all. On the contrary, he has a very practical reason for this.

51j2bc8fhbjl-_sl160_The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth– Forsyth bases this novel on the Grimm’s version of the Beauty and the Beast story called The Singing Springing Lark. But it’s set in Nazi Germany.  Ava loathes the Nazis and everything they stand for and she joins a resistance group to try to fight them. But in order to save her father’s life, she has to marry Leo, a Nazi Officer. Leo seems kind and intelligent, but Ava can’t overlook the people with whom he associates. But appearances can be deceiving. Leo hates the Nazis as much as Ava does. He uses his position within the party to give German military secrets to the allied forces, sabotage Geman plans and save as many lives as he can. But his activities might put at risk the lives of all that Ava holds dear.

61l1afcvhtl-_ac_us218_The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter- Maybe this is cheating because it’s actually a collection of short stories but Angela Carter includes several that have Beauty and the Beast elements. These are most obvious are “The Courtship of Mr. Lyon” and “The Tiger’s Bride,” but you can find traces of the fairy tale’s influence running all through the tales in this brilliant collection.

 

51uytfmeel-_ac_us218_The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson– Again I might be stretching it a bit here, as I don’t think this was intentionally written with Beauty and the Beast in mind. But there are a lot of parallels. I feel like it definitely influenced the author, whether or not he was aware of it. Just a warning- the first chapter includes a very graphic description of the main character’s injuries in a car accident and the treatment of those injuries. If you can, try to push past it. It’s not that graphic throughout. The driver of the car is in a hospital burn unit when Marianne Engel finds him. She tells him that they were lovers in a previous life. She tells the elaborate story of their past lives together so vividly that the burned man is no longer able to dismiss her.

The Beauty and the Beast story as we know it probably has its roots in the Cupid and Psyche story, and the Norwegian fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon. All of these are part of a broader tradition of women taking men disguised as beasts as their husbands. There is also a tradition of animal bride stories in which the female is in some way “other.” Think about swan maidens, selkies, and even The Little Mermaid.

Different cultures have used these stories in different ways. For example, the original French tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and later adapted by  Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, was used as a way to reassure wealthy girls going into arranged marriages that just because their intended might not seem promising at first glance, don’t give up hope. It’s also been used to convey the “true beauty lies within” message.  But ultimately I think that they’re about how people respond to differences. How do we respond to what’s considered “monstrous”? What a society considers “other” will vary.  Likewise, the response to others varies depending on the individual. Those variations allow for writers to use their imaginations. They take the classic story and change some of the variables. What happens is sometimes surprising.