Going Indie: What They Don’t Tell You

5 Apr

This is one of those posts that’s going to tick off a large majority of inde writers.

I seem to write a lot of them.

Anyway, I’m gearing up to go on a fairly large publishing sprint (New Theories in Love stories and a surprise series coming out this summer.) But, with all that going on, it’s kind of a game changer.

My expenses are going up (paying editors for each series and proofers. A new cover artist. I’m going to hire a formatter because I figured out I’m talentless BUT I want to put the new stuff out on Barnes & Noble, Kobo & Apple) as well as (hopefully) more income means I have to stop, drop and roll.

I mean, stop and figure out a lot for my new business… because, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right.

But, the more I dig, the more I realize I just wasn’t ready. There’s tons everyone knows they need to do (edits, formating, etc) but the “other stuff” can really add up. I feel like you don’t see these talked about as much. You see a lot of “make sure it’s clean” and things like explanations of KDP Select, but then there’s this whole other business world side.

Here’s the things I’ve found I need to look into:

  • Finding a second editor to balance the workload (5 books in 5 months – who has the time?)
  • Finding a cover artist who really can make gorgeous covers AND brand the books (I’m SO excited about how this one is moving. I can’t wait to share in *glances at calendar* Okay… so about 1.5 months.)
  • Business structure. If I’m going to make enough to deal with taxes on a higher level, then I should figure that out now. I had no idea that some of the carriers won’t let you move your sales history from your personal tax number to your company tax number when you make that decision.
  • So, a company name to go with that business structure…. I’m pretty sure I’ve nailed this down. It makes me kind of giggle.
  • A formatter — Still looking!
  • Getting people involved in reading your stuff. I do like to have some beta readers, but I can see I’m going to burn my Invisible Posse out soon (and feel like I’m taking advantage) if I don’t rethink how I do this.
  • The mailing list. I’m really glad I set this up. It was an accident. A reader emailed me and asked to be put on my list. Of course I wrote back, Sure! No problem! Thanks for the interest, that’s so sweet! (INTERNAL: Mailing list??? Crud! I don’t have no stinking mailing list!)
    • If you’re interested, it’s not that little link on the left hand side 🙂
  • Websites: Yes, plural. I want to formalize this one a bit, make it a bit more visitor friendly and still have it tie into the one I’ll have to create for the other series (you starting to ponder the secret yet?)… Not my skill set.
  • Which means domain names and switching to WP.org and finding themes that I can somehow figure out how to put on my site and magically learn how to make them pretty and useable.
  • ISBNs – when do you need them? When do you want them?
  • Copy right – Again, when and when?
  • Barcodes – Wait, what? Barcodes for Createspace? *adds to research*
  • Oh yeah. Taxes. I have to figure that out this weekend.

Who knows what’s NOT on the list. Maybe I’ll have to come back and update it a week or two… or when I get home from work.

But the point is, to make the decision to run your writing career like a small business, there’s tons that pops up to consider. Giving yourself enough time to deal with it as it comes (and lucking out to have some go-to people for help) is vital.

If you’re even considering going indie, start thinking about these things now!

Now, I’m off to check my to do list.

~~Caitie~~

What It Looks Like From The Inside

27 Mar

There’s a weird thing about writing — or more, about being an author. Very few people know what your writing life really looks like.

Sure, your close friends know your process and cycle, but everyone else… probably not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of writers talk daily on twitter or their blogs about where they are and how things are going, etc.

It doesn’t work for most writers. Outside of people who can do it with wit (think: Victoria Dahl) it’s too easy to come off whiny. Let’s be honest, writing can be hard. It can wear you down. If you’re smart (and not clever about how to share) you probably look like you’re doing stuff the for only two months before a book comes out.

I know, right? The rest of the time you’re just living in dreamland. Um, suuuuure.

But, writers know that’s not true. I thought I’d give you a tiny look into my last few week so you can see what else I’ve done besides “write words down.”

This week I’ve:

  • Did book edits from my CP’s notes
  • Reviewed FOUR of my full manuscripts for Super Secret Project (SSP)(tons of fun rereading & making notes)
  • Discussed new projects with potential genre specific editors
  • Tried to get the next 2 Theories in Love books packaged for my editor
  • Researched genre specific covers
  • Researched about 15 cover artists
  • Basically beg, pleaded, and bribed the cover artist I wanted for the SSP
  • Realized I need a tax/business structure
  • Researched LLCs and Sole Proprietorship (and am still confused)
  • Made note to call the SBA about LLCs and Sole Proprietorship
  • Did content read for someone else
  • Started researching ISBNs for paper and e-books
  • Made my To Do list for this week

Oh yeah, and went to the Day Job and pretended I have a life.

I’ve always been honest with you guys that I write under another name also and that it typically takes most of my writing time, but all this business stuff? That’s just one week ramping up to a release that isn’t coming till mid-JUNE!

I look at that, and the writer heart in me dies a little. I know that once I have a team in place for this new genre, the next books will go more smoothly to set p. But, really, we all know that saying, “A writer writes.” Well, if you go indie, it’s “A writer writes….and everything else, too.”

And, being committed to creating the best product for readers AND running the business side as well, means doing things right. And doing things right sometimes means saying, “Stop. Let’s build the foundation so going forward we have a structure to get things out, better, faster, stronger… wait. That’s Kanye. Not a fan, but okay. We’ll go with it.

So, for everyone who was curious what goes on behind the curtain – and why sometimes the curtain is closed for long periods of time – there’s a little glimpse.

Now, I’m off to the Day Job so I can go home and finish edits tonight… that’s the whole point, right?

~~Caitie~~

It’s Not Fair VERSUS Get Over it

25 Mar

One thing you see a lot of in the publishing world is the whole “It’s Not Fair” thing. Okay, you see it a lot in life, but since I have no life, only books, let’s talk about it in the writing world.

The list of things that aren’t fair is insanely long. It’s not fair that:

  • people give your book 1 star without reading it
  • some books get front page ads just because
  • editors invest more time and money on certain titles
  • you can’t be involved in certain book blogger sites without a certain number of reviews at a certain
  • some people know other authors so they can get blurbs more easily
  • etc

Pretend the list goes on for about four pages and you’re scratching the surface. And my response to that is:

Sooooooooo??????

Stuff isn’t fair. I’m not one of those connected or lucky people. Never have been. Probably never will be.

You know what? That’s fine. In some ways, it’s good even. There’s no surprises coming. Just a simple, plug away and write the next book. I can plan that… I can DO that.

The thing about most of that “It’s Not Fair” stuff — actually, maybe even all of it — is that you have no control over it.

To be fair, I’m not talking about discussions about things not working (like promo) or looking for solutions. I’m talking about just being upset about not being handed/allowed something you want.

What, can I ask you, is the point of not only worrying about things you can’t control, but complaining about them?

Yeah. I get it. We all worry over stuff we can’t change. But, we also all need to get over that. That stuff? It’s a thief. It robs you your time, energy, happiness, creativity, flow, etc. Don’t let it steal from you. Thumb your nose at it and say, “Yeah? So what? I’ll be successful without you.”

Even worse, there’s nothing like seeing someone complaining about it publicly. As if attacking the person/group/blog/establishment who is barring you from their party is going to make you look smart or clever.

Here’s a clue: It’s going to make you look like a whiner.

If you must complain, that’s what friends (real, close, trusted friends) are for… on email, phone or in person. Not your closest eleven-thousand friends on your favorite forum.

Because, if you can’t get into camp Get Over It, you’re going to be left behind in camp Can’t Get Past It.

And, guess which camp has more energy to write? 🙂

~~Caitie~~

It’s A Business, People

14 Mar

Two things happened in the last 12 hours to get this post twirling about in my head.

The first was last night talking to Roomie who didn’t understand the amount of money I was considering slapping down to begin the next project (It’s not Ben & Jenna LOL – but please feel free to keep asking!)

The new project is a Super Secret I’d hoped to announce next month, but because of my own incorrect expectations about how long it would take to find a cover designer and formatter, it might be the month after that. One word: I’m so freaking excited about the Super Secret project that it sometimes makes me panic a bit. I’m really hoping to create somethings readers will fall in love with.

But, back to the business at hand: BUSINESS.

So, you want to be a writer/editor/designer/artist/formatter/PR rep/etc? You want to go out on your own and have people either hire you to create/run something or create something people will buy?

Then you want to run a business. Period. End of sentence. Don’t even argue with me on this. If you want my money, it’s not a hobby.

If you want me to work with you, I have some minimum requirements as a business woman:

Give Your Business a ‘Storefront’

Facebook is not a storefront. Facebook moves. Give me something static. Something that’s easily negotiable.

I should be able to click on tabs (or even links) to see samples of your work, your business model/timeline set up, requirements for jobs, an “About” section, and preferably a pricing structure.

Your pricing structure could have a clause saying something like, “Extras may create additional charges that will be discussed before finalized.”

Separate Your Life

No one likes going into a store where you get a dose of TMI from the sales girl.

Remember this. Remember that for most people, their storefront needs to be strictly about work.

Of course there are cross-over situations. Tawna Fenske is a perfect example of a writer who ties her personal life into her blog about writing. It works for her. It’s a great blog, Tawna’s a great writer, and her fans love it.  If you’ve followed her though, you’ll see she has the magic touch of making you feel as if she’s 100% transparent while keeping what needs to be private private.

I don’t want to check out a cover artist only to have to weed through pictures of her kids and recipes and stories about her cat. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not judging people who post that stuff. I post enough personal stuff on my personal areas that that would be kettle/pot. But, I want to know what she’s going to do for me — how we’ll work together as business partners.

Make the line clear enough that people don’t have to HUNT to get what they want.

Hunting typically equals giving up and going to someone else.

Professionalism

You’d think this was a no-brainer. You’d think wrong.

I have seen a run of people giving poor reviews to books they worked on.

If you touch a book, you do not review it.

Usually people complain about positive reviews coming from people involved, but just is bad is the “I did this cover, but the book is horrible” or the “I edited this book and she ignored my marks. Please don’t judge me by this book” or the “I knew this book was bad when I started formatting it, but had already agreed to do it” reviews.

Yes, we’re all readers too – but there are enough other books out there to review that there’s no reason to review ones you’ve worked on.

My personal policy: If I have given you notes on your book OR if you are a good friend, I do not review your book. Period.

This extends beyond reviews. Everytime you’re about to post something, ask yourself, “How will my clients view this? Will it harm any of my working relationships or reflect on them in a negative way?”

Golden Rule this puppy.

Expect Clients To Talk About You

Any second now (if there isn’t already one up I don’t know about) there will be a Yelp version of product/services review for the Indie world.

If there isn’t, you should know that there are forums (opened and closed) and loops where the main purpose is to discuss working relationships with publishing partners.

I have a running list of names who have been recommended and a second list of people to never contact. I’m sorry to say the second list is growing too quickly (also, no, you can’t have the list. I won’t be responsible for making that call for others based on recommendations of others.)

Some things typically discussed:

    • Timeliness
    • Communication style/ability
    • Product
    • Willingness to listen and give us what we need/want
    • Your process
    • Easy of ability to work with
    • Cost

I can’t stress this enough –> If you are charging a cost for goods or services, you are a BUSINESS.

This goes for authors as well. This whole gig is divided into two parts: Being a writer and publishing your work.

You’ve seen over my last few posts what I think of that and where I think our standards should be, so I won’t bore you — but create a book/art doesn’t make you except from respecting the process and the purchasers.

So, before you slap up a shingle and call yourself a fill-in-the-blank, make sure you’re business ready.

~~Caitie~~

What Indie Authors Should Really Be Worrying About

26 Feb

If you didn’t read my post What I Don’t Understand Right Now, you may want to consider it before joining the conversation. Not necessary, but just a little more background info.

What it discusses is my view on the “good enough” situation we’re seeing with a lot of indie publishing. I won’t rehash the whole thing, but I think it’s one of my posts that’s definitely worth reading if you’re a writer and maybe if you’re a reader.

I’ve put some more thought into it as I’ve watched writers tout the successful books that haven’t been edited… the books on the Top 100 lists that are filled with errors and poor grammar and bad writing but have stories that NY isn’t putting out so people are scooping them up like hot cakes (which, have you ever seen people scoop hot cakes?)

The motto seems to be: People will buy horrible products if they’ll enjoy the story. Get more out faster!

Only, people haven’t taken something into consideration: The Acceptance of Indie Publishing.

TAoIP (let’s pretend that’s a real acronym) brings about several changes we’re already beginning to see. First, we’ve already seen Trad Pub writers taking their backlist (typically books that have already been polished, professionally edited, and sold through a publisher) – These books are ready to go. All they need is good formating and a new cover and a whole new generation of readers can pick them up.  

Also, more and more writers who have been working for a long time — honing craft, polishing manuscripts, focusing on the NY standard as their model — are going to move over to publish their manuscripts (those polished, honed, NY standard editing manuscripts) as an indie. Again, they are probably (if they truly are books that slipped through the cracks) only in need of copy editing and formating.

Finally comes the writers watching these other groups do it (or who fit into that group of “do it right, show your pride” I talk about in the link above) who bring NY Standard (I keep wanting to say professional, but there are tons of professional indie writers everywhere) editing and packaging to strong storytelling.

So, look at those three groups. Let’s assume that between all of them, that 70% of the books are also compelling reads.  What happens next?

Well, ask yourself: If you could read a compelling story in a sub-genre that NY doesn’t touch that much that’s done professionally, edited, formated well and copy edited OR a compelling story in a sub-genre that NY doesn’t touch that’s… just a compelling story, which will you choose?

No. Don’t rush. Take a moment. I don’t want you to feel pressured.

Ok, most of us said, “Choice A, Caitie” right?

So, as more and more people join indie publishing the issue isn’t going to be “How will people find me” (which is repeated as the growing issue over and over again on indie sites). The issue is going to become, can my work compete with other indie books in my sub-genre?

If it can’t …. well, good luck.

~~Caitie~~

Being ‘In’ With the Books

18 Feb

I’ve been getting emails and tweets this week after the free day for The Last Single Girl with a bunch of questions, so here goes:

1. Yes! I just started a mailing list *points to the right side of the screen* I will only email you when a new book or story is coming out and I won’t give your emails to anyone else.

2. The next 2 books are about getting close to done. They’re both about 50k. They’re both in the Theories in Love series, so more Ben and Jenna although they aren’t the main couple. These heroines are, while still quirky, less of the underdog than Jenna or Sarah. Now that Jenna’s on the scene being a good friend, there’s less girlfriend pain.

I guess, I’m drawn to the girlfriend relationships  – They bring us so much joy, relief, heartache and betrayal that sometimes the boys in the story are really just a bonus. But, the next two books definitely don’t go down that path.

It is weird that both Jenna & Sarah struggled with a less-than-great girlfriend situation, but when I wrote the books, the two I’m finishing now were written between KISS and Last Single Girl, so it was less “Oh, Caitie writes about girlfriends” than it feels now. 😉

3. The next books are longer. Because of other writing stuff going on, I can’t give you guys any fulls right now, but these are just short of some of the category lengths. It’s been interesting trying to maintain that level of hilarity at that length without being absurd or threatening to exhaust the reader. BUT, it’s been a whole different type of fun.

4. YES! You will also be seeing more Sarah and John and we’ll be hanging at The Brew Ha Ha for books to come! Seriously, I want to own The Brew, then you could all come there for book club!

Special #5. The winter is slow for romance sales and I know that each and every sale I get is because one of you told a friend or gave Kiss or Last Girl a good review somewhere. I love my readers. They’re awesome and I want to say THANK YOU for that!

~~Caitie~~

What I Don’t Understand Right Now

15 Feb

I’m going to kick this off by admitting I realize the irony of the next paragraph.

Just because someone has published (trad or indie) a book, has a blog, or is even making a living as a writer, does not mean their advice is valid, worthwhile or even safe to your career. If you want to go it alone as an indie-pub’d person, you absolutely need to learn the difference between “someone with an opinion” and a “topic expert.”

Now, just to be clear, I know I’m not a topic expert on much. It’s easier to just say that now, isn’t it. 🙂

But, here are some things I’ve been seeing lately that I completely do not understand.

First there’s the, All readers want is a compelling story so just get it out there. Don’t worry about the editing school of thought.

Why would you publish something that’s less than your best work? Why are typos, poor grammar, and poor construction acceptable when they can be fixed? Why is the review “I read it in spite of all the errors because the story kept me going” becoming a really positive review?

This is how I feel about my own writing: My job as a storyteller is to be entertaining and compelling. My JOB as a writer is to do it well. My job as a self-publisher is to make sure that both are happening before I hit send.

Am I perfect? Sooooo not perfect. I can see my own writing getting better as I do more of it, but I have and hire help.

Which brings us to the next comment.

The, I did this ALLLLLLLL by myself so I’m better/smarter/richer/more impressive/etc.

Why? Why is doing it all by yourself so important? Wouldn’t you rather bring in the big guns who can make that story can be as good as possible? Is ego and pride more important than excellence or credibility?

And, lastly, the I’ll publish it and fix it as the reviews come in process.

That’s not what readers are for. They are paying to read your book. If someone is doing work for you, the money should be going the other direction. It is their entertainment. Doing work is the opposite of entertainment.

I know a lot of writers (and maybe even readers) are going to disagree with me on these, but that’s okay. There’s room enough in the writing world for everyone. I will add that it breaks my heart every time someone holds up a book that falls into one of these examples and declares that NO indies are good because they’re all poorly done like book XYZ.

Publishing a book that isn’t the best product you are capable of dishonors the unwritten reader/writer covenant, disrespects writing as a craft, and is a disservice to yourself as an artist and entrepeneur.

Or, maybe it’s just me.

~~Caitie~~