BEA Time

 

It’s that time of year.

The one I look forward to nearly as much as Christmas and far more than Untitled 0 00 32-12my birthday: The BookExpo of America at the Javits Center in New York City. Why do I love it so? From all over the world, readers, writers, bloggers, editors, agents, publishing and marketing staff come together for one purpose. To celebrate
books.

cpThe minute I enter the simmering bustle of the Javits Center, I feel electric. The excitement is palpable and infectious. All around me people are buzzing, but not about politics, work complaints, or the latest Justin Beiber scandal. No. They’re talking about literature. More than that, they’re bubbling over with enthusiasm about what is new and upcoming for established best-sellers and promising debut writers.

I’m thrilled to be a part of the major organ through which all books BookExpoAmerica1-e1394405038476flow. To join the streaming throng as I stroll down aisle after aisle of publishers. The fantastic book displays they’ve created do their job and I’m pulled in, time after time. Best of all, I can meet (if only for a minute) some of my favorite authors (fangirl!!) and snag the latest advanced reader copies from them. Score!

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Some of our cute new swag!

Most of all, I’m overwhelmed to meet fans, fellow authors, bloggers and editor friends whom I know so well online, yet only see once or twice a year! That is the ultimate treat. This year, I’ll be visiting with my Spencer Hill Press family and cheering on fellow authors as they sign their nalaovels. Additionally, my co-author Joanne Rock and I, will be autographing book #2 in our CAMP BOYFRIEND series, CAMP PAYBACK with the Romance Writers of America. I hope you’ll stop by and see us on Friday, May 30th from 9:00-10:00 a.m. at RWA booth #2551. Trust me. Seeing you will be the highlight of my conference 🙂

~Karen

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Moving Forward in 2014

projectpicFor me, the year 2013 was groundbreaking. My debut novel came out in June (digital in May), and I could officially call myself an author. Now that the new year has begun, I continue my journey in the publishing world. The sequel to MY SISTER’S REAPER comes out this spring. It’s scheduled for May, but you never know what hiccups might arise; the print version release of MY SISTER’S REAPER was pushed back three weeks last year, so I’ve come to expect bumps in the road. But revisions for the sequel (name to be announced at a later date) are coming along nicely, so I don’t foresee any delays. Fingers crossed. I’m also drafting another book for the series, but it’s not contracted yet. So again, fingers crossed. Other than that, I wrote a dark piece for an anthology that comes out this fall. Oh, and there’s a super secret project I’m working on that’s sort of half pitched. It’s a collaborative project, but it’s also not contracted. Let’s call it a “we’ll see” project. So by my count, that calls for four accounts of crossing fingers. 2014 is the finger cramping year for me.

Reinventing Myself—it’s scarier than it sounds

Bell_Thief_cover-12-16There’s a great Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel, Breathing Room, in which the heroine is a self-help guru whose fiancée embezzles all her money, and leaves her a laughing stock with her career in ruins.  She runs off to a romantic villa in Italy, gets involved with a fabulously handsome actor who always plays villains, and it’s a really fun book.

But the line that has always stuck with me is when she meets the actor’s agent, and he says: “If you were my client, I’d tell you to reinvent yourself.”

The heroine does just that, and ends up even more rich and famous than before.  (Not to mention marrying the handsome actor.)  But that line lingered in my mind…even before my own career hit the rocks.

the last chapter of my old career, as a well-published but mid-list author, the recession had hit the bookstores hard.  Borders died, and Barnes & Noble was in critical condition.  But when the recession struck, both of the only two large bookstore chains in the country responded by stocking only books they knew would sell in large numbers—the bestsellers and popular series—which left mid-list authors with very few sales for anything that came out in those years.

My first Knight & Rogue book, released before the recession, sold about as well as my other books—solidly mid-list.  But then the recession hit, and the big chains ordered only a handful of book 2, and an even smaller handful of book 3.  And with a bad sales record for books 2 and 3, there’s not a major publisher in the world who would put out books 4 through 6.

The agent I talked to after my old agent retired (great plot complication, if this was fiction and not my life) advised me to change my name, write something completely different, and start over from scratch.  And I suppose that’s one way to reinvent yourself.

(Fleeing to a romantic villa in Italy was out of the question, for a number of reasons, not least that I’ve never been as rich as the heroine of Breathing Room.)

But three out of four of my fan emails were from people asking for more Knight & Rogue books, I’d planned the series from the start for a six book story arc…and damn it, I wanted to write them.

So I decided to reinvent myself in a different way, by going mostly-indie.  I say mostly, because instead of bringing the book out entirely on my own I contacted a local micro-publisher, Courtney Literary.  Deb Courtney will handle all the technical aspects, and offered amazingly good terms…and the fourth Knight & Rogue book, Thief’s War, is coming out at the end of February.

Deb is giving me a high enough percentage that I can sell far fewer books than I did through HarperCollins and survive.  If I sell half as many books, I’ll thrive.  And if I sold almost as many books as I did going through a major publisher, I’d be doing great.  (I should mention that my idea of great is fairly modest.)  But I have no clue how many books I’ll sell.  None, zip, zero, nada.  There’s no way even to guess—so I’m going to find out the hard way, by doing it.

We’re all the hero of our own story, so I’ll shamelessly declare myself the heroine.  Here I am, past the dark moment, heading straight for the climax.  And I have no idea whether my story will have a happy ending, or turn into one of those dreary, pointless tragedies where the heroine has to go out and get a day job again.  (No handsome actors in sight.  Rats.)   This being real life, where climaxes don’t usually happen within a few chapters, I won’t even get a hint about how Thief’s War is selling until the beginning of August.

Reinventing yourself sounds so uplifting.  Downright inspiring.  But watching my savings drain away, I’ve learned that reinventing yourself is hard and scary—and I’ve now got a lot more respect for heroes, who launch themselves into the climax never knowing whether they’re going to win or lose.  (And maybe basing major financial decisions on novels isn’t the smartest thing to do, either.)  But I’m doing it…and in August, I’ll let you know how it looks like coming out.

Story Length: Short, Long, and In-Between

One of the many advantages of eBooks is that they can be any length. Physical books need to be a certain size for binding purposes, neither too thin nor too thick. If you wanted to put a short story on paper, you had to submit it to a magazine, an anthology, or a collection. If you wanted to write a story of intermediate length–either a novelette (7,500 — 17,500 words) or a novella (17,500 — 40,000 words), markets were hard to find. (I know because I had trouble marketing Lyon’s Legacy before self-publishing it.) However, electronic files don’t suffer from paper constraints.

What does this mean for authors? It’s possible to write and publish stories at the length they need to be instead of the length the publisher needs them to be. Yesterday, I was reading reviews for the latest book in a popular urban fantasy series I follow. (I won’t name it since I haven’t read the book in question.) Some of the reviewers mentioned that nothing much happened in this novel that advanced the overall series; in fact, the heroine spent much of her time unable to do anything. A couple of people even said that this novel might have worked better as a short story. Perhaps this author had to fulfill a contract for this series and was counting this book toward that requirement. She might have done better paring this story down to a shorter length. Short stories, novelettes, and novellas can be used to develop secondary characters or explore side stories or settings related to the overall plot or world of a series. Also, by being able to write stories at different lengths, writers can practice various aspects of their craft.

What does easy access to a wide range of stories for readers? It gives them more options to find works that fit their schedules. If you only have a short time to read, you might want to polish off a shorter work instead of starting something you may not be able to get back to for a while. Short works may also serve as a good introduction to a new author, as the reader can invest only a little bit of time into reading before deciding to move on or look for other works by that author.

I would say more–there are pieces of flash fiction longer than this post–but I need to get back to my Season Avatars prequel. It still hasn’t decided if it’s going to be a novella or a short novel. (Forty thousand words would be short for a fantasy novel, but that could be a separate blog post.) In the meantime, I’ll ask you these questions: Do you prefer to read stories of a certain length, or do you read a variety of story lengths? If you have a preference, why?

Writing retreat…then and now…

Me & CP, Emily McKay

Me & CP, Emily McKay

Sometime in 1998 I formed a critique relationship with another unpublished romance writer. She wrote short category romance, something I’d not read up until we started working together, and I wrote historicals. We didn’t know each other well initially, but slowly we forged a bond and together found magic. In the beginning neither one of us knew much about what we were doing, so we learned how to write, we studied craft, we found our writing styles and our strengths and weaknesses.

the beach house we used to visit - lost in Hurricane Ike

the beach house we used to visit – lost in Hurricane Ike

In those early years we would go, with two other writer buddies that we worked with, to one said writer buddy’s beach house. We’d go for a long weekend and we’d work and plot and laugh and have more fun than you can imagine while also accomplishing a ton of work. The first night there we’d set our goals for the trip and the rest of the time it was work, work, work, with the occasional nice walk on the beach.

Flash forward to now – 4 kids later (2 for each of us) and we’re back at the beach together, just the 6 of us and we’ll see how much work we can actually get done with a 3, 4, 5 and 8 year old with us. We haven’t set goals, though we’re both on deadline. Instead we plan to spend time together – which is more difficult now with our families – let our kids play together and hope to get work done in the down time.

100_1892I bring all this up not so much to brag on my amazing relationship with my critique partner, though really y’all should be jealous because we work so well together (and she just won a RITA, Go Emily!) but instead to discuss the merits of writing retreats. They’re quite popular these days. I know RWA chapters plan them and host them periodically and lots of critique groups get together for writing retreats.

There’s something quite magical about getting together and spending time focusing on your writing with other writers. Especially when you can do it with a lovely bit of nature near by – the beach, mountains, a lake or forrest. And you know it’s good for our kids to see their moms working and having co-workers, even if our jobs are more unconventional than some of the other parents.

So how about you? Ever been on a writing retreat? What are yours like or what would make the perfect one for you?

Podcasts: Another medium for book lovers

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I was all stressed out about what I would post about since everyone’s mentioned books, books and more books: audio books, e-books, chapter books, MG books, fantasy books, science-fiction books…  You see where I’m going with this. We love books, we write books, and we read books. We are book people.

So yes, I wasn’t sure what I would contribute to this month’s topic until my college daughter, who’s home for the holidays, asked me to listen to a podcast on her iTunes. Now I have another medium through which I can enjoy books. For the last few weeks, we’ve been listening to Pocasts, when not listening to audio books. My favorite is Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, and narrated by Cecil Baldwin (Commonplace Books).  Oh, my, the narrator is amazing. The book is funny, scary, and brilliant.

I’m a serious geek and have watched a lot of sc-fi movies. I finished Eureka a few months ago and Welcome to Night Vale reminds me a lot of Eureka except there’s something seriously sinister going on in Night Vale, from glowing clouds in the sky, angels seen by Old Woman Josie, Pteranodons, hooded figures in Dog Park, a house the scientists are convinced doesn’t exist, books that can’t be read, the Sherrif’s secret police…

Nothing is ever normal in Nigt Vale.

Since we are on the road a lot, we also listen to audio books. This summer we’ve focused on mythology. My kids loooove mythology. And it doesn’t hurt that I’ve a series based on one, lol. We’ve covered Greek, Norse and Egyptian. We threw in a few interesting stories like Sherlock Holmes and Archimedes and the Stargazers. We get these on CDs and the best narrator out there for these kid classics is Jim Weiss. Love his voice.

On a different note, if anyone is interested in having their book narrated into audio and is not sure how to go about it or even to try it, DM me on Facebook. My fourth book has just been turned into an audio book and I’ve never been happier. When not listening to podcasts, I’ve been listening/editing the chapters my narrator upload on ACX.

Anywho, happy reading and listening.

Cha-cha-cha changes…

You haven’t seen me around here much lately, and for that I’m deeply sorry. As any author will tell you, you sometimes reach what I like to call ‘project overload’. Between the new projects in outline stages, the projects I’m actively writing, and the nearly finished projects I’m editing, I literally can’t remember what day it is half the time. Add to that the craziness of 4 kids on summer vacation and a whole house remodel, and yowza! But alas, I couldn’t stay away for long.

This month we are talking about transitions. It’s something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit since I got home from BEA. I would like to take a brief moment to thank everyone–all the SHPers, Bloggers, Buyers, Distributers, Editors, and everyone who came out to support EXTRACTED. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life and YOU made that happen, so from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

I began my career writing fan fiction, then moved up to working with my first publisher on my own novels. It was quite an exciting experience, though it still wasn’t quite what I expected. I expected big fat royalty checks, legions of fans, and gnomes who would come over and do my laundry.

Looking back, I suppose my expectations were unrealistic. But that’s normal when you are just starting out. You think you will sign that contract and all your dreams are going to come true. What I actually discovered is this: Publishing is hard. Marketing is harder. Editing makes me want to spork myself in the eye.

So I continued for a few years, writing for small publishers who, while wonderful, didn’t have the ability to get my book where I really wanted it. In the hands of the readers. Then something amazing happened.

I got signed by a larger publisher. One that had hitherto unknown-to-me resources to market, distribute, and generally promote my book. People I’ve never met write me asking about it, and it isn’t even out yet! It’s amazing. I feel very…legitimate. And humbled. I might even have an agent very soon! For someone who has gone this whole process alone, that’s a mind-boggling thought.

More than that, It’s given me the confidence to keep moving forward with my writing. I’m transitioning from an obscure, small press author into something much more. This must be what a butterfly feels like before it breaks out of it’s cocoon. With every book you release, there is nagging self doubt and insecurity. It can cripple some writers–I’ve seen it. But for me, reaching this threshold means turning a corner. Yes, there will always be that fear that no one will like my book or that it will get slaughtered on Goodreads, but I made it this far. I’ve grown and evolved into something better than I was. Hopefully a little better of a writer, hopefully a little more savvy of a promoter, but most of all, I hope I’m a little braver too.

I am, however, still waiting on those laundry gnomes.

Is 11.12.13 too long to wait to get a copy of EXTRACTED? You can enter our Goodreads giveaway! It’s a signed uncorrected Proof paperback straight from BEA! Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Extracted by Sherry D. Ficklin

Extracted

by Sherry D. Ficklin

Giveaway ends August 06, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win