Disparity Within MWA: Trad-Pubbed vs Independently Pubbed

As you may have noticed, I’ve been absent from blogging for a little while. It’s not that I don’t love you, I do. I’ve had to deeply focus my time and energy into to writing and research. I also attended Sleuthfest this past weekend.

street-signs

On that note I have something to say that may not be popular, but I’ve got to get it off my chest in order to feel settled about it and the only way I know to do it is to put it out there. When asked on an interview if there was anything I hated about writing or the industry, I found it difficult to use such a strong word to describe anything about the process. I love it….everything; writing, researching, editing, the whole shebang. But there is one thing that bothers me most.

I don’t like how people put down the self-published without giving authors an opportunity. They ridicule without even having read the author’s work and lump all exclusively self-published authors into one pile of trash. Yes, I understand there is some crappy work out there by independent authors. There are also lots of crappy work out there by the traditionally published. I wrote a good book. I worked hard to build a team to beta read, professionally edit, design a cover, professionally narrate the audio book, publicize the work and did everything I know to create a nicely polished product to present.

I’m happy to report Naked Alliances has received glowing praise from authors and book reviewers across the nation. Some top magazines like Midwest Reviews and The Island Reporter have featured either myself as author or the book.

Yet, many writer organizations won’t represent the work as it is self-published. I’m not allowed to enter their contests or sell my books in affiliated book stores because it’s not traditionally published or doesn’t meet the “must prove they have sold 5000 copies of their books” requirement.

I haven’t joined some popular organizations because of these restrictions. Until they change their attitude toward the independently published I won’t and I’ve let them know it. Send in high membership dues, provide time and energy fully supporting and promoting their organization when they won’t do the same for me? How hypocritical of me to do that.

I’ve attended Sleuthfest two years. It’s sponsored by Mystery Writers of America. I have not joined their organization for these very reasons. Maybe if I did, and became more active, I could help change the attitude they have toward self-published. I was planning to act as an official volunteer at Sleuthfest last year. I was told that only MWA members could act in the volunteer capacity at their events. I decided to check them out first, before making a decision to join.

I read their entire web site and decided against joining until I could see how my book would be published as their rules for self-published authors are far more stringent than those for traditionally published and contests are only open to those who are published by a MWA approved publisher.

There is no hint of equality.

This year, I was told that non-members could be on panels, so I signed up for one. Then I received a letter informing me that panelists had to be published by a MWA approved publisher. I contacted the Murder on the Beach Bookstore that sells attendees books during the conference and was told, yes, they do carry books by self-published authors, provided they are on a panel.

Do you see the problem here?

Time went on and I sucked it up and decided I would go to the conference and enjoy myself. I even made a FANtastic Florida raffle basket to donate. There was more than $250.00 in merchandise in that basket for some lucky ticket holder.

I could still learn a lot and promote myself and my book, maybe even sell a few copies out of a box in my room. (Which I did.)

However, a few days before the conference, I received a personal message from the chairman of the volunteer committee. They were short on volunteers and could use my help. Maybe this was a golden opportunity to step up to the plate and demonstrate that I was a bigger person. I asked, if I volunteered, could they place my books in the books store?

Nope. Can’t do that. “But I’m on the board now and maybe things will change for next year.” (And maybe not.)

I declined to volunteer. Call me anything you please and tell me how I could have made a wonderful impression on the powers that be, but no. Independently published authors shouldn’t have to suck up or meet special criteria to qualify for perks of membership. So no, until things change, I won’t be joining your organization.

There are so many organizations out there that provide due respect. It would be hypocritical of me to join one that doesn’t. I’m happy to pay membership dues and actively participate in those that do.

quote-the-bud-may-have-a-bitter-taste-but-sweet-will-be-the-flower-william-cowper-89-62-08

Naked Alliances up for Eversion Pre-Order and Paperback is Published

As you may have noticed, I’ve been off social media for a while. There were too many things on my mind and loads of work to get done. I’m packing to go to Michigan to see my new grandbaby…my first born’s first born. Really excited about that.

We also have a book. Naked Alliances is now available in paperback only and the eversion is up for pre-order. Yay!!!

4

Had to go this route this time. The publicist package we won at Sleuthfest came with a publicist who insists we have a book before she begins her marketing campaign. (I personally believe in a lot of pre-marketing, but she needed ARCs for reviewers and this is the only way to get them with CreateSpace.)

Mayglenn McCombs, the publicist, will be doing a blog tour, but I’d also like to set one up on my own. Anyone willing to help, let me know in comments. I’ll be writing up some posts while I’m in Michigan to use when I return on the 14th. From the 14th-23rd, I know I’ll be slamming the marketing campaign.

For those who haven’t seen the full cover, here it is:

NakedAlliances_JPEG
I love what the artist did with the back cover. The small print for the blurb is a little tough to read online, but it’s my book blurb along with a few endorsements we have for the book. Thanks to all who read and were willing to help out: Tim Baker, Ionia Froment, Mark Paxon, and C.S. Boyack…you totally rock!

Endorsements:

“Richard Noggin and his trusty sidekick, expose the bare truth about a ten-year-old murder and get to the bottom of an ugly human trafficking scheme. With tight prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, Naked Alliances doesn’t let up until you’ve seen it all!” ~ Tim Baker, author of Eyewitness Blues.

“Interesting settings, believable characters, and a wonderful plot earn this one five stars from me.” ~ C.S. Boyack, author of Will O’ the Wisp.

 “Naked Alliances offers a rollicking good time, a dose of evil, a murder to solve, and characters you want to get to know better.  All in a well-written package that begs for more stories to come.” ~ Mark Paxson, author of One Night in Bridgeport

“Gritty, heart pounding and wickedly amusing!” ~ Ionia Froment, Top Amazon Reviewer

About Naked Alliances:

A riveting romp through Central Florida, Naked Alliances air-drops you into the seedier side of Orlando that the amusement park industry tries to keep under wraps.

 

When a young immigrant woman and an exotic dancer are fleeing men with guns and have no place to hide, Richard Noggin, P.I., can’t turn his back on them, even if helping them makes him a target.

 

Richard plans to impress an aspiring politician by taking on a big white-collar case with the potential of getting him off the streets and into air-conditioned offices. Instead, he’s handed a cold case and quickly finds himself sucked into a shadowy world of sex, secrets and…murder.

 

Marked for a bullet and stretched thin by his investigations, he reluctantly teams up with the unlikely, brassy custodian of the young woman on the run. With bodies piling up, they go undercover in a nudist resort, determined to catch the killer and bring down the mastermind of the Alliance before someone else dies.

 

From the dark corners of Orlando’s Little Saigon, to the sunny exposure of Leisure Lagoon, the Naked Eye juggles to keep his balls in the air.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have a few books I’m going to try to get read while in Michigan, as well. Hopefully, I’ll be able to come back with some reviews. Again, let me know if you’d be willing to be a host for the blog tour. I have a standard post, and am putting together a few more so they won’t bore people with the same info, as many of you share.

Sharing is greatly appreciated 🙂

If you have a full review to post on Amazon, you can do that now on the paperback page which will be merged with the eversion page after the 23rd. Please make sure to note that you recieved an advanced reader copy from the author.

A handy link to the pre-order page is right Here.

And a handy link to the paperback page is right Here.

 

My Self-Publishing Journey #amwriting

Upon learning that I am a self-published author, people often ask me what the process is like when writing and self-publishing a novel. It’s not something I can answer in a few words, other than to say, “It’s much more involved than most people realize.” Especially when you factor in all of the pre-marketing and marketing that is required.

yourstory-big

I made of a list of things I did with my book. Not everyone will share the same experience, but I thought I would share mine. The things in red haven’t been totally accomplished yet.

Check off list for self-publishing process:

  1. Ideas formulate
  2. Write book (eight weeks)
  3. Cry when alpha reader says book is a two on scale of one to five
  4. Re-write
  5. Edit and proof
  6. Feel better when Alpha reader says book is four on scale of one to five
  7. Send to Beta readers (nine months)
  8. Get ecstatic when eight readers love book 🙂
  9. Cry some more when two readers report they could not read book 😦
  10. Edit and proof some more
  11. Put book on shelf (eight or nine months)
  12. Take it down and read it again
  13. Send to professional editor for two round of edits and a proofread (six months) Edit, rewrite, edit, proof, read
  14. Jump for joy when Alpha reader says it’s a five on one to five scale and better than any book he’s read in three months.
  15. Polish text and remove cliché’s
  16. Get book cover designed (one month)
  17. Write synopsis, log-line and pitch
  18. Read at Sleuthfest and get excited when agents request manuscripts and partials, decide to trad publish
  19. Query more agents
  20. Cry over rejection letters, seven out of fifty, (three months)
  21. Get copyright
  22. Decide to self-publish
  23. Write front matter; Title page copyright, Dedication
  24. Write back matter; Acknowledgements, Author Bio, Request for reviews, thanks for support, links, promo for other book
  25. Enlist help with Book imprint art
  26. Seek endorsements??? (BTW, well known authors say they can’t read manuscripts for legal reasons…what’s an author to do? Contests??)
  27. Enlist someone to write Foreword???
  28. Get endorsements to book cover designer
  29. Sign on with CreateSpace for POD version, proof final product
  30. Get file formatted for eversion, proof final product, set pre-release, and set release date
  31. Contact publicist when POD proofs are ready (press release, blog tour)
  32. Make list of book bloggers and book promo sites
  33. Pre-release
  34. Start actively marketing and promoting beyond this blog
  35. Publish and go live
  36. What am I leaving out?

Query Blues

a-writers-greatest-fear1

Was hoping that being super selective about agents to query based on their preferences I might have heard some good news by now. But, nay, six rejections with periodic episodes of cricket chirping.

I had one agent that seemed excited and enthusiastic about the book and that was, of course, instantly infectious. Upon further examination, I saw that she was brand new and had never sold a book. We had a phone chat and many of my questions were answered much more vaguely than I expected. So that’s a pass for me. It would be nice to find an experienced agent with her enthusiasm, though.

I’m about halfway through the alphabet on a large directory that shows AAR member standing. I’ve picked a few who aren’t AAR based on what they enjoy and represent. It’s a daunting task.

This one wants a query and ten pages…that one five pages, this one two chapters, that one fifty pages, this one twenty five pages, that one just a query. Some want attachments, others want ms samples in the body of the email. Others require going directly through their onsite contact app. My desktop in so cluttered I can hardly find a thing. I have a spread sheet going, but it’s a lot to keep up with and stay confident.

I’m not going to deny that I am discouraged. I still have not heard back from my favorite agent that I met at Slethfest two months ago, who asked for the whole ms. I’ve pitched on twitter #PitMad sessions, face-to-face, by email. My rejections that are personalized almost always say the same things, but in different words. They loved the pitch, the premise, the query letter, but did not see in the ms what they were expecting or didn’t feel enthusiastic enough about it to take it on. They all have told me the writing is good. So I’m not quite sure what I need to do differently, if anything.

Everybody who has read it loves the first chapter, we don’t get back to Brandi until chapter five. They are brief chapters and things move quickly, but being the star of the show, it might have been a mistake to have readers wait so long. It was necessary to introduce the P.I. and move the plot forward until that point when she reappears on the scene…but eh…I dunno.

My honey, the RS who reads three crime novels a week, says it’s better than anything he’s read in the past three months. His last comp book was Coconut Cowboy by Dorsey in January, so that’s encouraging. But that’s what he’s there for, support and encouragement, right?

I’m beginning to feel that I should self-publish and with the help of my publicist, Maryglenn McCombs, set up the launch and just go for it. That would give me a marketing boost, and allow me more time to write. I’ve fleshed-out the next book’s outline, but haven’t felt motivated to write and that’s not good.

I thought after our week-long vacation I would come back inspired and ready to get to work, but coming home to rejections, especially the quickie generic form ones, sort of dampened my spirits. And there has been a lot going on with the grandbaby’s party and the daughter has left town to go visit her dying grandmother, so I have the grandkids for three days. Not gonna be much happening in the way of writing around here for a few.

For those who have queried…any advice?

How are you doing with your writing projects?

Anything new on the horizon?

Sleuth Fest Success

When I woke up this morning, I took my breakfast on the lanai. The sun was shining, birds were singing, and a nice breeze was ruffling the palms around the pool. All seemed right in the world.

Having not seen my lil old man, Captain, the pug, in a week, I quickly ran off to retrieve him from the kennel. Daisy had been moping around and not eating her food. She really missed her pal. Captain was so happy to see me he was literally rolling over with joy. The vet tech was trying to get a good pic, but he would not be still, curly tail waggling all the while. I wish, now, I had filmed our reunion. One photo doesn’t do the occasion justice. I put this gallery together so you get the idea.

I spent five days in Deerfield Beach near Boca Raton at Sleuth Fest. People who follow either my personal FB page or my author page already know how excited I was with the success of the event. I didn’t get one request for my manuscript…..I got THREE! This is huge. Yes, all three can reject it if the story doesn’t deliver, or meet expectations, or “fit” what they are looking for…but hey, there’s a chance it will 🙂

I’m absolutely thrilled!

Now, I must admit, the anxiety is creeping in. I decided NOT to look over the ms again. It’s been beta read with feedback thoughtfully considered. (Thank you lovely readers, you rock my world.)

It sat on the shelf for nine months because I just didn’t feel it was as polished as it should be.

I took it down and sent it off to a professional editor who ran through it twice for edits and a third time for proofing. I bought a cover. (Thank you all for helping me decide on the best.) My plan was to self-publish.  Then, along came Sleuth Fest.

I don’t even recall how I heard about the Mystery Writers of America, Sleuth Fest writer’s convention, but after reading about what all it had to offer, I signed up. For a couple of months I agonized over my pitch, my long and short synopses, and my public delivery of a ten minute excerpt from the book.

Signing up for every local reading opportunity I could through my local writer’s and story-telling groups in an effort to relieve my fear of public speaking, I rehearsed until the dogs had my pitch and first chapter memorized. Even the guppies were rolling their eyes.

Sleuth Fest was a blast. I can’t wait to tell you all about the wonderful writers, authors, crime specialists, bloggers, acquisitions editors, agents, really cool celebrities, and icons in the book industry I met and learned from. But there will have to be other posts to cover it all. We bought all the audio discs so I can reference and study them, not to mention a mile high stack of handouts with tons of useful information.

Here’s a quick glimpse of the agents and editors at their respective panel discussions: (From left to right: Steve Kasdin, Kirsten Carleton, Mark Gottlieb, Danielle Burby, Erin George, Chris Nopf, Neil Nyren, and Anne Speyer.)

On a personal level, today, I want to share with you how Naked Alliances ended up in the hands of two agents and one acquisitions editor despite my social anxiety issues.

Thursday night we had Reader’s Corner, a new event added to the itinerary, and I hope they include it every year. If you ever have opportunity to read at an event like this, take it. There were about fifty people in the room and I felt my knees shaking, my palms were sweating and I was thanking my higher power that I had brought my read on my iPad so the crowd wouldn’t see papers trembling in my hands as I read. When they called my number, I felt a surge of cold sweat as I took my place. I introduced myself and set up the scene. I read with all my heart and soul, making eye contact with the audience and barely looking at my iPad. (All that practice paid off.)

The first hour, we had been listening to dark stories of murder, gritty crime, and espionage. The room was somber and filled with tension. Along I came with a light romp. They laughed at all the funny parts, clapped throughout the piece, and the back half of the room gave me a standing ovation. When I got my critiques back, I tucked them into a folder and continued listening to wonderful stories. The whole mood of the room had changed. I was delighted when a few more readers read light-hearted pieces and a few YA pieces that were quite entertaining.

When the event was over, I went back to my room and found my husband waiting for me. He had come in late and didn’t make the read. We opened the folder and he read the fifty critiques out loud. I was absolutely floored by the kind words and the number of people who told me they really wanted to hear more and couldn’t wait until the book came out. Not one negative comment. I was in tears, and glowing with positive affirmation.

So yes, if you get the opportunity to read, take it. But it didn’t end there. Throughout the next three days of the conference people were coming up to me telling me how much they enjoyed the read and the characters, the dialogue, my accent. And they were telling me these things in front of agents, editors, and crowds of other people who had not been at Reader’s Corner. So yes, take the stand and promote yourself and your work. I’m certain that spoke volumes to those making decisions.

Friday night cocktail party, me and my husband milling through the crowd looking at all the pasta and potatoes we couldn’t eat, and holding up the pillars in the room. Me sipping a glass of red wine, while they called out the raffle winners. And then I spotted her. An acquisitions editor who had told us during the editor’s panel that she was looking for characters that were unlikely pairings in unpredictable situations and adores brassy, bad-ass, female protagonists. I approached her, introduced myself, and asked her about what acquisitions editors do. I knew the editors were critiquing manuscripts at this event, but I didn’t know they were in position to acquire them. I don’t mind showing my ignorance if I can learn something. I was concerned that Brandi had not always been female…she assured me that she qualified, and asked for a fifty page manuscript and a synopsis. Score!

Saturday was my scheduled pitch day. I selected to pitch to this agent because his social media profile indicated that he had a great sense of humor and he expressed an interest in crime capers on his Sleuth Fest bio. (Even though Naked Alliances is NOT a caper, it does have a humorous edge and is a lighter read.) He listed his honors and awards on his LinkedIn page as, “Nobel Prize for Total Coolness, Distinguished Dude Cross, Knighted by Queen Elizabeth for just being me.” He’s got to be okay, right? I was confident, but terrified. He put me at ease, smiled, and was far more personable than I had been led to believe by all the online research I had done regarding what to say and not say to an agent. I tried to relax and let the conversation flow naturally. I only had ten minutes with him and used nine. He had posted, on his FB page, a photo of a sign taken while walking through a National Forest. The sign read, “Beyond this point, you may encounter nudity.” Considering the setting in my book, we had lots to talk about. Do your homework folks. Research your agent anyway you can through social media. They are out there. It really pays off. He asked for the WHOLE manuscript. I said, “The whole thing?” He laughed and said, “Yes, the whole thing!” I was stunned. Second score!

Sunday was the Flamingo Pitch Tank, our last chance to hook up with agents and editors. All eight of them sat on the front row as honorable judges. We had three minutes. I gave my pitch, and followed it with, “If you liked Chablis in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, you will absolutely love Brandi in Naked Alliances.” Again there was a murmur in the crowd when I mentioned my family owned and operated one of the oldest and largest nudist resorts in the nation right here in Florida. Afterwards, many people came up to talk about Cypress Cove and the book, as well as John Berendt’s novel, how they were similar and different. We had been told to stick around after the Pitch Tank was over as other agents/editors might wish to connect. After several minutes, we edged our way out of the room. A nice young lady came up beside us in the corridor and introduced herself and said she loved the elements introduced in the pitch and would like a fifty page manuscript, cover letter and synopsis and gave me her card. Awesome! Third score!

Trying to find agents and acquisitions editors? Go to conferences in your genre. Read. Pitch. Talk to people. Wear something that makes you stand out and be noticed in the crowd. Pluck pink boa feathers and stick them in your hair. Aloha shirts, big dangling earrings, and skinny jeans worked for me. No, I wasn’t doing the business casual that most everyone else was doing, but I had made myself memorable and had succeeded at branding myself well enough to have people seeking me out. So, yes, I’m stoked!

And by all means…hang out at the bar…that’s where all the cool kids are!

They even laughed at my original jokes (course that could have been the alcohol).

At the bar with Co-Chairs, Joanne Sinchuk (Murder on the Beach Bookstore) and Victoria Landis (FMWA Board Member) being photobombed by writer, Salvatore “Sam” Falco. What fun!

Sleuth Fest 2016 027

And here we have Neil Nyren, an icon in the publishing industry, the Executive VP, Associate Publisher and Editor in Chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Random House, who has to his credit more than 300 NYTs best sellers, crime and suspense authors C.J. Box (our guest of honor) Clive Cussler, Ken Follett, Robert Crais, Jack Higgins, W.E.B. Griffin, John Sandford, Frederick Forsyth, Randy Wayne White, Alex Berenson, Ace Atkins, Alex Grecian, Tom Young, Carol O’Connell, Owen Laukkanen, Michael Sears, Todd Moss, and a new series from Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman. Neil is an all around great guy and read us one of  Chuck Wendig’s posts on becoming a Penmonkey. So don’t ever think your blogs are not being read…you just never know.

Sleuth Fest 2016 024

BTW, just as an aside, celebrity author, and guest of honor, C.J. Box happened by while this little party was going on. I would have loved to have had my picture taken with that gorgeous hunk, but he slipped away before I got around to it. And, unbeknownst to me at the time, the agent I was pitching to the following day happened to be seated at the bar 😉