Archive for February, 2016

Hybrid Publishing and Making It Work For You

Our storycraft meeting next week is on marketing and publishing, so as I’ve been working on putting the meeting together, I’ve come across some things that I thought you might like too, Squiders.

So, today, let’s talk about the concept of hybrid publishing.

What is hybrid publishing? Simply put, it’s any publishing model that falls in between traditional and self-publishing. Some indie publishers refer to themselves as hybrid publishers, because they have aspects of both. For example, Turtleduck Press has a traditional editing model, but allows authors full control of things such as pricing, covers, and where to list the books for sale, and it relies on POD and e-book technology.

That’s publishers and presses. For individuals, being hybrid published can mean a number of things, but typically it means that you have works that have been self/indie published, as well as some that were traditionally published.

You might be asking why one would want to do hybrid publishing. Well, let’s look at the pros to being traditionally published. You get some marketing/PR (hopefully). You are eligible for most major awards, can get your books reviewed by the snootiest of reviewers. There’s the clout, the respectability of having made it the “right” way. And you might get a large advance.

And the pros of self-publishing: you get full creative control of your story, cover, etc. You get more royalties and potentially more money over time. You can publish on your own schedule instead of waiting a year or more for each book to come out. You can switch genres and write whatever suits you at that particular moment of time.

So why hybrid publish? So you can get the benefits of both methods. An author can publish novels traditionally and self-publish short story collections and novellas in between novels to give their readers new stuff while they wait. An author can traditionally publish one more serious series while self-publishing another sillier series. You can traditionally publish short stories and link them to your self-published or indie-published novels. Hybrid publishing can be done in any number of ways.

In this day and age, is there any reason to not do both in any way that works for you?

Are a hybrid author, Squiders? Do you have any authors you follow that have a system you like?

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Picking a Title: Surprisingly Hard

My co-writer (the lovely Siri Paulson) and I are deep into our revision for our novel coming out in May. I feel like it’s going fairly smoothly, because we identified a lot of issues ourselves and got started on fixes before we got our comments back from our editor. Siri may feel otherwise. We haven’t been in several-times-a-day touch like when we were writing and so now I feel like I have no idea what she’s thinking anymore.

But we’ve run into what’s turned out to be a difficult and complex issue: we can’t pick a title.

Titles are notoriously hard in general. You want something that evokes the theme and tone of the story without being too obvious, something catchy but not misleading. With my novels, I tend to pick a title before I start writing. This isn’t really the best practice, as the titles often times don’t fit by the time I’m done, but I find it hard to undertake a large project without a name. (Luckily with short stories, I can write them and then title them, which works much better.)

Siri deemed this the “Sekrit Project” at the beginning, which stuck, and has worked for getting around whatever name-hangup I have with novels, but now we need a real title because we’ve got to get the book up for pre-order, get the cover art done, reach out to reviewers, etc. And we can’t do anything of that without a title.

And we’re stumped. Because of the structure of the novel, we essentially have two of everything–two main characters, two settings, two plots. There are things and themes and everything that overlap, but finding something that makes sense for both characters and both worlds and the over-arcing themes has proven elusive.

We’ve bounced from more literal titles to more metaphorical titles and back again with no luck. We’ve looked at recent releases in the same genre to get an idea of title trends with no luck. We’ve asked our editor and our betas for suggestions. Again, no luck.

I kind of want to laugh. We worldbuilt together, we plotted and wrote and are now revising together, and we can’t manage a little thing like picking a couple of words to slap on the front of it.

Siri jokingly suggested we just call it the Secret Project, but alas, it will not work.

Any suggestions, Squiders? We’re at our wits’ end. Any thoughts about titling or things that have worked for you (or things that you look for when picking a book to read)?

Making Sure Your Characters Fit Their Community

This morning I went to yoga at my church. As far as yoga goes, this is pretty non-intensive–more for relaxation and stretching than anything else. I’m the youngest person who goes. Afterwards, everyone gets together to chat for a while and, since several people who come know me or my husband or the small, mobile ones, I often have several people come and talk to me for a while. Meanwhile, I’m thinking about how I need to go and what I need to get done and what order I should do it in, and I find the practice somewhat stressful.

(Also? Introvert.)

Part of that is personality, and part of it is generational.

But I do know how to play my part, because this is a part of the society I was raised in and I know its rules. Which is something we should always remember about our characters as well.

Characters, like people, are a product of their environments and upbringing. Societies have rules, and even people who are outcasts or uncomfortable with the people around them know those rules and respond to them in some manner. And if you remove a character from their base environment and place them somewhere else, even if those new rules fit them better as a person, there’s still going to be a transitional period for that character.

Authors can fall into the trap of creating a character outside of their environment pretty easily. It’s not hard to give your character modern ideals and then plant them in a society which goes against all of them. It’s one thing to have a character against the injustices of their society, but it’s another to put them there without any logical reason. People raised in comfort tend to not see issues until directly confronted with them. People raised in poverty or other hard circumstances often have a hard time seeing the way out.

Authentic characters feel that way because they feel complete. Readers can see where they came from and how they got there. Someone serving as a political mouthpiece for the author might have important things to say, but they don’t feel real.

What do you think, Squiders? Have any examples, good or bad, where a character doesn’t echo their environment?

Using Worldbuilding to Bring Your Story to Life

I’m into the final revision on this co-written story coming out in May, and there was some commonality among comments from the editor and our beta readers:

  • The setting reads a little generic
  • My main character’s initial plan seems a little confused
  • Why are the two side characters not seeing what the main character sees, re: danger?

Now, this may look like a bevy of issues, but they all have their root in one thing: worldbuilding.

As a quick recap, Wikipedia defines worldbuilding as “the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe.” All fiction requires worldbuilding, but it’s mostly associated with science fiction and fantasy.

The thing is, everything else stems from your worldbuilding. Your characters, their motivations, the plot, the setting–so if you’re winging it or are a little unclear on something, that’s going to be painfully obvious in your narration.

I’ve found, when creating secondary worlds, that it’s hard to get it right the first time. That, despite thinking things through and planning things out, there’s always something that you’ve forgotten, or that gets fleshed out through the actual writing. Or, in this particular case, you notice something your co-writer is doing that would be excellent to incorporate into your own stuff.

The good news is that everything is fixable. By fleshing out your worldbuilding, you can make your settings feel real, your characters relate-able, and your plot cohesive. The better you understand it, the better the underlining structure of your entire story is.

That’s why stories where the worldbuilding was an afterthought or deemed not important feel contrived and derivative. There’s a key element missing from them that all the pretty prose and excitement in the world won’t fix.

The good news for me is that now that the first draft is finished and that I’ve done some additional worldbuilding in spots that I identified as lacking, those beginning problems can be solved with some tweaks to bring everything into proper alignment. And it sounds like everything else is pretty good to go.

Have you found issues stemming from improper or incomplete worldbuilding, Squiders? Have you ever read a book with obvious worldbuilding fails?

This Will Be a Super Bowl Interlude

So, hey, my local football team, the Denver Broncos, won the Super Bowl. As you might imagine, nothing much is getting done around these parts. My financial adviser stopped by for a minute this morning to pick up some paperwork on her way downtown for the parade and rally.

There’s a million people downtown right now. Even I considered going, but the thought of small child wrangling around all those people seemed like a terrible, terrible idea.

(The population of Denver isn’t even a million people.)

I’m not a huge football fan, but I do keep general track of how the season’s going and occasionally break out my Broncos shirt. And we always watch the Super Bowl, no matter who’s playing, because it’s a good excuse to hang out with our friends and eat too much food and watch the commercials.

I find myself kind of lukewarm about winning. On one hand, it’s really exciting. Super Bowl 50! Our defense is ridiculously unstoppable. We’ve got two ex-players running things backstage now (Gary Kubiak and John Elway), which is kind of neat. I like the idea of people staying with a team. (Our hockey team is currently run by some ex-player as well.) And everyone is so happy. Nothing brings the state together like the Broncos. There’s a reason the motto is United in Orange. And it’s kind of amazing that we got here when our starting quarterback was out for half the season.

On the other hand, it wasn’t a great game. The offense was pretty terrible. The poor Panthers couldn’t get anything done. The commercials were boring.

So part of me wonders–is it right to be so excited when it feels like we didn’t really do much?

And I know it’s wrong to judge an entire season off a single game. The team did a lot of good stuff this season, especially when Peyton was out. And the defense is brilliant, and was brilliant in the Super Bowl. It’s just not as showy.

Defense is one of those things that is so necessary, and isn’t terribly visible when it’s working, but is oh so obvious when it’s not.

I want to make to make some sort of writing analogy, but it’s not coming today. What would the “defense” of writing be? A basic control of the written word. Story structure. Plot pacing. The sort of stuff that is necessary for a story to feel right, that might not be obvious to the reader when it’s working, but feel wrong when it’s out of place.

You’ve read stories like that, haven’t you, Squiders? Where something is wrong, but you can’t put your finger on it?

Anyway, happy football parade day, everybody. Also Fat Tuesday. We’re going to have pancakes for dinner!

The Future of the Readalongs

If you’ve been with me for a while, Squiders, you know that I have traditionally done a readalong or two a year (depending on series length). The last one we did was The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, which wrapped up mid-2014.

We’ve previously done Harry Potter, the Time Quintet (A Wrinkle in Time, etc.), the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and the Howl’s Moving Castle books (which probably have an actual series name, but I don’t know what it is).

I’d like to do another one, but I find myself at a loss as to what to do. I’ve been focusing on more “classic” series with the idea that other people would either want to read them also or would already be familiar with them, so we could discuss them as we went. But I can’t think of another one I want to do. Narnia would be an obviously choice, but I don’t feel like re-reading it. The Oz books, though it’s harder to find some of the later books in the series. (Also, I’ve been reading The Wizard of Oz to my eldest, and man, the description can really drag.) The Lord of the Rings, maybe, though I just read The Hobbit and have read LOTR enough times that I can probably quote bits of it in my sleep.

(Plus I’d have to get through the part in the Old Forest again, oy.)

Maybe a newer series? But is there one that has been enough of a cultural force that most genre readers will have at least heard of it? I don’t want to touch a series of BFFN (big fat fantasy novels) like Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time, at least not for the readalong. I’d like to be able to guarantee I’d be able to get through a book on a reasonable time frame.

I’ve been reading some promising fantasy series, but they’re all ongoing and I’d prefer to do a complete series for the readalong.

I do like the readalongs and I’d like to keep doing them–I feel like they’re interesting from a learning standpoint, to see how authors continue story and character arcs across a series, as well as in individual books.

So, any suggestions? Anything you’d like some company reading through? I’d prefer something scifi or fantasy-related, if at all possible.

Otherwise, read anything decent lately? I’ve got the second book in the Tearling series out from the library right now and I’m looking forward to jumping into it.

January: Came and Went

Is it just me, or did January seem extra short this year? One minute it’s a brand new year, brimming with possibilities and freedom, and the next it’s snowy, dark February and despite trying to be realistic in my goal planning I am already horribly, terribly behind.

Sure, there were extraneous circumstances. My website (technically websites, since I had to move my editing one as well, though it hadn’t been crashed since October), which we’ve gone over. (Now all moved and still working, thankfully, except I still need to figure out how to fix my stupid theme.) And I’ve been sick all month. First there was the pink eye debacle (two and a half weeks to clear up, all told) and now I’ve had a cold for about as long, with is mostly annoying because I cough myself awake several times throughout the night and can’t take any decent decongestants because of life.

Oh, sleep, how I long for thee.

Oh, well, life happens, and you just have to shrug your shoulders and climb back into the saddle, and other nonsense sayings.

(As a random aside, my sister got bucked off a horse when she was about 12 and did the whole get back on and so forth, but I don’t actually know what her current thoughts on horses are, and she didn’t answer when I called her to find out. We were part of the Westenaires at the time and I don’t know if either of us have done anything with horses since. I know, for me, that it firmly determined that I didn’t actually like horses.)

(I think it probably says something that my favorite horse was a cranky Appaloosa named Smokey that liked to try and bite me when I brushed him and was known for kicking people across the arena when they tried to pick his hooves.)

(ANYWAY.)

I mean, January wasn’t all bad. I wrote half of a nonfiction book and got my short story collection in order with a title, cover, and everything. (I’m just waiting for the final go ahead on that.) I’ve done a fair amount of work on the co-written sekrit project. I submitted two short stories, one of which is still out (and finally got a rejection on a story that’s been out for almost a year and a half). I learned to use a new image processing tool which I can use both in book publishing, and probably here at the blog when I stop being lazy. And I did a ton of freelance work and made a bunch of leads in that direction. So those are the good things.

I did have a lot more planned, though, things that probably wouldn’t take too long if I could just get to them. Mostly marketing things. Poor Shards needs a new book description and to be re-categorized on Amazon. My YA paranormal needs a decent query letter (and probably a Twitter pitch–I’ve been wanting to try out those #PitchMad things and there’s one around Valentine’s). And I’d like to get Hidden Worlds some new reviews, so I need to hunt down some reviewers for that. (Let me know if you’re interested, and I can get you a free review e-copy in the format of your choice.)

Sigh, alas, and all that rot.

It’s no use crying over passed months. It’s February now, and there’s still things to do. And, maybe, I can get some of those dropped January things done around the sekrit project edit. (We’re still waiting on our formal feedback, so if nothing else, this week is kind of free! Though I have tons of edit prep to do.)

How was your January, Squiders? Get anything exciting done?