UPDATED: Why Amazon deleted all my ebooks

UPDATE: Rethana’s Surrender, Rethana’s Trial, Colors of Deception, Shadows after Midnight, and Stains of Grace are once again live at Amazon. And the reviews for R’S TRIAL and STAINS have transferred. HALLELUJAH! Hopefully, the other books’ reviews will transfer soon. (Draft2Digital has notified me that I shouldn’t be surprised if it takes a week or more for this to happen [if it happens at all {I remain dismally skeptical on this point }].) (I hope I got that punctuation right.)

(You should interpret my overuse of ( ) as an indication that I am keeping a stiff upper lip, old chap.)

To my dismay, D2D also corrected my misconception that ranking would transfer. Ranking will, in fact, NOT transfer. I guess it’s not such a big deal for me, since I’ve never ranked terribly high anyway…but it really sucks for a ton of other D2D authors who DID have a decent ranking. Great sympathies to them. This situation is so very frustrating for all of us.

~C.

Hile, lovelies,

Once upon a time, you might recall, I wrote a review of a great tool for writers called Draft2Digital. In brief, Draft2Digital (D2D) does all the work for me of uploading my books to the vendors Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, CreateSpace, and Barnes & Noble. I called D2D “the only thing you need to self-publish.”

Thanks to Amazon, I’m having to rethink that assessment.

I still believe 110% in the D2D model. It works fantastically, it saves me time, and it’s more author-friendly than its competitors (mainly because it was conceived of and executed by writers).

But for reasons* unknown to me, Amazon this week decided to remove all ebooks published through Draft2Digital. According to D2D, Amazon claims that D2D is…

“…in violation of [Amazon’s] terms.” Amazon gave D2D “…no opportunity to appeal or correct their complaints, and showed little concern for the impact that action has had on [D2D’s] users….”

–Draft2Digital,
January 31, 2014
February 4, 2014

Amazon’s course of action was to block D2D’s access to its account and to de-list all ebooks published through D2D. Notably, all notification I’ve received on this situation has come from the very apologetic Draft2Digital. I have yet to receive a single communication from Amazon.

Today is when the fit really hit the shan (thank you, Zelazny). One of my books, Rethana’s Trial, has disappeared from Amazon entirely, because I only ever had the ebook for sale. (I am remedying this by at least finally getting around to uploading the paperback file to CreateSpace.)

The rest of my novels — Rethana’s Surrender and all three Demons of Saltmarch books — are still available at Amazon in paperback, but the ebooks are gone. I’ve still got ebooks for sale at Kobo, iTunes, and Nook, but those sales are barely pocket change. Since ebooks at Amazon comprise most of my sales, you can imagine where this leaves me. (READ: high and dry.)

Oh, and the A Consortium of Worlds anthologies in which I have short stories — available only as ebooks — have disappeared just like Rethana’s Trial. So much for those.

I probably don’t have to tell you that I am beyond frustrated over this situation. Today I spent a total of 6 hours filling out tax info at Amazon, as well as filling out information on five different books and uploading book files and cover art.

I was involved in getting the Consortium of Worlds anthologies on Amazon, so I’ve at least worked with their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) system before. But that was several years ago. And there’s a reason I went with Draft2Digital in the first place: SO I WOULDN’T HAVE TO TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN USER INTERFACES AND FILL OUT FIELDS AND UPLOAD FILES.

GAH.

I’m relearning/learning KDP in the middle of knowing that I’m losing sales as we speak. No, I’m not a best-seller, but I at least make enough on my novels to contribute to the grocery budget every month. And that happens to be money my family needs. Amazon is directly responsible for taking grocery money out of my pocket — READ: food out of my baby’s mouth — and oh honey you better believe that burns me up.

No, nobody’s gonna starve. But things are going to get a little tight around here if I can’t fix this fast.

However, since all five of my novels were indie-published (meaning I didn’t have to do all the uploading to D2D myself in the first place), I’m having to hunt down mobi files and cover art files and make sure I’m uploading everything exactly the way the original files were uploaded. Otherwise I lose my rank and all of reviews.

Oh yeah. There’s that, too. If I don’t do it all exactly right, the ranks and reviews of all my books won’t transfer to my new sales pages, and it’ll be like I’m starting my indie/self-pub career from scratch.

No, I don’t have a high ranking. No, I don’t have a lot of reviews. But I fought hard for what I do have, and to know that I might lose it all in one fell, Amazonic swoop is just utterly demoralizing.

I’m mad. I’m frustrated. I’m irritated. I’m discouraged. I want to sling profanities haphazardly.

Really, I just want to cry.

But I’m not going to cry. I’m going to do what I have to do to get my grubby hands on the mobi files and the jpg files and the rest of the info I need, and I’m going to get those ebooks back up on Amazon. And if the rankings and reviews don’t transfer, then so be it. I’ll start over. Because, yes indeed, friends and neighbors and assorted pets, I AM IN THIS FOR THE LONG HAUL, no matter how long it takes or how hard I have to work or how discouraging the road gets at times. This is a roadblock, and I’m going to flatten it.

Noli nothis permittere te terere.

I’m also going to watch this a few times because it’s FUNNY.

MAKE ME FRIES.

__________________

*I have my suspicions, but it’s probably good form to keep those to myself for now, considering that I have no shred of evidence that certain big-name companies have anything at all to do with this situation. 😛

Apparently, I’m not a real writer. And I’m guessing you’re not, either.

Hile, inklings!

Tonight, I have opinions. And they will not be silent. You’ve received fair warning.

A couple of authors I follow on Twitter — namely, John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig — led me to this article by Lisa Morton, Vice-President of the Horror Writers Association, in which she expounds upon the difference between a professional writer and a “hobbyist.”

What a terrible, long sentence. My apologies. But I’m letting it stand, because I’m not a real writer anyway, and I probably don’t know any better.

Okay, okay, so that level of snark on my part is a bit uncalled for. (Maybe.) Especially since Ms. Morton isn’t calling me a “fake” writer (as opposed to a “real” one). She’s acknowledging that I’m a writer, just not a professional. Well, I kinda take umbrage at that.

Morton lists ten questions, which, according to her, a writer must answer with “yes” in order for her to consider that person a pro. In her graciousness, she will “cut you a little slack and say you can get off with 80% and still call yourself ‘professional’.” Please note that this is a direct quote in which Morton has her closing quotation marks in the wrong place. But who’s counting.

She also warns that if you scoff at her questions, she will consider you a hobbyist, and you are not to call yourself “professional” in her presence.

No. I’m not even kidding.

I know nothing about Lisa Morton personally. Until tonight, I’d never even heard her name before. Yes, there are places in this post where I’m pointing out her incorrect punctuation and grammar (still to come), but I have nothing against her personally. But her tone and word choices sound elitist to me, and as a writer (whose level of professionalism is tbd), I feel the need to speak out against it. Because it’s bad form, y’all.

Anyway, back to the questions. Or, as Morton puts it, “onto the questions.” (She really means “on to.”)

Lisa Morton’s 10-Question Acid Test of Writerly Professionalism (I just made that up.) and My Answers

1. Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing?

No. My home is messy because I have a 10-month-old and cleaning is low on my priorities list.

2. Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead?

No. When I get the chance to go out with friends sans baby, I jump at said chance because if I don’t, I will go bat guano crazy.

3. Do you turn off the television in order to write?

Rarely. For the last several months, TV has been the only way I can unwind, and if I try to write instead, I just fall asleep.

4. Would you rather receive useful criticism than praise?

Yes.

5. Do you plan vacations around writing opportunites [sic] (either research or networking potential)?

No. I haven’t been on vacation in 4 years because I can’t afford it.

6. Would you rather be chatting about the business of writing with another writer than exchanging small talk with a good friend?

No. I don’t enjoy discussing the business of writing. I do enjoy discussing the craft of writing and will do so happily at any given opportunity. However, I will not do so to the exclusion of chatting with a good friend, because I love my friends (both writers and non-writers) and care about maintaining my relationships.

7. Have you ever taken a day job that paid less money because it would give you more time/energy/material to write?

Sort of. Before I had a baby, I spent 4 years at a job that paid no money at all at the time: writing.

8. Are you willing to give up the nice home you know you could have if you devoted that time you spend writing to a more lucrative career?

I don’t understand this question. Does this mean I should think my current home isn’t nice? If I do think my current home is nice (which I do), how does that automatically mean I don’t have a professional mindset?

9. Have you done all these things for at least five years?

Since I’ve answered only one question so far with “yes,” I guess the answer to this one is “no.”

10. Are you willing to live knowing that you will likely never meet your ambitions, but you hold to those ambitions nonetheless?

Is this a question about suicidal tendencies?

One out of ten. I don’t even score as “pro” within the bounds of Morton’s gracious 80%. The thing is, even if I weren’t devoting most of my time to keeping a baby healthy, whole, and happy — even if I were at my previous writing “level” of 5-8 hours per day instead of 2 hours per week — even if that were the case, I’d still only score as “hobbyist” in Morton’s eyes.

Not that it matters. As I stated above, I don’t know Morton, and I never heard of her until today. I have nothing against her personally — but neither do I care about her opinion or her classification of me. Her scoring system isn’t the be-all, end-all of whether or not someone is a professional writer. Her scoring system is a subjective description of her own process and her view of her own writing career. As far any other writer is concerned, it’s a moo* point.

The end of the matter is, there’s really only one thing that distinguishes a professional writer from a hobbyist. A professional writer gets paid for writing. BOOM. If you get paid for writing, you’re a professional writer. That’s it.

Morton’s list is elitist and exclusionary. It keeps people out — when what needs to happen is that we writers band together and invite each other in. We need to challenge the darkness individually and collectively. We need to form a tribe that affirms and reaffirms and assures and reassures. As my friend and fellow indie author Bernard Schaffer writes,

“We all learn together, share our information, and support one another’s endeavors, including stepping in and saying when someone is doing something they shouldn’t. …Be a member of the community and support it, both financially and socially, and it will support you back.”

~from The Manifesto of Independent Writing and Publishing

Designing a test to see who’s pro and who isn’t does nothing more than exclude those who need a tribe’s support the most. And if those people are consigned to the outer regions where “hobbyists” apparently dwell, there’s little chance they’ll ever discover motivation for “becoming professional.”

As for me? Well, I’m not earning the big bucks, that’s for sure. My books were selling well enough to make a car payment, but summer sales are down. So at least I’m contributing something to the grocery budget. Once I get my WIP finished and published, I have every confidence that at least a few more car payments will be in my future. ; )

Hi. My name is Courtney Cantrell, I get paid for writing, and I am not a hobbyist.

___________________

* “It’s a moo point. …It’s like a cow’s opinion. It doesn’t matter…it’s moo.”

~Joey Tribbiani,
“Friends”

5 Points on How to Write an Effective Book Review

Hile, inklings,

If you pay any attention at all to publishing industry news — specifically e-pub and indie pub — you know that we indie writers have a nearly insatiable craving for online reviews.

There are many reasons for this, but the crux of it is that the more favorable reviews we get, the more books we sell. Our greedy little writer-hearts like to know that the world is reading and enjoying our stories (not to mention the fact that our pocketbooks appreciate sales, too), so seeing favorable reviews and selling more books flips our bangerang switches most verily.

(Translation: We like it a lot.)

A Word on One-Star and Two-Star Reviews

And that word is: “blech.”

(By which I don’t mean “Blech,” which is German for “tin.”)

No, we don’t like low-star reviews. But I would venture to say that most of us accept them (whilst heaving heavy sighs), accept the reality of them, and accept even the necessity of them. A well-written low-star review can actually tell us valuable information about what works for readers and what doesn’t.

(Philosophical sidenote: Though I don’t believe in pandering to the crowd, I do believe in knowing one’s audience. Understanding + respecting reader expectations = okay. Pandering = not writing what writer really wants to write = not okay. Please to be noticing the difference.)

(Also, sorry about the penchant for parentheses. It’s a thing today, apparently.)

Me, when I read a low-star review of one of my own works, I indulge in a 24 to 72-hour wallow of self-pity. (I do not write a response to the review.) Then, I re-examine said review to see if there’s anything of value in it. If there is, I file that information away for possible future reference. If there isn’t, I attempt a brain-dump so that the self-pity doesn’t come back.

Sometimes, I have to repeat the brain-dump several times before it takes.

But I digress.

Brief Interlude

NOTE: Yes, I am a writer. Yes, I have strong opinions about the reviews I receive. BUT. I do recognize that reviewers aren’t writing for me. Reviewers are writing for their fellow readers.

Allow me to re-state, because this is a thing of importantness:

A book reviewer writes a review for the benefit of other readers, not for the writer’s benefit.

Basically, the purpose of a book review is to tell other readers why they would or wouldn’t enjoy reading a particular book.

Keeping this in mind, I shall ignore my greedy little writer self for the remainder of this blogpost. You’re welcome. ; )

Onward to what you really came here for.

5 Points on How to Write an Effective Book Review

1. Make it readable.

Use good grammar. If people can’t understand what you’re trying to tell them, then your review will “fall on deaf ears.” Don’t make review readers squint at their computer screens as they try to decipher whether you thought a character didn’t win ( = lose) or whether you thought he was a slut ( = loose).

For the same reason, and for the sake of all that’s good and writerly in this world, check your spelling. Use a spellchecker if need be. The pregnant main character is not a rotary phone: In the third chapter, she’s dilated, not “dialated.”

And if you’re going to write more than 7-10 lines, do please consider the beauty of the paragraph. Giant blocks of text hurt the eyeballs.

2. Be honest.

If you loved the book, say so.

If you feel neutral about the book, say so.

If you hated the book, say so.

If you didn’t finish the book, say so.

Recently, I challenged a reviewer who left a one-star review on a friend’s novel. I didn’t challenge the solitary star. I challenged the fact that the reviewer provided erroneous information in his review: He stated that Character X did not appear in the novel. He also admitted to not having finished the novel.

My challenge: Character X actually does appear in the novel — which the reviewer would have known, had he finished the book.

Now. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t advocate reading all the way through a book you’re not enjoying. I don’t finish books I don’t like. Who has the time for such shenanigans?

But. If you don’t finish the book, be honest about it — and be cautious about making absolute statements concerning the parts that you didn’t read. If you provide erroneous information about a novel, you are not helping fellow readers make informed decisions about their reading choices.

3. Give your fellow readers something they can relate to.

“If you like beach reads, you’ll enjoy this one.”

“Fantasy readers are going to eat this up.”

“This book is for the reader who’s always wondered what would happen if Orson Scott Card collaborated with V.C. Andrews.”

“If you enjoy YA novels, this probably isn’t the book for you.”

“This book reads very differently from the author’s other works, so keep that in mind.”

Whatever genre you’re reviewing, write toward it — because most of the people who read your review are going to be familiar with that genre. Let them know how a book follows expected conventions. Let them now how the book breaks from convention. Let them know whether or not the break from convention works well.

Know the expectations your genre’s readers will bring to the novel you’re reviewing. Tell them whether or not the novel will meet those expectations.

If the writer does something crazy original that amazed you, tell them to expect that, too.

But for the sake of all that’s good and writerly, do heed the following point:

4. Warn fellow readers of spoilers.

Provide details.

But not too many.

You know when you’re reading a review, and you’re trying to figure out based on the review whether or not you want to buy this book that sounds kinda cool but you’re on the fence about it, and you’re reading along and BAM! the reviewer tells you exactly what happens at the story’s climax?

No? You don’t know? Well, maybe it’s just me. But trust me — it stinks.

The words “SPOILER ALERT” are your friends. For the love of Grabthar’s Hammer, use them.

5. Have fun with it.

Don’t worry too much about what I said in #1. Make your review readable, yes. But nobody’s going to grade you. Your fellow readers just want to know what you liked or didn’t like and whether or not they can relate to your opinion.

I was going to continue this point by saying that you should have fun with your review even if you didn’t have fun with the book. But you know what? That’s probably not very realistic of me, and that might be the writer in me coming out.

If you didn’t have fun with the book, you’re probably not going to have fun with the review (unless you’re feeling gleefully vindictive, I suppose). If you feel dismal about writing the review, then your tone will likely show it. And — although the writer in me mourns this part — that’s probably something your fellow readers need to hear about, too.

________

And there you have it, y’all. My thoughts on writing an effective review. So, who are my blog-reading book-reviewers out there? Did I miss anything? Is there anything here you disagree with? Let’s talk about it. I’ve got a lot of opinions, but I’m not in the habit of reviewing everything I read. So I’d love to hear from you! What do you think?

#KindleAllStars: The Punk Rock of Literature

Got my Kindle All-Stars swag!

Hello, my lovelies–

If you’ve been paying attention (and I know you have, because that’s just the sort of conscientious dears you are), you know that I’ve gotten involved with the Kindle All-Stars: Resistance Front project.

In case you got distracted by something shiny (which could cause a slight wavering of your attentiveness): The Kindle All-Stars: Resistance Front project aims to showcase indie authors in a speculative fiction anthology, while doing something cramazing, like, oh, donating all of the anthology’s proceeds to charity.

This really flips my bangerang switch. It also swings my verge. Especially since I get to be part of it.

You, my dearest inklings, already know quite a bit about me, if you’ve been following my bloggèd ramblings (see parenthetical content of first paragraph). You might not, however, know anything about any of the other authors whom Kindle All-Stars El Presidente Bernard Schaffer dubs “the punk rock of literature.”

To help you get to know everyone better, punk rocker Tony Healey has engaged in a copious amount of interviewing of the rest of the troupe. He’s publishing all of the interviews on his blog; for your convenience, they are all listed right here.

As I’m re-checking the interview posting schedule Tony sent out to all of us, I see that my interview is up for publication tomorrow. So I guess this blog post coulda waited ’til then. But there’s nothing like getting word out early, right? Or late, from other punk rockers’ perspective. *sigh* Well, anyway, I’ll post the link to my interview when it goes live tomorrow.

In the meantime, head over to Tony’s blog to find out the whos and whats of my fellow indie punk rockers!
😀

In the Beginning (Consortium Roots)

Hile, inklings! I hope you’re all having a cramazing life today.
: )

At the end of a blog post on her Go To El, the fabulous El recently posed the following question:

Did you ever walk into circumstances and come out with a lot more than you bargained for?

I posted the following as my response, and I felt it worth sharing here (especially for the benefit of MY NEWEST READERS, WHOM I WELCOME WITH MOST HYPERACTIVE JOY!!!):

“Did you ever walk into circumstances and come out with a lot more than you bargained for?”

Yes. ; ) Here’s the story:

Shawn: Courtney, you know Aaron Pogue? He likes writing, you like writing, our friend JT likes writing, and I like writing — we should form a writers’ group!

Me: Um, sure!

Me: Hi, Aaron and JT. Shawn says we should form a writers’ group. What do you think?

Aaron, JT: Um, sure!

*many writers’ meetings happen*

Aaron: Hey, Courtney, we should start a nonprofit organization to support the arts, and you should be the head of our writing school.

Me: Um, sure!

*shortly thereafter*

Aaron, Hey, Courtney, part of this nonprofit should be an indie publishing house, and we should help each other and all of our writer friends self-publish our novels.

Me: Um, sure!

Aaron: And Carlos and Julie want to help us with cover art.

Carlos, Julie: Yay!

Me: So does Amy!

Amy: Yay!

Aaron: And Jessie wants to be our editor.

Jessie: Yay!

Aaron, Courtney: And here are all these other people who want to help and whom we can help in return!

Everybody: Yay!

18 months later, the Consortium has published 6 novels, 1 speculative fiction magazine, and a stand-alone short story.

It’s unimaginably more than I bargained for. And it is wonderful. : )

_________

And you, dear readers? When did you get more than you ever dreamed possible? Share in the comments!

Also, I know that when we get “more than we bargained for,” the “more” isn’t always good. Sometimes, it’s pretty bad. Please do share those times with us as well, if you’re so inclined.
After all…”shared pain is lessened” (Spider Robinson).

Harlan Ellison, Alan Dean Foster…and Courtney Cantrell

YEAH BABY.

I’ve known for just over 48 hours, and I’m sure it hasn’t really sunk in yet. But, lack of sink-innage notwithstanding, I’m a-gonna blare it out to the world anyway:

Around Christmas of this year, I shall have a story in the SAME short story collection as HARLAN ELLISON and ALAN DEAN FOSTER.

As my friend Josh (who’s gonna have a story in the same collection) says,

“This is what we in the business call a pretty big deal.”

In case you’re unaware, dear inklings, Ellison and Foster both are so well-known in the sci-fi world, it would be downright silly for me to tell you about them here. Really that’s why God gave us Google and Wikipedia. Thus, if you go get Googwikified over these two gents, you’ll find out everything you need to know.

But. I’ll say this much: Ellison has been in the writing biz since the late 1950s, and Foster made me fall in love with him when I read his “Pip and Flinx” novels as a teen. If that gives you even a slight reference point for my excitement, we are good to go.

So! The short story collection in question is KINDLE ALL-STARS: RESISTANCE FRONT, the brainchile of one Bernard J. Schaffer.

Sometime around three months ago, Bernard put out an intarwebz call for short stories: He wanted to do a ground-breaking anthology to showcase independent authors in today’s e-media. The “resistance” aspect of the project refers to our collective determination no longer to let the traditional publishing model squelch our writerly voices. Bernard writes,

“Whole generations of authors have been lost to us because they could not penetrate the murky swamps of corporate publishing. I imagine all the works of art that we’ll never know of simply because the vicious cycle of query-letter, agent, synopsis, publisher, book-seller, and eventual consumer did not work out for that individual.

“When an industry coins a phrase like ‘Slush Pile’ to reflect their opinion of where your work belongs, you get a pretty clear idea of your place in their world.”

You might imagine, my darlings, that every word of this resonates with me. : ) Not only that, but the proceeds of the project all go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. These people find kidnapped kids and fight child porn. No question that I can get on board with that!

So. Longish story shortened, I finished up the short story I’d been working on and sent it in to Bernard. He sent it back with edits, and I had a mild freak-out while my writer self dealt with the knowledge that I’d not only sent my work to a total stranger, but now he was asking me to change it. And I mean change it. The dude wanted me to clip an entire thread from the story. And it was a thread I happened to like. Zoinks.

In the meantime, I found out that Ellison and Foster both had donated stories to the project. So now, if I got in, I’d be getting in with Ellison and Foster.

Have I mentioned that this is kind of a big deal?

Here I am, trying to edit and re-write a story, and the deal just keeps getting bigger and bigger. No pressure, right? I had to get over myself — no, really, I had to get over my fear. Why does it always come back to that?

Fear holds me back again and again. This time, it was fear of rejection…and maybe even a little fear of success. I have no idea where all of this might lead. But some possible future paths aren’t necessarily grand.

But I sucked it up, did my re-write, sent it back to Bernard — and waited. Ten days, y’all. I kept telling people it wouldn’t ruin my day if my story got rejected in the end…but that was only a half-truth. I wanted this bad. And during those 10 days, the fear kicked in again.

I rode it out. Did other stuff. Painted a crimson dragon. Published a whole magazine. You know, the usual. ; )

Then, two nights ago, the final participant announcements rolled in over Twitter, and I was on the list. Even better, Josh was on the list, too. Spider Robinson Wisdom ruled my personal celebration:

“Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased -— thus do we refute entropy.”

I love it when entropy takes one in the kisser.

For the record, applying Bernard’s feedback to my story was fun, once I got over myself. (Strangely enough, I’m wanting to paraphrase Pumbaa from The Lion King: “once I put my behind in my past”; but I don’t think it really applies here.) As I trimmed and re-wrote and copypasted, I saw a startling new shape emerge from the story…and it was a shape I very much appreciated.

It was the shape of a story that was better for the changing. Having an editor’s feedback made me a better writer for the story. Who’d a-thunk? ; )

My horror short “If This Were a Stephen King Story” will appear in Kindle All-Stars: Resistance Front in December 2011.

“Few projects slung my way, these days of electronic idiocy and bad writing, can perk me up and get the fireworks. This is one of the best, sweetest ideas I’ve heard in years. Nothing but the smiles of Success are due the project, the people putting it together, and the good kids who will benefit from every penny garnered. I am 100% and a bag of marmosets behind it!”
— Harlan Ellison.

“Growing up, I had access to all the books I wanted to read, and they made my life. This is a project to benefit kids who have nothing. I can think of no better cause.”
— Alan Dean Foster

This really swings my verge, y’all. : )

Book Release Party: SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT

Hello, my dear inklings, and welcome, Saltmarch fans!

Saltmarch, Where The Demons Live

As this unbearably hot summer hangs on tooth-and-nail to its ridiculously sweltering temperatures (here in Oklahoma, anyway), let us turn our mind’s eye to the near future, a future most glorious in its cooled-off-ness (we hope) and in its bringing of a near-and-dear-to-my-heart event, yea verily and forsooth.

 

That event, my little pumpernickels, is the BOOK RELEASE PARTY

for my second novel, SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT (Demons of Saltmarch #2)

on SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8th, at 6:30PM

at VINTAGE TIMELESS COFFEE (900 NW 150th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73013).

And you are all invited! Tally-ho, zounds, and bangerang!

If you’ve not yet delved into my Demons of Saltmarch Series, please check out COLORS OF DECEPTION (Demons of Saltmarch #1). Buy it for $2.99 on Kindle or $12.99 in paperback!

If you are already well-versed in the Demons of Saltmarch world, come back to courtcan.com tomorrow for a sneak peek at SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT! (And yes, this will be more than just the sample you found in the back of your COLORS copy.)

Dante and I hope to see you soon. ; )

How My Bachelor’s in Writing Didn’t Prepare Me for Writerhood

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.”

~Henry Ford

In December 1999, I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in English/Writing and thought I knew everything I needed to know about writing books.

Why, yes — I am waiting for your laughter to subside.

Okay, okay, calm yourselves, please. What do you think this is, a late-night comedy club?

Sheesh.

😉

Idealist Writer Changes World — Details at 11

So. Here I am, 22 years old with all of three-and-a-half years of higher education under my belt. I’m off to former East Germany as soon as possible. I shall change the world one relationship at a time and write books while I do it. I am Tawanda, Queen of the Amazons. Hear me roar.

For my senior project, I’d completed a Monster Epic Fantasy Novel (aka MEFaN), which I’ve previously mentioned here. My profs approved it. Their praise wasn’t exactly glowing, but it was shiny, at least. I thought my novel was ready to shop to publishers.

Um. No.

If you click through, you’ll see that the MEFaN in question was a first draft. I’d heard my creative writing prof mention such hideous things as re-write and edit and multiple drafts

— but I was 22 and brilliant. What need I with multiple drafts?

*sigh*

Ow, My Aching Ego

I learned. I learned that I was good for a 22-year-old straight outta college. I learned that I was not as good as what editing, rewriting, and plain ol’ life experience could make me. I learned that my profs’ shiny-almost-glowing praise was for how far I’d come by then.

But good grades, I finally realized, were not the final measurement of my skills. I realized that my writing degree was my starting point. My writing degree prepared me to begin.

And I’ve spent the last 14 years doing the work.

But here’s what my degree did not prepare me for.

Money, Money, Money

As part of my general education in college, I was required to take an economics class. I ended up in a course called Free Enterprise System.

Sadly, this had nothing to do with liberated starships.

Sadly, I learned exactly two things in this course:

  1. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. Booya.
  2. When one member of the project team doesn’t do his job, the economics prof doesn’t care that the rest of the team does theirs. Everybody gets penalized a letter grade because of the one lazy slob.
  3. Yay teamwork! I love teamwork!

Also sadly, I was not required to take any courses in personal finance (i.e. how-to-budget, etc.) or in finances for writers.

So, years later, when the husband and I got into serious trouble over self-employment taxes, my reaction was as follows:


 

 

 

 

 

 

Doing Homework

Let me be clear: I blame no one for this but myself.

I shoulda done my homework. After all, there is such a thing as thinking for oneself.

In the meantime, I’ve figured things out a little. I now understand things about withholding. I now understand that calculating my taxes myself is a rather dumb thing for me to do (especially when my info conflicts with that of the IRS). I now know to keep track of expenses like the ones listed in this article.

The business-sensible thing for me to do with this post would be to provide you with a list of such resources as that one. But I’m not writing this to be business-sensible.

I’m writing this to emphasize that even after getting our educations — whether that’s at the collegiate level or simply through life experience and trial-and-error — we writers still have to do our homework.

Yeah, we gotta research stuff for our writing. We read novels, articles, and papers. We drive to remote locations to get the feel and flavor of a place or to take pictures for cover art. We interview people. We visit museums. We sit in coffee shops, pondering and muttering to ourselves.

But we also have to research for our business.

It might be the most important thing I’ve learned about writing since graduation:

Writing is a business.

And the writer is CEO, VP, treasurer, secretary, and go-fer.

And this is every writer. Not just the self-published ones.

Writers, we must learn to think of ourselves this way.

If somebody had taught me this in college and forced me to sit down and learn the non-creative, non-artsy, non-inspiring, soul-sucking side of writing, it could’ve saved me a lot of trouble. And a lot of heartache.

So, do your homework, writers. Nobody’s gonna make you learn this stuff. You’ve gotta take responsibility (do as I say, not as I do) and do your research.

And for the love of all that’s good, true, and writerly in this world, keep track of your gas mileage.

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What financial education did you get along the way?

What’s been your experience with self-employment?

What’s been your experience thinking of yourself as a business — or not thinking of yourself that way?

If you’re more into the business side than the creative writing side, what one thing do you think writers need to be aware of?

The Grooming Habits of Agents

Or: A Brief History of My Journey to Indie Authordom

Photo by Julie V. Photography


Once upon a two-years-ago, I met a real live acquisitions editor.

I’d let my mother talk me into attending an Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. Conference at a hotel in south OKC. Introvert and publishing world n00b that I was, I required a lot of convincing. The carrot that got me was Mama’s offer to pay for the whole thing. So, off I went to the writers’ conference.

After I got over myself, I had fun. Some neat people talked to me, so I tagged along with them all three days of the conference. One of them had published a few novels with a Christian publishing company, and he introduced me to his acquisitions editor.

My face was all polite smiles and wittiness. Inside, I was thinking,

“Hmm. Acquisitions editor? Foot in door? Is this it?!?”

Eventually, during a break between lectures, there was a little circle of conversation at the hotel coffee shop. I don’t recall how it happened, but something I said about my in-progress novel led to this editor’s turning to me and asking, “So, Courtney, what is your book about?”

Inside, I said, “Um.”

Back Story

Before the conference, I’d signed up to pitch my epic high fantasy novel Triad to one of the agents who’d be at the conference. Now, I had with me a carefully crafted cover letter and the painstakingly polished first three chapters of said high fantasy novel.

I had not come to this conference prepared to talk to anyone about my Christian fantasy novel, Colors of Deception, which was then in first draft stage.

Fast-Forward

So, when Acquisitions Editor Attached To Christian Publisher asked me what my in-progress novel was about, I had about half a second to come up with a pitch.

Inside, I thought, “Um.”

And then, I thought, “This IS it!!!

Outside, I said, “My novel’s about a group of Christian college students who are being stalked by demons.”

To which Editor Attached To Christian Publisher replied, “I’d like to see that.” And she gave me her business card.

Outside, I said, “Great! I can have the first three chapters ready for you in a few weeks.”

Inside, I said,


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Happened Next

Not long after that conference — and with manic re-writing in-between — I sent Benevolent Acquisitions Editor an email, asking in what form she’d like the first three chapters. She replied with instructions to mail her a hard copy.

I did that.

I waited two months.

Then, I received her email thanking me for my submission and stating that my story was not what her publisher was looking for at this time.


 

 

 

 

 

Turning the Beat Around

I felt crushed. Beaten. I didn’t understand. Why would she show such interest in my story, if it wasn’t the kind of story her publisher was interested in? Why did she get my hopes up like that? Shouldn’t she know better than to treat a fragile, sensitive writer’s heart this way?!

Of course, with hindsight and a bit more education about the publishing world, I now understand it was nothing personal. Either my writing style wasn’t what she was looking for, or my story really wasn’t the kind of story her company was interested in, after all.

Of course, the notion that my writing was, at that point, simply not good enough is completely preposterous.

*ahem*

Anyway, by now it was fall of ’09, so I made an early resolution: 2010 would be The Year I Found An Agent.

A flurry of agent-y research ensued. There was intense poring-over of submission guidelines. There was much flipping through of novels to see which authors credited their agents. By February 2010, I’d compiled a database of 35 agents, their preferences, their guidelines, their faves, their published authors, their grooming habits, and their agencies. All I needed was to re-visit my query letter, perfect it, and start sending it out.

If You Need Something Done Right…

Then, in March 2010, my friend Aaron approached me about founding a non-profit organization to support the arts. How he talked me into it and how The Consortium came to be is another story and shall be told another time…

…but the end of the matter is that instead of getting an agent, I got an indie publisher. I got a published novel. Colors of Deception, that story about Christian college students stalked by demons, is in the hands of readers who, by all reports, are enjoying the heck out of it.

Maybe I coulda been traditionally published. Instead, I’m indie published. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

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My most darlingest inklings! Are you agent-hunting? What’s your process?

Are you querying? What’s your greatest query letter challenge?

How do you deal with rejection letters from editors or agents?

If you’ve gone indie or self-pub — what was the legacy-pub straw that broke your writing camel’s back?

Let’s talk. : )

Indie Author Freaks Out: Details at 11

In her Twenty Things NOT To Say To A Writer: A Handy Safety Guide, Laura Resnick tells us that a career of writing books “…is insanely competitive, disastrously unstable, and skull-crushingly difficult to do.”

My experience as a published author now encompasses exactly 13 days. So far, I have learned three very important things about this skull-crushingly difficult business, and I am going to tell you about them now.

3 Newbie Lessons from Getting Published

1. When promoting your book, start off strong — but pace yourself.
Thus far, Twitter, Kindleboards, Facebook, and blogging have been my greatest allies in promoting Colors of Deception. I’m tweeting and posting — and to my delight, followers and friends are retweeting and reposting. (Thanks, everybody! You guys are cramazing.)

The result of all this networking isn’t just book sales, though — it’s connections all over the place. It’s encouragements coming in from all sides. And it’s tweets and messages that deserve a personal response.

Right now, I’m happily responding, and I’m making the social media work for me. But I’m also thinking ahead to when I start my next writing project — soon. And when I start it, the networking must take a backseat. I might even have to lock the networking in the trunk.

Because if I’m networking all the time, I’m not writing. If I’m not writing, I’m not me. If I’m not writing, there won’t be any books to network about. So as I’m thinking ahead to the next big project, I’m reminding myself that when it comes to book/blog promotion,

I am a writer first and a business second.

Maybe third.

2. Not everyone will support you. And that’s okay.
I wrote a little about this last week, when I mentioned my tweet about others’ silence. Sometimes, that silence is a worse rejection than an in-your-face confrontation. When you publish a book, you want every single person you know to shower you with congrats. Not that you want heaps and oodles of attention*, but an acknowledgement would be nice, right?

Well, not everyone is going to acknowledge your accomplishment — and that’s okay. Do you acknowledge every single accomplishment of every single person you know? If the answer to that is yes, you can color, paint, and doodle me impressed. Me, I have to answer that question with no. And the reasons behind my negation are legion and would make a whole series of blog posts.

But it all boils down to this: Frankly, I can’t keep up with everybody.

And I can’t expect everybody to keep up with me, either. ; )

Here’s the deal, though: We don’t need everyone in our lives to acknowledge our authorial accomplishments. I think about it this way: When I lose tweetlings (aka followers) on Twitter, it doesn’t mean I’ve failed; it means I’m refining my audience. If people stop following me, it means they weren’t my audience in the first place.

The same applies to my books: If someone doesn’t acknowledge my publishing success, it just means that person isn’t my audience. Maybe they don’t read novels. Maybe they don’t read my genre.

Whatever the reason for their silence, it’s not the end of my world. It’s just the refining of my audience.

3. Book Launch Parties freak out my subconscious.
The Book Launch Party is tonight, and I’ll be posting about it on Thursday. Vintage timeless Coffee is hosting the shebang, and I know it’s going to be fantastic.

That knowledge, however, didn’t prevent the weird dream I had two nights ago of driving my dad to the book launch and heading the wrong way up multiple one-way streets. I tried making a U-turn in front of a lady in a red Dodge Charger, and she almost took the front of my car off.

Fortunately, I understand what’s going on here. I’m an introvert. There will be people at this party whom I don’t know. I’m an introvert. They’re going to want me to say something in front of everyone. I’m an introvert. There’s a reason I chose writing over a career in public speaking. ; )

In spite of my subconscious’s quiet little freak-out, here’s what I know:

I’m surrounded by a kaboodle of supportive friends and family.

Nothing bad is going to happen.

I’m going to have an incredible time.

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Are you an indie or self-published author?

Do you find this business “insanely competitive, disastrously unstable, and skull-crushingly difficult?” Why or why not?

What are your words of wisdom for the indies and self-pubbed?

What are your sub-/conscious fears about publishing, and how do you deal with them?

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* Let’s admit it: We writers do like the attention. 😉