God is a terrible matchmaker

God is a terrible matchmaker.

He was, I mean, once upon a time when he started playing with dolls. He looked down on my team’s handiwork and said, “There’s something missing.” He told Michael and Lilith to go wander around and see if they could figure out what.

Dolls.

God saw Michael and Lilith walking around, said, “That’s it,” and there he went playing in the mud. Meanwhile, he told Michael and Lilith to name the animals and plants and oh by the way, do this thing right here so I can see how it all fits together.

They did that thing. Right there.

They didn’t stop doing that thing.

“Okay, I got it. You can stop now.” Read more

The making of Dunham

And so begins a post (or series of them) (you know how wishy-washy I am) on Dunham, the privateer-heroine and pirate-hero Revolutionary War swashbuckler, which, for those of you not following the serial, will be available for sale July 4, 2013.

To kick it off, here’s the final cover for the official book:

dunham-fullflat-web

I struggled with the question of whether to go with a slightly modified version of the serial’s cover to deal with familiarity to those who’ve followed the story all year (yes, almost a year!). But in the end, I decided not to. Why? Several reasons.

1. At and during the RT Booklovers convention two weeks ago in Kansas City, I had a few marketing epiphanies courtesy of Tracey Reid (but most of which I can’t articulate yet, which is why I haven’t written about it).

2. My attempt at articulating this epiphany to my friend Melissa Blue brought forth an issue I hadn’t thought about: my books’ covers. ALL OF THEM. The fact that they needed a serious makeover. And that it must be done before Dunham was released to take advantage of the marketing wave.

3. So I did that. The Proviso, Stay, Magdalene, and “Twenty-dollar Rag” have new covers. In a different post, I’ll talk about the evolution of those, as I did before, long ago when I was just starting out.

bookcovers-banner

4. After I had done that, I realized that the variation of the serial cover I had made could not conform to the format I’d made for the previous titles, so I scrapped it and redid it from scratch.

I also decided to remove the series tag from Dunham and, subsequently, book 5, which is a post-apocalypse polyandry tale (as yet not officially titled). That, too, was for a reason: people see a series number and assume that the series has an overall arc and that book X is NEXT in the chronology. It makes them less inclined to pick it up because who wants to start something in the middle of a series? Even so, the four contemporary ones above, while perfectly able to be read alone, are, in fact, chronological, and so the series tag is appropriate.

Yet I needed the cover of Dunham to conform with the first four while still being separate. You will also notice that the featured couple is on the back instead of the front. Why was this? Because Dunham is as much epic adventure as it is romance, I want to capture male readers. There are ships involved and thus, naval battles.[1]

And so we have a cover that reflects the pattern of the four contemporary covers, but is also separate.

People DO judge a book by its cover because marketing has evolved so much that people can tell exactly what’s in it. Well. Maybe not exactly. But close enough to the target market to do the job.

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[1] I have done as well as I could regarding ship details and battles involving tall ships, which, I will have you know, is very difficult to come by for this very narrow window of time. It was a time of shipbuilding upheaval and drastic changes in naval warfare that began somewhere around 1760 and ended right around 1798, from which evolved the zenith of tall ship building and warfare, on display at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. In short, a LOT of significant things happened in shipbuilding technology and naval warfare between 1780 and 1805.

Creepy collective consciousness is creepy

It appears I’m not the only writer with her knickers in a twist over The Book That Shall Not Be Named, and not only that, but it appears the writerly collective conscious had gotten its knockers knickers in a twist somewhere between Sunday night and Monday morning. Usually when the twist in my knickers gets too tight, I simply avoid the source. In this case, I can’t. It’s everywhere, including my snail mail box after my 70-year-old aunt in Salt Lake took the time to cut an article on it from Deseret News and drop it in the mail to me. I can’t get away from it.

Between this and the incessant banging on the marketing drum, I’ve pretty much had all I can take of the business side of being a writer. (Note: Being a publisher is an entirely different thing.)

Monday morning I went whining to a couple of people, one of whom was utterly unsympathetic and the other who sent me to Cliff Burns’s latest blog post. Lo, there not only did I behold my own frustrations laid out in more articulate language than I’ve been using lately, but on the same day I was having my existential crisis.

Building character through self-flagellation | Cliff Burns – “Books not selling, readers indifferent, preferring to spend their hard-earned shekels on dry-humping teen vampires and spank me-fuck me fan fiction. Not a brilliant stylist, so I can’t even hope for the consolations of posterity.”

Then a friend, who thinks something must in the water:

The rise of the published first draft | VacuousMinx – “I fully agree that TBTSNBN has an alchemical appeal for readers, one that transcends its many flaws. But while its appeal cannot be copied, any more than you can catch lightning in a jar, the (lack of) process can and will be. […] So we will get more barely-altered fanfic and more un-self-critical writers who are proud that they can write 100,000 words in a month and send the resulting manuscript off to a publisher.”

sent me to yet another writer writing at the same time:

Striving for a WIP that’s actually “in progress” | KZ Snow – “Does it even pay to write well? Maybe I should follow the lead of some of my peers and strive for quantity, compose a few tearjerkers or sex romps or chuckle fests every couple of months. There’d be nothing wrong with that. Readers seem to enjoy the output of speed writers as much as or more than that of poky writers.”

I’d already decided to do the Dunham serial a couple of weeks ago, so I did feel as if I were actually taking action and could prove to be a boon. We shall see, but at least I was trying something different, doing something with the words I’d written that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day for another year. I’d also already decided to rebrand the Dunham series with new covers and new classifications and unveil them all next year with the release of Dunham.

So between the time I announced the serial and the time I got to Cliff’s post, I had spent hours revamping my websites, which I find oddly relaxing. And because I do like this thankless, background, zero-revenue activity so much, I slowly came to the realization that writing novels and the act of publishing them is a hobby. Given that I hold my hobbies sacrosanct, this wasn’t a step down, but a step up. In that respect I also decided to get out of the business of publishing other people. I needed to let go of the pressure of selling, the pressure of sales (or lack thereof, as measured against those of the snake-oil salesmen of our business), and the pressure of bookkeeping. I needed to rejuvenate my love for creating and disseminating my own work. The constant marketing of myself and publishing other people is not part of the hobby and not part of the love.

So now it’s Friday. Nothing about the situation has changed except that I feel as if I have taken some action AND changed my outlook. My frustration level is way down and I can once again stop to see what I have: a wonderful family, a good job that pays the bills, a nice house with a gorgeous porch* upon which I sit with my Tax Deductions and discuss the nature of God—and a hobby I’m mad about and am excited about sharing over the next year.

That’s far more than a lot of people have.

*I am irrationally and exuberantly proud of my porch.

UPDATE: I was roundly castigated for not actually showing you my porch. Here it is:[singlepic id=647 w=320 h=240 float=][singlepic id=648 w=320 h=240 float=]

How to destroy a brand in one easy (lazy) step

So most of us DIYers out here are trying to brand ourselves. We spend our time on Twitter and Facebook and message boards and whatnot trying to build an audience and a fanbase.

Then the midlist authors come along and digitize their backlists, and everybody’s happy because they already have a brand and they’re simply supplying a product that people want. Yay.

And then there are the midlist and higher-up authors who self-publish new stuff. That’s kind of an interesting experiment. I like watching it all play out even though, well, their brand trumps my brand and I have to work harder at establishing my brand.

Thus, it should make me happy when a very well-established author self-publishes something new and it’s crap. But it doesn’t make me happy. It makes me sad.

See, one big slip, and the reader suddenly suspects that you’re not a very good writer and that your editors made you who you are, and…you’re going to throw away years of investment in your brand and your work product  just because you want to cash in on a 99c romance novella heatwave or make money off your under-the-bed manuscripts?

You insult your readers. You insult your former editors. You make a mockery of your previous publishers. And you embarrass the hell out of yourself. Do you really not know how bad you look, or do you not care?

If your intent is to destroy the brand you worked for all these years because you just have to put up that novella right now because can’t wait because you’ll miss the self-publishing train if you don’t, then you are succeeding.

And you deserve it.

P.S. If you insist on going without an editor, learn how to fucking write. If you can’t do it after all these years and titles, you’re a fraud.