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text 2016-10-05 08:57
On self publishing The Big Picture - and becoming an indie author

 The Big Picture - A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic, was the first novel I knew I would publish independently.


I wanted to explore a number issues and without the constrains of genre I had no idea where they would take me. I was excited.


I wanted to examine the creative process - and how the art and the artist are influenced by the marketplace.


I wanted to delve into the intensity of family dynamics - how wonderful it is when it works and how damaging it can be when it doesn't.


I wanted complex characters and authentic relationships.


As a journalist, I'd covered stories that couldn't be reported. I knew what was going on but I couldn't get someone to go on (or off) the record to admit it. It's frustrating, but what could you do?


Well, you can use it in fiction. The plot of The Big Picture is comprised of some of those unsubstantiated stories and also my investigation into the influence on our lives of drug money.


To get at my protagonist's inner journey I went deep inside myself, rooted around, and came forth with not so much the truth about a life I've experienced, but one I'd hoped (still hope) to live.


Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe said, "One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised." I wanted Freyja, my heroine, to be that person. I wanted to see where her blunt refusal to compromise and her intolerant attitude toward those who do would lead her.


Here's what I came up with:


Young, talented, ambitious, Freyja Brynjarrson’s a photographer struggling to crash the art establishment, the challenges presented by her family, and still keep true to her uncompromising ethic.

Fate places her on the front line of a political demonstration where soldiers open fire on civilians. She photographs death for the first time and likes it.

Because of the sensitive nature of her pictures the current government, facing an imminent election, tries to suppress them. But someone far more unscrupulous than government spin-doctors also wants those images destroyed.

Gunnar Brynjarrson, Freyja’s eldest brother is the head of an illegal narcotics empire. He’s concerned about the opposition party’s platform to decriminalize drugs. His sister’s photographs could influence the outcome of a close election and put his business in jeopardy.

As events unfold, Freyja slowly becomes aware of the far-reaching impact the billions of narco dollars have on the government, the economy, friends, family and even herself. Something insidious has infected society and like a super bug it’s resilient, opportunistic and appears as a mutation in the most unexpected places.

Freyja refuses to compromise and is intolerant and unforgiving of those who succumb to this evil or are complicit in their acceptance of it. If she stays at home she’s afraid she’ll be infected and never attain success on her own terms.

She takes an assignment with an international agency photographing the chaos and casualties of Mexico’s drug war. Freyja soon discovers she’s shot only one frame of ‘the big picture’.

The Big Picture focuses on dramatic action, zooms in on political intrigue, and takes a candid snap shot of modern romance. The plot also reveals how narco dollars, overtly and covertly, influence every level of our lives; the wars we fight, the governments we elect, the impact on healthcare, and most importantly and tragically, our personal relationships.


When The Big Picture was finished I set about self-publishing. I used Kindle Direct for the e-book and Createspace for the paperback, both Amazon platforms.


I know a little about publishing having been (and still am) a community newspaper publisher for nearly four decades. Mind you, with the speed technology is evolving past experience doesn't count for much, if anything. In any case, I didn't find the process that difficult. The most difficult part was, and still is, making sure my original manuscript is error free.


I loved this book. I did everything I could to promote it - used social media, sent out advance copies, ran giveaways, sent forth positive thoughts.


I allowed myself to hope. It was a mistake. The Big Picture was self-published without acclaim, reviews or sales. I was disappointed. I felt bad, not so much for myself as for the book. I felt I had let everyone down - meaning my characters.


I regrouped and focused on why I write - because I love to, to learn new things, and to pass my view of the world on to others. Two out of three - not too bad.


Upon reflection I realized The Big Picture had done no worse than the first three books I had published with a publisher. I enjoyed the independence of self-publishing - and the responsibility. So when it became time to renew the contracts with my publisher I said I would if they would publish all the books as paperbacks. We compromised - they published Not Wonder More - Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients and I yanked the other two books, Spirit Bear and Eagleridge Bluffs.


I subsequently self-published and released Spirit Bear as

 Saving Spirit Bear - What Price Success, and Eagleridge Bluffs as Loving the Terrorists - Beyond Eagleridge Bluffs. My re-released books have fared no worse than the one remaining on the publisher's list, all have done terrible.


Next month I'll retain the rights of my last book under contract and I plan to re-release it as a self-published book as well.


The next time I'll talk about , Forest - Love, Loss, Legend, how came out of the residuals of the previous book - war, drugs, and murder combined with my love of the wilderness - it's splendor and it's mystery.



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review 2015-02-12 00:00
Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should (Let's Get Digital, #1)
Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should (Let's Get Digital, #1) - David Gaughran This review is for the 2nd Edition. This book rocks. It's pretty much your step-by-step guide for success in indie publishing. I can't wait to put it all to the test later this year.

I got this book as part of the Indie Power Pack, but it's worth buying at full price. Of the three books in the pack, this book is much more straightforward and rambles a LOT less than [b:Write. Publish. Repeat.|19173266|Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success)|Sean Platt|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386152927s/19173266.jpg|27214781] and is specifically geared toward fiction writers, unlike [b:How To Market A Book|18135290|How To Market A Book|J.F. Penn|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1372403900s/18135290.jpg|25475736].

I will say that it gets off to a slow start if, like me, you're already sold on the idea of indie publishing. The first chapter or so is devoted to explaining why you should indie publish and myths of self-publishing, but I found it interesting anyway. You may just want to skip those sections and jump into the meat and potatoes of the book.

I found the following sections most helpful:
Pricing to Sell
Sales Channels
Developing a Sticky Readership
Kickstart Your Sales
Appendix A: Publishing Checklist
Appendix C: Let's Get Physical (Print)
Appendix D: Shorter Stories
Appendix E: Reviews

Essentially... the whole thing! Pick this up if you intend to publish anytime soon!
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review 2014-12-29 22:04
Mixed Bag of Advice for Indie Authors
Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should: 1 - David Gaughran

This review is organized according to the number of grains of salt with which I think a reader should take David Gaughran’s advice.




The whole shaker


When Gaughran has done his research and adequately documented it, he’s informative and persuasive. When he bases his advice on his personal experience and that of a few other writers, he uses only anecdotal evidence—not the strongest kind on which to base advice, but grounded in at least this weakest level of proof. Occasionally he draws conclusions without indicating even that level of support, which makes it hard to tell if he’s out on a limb or on solid ground. Once in a great while, I caught errors that I was pretty sure were factually wrong.




This book is worth reading for the content on the bookstore business alone, if one is not acquainted with it. I used to work in it, and he describes it well. A new book by an unknown, traditionally published author may have a short life on the shelves, ending up in remainders and then out of print. His analyses of the returns system, and of advances and traditional publishing contracts, while filtered through his pro-self-publishing bias, are nonetheless factually accurate.


He gives excellent advice on getting ready for self-publishing. Anyone who thinks they can edit their own work and only have their friends and family critique it should read this. He says editing is an education. Going through an editor’s changes teaches an author about writing. First time not-yet-published authors should read the section on editing and read it again. If everyone took this advice the unready would stop putting their work out there.


Gaughran identifies scams in a short chapter, but leaves it up to Writer Beware to give more detail on what they are how they work. In doing so he identifies a good resource—and the fact that many of those scams are owned by major publishing houses.


He gives good advice on reviews.




He says that readers won’t buy books with Digital Rights Management as often as they’ll buy those without but gives no evidence to support this opinion. I did a very informal survey to get some input, and can’t conclude from it whether or not DRM affects sales. Some readers avoid e-books that have it, some don’t even know how to tell it’s there, and others just strip DRM if they don’t want it, claiming it can be done in less than minute. This third group supports Gaughran’s hypothesis that DRM is teaching readers to be “pirates,” though what these readers normally do with the e-pub files they create this way is move them to their Nooks or Kobos and read them. I suppose they could also e-mail the files to friends to save them the trouble of stripping and converting, and not think of themselves as pirates, and it would still be a lost sale, an invisible cost of not publishing to all platforms.


I suspect Gaughran underestimates the importance and longevity of paper books and physical bookstores. He scarcely mentions libraries.


I think an author looking for marketing tips should read this. A huge and pervasive social media presence apparently isn’t necessary. Gaughran sorts out “things that make you feel icky” from things that don’t—and according to him, the ones that don’t feel icky are the ones that work. Tweeting promos all the time: icky and ineffective. Oddly, he identifies hanging out on Goodreads in the “feel icky” category.” I found the blatant buy-my-next-book push at the end of his book to be icky, but apparently it didn’t feel that way to Gaughran.


He may underestimate the influence of the perception that self-published work is all crap. I’d agree that it’s a waste of time to go into a rant about the crap, though, and more important to focus on how to avoid adding to it.


Overall, this book is a little Amazon-centric. He assumes, while providing no support for that assumption, that the other e-book retailers don’t have good customer service. He does a good analysis of how Amazon’s marketing algorithm work and finds their aggressive personalized marketing a good thing. Maybe it is. I bought a replacement laptop cord from them once and they have been hounding me with offers of what’s new in electronics ever since. I buy all my e-books from Barnes and Noble and they never bother me. I call that good customer service, but to each their own.


Gaughran offers limited ideas of where to find cover designers, and seems to have no idea about professional writers’ groups. Sending people to K-boards is his favorite option. I left it after finding it less than useful, but other may find a home there. That’s my anecdote vs. his anecdote. Neither is especially valuable.


I had no idea what to think about his information on the file size of the picture that goes in the e-book and of the one that goes on the retailer’s web site. I have my file conversion and formatting done by Draft2Digital. I’ve noticed that other authors’ e-pub files are often larger than my files for my longer books. Perhaps my cover art is not taking up as much space. Gaughran says to make sure your files aren’t huge because Amazon charges for file delivery. This puzzles me. If you set a price at a certain level, how can they do that? Do they reduce your royalty? Refuse to let you set that low a price? Since I convert to mobi and have the cover already installed through D2D, so I have no experience with a file size issue. Maybe someone else will know if it is irrelevant on Gaughran’s part to mention this or actually useful.


He’s Kindle-centric when it comes to checking formatting. You need to look at a mobi in a Kindle previewer and look at an e-pub in Adobe Digital Editions.


Gaughran gives useful information on when to upload directly to an e-book retailer and when to use a distributor. He is unclear in describing the distributors’ cut, though. For the one I use it’s not 10% of each book sale, but 10% of my 60 to 70%, a smaller amount.


The book is full of links to his blog. For me, this was annoying. If the material is important it should be in the book. I’m not normally online while reading an e-book and I had to remember to and go back and check things. I’m sure I missed quite a few blog links. If your e-reader is on your computer and you are always online, or if your e-reader has Wi-Fi, this won’t be an issue, but it was for me.


He suggests using Library Thing. Last time I looked the discussions were moribund and the groups small. He doesn’t seem aware of Booklikes, which seems much livelier.


I’m not sure what to think about his tax advice to international writers, but he is one, so maybe he knows.


He does a fairly good analysis of KDP Select from his point of view. It’s not based on research, though, or if it is, he doesn’t cite it. The less appealing changes in the program are described well. He doesn’t address how authors’ exclusivity to Kindle affects readers, though, an issue few authors seem to think about. (Here is a link on KDP Select sales as seen by another author—more anecdotal evidence:  http://noorosha.com/why-exclusivity-is-bad/)


Gaughran’s major marketing tool is the mailing list. He encourages having clickable links in the end-matter of a book to get readers to sign up for them, buy other books and get to your blog etc. I once had a beta reader tell me to take such things out of a short story because most people, he said, are not online and it’s just clutter. I’m not sure who’s right. The new release mailing list seems sound, though, even if only a percentage of readers actually click on such a link.


The information on ads and how to run them and which sites are reputable is complex, and as Gaughran says, may be dated, as some sites go up or down in readership and prices. He has no data on overall success rates of ads, though, only his personal experience.


He advises authors to learn to do their own formatting, but my experience with D2D is that their formatting for mobi, e-pub and paperback is done so well and with such good customer service, I have no wish to do it myself, especially if I’d have to set up all the separate accounts for Create Space and each of the e-retailers who comprise about a third of my sales combined. Smashwords authors I know also seem happy with both the service and distribution. He doesn’t know that D2D does Create Space formatting even though he uses them for some of his e-books. He makes paperback formatting sound hard and says you have to do it yourself or hire another person.


The whole shaker


Gaughran states that you can upload to Kindle through D2D and Smashwords.

Smashwords web site says this at the time of my writing this review:

Although we have a distribution agreement with Amazon via their Kindle Direct Platform, they're unable to receive our entire catalog until they create a bulk upload facility.  In the meantime, we're only distributing a few hundred titles to Amazon out of our catalog of over 250,000. We understand that many Smashwords authors would prefer the convenience of consolidating their distribution to Amazon via Smashwords, rather than uploading direct to Amazon.  If your book has earned over $2,000 at Smashwords and you would prefer to consolidate your distribution via Smashwords to Amazon as opposed to uploading direct with them, please click the "support" link at the bottom of this page and let us know you're in the $2,000 club and would like to be considered for our distribution to Amazon.

Amazon Kindle no longer is willing to work with D2D and delisted all their authors in Feb. 2014, making them re-upload directly. (It was easy, but my earlier reviews vanished with the delisting.)


The success stories from other indie authors were tedious, repetitive padding—data-free anecdotes that added nothing the value of the book.



If you have never self-published or are undecided about it vs. pursuing traditional publishing, this is worth reading. If you have successfully self-published, have won awards and/or contests that confirm you have published good quality books, and have more favorable than unfavorable reviews but still have slow sales, you might benefit from the chapters on marketing and skip the rest, or just read his blog. I plan to try out some of his marketing tips and see if they work. I need to see if they do before I think about buying his next book.


Note: I read the 2014 revised edition which I received in an e-pub version as a gift from my distributor.

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text 2014-12-09 19:05
Fly, Baby Bird, Fly!
Adrift (The Widow's Walk Trilogy Book 1) - Robin Wainwright,Carol Holaday

Tentatively I approached a few of my friends about reading my first novel. They all expressed enthusiasm and I sent them out electronic copies.


Once again the waiting game began, nerve-racking.


I continued working on the second and third novels in the series, Becalmed and Capsized, and tried to stay focused on the process.


Then I received a card in the mail from one of my beta readers. It contained a Starbucks card and statements about how much my reader wanted to visit Crescent Bay, the fictional village where my story takes place. The Starbucks card was a reference to how large a part coffee plays in the first book.


Success! I still keep the card nearby to read on those days when writing is a challenge.


Then a couple weeks later I got an email from another beta reader. The beginning was a typical email from a friend but she ended it with “or I could move to a small village…” and she went on to describe the main theme of my book. Hurray.


Feeling more at ease with my first book, I dove back in to finish the race.


As an avid reader I have always enjoyed discovering a series that had been out long enough that I could binge read the full story. Since I am a self-published author, I can decide when my novels are published. I had decided to release all three books at the same time on October first, my favorite month of the year.


Hopefully Chronos would be on my side.

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text 2014-10-07 04:42
One afternoon at Comic Con...
The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing - Jana Deleon,Jasinda Wilder,Liliana Hart,Tina Folsom,Theresa Ragan,Dorien Kelly,Jane Graves,Colleen Gleason,Deborah Holland,Denise Grover Swank
Adrift (The Widow's Walk Trilogy Book 1) - Robin Wainwright,Carol Holaday

Location: San Diego Comic Con


Date/Time: Afternoon - July 2013


Scene: Woman sits in a large room filled with people sitting in folding chairs. The woman looks bored, but resigned.


Action: Woman takes a Kindle from her purse and begins reading. Soon you can tell that she has become absorbed by what she is reading. Time passes, and other people in attendance applaud as the panel discussion ends, but the woman seems oblivious to what is happening around her.


-- End Scene --


That woman was me just over a year ago. If you've never been to Comic Con, let me explain. There are only so many seats and way too many butts to fill them, so if you have something you really want to see you need to stake out your spot an hour or two before your panel begins.


Sitting through these other panels is always an adventure. I have discovered shows that I had no clue existed - but that I now love. I've marveled at the joy felt by others as they cheered for some show/movie/video game/author that meant nothing to me and the world to them. But on this afternoon the panel I was sitting in was a dud. No excitement from the stage or from the audience.


I remembered the new book I had downloaded to my Kindle, The Naked Truth About Self Publishing, and soon I was reading and clicking as fast as I could. The more I read, the more I realized that I could do this. I could write and self-publish my own book!


My mind began to form a story about something that had fascinated me as a small child. I had been reading a book about lighthouses when I learned that the name of the railed walkway on the top of a cottage was called a Widow's Walk. It was named this because of all the wives of sailors who had stood on top of their houses straining to see the sails of their husband's ships. So many men were lost at sea that the platform came to be known as the Widow's Walk. As a small child I had been convinced that these platforms must be very haunted spaces.


I broke out some scraps of paper and a pen. I began scribbling madly as the pictures in my mind transformed into words that flowed from the pen in my hand onto the paper. By the time the panel ended I had written the first chapter of what was to become my first self-published book, Adrift - Book One of The Widow's Walk Trilogy.


My adventure as a self-published author had begun.

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