Monday, November 29, 2010

Meet the Artist: L. Autumn Andrews

My interest in tracking down the artists that have done covers for my books was recently rewarded when I met up with L. Autumn Andrews (and her invisible sister K. Angel) who did the cover for Extreme Makeover.  I have another artist-autographed book for my shelf and a photo for my blog.  L and K make up Autumn-Angel Art (click on the link for their Facebook gallery).  Their twitter stream is here.

They are going a wide variety of game development, artwork and music, and I hear they have an iPhone app in the works.  You'll see more of their work in the next novel Bearing Northeast, since I had them create the twitter icons for my characters.  See here for the tweets done by the characters as the novel was being written.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Parallel Editing

After making several passes through a novel manuscript, I reach a point where I need other people to look at it, read it, and laugh and point.  What I've done for years is collect several trusted readers to act as my review board.  I print out a copy for each, comb bound, and ask them to read it with a pen in hand to mark up every little thing that occurs to them.

It's worked well.  I get typo corrections, marginal notes about story structure, and personal anecdotes that the story has triggered in the reader's own mind. I take all of these and use them to make the story better.

In this novel, Bearing Northeast, I've been through the marked up copies twice.  At first, I read through each mostly ignoring the typos and getting the big picture comments.  Using that insight, I made numerous structural changes and additions to the storyline.  Then, I laid all of the books out side by side on the kitchen table and turned the pages in sync, looking at everyone's page one, then page two, etc.  This time, I was tracking down all the errant words and misplaced commas and awkward sentences that they had found.  It's interesting that although some reviewers are better at catching errors than others, no one person caught all of the typos--it took them all, and even then, I caught some that no one else did.

There's another advantage of the parallel review.  Sometimes one reviewer will dislike a word or sentence, but no one else minds.  Sometimes it just down to my style vs theirs and if it's just one flag, then I can afford to go my own way.  But if five of those reviews all mark the same place on the page, then I know I've got something that needs serious re-writing.  My taste is one thing, but if it trips up multiple readers, then it needs to change.

It was backbreaking work, to lean across the table and turn all those pages.  But it's what I've done before and it works.  The novel is so much better for the process.  You can see the names of all my review board on the acknowledgement page.  They're a big part of what makes the books readable.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Book Review: The Nighttime is the Right Time

I've been wishing for all of Bill Crider's works to show up on e-books, so when this short story collection appeared, I had to plop down my $2.99 and download the epub version.  It's available from Crossroad Press and you can choose epub/PDF/mobi/kindle versions.  Since it doesn't come from the big ebookstore outlets, I assume it's DRM free.  At least I didn't have any glitch in dragging the downloaded file into iTunes and copying it over onto my iPhone.

The stories were great, as I had expected from Bill.  Some were visits with old friends like Sheriff Dan Rhodes and Truman Smith, but there were other characters that I'd never met since I, sadly, have only a dozen or so of Bill's books in my collection.  It was fun seeing his touch on the werewolf, and the vampire and Elvis stories.  Each story has an intro paragraph or two and I warn you, if Bill cautions you that a story is dark, and that's not your thing, pay attention.  I didn't, and that's my fault.  Bill Crider is a master storyteller and if he drifts off into the dark... Well, like I say, it's my fault for not listening.  But even if you skip over those, the remaining stories are well worth every penny.

My only gripes are technical things.  My copy of the ebook didn't have a functional table of contents, but since I read it straight through, that wasn't much of an issue, and I think one of the intro paragraphs that should have been in italics wasn't.  The rest was clean and well presented, with no other typos to offend.

I highly recommend this anthology, and if you like the style, just remember that there are a ton of Bill Crider novels with some of the same characters just waiting for you.

Disclaimer:  I like Bill Crider and I read his Blog every day.  He's even said some nice things about my books as well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Business Cards

The received wisdom of merchandizing handouts for promoting your book is that you need bookmarks and picture postcards to give out at your readings and personal appearances.  While I wanted to do that, it never quite worked out.  My first book, Emperor Dad was done as an experiment and while I ordered the PR kit from Lulu, I think I still have some of those unused postcards around some place, if I haven't already thrown them out.  I didn't like the looks of them, and they were too expensive for what I needed, especially since they seemed to be advertising Lulu more than my book.  When I switched to Lightning Source as my printer, I needed something different.

When the deadline approached for a convention appearance, I used my business card software (Business Card Composer) to print out some custom business cards for my books, and I've been quite pleased with the results.

Once I've added the cover image, there's not a whole lot of space left, so I've settled on a couple of URL's, my own webstore and an Amazon link, plus a two line blurb.  Because of the way the software lets me print multiple cards on one Avery 8879 pre-cut sheet, I tend to make up about five or six different blurbs for each title.  The end result is a stack of clean edged glossy image cards with a variety of cute sayings.  I hand these out at my book signing table, or distribute on the freebe tables at cons.  Occasionally, a younger one with no money for books will get me to autograph the card.  

At various cons, I have used them as discount coupons for cheaper books, or urged people to collect the whole set.  By having variety in my handouts, it works well with my business model.  I intend to keep the books on sale.  Yes, there's the latest and greatest book at any one time, but I'm just as pleased when you buy one of the older titles.  And when I run low of any title's cards, I just load some more Avery 8879 sheets into the printer and add some more.

It may be that I never go the traditional bookmarks and postcard route.  These smaller cards work just fine as bookmarks and they're just the right size for people to collect with their other business cards.  Next time we meet, collect the whole set.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Meet the Artist: Wes Hartman

Early in my publishing efforts, I realized I needed good cover art for my novels.  So, I sent out a call to everyone I knew asking for help.  Scott Cupp, replied with an email pointing me to his nephew Wes Hartman and shortly we began exchanging email.  Wes is with Antarctic Press in San Antonio.  His first effort was the cover for Emperor Dad, and then Lighter Than Air, Falling Bakward, and Golden Girl.  I'll probably have him do the cover for the upcoming Bearing Northeast as well.

So after four covers, and numerous emails over the course of the past three years, I was hoping that I'd get to finally meet the guy.  I follow the company's twitter stream and sure enough, it mentioned that Wes was likely to be here for the Austin Comic Con.

We shook hands and I got to see what he looked like.  (I also picked up an autographed copy of his Sky Sharks.)  If you get a chance, drop by his booth #503 and meet him yourself while he's here in town.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Contest: Autographed Ebooks

The instant I saw the HP USB thumb drive with a built in label, I knew I had to have one.  Why?  To give out autographed ebooks of course!  I had seen articles about various hacks that allow authors/publishers to distribute ebooks with custom cover art, but it seemed a bit too labor intensive, both for me and the end user.  But this gets back to the original.  The USB thumb drive is the package, just like the paper book.  So the package gets the autograph and the content is the same.  The content?  How about every ebook I've ever published?  Eight novels and one short story collection, in ePub, mobi/kindle, and PDF formats?

Okay, now I have a prize for a contest.  What should I do for the entries?  In this case, a month long contest for November 2010, I'll have people fill out a "Getting To Know You" form that will help me schedule new book signings and conventions.

So here are the rules.  Go to the Getting To Know You form. Enter your name and email and your ideas about what I should be doing to promote my books.  I'll feed all the email addressed into a randomizer and choose one and at the end of the month, I'll email the winner for a postal address to mail the prize.  Simple enough?  If it works out okay, I'll likely do it again sometime.