Excerpts and Preorder Giveaway News!

Since the grand prize winner of the Allmother Rising preorder giveaway will receive a free ebook copy of one of my other books (in addition to the swag pack), I wanted to share excerpts from each one to help you pick.

In case you found this blog before seeing the post about the giveaway, I’ll be choosing three winners on release day, May 25th, 2021.

Two winners will receive a sticker, magnet, and signature plate (all custom designed for Allmother Rising), as well as three bookmarks (one for A Heart of Salt & Silver, one for World for the Broken, and one of my special author bookmarks).

The grand prize winner will receive all of the above plus a free ebook copy of one of my previous books (their choice of which one).

All it takes to enter is to send me confirmation of your preorder. Screenshots are acceptable. (Please, crop/blur/draw over/block out all account info.) If you haven’t preordered yet, you can do so here.

Now that the official stuff is out of the way, it’s time for some excerpts to help you decide on a book.


A Heart of Salt & Silver
Dark Paranormal High Fantasy Romance

Rising to my feet, I prepare to leave the tavern, ready to forsake my empty stomach. After all, we haven’t seen these beasts since the revolution, and their creation can’t bode well. We need to find them and dispatch them.

But worry creases Alina’s brow.

“Please,” she begs. “At least eat, first.”

Her words echo in Ness’ voice, reverberating in my mind, and for a second, I’m not in the dark, musty tavern. I’m in Ness’ cottage, just about to eat. My bones shiver, and I rise to the call. I don’t know if Orwen and Nissa will need me, specifically, but I can’t shrug off the possibility.

I didn’t know at the time that one of our commuter members had nearly been killed in Roarn. I didn’t know that it was part of a bigger tension between Roarn and another city-state. I just knew trouble was brewing, and I needed to help.

For me, not for anyone else. I needed to help.

“Please,” I can still hear Ness say, voice so small I could barely hear it. “At least eat, first.”

But I left.

Her face, downtrodden and misty-eyed as I held her close, kissing her goodbye, pierces my heart.

Now, in this little tavern, many years too late to fix the hurt in Ness’ heart as I rushed off to play hero for the hundredth time, I sit back down.

“Thank you,” Alina says.

But this isn’t for her.

If I’m ev’r goin’ ta get Ness back, I have ta learn ta be… present.

My eyes close, shutting out the shaking in my bones as the howls roll through me. I grit my teeth against the pain gnawing at my heart.

As if I’ll ev’r get her back…


Soul Bearer
Dark High Fantasy Romance
Free in KU

Spinning slowly, Aurisye looks at everything around her. Chaos rules the land as the great red beast rules the air. Another roar threatens to shatter her eardrums, quickly followed by another stream of fire as the dragon flies overhead, so close that Aurisye could count its scales if it would only hold still.

She reaches out, passes a hand through the tip of its tail as it passes her. The dragon roars so loudly that, for a moment after, the world loses all sound. A high-pitched ringing sound punctuates everything, chasing away the screams and the crashing of buildings falling in upon themselves.

Up above, the dragon executes a perfect hair-pin turn and rockets itself toward Aurisye. Yellow eyes shining in the firelight, it stares straight at her, the only being here capable of seeing her. Each flap of its wings fans the fires all around, sending them climbing even higher into the atmosphere. Jaw dropping, it prepares to launch a blazing assault on Aurisye.

In an instant, she snaps back into her body, sitting bolt upright on the roof of her cottage. Her chest heaves with choppy breaths, pulling nothing but panic into her lungs. Her heart races, and she puts a hand to her chest to calm it.

Only then does she notice the soft red light coming from the mark on her arm. Her world goes cold. She pulls the sleeve of her jacket down to cover it, hoping it didn’t draw any undue attention.


World for the Broken
Dark (and I mean dark) Post-Apocalyptic Romance

“So, you’re just giving those antibiotics to me? And helping me…without expecting anything in return?” I ask, allowing some of my skepticism to show through.

“No. I’m asking for something.”

Chloe’s response unsettles me and eases my mind at the same time. After all, it is the end of the world. Everyone expects something in return. For some reason, I’d just been hoping she was better than that.

Somewhat wary, I ask, “What do you want?”

“Don’t make me regret this.”

Five very simple words, ordinary in every way and wholly within reason. But something in her eyes makes me believe she’s taking a much bigger chance on me than just helping out a stranger in the apocalypse.


The Gem of Meruna
Dark High Fantasy Romance
Free in KU

Dropping her pack beside the river, she washed her food in the cool water and settled down to eat. With no bowl, she used the bottom of her shirt to hold the fruit and vegetable mixture. Yet again, she found herself wishing other Leey could know such peace. She quickly ate her words, though.

In the distance, she heard the sounds of something walking through the forests. She couldn’t tell what it was, but she knew it was somewhere across the river. Dumping the remaining fruits and vegetables into a pocket of her pack, she slung it over her shoulder and scurried out of sight.

Heart pounding against her ribs, she ducked behind the bushes surrounding a young tree. She dared steal a glance across, saw only rustling underbrush, and decided to climb as far into the tree as she could. The lowest branch was barely within reach when she jumped, and she struggled to haul her light frame into the branches. She didn’t stop climbing until she was several branches higher, and still, she hesitated to peer across the river.

Much to her surprise, what emerged from the bushes on the other side wasn’t a Chalkie. Yet, her relief was minor, for she couldn’t expect this Leey to be friendly. She knew to keep her guard up, stay hidden, and wait in the tree as long as need be.

Even if it meant camping there for the night.


Annabelle
Vigilante Justice Thriller (set in a Western)
Free in KU

I walk along the main road of another dirty western town and sashay past the saloon, knowing my prey follows close behind. My silken yellow dress and all of its lace flows behind me, trailing in the dust.

I hear him getting closer but pretend to be so absorbed in the folds of my parasol that I don’t notice. Really, I’m checking over the mechanisms concealed within it, making sure that everything is in working order.

I turn down a bare alleyway as the sun begins to dip below the horizon. He follows. Still, I pretend not to notice that anything at all is amiss. A smile spreads across my features.


Whew. That was a lot more than I expected when I got the idea for this blog. Lol.

Every book listed is a standalone, though I’ll be writing another book in the same world as A Heart of Salt & Silver in the future, and The Gem of Meruna is in the same universe as my current WIP, The Regonia Chronicles.


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Power Dynamics in Allmother Rising

Every world has its own unique power dynamic, and there are a few in my upcoming novel.

There are, of course, the gods. The Allmother created and encompasses everything, even the other god, her son, Aia. Both are powerful, but as the younger god, Aia is less so.

Both have the ability twist the heart of a mortal to their whim. Both can compel mortals to act. Only one chooses to use that ability.

And only one chooses to bestow portions of their power upon mortals to aid them.

The gods exist within a separate plane, one that the Allmother’s followers can visit via a form of astral projection when in need of guidance. But only certain people possess a strong enough connection to do so and see it clearly.

Namely, those of the Vierna lineage. Thus, they became the leaders of Kin. A High Priest and High Priestess lead, governing according to the Allmother’s will. Their child is born to the title Priest/Priestess Rising and is raised to the responsibility of protecting and guiding an entire nation.

The leaders of Jun and Fahn were once able to visit Her realm and perceive it clearly. But Jun fell away from Her, establishing a monarchy and moving into lands where Aia could manipulate them without their knowing. Then, they overran Fahn, sending those peaceful people scattering, transforming them into desperate refugees.

And they all lost their sight of Her.

But how are they connected? And what’s in that other plane of existence?

You know that warm amber light just before sunset or just after sunrise? That exact light fills the plane, and everywhere, there are gleaming silver strands. They reach in every direction, linking glittering silver balls of energy.

The ropes are the connections between people. Family, friendships, partnerships. The energies are the people themselves, their spirits, and their names are emblazoned on them in brilliant blue letters in the Allmother’s language.

The leaders, the original leading families, are directly connected to the Allmother herself. As such, the rope that ties them to their ancestors (and to her) is substantially thicker than those which connect mortals to other mortals. This allows them to better see Her… and to better channel Her powers.

But there’s a problem in Jun.

And I want to include an excerpt from the book to show you. This scene takes place immediately after Veliana and Tyrvahn meet. She asks his name, and he hesitates. Then, this: (Tala is Veliana’s dire wolf, btw.)

~~~

“Tahrn,” he finally answers, but the Allmother’s light dims behind his eyes as he speaks it.

Tala lifts her head, tipping it to the side.

But why would he lie about his name? Whatever the reason, it can’t be good…

“Tahrn,” I repeat, tasting the falsehood. “Do you know the power of a name?”

“Life or death?” The smile vanishes from his face, and he takes another bite of the deer jerky. He studies it closely, unwilling to meet my gaze.

My brows furrow, and I stare at him, wondering at his odd answer.

Is he a wanted man?

Yet again, a strange little shiver dances down my spine, defying all reason.

But… A wanted man beneath the rule of Paikon? That might not be… entirely bad.

“In some cases, I suppose it could be a matter of life or death.” Taking a deep breath, I extoll the true purpose of our names. “Surnames tie the energy of one to those of others. The Allmother laces people together with names. When we Kin are sealed, we inherit each other’s names and are tied to each other’s families. Children inherit blended names. Only the High Seal is an exception.”

A bolt of lightning flashes outside, a mimicry of that which tingled across my skin when our hands brushed.

Stop thinking about it.

Thunder rumbles outside. I wait it out before speaking, giving myself a moment to gather my thoughts.

Glancing at him, I continue, “The Vierna name is always handed down whole, maintaining a perfect connection throughout the Rising line, and a blended surname of all the Sealed forebears accompanies it.”

Under his breath, the stranger says, “Veliana Vierna Alaken.”

I nod, surprised that he knows all three of my names.

“Your kind weigh and measure bonds. The surname which affords them more power is kept, and the other is discarded. Names and power divide your land.”

He finally meets my gaze, and his mouth falls open at my assessment of his country. But he nods, unable to deny it.

Self-conscious about my rambling, I bring myself around to the point, “Given names are different. When a child is named, the Allmother braids their given name into the core of their energy. Denying your given name denies your energy, dimming your connection to the Allmother.”

I watch his chest rise with a sharp breath and tell myself that I’m only measuring his reaction. But even after he exhales, my eyes linger in the hollows of his collarbones, just barely visible, peeking out at the open collar of his shirt.

He nods slowly, and little drops of rainwater fall from his hair. Outside, the rain slows, and the winds die down.

“Now, knowing the power that your name holds, knowing how it hurts your energy to deny it, who are you?”

~~~

Jun chooses which name advances them politically when they’re sealed (married). But in abandoning a surname, the rope connecting them to those others in the Allmother’s realm is severed, cutting them off from others in their community and in an indirect way, from Her.

Which leaves more room for Aia to move into their hearts and control them.


Preorder Allmother Rising here.

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A Guide to the ARC Reader Process: Part Three

Okay. So your book is ready for ARC readers, and you’ve found (or chosen your method for finding) them.

Now what?

Whether you’re doing this the good old-fashioned way and sending ebook files to each individual reader or uploading to Book Sprout or Book Funnel and sending a handy dandy download link to your readers, there’s one more thing to do first.

You need to convert your file into several different formats. And you can think of this as a preemptive step since you’ll need it converted from a .doc or .docx to whatever your chosen publisher requires (unless you’re going traditional, in which case, your publisher will likely handle this and the ARC process for you).

Why do you need different formats? Because there are many different ereaders available.

You’d think that, for the sake of simplicity, they’d all read the same file type.

But no.

That’s far too sensible.

Each one has a specific file that it works best with, and in order to seamlessly send ARCs (or upload them to Book Sprout, Book Funnel, etc.), you’re going to need to convert your normal word document to all these other formats, including:

EPUB (Nook, Android, many others)

MOBI (Kindle)

PDF (phones, tablets)

Word will export to PDF (but it has a weird thing with refusing to embed fonts at random, even when you have the box checked to embed fonts, and then you have to print to pdf instead of export). Word WILL NOT convert to mobi or epub.

BUT.

If you’re like me and the thought of all that money and the process of learning new design software is a bit daunting, there is another option for converting ebook files.

There’s a free program available for download online that can do all these conversions. This is why it irks me so much that some Vanity Presses flaunt their ebook conversion as an excuse to charge authors money. (Don’t pay your publisher, btw. They should pay you.)

Anyway… There’s a program that does this for free. It can convert to so more file formats than I even know what to do with.

It’s called Calibre.

It’s simple to use, and there are free how-to guides to show you what to do once you download it. There’s even a demo on their website.

I use this for all my ebook conversions, and I’m… not exactly tech savvy.

It’s quick and uncomplicated. And as far as computer programs are concerned, that’s kinda my jam.


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A Guide to the ARC Reader Process: Part Two

Okay, so. You have your book edited and you have your cover. You have everything formatted, and you’re ready for ARC readers. You just have to find people willing to do it.

First and foremost, DO NOT pay someone to review your book. Paying someone to list your book on a review site is one thing. You’re not paying the reviewer, you’re paying the person listing and distributing your ARC or even just paying the site that holds the listing.

If you pay a reviewer, there’s the chance that Amazon will remove the review, meaning you paid them for nothing. And if Amazon gets really angry, they could do even worse.

The “old-fashioned” way

You can look up individual book reviewers and send them a message. This means researching book reviewers in your genre, and it’s typically best if you follow them and engage with their content for a while before asking them to read an ARC.

This method can get pretty time consuming and labor intensive, taking effort and precious hours away from writing, etc.

Thankfully, there are other ways to go about this.

Social Media

You can make a post on all your various social media platforms seeking about ARC readers. That means people can come to you.

There are also many groups on Facebook dedicated to connect authors and ARC readers. You just post in the group according to their rules and see who responds.

Newsletter

There’s always the option to offer for your newsletter recipients to be ARC readers. This does mean that the people most likely to be receptive to marketing efforts will have already read your book for free. But if they follow through and leave a review, it could be worth it in the long run.

You can set your book up on Book Funnel, Book Sprout, or Net Galley. Prices for memberships vary depending on which platform(s) you choose and which package(s) or subscription(s) you choose. And of course, the services included depend on which you sign up for.

Book Funnel

This site makes it easier for readers to get their copy of your book. Which means that you still have to find the ARC readers in the first place.

BUT.

Once you set it all up, Book Funnel provides an easy download link or you can create a pretty landing page. Depending on the package you go with, you can even integrate it with your newsletter to bump up your email list. They have their own tech service, so if someone has trouble downloading, they’ll probably be able to take care of it.

This is what I use to host not only my ARCs (because it truly does simplify the process), but also my reader magnet, aka the short story I give away to people who sign up for my newsletter.

Book Sprout

This site handles ARC distribution (with their own tech support) and has a network of reviewers built in. That means a little less effort on your part. I say “a little less effort” because thus far, I’ve had very few reviewers actually sign up to get my ARCs from this site. Your experience may be different.

Net Galley

This one is expensive. I’ll just say that upfront. You have to contact them for a quote to list your books, which doesn’t make sense. There should be a standard price listed in plain view, in my opinion. I found an article on Reedsy about NetGalley costs saying that their promotional packages were between $450 and $849.

To be frank, that’s too damn much. At least, to me.

Now, they do have a pretty extensive network of reviewers. Reviewers browse books listed by genre, as far as I’m aware, and can request to be an ARC reader. Then, they either get approved or denied (I think by the person who holds the listing), typically based on how reliably they post reviews.

But the cost is… a major drawback.

There are Tour Companies (like Xpresso Book Tours) who maintain paid client accounts with NetGalley. They offer their services (for far less than it would cost to go directly through NetGalley). They list your book for you, review ARC requests, and distribute the ARCs.

I’ve worked with Xpresso Book Tours for this specific service a couple of times, and it was painless. All I had to do was send the file, blurb, cover, etc., and the rest was taken care of.

The first listing (World for the Broken, dark post-apocalyptic romance) garnered a few review requests, but not as many as I’d hoped. The second (A Heart of Salt & Silver, dark paranormal fantasy romance) received about three times as many requests. That may be down to a genre preference among readers on NetGalley, maybe it was a timing thing, maybe I did a better job with the blurb for Salt & Silver than I did with the one for World for the Broken.

There are a lot of factors that could’ve played a role.

Either way, my results with NetGalley have varied. I’ll be reaching out to get Allmother Rising listed, so I’ll have a third experience to draw conclusions from soon.

Now, obviously, all of this has been in reference to ebook ARCs. You can send print copies if you’d like, but you’d be surprised how quickly shipping costs add up.

Some bookstagrammers require a physical copy because they photograph better, but ultimately, if you’re mailing ARCs, it’s up to you who you send them to. If you send physical copies, please, always ship your books *media mail* to get a discounted rate. Just tell the clerk at the post office that it’s media mail. It’ll cost far less.

Now, go and explore these different avenues of finding ARC readers. Come back next week to learn about the different file formats you might need and an easy to use program to help you convert between those files.


Want to fund this blog and my writing efforts? You can support me directly here.

Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story).

A Guide to the ARC Reader Process: Part One

ARCs are a vital part of any book launch, providing a little boost during release week. But what are ARCs? Why are they important? And what do you do with them?

ARC means Advanced Reader Copy. It’s a copy of your book that you send out to reviewers or avid readers for free before the book comes out in exchange for an honest review on or before release day.

These can be print copies or ebooks, but there are obvious logistical benefits to ebook. First of all, you can send ebooks for free. Shipping books, even going media mail and risking late delivery, gets expensive real fast. Some of the bigger bookstagrammers prefer hard copies because they photograph better, but we’ll get there later.

Is this whole process a gamble? Yes.

Not every ARC reader honors their promise to leave a review.

And the ones who do aren’t guaranteed to love it. This does mean there’s a chance the reviews that go up could be bad reviews. (Hence the stress on the word honest up above.)

But ironically enough, even bad reviews get your book noticed in the eyes of the almighty algorithm.

Why does that matter?

When your book gets enough reviews (I’ll be honest, I don’t know the magic number. I’ve heard 10, I’ve heard 20, and I’ve heard 50), Amazon will start recommending it.

Without any extra effort from you.

As in… FREE promotion of your book.

So obviously, reviews are important, whether they’re good, bad, or neutral.

And since some readers prefer to read 3, 2, or 1 star reviews (so they can see what they’re really in for and decide if they can stomach the bad in the name of the good), they could actually serve you well.

Some readers find books they love after seeing a 1 star review complaining about the presence of a certain trope within the book, a certain trope that happens to be that second reader’s favorite.

Now what do you do with ARCs?

First of all, you should make sure your book is ready for this step. All major edits should be done. ARC readers are not beta readers. They shouldn’t find plot holes for you to patch up after the fact. That would basically invalidate their review.

Exception: If the book is still with your editor for proofreading (aka some typos remain), that’s okay. Just make a note at the beginning of the ARC so they know to expect a typo or two.

But everything else needs to be done.

That includes interior formatting and the cover design. This needs to feel professional and finished.

Now, take a week and make sure your book is truly ready for this step. Come back next Monday for some tips and resources to help you find appropriate ARC readers to help you launch your book.

P.S.- If you’ve signed on with a traditional publisher, chances are, they’ll handle all of this for you. Indie authors, you have some work ahead of you.


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

Want to fund this blog and my writing efforts? You can support me directly here.

Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story).

My Camp NaNo Project: The Regonia Chronicles

Are you doing Camp NaNo? I wasn’t sure if I was going to this year or not until I made a goal on the Nano website before bed at 4:00am on April 1st.

Which… might not be the best time of day to be setting goals. Since I’m a night owl, that’s really still an hour before I would normally go to bed, but still.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, Camp Nano is basically NaNoWriMo Light.

NaNoWriMo consists of a bunch of writers buoying each other’s spirits as they each try to write 50 thousand words in a month (November).

Camp NaNo takes place in April and writers get to set their own goals for the month. It can even be editing rather than writing.

So, way too late at night for goal setting, I decided that I’d shoot for adding 20 thousand words to The Regonia Chronicles. Not a bad goal, considering the mild sleep deprivation that prompted it.

The challenge will be doing this alongside prepping release stuff for Allmother Rising and editing A Blessed Darkness. I guess I could make an editing goal, too.

But anyway, 20k words isn’t a bad goal.

By and large, I usually have no idea what’s coming in my books. I don’t exactly plan them. If I did, I would’ve known that The Regonia Chronicles was going to be multiple books rather than just one.

But I sorta have an idea of what’s coming for the next little portion.

Climb a mountain. Hope to avoid lightning storms while on said mountain. Avoid alien abduction while attempting to forge an alliance with a warrior tribe that fears you’ve brought a disease from the stars.

You know. Normal, every day shit.

So, maybe since I know what’s coming (to a degree) I’ll be able to just bust right through those 20k words.

But in all likelihood, a million complications will come up and draw out the progression of it all. Maybe someone will fall off a cliff.

*shrugs*

We’ll see.

I’m hoping to finish writing this series this year and finish the editing by next spring in order to maintain my publishing schedule. As long as it doesn’t blossom into too many additional books, that should be possible. Right now, it’s looking like three or four plus a novella prequel.

I *think* I know the general plot of the rest of book three and most of book four. And there are a few additions and adjustments that need made to books one and two.

But for now, I’m just going to concentrate on the 20 thousand words for this month.

Are you participating in Camp NaNo?


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

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Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story).

Why you should Write your Characters with Continuity

Something I always strive for in my books is the integrity of a character’s personality and their decisions. Not necessarily that the characters have integrity, but that the things they do line up with who they are.

Their choices and history, their thoughts and their opinions and the things they do and say.
I want these things to mesh, to make sense.

The way that I write makes it a little easier since the characters drive. I don’t force their hands or push them into neat little boxes. They become fully formed people with something akin to a level of autonomy. (Yes, I know that logically isn’t the case, but that’s what it feels like.)

As such, their decisions are aligned with their personalities, the way they fit into the world (or don’t), and the traumas they’ve dealt with/ran from (because let’s be honest here, all my characters are dealing with at least one traumatic event).

But for people who don’t let their characters take the reins from the get go, or anyone who’s ever suffered writer’s block (so all writers), it may not always be that simple.

Sometimes, you write yourself into a corner. Sometimes the characters make so many bad choices that they get stuck, which really just means that you, the writer, are stuck.

Some people consult their highly detailed character bibles or rehash their outlines at that point.

If I get stuck, if I don’t know what a character would do, I may just listen to the playlist that I’ve crafted for them, composed of every song I’ve heard that made me think of them. Or I may look at them through the lense of my psych degree.

Or maybe I’ll do something repetitive but active enough to get my blood pumping, then let my mind drift. Add the playlist to that, and it really helps.

Why am I telling you this?

Why do I strive to maintain integrity across their personalities and actions?

Because it matters.

Because reading a book packed with characters that act in ways that don’t make sense for their personality or their past is infuriating.

If a character that gets into trouble all the time for speaking out of turn and telling everyone exactly what they think suddenly has trouble expressing themselves the one time it’s convenient for the plot to have a misunderstanding… it’s going to piss off a lot of readers.

A character that’s never drank or even had the desire to do so suddenly gets plastered the one night you need them to not remember anything?

Probably going to piss off readers.

These things need to have a logical progression leading to them. The characters shouldn’t do things that don’t make sense for them to do.

Their actions may be stupid or the wrong choice to make, but if it’s a choice that’s consistent with their previous decision making processes or the evolution that you’ve already showcased, then it works.


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

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IngramSpark vs. KDP: Which Publishing Company is Best for You?

Last week, we talked about the dangers of vanity presses. This week, I want to discuss a couple of legitimate self-publishing companies.

There are many options, and I’m sure more crop up by the day. But KDP and Ingramspark seem to be the front runners. As they’re the two I have experience with, those are the two I’ll be going over.

That doesn’t mean they’re the only options, and it doesn’t mean they’re who you have to choose. There is no one size fits all option here. Everyone has different needs, different desires for their books. What’s best for one author may not be right for another.

All I can do is put my experiences out there for you so you have a little more information to make your choice.

Formats

Both offer ebook and paperback options.

Ingramspark also offers hardback. They even have a few different cover types: cloth with a dust jacket, case laminate, or case laminate with a dust jacket.

If you’ve never heard of it, case laminate means that an image is printed directly onto the binding of the book. You can have that with or without the dust jacket. If you get the dust jacket, it means that you can have a second piece of art on the case of the book (hidden beneath the dust jacket) or have the same cover so that readers can remove the dust jacket, leave it at home for safe keeping, and still show off that pretty cover art while reading on the go. Either way, this requires an additional file, in a different size, something that may incur extra charges with your cover designer.

Print quality

The books that Ingramspark produces are beautiful. They feel good in your hands, and they look stunning.

This isn’t to say that KDP doesn’t print good books, they do. Just not as good as Ingramspark.

Print speed

I can’t be sure, and of course time of year affects this (the time leading up to the holidays is always a longer print time), but it seems as though KDP is quicker.

Shipping of Author Copies

KDP charges normal Amazon shipping rates to send copies of your book to you. Ingramspark… *sigh* They have a basic, uninsured, no guarantee, “it’s not our responsibility” shipping option that starts at around $5. But if you want any kind of insurance or tracking at all, shipping (even for a single proof copy) is going to cost you about $20 or more.

Wholesale Distribution

Ingram is one of the biggest wholesale distributors in the world. They’re trusted by bookstores across the globe. Publishing with them does not guarantee that your book will end up in stores (you still have to approach them about carrying your book), but it gives you a chance.

KDP has an expanded distribution option, but what’s the point in taking the hit to royalties? They’re an Amazon subsidiary. Bookstores aren’t exactly likely to buy from their competitor.

Direct to Consumer Distribution

KDP (as part of Amazon) obviously has this. And with Prime shipping, readers could get your book quickly.

Ingramspark does not ship directly to consumers or handle sales directly. They print the books and ship them when a retailer like Amazon or Barnes and Noble places an order.

Tech support

KDP wins this, hands down. Ingramspark used to have passable tech support, but since last year (something I’ll cover more under the next category), they’ve taken a nose dive.

When I uploaded A Heart of Salt & Silver last November, I had nothing but problems, and getting anyone to actually address them was like pulling teeth.

KDP, however, is timely with their responses and makes uploading, fixing problems, or adjusting book listings very simple.

Ease of use

KDP wins this one, as well.

Early last year, it would have been a tie. But last summer, while the whole world was shut down and everyone that could work from home was doing so, Ingramspark did a major overhaul to their entire system in an attempt to make it more “user friendly.” But all it accomplished was breaking their system.

There were bugs.

A lot of them.

And since most people (especially tech people) were working from home on limited hours, the whole “fixing them” process dragged on and on. Meanwhile, tech support for authors was minimal and… rough. Long wait times to receive an email (7-10 days), long queue times for the online chat support (hour+), long wait times on hold (hours).

That is, until they did away with the phone option for support, making everyone use the email or chat, making wait times even longer. And the hours for the chat are highly inconsistent, not always lining up with the hours posted online.

I’ve had several issues with them since their “user friendly” update, several of which dragged out for weeks.

I’ll be uploading Allmother Rising to their site soon for that magnificent hardcover option, so we’ll see how much has been fixed.

Sales dashboard

KDP reports sales quickly and in an easy to read bar graph that shows how many copies sold each day.

Ingramspark can take up to 90 days to “gather” sales data, then reports it in a rather lackluster format. On the dashboard, it says how many of each book you’ve sold, but with no dates (which complicates the process of honing ads since you can’t get an accurate picture of their performance).

Even their monthly statements for royalties lack dates, showing only which book and which format sold. And you’ll get multiple statements. One for Apple ebooks, one for Amazon US, one for Amazon UK, one for the print distribution in the US and one for print in the UK. So the data is a bit… all over the place.

Royalties

This one really depends, honestly.

KDP offers a 70% royalty option (less print cost), but if you go with their expanded distribution (why?) you’re only eligible for 35% after the cost to print the book.

Ingramspark does 60% (I think) of the profit. But since bookstores demand a discount (a hefty 55% is preferred, but you can lower it to 30 or 35% depending on the market), you’re getting 60% of what’s left after that massive discount and the print cost.

Start-up Cost

KDP is completely free. There are no up-front costs or fees. They make their money off their portion of the profit when a book sells.

Ingramspark charges $49 for a thing they call “Title Setup,” which is basically the fee they charge to list your book in their massive wholesale distribution channels. It irritates me that it’s a thing. But as discussed above, their distribution channels are very widely used, so they can get away with it.

You have to pay that for each print format, but you can pair your ebook with one of them for no additional charge. If you’re only releasing an ebook, you still have to pay the $49.

You can revise and resubmit your files as many times as you need until you’re happy with them and hit approve. However, if you wish to do any additional revisions after approving all the files, there’s a $25 fee. Per revision.

So if you want to change the cover and have an ebook, paperback, and hardback version of the book, that means $75 to fix all three covers, even if the ebook is linked to one of the print formats.

The good thing is that they frequently release discount codes to waive these fees in their Facebook group, release some for Nanowrimo, and often provide these codes at writing conventions. (20booksto50k on Facebook has a convention coming up with a code associated)

Advertising

Ingramspark has an option to promote your book by listing it in their catalog. I think it’s under $100, but I’m not sure. I’ve never done it, so I have no idea how effective it might be.

KDP is part of Amazon, and we’ve all seen the sponsored product ads when looking for books on Amazon. They have their own marketing thing, linked to- but separate from- KDP. Many authors have found success with Amazon ads. I’m not one of them. I’ve tried a few, but since I’m still learning about ads, I haven’t gotten an Amazon ad to actually be profitable yet.

As with any type of advertising, there are a lot of metrics and a lot of things to experiment with, a lot of demographic research and keyword research to be done. Ads need honed in, and of course, it’s easier to turn a profit advertising a series than it is advertising a standalone.

(You can afford to lose a bit of money advertising book one with a higher cost per click, so long as your series hooks readers and pulls them to book two and three and ten. Standalones… you can’t afford to lose on book one because it’s only one book. This is another problem for me, as I usually write standalones.)

Kindle Unlimited

Obviously, this is a strictly Amazon thing, thus only KDP has it. If you upload your ebook ONLY to KDP and enroll in KDP select or kindle select (I forget the name, it’s a little check box during the upload process), that puts your book into the Kindle Unlimited program. People who pay monthly can read as many KU books as they want, and the authors get paid per page read.

If you don’t have many books in the program or don’t get a lot of reads, it might not add up to anything. But there are several full-time authors in the 20booksto50k group on Facebook who attribute half their earnings to KU.

That doesn’t guarantee that you’ll go full-time or be a best-seller, but the vast majority of ebooks are read on Kindles or in the Kindle app. And KU is a massive market.


Now, as I said above, there is no one size fits all publishing solution. Authors have different skill sets, resources, and needs. So, it’s natural that not every author will choose the same publishing path.

You can use either of these publishers. You can use neither.

If you purchase your own ISBN, you can use both.

I do. My ebooks are slowly being moved to KDP to take advantage of the higher royalty and the Kindle Unlimited program. My paperbacks are split between the two, and of course, I will always have hardbacks. Which is only available through Ingramspark.

The blessing (and curse) of being an indie author is that you can pick and choose whatever methodology you want. Don’t be afraid to play around with this to see which one you like best.

This is a process, not an instant, get it right the first time, always be satisfied with the first thing you try type of dream/hobby/career.

Mistakes happen. Things don’t always work.

But as long as you keep trying, you’ll find what works for you.


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

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The Hidden Dangers of Vanity Presses: Warnings for New Authors

The publishing world is a minefield with all our dreams waiting for us on the other side. High stakes, tension, and a lot of intricate details mean that there’s a lot to take in, a lot to learn.

And unfortunately, there are people out there who know this… and take advantage.

Vanity presses, I’m looking at you.

I had a run-in with one of these beasts when publishing my first novel, and if I can spare even just one other author from that mess, then this post will have been WELL worth it.

So, for all the writers who don’t know, and thus are at the greatest risk of falling into this very effective (and very legal) scam, let’s talk about what a vanity press even is.

Obviously, it’s a publishing company. They typically offer various packages (watch out for that word on publisher sites) of services they’ll provide in exchange for a set amount of money. Many have additional services you can tack on, at an extra cost.

They’ll print your book, usually print-on-demand, a feature that they’ll be sure to sell you on because it’s less wasteful and doesn’t run the risk of having extra books lying around. (Which is fair. That’s the method legitimate self-publishing companies use, too.)

They’ll list your book and distribute it, then they’ll give you a cut of the profits made off the books.

Which all sounds perfectly fine.

Unless you know that no reputable self-publishing company (and certainly no traditional publishing company) charges the author money.

*Exception: Ingramspark (definitely not a vanity press) charges $50 for “title setup,” a thing they explain as being the cost incurred by placing your book in their wholesale distribution channels. And since those channels are used by the cast majority of bookstores, they can get away with that. But they frequently release coupon codes to waive that fee.

But the point is, vanity/subsidy presses make their money off the author. Not off the books sold.

Legitimate publishing companies, be they indie, traditional, or self, make their money off the books.

The cost of each book sold accounts for the print cost, automatically keeping them out of the red. Then, they get a cut of the profit. How much depends on the publisher and the royalty they offer their authors, but no matter what, self-publishing companies should not lose money on a printed book. (Note: Traditional publishers keep higher amounts of the profit for themselves because they edit, format, design covers, etc.)

There’s absolutely no reason for self-publishing companies to charge an author (who typically has their book edited and their cover designed ahead of time) thousands of dollars to publish it. And yes, vanity presses do indeed charge thousands of dollars. (With convenient monthly payment options and *limited time* deals to pressure you into buying.)

IF covers, formatting, or editing are included in a package offered by these vanity presses, they’re usually done at cut rates and turn out very poorly. That round of editing in the package may even turn out to be that YOU find the typos and grammatical errors and tell them where they’re at so they can “edit” them. (That’s what the one I got fooled by did.)

If they try to say that formatting and file conversion are included, and thus justify thousands of dollars, formatting can be done on any computer with a simple how-to guide online. If you want it fancy and don’t want to mess with it yourself (because it is very tedious and fiddly), there are many graphic designers who do interior design/formatting, some of whom charge only $49 (or less if you find a reputable one on fiverr). Not thousands.

And file conversion to EPUB and MOBI can be done with free programs that you can get off the internet. (I use Calibre.)

Now, of course, vanity presses are not going to miss the opportunity to exploit an uninformed writer when it comes to our (almost) universal weak point: marketing. They will undoubtedly offer marketing packages, as well, but they tend to be underwhelming at best, if not downright rip-offs.

Especially when you consider the exorbitant prices they charge.

Even more so if you consider the paltry royalties they extend to the authors, like crumbs fallen off a loaf of bread. Literal pennies per printed book, maybe a quarter for an ebook.

When I fell prey to one of these beasts 7 years ago, they literally wrote in the press release that I was running a marketing campaign which… is pretty self-explanatory and wastes words in the press release that could’ve been spent on the book or me as an author.

As if that weren’t enough, add the constant phone calls trying to get you to give them more money for things that will garner little to no sales. (That press release wasn’t run by a single newspaper, but they sent it, so obviously that was worth nearly a thousand dollars.)

I was working a weird shift (half overnights and half days) at the time and told them very specific hours that I could be contacted… which were of course disregarded. Their people talked over me constantly, trying to bully me into paying more. If I didn’t answer, they called again. If I blocked the number, they called from a different one.

They called while I was supposed to be asleep for my night shifts. They called while I was at work. They called while normal people would be eating dinner.

They called ALL THE TIME.

My account was shuffled from one person to another when someone failed to get money from me. (One even went so far as to say that his teammate had read my book and thought it had promise, which of course was a lie. No one there read my book.)

After the day that I signed with them, every single person I spoke to had the same hard to pin down accent coupled with an overly-American name (doubtless an attempt to make the dumb American feel more comfortable with them).

And not a single one of them gave a shit about me or my book or the fact that I was broke as fuck working part-time, earning minimum wage, eating $0.12 ramen and $1 canned ravioli to get by.

They didn’t care that I wanted my book (and future books) to be taken seriously.

They wanted my money. That was it.

Shame blossomed within me, growing up alongside years of anger, when I realized that I’d fallen into a carefully contracted scam made especially for new, uninformed writers.

I hid it from friends and family because I didn’t feel like a real author. I shied away from questions about my writing because I didn’t know what to do with the rest of the books I was working on. I stayed quiet in writing groups, unsure how to contribute if I was such a fool.

I even stopped promoting my book, out of spite toward them and out of humiliation for myself.

When I learned that no traditional publisher would take it, even if I could get it back, since it had already been published and (since it had basically no promotion) sold almost no copies, I was heartbroken.

But eventually, I learned about legitimate self-publishing. Then, I learned how to get my book back. I could fix it, edit it properly, and rerelease it.

I cancelled everything with the vanity press and instructed them never to contact me again, though that process in and of itself took a ridiculous amount of time considering their continuous hesitation and obstacles in sending me a copy of the contract to begin with.

The copyright had been registered in my name, thank god, and they didn’t require exclusive publishing. (Why would they, since they already had my money?)

I rereleased The Gem of Meruna with a reputable self-publishing company. But even today, that poor book has been tainted in my memory, because every time I think about it, I think of them and the stress and shame and heartache of dealing with them.

So please, don’t put yourself through the years of torment and disappointment I endured. If a self-proclaimed self-publishing company (or hybrid company) asks for money upfront, run as fast as you can.

They should make their money off the books sold, not off you.

There are reputable self-publishing companies out there, ready and willing to help you publish your books. (I’ll do a post later about Ingramspark and KDP, the two I’ve worked with). There are freelance editors and graphic designers, ready and willing to make your book as beautiful as it should be.

Trust them. Work with them.

Not a vanity press armored with jargon to legalize their scam and sucker in the unsuspecting.


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Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

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Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Asking Authors How Many Books They Sold

There’s this tendency for non-writers to ask how many books you sold. And as an author, that question always causes a spike in anxiety.

Why?

Most authors wish more copies of their book sold. Plain and simple.

We’re happy to have sold the copies we’ve sold, of course we are, because that means people are reading our work.

But many of us want to do this full time, and selling 50 or 100 copies of a book does not a full time wage make.

So, as happy as we are to sell any copies, there’s always the weight of not selling enough to be a full time author hanging about our shoulders.

Many non-writers are unaware of what it takes to manage to sell even just a handful of books (or how many $2-$5 royalties it takes to make a living wage). Even without considering the writing, editing, formatting, metadata and publishing (if indie), querying (if traditional), there’s an absolute shit ton of work that goes into selling books.

Months, or years, of social media posts. Newsletters, networking with other authors, blog tours, and Instagram tours.

Then, there’s advertising, which is a hellscape, in and of itself. So many authors (myself included) hate advertising because it feels as if there’s just too much to learn, and if you do it wrong, you’re literally just dumping money down the drain.

It’s intimidating.

And then, of course, there’s the vicious cycle of being afraid to check your sales and your ads (even though it’s necessary to tweak ads to get them to actually work), thus leading to ads running and doing nothing, then finally getting up the nerve to check them (or giving in to the shame/self-blame of knowing we’re not doing what we should, thus finally checking the ads) and seeing that they’ve done nothing, because they haven’t been adjusted. Which just hurts and confirms the self-doubt we all harbor.

Writing is a very vulnerable process.

We’re basically putting ourselves on the market, because a lot of ourselves go into our books, not to mention the time and effort to get them written and ready.

So, to all the non-writers reading this, if a book is selling well, the author will let you know. They’ll be ecstatic.

And even if they aren’t chomping at the bit to tell you, it’ll likely appear on material promoting the book. Because selling a lot of copies is actually a good tool to sell more books.

That’s why you see awards on book covers or the title “USA Today Bestselling Author” or “New York Times Bestselling Author” above author names. It’s a tool to sell more books, to let you know that you can trust that book and that author because so many other people already have.

So, please, if you know an author, don’t stress them with talk of sales. If you’re curious about the fact that they write, ask about the main character of the book they’re working on/just released.

For all the authors out there wishing you’d sold more copies and comparing your numbers to the whole “most books sell less than 250 copies” thing, don’t forget that this average includes all the bestsellers, who skew that number quite a bit.

Look at your audience (excluding follow loop numbers), and 5% of that number is where you should aim for preorders. If you get that (or exceed that) then not only are you doing just fine, you should celebrate.

Like… a lot.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books hereSubscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story). Or if you’d rather pitch in for editing and other writing-related expenses, you can support me directly here.