GUEST POST with Ashlynne Laynne, Author of “The Progeny”

Progeny

“No fate other than the one I choose.” The timeless creed, and tattoo, bore by the Rousseau’s— a vampire clan with the purest bloodline of any vampire family. Out of this clandestine group came one who was different, yet the same: Ascher – a half-bloodling— half- human, half vampire.

Ascher questions the purpose for his existence and which world he truly belongs to: the human world or the vampire world. Two months from sealing to Ursula— a prearranged union to a woman he abhors — he’s at his wit’s end. He knows if he calls off the sealing, the Romanian clan will strike with deadly force, but he cannot see eternity with a cold empty shell of a woman like Ursula.

Just when he thought life was complicated enough, he meets Shauna— a beautiful, bi-racial human Wiccan — and immediately develops an unshakable attraction to her. She makes him feel alive and vital despite his origins and Ascher makes a decision that turns his immortal world upside down.

 

About Ashlynne:

Ashlynne Laynne has always had a soft spot in her heart for vampires but grew tired of the garlic fearing, sun loathing creatures of old. An avid horror movie fan, she tends to enjoy media and music that is of a younger, more eclectic nature. This was the catalyst for her writing The Progeny. The vampire/witch pairing is unique and different when most books pair vampires with werewolves.

The infinite possibilities, for such a wickedly unique couple, intrigued her. There is no shortage of romance, steam and surprises in The Progeny. These books are for adults and contain adult sensuality and themes, but minimal profanity. She loves writing on the edge and teetering between the erotica and romance genres. She thinks of Ascher and Shauna as the damned version of Romeo and Juliet.

She’s currently working on book two of the series entitled Blood Bonds. In her spare time, Ashlynne enjoys cooking, reading and spending time with her family. Ashlynne juggles the hats of wife, mother, full time employee and part-time writer, hoping to write full time one day soon.

Ashlynne lives in North Carolina with her husband and teenage son.

 

About The Progeny

 At its core, The Progeny is simply a story about a man and woman who fall in love, and the fact that he’s a half-blood (half-human, half vampire) and she’s a Wiccan human are secondary factors. It started as research about the Salem witch trials, some rough sketches of a special family heirloom that my guys would wear and two names—Ascher and Shauna. In the beginning, of the book, Ascher is grumpy. Frankly, who could blame him? He’s engaged to seal to Ursula—a cold and careless vampire who wants nothing more than to get her hands on a bloodstone— and he feels conflicted about his existence.

All of that changes when he meets Shawnette McCutchin. She’s beautiful, intriguing and possesses some of the most potent blood that he’s ever smelled. A war immediately begins inside Ascher. He craves Shauna’s blood just as much as he craves her body and the closer they get, the harder it is for him to control his urges. After Ascher calls off the sealing to Ursula, the trouble begins. His family’s peaceful period ends when Ursula’s army attacks the Rousseaus. Kidnapping, some steamy love scenes between our hero and heroine and Wiccan rage complete the plot.

 

Excerpt from The Progeny

Ascher pulled Shauna behind him, his stance clearly a protective one. But why-? Surely, she didn’t need protection from her. His grip tightened around her arm, his knuckles straining with tension. Her mind finally registered his firm hold and sent messages to her heart and eyes.

She wiggled away from him. “Let go of me, Ash! What’s wrong with you? Who is she?”

“I’m fine and she’s nobody. Ursula was just leaving.” He spoke with little conviction.

The hell I am…” the stranger mumbled, an unsavory smirk turning up the corners of her mouth. “Tell her, Ascher. Tell her who I really am!”

“Yeah, Ascher,” Shauna spoke in a mocking tone, her eyes becoming pieces of wet coal in narrow sockets. “Why don’t you tell me the truth…who is she?”

He froze, his youthful face chiseled with a mixture of shock, horror and anger. “There’s something you need to know.”

“Spit it out, Ascher. Tell her! Or I will!” Ursula growled, her hands flicking the shades away from her face.

Terror, worse than any horror movie Shauna had ever seen. More ghastly than any monster a mind could conjure.

Shauna clutched her chest, stepping away from both of them. “Her eyes!” she screamed. “Ascher…what’s wrong with her eyes?”

The stranger giggled and continued piercing her demonized stare into Shauna.

Ascher struggled to control his mounting anger. He clutched Shauna closer. “Do you trust me?”

The floor vibrated underneath their feet. Shauna’s eyes became cold, the glare of distrust swimming in them.

“No. I don’t! Why are you so nervous?”

“You left Katy alone. You should go back up with her. I’ll be up there in a little while. Okay?”

“No. I want to know who she is. Right now, Ascher! Who…is…she?”

“Please, Shauna,”— he huffed with impatience— “just do it.”

“For cryin’ out loud…” Ursula groaned.

“I warned you, Ursula,” he growled, every part of him aching to rip her to shreds. She had nerve. Were he not a gentleman, he’d finish her and be done with it.

“You don’t warn me. Looks like you’ve been keeping a lot from her. Afraid she might not want you if she knows the real you?”

His lips strained against clenched teeth, begging to curl up and release a menacing snarl. Control— He had to stay in control. Push the anger back down. Stem the raging desire to lash out at Ursula.

Her red eyes narrowed, the smirk taunting him, daring him to expose himself. He was strong in his gifts, but rage made her stronger. Her mind turned, fighting off the subliminals he hurled at her.

She cackled, “That won’t work, dearest. It’s time she knows everything.”

“Dearest?” Shauna questioned, her tiny fists balling.

Ascher reached for Shauna but she moved away from him.

“Don’t touch me!”

“Ursula, doing this won’t change things between us,” he uttered, knowing she’d never listen to reason.

“No! She deserves to know the truth, Ascher,” Ursula responded.

“Ursula, please—” He couldn’t believe he was begging her for anything.

Ignoring his pleading, she continued, “My name is Ursula. Ascher and I are to seal in two days.”

Shauna drew in a staggered breath. “Seal— as in marriage?”

Ascher sighed.

“Is this true?” Shauna demanded.

His head dropped in shame. “Yes, but…”

“So she is your fiancée? And let me guess, she’s the first.”

“Shauna, I can explain.”

Shauna clutched her head with both hands screaming, “No!” The window, behind her, cracked. She ran towards the door, fresh tears flooding her face. Ascher grabbed at her, missing. “No!” she shouted again. The ceiling rumbled, water raining down from the sprinklers. “Move!” she shouted, pointing towards the door. It flew open, nearly ripping off its hinges. Ascher appeared in front of her. She scowled then pushed him back. “Go away!” she yelled then watched as an unseen force moved him from her path. She turned, backing away from both of them, her eyes fixated on the two. Her finger twirled then pointed at each of them. “Stay!”

“I hope you’re happy now,” he growled at Ursula then sprinted after Shauna, catching her before she hit the stairs. He clutched her, turning her to him. Distress blanketed her face. “Shauna please, just let me explain.”

A strange burn started in her legs. What’s happening to me? She’d had rage issues all her life but never anything like this. Her normally clear eyesight was now blurry and grey. The hall—she’d seen for three months and knew like the back of her hand—became an unfamiliar maze, veiled by her fuzzy vision.

She took a step, stumbled then regained her balance against the wall.

“I told you how important honesty was to me and you’ve been keeping this from me the whole time. You told me she was nobody… that it was only physical curiosity. It doesn’t look that way to me. She talks like she owns you. You told me it was over between the two of you. How were you going to cover up getting married to someone else?”

“I wasn’t, just listen to me…”

She shook her head. “I’ve listened enough. I can’t trust you. Without trust, we have nothing. All you’ve done is feed me lies. You’re a liar! I despise liars! I can’t believe I was going to sleep with you—allow you to be my first.” She gripped her stomach and doubled over. “I’m going to be sick…”

He reached for her, again.

“Don’t touch me!” Every ounce of restraint left her body. Chaos now flooded her brain. She wanted to lash out. No, she needed to lash out.

“Shauna. Just let me take you home. I promise I’ll explain things to you.”

“What part of, ‘I don’t want to hear your lies’— don’t you understand?” she seethed through clenched teeth, her anger blazing directly into him. “Back…!” she barked, pushing her hands away from her body, towards him. He flew back against the wall. “I don’t want to hear it! Don’t touch me, Ascher,” she sobbed into her hands, “I hate you. I wish I’d never met you!”

“Shauna…?” he whispered, pain and disbelief creasing his face.

“Just leave me alone. I never want to see you again.”

“Shauna you don’t….”

“Oh yes I do— I mean it and I quit! I can’t work here anymore.”

She ran out the emergency exit, setting off the door alarm, sprinting—into the night.

 

Ashlynne appreciates and loves to hear from her readers. Connect with her:

Twitter: @qlane

Facebook: Book Page- http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Progeny-Series-by-author-   Ashlynne-Laynne/129418917161599

                  Author Page- http://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Ashlynne-Laynne/118945981513261

Author Blog: http://ashlynnelaynne.blogspot.com/

Email: ashlynnelaynne@aol.com

 

Where to Buy The Progeny:

Amazon Kindle:  http://www.amazon.com/Progeny-ebook/dp/B0074535P6/ref=sr_1_1_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328127665&sr=1-1

Barnes and Noble Nook:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-progeny-ashlynne-laynne/1108540255?ean=2940014108355&itm=1&usri=the+progeny+by+ashlynne+laynne

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/128489

GUEST POST From Tobias Buckell, Author of “Arctic Rising”

Tobias Buckell

The fun thing about writing science fiction is that you posit something fairly wild, and then you start extrapolating out from that what if as rigorously as you can to see where all the consequences take you.

When I was originally reading the research for Arctic Rising, I was reading a lot of reports by the US military about their own estimates of how much ice would be in the Arctic in forty or so years. At first, their worst case scenario was a lot of melting in the summer. So when I set out to write Arctic Rising I thought, hey, let’s say mostly all gone in the summer except for some bits kept alive by refrigeration cables and ingenious humans… with a polar bear reserve in the middle for sentimentality’s sake.

By the time I was done writing the book, the general consensus from the same sources was that my science fictional scenario was going to be real.

Now everyone is pointing me to this article in the Guardian about the fact that the Arctic Ice is particularly low on the Atlantic side this year, even more than expected.

After so many years of writing about stuff that is well around the corner, it’s a bit freaky to have people constantly emailing links saying ‘check this out, your book needs to come out as quickly as possible!’

And the fact is, the loss of the ice is actually the very beginning of the story. It’s just the fact on the ground. We’ve already warmed everything up the point where accelerated ice loss is enough of a fact that oil companies have put in the paperwork to drill for Arctic Oil, shipping companies are building northern deep water harbors and getting ready to expand their shipping routes, and the phrase ‘Arctic Tigers’ is getting readied for the nations that will benefit.

But what is really interesting to me, as a writer, is who is going to live up there once that happens? And how are they going to react to what is going to be a very different geopolitical world?

I tried to answer some of that in Arctic Rising, or at least, tackle with some of the ideas that have occurred to me as a result of all this reading.

_____________________________________________________________

Arctic Rising

ARCTIC RISING is a sci-fi techno thriller that addresses near-future concerns about the melting of the Arctic Ice Cap and the geopolitical tensions that could arise if this were to occur.

The Arctic Ice Cap has all but melted away. Enter the Gaia Corporation. Its two founders have come up with a plan to roll back global warming: thousands of tiny mirrors floating in the air to create a giant sunshade, capable of redirecting heat and cooling the earth’s surface. They plan to terraform the Earth—but in doing so have created a superweapon the likes of which the world has never seen.

Anika Duncan is an airship pilot for the underfunded United Nations Polar Guard. Intent on capturing a smuggled nuclear weapon that has made its way into the Polar Circle, she finds herself caught up in a plot by a cabal of military agencies and corporations who want Gaia stopped. And when Gaia loses control of their superweapon, it will be Anika who has to decide the future of the world. The nuclear weapon she has risked her life to find is the only thing that can stop the sunshade when it falls into the wrong hands.

Tobias Buckell has an incredibly unique story to tell. Born in Grenada, he is the third generation in a family of sailors who lived a life of adventure aboard boats, traveling the Mediterranean and Caribbean. When hurricanes destroyed his family’s boat and forced their move to the states, Buckell found himself in a place quite different from the sea: Ohio—and he’s been there ever since.

In 2002, Buckell won the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award and was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer the same year. He sold his first novel at twenty-five, the ground-breaking Crystal Rain, which was a Locus bestseller and followed by two novels in the same universe: Ragamuffin—nominated for both the Nebula and Prometheus awards and Sly Mongoose. In 2009, Buckell reached New York Times bestseller status with Halo: The Cole Protocol. In addition to his novels, Tobias’s experiences in the publishing world—and various other topics—are documented on his weblog, which reaches thousands of readers each month.

GUEST POST: “The Other Character: Setting” by Ryder Islington

The Other Character: Setting

Ryder Islington

Ryder Islington

One of my favorite parts of writing a novel is creating a world. My debut novel, Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery, is set in a small fictional town, Raven Bayou, in southwest Louisiana. I loved laying out a map of the town, naming the streets and shops, and placing it in just the right location in the South.

Setting can be considered a character if you give it character. Raven Bayou has a Courthouse Square, a city park, and two casinos on the river. It is mostly a quiet town. The casinos are there for those passing from New Orleans, west into Texas. Instead of a police force, it is serviced by the county sheriff’s department. There is a ritzy neighborhood, including a horse ranch owned by a villain, and a Cajun neighborhood where that thick pigeon French/English language spoken.

Choosing a location for placing the town was easy. I wanted it to be in the deep South where my one African-American homicide cop had to cope with prejudice on all fronts. And since the world seems to love New Orleans, I thought being within driving distance would give me options. But I didn’t want to use New Orleans itself. I’d rather create my own town.

This location also allowed me to bring up the way women are treated in the South. In truth a lot of the men place their women on pedestals. Unfortunately, many women, while worshiped and treated like ladies, are also considered unable to do what men do. They don’t belong on the streets as cops. So that was perfect for my female cop. Never mind that she has had major problems in her past. Now she has to deal with men who don’t appreciate her presence.

Writing a novel allows us to create whatever we want, as long as it’s believable. We can use the climate, the political and religious beliefs of the region, the land, water and animal life.

In chapter on of my book there is a crime scene just outside the city proper. A dirt road with houses a half mile apart on one side and a verdant jungle on the other. Pastures with horses, out buildings used for storage, for garden tools, for chicken coops.  And of course, the ever present humidity of Louisiana. If it’s not raining, wait a minute. If your clothes aren’t sticking to you, you must be inside under the a/c.

Location can be a vital part of your story. It can be used to hide things, to make things more difficult for characters, to cause accidents, or create excuses. Every part of the location can be used. The local entertainment: rodeos, theaters, lake resorts, casinos, land and wildlife for hunting, rivers for fishing. The landmarks: Courthouse, sheriff’s department, casino, bayou. The language: French Cajun, pigeon English, Southern slang. Expectations: Blacks are ignorant, women are weak, men are supposed to fight and drink, and be protectors. It’s okay to go there. You can even create that one person who doesn’t fit in, who constantly fights the locals, trying to break the stereotypes and another who is so entrenched in local beliefs that he or she will never change. And just for fun, add a person or two who fakes the local prejudices just to avoid arguments. Make the place real. Make it breathe. Sprinkle in the local color. Think about where you live. Write it down. Practice bringing that to life, and then do the same with your setting.

 
Ultimate Justice

Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery is receiving rave reviews from readers.

The small town of Raven Bayou, Louisiana explodes as old money meets racial tension, and tortured children turn the table on abusive men. FBI Special Agent Trey Fontaine returns home to find the town turned upside down with mutilated bodies. Working with local homicide detectives, Trey is determined to get to the  truth. A believer in empirical evidence, Trey ignores his instincts until he stares into the face of the impossible, and has to choose between what he wants to believe and the ugly truth.

A graduate of the University of California and former officer for a large sheriff’s department, RYDER ISLINGTON is now retired and doing what she loves: reading, writing, and gardening. She lives in Louisiana with her family, including a very large English Chocolate Lab, a very small Chinese pug, and a houseful of demanding cats. She can be contacted at RyderIslington@yahoo.com or visit her blog at http://ryderislington.wordpress.com

GUEST POST #5: “What Every Author Needs to Know About Writing for a Living” by Michael J. Sullivan

Michael J. Sullivan

 

Michael J Sullivan

 

Michael J. Sullivan is the author of the epic six-book fantasy series, The Riyria Revelations. Originally published with a small press, the series was picked up this year by Orbit books and is being released in three volumes. The first, Theft of Swords, released in November, contains the first two volumes. The second, Rise of Empire, features the third and fourth volumes and came out this month. The final volume, Heir of Novron, collecting the final two volumes of the series, is due out in January 2012.

This is the fifth of five posts that Michael J. Sullivan will be doing this week on BookBanter. Check back tomorrow for the next post, or you can subscribe to the BookBanter Blog by entering your email at the top right of the BookBanter Blog page.

Listen to an interview between BookBanter and Michael J. Sullivan.

What Every Author Needs to Know About Writing for a Living

It’s not good to hear, and sorry to say, but most authors simply don’t make a living from novel writing. Even those with multiple books still have day jobs to pay the bills, and many times their writing provides just a little additional cash for a vacation or a small luxury. I write genre fiction (epic fantasy) and multiple sources tell me that the average advance for a debut author is $5,000 – $10,000. Considering that most novels take years to produce, this obviously is not enough to live on. Sadly, the novel writer’s mantra really is, “Don’t quit your day job.”

I feel fortunate that I can count myself as one of the minority that does indeed support my family through my writing. For years my wife was the sole bread winner, allowing me to tap away at the keyboard without the added distraction of a nine-to-five job. I was pleased when we had enough saved up so that in April 2011 she was able to leave that behind.

One thing that I should mention is that non-fiction writing is generally easier (more books produced, higher pay, easier to find a publisher) but I’m going to limit my discussion here to novels. So, let’s say you want a shot at writing novels fulltime for a living…what would I recommend?  Well let’s break it down.

Write within a Genre

In the broadest definitions fiction can be categorized as either literary or genre (sometimes known as popular) and for a new writer, breaking into genre fiction is much easier as there are a larger number of books produced, more copies sold, and in general it is easier to find readers that gravitate toward a particular subject.  2010 book data from Simba Information shows the breakdown between the various categories as:

  • Romance/erotica: $1.358 billion
  • Religion/inspirational: $759 million
  • Mystery/thriller: $682 million
  • Science fiction/fantasy: $559 million
  • Classic literary fiction: $455 million

Write a Series

Series are very common in romance, fantasy, science fiction, and mystery/thrillers genres. Usually they follow a particular character (or set of characters) and provide repeat buyers a familiar experience to dive back into. Writing series is a key to financial security as you don’t have to rebuild a fan base from scratch with each new book. Also, series have longer legs, in other words the sales of the first book (and those in between) will receive a boost each time the next book in the series comes out.

I have some pet peeves about series writing. First I hate a true cliff hanger where you need to read the next book in order to obtain closure on the book you just read. To me this is a cheap trick to get another sale. You need to ensure that each book has its own conflict and resolution. That’s not to say you can’t have hints or tease of an ongoing mystery, just make sure that your books contain a complete episode. Sometimes books break at unnatural places because they are too long to publish as a single work. This happens often in fantasy and again is another pet peeve of mine. If you are going to write series, I recommend you design your breaks from the beginning…no one likes to be stopped in the middle of the story and your goal is to make a reader want to read your next book not force them into anther purchase.

Be Prolific

Few authors will be able to support themselves with a single book.  Most won’t be able to even with two or three (unless they are wildly popular). You must produce a body of work and you need to constantly keep your fans well fed. Putting out multiple books in a single year is most often accomplished by self-published authors and some of the most successful ones have released six or more books in a single year. This generally is not a pace that can be maintained, and I’m not saying that you have to do that. But if you are able to produce at least two books a year, then you’ll probably be in pretty good shape.

The infrastructure of traditional publishing sometimes struggles with prolific writers. Generally there are release calendars, which are basically windows when books are scheduled, and some finished books may take up to two years to hit the street. Even my books, which were finished and fast-tracked took a year to come out (the Fall 2011 was the next release calendar available) but I was fortunate that Orbit released all the books in subsequent months: Theft of Swords (Nov), Rise of Empire (Dec), and Heir of Novron (Jan). My contract has a period of non-compete…a time of exclusivity when only the Orbit books are available for sale. So I’ve been hard at work writing my next books so they will be ready once the period expires.

Write Well

In some respects I should have led with this, but I consider this as a “given.” In real estate it’s all about location, and when it comes to publishing, it’s all about word-of-mouth sales. No book can become a success without readers falling in love with it and recommending it to others. Authors today are fortunate in that there are many more ways for people to share their excitement about a book. There are thousands of book blogs, and sites such as goodreads, Shelfari, and Library Thing where millions of people are discussing books.

Marketing

Most writers abhor the thought of self-promotion. Many think that this is a task relegated only to self-published authors and being published traditionally means you don’t have to dirty your feet with such activities. This is a huge fallacy. ALL authors need to promote their books.  If you are self-published you wear all the hats, so of course marketing is one of the pieces you’ll have to tackle, but many traditionally published authors complain about lack of marketing support.

The truth is that there is a pecking order in publishing, with best-selling authors at the top. Those near the bottom (midlist or new authors) may receive little marketing support. Most will only be included in a catalog that is sent to libraries and chain store book buyers. Projects that are deemed as having a higher potential of success will get more attention: print ads, online ads, co-op dollars for premium placement in bookstores, and so on. These activities are all fine and well, but even if you receive such attention you shouldn’t feel that it is “good enough.” Keep in mind that all marketing departments are spinning plates of multiple titles at once. You…and only you…will be 100% dedicated to your titles, and the more messages about your book(s), the better the chances that they will get noticed.  As mentioned above, word-of-mouth is king but you have to prime the pump and get enough people to know it exists before the self-perpetuation of one person telling another will kick in.

Subsidiary Sales

I’ve received a significant amount of income from the sales of foreign rights. I’ve signed contracts for: Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, France, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Brazil, and Japan. Although I had a higher than average US advance (six-figures instead of four-figures) I’ve made about double that through the sales of foreign rights.  Whether this is additional income, or goes to paying off your advance, depends on your contract and I’ll discuss this more in a minute.

While generally not huge (in terms of initial income), I’ve also received additional monies because Orbit has licensed the books for a hardcover book club edition as well as an audio version. I look upon these formats as a way of spreading the word. The income potential is not that high, but it does provide another way for people to discover that I exist, and besides, every little bit helps.

Earn Out

Most authors will never earn out their advances, which basically means the advance will be the only compensation they will ever receive for a book.  The statistics I’ve seen is only about 10%-20% will do so. For those that don’t understand what earning out is, let me explain.

Larger publishers pay advances for books. This is a sum of money that flows to the author before even a single book is sold.  It can, in many ways be thought of as a loan.  As books sell, royalties are earned (the author makes from $0.40 to $2.50 a book depending on format and price) but this money initially stays with the publisher because it is repaying the loan. Only if enough books sell, and the full loan is repaid, will the author will receive additional money.

It’s not only sales of individual books that can work toward “paying back the loan”. Any rights sold by the publisher as a subsidiary right (such as foreign sales, book clubs, or audio book contracts) will have a percentage of that sale going to the author, and that will be applied against the advance.  I have an author friend who was really happy because their contract was written with worldwide rights, and they received enough foreign sales to get them very close to earning out.  Personally, I think they would have been much better off if they had sold only English language rights as that additional money would have gone directly to them and essentially doubled their initial income from the books.

Earning out means you’ll have ongoing revenue (although it usually comes only once or twice a year – so you need to manage your cash flow carefully). Without it, you’ll have to ensure that contract income (from foreign rights and new books) will be enough to keep the bills paid. Without earning out you are basically treading water…consuming the income for each book as they are created. Having books earned out can help break that cycle and allow you a bit of breathing room.

An Uncertain Revenue Stream

Writing for a living can be very hit and miss and trying to determine when money will come in is almost impossible. What if the book is bumped in the release calendar? That 1/3 of the advance upon publication will be delayed. What if sales of a first book are too low and the publisher cancels the other books in a multiple book deal? Well you just lost a ton of cash. What if you earned out, but then sales decline? That ongoing stream is not so ongoing. What if none of the foreign publishers are interested? That’s a whole huge potential that is gone. You could easily have a six-figure salary one year and nothing the next.

My approach is to count no chickens before they hatch.  I make sure I always have at least one year’s worth of income stashed away and am always thinking about the date of my next book as that is the next chance for additional income. I  manage my spending…in other words I’m not extravagant in my purchases…as I feel more comfortable banking money for the potential lean times ahead.

Summing it all up

The most important take away from this post is to manage your expectations. Writing novels is not a “get rich quick” career. Sure, there are some who make millions at it…but those are few and far between. The bulk of “paid novelists” earn only a few thousand a year. Even if you are fortunate enough to earn a good sum of money, you need to realize that there is no guarantee about any future income, so the strategy of the ant is far better than that of the grasshopper.

Read Michael J. Sullivan’s previous post on “Query or Self-Publish”

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Theft of Swords Rise of Empire

GUEST POST #4: “Query or Self-Publish” by Michael J. Sullivan

Michael J. Sullivan

 

Michael J Sullivan

 

Michael J. Sullivan is the author of the epic six-book fantasy series, The Riyria Revelations. Originally published with a small press, the series was picked up this year by Orbit books and is being released in three volumes. The first, Theft of Swords, released in November, contains the first two volumes. The second, Rise of Empire, features the third and fourth volumes and came out this month. The final volume, Heir of Novron, collecting the final two volumes of the series, is due out in January 2012.

This is the fourth of five posts that Michael J. Sullivan will be doing this week on BookBanter. Check back tomorrow for the next post, or you can subscribe to the BookBanter Blog by entering your email at the top right of the BookBanter Blog page.

Listen to an interview between BookBanter and Michael J. Sullivan.

Query or Self-Publish

Hello once again…I’m back to discuss another topic that Alex asked me to write on. This time it involves different ways of going about getting your books to market.  I’m a bit unique in that my Riyria Revelations  have been published just about every way possible: small-press (Aspirations Media, Inc), self-published (through a company created by my wife, Ridan Publishing), and big-six traditionally published (Orbit, fantasy imprint of Hachette Book Group). The publishing world is going through major changes…perhaps the largest since the introduction of the Guttenberg press…and the old rules may no longer apply.

If you are an aspiring author, you are probably familiar with the standard path to publishing.

  1. You write a book
  2. Create a query letter to attract an agent
  3. The agent uses their contacts in the industry to contact editors
  4. If a match is found, and there is availability in the publishing calendar, an offer is made.

With the recent popularity of ebooks many authors, myself included, have found an audience and made a good income by self-publishing their works. The ability to successfully self-publish is a relatively new phenomenon.  It was in November 2010 that “the freshman class” of self-published authors really saw their books take off.  I was joined by authors such as Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath, John Locke, David Dalglish, H.P. Mallory and dozens of others who sold tens of thousands of books (and in some cases hundreds of thousands) in a single month.

The difference is that ebook distribution networks now provide self-published authors access to readers that had been previously unavailable when books were predominantly sold through bookstores. Publishers and agents started to take notice of independent authors whose books climbed up the Amazon charts and reached bestseller status. The dynamics were set on their head and many agents started signing self-published authors and used their sales figures in proposals to the publishers, which landed contracts.

For those that have been in the industry for a long time, you may have heard that once the first publication rights of a work have been exercised, no publisher would be interested in re-publishing the work. This was true at one time, but it is no longer the case. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised that in the not too distant future, some of the slush pile moves from submitted queries, to reading books that have been self-published.

So, what’s a new author to do if your goal is a contract with a big-six publisher? The answer is…it depends. Self-publishing requires you to wear many hats not the least of which is becoming savvy at marketing so that your books get noticed. Some people may not be suited to this very entrepreneur path, and so they should continue to query.  But I also suggest that they simultaneously work on building a platform with social media, as this is an increasingly important part of the total author package.

If you do feel you have what it takes to “be your own boss” and take responsibility for all aspects of producing your book, then self-publishing will probably be a great way to prove the work is worthy of consideration. In general the numbers I’ve heard is that if you can sell 5,000 books over the course of a year both agent and publishers will take notice.

Going this route can also significantly decrease the long review time that usually accompanies the standard query process. When my foreign rights agent approached several New York publishers about taking over my series, I thought it would take years before we got any nibbles.

As it turned out there were seven or eight companies who expressed an immediate interest and I decided on a publisher and agreed to contract terms in about three-weeks from the date of first contact. I also received a higher than average advance than most debut authors. After all, I was already making six-figures from the series on my own, so the publisher needed to take that into consideration when trying to attract me into signing.

So, which route is best?  The truth is that both paths are generally difficult. I have a theory that the number of self-published success stories is essentially equal to the number of manuscripts selected from slush piles and successfully brought to market, and in both cases there are thousands of failures for each success. However there is reason for optimism, as now there are choices, one of which puts the control more firmly in the hands of the author themselves. No one can accurately predict which books will take off and which will fail to find an audience. But for those who successfully self-publish, and desire a contract with a traditional publisher, then bypassing the query process just might be the fastest path to your goal.

Read Michael J. Sullivan’s previous post on “Traditional or Self-Publish, Which do I Prefer?”

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Theft of Swords Rise of Empire

GUEST POST #3: “Traditional or Self-Published, Which do I Prefer?” by Michael J. Sullivan

Michael J. Sullivan

 

Michael J Sullivan

 

 

Michael J. Sullivan is the author of the epic six-book fantasy series, The Riyria Revelations. Originally published with a small press, the series was picked up this year by Orbit books and is being released in three volumes. The first, Theft of Swords, released in November, contains the first two volumes. The second, Rise of Empire, features the third and fourth volumes and came out this month. The final volume, Heir of Novron, collecting the final two volumes of the series, is due out in January 2012.

This is the third of five posts that Michael J. Sullivan will be doing this week on BookBanter. Check back tomorrow for the next post, or you can subscribe to the BookBanter Blog by entering your email at the top right of the BookBanter Blog page.

Listen to an interview between BookBanter and Michael J. Sullivan.

Traditional or Self-Published,
Which do I Prefer?

I’m one of the few authors who are fortunate enough to have seen each side of publishing: small press (my first book, The Crown Conspiracy was released by Aspirations Media Inc); self-published (the first five books of The Riyria Revelations were put out by my wife’s company Ridan Publishing), and big-six (Orbit, the fantasy imprint of Hachette Book Group is re-releasing Riyria as a trilogy). So I know firsthand the benefits and downsides of each. Let me start by saying there is no “right choice.” Each author’s goals and skills are unique and which path they should take depends on what they want out of publishing.

I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a maverick. I hate the very idea of authority and have spent only seven of my fifty years working for someone else – and the bulk of that time was when I was a teenager or in my early twenties.  I’m also one of those people who is more comfortable when I do a job as myself and don’t like delegating to others. It’s not even a matter of me thinking someone else won’t do as good of a job. It’s merely that I know what I like…I’m very particular…so doing it myself ensures a result that at least I’m happy with.

I approached traditional publishing with a fair amount of trepidation. I know authors have little to no say over things such as titles, cover design, pricing, or marketing copy. Having total control is one of the things I liked best about self-publishing. Also, I read blogs of some of the most successful self-published authors, many of whom were previously traditionally published. These people tell horror stories of their experiences, and its tough not to listen to those who have already been there.

Given all this, I’m sure many would expect me to say I prefer self-publishing…and there is a lot that is good about this venue, but I simply could not have been happier with how my traditional publishing has gone so far.  I’m sure that not everyone’s experience would be the same…and it may be that I’m getting more attention from my particular publisher than most debut authors receive, but I can now say with 100% certainty that it was the correct choice for me.

A lot of this has to do with the quality of Orbit’s organization. When I was published through AMI I never felt comfortable, as I seemed to know more than the people producing my books. With Orbit, I don’t mind turning over “my baby” to someone else because they have proven time and again that they know what they are doing…and this makes all the difference in the world.

It’s still pretty early to determine which path would provide the highest earnings, but to be honest I don’t really care about that. I don’t need to get every ounce of income out of my books…I’m happy as long as the bills are paid, and I don’t have to eat spaghetti every night. I’m more than willing to share the income of the books with a team of talented people all striving to produce the highest quality work possible.

And therein lies the real difference—having a team. I can relax and concentrate primarily on writing, knowing that there are others who are dealing with all the other details. It’s a very liberating feeling.

Will my next books be published traditionally or self-published? Well that depends on a number of factors. Orbit hasn’t yet seen the next book (I’m still editing it), and they may decide that they are not interested.  If they are then my choices get a bit more difficult. You see…I really enjoy my “living wage” and with the higher percentage of income that is retained through self-publishing, I’m fairly confident that I could maintain my lifestyle if I self-published.  Will Orbit be willing to pay me comparably?  I don’t know.  But the wonderful thing about writing in today’s publishing climate is an author has choices. If it turns out they don’t want the work, or we can’t agree on terms I will likely self-publish. This is isn’t my first choice…but it allows me to continue doing what I like best which is writing. Hopefully that won’t be the case. I’d like nothing better than to continue traditionally publishing. I know it has somewhat a bad reputation as of late. But for me, and the experience I’ve had to date…it would certainly be my first choice for future work.

Read Michael J. Sullivan’s previous post on “Outlining Versus Discovery Writing.”

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Theft of Swords Rise of Empire

GUEST POST #2: “Outlining Versus Discovery Writing” by Michael J. Sullivan

Michael J. Sullivan

 

Michael J Sullivan

 

 

Michael J. Sullivan is the author of the epic six-book fantasy series, The Riyria Revelations. Originally published with a small press, the series was picked up this year by Orbit books and is being released in three volumes. The first, Theft of Swords, released in November, contains the first two volumes. The second, Rise of Empire, features the third and fourth volumes and came out this month. The final volume, Heir of Novron, collecting the final two volumes of the series, is due out in January 2012.

This is the second of five posts that Michael J. Sullivan will be doing this week on BookBanter. Check back tomorrow for the next post, or you can subscribe to the BookBanter Blog by entering your email at the top right of the BookBanter Blog page.

Listen to an interview between BookBanter and Michael J. Sullivan.

Outlining Versus Discovery Writing

This is probably one of the oldest debates that exists in writing (followed by the close second of whether the Oxford comma should be used). I’ve seen deliberations which have set forums on fire, as proponents of one side or the other attempts to explain why the opposing opinion is invalid. The truth is, it really depends on the author. Some will find outlining as a means of organizing their thoughts, while another may find it too restricting and ultimately stifling their creativity. So I’m not here today to rally opinions for one side or the other. So I’ll take this opportunity to give you a bit of insight into what I do.

When I started writing, I firmly used the discovery process. The problem for me, is I often wrote myself into corners and found that I wasted large amounts of time by either having to abandon a work entirely, or needing to cut out significant amounts of what I thought was finished prose in order to fix whatever predicament I had gotten myself into.  Before writing The Riyria Revelations I actually completed thirteen novels and started and abandoned an untold number of other manuscripts. So I found myself wasting quite a bit of time…probably years if I added everything up.

Nowadays I always outline, but I do so very lightly. In the early conceptualization process it is nothing more than where the story starts, where it will end, and various snippets of scenes that I think I’ll write along the way.  Then I get more detailed and provide some flesh to the skeleton by deciding what should happen in each chapter and checking the pacing of the book. It may mean adding a chapter here or there, or moving a chapter in order to balance the most exciting scenes with more slowly paced breathers.

Even though I have an outline, I leave myself open for questioning where I’m going and challenging if I can significantly improve the book by adding a twist, or changing a character’s motivations. I often find myself arguing with characters that resist doing what I want them to (because it would force them to act out of character). In most cases when I find myself fighting with them, it’s an indication that I’m trying to take a quick or easy way out. Listening to them will almost always require more writing—sometimes several chapters—but the book will always benefit when I give in to their demands.

Whether you write from an outline, use discovery, or use a mixture of both (as I do) there is one thing that I think all authors can benefit from…and that is giving a story time to gestate. I’ve been known to complete an entire book and say, “That’s pretty good…but not great…how can I take it up a notch.”  I’ll give myself weeks, sometimes months, just to mull over the story as a whole. Usually I play devil’s advocate, as if I’m picking apart the plot of someone else’s work, like I often do with movies. This is where some of my best ideas come from. With the entire book laid out before me, I can usually see various threads I can pull on or places I can weave new ones that will take the book in a whole new direction. In many cases I know I’ll surprise the readers, as I ended up surprising myself when I see ways in which I can make pieces connect.

I often get letters from aspiring authors asking for advice and many times I feel like it’s a cop-out, but the reality is only you can choose what is right for yourself.  No one can help you determine that. The best advice I can offer is to keep working at it, as the more you write the better you’ll become at identifying what works best—as with anything writing is a muscle which improves through repeated use. Don’t get discouraged if you end up having to throw away work, and don’t be so wedded to an outline that you don’t allow “the magic” to occur. The only universal advice I can offer is to never “settle.” Set your sites at producing the highest quality work you can and know that you might not realize the best way to get there when you are new to writing. But over time you’ll develop the system that work the best for you…oh and please don’t flame someone else for an approach that doesn’t match yours. It doesn’t help either of you.

Read Michael J. Sullivan’s previous post on “A Bit About Contracts.”

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Theft of Swords Rise of Empire

GUEST POST #1: “A Bit About Contracts” by Michael J. Sullivan

Michael J. Sullivan

 Michael J Sullivan

Michael J. Sullivan is the author of the epic six-book fantasy series, The Riyria Revelations.  Originally published with a small press, the series was picked up this year by Orbit books and is being released in three volumes.  The first, Theft of Swords, released in November, contains the first two volumes.  The second, Rise of Empire, features the third and fourth volumes and came out this month.  The final volume, Heir of Novron, collecting the final two volumes of the series, is due out in January 2012.

This is the first of five posts Michael J. Sullivan will be doing this week on BookBanter.  Check back tomorrow for the next post, or you can subscribe to the BookBanter Blog by entering your email at the top right of the BookBanter Blog page.

Listen to an interview between BookBanter and Michael J. Sullivan.

A Bit About Contracts

Greetings everyone…I want to thank Alex for providing me an opportunity to provide a series of guest posts over the next few days here on BookBanter. He has selected a number of topics that provide some information on the process of publishing and I hope that this helps to peel back the veil of what goes on behind the scenes, and I hope doing so will be of some help to anyone out there that might be an aspiring author.  Today I’m going to speak a bit about contracts.

It should go without saying that you should never sign a contract that gives away the rights to your ideas, world, or characters. The copyright for any written work belongs to the author from the moment they create it, and you should never sell this right. What you do is provide permission for a publisher to create and distribute various formats of your work for a specific amount of time within certain defined geographic areas. There are times when an author may not own the copyright for works they create, for instance in an arrangement known as “work for hire.” In this case the idea is generally coming from the organization that hires the author, and they are the owners of the copyright.

Length of Contract

Some small independent publishers may write their contracts for a given period of time (anywhere from three to seven years) but contracts from the larger big-six publisher are written to be over the term of the copyright of the work.  This means until seventy years after the death of the author, which is a very long time indeed. That being said, most contracts won’t be in effect that long because there are conditions under which the rights revert back to the author. In the “old days” the publishers performed a print run and once all those books were gone, the rights would revert. If the book was popular, the publisher would perform multiple printings and as long as there were books available for sale then the contract remained in force. If a book performs poorly, the publisher might prematurely end the contract by remaindering a book. Keeping books in a warehouse if they aren’t selling is an expensive proposition, so the publisher might choose to sell the books cheaply to a third party (usually by the pound). These are the “bargain books” you sometimes find as new at used bookstores. Because no books are left in the warehouse for sale through normal channels, the books will go “out of print” and the contract would terminate.

In today’s publishing environment it is possible for books to never go “out of print.” Publishers can use print on demand in such a way that they can always have books available for sale with very little investment.  Also, most contracts will purchase both print and ebook rights and making an ebook available to the marketplace costs the publisher nothing.  If the criteria to keep the contract in force is having books “available for sale” then the term could indeed be for the entire life of the copyright.  For this reason modern day contracts should have a clause that indicates what income level is required in order to consider a book still in print. If a book is selling little to no books then the rights should revert to the author. Generally there will be a clause that indicates how many sales per reporting period will determine that the book is still “in print.”

Formats

The contract should clearly define which formats are being sold. In most cases publishers will require print and electronic book rights. How an electronic book is defined should be looked at carefully as technology is changing quickly and books with extended features (sometimes known as enhanced ebooks) which contain added value aspects such as audio or video need to be accounted for. Other possible rights such as movie, television, and merchandising should explicitly be detailed to either remain with the author or available for additional licensing (known as a subsidiary right).

For formats that the publisher does not create themselves, such as: graphic novels, audio books, Braille, book club editions, and the like there will be a clause that states how proceeds from licensing these formats will be shared between the publisher and the author. For instance my publisher has sold book club and audio rights and we share the income from those sales 50/50.

Geographic areas

The most popular choices for geographic areas are worldwide, North American, or English speaking. When worldwide rights are sold, then foreign translations will fall under a subsidiary right and the author and publisher will share the income from any contracts signed.  North American is pretty self explanatory (basically the US and Canada), and English speaking rights extend that to the United Kingdom and Australia.  Because my contract was only for the English language, the sales for Poland, Russia, Spain, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Japan, and Brazil have given me additional income that the publisher did not get a percentage of. If the contract were for worldwide, those sales would have contributed to paying back the advance (see the next section).

Royalties and Advances

The contract will specify the amount that will be advanced to the author. This is usually paid in three installments 1/3 when the contract is signed, 1/3 when the final manuscript is accepted by the publisher, and 1/3 when the book is published.  Any sales made are counted against this advance and no additional money will be paid to the author unless they “earn out”.  (Royalties exceed the amount of the advance). If a subsidiary right is sold by the publisher than the author’s portion will count toward earning out.

Advances are generally considered a “sunk cost” meaning that once paid to the author they don’t have to repay that money if the book performs poorly.  However, if the contract is for multiple books, it is possible that the author won’t get the full advance, as the later books may be cancelled and not actually published.

Readers may be surprised just how little an author makes on each book. Hardcover sales generally pay 10% of list price (which may increase up to 15% based on number of copies sold), while paperbacks will range from 6% – 8%. Print books are based on the books list price (full retail price) whereas audio and ebooks are based on net sales (the amount the publisher actually receives) and are generally 10% for audio CDs and 25% for ebooks and audio books that are downloaded.  I should note that the above royalties are based on big-six contracts and some smaller presses may offer larger percentages especially for ebooks.

Wrap-up

That’s the basics of most contracts. There are a lot of other clauses to the contract that deal with transfer to other parties, what happens in the case of bankruptcy, and clauses that talk about future works. There is too much to go into any detail here, but suffice to say the author should examine the language carefully and make sure that they fully understand what they are signing up for. In particular clauses about competing works may limit what they can write even with regards to other books that are not part of the contract.

So there you have it…Contracts 101. It may not be the most exciting part about the “business of writing” but I hope that this helps to explain a bit about what to expect and what to look out for.  I’ll be back again with some additional guest posts throughout the week. So thank you Alex for sharing your space here at BookBanter.

Help support BookBanter and purchase a copy of Theft of Swords or Rise of Empire.

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Theft of Swords    Rise of Empire

GUEST POST: How Are You Reading? by Olivia Lennox

Olivia Lennox

How Are You Reading?

Books

You must have been traveling in outer space if you don’t know about the changes in reading books across the globe during 2011. Even then, you probably read about it on your tablet computer if you could pick up a good Wi-Fi signal. The way people read has been steadily altering the last few years, but in 2011 reading really changed hands. What does this hold for 2012 and onwards?

2011 was the year the Kindle took over. For every person that purchased from Barnes & Noble or Sony, many more went online to Amazon and ordered the latest ebook reader. At the start of the 2011, 5% of all book sales were in digital format. By October, Amazon claimed to be selling 143 ebooks for every 100 print copies. With a further 5 million new Kindle and Kindle Fire purchases in the six weeks before Christmas, that ratio is surely altering even faster.

From May 2010 to April 2011 ebook sales had risen 146%. Once the 2011-2012 figures are in you can expect the increase to be closer to 500%.

Books Haven’t Died – Yet

The old way of reading a book isn’t on its way out, but the number of times you will buy a book in print form, in the future, will reduce considerably. Even if you do not own a Kindle yet (many real book readers were the first to buy Kindles) the chances of a purchase in the next year or so are much higher since Amazon introduced the lend-a-book facility. That means if your wife bought a copy, you can borrow it for a short time with no further charge – just like you would have done with your paperback purchase.

As a result, book stores are closing on every main street. You have to wonder how long the independent book stores can continue if they don’t sell thousands of children’s books, which is the only print book market that still has traction. The rent for a bookstore and the non-availability of discounts to match the online retailers prevents any real growth.

If you read a book from cover to cover, and delight in looking over the copyright page and seeing if you agree with the short reviews of the author’s other books, then an ebook just won’t feel the same. The trend is for those pages to be skipped on ebook readers and tablet computers.

Authors Can Go It Alone

With the six main publishers almost refusing to take on new writers as it’s easier to maintain print sales with top line authors, novelists are self publishing as advance payments from publishers have almost disappeared. Many authors believe it’s better to take 70% of a $3 sale than spend two years searching for an agent/publisher to get a dollar a copy at most from paperback sales.

Wal-Mart and Kmart and similar chains sold paperbacks for $8 when the local independent still needed to ask $15. Amazon and its similar competitors also sought to bring down the cost of books which is why a quarter of the planet bought its books online in 2011.

Downloaded the App?

All the main ebook suppliers have developed applications for tablet and laptop computers and almost every variety of smart phone. If Android is your thing, then there will be an app out there for you now. The readability of a book on the smallest of screens isn’t great, but it shows how the market is moving. After all, you didn’t expect to play computer games on 3 inch screens ten years ago.

Color is the New Black

As the public buys more and more newspapers and magazines to read on their mobile devices, the need for color is increasing to enhance the user’s experience. Books may become more interactive for the reader.

What else for 2012?

In 2012, it’s doubtful that you will be reading the latest novel on your internet driven 52 inch television screen, but the possibilities are there with downloads becoming a feature for television and internet based screens. Whether you’re looking at an ebook reader or watching your book on TV, you’ll still be sitting on the best reading couch you can find to indulge your favorite passion.

There is also talk of giving books various different endings so the reader can choose which route to follow. Whatever next?