RWAC Annual Writers’ Retreat

RWAC Retreat - 2015
RWAC Retreat – 2015

October has been a busy month this year, and one of the best parts is the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada writers’ retreat. Every year, a bunch of writer buddies get together at a gorgeous beach resort here in Nova Scotia for a weekend of writing, brainstorming, and fun. Although you definitely can’t swim at this time of year (unless you’re a member of the Polar Bear Club!), we always enjoy walks on the beach, feeding the bunnies that roam the resort, and delicious food at the main lodge.

Here I am brainstorming book three of the New England Furies series, Dark Fury.
Here I am brainstorming book three of the New England Furies series, Dark Fury. I’m the one in the middle.

Here in Canada, Thanksgiving just happened as well, and I have a lot to be thankful for. Last year at this time, I was an unpublished writer and was just starting to work on the manuscript I’ve entered into the SilverHart publishing contest. This year, I am a published author with one book out in the world and another on the way very soon. (Fury Scorned will be coming out on November 1, 2015!)

Thanks to all my readers for your awesome support – it means everything to me. And thanks to my fellow members of RWAC for your friendship and another fun retreat!

I love you, bunnies!

 

Things I Suck At (Or, What I’m Learning From Working With an Editor)

NOT what a good editor will tell you.
NOT what a good editor will tell you. After the Edit by Laura Ritchie. CC by 2.0.

I admit that the title of this post is click-bait, since I don’t really think I suck, but I AM learning a lot from my first go around with a professional editor.

In preparation for self-publishing my first book this Spring, I am working with Nancy Cassidy, an amazing freelance editor at The Red Pen Coach. (Any suckiness in the finished project will be entirely mine, and not hers). Nancy has an impressive background in publishing and editing and is also an author, with erotica published under the name Lilly Cain, so I feel like she really gets it. She did a great presentation today to the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, my local RWA chapter, and pointed out some things about working with an editor that should be pretty basic, but maybe aren’t all the time.

For example:

  • Your editor should not be mean to you. It’s crazy how many stories I’ve heard online about editors being totally insensitive to their writers – who are paying them to help improve their work. Nobody is saying authors should be coddled and lied to about their work, but there is a difference between constructive and cruel.
  • You don’t have to make changes to your work if you don’t want to. Yes, you should be prepared to make changes and take direction, but you should also be prepared to explain why your choices are valid, or at least have a logical debate about them.
  • Ask around before you hire an editor. Don’t just take the word of some stranger on the internet that they are an awesome editor. And if you don’t know anyone the editor has worked with, it might behoove you to have a contract. (I’m always looking for a way to work behoove into a sentence).

Because I think it’s important, I will separate this link from the bullet points: You can find a sample editorial contract on the Editors’ Association of Canada website. It’s pretty basic, but gets the job done, and I imagine you can find something similar for the US or other jurisdictions, or adapt this one. (THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE, JUST A PERSONAL OPINION.)

Another thing I learned from Nancy’s presentation is that there are many types of services an editor can offer. Knowing what sort of help you need can save you time and money. The Editors’ Association of Canada has a very handy page describing the different types of edits there are.

So now that you have all that wonderful info, I will share some of the things I suck at with you, as discovered via the editorial process:

  1. First chapters – I already knew this, as it happens with everything I write. The first chapter is always too slow or too fast, too much backstory or no context at all. I really struggle with hitting the right opening note. Luckily, that’s what revisions are for!
  2. Overusing particular phrases – On my first pass through my book, I noticed that my main character thought everything was “apparently” this and “clearly” that. Now, a million passes later, I’m noticing that she’s always “forcing” herself to do whatever or “managing” not to do something else.
  3. Point of view issues – You know, I actually always thought I could have been an editor if I had been so inclined. After all, I have an English degree, I’m pretty good with spelling and grammar, and I totally get point of view. Except, not. I’ve had a whole batch of critique partners, but I would never have known I was doing weird things with point of view if an editor hadn’t pointed it out.

For fellow writers, what do you suck at? (Or to put it more nicely, what are you improving on at present?).

And for readers, what are your editorial pet peeves? Head hopping? Spelling mistake in the first chapter? Let it out!

You Can’t Throw a Gavel Without Hitting a Lawyer-Turned-Author

*
My Trusty Gavel by Brian Turner. CC by 2.0.

Some of the jobs I’ve held include: short order cook, nanny, postmaster’s assistant, and “background talent” (read – extra in movies and commercials). But of all the jobs I’ve tried, the one that I’m least likely to write about is the one that I spent the most time training for – my current profession of lawyer.

Although it sometimes seems like you can’t throw a gavel without hitting a lawyer-turned-authour, there are two main reasons you won’t catch me writing about my day job any time soon (though I’ll never say never):

  1. My source material would be pretty boring – and that’s how I like it.

Some writers have no problem turning the day-to-day life of a lawyer into the stuff of thrillers, but I have a hard time associating the reality of my job with the kind of romance and adventure I enjoy reading about. Actually, scratch that – I actively avoid romance and adventure in my day job. It decreases the odds of getting sued.

Do I personally find my work exciting? Yes. Would the general public? Eh, maybe it depends on the day, but if I had to guess – no. The types of law I practice do not lend themselves to Grisham-esque scenarios. Nor is there anything particularly glamorous about wearing pantyhose for 10-12 hours per day.

  1. Writing is my escape from the ordinary.

Everyone is familiar with the old advice to “write what you know”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write what you do. So far, I have written about ancient Greek legends coming to life, the colonization of a far-away planet, and the adventures of a high-class madam. As you may have guessed, I have first-hand experience with exactly none of these scenarios.

But I do have a lot of fun writing about them!

How about you? Are there any jobs you find duller than dirt? Any that you can’t, or won’t, write about?

(I assume all those romance-blog-enthusiast international spies out there are sworn to secrecy, but let’s hear from the rest of you!)

This post is re-blogged from my post on the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada blog, a great place to learn more about some very talented romance authors. Check it out here!

Tips from Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Kobo’s Director of Self Publishing and Author Relations

Beach kobo by Jennie Faber. CC BY 2.0.
Beach kobo by Jennie Faber. CC BY 2.0.

As a member of Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada (RWAC), a Canadian chapter of Romance Writers of America, I am fortunate to have access to a wide variety of guest speakers, workshops, retreats and other writing events.

At RWAC’s April meeting, we were very pleased to welcome guest speaker Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Kobo’s Director of Self Publishing and Author Relations, and an author himself.

So without further ado, here are just a few highlights of Mark’s presentation:

  • The 3 “P”s of self publishing success;
  • Pricing advice from Kobo; and
  • Inside information on how books get featured on Kobo and why.

 1. The 3 “P”s of self publishing success

As we all know – and have heard ad infinitum – patience, practice, and perseverance are the only ways to really be successful as a writer. “Overnight” successes make for sexy headlines, but in most cases, years of effort have gone into those successes. What distinguishes Mark’s advice from this old (but true) chestnut is the fact that he expands on the traditional advice to just keep swimming – er, writing.

From a branding perspective, the trick is to just keep writing with your target audience in mind (think of Stephen King’s Constant Reader). If you don’t know who you’re trying to reach with your book – guess what? You probably won’t. In addition to this, you need to provide the best all-around book that you can, which means it must be of superior quality in all respects, not just in terms of writing. According to Kobo’s statistics, the success of a book is directly related to the quality of its editing and cover.

2. Pricing advice from Kobo

In his time at Kobo, Mark has observed that three things are necessary to ensure sales when pricing an e-book:

  • pricing deliberately;
  • pricing responsively; and
  • pricing often.

Authors are most successful and achieve highest sales when they price deliberately, taking into account things like genre (romance prices are low compared to other genres, but more units are bought by the average reader), book length, and comparator titles. They should also be aware of the dreaded “Dead Price Point” – $1.99. For some reason, books of all lengths and genres sell poorly at $1.99, and do better at either $.99 or $2.99 and up.

Pricing responsively refers to the idea that self-published book prices don’t need to be – and shouldn’t be – static. Since the author is in control, she has the power not just to take advantage of marketing opportunities, but to create them for herself. If you’ve written a book set on Halloween, for example, why not offer a sale in the days leading up to the holiday?

Or say you’ve written a series. You might want to consider making the first book free. In one example, Kobo found that 12,000 readers downloaded a free e-book, but only 2,000 actually opened it, and only about 350 read the whole thing. Of those who read the book, however, 50% went on to buy more books from the author, and the total downloaded units helped push the book higher in the rankings to increase its visibility.

Finally, don’t be afraid to try different pricing strategies. One bestselling author found that when she increased her book’s price from $5.99 to $6.99, her sales improved at iBooks and Barnes & Noble, stayed the same at Kobo, and decreased at Amazon. While many authors would have panicked at the hit on Amazon (the Holy Grail of self publishing, to some), the author decided to wait a while and see what happened. To her delight, sales at Amazon went back to previous levels within a week and a half and stayed high everywhere else, meaning she was now moving more units than ever and making more money on each book.

3. How books get featured

When asked how Mark and his team decide to feature an author in Kobo’s digital “front window”, the answer was simple – it’s a combination of serendipity and good planning on the author’s part. On the good luck side of things, Mark has featured artists that he has gotten to know through conferences, readings, podcasts, and networking. But no matter how much he or the marketing team likes an author, they still have to take into account the financial realities of selling books online.

The biggest challenge to an e-book retailer in promoting indie authors is price point. When a book is priced at $.99, the author’s share is $.45. This means that Kobo’s share of a sale is $.54, before costs associated with processing a credit card transaction. On the other hand, an author’s share of a book priced at $9.99 is $6.99, leaving $3.00 for Kobo before costs. This doesn’t mean that books priced at $.99 don’t get featured, but it does mean that when there is a choice between two equally great books, the one that will generate more money (or at least not cost Kobo money) is the one that gets top billing.

 

For more information on Kobo’s self publishing hub, check out Kobo Writing Life here. While it’s no secret that I’m seeking traditional publication (it says so on the “About Me” page of the website), I am intrigued by the concept of hybrid authorship. If and when I’m ready to go ahead with self publication, working directly with Kobo looks like a great choice. (I have not been remunerated in any way for blogging about Kobo – it just looks like a genuinely great bunch of people who believe in indie authors).