Jan 24, 2012

Inspirations #1

Where do you get your inspiration?

That’s a question often asked of artists. It’s not always simple to answer, as it can be something as big as a major world event that’s all over the newspapers or as small as watching a couple argue and then hug and wondering about the story behind it.

I’ve been working on a new artsy project: cover design. It’s not terribly new, since I’ve done all of my own (and sometimes more than once) and I’ve done a couple for other authors. But I’m branching out. See, I love my lust for amateur photography. I have tons of incredible photos from around the U.S. and from a few other countries. Most are nature-centered. Many are buildings I found fascinating. A few are random people who happened to be posed in a way I found artistic. (If I use the people, it will be only after stylized in some art form so they are not recognizable.) I often look through and think they should be on a book cover.

I’ve taken art and design classes. Still, when I go into an endeavor such as this, I want to study others. I want to get a feel for what’s out there. I want to make note of what draws me in and what doesn’t.

Ever since I started doing my covers, I’ve paid close attention to what’s out there, to what pulls me in or turns me away. But it’s more than the basic design and colors. It’s the artwork. Photographic people on a cover turn me away. Maybe it feels too personal. I like actual art and photography on covers.

I won’t go into that more since I’m guest blogging on Thomas Wilson’s blog on Thursday to talk about the art of cover design.

What I want to share here is a few links I’ve followed in my search for what’s happening in cover design and in fine art these days.

thebookdesigner.com is holding a monthly contest for authors and designers to enter their work for judging/comments. Scroll through some of the entries and read the comments about what this blog owner/designer believes works and doesn’t.

indiearts.com is a place for established independent fine and graphic artists to display their work. What some of these artists have created is truly amazing. Two of my favorites here: Dan Witz and Terry Strickland. (Be aware, as in most art sites, some content is adult natured and graphic.)

There’s also deviantart.com which allows users to sign up and add their work without being screened.

Of course you can also go to bookcoverarchive.com and flip through their thousands of archived published book covers.

Do you have a favorite website for artistic inspiration in the visual arts? Share it here!


Jan 17, 2012

475 Hours (or.. authors, know thy craft!)

On the average, it takes 475 hours to write a novel (bookstatistics.com).

Of course that’s your average-sized novel and your averagely experienced writer. Size matters (in writing time, it does!) and so does experience. As I’ve progressed in my writing career, I see that it takes less and less time to create each new novel (averaging out by length). Does that mean I’m putting less effort into it? Not at all. It means practice works, that exercising my writing muscles make them function better, that stories come out more smoothly than they used to so there’s less starting and stopping.

Either way, 475 hours divided by 40 hour weeks equals right at 12 weeks of work, or roughly 3 months. That’s for an average length novel, remember. Most self-pubbed authors average around 200 sales of one book. If you figure an average of $2 royalty per book, that’s $400 for 3 months of work. Some make drastically less. Some explode (very few, mind you) and make drastically more. But on the average, keep in mind that $33 a week “salary” from the book you spent 475 hours writing.

Still interesting in being an indie author? Great! Then go for it! If the numbers scare you, walk away very slowly and search for a different route or a different job.

[Please be aware this is a very unscientific assumption based only on what I’ve heard passed around as far as sales. It is NOT meant to be quoted as statistical fact; it’s only for demonstration purposes.]

So, if you’re still hanging around and considering the self-pub path, you have very large … uh, amounts of determination or belief in your work or both. Good for you! There will be many, many times you’ll change your mind about both of those things while walking (or trudging) the path. We all do. Okay, 99.89 percent of us do (as a guess, of course; I didn’t do a survey).

What’s the point, here? The point is that with the odds so against you and with the simple fact that there are more indie books every year, you need to do what you can to help yourself, and the rest of us.

How? STUDY your craft!


I understand why self-pub authors have such a bad rep. It’s because it’s terribly easy to put out your own books these days and there are no filters other than savvy readers who know to check the publisher before they buy, and honestly, too many of these books are not worth more than $33 a week income. Sorry, but facts are facts. They aren’t worth more because too many authors just jump in and decide to write a book because they “can” without stopping to check on the “how” it should be done.

Like anything else, writing a novel is small part talent, large part technical skill. Or it should be. If you have this turned around, please do us all a favor and stop, listen, and learn. Take a class. Read a lot, preferably in several genres, not only your interest. Get critiques from strangers (not from loved ones). Know what POV, climax, denouement, plot, characterization, setting, mood, and theme mean and know how to use them. Things like poetic speech, sentence flow, and why you probably shouldn’t head hop are also good to know. Rules – please know the rules. Breaking the rules in fiction is fine, but know them first and know why you’re breaking them. Take a class! Yes, I said this already, but it deserves repetition (also know how to use repetition properly). There are a myriad of online learning classes for writers and specifically for novelists. Some are free. Many published authors will gladly give some free advice if you’re willing to listen. BE willing to listen! If an author says something like, “I’d like to discuss a couple of points about your book,” say THANK YOU for your time and then LISTEN. Don’t say, “Well, I don’t really want to work on this more.” Okay, then. You’ve lost respect and support and more importantly, you’ve lost potential readers who may catch what that author wanted to tell you and decide not to bother again.

This is a tough road. Don’t make it even tougher on yourself, or on the rest of us. Know your craft. Study it and then continue to update your knowledge. READ! An author who doesn’t have time to read is an author who is not terribly read-worthy. If you never read fiction, don’t try to write it. If you never read horror, don’t try to write it. But do read outside your writing genre.

Indie publishing is not the easier path. It’s harder. It’s an uphill battle through swamp land and gators and ticks and leeches and other warriors trying to jump in front of you with more armor and more training. It’s also full of nay-saying critics who believe indie authors are those who couldn’t make the cut. Be ready for that. And be ready to defend your territory with the knowledge that you’ve spent the time to prepare for battle and can fight fire with fire instead of with a barely glowing sparkler.

And then, go out and break a leg!


Jan 10, 2012

A Few Facts about Indie Authors

As an introduction to this site, I thought we should start by clearing the air about what “indie” is all about.

Indie = independent.

Independent = paying your own way, creating your own path

An indie author is an author putting her own work out, paying for the publishing and distribution of her books. She may get help with this, just as an independent business hires desk help, etc., but it’s her call and her funds. She’s not contracted to someone who calls the shots, who says yes or no, who has everything done for her. She does or overseas everything and she says yes or no.

An indie publisher is someone who accepts manuscripts by other authors and pays to have them published, overseeing all of the details related to getting a book out, from formatting to cover design. They’re the small pubs, privately owned, and often a one person operation (again, with some paid help).

Authors published by indie publishers are not indie authors. They are small press authors. If you submitted your work for acceptance or rejection and they’re putting their company ISBN on your book, you are not an indie author. You’re traditionally published.

That said, there are some misconceptions about self-published, or indie, authors. Let me clear some of that up.

~ Not all indies are indie because they could not get published traditionally. This is the biggest myth that needs to be squelched. Many of us decided not to go the traditional path, not to ask someone if our work should be published, not to wait around and sent query after query for months or years just to have our books sit on a secretary’s desk for her to not be “in the right mood” for that kind of book on the day she happens to look at it. Yes, that happens. Some of us don’t want to write what’s selling at the moment. We don’t want to stick with the A B C plot or the specific word count within 20 characters of too many or not enough. We want to write what we need to write, the stories that truly matter to us, that we need to share. We don’t listen to “no one wants to read that kind of story” because you know what? Maybe they do. And according to how well indies are selling their “oddball” stories, apparently they do.

~ There is not only one way to do it “right.” There are a myriad of methods available, many of which are quite respectable, and authors need to find what works for them and for their personal goals. Yes, there are better and worse ways of going about things, but wrong is a judgment call (so is better and worse).

~ One that makes me cringe: “all vanity publishing is bad.”
No. Not when they’re calling it “vanity publishing” to hire a company to help format and distribute your work, to use their ISBN and company name so you don’t have to create your own and deal with the legalities of that. There’s nothing wrong with going that way if it suits your needs. Just be careful. There are reputable companies offering these services. There are also some horribly non-reputable companies doing the same. Research! But just because a “vanity” press name is on a book, that does not mean the author is was wrong to go that way and it doesn’t mean lack of quality. Give them a chance. Check out excerpts and think for yourself.

~ Another that makes me cringe: “authors must make use of Amazon.”
No. Many indie authors sell much better on other sites in other stores and make better profits from each sale that way. Readers will go where authors send them if they’re interested. Exclusivity is not the path indies should follow. We need to be out there as everywhere as we can be. Indies are Amazon’s sucker deals. We can price our books at .99 if we wish and many will just for the chance at numbers and rankings. Big publishers, however, will not go for this tactic with their books. They will not be exclusive. They will not give their books away. They want sales from wherever readers shop. We should, too. Amazon is using indies and small press authors willing to give their books for free or for .99 in order to pull readers in so they will then buy full price books from the big pubs, since they are there anyway. I won’t play that game, which is why you won’t find my ebooks there. Be careful about exclusivity or selling yourself short. In every part of life, when you sell yourself short, others will, also.

~ Not all indie books are badly in need of editing. Yes, many are. I admit that many are and too many authors throw their books out long before they are ready. Granted. I resent when they do this because it makes it harder on those of us who have studied the craft, who work hard to edit and rewrite and re-edit and pay attention to style and grammar and pesky little book things such as plot, climax, and denouement. Some of us indies do know what those things are and we actually use them. My advice to potential readers: insist on excerpts long enough to see the author’s writing style and technique before you buy. But please, don’t dismiss all of us because too many are too unprofessional. I have read indie books that were much better than big pub books. I have also read indie books that screamed, “the author has never studied writing in her life!” *sigh*

The big benefit for readers that so many are going indie? Choice. You’ll find any topic in any mix of genre under the sun in indie fiction. Indie screams Variety! Creativity! Imagination! and … Freedom.

If you haven’t tried an indie book lately, or ever, give one a try. Look for a mix of Huck Finn, Jane Eyre, Godzilla, & Harry Potter all in one novel. I bet you might find it!

LK Hunsaker

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