Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

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Getting Closer…

Friday, February 24th, 2012

I’ve got an e-ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of Hepen the Watcher with a placeholder cover that looks like this:

The final cover art by Sarah Adams is getting closer to completion. Thanks for your patience!

Find a synopsis and sample chapters here on my website.

Decisions, Decisions…

Monday, January 30th, 2012

In the last stages of pulling a book together for publication there comes a point when final decisions must be made for each step. In my case, having revisited decisions I made nine months ago, I’m preparing The Dread Hammer for re-publication, and its sequel Hepen the Watcher for original publication. So the process seems doubly complex, with each step full of commitment. And if I make the wrong decision? If I approve something that I later regret? Well, some things, especially with the ebook, might be easily “fixable,” but others, not so much.

Will anybody besides me give a damn?

Probably not, but that knowledge doesn’t stop me from tying myself into knots. That’s just my personality.

At any rate, I’m trying to be methodical, dealing first with The Dread Hammer’s checklist:

• The manuscript: any more changes? No?

• The cover art and title fonts: okay? Yes?

Then there is the back cover description and the layout of the book’s interior, which I’m carrying over from the first edition. The copyright page gets updated though, since this will be a second edition. And for the ebook, I need to add sample chapters from Hepen the Watcher, and since I’m adding sample chapters, I also need to include the back cover description for Hepen the Watcher

…which is the point I’ve reached. I wrote a back cover description and then bothered various people with it. I’ve received feedback, though not quite what I expected, and the implications aren’t limited to the back cover copy.

For example, one suggestion was to change the tagline from “A fairytale of…” to “A tale of…” I liked this suggestion, I had even considered doing this before and indeed, I decided to do it. But that meant I had to go back and revise the cover art for The Dread Hammer, which was supposedly final, changing the tagline there to read “tale” instead of “fairytale.” Fortunately I could still do this because I hadn’t yet uploaded the new cover art to the printer, but then I also had to update the book description and all the web-ready cover images of different sizes that I’d already prepared.

So is the cover art for The Dread Hammer now done for real? Dare I move on? Shrug. I don’t know. Sometimes I think it would be very nice to have a dedicated cheering committee to say, “Yes, that looks good! Yes, that sounds good! Go for it!” But I only have me, with my palms pressed to my cheeks as I desperately contemplate what I might have forgotten.

Yes, I am very good at stressing myself out. Oh yes, very good indeed.

Why I Didn’t Try to Sell Hepen the Watcher to Traditional Publishing

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Last spring (for those who haven’t been following this blog) I self-published a short, quirky fantasy novel called The Dread Hammer, putting it out in both ebook and print versions. I had three main reasons for self-pubbing: the book didn’t slot well into any typical subgenre category, it was short for a traditionally published novel, and it had been so long since I’d had anything original published that I didn’t want to wait years to get this book out, which would have been the case if I’d taken it to the traditional market.

Sales were slow, and in hindsight I think I made a mistake publishing it under a pen name. (That mistake will be corrected shortly, when I re-issue the book under my own name.) At any rate, by August I was finishing up the first draft of a sequel, titled Hepen the Watcher, just as talk in the indie publishing community was shifting to the idea of a hybrid career that takes advantage of both traditional and indie publishing. I love indie publishing, but I’m willing to try different approaches. So I started thinking seriously about taking both The Dread Hammer and Hepen the Watcher to market.

In the end I decided against it. The two main reasons: Everything I’ve read and heard indicates that most advances are very low, and that contract terms are often horrible.

I write novels, it’s my nature to tell myself stories, and here’s the story I told myself on what would happen if I took these two books to market:

Months will pass before you hear anything. Maybe you will eventually get requests for the complete manuscripts. If so, more months will pass before you get a decision. Maybe you’ll get an offer. It will be low. Maybe you’ll consider it. Then the contract will come. It will have terms you cannot accept. Months of negotiations will ensue. In the end, neither you nor the publisher can agree on terms. You will walk away, and publish the book yourself.

During this time I knew I’d be feeling frustrated, angry, and resentful. I won’t argue if that’s appropriate; I just know it’s true. I like being in control of my books, and I’m not in control if I’m waiting desperately on a publisher to tell me if I have a future. As I told my husband, Why should I make myself miserable?

The other blow against taking these two books to market is my past experience that books do not earn out. This isn’t true for all writers at all times of course, but it’s been my experience, and it’s the same for many, many other traditionally published writers. Publishers are in the business of selling books, and sometimes they manage spectacularly, but quite often, they don’t. So I would have to be okay with giving up these books, possibly in perpetuity, for whatever small advance I might be offered. In contrast, if I published them myself there would be no advance, but if my work ever “hits” with readers, the potential upside is big. This is important to me. I’m far less concerned with having an “immediate” advance in my pocket (and “immediate” is a relative term in publishing), than with having a steady income over the long term, and the only way I see to have that steady income is to keep writing and keep control over my work, and hope that I eventually “hit.”

And that’s why neither book has gone to the traditional market. At this point, indie publishing looks like the best option to me.

I was feeling good about my choice, but I’m feeling even better now. Kris Rusch has a blog post just up titled “Writers: Will Work For Cheap” that confirms my rationale for staying indie, at least for now. Of course it makes perfect sense that my thought processes reflect what Kris has to say in her business blog, given that I’m an avid reader. (Yes, I’ve donated, and yes, I’ve bought The Freelancers Survival Guide.) I find The Business Rusch to be one of the most useful sites on the web for writers interested in a career. If you’re a writer and you’re not reading it . . . well, why not?

The Next Novel–Hepen the Watcher–Is “Done”

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Hepen the Watcher is the novel I’ve been working on over the summer. It’s the sequel to The Dread Hammer, and Draft 2 is now done.

Here are the statistics:
Started: May 1
1st draft done: July 19
2nd draft done: September 7
Length: 81,000 words

I note the dates because a year ago I would have laughed at the idea of me writing an almost publication-ready novel in a little over four months. This is a new way of writing for me–see my prior post here–and I like it a lot.

For Hepen the Watcher, the first draft included the entire story from beginning to end, but with unpolished text, some incomplete sections, and notes or to-do’s embedded in the manuscript.

Draft 2 is a much cleaner affair, and ready for beta readers to look at. I’m dangerous when I get a nearly finished manuscript in my hands, and left to my own devices it would be a quick re-read away from publication–but I’ll attempt to be grown up and get some feedback on it first.

But it does feel nice to be done.