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I have exciting news for my Indie Blog this week: a new book!

In a Foreign Land_cover_5.25x8

 

 

Other Side of the River cover

 

 

In a Foreign Land is the second book in the In Search of Freedom series. The first book is titled Other Side of the River.

In a Foreign Land was released at the end of January through CreateSpace (print) and KDP (digital). I have to say this book release was easier on my nerves than any others to date. Firstly, it is independently published, so I set my own timeline and it happens when I’m ready for it. Secondly, I learned which parts of the publishing process I need to hire out.

I was able to come to a very mutually beneficial agreement for editing with my friend and colleague, Marcia Laycock of Small Pond Press. Marcia read through my manuscript with eagle eyes and gave me feedback in a short time-turnaround.

Then I sent the document to Rik Hall of Wild Seas Formatting for the…wait for it…formatting! In record time, he sent me the PDF for CreateSpace and the MOBI for Kindle Direct Publishing. Rik works quickly and is always willing to make corrections that I’ve overlooked or changed my mind on.

The cover, which I love, was created by Fred Koop of Fred Koop Design. He designed all three covers for this series at the outset, so they are ready for the ISBN, barcode and back cover copy when each book is completed.

Knowing I have these professionals to step up to the plate for me is very freeing. Yes, it costs me some cash, but it’s worth every penny, and I know the result will be professional too.

Now for the difficult part: starting the next book. I have the characters, the backstories, the probable ending, but there is so much to research and consider and build. I’m working through C.S. Lakin’s The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction in an effort to create more effectively and efficiently. I’ll let you know how this works out.

You can read the first chapter of In a Foreign Land on my blog, and purchase it at Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

If you read In a Foreign Land, I’d be forever grateful if you’d leave a brief review. That’s one of the most valuable things you can do for an author.

Thanks,

Jan

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Along with the innate freedom of self-publication, there have been a couple of major struggles to balance the euphoria.

One obstacle, which I have often referred to, is marketing. For those of us who aren’t inclined to narcissism, who don’t have a self-promotional bone in our bodies, marketing can be the bane of our existence. We just want to write, but if no one knows we have written, or what we have written, or how to access it, it won’t go beyond our own small world.

I encourage other indie writers—myself included—to reach for help in the marketing department. We cannot be all things to all people, but we can access the tools to gain our goals of promoting our work.

The second obstacle that comes to mind is that of placing our independently published books in brick and mortar stores. My first three books, traditionally published, were carried by local and larger center booksellers for years. I did arrange launches and presented my product, but the outlets were always glad to comply with my request. The reason: they could return any unsold copies to the publisher for a refund.

These same stores have either gently refused my request or passed it over, because they don’t have the same options of returning unsold books. My novels are released as POD (print-on-demand), so once they buy these books, they have no option to return them.

While I realize the difficulties for booksellers, I also think we need to find a way to promote and sell self-published books in the marketplace. There’s no problem with digital copies, of course, and I also publish e-books, but I have readers who either can’t or don’t choose to read digitally. When they ask if my latest books will be available in local stores, I have to direct them to the online store (Amazon or The Book Depository – no shipping cost for TBD), which also creates a barrier for some readers.

This is an ongoing issue that writers with more clout are working to fix, and although I don’t have that kind of influence, I’d still like to add any help I can by informing readers about these problems. Because the number of writers who are publishing independently is not waning; it’s growing steadily.

How can people help? One way might be voicing our concerns (not only as writers but as readers) to booksellers. A practical way to help indie authors is to request their books in bookstores.

 

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It’s a new year and many of us are trying on fresh ideas for the future. What will we offer the world in terms of our writing this year?

Here are five tips on getting the ball rolling:

  1. Review

Review the past year. Take a look at your mission statement / goals for 2016. Did you follow through?

  1. Consider

What worked and what flopped? What did you most enjoy? What garnered the most response? Be completely honest.

  1. Renew

Tweak last year’s mission statement / goals / life purpose.

What are your Personal & Family Goals? Your Business & Career Goals? Make sure to break these goals down into manageable and measureable parts.

  1. Commit

When you organize, prioritize and specify, you commit yourself to achieving your goals in a manageable and measureable manner. If you are a believer in Christ, commit your ways to Him and know He will help you stay on course. You may also wish to be held accountable by another writer or close friend who will be honest with you and keep you on track.

  1. Commence

Begin today. Write that post. Edit that manuscript. Enter that contest. There’s no time like NOW.

God bless you as you kick off a new year of writing.

Note: and keep checking back to make sure your work is lining up with your plan. (Speaking to myself here too.)

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One year ago, I decided to make the leap into independent publishing. Here are some of the things I have learned, in no particular order, along with a few tips:id-100355999

  1. I am capable of launching my own publishing company, including the various forms and fees required. (Print copies of documents so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time, so says experience.)
  1. I am capable of editing, formatting and creating covers for my books. I have carried out each step. However, if I wish to maintain my sanity and the quality I desire, I know I cannot do all these things myself all the time (kudos to those of you who can, and I know a few of you).

img_1237An Aside: I thought of an analogy this morning as my husband and I sat at breakfast contemplating a few upcoming renovations to our home. Three years ago, we transformed our attached garage into an office/guest room (it was too small for our vehicle). We, mostly my husband, did all the work. I helped where I could, including taping and mudding seams and corners after the drywall was up. I can do mudding, but I’m quite bad at it. I don’t ever want to do mudding again. The end result looks better if someone more skilled and patient does it. Just like I can do book covers and formatting, but it’s better for all concerned if I let someone more skilled do those jobs.

  1. Excellent and reasonably priced services are available to help indie authors in areas where we don’t feel competent, or where we can’t manage it all time-wise. Some of these skilled people may already be in our circle of friends/acquaintances. Trading skills is a mutually beneficial arrangement.
  1. Marketing remains my pianissimo (as opposed to my forte). I must continue to ask, read, search, learn. Again, there are people who are good at this, trained, willing to help. I need to reach out.
  1. I love the flexibility and the control that indie publishing offers. I decide the order of projects on my to-do list. I decide on the cover, the size, the interior design, et cetera, together with those I’ve asked to assist me.
  1. I am ultimately responsible for the outcomes, for my promises to my readers, for deadlines.
  1. A Reminder: As a Christian author, I am not my own boss. God is. That adds a much higher lever of accountability to my writing life.
  1. A human accountability partner who knows my writing, at least some of my personal situation, and my overall goals, is an immeasurable asset. We can pray for and support each another.
  1. I must continue to learn, to review, to experiment, to observe, to ask.
  1. I must continue to write so I have something to publish. I must learn balance.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13.

Tips in a Nutshell:

— Pray for wisdom, guidance and strength daily (or moment by moment)

— Do what you can

— Ask for help when you can’t

— Trade skills

— Count the costs, make a budget, treat this writing like a calling/career/vocation

If you are a self / indie published author, what are some of the things you have learned about the process? I’d love to hear from you.

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You can’t please everyone.

That’s a basic truth if I ever heard one (says this die-hard people-pleaser).

The point is, not everything we write will strike a chord with all our readers. Some will hate it, some will remain untouched, but there will be a few with whom our writing resonates.

Some of the different reactions are due to genre and style and other elemental choices, but often, people relate to our words because of some past experience or inner need or common ground. They relate on some level.Book One

For example, one of the readers of my first book was deeply touched by the fact that my female lead had lost her mother and missed her greatly. She could identify. I had not considered that part of my story to be that influential because I didn’t relate to it personally.

The takeaway is that if we keep writing, every once in a while our words will impact a life or two.

1609_TW_Cover_LR-130x169For years I have subscribed to The Writer, which I would recommend to any and all writers. This monthly magazine features a vast array of topics and tips for all levels of writing. That means many writers can relate to it on some level. I would venture to say that in my twenty-some years of subscribing, there are only a couple of issues where I’ve not been able to gather usable information or encouragement from one or more articles. Usually, I read through the entire publication, and often find pieces that offer more than I thought they would.

Again to the moral of this story: the more writing we send out to the world, the more people it will influence, entertain, inform, and encourage.

Just as some of us need to let go of the crazy idea of trying to please everyone, so we as writers need to realize that while we might not reach a crowd, we will reach a few, and our influence in their lives may go farther then we ever dared to imagine.

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You might say, “I could never self-publish / independently publish my work.” I’ve said that myself, but it’s not true.

pixabay.com

pixabay.com

I think the courage to move ahead into indie publishing came to me gradually. I had created my own website (with the help of a good writer friend) with an About page, a Resume page, a Contact page, and pages about my books. I had also decided to post weekly blogs on my site. Every time I hit the “publish” or “schedule” button, I self-published.

According to Wikipedia, “self-publishing is the publication of any book or other media by its author without the involvement of an established publisher.” So if you’ve written blogs or online articles, you are independently published. If you are traditionally published by an established, no-upfront-fee house, as well as indie publishing your own work, you become a hybrid author.

We have been warned not to confuse self-publishing with independent publishing, but I think the terms are what we make them. As long as we avoid paying for someone to publish our material (vanity presses do that, and we don’t want to go there), it’s valid.

Often, independent publishers are considered those who run small presses, whereas self-publishers are those who realize the entire publication process themselves. However, since launching my own imprint, Tansy & Thistle Press, I feel I have the right to be called an independent publisher. It took quite an effort, as well as time to fill out government forms and pay fees for my press name, so I could publish for other writers if I chose to do so (that’s not happening right now, and the probability of it happening in the future is highly unlikely), but the press is authentic.

pixabay.com

pixabay.com

So let’s not allow naysayers to tell us what we are. We need to own our writing career. Self-publish. Indie publish. Do the hybrid thing. Just keep writing and getting your work out to the public in the most effective and efficient way.

Note: This little rant reflects my current personal feelings, so if you agree or disagree, you can comment below. I’m always willing to listen, and I might even be persuaded to shift my opinions…slightly!

 

 

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chocolateYou’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat.”

Here’s another one for you: “You are what you read.”my library photo

I read all the time. I have a shelf of books by my bed that I read from before I go to sleep (a good book will often induce sleep by pulling my scattered thoughts together into the story…unless the storyline is so suspenseful that I can’t stop reading), and sometimes I allow myself a half hour or so of reading while I eat my lunch. And Sunday afternoons, and…

I also have a story going at all times on my iPhone (I don’t have an iPad yet), for those times when I’m stuck waiting for an appointment or having my hair done.

thAnd then there’s the audio book on my little old iPod Nano that I listen to while I’m doing mundane things around the house or in the garden. It makes a job speed by quickly.

Some writers say they stop reading while they’re working on a book, because they don’t want outside influences. However, in my opinion, we are never immune to outside influences. As long as I’m in control of what I feed myself through reading, the effects are positive.

Over the years, I’ve taught myself to read more analytically. I note what works and what doesn’t as I read. That is reflected, I hope, in my own writing. I’ve also done a fair bit of contest judging, mostly fiction because that’s what I write, and that experience always teaches me more about writing.

Reading and writing are intertwined for the writer, impossible to separate. So keep reading, read good books, read the kind you write and the kind you wish you could write! Experiment with new authors and genres. You never know when you’ll come up with something that opens up a whole new avenue of thought and writing for you.14068091_10154440806782389_4960450202972542588_n

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