Are Indie Authors Worth Reading?

It may sound heretical for an indie author to ask, but I think it’s a valid question.

I take my writing seriously. I mean, get-up-at-5-am-to-write-before-driving-to-class, proofread-to-midnight, pay-for-cover-designers-before-clothes seriously. Most the other indie authors I know also put in the same ridiculous amount of time, effort, and exhaustive work. It can really hurt when we aren’t taken seriously by other people. There’s still a huge stigma towards indie authors, though it’s not as bad as it was even a few years ago. Still, a lot of reviewers, retailers, and some readers won’t touch our stuff just because it’s not tattooed with a Big Six Publisher’s logo. To add insult to injury, I actually understand why the stigma exists.

There are a lot of crappy self-published authors. A LOT. No way around that.

Hell, I was a crappy self-published author at one point. I actually reedited, redesigned, and republished my first five books because, let’s face it, the editing sucked and the covers sucked. (With their current versions, I can at least live with myself.)

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Being an indie author comes with incredible freedom. We get to choose when we publish, what we publish, in what formats, the cover art, the audiobook narrators, the interior format, who we sell what rights, and literally everything you can possibly think of.

But like great power, great freedom comes with great responsibility.

I’ve seen a lot of indies (and I’ve already admitted I did stuff like this) upload a partially edited Word doc. to Kindle Direct Publishing, slap together an image drawn in Paint, and set it loose on the innocent world. This is what has flooded the market with the bad material that has given so many of us a bad name.

Regardless, there is no “right” way to be an indie author.

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Those of us who are serious all agree it’s imperative to produce quality work for our readers. That’s about as far as our consensus goes. Some swear we need a professional editor. Others rely on a team of trusted beta readers and brutally honest writer friends.

Some indies hire professional interior designers for eBook and/or print versions of their books. Others bootstrap it and study the formatting guides like the Bible until we know what we’re doing.

We all concur covers are second only to story, but again we diverge. While most of us (including Yours Truly) will scream we need a professional cover artist, I would admit others have done pretty well with a Shutterstock subscription and Adobe InDesign.

There are a vast number of ways to be an indie author. Therein lies the point and the problem. It’s all up to the individual!

But are indie authors worth it? Really, that’s up to you—our readers. 

You are the final judge of all things. We’re creating stories and delivering them straight to readers. That’s the point of being indies. We answer directly to you and we try to listen to what you want—those of us who take our work seriously, at least. And there are plenty of us who take it seriously, I promise.

In the end, I would encourage you to try indie authors despite the existence of crappy ones. Take a look at reviews, browse a few free previews, and see if anything catches your eye. Remember we write to please you, not agents or acquisitions editors. Until then, we’ll keep bringing our very best because, long-term, indie publishing is one of those things people only really do when they can’t imagine doing anything else.

BEAUTIFUL BOOKS ~ 2017 Writing Goals

Beautiful Books is a monthly feature hosted by Her Bookish Resplendence, Cait, over at Paper Fury. Click here to join in the link-up and don’t forget to check out Cait’s aesthetically divine bookstagram account! Now…on to the questions!

What were your writing achievements last year?

Not to pat myself on the back, but I did pretty darn well. I drafted three manuscripts and published three others. 😀 I’m feeling pretty good about myself.

What’s on your writerly “to-do list” for 2017?

Well, like I said in my “resolutions” post, I want to do a repeat. Draft three books, publish three books, and  then decide whether or not I want to query this other WIP. That last one has been quite the internal debate. Grr…

Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!

Fanged Rebel (Haddie’s fourth adventure) is currently being drafted and Janir’s fourth book, The Temple of Tarkoth, are my priorities for this year. No more three year waits between books!

How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?

I see myself at the end of 2017 with only one year left of school, nine published books, and at least two more in the works for release in 2018. Exciting stuff! From a craft perspective, I want to explore character relationships and complexities more. That never gets old for me!

Describe your general editing process.

I generally have an idea of some things I will want changed while drafting, but I just plough through. After taking a break from the manuscript (anywhere from weeks to months), I do a few rereads and mark-ups in both electronic and finally print format. The last step is sending the manuscript to other writers whom I trust and adore who (lovingly) offer me brutal critiques.

On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out?

For my NaNo project, Fireblight, I’d say 9 and 3/4. 😀  (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) I’m pretty proud of it.

What aspect of your draft needs the most work?

Fireblight started out as just a fun book to relieve stress, so there are some inconsistencies in world building and character relationships because, like I mentioned, I tend to edit as I go. That’s definitely what needs the most work, I’d say.

What do you like the most about your draft?

Again with Fireblight, I love how the characters took charge at certain points. I love how the whole story took an unexpected turn. I just love the adventure of this piece! It’s fairly unique compared to my usual stuff and tested me a bit. It’s a blast!

Also, DRAGONS!

What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?

Unless plans change, I plan to queue Fireblight as an indie release in two or three years. (My release schedule before that is booked. LOL. Get it? Booked?)

What’s your top piece of advice for those just finished writing a first draft?

Put it down for a week. A month. Four months. Then edit it before you do anything. PLEASE EDIT. We all write crap on the first go and exposure to raw, first drafts (including my own) isn’t something I’d wish on my worst enemy.

Things I hate about writing

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I love writing—usually—but sometimes, things about it make me want to scream and rip my hair out. Because writing is overall pretty great, I put up with them, but still…with Nano Wrimo just around the corner, I thought I’d whine over the things I hate about writing.

Plot Holes

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Have you ever realized your story’s two halves mashed two totally different world structures? I have. I know writers who’ve misplaced characters, but I think an entire socioeconomic system wins this round. And don’t get me started on character consistency. Ugh.

Writer’s Block

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All writers have, at some point, stared at a blank page with no thought but “what now?” To make matters worse, I almost always know what I want to happen it’s just…how to get there???

Rejection Letters

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Everyone who has ever sent out a query to agents or publishers knows the pain. I lost count of how many I’ve gotten and it never hurts any less. And if they’ve requested a complete manuscript only to slap you with a fat “no”? AGONY!

(I did eventually get a “yes” for the Argetallam Saga, but that publisher demanded too many of my rights. Hence I went full-on indie. Bet you didn’t think of me as a rebel. 😉 )

Self-Editing

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If there were a hell for writers, it would be made of rejection letters in need of editing. You either agonize for days hours over whether or not something is crap or you know it’s crap and can’t believe you actually wrote that. Either way, you end up needing feedback.

Feedback

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Feedback is necessary the way childbirth and tooth extraction is necessary. I find actually reading feedback isn’t half as bad as expecting feedback and have been known to tie myself in knots over it. What if they don’t like it? Was that kissing scene cheesy? Was the dialogue stupid? What if all my years of work were for nothing??? Then the feedback comes in and it’s usually really helpful. But then I’m right back to editing and just…ick.

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I once vowed to stick with writing ‘til death do us part, but…I wish it wasn’t so rough. Are you a writer? Do you have your own “hate list” for writing? Let me know in the comments!

Tips for Staying Creative in College

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A lot of writers, artists, and musicians struggle balancing school and creativity. Personally, I’ve had stock market projects, club obligations, roommate drama, and even boy drama. I have scholarships depending on my grades and the angst of whether or not to change my major. In spite of that, I have remained fairly creative.

I reviewed the final edits for The Chalice of Malvron and as soon as I brush up the damnable blurb, it will be entered the big wide world. I even went through The Temple of Tarkoth and I’ve started on my Nano Wrimo project, but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to take conscious steps to make it happen and learned every lesson the hard way.

student-849825_960_720Don’t procrastinate

Procrastination is how you get three tests and three papers the same week mixed with a shot of meltdowns and a pound of anxiety. Plan ahead so that you can do a little work on school assignments at a time. Remember, it’s better to have a hundred snowballs than one avalanche.

Take care of yourself

Sleep. Seriously, sleep. Also go for walks and be sure you get to move around. This keeps your brain working its best and makes you feel more energized and better about yourself. Both are great for creativity.

girl-865304_960_720Creative breaks

I find unplugging and taking a hiatus from everything lets my brain reset and works wonderfully. Personally, my best breaks from writing involve reading. I’ve actually broken free of a months-long reading slump this semester and it helps get me in the mood for storytelling. Working on bite-size projects, such as short stories or poems, is also hugely helpful for writer’s block and unlocking creativity.

(Some people tell me they’re always too tired for reading, so they watch TV. Contrary to popular belief, Netflix does NOT count as sleep. If you’re that tired, you should go to bed.)

purse-1478852_960_720Reward yourself

Remember to pat yourself on the back when you do well. Chocolate is a great motivator for reaching creative goals. I have a Half Price Books 15 minutes from my campus and I’ve used that to inspire me quite a bit. I’ve even been known to ban myself from dessert until I reached a certain word count.

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It’s okay to say “no.” There will always be sporting events, social events, and well-meaning friends who want to drag you along. While these are part of the college experience, remember that you have to be balanced. There is always a happy medium or a compromise that can be made, such as giving yourself a curfew or only going to events you’ll actually enjoy (sounds obvious, but I’ve found it isn’t always).

board-928392_960_720You can keep writing, drawing, and creating in college, I have faith in you. If you can dream it, you can do it, and no one dreams like artists.

Do you have any tricks or tips for other student artists you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

Sex in YA books is ruining my generation: Part II

Last week we talked about all the sex in YA and how I think it’s horrible and all that. Now let’s talk about why.

Nobody seems to bring this up…

Regardless of whether or not high school students should be having sex, whether or not people should embrace/explore their sexuality or what have you, no Young Adult book I’ve read accurately portrays how much young people give up for these early relationships. Boys and girls both.

Even when there wasn’t sex involved, I cannot tell you how many people I have watched sacrifice and compromise their own dreams for the sake of a boy/girlfriend. So many times, I have wanted to scream “he/she’s not worth it!” when people I cared about quit the sport they loved, ended friendships, turned down the chance to get paid to travel, or changed their college plans for the sake of the (invariably ungrateful) person they were dating. 

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It has never once turned out well and those I’ve talked to have always ended up regretting those lost opportunities. Not even sex in the cases where it applied, just what it caused them to miss.

The unpopular opinion that might get me strung up.

We need better story lines in YA than this “cure the virgins” fad. Yes, yes, it’s true that sex is considered a part of the “coming of age” story that YA often follows and I know sex sells, but it wouldn’t kill anyone to write with more restraint, for lack of a better word. The target audience of YA are mostly still forming our opinions and beliefs about the world. We often don’t even know who we are until college or later and the things we read, watch, and hear influence us sometimes more than we realize.

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Books, like any other form of art, shape tour perspective and too many YA books today are shaping my generation’s perspective on sex into something ugly. It’s not about shaming those who have had sex or choose to write about it, let me make that clear. The point is that publishing, like Hollywood and the music industry, are telling us that sex is free of consequences and fun and everyone should be doing it. Also, everyone wants to do it and if you don’t you are either lying or haven’t found the right partner.

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But it’s okay to not have sex and there’s a hell of a lot more to it than I’ve seen in the media. YA authors need to stop and do a bit more research. Screwing around, especially during that phase, can quite easily ruin your life, especially if you let it divert you from what you should be focused on. People in the YA age range have a lot of things to learn and discover and romance is just one tiny piece of that huge puzzle. There’s your morality, what is important to you, what work makes you passionate, figuring out what you want to pursue in college, if you even want to go to college…LOTS OF THINGS BESIDES SEX, OKAY?

And then there are the stories about how the protagonist realizes that relationships aren’t all that necessary at his/her lifestage and moves on. But seriously, I can think of a grand total of ONE book where they didn’t have to have sex before the protagonist figured it out.

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Apparently, writers and publishers think young adults just aren’t smart enough to recognize trouble before screwing it.

To be continued in Part III.

Part I

Things fantasy books (almost always) get wrong about hunting

I think it is a safe assumption that many fantasy writers have never been hunting in real life. Really, why sit in a stuffy deer blind with no AC or toilet for hours on end when you could be reading books and sipping tea in your favorite armchair?

When it comes to hunt scenes, most people don’t notice the common inaccuracies because they are pretty consistently incorporated across TV and books. However, if someone is looking to appease the tiny demographic of fantasy-reading hunters, these are the things I’ve noticed books most frequently get wrong about hunting.

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And why would you WANT to kill this magnificent giant? I mean, look at him. By the laws of natural selection, he should live a nice, long life and the chance to have lots of equally pretty babies.

Game regularly comes in the size of midsize automobiles.

In truth, wild animals tend to be on the small side. The average wild boar, for example, will probably more resemble the dimensions of a Golden Retriever versus his overfed, domesticated cousin. (Unless a petty Greek deity is involved.)

Rabbits, pheasants, and other game are also pretty small, so just one of these is most likely not going to feed your group of five daring adventurers—unless they’re omnivorous pixies.

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Things get notoriously messy when it comes to bagging birds. It’s the feathers. Feathers everywhere.

Insta-death.

It is one of the more icky realities, but the clean, tidy kills we get on TV and in books are more than a little censored. In reality, animals pretty much never die straightaway, especially if you’re using a bow and arrow. Even if shot perfectly through the heart, animals are still capable of running several hundred yards before collapsing and in some cases can continue thrashing for several minutes.

More than a little disturbing, but true.

Stalking vs. Lying in Wait

Writers really like having their characters go gallivanting off into the woods to stalk their prey instead of setting up a perch and waiting for unsuspecting prey to come along. But moving through the forest “unseen and unheard” is hard. Very hard. Actual hunter-gatherer peoples spend years and years learning to stalk effectively and it’s still not easy. Even the best hunters come home empty-handed quite often.

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Wild bacon seeds can be plentiful at the right time of year, especially in areas with few natural predators, but even these brazen little piggies can be hard to pinpoint.

The forest is a 24/7 buffet.

One thing that bothers me is characters going off on hunts at random times of day, but nature is not your neighborhood Walgreens. Most animals only come out at dawn or dusk and hide for the rest of the day. Sure, you could theoretically go track them down, but it would take a long time and you’d have to basically be a freaking ninja as mentioned earlier.

In short, hunting is not nearly as glamorous or easy as we fantasy writers tend to make it sound. It’s icky and laborious and you’re probably better off just packing lots of lembas bread.

Conflicted Loyalties: Villains vs. Heroes

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A soft spot for villains.

All too often, I find myself watching a movie or a series for the sake of the villain, because I care more about him/her than the “good guys.”  If you go on Tumblr or any other fan site, you’ll see that villains in pretty much every genre and media garner massive followings, sometimes even larger than those of their heroic counterparts.

This led me to the inevitable question—why? Are the heroes just too boring? Are the good guys too good? Is it that the villains are a means of expressing our frustrations and resentments by proxy? I’m sure there’s a psychology dissertation in that somewhere.

The double standard.

Firstly, I notice that villains get away with a lot more by virtue of being villains. If a hero abducted and poisoned children or slaughtered entire armies defending their homes, he would be condemned by the readership rather quickly. Yet the villain gets away with it because we expect that. After all, he/she is a villain and villains by their nature do villainous things, but if a hero has so much as one selfish moment and yells at the wrong character, suddenly we’re all over him/her with pitchforks and torches. (But if the protagonist is too perfect, we’re still not happy.)

When a hero monologues about traumatic events in their lives, they too quickly come off as whiny complainers. When a villain discusses past trauma, however,  people are generally more sympathetic. Villains also tend to talk about past traumas less often and I wonder if that has something to do with it as well—we don’t have to listen to many sympathy-garnering speeches.

The perspective factor.

Interestingly, there seems to be more villain-centric fans in films and television series. Personally, I find heroes more relatable and easier to empathize with in books and I believe other people do too. It probably has something to do with being thrown into the hero’s psyche, sometimes exclusively, leading us to develop more attachment to him/her.

Even in multi-POV books, the hero has the most “screen time” and the villains are usually secondary or tertiary if their perspective is there at all. This means a certain amount of distance from the villain and a buffer zone of attachment, if you will.

In the end, this subject could probably span a few more blog posts plus that dissertation I mentioned. I’m just trying to tap into what makes all characters—villains, heroes, and everything in between—lovable.

But in the end, it’s still an art, not a science.