O procrastination! (a real potential pitfall of self-publishing, and of being me)

There’s one big problem with self-publishing, especially if you don’t require it to pay the mortgage. And that is that there’s nobody giving you any deadlines except yourself.

I decided two, maybe even three years ago to stop being exclusive to Kindle with my ebooks. That meant giving up Kindle Unlimited payouts, which were running maybe thirty or forty percent of my writing income at the time (partly by virtue of running ads on BookBub that were driving that income but also steadily losing me money). Part of this is because I find KU readers have never been as enthusiastic about my quirky-bordering-on-literary stuff as people who read traditional novels tend to be, so the stand-alone read-through was blah.

Yes, you read that right. I made this decision two or three years ago.

Yes, I was writing another book (PRIDE AND PRECARITY, now due out in January), but that hardly took all that time.

And when did I actually start to put my books wide? Well, Kobo got some of them a few months back. But not all of them yet.

Draft2Digital got THE AWFUL MESS finally earlier this month, which means that book is now available at Apple and many other retailers. But I still have to add the rest of that series, plus the rest of the backlist.

Part of the delay was that I wanted to go straight to Apple, but navigating my iTunes accounts and my various Apple IDs (one for an iPhone I haven’t owned for over a decade, connected to an email address I don’t have access to anymore) proved to be beyond me.

I find things like that so discouraging that I will often turn away from them for weeks, or months, or forever. I’ll just go read, or something. (Yes, I’m already at over 100 books this year on Goodreads. Including some really good ones recently.)

Then there’s the paperback, which I took out of expanded distribution years ago because I was making about 25 cents a book, mostly off other vendor’s sales of it, since they could beat my price. I knew I needed to go to Ingram Spark for wide distribution at a better profit level, but that introduced a whole new level of technical agony about ISBNs, covers, etc.

paperback edition of THE AWFUL MESS

Yes, Amazon considers this nudity bad enough to bar this book from being advertised on their platform.

I finally started it with THE AWFUL MESS last month, because Shepherd.com had asked me to write something for them that would feature it. However, it appeared I’d need a new cover first. Ingram has different spine widths and I can’t currently afford to go back to the original wonderful designer (plus his lovely cover gets dinged all the time for being too sexy).

So I polled my newsletter subscribers about two possibilities for that new cover.

And they were evenly split.

Which called for way more procrastination while I agonized about it.

(Also, I suddenly realized how few of my newsletter subscribers are still getting my newsletter, which was a whole other traumatic episode and required a whole lot more stuff to do that I’ve been procrastinating for years.)

But a choice had to be made, and then once I made it (based solely on what would make the best back cover background), I had to actually make the cover. That took another while. Because I don’t use Photoshop often enough to remember how to do things fast. But by God, I finally got it done.

Then I finally went to upload the cover yesterday, and all my earlier work to set up the book had disappeared and Ingram told me the book I’d started to upload COULDN’T BE UPLOADED, only transferred from KDP, because that ISBN had already been used.

This meant I didn’t even need that new cover I’d just slaved over. Unless I put it up on KDP … where it would require a different spine width using a different template.

So anyway. The transfer has been requested for that one and the two other Lawson novels and now we’ll see what happens. Yay for me not procrastinating that for yet another month, I guess. But it could take another month to go through, assuming Amazon doesn’t refuse to do it or something.

Speaking of Amazon, they’ve been terrifying a number of indie authors lately by refusing to believe their books are actually their books just because some random hacker has made a copyright claim, perhaps to extort money or steal books or, who knows, screw with a competitor. The Zon won’t necessarily accept an author’s actual copyright registration or long history of publishing with them as proof, either. It’s a Kafkaesque horror show.

Meanwhile, the only reason I’ve made as much progress as I have recently, I suspect, is that I said yes to teaching a 12-week composition course this fall and can’t afford to mess around any longer. I’ve got to pour all my spare energy into prepping a class I haven’t taught for three years into a very different weekly format that could go online at some point if polio really takes off or something. (Meanwhile, I still don’t have access to the college electronically.)

Wish me luck with all of it, please. Or maybe just roll your eyes and remember that there’s a reason traditional publishing still has a lot of fans among writers.

Onward!

(Possibly quite slowly.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving on, we come to PRIDE AND PRECARITY

This Independence Day was so mournful for me, given current events, that I basically just hid out at home reading regency romances. (On the plus side, that meant I had way less chance of getting shot. We are living in crazy times, aren’t we?)

But today is the day after Independence Day, and I need to get some real work done, something I haven’t been doing all that well lately.

So here we go, finally getting the next novel ready for publication. I thought for a long time about querying it to agents (and I did fling it into Berkley’s open submission process, which I can only assume resulted in an extremely deep slush pile). But all the reasons I self-pubbed in the first place are still true – probably even more so in today’s market.

So last week folks who subscribe to my newsletter got a sneak peek of PRIDE AND PRECARITY. It plays off Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, but sets the story in 2019 in a small, struggling liberal arts college town in upstate New York, where the heroine is an under-employed English adjunct (something I’m rather familiar with), and the hero, a higher education consultant, has just gotten his pal Bingley installed as the new college president.

I’m going to share that first chapter here, too, but if you want to see chapters two and three any time soon you need to make sure you’re on the newsletter mailing list, not just this blog’s mailing list. That’s because I have no idea who really sees this blog (unless someone comments). It all happens in the background with Jetpack or WordPress or trained internet hamsters.

BUT if you’re a subscriber to my twice-monthly newsletter I’ve got your email address! And we can have private email conversations! And because of that, you might also have a chance to volunteer to be an early beta reader or ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) reader. (IF you’re willing to commit to providing helpfully specific feedback and/or posting an honest review somewhere, that is.)

So now, here’s the current draft (not final) of chapter one of PRIDE AND PRECARITY. If you want to keep going at least two more chapters, make sure you subscribe to the newsletter, which comes out on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. I won’t put you through a traditional “Welcome” automation if you join here, but I may circle around and try to catch up with you later.

Obviously, you can always unsubscribe. Also, you’ll probably need to confirm your email for it to work. (So check that promotions tab or spam folder or whatever if you don’t see it right away.)

CHAPTER ONE

I’m not saying this is my Mr. Darcy, because I kind of accidentally downloaded him from Deposit Photos. But he might be!

(Still a working draft!)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a new college president must hold a reception for faculty.

Also true: It would be really awkward to spill a whole tray of chicken satay skewers drizzled with peanut sauce on that new college president.

But I’ll get to that in a moment.

Charles Bingley, the new guy, hired my aunt to cater. And that’s why I’m serving hors d’oeuvres at this faculty reception even though, technically, I’m a member of said faculty.

Only technically, because I’m part-time, an adjunct. I earn less than $3,000 per semester per class, with a strict limit on how many I can teach. (God forbid they should have to give me health insurance.) So I pick up a lot of catering gigs with Titi Sylvia.

I thought about saying no to this one, because of the shame factor. But then I thought about how my car has been making funny noises lately.

Circling the room in my white shirt and slightly faded black pants, I offer my faculty colleagues stuffed mushrooms on the first pass, little chorizo pockets on the second. My best friend Charlotte is the only one who smiles warmly at me. “Izzy! Do you want me to introduce you to anyone?”

I shake my head. No, not while I’m handing out appetizers, thank you.

Charlotte’s an adjunct, too, but as the daughter of Bill Lucas, long-time trustee and current president of the board, she’s comfortable with this crowd. If she’d chosen a more popular major, she’d probably be on the tenure track by now. Unfortunately, she went for a doctorate in women’s studies at the exact moment it was starting to be cut from course offerings everywhere, especially at small, struggling colleges like Meryton. It’s proven as deadly to her career prospects as that doctoral thesis on Barbara’s Pym’s satirical novels has to mine.

At the next little group, that old goat Professor Hart narrows his eyes at me as he helps himself to a chorizo pocket, possibly wondering if he’s seen me or at least my boobs somewhere before. But he’s one of the few to even look my way. I’m the help. I’m invisible. Which is ideal in this situation, frankly.

I come out with the third tray – the soon-to-be infamous chicken satay – and let some hungry adjunct door skulkers scoop up one each, then head around the room clockwise. My baby sister Lidia has the counter-clockwise circuit and is wearing the lowest cut white shirt she can get away with. “Oh, you’re so funny!” she says to some guy, and giggles. I catch my older sister Jane refreshing the beverage service and roll my eyes. She smiles in understanding but doesn’t roll hers – she’s too nice for that, even when it’s about Lidia.

Anyway, as I approach that Most Important Conversational Cluster in the Room, I somehow lose my footing and go flying right into President Charles Bingley’s chest. Tray first.

We both fall to the floor, and there are gasps as every person in the room turns to look.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry!” I say, and try to leap up, but some tall dude with an excellent grip is already hauling me to my feet.

Jane swoops in and says, “Oh, dear! Come with me, Mr. Bingley, and I’ll help you get cleaned up quickly and back to your party.”

He says, “Please, call me Chaz. Darce, bring me down a clean shirt?”

Tall dude scowls at him a moment, then nods, and asks me, “Are you okay?”

“Yes, perfectly. I’m –”

But he’s already leaving.

I bend down to pick up the tray and the scattered remains of the satay – the hungry adjuncts at the door look on wistfully – and head to the kitchen.

I walk in to find Jane gently sponging Chaz Bingley’s pants and blushing. He’s blushing, too. His shirt is covered in peanut sauce, and he’s already unbuttoning it.

“I’m so sorry,” I say again.

“No worries,” he says. “You have no idea how much I wanted a break from all that terribly, terribly polite conversation!” And then he’s back to smiling and blushing at my sister.

Okay, so maybe he’s a good guy, even if he is admin. He pulls off his shirt and balls it up on the counter. His undershirt fits nicely and he has nice shoulders and nice arms. He’s kind of goofy looking, though. Of course, that may be because of the way he keeps staring at my sister, like he’s dazed or something.

“How did that happen?” Titi Sylvia asks me, under her breath, and it takes me a moment to realize she means my collision out in the reception hall, not my sister and the new college president gazing into each other’s eyes like moony heifers.

“No idea. One minute I’m walking along fine, and the next I’m flying through the air. I’m so sorry!”

“Oh, well, it happens.” She hands me a spray bottle and a roll of paper towels. “Here. I don’t want any cleaning bills for any priceless carpets.”

“Got it,” I say, and take a deep, centering breath before I walk out of the kitchen. Because the only thing less dignified than dropping a tray of chicken satay on your new college president is having to get down on your hands and knees to clean peanut sauce out of the carpet in front of your colleagues.

I’m scrubbing the last stubborn spot when I see Bingley and “Darce” come out of the kitchen. Bingley, restored to full dress, is still smiling a bit idiotically.

Darce frowns and I hear him say, “Must she do that now?”

“Darcy, come on,” Bingley says. So maybe it’s actually Darcy, not Darce? Or maybe it’s D’Arcy? He looks like the kind of guy who might hang on to a pointless apostrophe if it were pretentious enough.

Bingley continues, “You want me to be responsible for staining somebody’s precious historic carpet in my very first week on the job? Listen, you never saw a more attractive bunch of caterers. The one who just cleaned me up in there is the sweetest, kindest, prettiest—”

“Caterer. She’s a caterer, Chaz. And I believe the least you could hope for from a caterer is for them to not splatter you with the very food you’re paying them to serve. Have you met everybody here yet? People are starting to leave.”

Charlotte’s dad Bill rushes up to them. “All’s well that ends well, is that not so? What an inspiring example of graceful persistence you’re giving us!” He sports a kind of pseudo-English accent that I associate with old money. I may be wrong about that, though, because Charlotte’s even more anxious about spending than I am. Perhaps whatever money was involved in forming that accent has been lost. She and I may be best friends, but I’ve never had the nerve to ask.

I try another energetic scrub. Is this last stubborn stain from our peanut sauce, or was it already there?

“Just promise me you’ll hire a different caterer next time,” says Darce/Darcy/D’Arcy.

Asshole. That’s what I’m calling him from now on.

Bill Lucas says, “I don’t recommend that! Sylvia Phillips is the best you’ll find around here. She’s the sister of the wife of one of our most distinguished professors – Professor Bennet, one of the world’s foremost authorities on dung beetles! Sadly, retiring this year. His daughter Isabela there is actually an adjunct professor in our English department. She’s said to be quite brilliant in the field of contemporary women’s literature.”

Asshole says, “And we can see how well that’s working out for her.”

OH MY GOD! Does he not realize I can hear him?

But he probably doesn’t care. Assholes never do. It’s their super power.

I decide the carpet’s as clean as it’s going to be and get up to brush past them. I give Asshole a glare. I wish I could spray carpet cleaner in his face. I don’t, of course, but it’s possible I wield the spray bottle a tad threateningly at him as I go by.

His eyebrows go up, and he smirks at me.

This would be a fab story to immediately regale everyone in the kitchen with, but Titi loads me up with a tray of her famous pastries.

Okay, fine. That is what she’s paying me for. I stop at the hungry adjuncts and take the opportunity to pop one in my own mouth. That’s a big no-no, but I figure I had an invitation to this thing, too. “Go ahead, take two,” I urge them.

“So delicious,” says an anemic-looking young woman I vaguely recognize as belonging to the art department. “What’s that filling?”

“Guava.”

“Guava?” She repeats it with a blank look. We’re pretty far away from any important centers of Puerto Rican culture up here in the hinterlands of upstate New York. For their part, Titi Sylvia and my mom are only half Puerto Rican, but they still like to wow the locals with the flavors of the island. Mom also insisted on Spanish names for us girls, except for Jane, who’s named after Abu Jane because our Puerto Rican great grandparents apparently liked the English version better, too.

It’s all a bit misleading. Mom and Sylvia can roll their r’s and curse people out in Spanish, but don’t ask them to actually carry on a conversation. I have some Spanish because I needed a second language for my master’s degree, but in the four years I’ve been teaching since I got my doctorate, it’s been fading as fast as my hiring prospects.

So I’m not sure my sisters and I really qualify as Hispanic. But we sure know good Puerto Rican food.

I pop another pastelillo de guayaba in my mouth and swallow it down before I resume a slow circuit, carefully watching for stray feet in my path. The idea is to avoid dropping another tray.

Also, to run out of these pastries before I get anywhere close to Asshole.

—-

And so ends Chapter One.

Enjoying it so far? Have some comments for me? You can leave them below or email me at sandrahutchison (at) sheerhubris.com  – or, best of all, join my newsletter list here (if you haven’t already) and I’ll consider you interested in seeing more.

 

 

 

 

Things that won’t wait

I’m not going to get into perishables in the refrigerator or freezer or pantry, because we already know all too well about that. But these days I’m particularly aware of these other parts of life that just won’t wait forever:

Children.

They just keep growing! My grandchildren and niece and nephew in particular seem to be absolutely racing into adolescence and young adulthood. I wish they would slow down, but unfortunately I have it on great authority that it’s not how these things work.

Gardens.

You could still start tomato seeds right now in upstate New York, but you probably wouldn’t get much of a crop before frost arrives. Similarly, leaving plants in tiny nursery containers too long might mean they never flourish even after you plant them. (Sorry, basil.)  Also, if you let weeds set seed before you pull and/or mulch, you’ll be chasing weeds for months. (I will be chasing weeds for months.)

Painting.

At least up north, if you don’t get your house painting done in dry, temperate weather, you’re going to pay a price. Also, prep always takes more time than you think it should. Also, paint gets old. (If only buying paint equaled finishing a job! I’d be golden! Or, more likely, a nice off white!)

A 1350 angel from an altar piece who has folded arms and a skeptical or grumpy expression.expression.

How I imagine an actual angel might have watched our diocesan debate. (Angel by Niccolo di ser Sozzo Tegliacci, ca. 1350. Hyde Collection.)

Justice.

After participating in my (Episcopal) diocese’s annual convention this year, I became very aware of how dedicated some people seem to be to setting aside time for discussion and healing and conversation, maybe even forming committees or task forces, rather than simply removing some hateful and unenforceable canons targeting LGBTQIA persons. The laity was ready to move on, but our carefully curated clergy was not. I could say the fact we had a vote at all and that it was fairly close showed progress…but probably only because it’s not my marriage or my calling that was being strenuously and sometimes quite disingenuously opposed.

Books.

You have to put your butt in the chair and write them or they just don’t happen.

On the other hand, I do find that ideas will wait a bit and might even improve with a little subconscious marination. And sometimes writers need to recharge the creative batteries.

Readers.

It’s a truism in indie publishing that if you really want to make a living at this you need to publish four or more books a year. Some people publish ten or twelve or fifteen books a year (sometimes under various pen names). I am never going to be able to do that. But I’m also older now and don’t actually expect to make a living at this. So I’ll publish when I’m ready. (And I’m very thankful to those of you who are still hanging around for whatever comes next.)

Here’s wishing you the best of luck at not waiting too long to do whatever it is you want to accomplish this summer! Clearly I could use some of that myself.

 

 

 

 

 

How marketing your writing can be like surviving high school P.E.

When I was in high school in Florida, we had physical education class every day.

I was bad at it.

I coped well enough with track, aerobics, gymnastics, and even volleyball (only because I was a fairly reliable server), but all the other team sports were nightmares. I could be counted on to let down my team. Softball was especially painful. I hated waiting in the outfield, desperately hoping no fly balls would come my way.

But then I figured out how to get through it: volunteer to be the catcher.

Was I a good catcher? Hell, no. (Not until I watched Bull Durham years later did I learn that catchers are supposed to be strategizing with the pitcher! Who knew?) But nobody else wanted to do it, what with the strained posture and ungainly equipment and chance of catching a ball or a bat the hard way. So they were happy to let me do it.

Sandra Hutchison as an uncoordinated teenager holding two inflatable pool floats

This may be the closest I ever came to being any kind of athlete. Even as a teenager, I looked like a librarian.

And it was SO MUCH BETTER. I didn’t have time to pray no ball would come. OF COURSE it came. Repeatedly!

I spent the whole inning catching and throwing. I had no time to get nervous. Hell, it was even fun.

Yes, once in a while a foul ball popped up or a run headed home and gave me the chance to disappoint my team, but I couldn’t stop and brood about it. Because there was another pitch.

After remembering this recently, I realized that’s the approach I need to take to marketing. Especially the newsletter part, which I’ve been procrastinating literally for years now.

Like a lot of authors, I hate marketing my own books, especially to people I know. Because my mailing list is so small (especially now!), a lot of people on it are people I know. And whether they know me or not, I fear I will irritate them or bore them or look desperate or tacky or clueless, or (most likely now) get marked as “spam” by people with no memory they signed up for my newsletter years ago.

To be fair, I have also repeatedly run into bewildering tech issues. Let me tell you, bewildering tech issues are THE BOMB if you’re looking to put off something uncomfortable. (I ran into more trying to publish this very post, which is why it’s out a day late.)

Restarting the blog last year was my first step in overcoming what had become a case of near-paralysis on the marketing side. Could I write something every single month that at least some people were going to read? Yes, I could! (Okay, always on the last possible day of the month, and I just missed February, as noted above.)

Would this renewed blog ever be brilliant or make any difference to my book sales? Not so far. But it does, at least, suggest that I’m still in the game. This is something, especially if you publish new novels as slowly as I do.

But the mailing list is the thing I really need to do. So… those few of you still on my list at this point and also reading this, which may be nobody … you are about to start hearing from me regularly, on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, with something shorter than this blog ever is.

(Check your promotion or spam folder if you think you’re on the list and don’t get anything – or sign up again at the bottom of this page.)

This frequency is not what I promised when you signed up. So if you find this annoying, I cordially and absolutely without angst invite you to unsubscribe. It’s actually ideal, if you’re not interested. Mailing lists above a certain size cost an author money, after all. (Yet another reason to procrastinate!) And you can reliably hear about new releases or promotions if you follow me on Bookbub or Amazon.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this blog. I enjoy this format, but it takes serious effort to get a post published, and the mailing list will be my top priority this year. I also don’t want to take away too much time from novel writing. (Novel #8 is finally under way!) So that’s something I’ll be thinking about a little more.

As always, I’m happy to hear your opinions if you have any. (Also, I’m curious if you have your own ways of psyching yourself into doing the stuff you find anxiety-producing!)

And now … I need to go play some ball.

Tap, tap. Does this thing still work?

CONFESSION TIME. For at least two years now, I’ve been ignoring this blog and (most of) this web site and all my email subscribers, too.

The Lent before last I decided I was spending too much time and money trying to keep my Amazon sales rank high, and it was time to detox.

Then I took that to the extreme. I guess I was curious to see just how bad it could get. (Short answer: Bad.)

Also, I wanted to focus on expanding THE AWFUL MESS into a trilogy, which I did. Then I started another book, a romantic comedy stand-alone. (That’s now in first draft and I’m trying to forget it so I can go back and do a decent edit.)

Anyway, the first year of ignoring marketing I made money instead of losing it, mostly because there’s a long lag in Amazon profits if your books were ever popular in Kindle Unlimited, and I’d stopped bleeding ad expenses.

But by the second year I was losing money. This wasn’t such a bad thing in my case since I quit teaching during the pandemic and had lost an easy way to fix my taxes via the college’s payroll system (I’d always had extra deducted). So tax season was less painful than it could have been. Yay, business failure!

Anyway, for the most part the books have been trending down into oblivion and I’ve been alternating between thinking “that’s not good” and “yeah, whatever.”

Like a lot of folks in this pandemic, I’ve spent a lot of time doom scrolling. I’ve also been escaping into books written by other people. I read 102 books in 2020 and I’m at 78 so far this year, and that’s only counting the books I feel I can heartily recommend. So that storehouse of recs I hope will allow me to confidently move the future focus of this blog more towards recommending other books (in addition to the usual personal tidbits).

Cover of THE UTTER CATASTROPHE by Sandra HutchisonI have still been writing and publishing. I put out THE COMPLETE DISASTER, sequel to THE AWFUL MESS, in Kindle, way too fast. (Yes, I seriously thought I had COVID-19 and might die and no one would ever get to read it, ha ha.) That was embarrassing, so I kind of ignored it for a while, but then I needed to publish the third book, THE UTTER CATASTROPHE, so I fixed it (with help from my usual excellent proofreaders). Of course, now the back matter is out of date. And all my titles need to go wide, but first I need to comb through them for errant mentions of the mighty retailer that shall not be named.

Because here’s the single most crazy-making thing about being an author-publisher: Everything I need to do requires me to do something else FIRST. For example, it’s not really worth restarting this blog until I get my mailing list working again. But there’s no point in doing that until I verify my web site with my list manager. But FIRST I need to change my list management service … which means setting up a whole new series of automated and landing pages for a whole new set of freebie “reader magnets.” A few of which still need to be set up on the downloading service.

Complicating all this, the computer I do most of my work on refuses to open this website because it refuses to forget the last web host I had and fixing that is apparently impossible without wiping the entire computer and starting over. But it’s a machine I bought used, so it might not give me access once I have to start over because I might not have the right key to unlock it. (I am, in fact, writing this on a new Apple laptop because it’s the only way FOR ME to get into MY OWN web site. But switching from PC to Apple and from desktop to laptop has its own learning curve.)

And this is why, for the last couple of years, I have tended to head back to whatever book I’m reading, or whatever book I’m writing. I get frazzled thinking about what I need to do before I can do other things.

And, in fact, most of you probably won’t get this, because of everything I haven’t gotten around to doing first. But I have to start somewhere.

Do you have things in your life that don’t get done because of all the annoying things that need to be done before you can do them? (Tell me!)

Anyway. Here’s notice that I’m still alive and still writing and publishing, even if the sales rank suggests otherwise. So let me know if you got this, and if you’re an actual subscriber, keep an eye out for an actual email from me one of these fine days, though I pretty much expect to have to start that over from scratch.

Cheers,

Sandra

Ribs is FREE this Thursday and Friday

By Sandra Hutchison

THE RIBS AND THIGH BONES OF DESIRE is free today (March 29, 2018) and at least in theory on Friday, too, before it leaves Kindle Select (and thus Kindle Unlimited.)

I’ve had a frustrating couple of months with Amazon. I raised my book prices to match some more literary titles I was hoping to compete with, and — to my delight — actually began to compete with them. My “also-boughts” began to include authors like Celeste Ng, Claire Messud, and Gabriel Tallent. My book sales rose steadily.

Then Amazon yanked the rug out from under me, and as a result I’m leaving Kindle Select and going wide again, after a number of years of being happily (sometimes VERY happily) exclusive to Kindle.

What happened? Amazon Marketing Services decided THE RIBS AND THIGH BONES OF DESIRE is too provocative for me to advertise on their platform. This is a literary title, mind you, not erotica. It doesn’t even have any explicit sex scenes. It does have edgy themes, though. This episode might not have raised my ire so much had it not required multiple unhelpful, mutually contradictory emails from their awful customer service over a long period of time for me to finally realize I was truly shut out and not just the accidental victim of some wayward algorithm.

NOT the cover, though I suppose it might be worth testing.

Their communications were so unclear that I assumed at first (as their email said) that it was just the cover that was an issue and designed a new one, thankfully without spending any money (thanks, Canva!). But that wasn’t it (as I finally resigned myself to after weeks of torturous customer service discussions), so I went back to the original.

Anyway, Amazon Marketing Services killed this book’s trajectory so effectively I figured I might as well take advantage of my last chance for easy “free” days and depart Kindle Select with a little burst of something. (Also, I spent Wednesday testing whether you can buy BookBub free downloads by using Bookbub ads without actually getting selected for a BookBub featured spot, which is now something akin to finding the Holy Grail. The short answer: No, not really.)

I also let my subscribers know yesterday, because they’re the ones who should get first dibs on any special deals.

Anyway, there it is. Feel free to tell your friends. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can download it through the 30th, and read it any time you want (I’ll even get paid for those page reads). But it won’t be available to download in Kindle Unlimited after the 30th. And the ebook will still be for sale on Kindle, but not exclusive to Kindle. (This is good news for those of you who’d prefer to buy it on Kobo or iBooks or whatever.)

And, as always, I’m hoping this will earn this book a few more reviews. Believe me: YOUR REVIEWS MATTER — A LOT — for me or any author.

In other news… I’m doing final polishing on DISORGANIZE ME, which the beta readers are excited about, but after this discouraging experience with Amazon I’m going to try to query that the traditional way, and that can take quite a while. I’m also making good progress on a sequel to THE AWFUL MESS called THE COMPLETE DISASTER. That one will, I hope, be available before the end of 2018 or very shortly into 2019.

Cheers,

Sandra

So I can meet other goals in 2018, this blog is going ad hoc

By Sandra Hutchison

My writing goals for this year:

  1. Write 1,000 words a (week) day on the next novel (or two)
  2. Revise and either query or publish DISORGANIZE ME
  3. Try some new promotional techniques
  4. Maybe publish an audio book or two — though it would help if I could stand to listen to audio books myself.

So far I’m succeeding with the first one, slowly getting through the second one, and learning what I need to for the third one. Fourth one may have to wait for next year.

The problem: these goals are not compatible with blogging regularly, even monthly, because it often takes me at least a good day of work to get a decent post up. (Also, I’m a fan of having weekends.)

Mary and Winslow are getting a sequel!

Other than putting up a post when I really need to share some big news, I may try to start a routine of updating old posts, or posting reviews I have up in other venues, or just leveraging what I’ve already got by sharing it better. But right now I’m maniacally focused on the next book, a sequel to THE AWFUL MESS called THE COMPLETE DISASTER, in which new arrivals test Winslow, Mary, and the little town of Lawson.

After that, hopefully, will come another sequel called THE FULL CATASTROPHE. (I don’t even know what that’s about yet.) If I can get them BOTH drafted before next fall, I’ll know I can push my productivity up to where it needs to be to make this writing gig something that could compete with a day job.

Maybe the cover. Maybe not. Either way, sign up for my mailing list if you want to hear when it’s available.

Of course, DISORGANIZE ME still needs (more)  revision and edits and then I have to decide once and for all whether to give the traditional route a try or just stick to my current indie strategy. I’d love the next novel to get wider distribution if it can, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to have an official credential, for whatever that might be worth. But to be honest, it feels like a gigantic gamble, like farming a child out to somebody else who claims they can raise it better. Can they really? I see an awful lot of neglected children out there. So this is really a tough one for me. (If you want to weigh in, feel free.)

Thanks to the new tax bill, I already estimated my taxes and discovered that 2017 was a surprisingly good year for Sheer Hubris Press, which complicates all this decision making. I priced the books up a bit and right now I’m reaching readers who don’t just read indie books or even just eBooks. Is this a fluke, or something I can build on? Is this a smart strategy for indie publishing, really, or only for gaining a traditional toehold? (If you know, tell me!)

Selling along with Celeste Ng

IN GOOD COMPANY: Ribs is currently selling with a literary title that has a cover I coveted from the moment I saw it.

Anyway, if you’re a subscriber who actually looks forward to these monthly blog posts, my apologies. I’d be happy to simply correspond via email with you. I’m also addicted to Facebook and Twitter, so you can find me there (but I don’t recommend Twitter unless you can stand the obnoxiously partisan version of me).

I’ll let you know when anything major happens, and I’ll be updating the subscriber freebies  fairly soon, too. So please stay tuned!

P.S. I’m also trying a new cover for BARDWELL’S FOLLY. This poor baby is my problem child. I know it needs more reviews, and I’ll be trying to do something to give it a better shot at success, eventually. If you have any suggestions, feel free to pass them along.

 

 

From nun to novelist: An interview with Linda Anne Smith

Sandra Hutchison interviews the debut author of the indie-published TERRIFYING FREEDOM, a novel about a woman whose past as a nun is holding her back from new possibilities in her life. It’s a rewarding read for anyone fascinated by the anguish that can result when sincere faith collides with the inevitable human frailties of religious organizations.

A quick note — next month’s post will catch you up on my writing, rather than offering yet another author interview, much as I enjoy them. (Just in case you’re getting impatient!)

Linda, your author bio suggests that there are a fair number of commonalities between you and your heroine. Am I right about that, and if so, can you explain your decision to fictionalize this story rather than, say, write a memoir?

Yes, I do have extensive experience in religious life—30 years, in fact.

TERRIFYING FREEDOM, while drawing from this experience, is not autobiographical. However, the context of the story is based on fact, so the central part of the novel could be considered historical fiction.

So why not write a memoir? And pass up on the opportunity to spin a tale? From the start I wanted to write fiction. I felt impelled to give life to Rebecca, who, when the beliefs on which she founded her life begin to crumble, must navigate through the murky, rough waters of uncertainty.

I believe fiction gives me a broader range to explore and expand the characters and the reality in which they live. I am able to draw not only from my own experience but from what I’ve learned from others. For example, the central part of the novel is situated in Appalachia. Throughout my life I’ve been drawn to Appalachia: its people, its history and its beauty. The research I did for the novel deepened my own understanding of the Appalachian people. Initially Appalachia was a location for the story, but as the novel evolved it became a character. Fiction can open horizons. I love it.

'...fiction gives me a broader range to explore and expand the characters...' Click To Tweet

The novel interested me with its serious attitude towards economic justice and education. The heroine clearly takes teaching very seriously, and the quietly rebellious sisters do good work in Appalachia despite serious institutional barriers. Did you experience a similar path?

I work with at-risk and special needs children. Over the years I have seen how essential it is to provide early intervention for these children and their families. As a society we need to bolster our educational programs with lower class sizes and teacher aides; we need to provide vibrant and relevant after-school and preschool programs as well as outreach to parents. When we as a society demonize addiction, poverty, etc., rather than examine the roots and provide adequate support, we limit many people from living out their potential as persons and from engaging in an empathetic and productive manner in society.

While the purpose of TERRIFYING FREEDOM is to tell the story of Rebecca, I am thrilled when readers are made more aware of the issues that Rebecca and her community grapple with. I love reading novels where my perception of reality is challenged and I set off researching for more information and a deeper sensitivity of the issue or event discussed. Through his novels, Charles Dickens revealed the underbelly of English society that shocked and evoked change. I believe stories can be powerful conveyors of insight and empathy.

Your novel also features a slow-building romance with a sympathetic human resources manager. This is not one of your typical romantic hero’s jobs! What inspired that?

As the song goes, “Love is in the air, everywhere I look around!” I can also say that throughout my life I’ve been blessed by relationships that began as chance encounters: our lives just intersected at the right time and place. These persons believed in me and because of their honesty and compassion my life took turns that may not have happened otherwise. I’ll always be grateful to them.

Tell us how you came to write and publish TERRIFYING FREEDOM. Did anything about it surprise you? Do you have any advice for others?

As mentioned above, I felt a burning drive to write this story. Having said this, not everything was clear from the beginning and I had many moments of self-doubt. As I approached the end of Part One, I considered wrapping the novel up quickly. But after consideration, I decided to plunge into Part Two and am glad I did. In all, it took six years to write.

When it was completed, I embarked on the route of traditional publishing. But the more I trekked down this path, the more my eyes were opened. Several conglomerates control most of the publishing in the US and Canada. To get even the slightest consideration (not to mention an offer), one must first have an agent. So I hunted and send out queries to many agents who I thought might be interested in my genre. If an agent expressed interest, then I had to give a few months for that agent to read the manuscript and decide whether to take on the book or not. This process takes months and the manuscript hasn’t even begun to be seen by a publisher.

So while pursuing the traditional route, I began to research self-publishing through Ingram Spark and Createspace. I discovered that while I would have to put out for the editing, interior design and cover, I also would also have more control over the final product. And from what I’d read, even if a person is traditionally published, the author remains the primary marketer of their book (unless they are a celebrity).

At one point, a smaller publishing house expressed interest in TERRIFYING FREEDOM  and I sent off my manuscript to its reviewer. When I did not hear back after a number of months, I decided to self-publish with both Ingram Spark and Createspace. I was well into to this process when I heard that the reviewer had been quite ill and had since recovered. She liked the novel and gave me some great editing tips. By then, however, I decided to continue with self-publishing rather than wait any longer.

To authors-in-the-making, I would say concentrate above all on writing and completing your book. Be ready to edit, then edit, and edit some more. The best book I read on writing was ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT, by Stephen King. This book transcends genres as King offers examples from a wide range of authors. He is honest, practical and encouraging. I recommend this book to anyone who asks me about being an author.

I would happily second that recommendation!

Also, if you decide to self-publish, I would suggest investing in a professional editor and cover designer. Read current blogs on the self-publishing (this industry is constantly evolving) and move forward step by step. I would have been overwhelmed if I focused on the entire process. Lastly, be willing to promote your book. If someone expresses interest via social media, keep in touch with the person. I met you, Sandra, through a comment you made on a blog. Through our communication, you gave me a marketing tip and have now given me this wonderful opportunity to promote Terrifying Freedom.

My first novel, which features an errant priest and explores different approaches to faith, was at least partly inspired by thoughtful novels with religious themes by Tim Farrington, Gail Godwin, Anne Tyler, and John Irving, among others. Were you inspired to write yours by any particular works, fiction or nonfiction?

I love reading, both fiction and nonfiction, and I’m sure that various authors have influenced my writing without me being aware of it. I love Jane Austen for her insights into the society of her time and her keen perception of others. She has written enduring novels with the stuff of day-to-day living.

Books have opened me to worlds and experiences I had no idea existed. The books I love give me at least one character I deeply care about, increase my awareness of a particular a reality, give me another angle to view history, and/or break through stereotypes.

What’s next for you as an author?

I am currently writing a sequel that tells Andrew’s story (that sympathetic human resource manager!).

Linda Anne Smith lives near Calgary, Alberta, enjoying the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. For 30 years, she was a member of a community of religious sisters. She currently volunteers in an organization that is dedicated to assisting and advocating for traumatized and neglected children and their families and works in a school assisting children with special needs. Learn more about her and her work at terrifyingfreedom.com, or follow Linda on social media at Facebook or Twitter.

About TERRIFYING FREEDOM

In the Midwestern offices of Secure Star Insurance, Rebecca, efficient and distant, seeks only to survive another day. Sally, earnest and devout, views the workplace as a fertile mission field. Into the agency comes a new employee, Gladys, gregarious, unorthodox and twice divorced. When an intuitive HR manager arrives, veneers begin to crack.

Back track four years. Rebecca’s mysterious past is explored in a convent replete with younger members and garnering the support of an increasing number of bishops and conservative Catholics. When an older nun has a heart attack, Rebecca is abruptly sent to a backwater mission in Appalachia. Distanced from the enclave of the mother house and embedded in social realities of the missionary outpost, Rebecca is thrust into uncharted waters.

You can purchase TERRIFYING FREEDOM at…

Amazon/Kindle

Barnes and Noble

Canada—Chapters, Indigo/Kobo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frustration and hope: An interview with self-published author Lisa Marie Latino

Sandra Hutchison interviews an indie author whose romantic comedy debut was written to give hope to anyone who feels they’ve fallen short of their dreams.

What inspired Ten Years Later?

I went through various periods of self doubt in the years after college. I, too, was single, still living at my parents’ home, and went through some very trying times that all entrepreneurs do while forming their own businesses. As I opened up to others about my frustrations I realized that nearly everyone, no matter their circumstance, was dealing with the same insecurities. That theme — visions of what one thinks life SHOULD be versus reality — really inspired me, and since I’ve always wanted to write a book anyway, I channeled that angst into writing Ten Years Later .

A lot of readers assume Carla and I are the same person because we share a similar background and common interests — we’re both New Jersey-based sports fans of Italian descent. Obviously, I drew on a lot of my life’s experience in shaping a relatable fictional character, but Carla has her own set of unique circumstances that represent the plight of driven millennials everywhere trying to claim their stake in the world.

The book was originally written for women in their twenties and early thirties who are struggling to find their way; I wanted Ten Years Later to be their beacon of hope and motivate them to accomplish their heart’s desires. But as I’m getting to know my readers, I’m realizing that they come from all walks of life. High schoolers to middle-aged men have read and loved it. To write a book that can touch a wide variety of people is very fulfilling.

How did you come to publish it?

I did the blind-pitch dance to about fifty literary agents…and got rejected by all of them. I have built my career by creating opportunities for myself that no one else would give me, so I figured I would add one more to the list! I enlisted an editor, proofreader and illustrator to craft an ultra-professional final product. I published through CreateSpace and they were very helpful in guiding me through the process. It’s another “business” to worry about but I wouldn’t want it any other way!

What most surprised you in the writing and/or publishing of your book?

My experience as a business owner alleviated a lot of the “shock” in my new career as a self-published novelist. I knew the work was going to be hard and the reward not so instant. But I’m still learning something new everyday, from distribution tips to new blogs or online book communities to tap into!

What’s been your best experience so far as a published author?

Getting feedback from readers. I am so humbled by the fact that people chose to spend their time in my little world I created. Professionally, there is no better feeling.

What comes next?

The ultimate goal for Ten Years Later is to turn it into a movie. In my humble opinion, I think it would smash at the box office as the next great romantic comedy!

As for the future, I have many ideas for books; some in the same lighthearted vein, some in a much darker voice.

As an indie-published author, what advice would you have for aspiring authors?

Find a subject that absolutely consumes you with passion and run with it! That passion will take you through the writing, editing, tweaking of the final product, and marketing yourself.

Find a subject that absolutely consumes you with passion and run with it! -- Lisa Marie Latino Click To TweetAbout Lisa Marie Latino

The CEO and executive producer of Long Shot Productions, a full-service media production company based in Fairfield, New Jersey, Latino has produced numerous commercial, corporate, and entertainment programs that have taken her throughout the United States as well as Europe. In 2014, Latino co-launched HipNewJersey.com, an online lifestyle program featuring the latest trends around the Garden State.

Latino has appeared on a wide variety of local television, network cable, and radio shows, including TLC’s Cake Boss, SNY’s Oh Yeah, and WFAN Sport Radio’s Boomer & Carton and works in-season for the New York Giants Radio Network. She has also served as an adjunct broadcasting professor at Seton Hall University. Latino graduated from Montclair State University in 2006 with a degree in broadcasting and speech communication.

Learn more about Lisa Marie Latino on Facebook or her web site, lisamarielatino.com, which has more social media links.

Ten Years Later
Carla D’Agostino is not your typical heroine. Stuck in a seemingly dead-end job, single, and still living with her overbearing Italian-American parents, Carla is thrown for a loop when she realizes her ten-year high school reunion is fast approaching. True love, a career as a sports radio talk show host, the perfect body–every dream remains frustratingly out of reach no matter how Carla strives and schemes. Out of reach, that is, until unexpected events lead her right back to where she started, and Carla discovers that all she ever wanted was right in front of her the whole time. “Ten Years Later” is a witty, unpredictable tale of one ordinary young woman’s race for the top as she throws caution to the wind and decides to go for her dreams.
WHERE TO BUY IT:
Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / iBooks

Published every way: An interview with author Denise Deegan

Sandra Hutchison interviews multi-published Irish author Denise Deegan (who also publishes women’s fiction as Aimee Alexander).

Denise, in terms of being published you’ve moved from traditional to indie to Lake Union (as Aimee Alexander) and back to indie again. Quite an adventure! Can you share some of your ups and downs?

So, I had seven novels traditionally published, four contemporary works of women’s fiction, followed by a YA trilogy. By the time the last YA novel was published, the rights to my women’s fiction works had reverted to me. I thought that self-publishing would be an adventure, so I renamed myself Aimee Alexander (my children’s names combined), edited my books afresh, renamed them, hired a cover designer, and uploaded to Amazon. One of those novels, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar, was spotted by Amazon imprint Lake Union Publishing and then republished by them. My latest novel, Through the Barricades, is self-published.

Being traditionally published and having your novels translated into other languages is exciting. However, I love the control that comes with self-publishing. You choose your own covers, you do your own promotion, you see the results of that promotion immediately, and you can adapt with great flexibility. Importantly, you have a much higher royalty rate. You are an entrepreneur as well as an author. Having run my own PR business, all of this appeals very much to me. I like juggling different roles, working with different people, being creative in lots of ways, not just writing.

Being picked up by Lake Union Publishing was tremendously exciting because it came out of the blue. They approached me unexpectedly. I was aware of them; I had seen their books on Amazon. I loved their covers and their books. Mostly I loved their rankings! Being published by them was a treat. Their editing was wonderful, as was the cover they designed. They have been a pleasure to deal with. And they know their business.

I still have an agent and a manager in LA for my children’s and YA books. The market for children’s books is still very traditional.

I self-published my latest novel, Through the Barricades. 2016 was the centenary of a revolution that changed the course of Irish history. I wanted to get my story out before the end of the year. The fastest way was self-publishing. I just about made it. The book was published December 8. One of the highlights so far has been the cover, which I adore. That my daughter Aimee graces it makes the book all the more special to me.

As you note, you’ve published in multiple genres. Do you have any wisdom to impart on that?

Traditional wisdom states that authors should stick to a genre to build an audience. I had written four novels of contemporary women’s fiction. I didn’t plan to change. However, the next story that arrived to me was a teenage one. When I say arrived, I mean that I began to hear the characters’ voices in my head (which is how I’ve always written). The first conversation I heard was between sixteen-year-old Alex and her father. Alex’s voice was filled with rage, sarcasm but also a vulnerability that I couldn’t ignore. I scribbled that first dialogue onto a napkin in a coffee shop. Alex’s story became And By The Way, the first of The Butterfly Novels, a contemporary YA trilogy. I have since written a historical novel of love and revolution that is suitable for both adult and teenagers. I also have two novels with an agent, a YA thriller and a middle-grade pirate adventure.

The first thing I would say is that my novels are very strong on voice and emotion, no matter what genre they are in. That is because I hear and feel my characters. I become them as I write. If I ignored that process and stuck diligently to a genre, I would lose the realness of my stories. It would all become clinical and prescriptive, and my novels would, too. Then I would lose the desire to write.

A wonderful thing happened when I followed the teenage voices of Alex, Sarah, and Rachel. They really touched people. Girls began to get in touch on social media to say how they had connected with the books and characters. They spoke of how much they had learned from the issues that arose in the stories. They told me that they had read them over and over, wanted them made into movies, movies in which they would star. The reaction of teenagers to my books has touched me hugely and reminded me of why I write. I love what I do. If I changed how I do it, a little part of me would die. And I like living!

What advice would you have for aspiring authors?

The absolute thing I would say is: get your stories out to the world. Make them the best they can be. Hire professional editors. Learn the craft. Because it is a craft. Then get your stories out. Do not be stopped by the middlemen. If you can’t get an agent or publisher, do it yourself. The New York Times bestsellers list always includes self-published books. These are books that were not picked up by middlemen. Therefore they don’t always know a winner when they see it. And they will admit that themselves. Still Alice and The Martian were self-published, picked up by traditional publishers, and turned into movies. Why? Because the authors got their stories out to the world.

...get your stories out. Do not be stopped by the middlemen. -- Denise Deegan Click To Tweet

 What inspired your most recent novel?

Through the Barricades is a story of love and revolution. I’m a rebel at heart. If you want me to do something, tell me I can’t do it. I wanted to write a story of rebellion. Being Irish is an important part of my identity. My country’s history is one of oppression and a very long struggle for freedom. I wanted to tell that story through the eyes of Maggie, an idealistic girl who is prepared to sacrifice everything for what she believes in, and Daniel, a boy who is prepared to sacrifice everything for Maggie. I’m proud of my country’s history – its fight, not just for freedom, but to hold on to its identity, its stories and culture. I love this novel. More than any other, it is who I am.

What’s your number one hope for what your readers will get out of it?

I hope that people will connect with my characters, not just Maggie and Daniel, but their families and friends. I want them to feel as if they are right beside these ordinary people as they struggle in extraordinary circumstances for what they believe in.

I also very much want to share the story of a regiment of Irish soldiers that was stationed in Gallipoli in WWI. Researching (and writing about) this, I felt an incredible connection to the young men who fought and died in the trenches in Turkey.

What most surprised you in the writing of your book?

  • The connection I felt with soldiers in WWI, especially as I hadn’t originally planned to write about the Great War
  • How history is interpreted differently by people
  • The unplanned characters who stole into the book and built roles for themselves: a little orphan girl, Lily; Patrick, the rebel with a tough shell but soft center; and Michael, Daniel’s happy-go-lucky friend who grew up fast in Gallipoli but whose humor was so important in the trenches.

Tell us more about you and your book and where we can find it.

I’m an optimist. I find good in bad, light in darkness, and humor in difficult times. There’s something very Irish about that and it filters into the book. Though life in the trenches was appalling, humor was ever-present among the Irish soldiers. In a way, it defined them.

Family is hugely important to me. This comes across in all my books. Author Martina Reilly, who kindly attributed a quote on Through the Barricades commented: “The pieces written about the trenches in the First World War were really moving, as was the devotion Maggie’s family had to each other.”

I started life as a nurse. Medical issues always find their way into my books. Through the Barricades was no exception.

You can find Through the Barricades in paperback and ebook formats on Amazon.

About the author

Denise Deegan lives in Dublin with her family where she regularly dreams of sunshine, a life without cooking and her novels being made into movies.

She has been a nurse, a china restorer, a pharmaceutical sales rep, a public relations officer, an entrepreneur and a college lecturer. Her most difficult job was checkout girl, though ultimately this ‘experience’ did inspire a short story.

Denise’s books have been published by Penguin, Random House, Hachette and Lake Union Publishing. Her novels for Young Adults include The Butterfly Novels: And By The Way, And For Your Information, and And Actually.

Denise writes women’s fiction as Aimee Alexander. Her titles have become international best-sellers on Kindle and include: Pause to Rewind, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar, and All We Have Lost.

Learn more at https://denisedeegan.wordpress.com/about-denise/

Book Blurb

She was willing to sacrifice everything for her country. He was willing to sacrifice everything for her. 

“Make a difference in the world” are the last words Maggie Gilligan’s father ever says to her. They form a legacy that she carries in her heart years later when, at the age of fifteen, she tries to better the lives of Dublin’s largely forgotten poor.

“Don’t go getting distracted, now,” is what Daniel Healy’s father says to him after seeing him talking to the same Maggie Gilligan. Daniel is more than distracted. He is intrigued. Never has he met anyone as dismissive, argumentative… as downright infuriating.

A dare from Maggie is all it takes. Daniel volunteers at a food kitchen. There, his eyes are opened to the plight of the poor. It is 1913 and Dublin’s striking workers have been locked out of their jobs. Their families are going hungry. Daniel and Maggie do what they can. Soon, however, Maggie realizes that the only way to make a difference is to take up arms.

The story of Maggie and Daniel is one of friendship, love, war and revolution, of two people who are prepared to sacrifice their lives: Maggie for her country, Daniel for Maggie. Their mutual sacrifices put them on opposite sides of a revolution. Can their love survive?

Sandy’s note: It’s also very affordable right now if you buy it for Kindle at amazon.com.

Follow Denise Deegan on

Twitter: https://twitter.com/denisedeegan

Website:  https://denisedeegan.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/denise.deegan.3