Self-Publishing: Where I am, Where I’m Going

Santa Cruz, California - Copyright 2014 Teddi Deppner
Santa Cruz, California.

I was at a family vacation and something of a personal writing retreat when I came across Kristen Lamb’s article, “Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors.” An excellent article and a good checklist for those considering or in the process of self-publishing.

Her post got me thinking about where I’m at. In the interests of sharing with my friends how things are going and offering folks who visit here things to think about for their own publishing journey, here are my responses to Kristen’s five items.

1) Publishing before I’m ready

Well, the good news is that it hasn’t happened yet. The bad news is that 2014 is all but over and I have not finished or launched any of the projects I listed earlier this year.

I’ve been studying and practicing creative writing since I was a teen. I’ve written a bunch of short stories. I’ve finished at least one novel. I’ve taken college courses. I’ve paid for conferences and workshops. I’ve read decades of Writer’s Digest and have a library of books on writing fiction. I listen to podcasts and read writing blogs. From the feedback I’ve received from mentors and teachers, my prose is ready. I’m always learning and growing and improving, but it’s of publishable quality.

So far, so good.

2) Not knowing the business side of the business

3) Thinking “If I write it, they will come.”

I’ve kept an eye on the business side of things for decades. As a web publisher, I’ve learned and practiced enough about the e-publishing and e-marketing side of things to write books on it. I have some top-notch critique partners and a solid editor. I’ve got the tools for formatting and publishing. I have some resources for getting covers created, if I don’t come up with some on my own (with my graphic design background, I’m qualified to do it, though I may choose to outsource). I already have a small business as a freelance web designer, so the basic self-employment details are in place.

The pieces are in place. And I know that it’s going to take continued releases and prolific writing to do well.

Another fantastic post that Kristen put out recently is “What are the REAL Odds of Being an Successful Author?” If you’re wondering whether you have what it takes, that’s a great read, too.

4) Misusing “FREE”

This is such a great point that Kristen made. Free can be a powerful tool, but you need to know how to use it. And generally it does well in tandem with writing prolifically and knowing the business side of things.

5) Shopping one book “to death”

This also ties in with being prolific. Once you have a book finished, that’s great. But that’s not good enough. You cannot just stop and work on promoting that one book. As Kristen said, you will have much better success with promotion and creating fans when you have at least three books, and I’ve even heard you should have five books out to really get rolling. Or at least five titles. Shorter works can do a lot of the same work that novels do — they get your name before the eyes of readers. They give you a “bunch” of listings in Amazon’s catalog so you appear to be someone who is more than a one-shot wonder.

Since I haven’t released even one book yet, I don’t have this problem. And I don’t plan to. I might hold back, as Kristen says she’s doing with one particular series, and wait to publish until after I’ve finished several books. Or I’ll release them as they are ready but hold off on the heavy marketing and promotion until I have more out there.

There’s something to be said for having a release schedule that allows you to get some momentum by releases them all relatively close together. The excitement of a book release party should not be overlooked.

Conclusion

My life keeps me busy. I value my family and time with pursuits outside of writing and publishing. So publishing may go more slowly than I’d like. But I think the basic building blocks for success are in place. I’ll learn along the way, and I won’t let feeling unprepared stop me from stepping out when the time comes. Thanks to people like Kristen, I can do sanity checks to see where I’m at and refine my trajectory.

By the way, Kristen’s book Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World
is fantastic. I highly recommend it.

Where are you in your publishing journey? Are you considering self-publishing? What did you think of Kristen’s article — anything you would add to it?

Here’s to much growth and success in 2015. The year of opportunity!

Illustration: In the Midst of the Storm

Someone dear to me asked me if I could do a sketch for them. They described it like this:

a woman, on a boat, during a storm, wind in her hair, waves all around, holding the mast and singing

I really liked that last part: “Holding the mast like on the cover of the musical, ‘Singing in the Rain’.” So I looked it up on Google Images and found this:

singing in the rain DVD cover

And so it begins.

A new illustration project. At the time, I didn’t know if it would be a simple pencil sketch, an inked doodle, or what it would become.

I let the idea percolate for a few days. When I had some time, I sat down and started with some initial thumbnail sketches. My composition skills are pretty rusty, so I tend to start with tiny thumbnails (1″- 2″ wide) until I hit on something that seems like it would work.

storm praise pre-sketches

I searched Google images again for pictures of waves and storms and stylized ocean scenes. I had something in mind, and was looking for some angles or details I could incorporate.

Then I sketched it out a little bigger.

DSCN3579

Time to Break Out the Big Software

I couldn’t decide how I’d want to color it, so I decided I’d trace it in Adobe Illustrator so I could print several copies and experiment with it. I also opened the golden drawer where I keep my Wacom Intuos 3. Okay, it’s not golden, it’s plastic, but it’s a special drawer, okay?

DSCN3581

(Cue the angel choir. Nobody likes drawing with a mouse, do they?)

Lots of tracing and refining line anchor nodes later… At last I had a beautiful line illustration (click to see it larger):

storm-praise-lineart

I printed it out. Stared at it.

Didn’t feel like coloring it with markers after all.

Pulled it into Photoshop, instead.

Fiddled with the resolution.

Long story short (click for larger version):

storm-praise-done

And that is how this project went, start to finish.

I like it. It’s my new desktop wallpaper, and it inspires me.

It’s not perfect. But it’s done. And it’s shipped. tweet this

Lately, that’s what counts for me. Onward and upward!

 

Do You Know Who You’re Meant to Be?

ostrich-iowaDSCN1429words

The Problem We All Face

The concept of my identity is central to my faith as a Christian. How I see myself makes a huge difference in how I speak, how I act, how I interact with others. For example, if I see myself as a low-down, no-good, rotten sinner who will never get any better, I tend to act that way. On the positive side, if I see myself as one who has been given dominion over my own emotions, I don’t let them dominate me.

As I think, so I am.

While this is true of my Christian journey, it is also true of people in general. We are all the products of how we see ourselves. Our lives and relationships with others all reflect the beliefs we have about who we are. This is borne out by psychology science and even by the common experience of the “self-fulfilling prophecy”. It’s why we can’t change our spouse or others around us if they themselves don’t want to change. Until they see themselves differently, nothing will change.

“In Christ” Starts an Avalanche

The Christian concept of learning who you are “in Christ” can be a completely life-changing journey, taking someone out of a life of shame, fear, and failure into a life of freedom, confidence, and peace regardless of circumstance. It also has a tendency to change your circumstance, because once you become who you were designed to be, you become a world-changer like your Creator and your world… changes. tweet this

It’s a snowball effect that can reshape your life.

Meeting Your Maker

I find it fascinating that issues of self-identification are so prevalent in society today. Who am I? What gender am I? Why do I experience rejection? Whose fault is it? How do I make it better? So many people are searching for or trying to create that place of belonging, where they can be themselves and be loved and fulfill who they feel they truly are. 

My personal experience is that an encounter with the living God — a personal, communicating Spirit that one can know just as you know another human being — is the start of a transforming journey to discover and fulfill who you were truly designed to be.

Original Design, Highest Potential

So many things that people say are “hard-wired” into us are just putty in the Potter’s hands, once we are willing to trust Him enough to let Him show us our true potential. Changes that were impossible for us alone are suddenly within reach. Sometimes, we are surprised to discover who He designed us to be… and sometimes, it is exactly what we’ve yearned for all our lives.

Honestly, I am not here to tell you who God designed you to be. I’m not here to preach for or against your choices, your traits, your desires, your path. My personal hope is that you will encounter this Creator and allow His great love to heal any pain that has marked you, twisted you away from what you once were born to become. I pray that we’ll all allow His fierce passion to overcome the fear and selfishness that drive us off course from who He made us to be.

You hear that sound? He stands at the door and knocks.

Merry Christmas, friends. To all under the sun, may the Son shine bring light to your soul and make your path bright.

Signs of Fall

Signs of Fall

At long last, signs that autumn is taking hold, here in the Sacramento Valley of California!

It is afternoon, and though the sun is out these dewdrops remain in the grass of my front lawn. Scattered like glinting rainbow stars throughout the faded green grass, they promise me that cooler weather is finally here.

The seasons of the year come and go, and the seasons of life are the same. Youth and young single-hood. Young married life, married with children. Grand-parenthood and retirement. And there are other seasons scattered throughout or independent of those common family-based phases.

Naivete and idealism. Maturity and cynicism. Creative productivity and progression. Renewed hope and passionate pursuit of — something.

What season are you in?

Have you been searching for something for a long time, and perhaps drawing near your goal? Are you beginning a quest?

I feel I am in transition, struggling to find my feet in a quagmire of wonderful choices. So many worthy things that draw my attention, so many opportunities at my fingertips. My children are of an age to soak up knowledge and experiences. The Internet and e-publishing has come of an age to be accessible to all who have the skills (as I do). Renewed desire and understanding of the joys of a simpler lifestyle have opened up wondrous time-suckers like gardening, canning, making foods from scratch.

During this change of seasons, I pray that you may get your bearing, find your feet, and go far on the road you are traveling. Godspeed, my friends.

 

 

7 Reasons to Support the Enclave Publishing Kickstarter

Enclave Publishing Fall Releases 2014

I’m a writer. An author. But I’m also a reader.

I’m a reader primarily of science fiction and fantasy. But I’m also a Christian.

Why mention the above? Because this is a list of reasons I think supporting the Fall book releases of the “premier publisher of Christian fantasy and Christian science fiction” (as their website proclaims) is something you might consider.

This is a list for READERS.

This is a list for AUTHORS.

This is a list for CHRISTIANS.

If you are none of the above, feel free to skip this post. :-)

1. Solidarity with Other Creatives

I love supporting Kickstarter campaigns and other ways that my fellow creatives are producing and distributing their art. It’s a bonus that these are fellow Christian authors who are salt and light in the entertainment world, producing quality work from a Christian worldview.

2. Belief in a Vision

Enclave Publishing is the new name for Marcher Lord Press, which is the premier (largest, most well known) indie publisher of science fiction and fantasy written by Christians.

(No disrespect intended towards other fantastic Christian indie publishers — there are some great ones out there, and they may yet overtake Enclave’s lead. However, for the moment, everything I’ve seen indicates that Marcher Lord Press has been and is currently the biggest of the indie fish in the Christian speculative fiction pond.)

They want more Christians to read speculative fiction. They want to get more spec fic on the bookshelves of Christian retailers. They want to publish more fantastic Christian authors who write speculative fiction.

This is a vision that I can get behind. These are things I want to see. More on that below.

3. They Take All the Risk, We Still Benefit

Enclave Publishing has a vision that includes some risky and bold ventures into the network of established Christian publishers and retailers that most of us (Christian authors and indie publishers) do not have the contacts, experience or knowledge to reach.

If they succeed, it could open doors to all of us that we could not have opened by ourselves or even working together. We just don’t have the kind of insight and industry savvy that Enclave’s new owner Steve Laube brings to the table. Whether you know and trust the guy or not, whether you like what he’s doing with the company or not, it would be wise to support his efforts in whatever way we can.

Why? Because like it or not, Laube is the guy at the helm of our flagship indie publisher. Even if he fails, we gain from watching the process and from whatever awareness is raised while he tries. That may sound callous, but I’d like to think I’m just being pragmatic.

I’m really hoping — for all our sakes — that he succeeds.

4. Self-Interest

A friend of mine on Facebook objected, “The only people who like this idea are authors, and it’s because they want to be published with Enclave someday.” Well, sure. But what’s wrong with that? It’s a great reason to consider supporting the campaign! (Although I disagree that only authors will benefit, as shown below…)

Are you a Christian author of speculative fiction? Even if you never, ever intend to submit your manuscript to Enclave Publishing, if they succeed in exposing more Christians to speculative fiction and get more Christians and Christian retailers interested in buying this kind of book, you benefit from that.

Even if you write stuff that they’d never publish (due to “mature content” or some such) and their primary target audience wouldn’t want, there will be other Christians who get wind of this surge of Christian speculative fiction. And the Christians who find Enclave’s catalog too tame for their tastes might want your stuff.

Raising awareness among Christians about speculative fiction benefits all of us who write it. tweet this

Personally, I don’t have anything on my current project list that would fit Enclave’s vision or submission guidelines. But maybe someday I will. If they continue to grow (or even continue the success that they’ve had so far), they will continue to be a great place for Christian authors to submit and get their books in front of Christian readers.

And now, on a more altruistic note…

5. Love for Jeff Gerke

Come on, guys. Do we really want to let Jeff’s baby die just because she was adopted by a grumpy old miser who changed her name and — oh, wait, some of us don’t even know the guy. Maybe he’s NOT a grumpy old miser. And even if he is… I’m gonna support Jeff’s baby because I love Jeff, no matter what her new name is.

(Actually, I have spent some time with the new guy, and Steve Laube is a great big, lovable teddy bear under his razor sharp, pull-no-punches publishing agent surface. He is both a keen businessman and a man of Godly integrity. My personal assessment is that he has a passion for speculative fiction and a pastor’s heart for writers. But ssssshhhhhh! That’s just between you and me!)

6. Love for the Authors

Enclave is putting out new books by the (previously Marcher Lord Press) authors we already know and love, and they’ve found some wonderful new voices. If you have a chip on your shoulder regarding the change of ownership, don’t let it get in the way of supporting these fantastic authors. Check out the full list of Enclave authors — aren’t they wonderful? If you haven’t read their books, check them out!

7. Love for the Stories

This is related but separate from our love for the authors. This is about being a reader who likes great books.

There are some seriously cool stories coming out in Enclave’s Fall release. Supporting the Kickstarter campaign can bag you a significant discount off the retail price of the books. And you get an early release of the ebooks. Sweet deal, if you ask me.

Click the Button!

Some of these reasons are more altruistic (getting more Christian authors and stories out into the world, encouraging more Christians to read these great genres) and some more self-serving. If one or more of them resonate with you, this is your chance.

Here are two things you can do to help: support the Kickstarter or share a tweet about it to spread the word.

Support Enclave Publishing Fall Releases

Tweet about the Enclave Fall Release Kickstarter

Whether it is a $1 gift or you decide to pounce on the entire Marcher Lord Press / Enclave Publishing catalog, including the new releases, for $225, you have a chance to grow this genre and support this indie publisher. I don’t get anything out of promoting them. I just believe all the reasons above.

UPDATE 7/21: They have met their goal in the first week! However, don’t stop sharing now. Those discounts will be gone once the Kickstarter is over. It is still the best way to get a deal on those books and the more support they get, the more social proof they have to show Christian retailers that there’s a readership out here that wants these books. So keep supporting and sharing until the campaign is over!

UPDATE 7/25: Ben Wolf, founder of Splickety Magazine and speculative fiction writer, just published his Five Reasons Why Supporting Enclave’s Kickstarter is a Good Idea. His thoughts are a bit different than mine, so check them out!

And if you don’t support this Kickstarter, keep your eyes open for a chance to support one that you DO believe in. Crowd-funding is such a fun way to participate in creating the products and services you want to see in the world. Go forth, and make things happen!