Ancillary Items–Editors and Illustrators

So, as those of you who have heard me give a talk before can attest, I usually state that the first two and likely largest outlays an author should have are the editor and cover artist. Note that some self-assessment has led me to realize which I place first is dependent on what phase of the book I’m in / recent issues I may have had in one department or the other. But bottom line, if you have $500 for marketing, editing, and cover, I’d say that it should be $225 editing, $225 cover, and $50 for marketing. Why? Because if your cover is crap and your editing subpar, odds are a marketing budget under six figures isn’t going to do you any good.

A good “one stop shop” for indies is Reedsy, and an article on the service is here. I know a few authors who have found their editor on Reedsy, and generally the reviews have been good (although check out the comments for the article). From the editor side, I’ve heard of the stringent requirements to gain a listing. This is a good thing, as it means that odds are you’ll be happy with what you’re paying for. While I seem to keep running into my editors through “word of mouth,” “friends of friend” (and have been really lucky with both), or through folks finding me on Twitter people do point out that I’m the rare “extrovert author.” Reedsy seems to be a good resource for those who are less “Hi random person, I’d like to talk to you!” (Full disclosure–haven’t tried Book Angel yet, but I appreciate someone who reaches out to independent authors to help.)

Illustrators are a bit harder to wrangle. As I’ve mentioned before in a blog post or two, the first part is figuring out what you want out of the illustration. In this case, I was primarily concerned with ad copy (as some of the Usurper’s War imagery is getting repetitive after five years). This desire was followed closely by the possibility of images getting used again for novella / short story covers set in the Usurper’s War universe but not part of the main plotline. Thankfully, I recently discovered a Twitter page that features aviation artists (@theaviationart). There were also artists I had found on FB through several aviation artwork pages I’m part of. Through various means, I winnowed things down to the following:

For various reasons things didn’t work out with anyone in the list above. In some cases, it was a matter of timing. Others it was subject matter, as “alternate history” could potential cause other clients to call into question their attention to detail or accuracy. (Which, as you can see in every case, is most excellent.) Finally, there was that bugbear of price point, as I couldn’t quite justify spending four figures on art that was first and foremost going to be ad copy. All that being said, almost everyone was a professional, and I heartily encourage A. going to buy their art and B. seeing if your needs would mesh with their timing / ability more than mine did.

Ultimately, Itifonhom 3D Models was who I went with. We’d previously worked together before for the piece commemorating “Fate of the Falklands” out of Those In Peril. I knew from perusal of his site that World War II was his area of expertise, and he jumped at the opportunity. I think you’ll enjoy the two pieces below, both of which depict scenes from Against the Tide Imperial.

Jill goes to Massachusetts
A Victorious Encounter

As for the book in question, things have moved along well. There’s going to be some parts that end up on the cutting room floor (see possible novella cover), but with a little bit of wrap up it’s getting close to time for it to go out to beta readers. I’ve been debating doing preorder, but after the algorithms screwed up with Aries Red Sky, that’s probably not going to happen.

Warship Wednesday–Territories and Mission

If you ever wonder just how crazy things got with the end of the Washington Naval Treaty, look no further than the Alaska-class large cruisers.  Unlike the poster (and it’s a lovely series), I’ve never been of the school of thought that the Alaska-class were considered to be battlecruisers.  First, generally the Navy tended to be pretty clear about their designations during the design process in the 1930s-1940s.  This was due to Congress having a nasty habit of shifting around funds.  Second, the Alaska vessels were NEVER intended to get anywhere near a battleline or, for that matter, really stand in a line of battle.  Finally, there’s that problem with the underwater protection.  While not strictly true, in general the pre-World War II USN believed capital ships needed to reinforced against torpedoes and mines, whereas cruisers were more of a “Meh, sucks to be that crew, but we had to figure out something to keep it within treaty limitations.”

In any case, it would be interesting to see what would have happened had these vessels have ended up in a surface fight.  Thankfully the constraints of construction prevented it from happening in time for the Solomon Islands campaign.  That would have been very, very bad, given the Alaskas were not known for their nimbleness and presented a rather large target.  I can see First Guadalcanal being even bloodier with Alaska present, as there would have been probably a few minutes of her punching the crap out of Hiei or Kirishima followed shortly by “I’ve never seen a vessel take so many Long Lances in my life.”

All this means is that the Alaska-class really serve as a cautionary tale regarding hysteria, intelligence, and mission.  They were far from bad ships.  However, they really represent resources that could have been better spent elsewhere.  Unfortunately, the lag between design, resource allocation, and construction meant they developed an inertia of their own.

On the alternate history front, expect to see the Alaska and Guam make an appearance in both the Usurper’s War-series as well as another project.  😀

2019 in Review

Man.  It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating the imminent release of Those In Peril and preparing to go to Life, The Universe, and Everything (LTUE) Symposium in Utah.  Next thing I know, 2019 is in the rearview mirror, the Phases of Mars series is complete, and Against The Tide Imperial is…well, still not done, but definitely getting there.  Still, 3 anthologies in a year is not bad, and objectively I think it was a fair trade.  I mean, guys—I edited S.M. Stirling, Kevin J. Anderson, Taylor Anderson, Sarah Hoyt, and David Weber this year.  In books with my name on the front cover.  Shout out to Chris Kennedy for taking on a beer bet and to team “and more” for being amazing.

By the numbers, over 1,500 people visited the page this year, which was almost double the number of folks who showed up in 2018.  Thank you for coming along on this wild ride, and here’s to hoping that you continue to enjoy a glimpse inside the crazy.  Externally, this was my second year in a row over 1,000 books sold / 500,000 Kindle pages read (not counting the anthologies) both online and in person, and with at least one book coming out that will helpfully increase.  Moreover, I learned a lot this year about marketing, networking, and this profession in general.  While those could be 20 or more blog posts in and of themselves, the “Top 3 Things I Learned in 2019 Are”:

#1 Professionalism Matters—Nothing like being the chief editor for something to help you realize one’s reputation precedes you.  From the perspective of dealing with fellow authors, I was taken aback by the number of folks who do not understand some basic etiquette in dealing with their fellow human beings.  Or the importance of things like, “Hey, when the requirement says 7-10,000 words, that means you don’t turn in 6500 and cop and attitude with the editor.”  People will remember if you pull some prima donna crap when you really didn’t have to, and word spreads quickly.  Likewise, if you become, shall we say, radioactive in other venues, there will be folks who have problems with sharing a common battlespace with you.  Bottom line:  If you’re involved in a project, be on time (or admit that you’re not going to be able to do something in a timely manner), write to the specifications, and don’t be a jerk.

#2 People Plan, the Universe Laughs—I can honestly say 2019, while not the craziest year I can remember (oh hey, 2009), was up there.  Between deaths, getting forcibly invited to someone else’s car accident, a new job, and various other “What the Hell?!” things that occurred, I’ve come to realize the path to sanity involves accepting that life is chaos.  Don’t get me wrong–I’m still very much a work in project on this.

However, I’ve increasingly tried to take an objective look at what has occurred, then ask myself “Why did this happen?”  If it’s someone else’s fault, that’s usually followed by “Was this accidental, malicious, or unforeseeable?  If accidental, has the other party acknowledged their role in the negative outcome and taken measures to keep it from happening again? If malicious, is this salvageable or is it time to just close that particular airlock?”

If it’s my error, “What have we learned and how do we keep from dropping that ball again?”  This is usually followed by “How do we make amends?”  Because saying “I’m sorry…” is kind of pointless unless there’s an actual intent to make things right.

Above all these things, however, 2019 taught me this:  “If I died tomorrow, would I be happy I spent ___ minutes / hours / days dealing with rectifying this problem?”  Because having someone go from “I’m glad I’m finally going to meet him…” to “Whoa.  He’s going to be dead in less than eight hours…” definitely made me start assessing time and how I spend it.  Spend time doing what you love and with people who make time for you, as our hourglass only has so much sand in it.

#3 Network Makes The Dream Work—Among the “people who made time” for me were my writing tribe.  It really does take a village, and one never knows what connection will suddenly bear fruit.  I can honestly say that in 2019 I had positive interactions with people I first met back in the 1980s, went to school with in the 90s’, served with in the Army in the ’00s, and even folks I saw in passing at a random con sometime in the last six years.  In some instances this was expected.  In others, it was definitely one of us saying to each other or about someone else “Uhhhh, you know, let me see if _____ can help with that, because holy smokes you’re in a bad way”-response.  The outcomes were almost always great and definitely far better than I would have accomplished on my own. Whether it was fiscal (increasing royalties!), introducing me to another pro who provided a story (or stories) for the anthologies, or just providing a “morale boost” when I was questioning my sanity for even pushing on with this crazy dream, I’d like to issue a blanket THANK YOU! to the tribe and fans at large.  You all made 2019 great, and I look forward to what 2020 has to bring.

All right, that’s enough from the foxhole for today.  I’m going back to figuring out what happens when over 100 American aircraft surprise six Japanese carriers equipped with stolen British radar.  That’s right, it’s called “alternate history” for a reason, and boy howdy does the Kido Butai having decent radar change a lot of factors involved in World War II carrier fights.