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.

Paths to Publishing

Fellow author (and good person) Holly Messinger shared this infographic on paths to publishing on FB earlier today.  The original source has more information and commentary at this link.

I agree with what the original poster said on most counts.  As an indie, I assure you, fair reader, that you will be doing a lot of hustling if you wish to be successful.  To paraphrase a certain superhero, “With great independence comes great responsibility.”  Being independent means much of your life is like being a shark, i.e., if you’re not swimming, you’re drowning.  It also makes you subject to the vagaries of your given outlet, with Amazon’s algorithm shifts being the most well-known (and complained about) example.

Having just completed a certain trilogy ( with the conclusion hopefully more Wookies than Ewoks), I can now say that there are advantages and disadvantages to the small press route as well.  As with any joint endeavor, there were vehement disagreements with regards to direction, participation, and marketing.  However, I can say with 100% certainty, that “James Young, Slinger of Tales” does not land all the names you see on that last cover.  To hint at my “year in review,” I’ll merely say that this was a fun exercise, but it came at the cost of me being behind in my own projects.  Ergo, while I’m not saying I won’t be in or run another alternate anthology ever again, I am confident in saying it’s coming on the back side of my next two books.

Ultimately, no matter what your choices are, remember no one will manage your career as well as you do.  Keep your head on a swivel, and make choices that look out for your interests.

 

News From the Con World

This mirrors what a lot of other vendors have said about the 2019 season and concerns about 2020. While I will be potentially doing as many shows, I’m definitely leaning towards new markets with proven performers.

This is also something to consider for the larger author community. One may have to take a deep breath when looking at overall sales numbers and also pay strict attention to marketing. Things may get bumpy for a bit.

WWII Quick References (NOV 2019)

Figured I’d perchance save loyal readers some gumshoe work down the road if they ever want to do a World War II story:

You can find ONI drawings for World War II references (like for your cartographer to draw ship outlines) here.

This is a good time zone converter for those cases when you go from Hawaii to Mombasa  to Ceylon all in one chapter.

Finally, lunar data for those pesky night Mosquito attacks.

Now, back to the Kido Butai vs.  Her Commonwealth Navy’s Far East Fleet.  Later!

Happy Veteran’s Day Potpourri Post

So it’s been a bit since I’ve updated the blog.  I figured I’d hit some of the high points of the last couple of weeks:

Attended the Ozark Book Con down in Fayetteville this past weekend as a vendor.  First year event with all that entails, but had good panels and talks with several good authors.  I recommend attending the event for the professional aspects if you’re in the area.  If you’re coming from out of the town, it’s definitely a “Hey rando friend I haven’t talked to in years, mind if I sleep on your couch?” until it grows some.  Which, given the professionalism and drive on display, I think it definitely will.

On the way back, finally got to meet Acts of War‘s editor, Mary, in person.  In addition to being long overdue, the fact it’s been 5+ years since that book went through her able hands made me marvel at what modern technology makes possible.  Although her current work with medical journals precludes her from working on anything else, I’m glad that a mutual acquaintance said “Hey, I know someone who might be able to help you…” many moons ago.

Speaking of the Usurper’s War series, Against the Tide Imperial continues to move along.  Unfortunately, after getting read the riot act by an author mentor, I’ve had to accept that the Phases of Mars anthologies are 100% my “books for the year.”  Combined with the new day job’s obligations (oh, yeah, I got promoted and changed positions), the process of putting out Those In PerilTo Slip the Surly Bonds, and Trouble in the Wind has pretty much sucked up a lot of available time.  So, rather than put out a substandard product or skimp on marketing, Against the Tide Imperial is slipping to the right again.  The manuscript will get done this year (which means preorders will be up), but the actual _book_ is probably going to be out in 1st Quarter 2020.  *angry author noises*

This dovetails to a professional lesson that I am learning again, but in a different dialect:  Projects are rarely as easy as they may initially seem.  At the beginning of the year, with Those In Peril shooting up the charts, “Suuuure, we can do two more of these this year…” seemed like a good plan.  What I now realize is one can do three books in a year, it just means one probably shouldn’t also do cons and other creative projects if there’s also a fourth book one would like done.  So, for 2020, the lesson will be, “No, I think that timeline doesn’t work for me, thank you…” as I get solo projects back in line.  (Feel free to remind me of this in the comments when my hair is on fire again this time next year.)

In addition, having now done editing three times, I cannot emphasize enough that you should always pay your damn editor.   It’s a whole different animal than writing, and I will issue a blanket, heartfelt mea culpa for some of my past sins to my editors.  In addition, as an author, understand that your editor’s job is to polish up your work.  “Polish” implies that you have done a grammatical read through, researched the technical aspects of the work, and are basically giving the editor a complete story that just needs a set of professional eyes to look upon it.  This goes doubly so for an anthology submission.  Indeed, I’m just going to let John G. Hartness take it away…(language alert…NO REALLY!):

Anyway, it’s Nano (and yes, I’m counting these words), and I’m going back to US CVs about to go to guns with an Italian Fleet.  (Yes, that’s a teaser.)

Constant Scrutiny

So I forgot about this being mentioned in a panel while at Libertycon. Yes, as Cedar says, if you’re in a group that seems at all sketchy, get out most ricky tick. The ‘Zon has been really cracking down on trying to find people gaming their system. From all appearances they may be indeed using neutron bombs on snipers. This is also why your humble narrator doesn’t even joke about quid quo pro for reviews online. One can make their own decisions on whether that’s paranoid, but memory is a fickle thing.

Mad Genius Club

As I was chatting with a fellow author last night, the topic came up of Amazon and their predilection for pulling reviews they find suspicious, or suspending the accounts of authors they think may be gaming the system. It was something John van Stry had talked about on the trends in Indie Publishing panel he and I were on, along with Jim Curtis and Lawdog. (Great panel, I was listening more than talking, and we had almost two hours so we got into the meat of the matter).

The upshot of that conversation, and the more private one later, is that as authors we must avoid all appearance of evil.

View original post 587 more words

Loss of A Sensei

Sensei. n. A teacher or instructor usually of Japanese martial arts (such as karate or judo).

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…” ― Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man.

 

On Monday, I learned that one of my  doctoral committee members had passed away.  As one should do when a person’s made a big impact on your life, I’m going to throw my own rock into the proverbial River of Time to commemorate someone most of you never had the joy of meeting.

I first met Al Hamscher in Spring 2006.  Dr. Hamscher taught “Writing In History,” a class solely devoted to developing an article for professional publication.  I walked into his class having won awards, scholarships, and money in writing classes.  In short, I thought I knew what the hell I was doing writing-wise, and that this was basically going to be a pro forma easy A.

I’m not saying that this was Dr. Hamscher’s actual face…giphy

 

…but I am saying it was close enough.

I mean, I’ve been hazed.  I’ve been forced to box against the Corps of Cadets champion for the sheer amusement of my instructor.  (Okay, fine, not just sheer amusement…) Bent into a near pretzel shape only to be told “high zero.”

None of these things approached the sheer frustration I felt in the first few weeks of that course.  Dr. Hamscher warned us up front that he was acerbic.  I figured I knew what that word meant.  Born and raised in Philadelphia, the man made me understand how Santa Claus got booed at the Linc, why Rocky was dumb enough to fight Apollo Creed the second time, and why “The City of Brotherly Love” was the biggest false advertisement since the Serpent talked Eve into biting the Apple.  From a man who walked into that course supremely confident in my abilities, I was beginning to doubt my ability to string together coherent sentences.  I could see the same creeping “What the ___ have we done?” creeping into my classmates’ faces also as we each presented our drafts in round robin fashion.

Then a funny thing happened. About draft number 3, after getting good and strafed (he may have said “Tell me everything you know about the Golan Heights. Leave nothing out!” and apparently misheard my inquiry of “Uh, everything?”), it was like something clicked.  Really clicked.  As in, suddenly I had leveled up as an author and as a historian. The end result was “The Heights of Ineptitude,” my first professional article of any sort.

Both of my classmates also subsequently published their articles in professional journals, nor were we alone. At one point, Dr. Hamscher had an over 90% success rate with folks who took “Writing In History.”  I didn’t matter whether it was military, women’s, American, or some other historical discipline.  If a student was willing to have a thick skin and take direction, Dr. Hamscher was able to be a cross between Pai Mei and Obi-Wan Kenobi for historians taking their first steps into “publish or perish.”  Although I am fairly certain each of us getting published will never compare to the joy he felt when his beloved Eagles finally won the Super Bowl, Dr. Hamscher always made sure I knew how proud he was of me and what I’d accomplished.  Having taught thousands of undergraduate and graduate student, the ripples Al Hamscher created will continue to lap against various intellectual shores for decades.

“Philly Philly,” Dr. Hamscher.  I’m glad to have known you both as a mentor and a person, and thank you for making me a better writer.

Covering Alternate History

Where Sarah Hoyt discusses the difficulty of putting a cover on alternate history works.  Go on and take a gander…

Mad Genius Club

This one is difficult, because you have to convey three things: alternate time line, where it deviated from ours, and what in general the reader can expect from the book.  You know: funny, serious or adventure.

The easiest ones are the ones that are sf or Fantasy and obviously so.  For instance, my dragon-shifter-red-baron will eventually when finished and ready to go have a dragon with the paint to match Richthofen’s plane, flying over the trenches. Title and subtitle will help, and I’ll come up with something.

Alternate history that is “just” alternate history is more difficult, and you sometimes have to “represent things that aren’t in the book to represent something that is in the book.”

View original post 513 more words

At the Sharp End

This was the runner up for last week’s Memorial Day edition of Metal Monday.  Like Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold has done a lot to support members of the Armed Forces by putting in their time with tours.  “Danger Line” is a pretty intense song about a soldier’s last moments and the chaos of combat, and I’ve used it as background for several scenes in Aries’ Red Sky.