Tag Archives: novels

Infinitas Publishing Status Report

It’s that time again–time for a status report! I’ve been busy writing and revising, and in October I’ll be doing a pre-writing workshop with the local Community Arts Center. If you’re interested and you’re located in the Upper Peninsula, there’s still a few spots open, so you can still sign up if you call them by this Saturday (September 30th). Click here for more info.  We’ll develop a premise for your novel, focus on character creation, develop the plot, then do outline critique, focusing on each subject during one of the four classes. 🙂

Now… on to the progress!

DH Divider

Glitch: Our beta-reader confirmed that Glitch may work as a three-part serial, with a few tweaks. I’m in the process of finalizing those tweaks, and another beta-reader is currently taking a look at the first part of the story to make sure everything now reads smoothly where Isaac and I changed a few plot points. I’ve also been working on a blurb for part one, and I’ve got cover proofs created for all three parts.

Once all that is complete, I’ll need to read through the manuscript aloud to catch errors and strange sounding sentences, then format and proofread it. Hopefully I’ll be able to announce a release date soon!

Fractured Skies: Not much new progress on this one, except that I now have an idea of what needs to be done to fix the manuscript. That will be one of my next major projects after I finish the current tweaks to Glitch.

Distant Horizon: After checking the current cover with a group of Facebook authors, I determined that, while the cover for Distant Horizon conveys YA Sci-Fi or Dystopian, it isn’t as clear as it could be and not as “grabby” as might be necessary to catch reader’s interest. So, once I pick up the stock images for the Glitch covers, there’s a good chance I’ll be rebranding this series. I’ve got proofs created (for all planned books in this series), so all I need to do is finalize the covers. Look for more information on that coming soon!

The Multiverse Chronicles: Officially, on hold. Unofficially… I made the first round of edits on three of the episodes. It’s still a ways off from continuing the release of new episodes, but it hasn’t been forgotten.

Book Three of The Wishing Blade Series: After writing and polishing the rough draft, I realized that it needs to be split into two books in order to give a couple major plot points time to develop. (Plot points I originally intended to have in the second book… but that’s epic fantasy for you). As it stands, the first part of this book sits around 75,000 words, and I’m around 22,000 words into the next book.

Still not sure about the nametitles, and I need to do some more tightening to book three before I hand it over to Isaac for a developmental read. I’ve begun outlining book four to make sure it will be feasible as it’s own book. More information on this once I’ve worked out some of the wrinkles.

SBibb’s Photographic Illustration: Working on a book cover… work as usual.

Game Development: Currently on hold. Since Isaac is the main developer, and he’s currently working on his PhD, game development will likely be in spurts, rather than continuous progress. However, we’ve been able to go to the local game/coffee shop’s game nights, and that’s given us a chance to play all sorts of tabletop games, which should help us when developing our own games (and provides us with a chance to socialize).

That’s all for the moment. I’ve got to get back to working on Glitch. 🙂

*

Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with our latest book releases and promotions, sign up for our Infinitas Publishing Newsletter!

*

 I hope you enjoyed this post! 🙂

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Business Ventures, Writing

Thoughts on Writing – How Genres Are Like Different Types of Stores

The other day, I had the thought that book genres are like different stores. I’m not really sure how I got to that particular idea, but it stuck around. So, today, I’m going to delve into that analogy.

Genres are like stores.

You have all kinds of stores. Big stores, small stores. General stores, clothes stores, game shops, book stores, specialty stores.

Each type of store has certain things that make it that particular type of store, just like a genre will have particular elements that make it that genre. While two genres may have similar traits (example, science fiction and fantasy both tend to have speculative ideas, surprising tech/magic, and vivid worlds), they aren’t the same. A reader may enjoy seeing those traits in either book, but there are certain traits they expect will be there, regardless.

For example, someone going to a grocery store versus a convenience store isn’t going to expect the same product availability.

A grocery store sells food–usually a decent variety, along with various other household goods that might be useful… like toilet paper.

A convenience store has a large variety of items, but a limited number of each, and they’re oriented towards quick, on-the-go products and essentials. Plus, they sell gas.

(There’s a nice article on the difference between grocery and convenience stores here)

If you want gas, you’re going to go to a convenience store, and you’ll be sorely disappointed if there are no gas pumps to be found. However, you might be pleasantly surprised to discover they have donuts available, something the grocery store also has. On the opposite end, if you want a bag of spinach, you’ll probably head to the grocery store, because that’s where you expect to find what you’re looking for.

If you want a book with shiny magic and mystical worlds, you’ll choose a fantasy book. You might be pleasantly (or unpleasantly, if you’re not a fan) surprised when there’s a decent romance on the side. But if you’re looking for a romance with a  lot of tender, loving kisses, you’re going to look for a sweet romance book… and if that just so happens to be found in fantasy trappings, great!

Each book has a primary genre, but it may delve deeper to appeal to a specific audience. The same is true of stores.

For example, a clothing store sells clothes. Obviously.

But break that down, and you get different types of clothing stores. It’s kind of like the romance genre. There’s a large market for romance books, but they can each be broken down into sub-categories to better target their reader.

You might be looking for clothes, but if you have the option to choose, are you going to grab the first thing you’re offered? Probably not.

More likely, there’s a particular store you drift toward.

Here’s what I mean. Out of clothing stores (and their comparable romance sub-category):

  • Children’s stores, which cater to kid’s sizes and trends. (YA Romance)
  • Fancy upscale stores, which cost a lot of money for brand name alone. (Category romance, in this case, with a rich man or woman as the love interest)
  • General clothing stores… with just about everything you need to make sure you at least have something. (General romance)
  • Western stores, everything blue jeans and leather. (Western romance. Cowboys, ranches, etc…)
  • Adult stores with “special” lingerie. (Erotica)
  • Eclectic stores, with alternative culture clothing (Romance with fantasy elements)
  • Pop culture stores, with clothes tied into popular movies and games. (Romance with science fiction elements)

The list goes on. (And of course, these are just examples, by no means cut-and-dry).

I like incorporating elements of different genres into the same book. A story will have it’s primary genre, but you can use pieces from other genres to help flesh out the story.

For example, if you go into a fancy upscale store, and notice that the products have been highlighted with specialty lighting which really makes a certain pair of slacks catch the customer’s eye, you might consider using the same technique in a children’s store. Sure, each store targets a different audience, but good techniques often have multiple uses.

In books, this might be stylizing writing to match a certain mood. If you want a fast-paced action sequence in your western romance, it probably wouldn’t hurt to read a few thrillers and see what keeps the pace moving along.

If you want to include a warm, heartfelt romance in your science fiction novel, reading a sweet romance might give you a few ideas of how to build character chemistry.

In the YA science fiction novel that my husband and I are writing, Distant Horizon, I used elements of horror to build tension. When the main character reaches a facility where people are being transformed into sub-human monsters, I include elements that are typically associated with horror. I want the reader to sense the creepiness.  The story isn’t horror, but using those techniques helped to set the mood.

Just remember, when you’re trying to pitch your book to an agent (or to a reader), it helps to know what type of reader they are. Just because a person likes romance, doesn’t mean they’ll like all types of romance. Some people may only like westerns. Others, science fiction. Others prefer contemporary.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Have you found any good analogies for various genres? 🙂

(For examples of other types of stores to fuel your imagination, see this article)

2 Comments

Filed under Writing

Thoughts on Writing – Sweating the Small Stuff

At the latest writer’s club meeting that my husband and I attended, I read a scene from The Multiverse Chronicles to see if I had cleared up a few problem spots we’d found when I read the scene at the previous meeting.

Overall, the description seemed to be taken care of, which opened up the ability to notice other little details that were out of place.

For example, in this particular scene, the main character, Trish is meeting with various members of the Britannian army. The story doesn’t revolve to heavily around the military operations, but there are some present… and Isaac and I aren’t exactly familiar with military procedures (About the closest reference I have is from Stargate SG-1… which doesn’t exactly count, and I really didn’t pay attention to the military side of things. I was much more fascinated with Daniel Jackson and his archeological endeavors. There’s also M.A.S.H., but it’s been a while since either of us have watched that show. Of course, these are TV shows, so those might not be the most helpful references).

Anyway, one of the other writers questioned whether or not Trish (a private) would salute the corporal.

This is the section:

Trish had arrived at Corporal Smith’s tent, stepped over the sabertooth cub who slept at the foot of the door, then stood at attention in front of the quartermaster’s desk.

 

Of all the offices in camp, this was by far the tidiest. Every paper was neatly tucked in its proper manila folder, and each folder was labeled and placed in a metal divider with further library codes etched into their spines. Several bookshelves lined the walls of the canvas tent with books tucked alphabetically by author and several notable gaps between the books, most likely where Cornwell hadn’t returned them.

 

This time the lower shelves were empty. A few books were stacked haphazardly on the top shelf. The tell-tale teeth marks on their spines suggested that the sabertooth had thought them a chew toy, and Smith had disagreed.

 

“Can I help you?” he asked, eyeing her cautiously.

 

Trish saluted the corporal. “Yes, sir. Colonel Pearson wanted me to read The Honour of Tactical Flying, fifth edition.”

 

“Author?”

 

“Sir James Cuvier, sir.”

 

The quartermaster selected a stack of papers from its proper folder, skimmed through the names on his list, then winced. “Sorry, Private. I’m afraid Sergeant Cornwell has that book.” He gave her a pitying look.

 

Trish sighed. At this rate, she’d never get everything done. “Thank you, sir.”

After the meeting, one of the writers asked someone who had been part of the (US) army, and they said that a private would not salute anyone who is not an officer, and since a corporal is not an officer, Trish would not salute Corporal Smith, nor would she refer to him as “sir.”

Now, I’m not sure how this compares to the British army (especially of the given time period), so Isaac and I may need to do some quick research to compare the two, but this does give us a good reference point to start from.

On the bright side, The Multiverse Chronicles are supposed to be more on the fantasy side than the alternate history side, so we’ve got a  little bit of leeway than if we were trying to write military fiction with a lot of historically accurate details.

Either way, I’ll be making a few adjustments.

A different example of small stuff to consider is period anachronisms.

Another writer at the meeting had their story set in 1995, but the policeman in the story was pulling a cellphone out from his pocket and there were computers being used to check where a patient was being held in a hospital.

I wasn’t sure that this fit the time period (mostly because I was thinking that’s the problem horror films have nowadays… they have to explain what happened to their protagonist’s cellphone), so I questioned that.

As such, another member said that they thought the police might have had cellphones at the time, but they would have been worn on the hip (not small enough to fit into a pocket), and that the hospital probably wouldn’t have been using computers at the front desk.

By having someone other than ourselves take a look at our manuscripts, we authors can catch anachronisms or potential problems that we would have missed before they get too ingrained into our plots.

In some cases, these problems aren’t too big of a deal. They’re “the small stuff.”

On the other hand, these problems have the potential to throw a reader out of their reading, and so it can be good to remove as many problems as possible… or make sure there’s an explanation in place (or you could just lampshade it… though make sure you have a good reason to do so).

There’s a lot more I could cover here, so I may make another post about a similar topic later.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful. 🙂 Have you had beta readers point out things like this in your manuscripts?

2 Comments

Filed under Writing

Thoughts on Writing – Character Motivation

Today I’m talking about  how a character’s backstory influences their actions.

In the first draft of Magic’s Stealing, I never really explained why the main character, Toranih, didn’t like magic. She simply didn’t. But stories generally read better if the author knows why a character behaves a certain way, even if they never explain this directly to the reader. So, in order to add credibility to Toranih’s character, I began to explore her motives.

From Dictionary.com (a really useful resource when double-checking that a word means what you think it means), motives are “something that causes a person to act in a certain way, do a certain thing, etc.”

To see why Toranih acts so paranoid/distrustful of magic, while being so interested in learning how to effectively wield a sword, let’s take a look at her world. Toranih is the youngest daughter of the Lord of the Armory, so she has plenty of access to swords and the people who can teach her. In regards to magic, the kingdom has a high number of ribbon mages, so magic is common. However, the ability to see magic is not. Neither Toranih, nor her older sister, Siklana, can see ribbon magic, though her best friend can.

In the original draft of Magic’s Stealing, Toranih did not like magic because she felt like it was all tricks and illusions. (A side note: the trouble with using the term ‘illusion’ with magic is that if you actually have magic doing something, the illusion of something happening is no longer an illusion. I’ve been slowly weeding this word from the story). So my first idea for why Toranih didn’t like magic was that maybe a bad event scared her in the past. She gets her first glimpse of magic at a parade when she was little, and it overwhelms her. Thus, she’s been wary ever since.

However, my husband pointed out that a parade with a lot of colorful, fluttering ribbons is likely to be awe-inspiring to a four-year-old, not terrifying. While I still feel that everyone has different reactions, so what some kids like, others are terrified of (for example… clowns), I started looking elsewhere for answers. Toranih doesn’t like magic, and to the extent that she is paranoid in earlier drafts, there seems like there might be a bit more to her paranoia. So I cut the bit about the parade (keeping the event, but not having it terrify her), and considered Toranih’s distrust of their mythology. There are already several references in the current draft which lends itself to this theory.

For example, after an event involving Toranih being magically called to do a task she wouldn’t otherwise do:

Old fables flitted to the edge of her mind, haunting melodies of immortals and creatures whose very power was that of magic’s lure, the power to call and demand, to whisper in a person’s ear and convince them, without fail, to do their bidding.

In something of a flashback, Toranih’s sister tells her about life and death magic:

Once, long ago, when Siklana showed Toranih how to use her crystal, she’d convinced a couple of the servants to come stand in front of them. One had magic, the other did not. And she’d pointed to the one with magic and all the ribbons, and explained what ribbon magic was and how it worked.

 

Then Siklana pointed to the other servant, and said that even though he wasn’t a mage, he still had magic. Everyone had magic, but it was difficult to see because it was closer related to string magic, but couldn’t Toranih see it? There were two thin strings running through his body, each entwined and almost impossible to spot.

 

Siklana had adjusted the crystal to make them more visible. “That’s the only string magic visible to a ribbon mages,” she’d said. “One strand is life, and the other is death. Everyone has them. If you don’t, then you’re dead. That’s how the gods made us,” Siklana had continued, much to Toranih’s dismay. “But only the really powerful gods can manipulate those strings, so there’s nothing to be scared of.”

 

That memory had stuck with Toranih ever since.

In a conversation with Aifa, the Matchmaker goddess:

Aifa rolled her eyes. “Such a harsh tongue, tut-tut. Dear, I’m the goddess of relationships, not all-powerful. But if you don’t mind your manners, you’ll find yourself mute.”

 

Toranih swallowed hard. She had heard tales of citizens who’d crossed the gods in older times. Citizens who found their love lives broken or their ability to communicate… impossible.

Toranih has plenty of reason to be uneasy about magic and the gods’ use of magic. However, we can take this a step further. We know that Toranih is very interested in swordsmanship, and wants to be a guardsman except that her father doesn’t think that position befits her station. This is especially problematic when her sister, Siklana, reveals intentions to marry into a different estate, thus leaving Toranih as the sole heir.

Her father handed one of the servants his empty plate and rested back in his chair. “Understanding self-defense is important, but you’re taking these studies a bit far. There are more important subjects for a young lady to—”

 

“Siklana is much more adept at those studies,” Toranih interrupted. Her scone crumbled and she swept the crumbs into a napkin before he could get onto her about that, too. “Let’s be honest. When inheritance time comes around, she’ll inherit the estate. She’ll master magic at the academy, and she’ll be the one to win the hearts of the city and lead them in her wise, older age.”

 

Siklana ducked her head behind her bangs. Her dark brown eyes shown through. She was smaller in stature than her younger sister, especially since she lacked the muscle that came from Toranih’s years of swordplay. “What if I marry into a different house?”

 

Toranih turned sharply. Her sister… marry? Of course she would, she had always been interested in the attention of suitors, but Toranih hadn’t thought she would try to climb the social ladder through marriage.

 

If she married into a higher class, she would leave behind the Covonilayno estate. “I’d be the heir,” Toranih whispered, stunned.

 

Her father nodded. “The rights would fall to you. As is custom.”

 

Toranih glared at her sister. “How long have you been planning this?”

 

“I’ve been thinking about it for a year,” she admitted coyly. “I’ve already passed the academy’s first year exams, and I’m well into my second year. Our inheritance is decent, but there are a few worthy suitors who could help me further my education once I finish in Cirena City. With a decent suitor’s allowance, I could travel to the Islands. I’ll make sure that’s part of the contract. I might even learn word magic.”

 

Toranih swallowed hard. While having at least some degree of ribbon magic was common, word magic was practiced by very few. Anyone could learn it, so long as they knew how to pronounce the spell.

 

But say just one syllable wrong, and any number of horrors awaited the practitioner. Setting ones’ self on fire, opening a portal in the middle of a crowded city and killing anyone in its path, trying to heal someone and killing them instead… and a particularly powerful spell could bind a target to do the mage’s will.

 

Toranih shivered. Unlike ribbon magic, word magic was invisible. No crystal could reveal words the way it could reveal ribbons.

My husband pointed out that maybe Toranih doesn’t like magic because, unlike her sister (and most every other mage in the kingdom), she never really became adept with magic.

As a young child, Toranih saw her sister and Daernan surpass her with flying colors while she struggled to control ribbons for even basic tasks. At the same time, young noblewomen were taught basic self-defense, which is where she excelled. She threw herself into the study of swords and knives, hoping to become a weapons master. In the meantime, she became more and more resentful of magic. She eventually understood the basics (which we see her using in Magic’s Stealing), but she never quite comes to terms with the fact that she’s been left behind by the mages.

The result?

She can’t easily control magic, so she doesn’t trust it, and (as the current blurb says) she would rather have a sword in her hand than use her powers to heal and throw fireballs.

And now we have the reason that Toranih doesn’t like magic. We can see why she might, at times, lash out or vehemently deny anything to do with being a mage.

But she lives in a world so saturated with magic that she can’t ignore it, and so she still uses the magical light crystal her sister gave her. She still changes into an owl when Daernan convinces her to go to the parade. She still tries to save people who are dying when their magic is stolen. But she has a flaw, and because of that flaw she doesn’t always use her powers when she should, and her unwillingness to try could cost her the people she loves.

Now I’ve just got to make sure that is apparent within the story, even if I never come outright and say this is why she acts the way she does.

I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

Have you found any books where character motivations were well-done, or where they were lacking?

2 Comments

Filed under Writing

Thoughts on Writing – Humor in Dark Places

After recently watching the full series of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and getting started watching season two of Agents of SHIELD, my husband and I noticed the stark contrast in the style of storytelling. The Last Airbender has a lot of lighthearted humor, with a few dark moments interspersed throughout the series. The first episode in season two of SHIELD is mostly dark with very, very little humor. As such, my husband and I began thinking about the roll that humor can play in the dark moments of  a story.

Let’s examine the two shows closer.

Agents of SHIELD: While the first episode didn’t have quite so many cheesy dramatic pauses that the first season did (one of our qualms with the show), it seemed very gritty and dark. There’s a lot of bad things going on for the characters, so the dark events make sense. Character with brain trauma? Okay. Taking away the one happy point about his character and the entire episode in a big reveal at the end of the episode? Not so okay. The plot twist was actually pretty nice– I didn’t see it coming and it was foreshadowed without being obvious. Good.

But here’s the kicker. During the entire episode, there were a few lines of witty banter, but not much in the way of humor. And without that humor, we didn’t really feel like we had any breathing room. My husband pointed that part out, which reminded me of a blog post by Chuck Wendig about Game of Thrones. Anyway, there was all sorts of awesome stuff happening on screen, all sorts of juicy tidbits that I want to see play out in SHIELD, but if the rest of the season lacks points for breathing, I’m not sure if I’ll really be interested in returning to watch further episodes.

When we watched the next episode, that episode played out much better for us. Despite the heavy matter linked to that previous episode, we had breathing room. Moments of humor, things going right for the good guys, if not completely right, and the character with brain trauma found someone who may be able to help them. The problems are still there, but there were little moments of humor that kept the episode floating, even with the dark moments.

By episode three, I was hooked again. Though I don’t remember many particularly humorous moments (there was one involving a twist on what the viewer expects, due to the information withheld), there were a few, and the action and information was paced well enough to allow for breathing room while still thoroughly holding my attention.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: My husband suggested that part of the problem with the first episode of SHIELD seeming so dark is that we could have used a transition series. We just finished watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s an absolutely amazing series, in which I could easily gush about the characters… (Uncle Iroh is my favorite character, and Toph is so cool…). *Ahem.* (WARNING: There are a few spoilers for The Last Airbender in the rest of this paragraph.) The Last Airbender an anime that, while it has it’s dark, sucker-punch moments (the crazy sister, Azula and when she has her breakdown; Uncle Iroh when he’s in the prison cell and pretending to be a desperate old man (this guy is anything but desperate, so when you first see him groveling, it hurts), also uses a lot of light-hearted humor to break the tension and offer breathing room. Sokka is pretty good at this. He’s the humor guy with some really bad humor, but he helps ground the other characters.

Which brings me to my next point. Stories which are dark can (and probably should) have moments of humor. The main character might not be laughing, but as the reader, we can. There’s many ways to do this. There might be witty banter, a miscommunication, a character reaction that is just too classic that we have to laugh. Or an unexpected reaction. These scenes shouldn’t take a reader out of the story, but they should allow a reader time to breathe.

Continuing with The Last Airbender theme, whenever there was a goofy, over-the-top humorous episode, I automatically assumed that the next episode would probably be dark. There was a case where they had a set of short episodes in one, in which I was trying not to get teary-eyed on the one about Uncle Iroh because he was going about his day all happy and perky, and then it reveals what the day means to him and it was so sad… But in the previous short ‘episode,’ we saw Sokka having a Haiku rhyme competition in which he was trying to impress a bunch of girls. The mix of light and dark moments made for a stronger show, and those moments tied into all of a viewer’s emotions, allowing us to ride a wave without pounding us needlessly against a bunch of really blunt rocks.

Part of this is pacing, knowing when a reader might need time to sit back and take everything in. A story doesn’t have to be entirely pulse-pounding action. Carefully placed moments of humor, or moments of sadness in a comedy (it works both ways, a comedy can have some really heart-rending moments), don’t have to distract from the story. These alternate emotions enhance the story by giving meaning to the other emotion. You can’t have the high without the low, and you can’t have the low without the high. I can’t remember what book series it was (Maybe Pendragon, by D.J. MacHale?), but one of the characters (the villain, I think) said that the most terrible defeat comes after what you think is your greatest victory.

Having both light and dark moments makes the moment when a character succeeds or fails against all odds that much more meaningful.

There was a one-on-one role-play campaign my husband ran in which the team my character was on had suffered some major losses, and one of the characters I cared about had just been captured. Of course we were going to try and rescue the guy. I went into that campaign thinking that at least one of the main team members was going to die, especially since it was the last episode of the story. We’d already had some near misses, and we had recently lost another character who wasn’t the main character, but still very likable. Yet, against all odds, we took the rescue mission by storm, and not only achieved our goal, but far exceeded it… we won. Were we still in hiding? Yeah. But none of the main characters died, and we dealt a major blow to the baddies (at least for the guy who had been a pain-in-the-rear the entire time). It felt like we had saved the world. I actually went and played The World is Saved song afterward.) The feeling was amazing.

But that feeling wouldn’t have been quite so amazing without all the dark moments and the near misses that came before. There were serious moments, but there were also some very humorous moments as well. I look forward to writing those episodes once my current projects are complete. It’s going to be a while, but I have notes! *If I can read the notes. My handwriting while trying to play a character in a campaign is atrocious. There’s scribbles and arrows and half-written sentences everywhere.*

While working on The Little One, a prequel novel to the Distant Horizon series, I had a lot of fun playing with the dark and light moments. The story revolves around a very powerful but childlike spirit who possessed the body of girl who recently died. It’s in a world with powers, but Little One’s powers are beyond normal, and no one is quite sure what to make of her. The scene below is an excerpt from when Knight first encounters Little One, right after she takes the host body for her own and still isn’t quite all there.

The scream had come from the hole, but it didn’t belong to the girl. It was the man’s… a primitive, terrified scream that sent a flock of birds fleeing into the clouded sky. Then everything was silent. Deathly silent, save for the distant cries of the police force who was trying to catch up.

Knight swallowed hard, preparing himself for anything, then raced through the portal.

He was immediately blind. The cave was darker than the night above, and his flashlight and the portal’s glow did little to illuminate the place. He scuttled behind the portal and dropped to a crouch, willing his eyes to adjust quickly.

To his surprise, the sliver of light coming from the hole above him was brighter than he expected. It cast a soft line across the body of a man stretched across the ground. Just beyond him was a little girl, no more than five. She sat on a mound of rocks, swinging her legs.

She looked at Knight.

He looked back.

She didn’t blink.

He did.

He jumped, half expecting her to reappear right next to him, then chided himself when he realized she hadn’t moved from her perch. Late night television getting on his nerves, no doubt. He was wide-awake, on the last vestige of a caffeine high, and he’d been overextending his powers beyond any reasonable hope of a decent morning.

He had every excuse to be jumpy.

But still… shouldn’t a child blink? They couldn’t all be expert stare artists.

Knight shook his head of the notion, determined to keep his wits until he could crash in a hotel room, then slowly stood. “I’m here to help. What happened?”

If this sequence reads the way I intended, there should be a lot of tension. Knight, who’s been running on very minimal sleep and just had a run in with ‘ghosts’ in a previous sequence isn’t sure what’s going on, and there’s a dead body of the man who murdered the girl’s family nearby. Then there’s this little girl sitting on a pile of rocks who isn’t acting quite… normal. But there’s also humor, based on his interaction with the girl and based on his expectations.

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful. 🙂

Another good post I found on humor: 7 Tips for Adding Humor by Rhoda Baxter

Want to share this post on twitter?

Thoughts on Writing – Humor in Dark Places: https://sbibb.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/thoughts-on-writing-humor-in-dark-places/ via @sbibbphoto

Click to Tweet!

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

Thoughts on Publishing – Pricing the Novella

Today, let’s talk business: What are you willing to pay for a novella?

When I went to ConQuest, I knew full well that I planned to fork over twenty bucks for a hardback copy of a book that contained two of Brandon Sanderson’s novellas. Sure, they’re available for purchase in ebook format for considerably cheaper, but having the hardback is nice, and I’m a fan of his work. (A note here: I’m the kind of person who likes having a hard copy, be it paperback or hardback. I’ll happily read non-fiction pertaining to publishing on my Kindle, but I have a difficult time reading fiction.) Anyway, I got the book signed at the convention, and I’ve read one of the stories (Perfect State) thus far. Even though I haven’t read the second one yet, spending that twenty dollars was worth every penny.

But not everyone is going to feel that way, and not for every book.

From the business perspective, I’ve got to figure out what readers are willing to pay for each book. Do I want to come up with a single, standard price range, or price them individually, according to length, genre, and various other factors? I don’t have the advantage of hiring a super-awesome illustrator for the cover art, or a top-of-the-line editor to make sure there aren’t typos. Not to start with, anyway (though I’ll sure do my best to find as many typos and errors as I can before I hit ‘publish’). Can I  make sure that the stories are the best they can be? Can I make sure that they are worth a reader’s hard-earned money?

I’ve determined that The Wishing Blade will be a series of (probably three) novellas. I’ve got the first one written, and it’s going through the process of being beta-read. Now the question I’m pondering is this: What should I price this novella, once I’ve completed edits and created the cover art?

On one hand, it’s a novella, so it’s not as long as a novel. I’m not sure how much money readers will be willing to spend, especially for an unknown author. While I do have several free pieces of flash fiction available on Smashwords, the style of writing varies, so it is unclear how many readers who download the freebies will be interested in the paid stories. I can’t price the stories as high as someone who already has a fan base. On the other hand, I’m trying to start a business. Which means that I actually need to be making money. The joy of self-publishing is that I get to wear two hats. I’m the creator, the author, and I’m also the business woman. So… provided that the stories are of a decent quality: engaging, not many typos, decent formatting, and good cover art, what should a novella be priced at?

I’m mostly going to look at Kindle’s (non-Select) pricing strategy, but I intend to sell on Smashwords as well:

99 cents: Not necessarily a bad spot for a short story, and many authors offer their novels at 99 cents as a way to promote their other works. However, the 99 cent price range only offers 35% royalties (I think it’s closer to 50-60% royalties on Smashwords, given that my “Ashes” short story, priced 99 cents, earned 56 cents after a Smashwords 10 cent cut and 33 cents transaction fee). The downside of this range is that people may pick up a 99 cent book on a whim, then forget about it because of the “it’s only a dollar” mentality.

$1.99: Long considered “the dead zone” in ebook pricing. I read a Smashwords report showing a trend of $2.99 vastly outperforming $1.99, and 99 cents doing just a bit better than the $1.99 range. Also keep in mind that Kindle only offers 35% royalties here. Not a lot of incentive to try this range, though I’ve seen trade publishers discount higher priced books to $1.99 on Book Bub. However, without actually testing this price range, it’s hard to say how well it performs for a specific story.

$2.99: Seems a bit high for a novella, with so many novels selling for $2.99, but is it? (See below list of example novella prices). At 2.99, Kindle authors get 70% royalties.  That’s around $2.00, versus 70 cents from pricing at $1.99, or 35 cents from pricing at 99 cents. And technically, if you hope to sell your novel at $4.99 or $6.99, that’s not too bad.

Now, one catch here is that I’m currently looking at the US dollar pricing. I haven’t even started to look at the UK or other territories. I’ll have to decide whether to try the retailer’s automatic price comparisons, or take a look at what’s selling in those stores and price it directly. This could be a bit difficult, though, given that the Amazon sites for other territories doesn’t show much what price they’re selling at. (Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on pricing, regardless of what currency you buy books with).

Here’s a few examples of novella length ebook prices in USD, from both independent and trade published authors (Note: I haven’t read all of these, I just did some research):

  • Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson sells for $2.99. I think it classifies as a novella. “Mitosis,” a short story from his Reckoners series, sells for $1.99.
  • Fairest by Marissa Meyer sells for $9.99 (46,600 words per Renaissance Learning)
  • The Invasion (an Animorphs book) by K.A. Applegate  sells for $5.99  (33,000 words per Renaissance Learning). Novella length, though meant for a younger audience.
  • Out of the Storm by Jody Hedlung is offered for free on Amazon. (The description suggests this is an introduction to her Beacons of Hope series).
  • Icefall by David Wood sells for $2.99 (approximately 30,000 words per article about the novella, and per Smashwords).
  • Elixer by Jennifer L. Armentrout sells for 99 cents (part of The Covenant Series).
  • Peacemaker by Lindsay Buroker sells for $2.99 (40,000 words, per her blog post).
  • Better World by Autumn Kalquist sells for $2.99. (A prequel novella to a novel series).

By the way, Renaissance Learning is great for finding the word count of books, especially middle grade and young adult. http://www.arbookfind.com/default.aspx

One of the textbooks I was reading recently, which focused on small business management (never mind that it’s from the earlier 90s), talked about the perception of value when marketing a product. There were two factors considered: quality and price.

A note on the chart below: an unknown indie author does not mean low quality, simply untested. Unfortunately, many people still perceive self-published books to be of low quality, whether they are or not.

High quality and high price: Serves clientele with expensive tastes. (Think of a Big 5 publisher selling an ebook for 13.99 from a big-name author).

Low quality and high price: No one buys the product, because the perception of value around it is muddled. (Think of an unknown author selling their ebook at $13.99).

Low quality and low price: “Cheap.” Not highly valued, but considered a decent price. (Think of how 99 cent indie novels are often perceived).

High quality and low price: “A good deal.” (Think of a Big 5 publisher running a $1.99 ad in Book Bub for a regularly $9.99 ebook).

So, at this point, I’m thinking of making Magic’s Stealing available for $2.99. It’s currently sitting at 30,000 words.

I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂 What are your thoughts and experiences in the matter?

If you’re interested in further reading on the subject, these are a few of the articles I read while doing my research:

Leave a comment

Filed under Business Ventures, Writing

Cover Reveal and Review – The Devil’s Third

This is the third and final book cover for Rebekkah Ford’s Beyond the Eyes trilogy, as well as a few of the promo pieces I put together for it. You can see the wrap-around cover here: http://sbibb.deviantart.com/art/The-Devil-s-Third-Book-Cover-423981244?q=gallery%3ASBibb&qo=0

SBibb - The Devil's Third - Book Cover

Facebook Banner:

SBibb - Devil's Third Promo

Bookmarks:

SBibb - Devil's Third Promo SBibb - Devil's Third Promo

A bit about the cover: All images are my own, and I used the camera’s timer to get a few shots of me posing for the main character. We had a couple different ideas to work from, and when the first didn’t work out, it turned out handy that I’d done a few standing poses as well. Side note for photography– it can help to take multiple angles and poses in case one doesn’t have the desired effect. Photoshop CS6 to blend everything and photomanipulate the hand reaching out from the text.

(See the the previous covers for the series: https://sbibb.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/dark-spirits-cover-reveal/ and http://sbibb.deviantart.com/art/Beyond-the-Eyes-Wrap-Around-309769699 )

And now for the review. 😀

Disclaimer: Paranormal romance isn’t my preferred genre, and therefore, my opinions may be skewed compared to that of someone who regularly enjoys paranormal romance.

Overall, an enjoyable read. The characters have a realness about them that I enjoyed, and the description of setting was wonderful. (Seriously, I read one passage that made me think I could smell a rainy autumn day. Descriptions that really engage the senses like that make me a happy camper).

My favorite part of the story was where Paige goes into Carrie’s memories (so-to-speak, trying not to give away spoilers). The visuals were awesome, the pace really picked up (the beginning was just a bit slow, but served well to remind me what happened in the previous book), and the plot revealed a few nice tid-bits of information about the dark spirits.

I also enjoyed the magic system and finding out more about their world and <spoiler>the different doorways Paige can open. I actually would have been interested in seeing more of the different dimensions</spoiler> but we also got to see other new abilities, as well, which I enjoyed reading about.

That being said, there were a few downsides for me. A minor thing, but I did notice more typos in this story than in the previous ones. Also, there were several times I felt like something convenient happened or wasn’t fully explained. In all fairness, I was reading this in ten minute intervals while on break at work, so my attention wasn’t completely focused. Might have been different if I’d been able to read it in longer intervals.

I didn’t really get into the romance between Nathan and Paige, but then, I don’t typically read stories for the romance. And Brayden… I still kind of want to strangle him. I did, however, like seeing more of Ameerah’s character, and I also liked seeing the new characters, like Pip.

For me, I think my favorite book out of this trilogy was actually Dark Spirits. I really liked the interactions between Bael and Paige in that story, but I liked seeing Paige’s new powers in this one. Overall, though, I think this was a good series that paranormal romance readers are likely to enjoy. 🙂

2 Comments

Filed under Book Covers, Business Ventures, Client Work, Photo Illustration