The Print Proof Has Arrived… But I’m Not Happy

Okay, so the print proof for “In Forgery Divided” has arrived (as of last Friday), several days ahead of schedule. It’s a huge book, and will take me some time to go through it: While not a true proofread in the sense most people use the term, I do have to look at every page and every line (I don’t have to actually read anything; I need to look at the first letter of each line, the kerning (space between words), the margins, the fonts, the widows and orphans, etc., just to make sure everything looks nice and legible).  I figure I’ll still be just half-finished when I get to Ravencon next weekend.

So why, as I said in the title, am I not happy with this fast service?  Well, there’s a defect, and I’m worried it’s symptomatic of a quality control issue that may force me to make a decision I’d rather not.

I wanted a matte finish cover; both of my previous books have been matte finish, and I like the look of matte finish covers (especially for Fantasy novels).  It was a great boon for self-publishers when Createspace started giving a matte finish option.

However, my cover arrived with a defect; the matte cover finish had a bubble in the lamination, leading to a discolored bar traveling from the top to the bottom of the front of the cover.

Now, I could let Createspace know about the defect, and from what I understand they’ll replace the book free-of-charge (at least, that’s what their reputation says; I haven’t needed to contact their customer service before).  I don’t really think I need to, however — this is a completely disposable copy that I’ll be marking up, anyway, so no big deal.

Except… I’m now hearing that this lamination issue is becoming increasingly more common with Createspace’s matte finish covers.  That worries me; I don’t want my customers buying defective books.  I don’t want to be buying defective books, either, when it comes to purchasing review, consignment, and giveaway copies.

So, I may have to consider a glossy cover, instead.  I need to order at least one more proof before I put it on sale (I learned you should never assume the electronic proof, even for the “second” proof, is accurate, after the cover for “The Kitsune Stratagem” turned out to be misaligned by less than a quarter of an inch after I was finished with the first proof, even though I never did anything to the cover.  So, from now on, if I make changes I order another proof), so maybe I’ll change it to gloss and see what I think.

There may not be a blog next weekend.  I will be attending Ravencon (my application was too late to be considered as a guest, but it’s always a fun and educational convention, regardless), so I probably won’t have time to post anything.

Edit:  I accidentally hit “post” instead of “save draft” when I was working on this on Friday.  Oops.  If you’re the one person who my statistics plug-in says saw this early, that’s why the post vanished on you.

Odds and Ends

I had three possible posts I was getting ready for today, but none of them are ready. So, I figured I’d do a quicker blog covering some odds and ends…

I.  Print Edition Progress

The Print Edition of In Forgery Divided is compiled and a proof has been ordered.  There are certain design issues that cannot be checked or corrected until I’ve recieved my print proof (for example, I need to know what the cover looks like with a matte finish; from past experience, I know there can be contrast issues that don’t show on a computer screen).  It should arrive just in time to have it with me while attending Ravencon.  (Probably a good thing I applied too late to be a guest, there — I’m probably going to be going through the proof while I attend panels).

Of note, I am breaking my own pricing policy with this book.  In my Self-Publishing Roundtable series, I note that most physical bookstores won’t agree to carry your book unless you charge enough for them to make a profit — another writer\blogger calculated that if you (the writer\self-publisher) are earning a $2 royalty per sale in expanded distribution, the bookstore can earn a profit selling it.

However, to get that royalty amount, I would need to charge at least $20.80 (I used Amazon’s royalty calculator to narrow it to the nearest penny).  This is mostly because the book is that much bigger than my past books.  BUT… I’ve decided not to cross that $20 line; I’ve never seen traditional publishers charge more than that amount even for the most expensive of trade paperback books, so I won’t either.  Instead, I will keep it at the same cost as Book I, charging only $18.99 a copy.  I don’t exactly earn many royalties selling it at a price like this, but I’m still making a print edition made available for those of you who want one.  Just don’t complain about the price, please — I really can’t go much lower.

II.  Sales

In Forgery Divided had the strongest launch of any book I’ve released, at least in terms of day-one sales.  Sales have remained fairly steady (though there has been a surprisingly steep dive in sales so far, today).  Of course, a few good reviews can really help with that, so please review!

The most surprising thing, though, is that it really has lifted sales for my other books.  In Treachery Forged, book I of the series, hasn’t sold this well since May of 2014.

Even The Kitsune Stratagem (which has always disappointed me with its weak sales, even though I believe it’s my best written book to date) has posted more sales than it has since December 2014 (and may end the month even better).  I guess it proves the old adage correct — “Nothing sells Book I like Book II.”

The third bit of sales news is a peculiarity:  All of my sales have come through Amazon.  This is peculiar because it’s also available from Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.  In my past books, these stores haven’t been all that large of a percentage of my sales, but they were significant enough to be worth listing there.  So far, not a single sale on any of those has shown up.  I don’t know if this is because my past customers from those stores haven’t gotten the word, or if it’s because these ebook stores just aren’t selling anything, any more.  I’m strongly considering listing my next book with KDP-Select (the exclusive-to-Amazon program), just to test some of that program’s marketing tools I’ve sacrificed to keep my books available in wide release.

III.  Ravencon

As I mentioned earlier, I will be attending Ravencon from April 29th to May 1st.  As you might imagine, it’ll be a bit difficult for me to release a blog that weekend, but I’ll see if I can’t get something ready before I leave and set it to auto-release.  And, of course, I still should have a post for next week, as well.

IV.  Coming Plans

I’m not 100% sure which book, in my “to by written” list, will be next.  I hope to move straight into Book III of the Law of Swords series, but we’ll see.  I like the idea of it, but I was feeling a bit burnt out on things by the time I finished In Forgery Divided.

Hopefully enough time has gone by that I’ll be able to work on it again, but if I find myself staring at a blank page for weeks on end I’ll probably move to something else rather than just let my writing stagnate.  I also hope to eventually get The Merrimack Event out, but of course it still needs a round of editing and some cover art, as it has for over a year now.  My mother has offered to try her hand at the cover art (It sounds a bit lame to say “my mother made my cover art,” but she does have a resumé to suggest she can handle it.  She had collegiate training in artwork and design (had she not transferred to a different college to finish her degree, she would have earned a minor in it), and has continued her education in artwork all of her life.  Her career had included design for fashion in the past, and now uses her art background in her award-winning quilt designs.  I’m just not sure it all translates well to cover design), so we’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, of course, I’ll be continuing this blog and working on… whatever I decide to work on.  See you all next week!

Post-Publication Quality Control… (Oops)

Voltaire once wrote: “The perfect is the enemy of the good enough.”  (Well, he said something like that — translations get a bit wierd.  And he probably wasn’t the first person to say it, but I couldn’t find anything proving that.  At least it’s not another misattribution, however).

In writing, it is often used to refer to the phenomenon of never being happy enough with your finished work, and constantly revising it, to the point that your manuscript can never be good enough to publish (or submit to an editor, or… well, you get the idea).

The way to combat this is to work out all of the truly major errors, and then to set limits as to how long you take to polish out the rest (for example, “I’ll give myself until (insert date here) to make as many changes as I can” or “I’ll make one last pass and then I’m done.”  You can fudge this a bit — say, you need one or two extra days to complete a pass through, or you want to go back to make some quick changes to one particular scene one last time — but you can’t go over “deadline” too far or you’ll never finish).

There may be a few errors left in such a manuscript, even after a good proofreading, but believe it or not that’s average — in studies done comparing indie publishing to traditional publishing, there are an average of six typos or other mistakes that make it to publication by traditional publishers, even with all of the extra manpower they can afford.  One of the advantages eBooks have over print is that, if the author (or publisher) can catch these errors after the book is released, corrections can be made.

Now that “In Forgery Divided” is released and dozens of new eyes are on it, I put out a call on Facebook for people to track down any typos.  I’ve recieved a few replies, and in those few replies some minor errors (emphasis on minor) have surfaced that need correcting — about two dozen all told; a little more above average than I’m happy with, but not horribly so.  (Note: I haven’t asked permission from these people to use their names, here, but I am very thankful that they were willing to help).

So, tomorrow (or perhaps you could call it the day after tomorrow) I will be uploading a slightly revised version of “In Forgery Divided” to the various online stores where it is available for purchase (this will be happening after midnight, to minimize sales disruption). The book is quite readable as it is, and nothing substantive will change, so feel free to buy it now if you haven’t already.  My understanding is that, once I’m done uploading and the revision is approved, anyone who has already purchased the old version will get the revision the moment your Kindle (and thus far, all of my reported purchases have been for the Kindle) syncs up with Amazon.

If you’re expecting to notice any changes… well, unless there was a particular typo or missing word that caught your attention, you won’t. The changes are all insignificant to the average reader.  The book has already been edited, proofread, etc., so there aren’t even that many of these changes, and I wouldn’t bother mentioning it — I wouldn’t even bother doing it — except for one thing:

I made a mistake in the back matter.

Some of you may not be familiar with this term; it is a technical term writers and publishers use, but is not often used in common vernacular. The term, paired with “front matter,” refers to all of the material which is included inside the (virtual, in this case) binding which is not actually part of the contents of the book. This would include (if the book has them) the title page, copyright page, acknowledgements and dedications, frontispiece (either as an illustration or as a map), table of contents, maybe a foreword or afterword depending on how the book is structured, even things like cut-out coupons (in the old pulp novel days), etc.

I hope you can see why a mistake in the back matter might be a bit… frustrating to have to correct.  In my case, the mistake is the announced title for the (still to be written) third book in the “Law of Swords” series.  I used the wrong version of this upcoming novel’s title, and must swap that out for the correct “newer” (scare quotes for a reason) title.

Now, by now I’m hoping my readers understand the system in place for this novel’s titles.  The forged, from In Treachery Forged, became the Forgery in In Forgery Divided.  The Divided in that title will become “In Division” for the third book’s title… and the word following “Division” will be used in slightly modified for the fourth book’s title, etc.  I made a mistake with the 3rd book title because the title of the 4th book was also changed.

Now, in writing parlance, I am something in-between a plotter and a pantser (a plotter tends to write detailed outlines they try to follow; a pantser starts with little or no plot in mind and develops the story “by the seat of their pants,” hence the name).  While I started writing In Treachery Forged with a “seat of their pants” plot, I made plans for the future as I wrote.  By the time I was done writing, I had outlined the series to its conclusion for an expected total of five books.

This was back in 2007, before the industry changes which made self-publishing practical (yes, In Treachery Forged is that old.  Stick around and you’ll hear why it took so long).  I started reading guides on making pitches to agents, attending conventions where editors were present (at a Marscon one year, my mother went around following Toni Wiesskopf, the publishing editor of Baen Books, from panel to panel taking notes.  I, meanwhile, was tracking down all the other authors and editors at the convention — there were too many of these panels for me to attend by myself), etc., etc.  Basically, while I was revising and polishing In Treachery Forged, I was educating myself on just how to “Get Published!” in the traditional way.

A certain conclusion was reached from all of this:  Most publishers wanted to know that you had sequels planned before buying your book.  Many publishers would ask to see your outlines for these plans.  Few publishers at the time would buy an unknown, debut author’s proposed five-book series, however — with some exceptions, they were looking for trilogys, and the longer you planned it to go beyond that, the less likely a publisher would take it.

An axe was taken to my outlines.  While I couldn’t cut it back to trilogy-length, I was able to cut the length down by one book.  The story elements in Book Four were divided between books Three and Five, so book four no longer existed (and, incidentally, the final book’s title was changed as well).  I thought the plot was weakened, and that I’d still wind up with absolutely massive tomes for the new books three and four, and it still didn’t bring be down to that ideal “trilogy” length, but I’d cut out as much as I could.  “In Division Imperiled” was re-named “In Division Deceived” (the errant title in the backmatter).  I wasn’t happy about it, and saved my original plans while I started submitting to publishers.

Fast forward about six or seven years; while I’d originally expected it to take two-three years to find a publisher in that climate (as I’d been warned about through my research), I wasn’t published yet and hadn’t even gone through a quarter of my “submit to these publishers” list.  I started with the bigger names, of course — Daw, TOR, Baen, Pyr — and had a number of smaller presses on my list as well.  I knew some took longer and others shorter to reply, but I was expecting an average turn-around time for a rejection of 3 months, and an acceptance of 1-2 years.

The numbers I had read about were wrong.  Every single submission I made took longer, by far, than the “3 month average” I had read about.  One publisher held the manuscript for six months, one for a year and a half.  A third held onto it for over four years… and I had to pull it from them because they still hadn’t made a decision!

During those years I was waiting, a game-changing revolution was going on in the publishing world:  A practical system of self-publishing had been introduced.  And better yet, authors were having success at it!

I had my head in the sand.  I really wish I’d considered the idea before; trying to get myself published the traditional way was interfering with my ability to write new books, and it might have even been more profitable had I released “In Treachery Forged” just one year earlier.  Ah, well — playing “what if,” while a good way to come up with a plot for a novel, is not a viable life strategy.

At a Marscon, one year (several years after the Toni Weiskopf one), I arranged a one-on-one sit-down discussion with the editor\publisher of a small press publishing house.  It was that editor (who later shut down the traditional publishing wing of her publishing house and became a self-publisher herself; curiously, many of the authors she’d published also went the self-publishing or similar route) who talked about how the self-publishing revolution was changing the industry that finally got me to see what I was missing.

It took a while to get everything I needed together (cover art, editing, etc.), but by December of 2013, In Treachery Forged was out.  A little after that, I released Kitsune Stratagem, and started the process (which has been discussed here, before, ad nauseum) of getting the still-delayed “The Merrimack Event” ready.  Then, FINALLY, I was ready to start writing the sequel.

I found the old file with my outline.  Both versions of the outline, in fact, with both sets of planned titles.  And even though I’d had several years of seperation to detach myself from my original plans and to think about it all, the five book outline was still MUCH better than the four book outline.

And so “In Division Deceived” went back to being “In Division Imperiled.”   Just not in the back matter.

In case you were wondering, Book Four went back to being “In Peril Revealed,” instead of the four-book outline title of “In Deception Betrayed.”  I’m still undecided about the ultimate title of the fifth book (or even whether the series will stay at just five books; new plotlines have arisen that weren’t planned for; while I’m hoping to keep to the gist of the outlines I have already made intact, I’ll have to completely revamp them to account for these new subplots.  If enough new material gets added, I may have to plan on a sixth book)

And, like I said earlier, don’t worry about buying it in the meantime — you probably won’t even notice the changes.

In Forgery Divided RELEASED!

Links are still coming in, but In Forgery Divided has been released through Amazon Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc.!  Hurray!  (Please buy and review; reviews are extremely helpful)

I suppose, in a sense, this book made it by “deadline.”  It was uploaded on April 2nd (though the first live link didn’t appear until after midnight, so April 3rd).  In another sense, it’s well over a year overdue (I originally projected that I would have it out in January of 2015.  As I hadn’t even started writing by January of 2015, that was never going to happen).

Regardless, it’s out.  And I’m exhausted.  Tomorrow I’ll register the copyright (it IS protected under US copyright law, but until I register I can’t take legal action, and you must file within 30 days (or maybe it’s 60 days?  Something like that) for the full protection, but you aren’t supposed to file until after you’ve published.  Yeah, it’s stupid, but the Copyright Office is a bureaucracy, so what do you expect?), then start myself on the print edition.

Some Statistics:

This is my largest book, to day, running at over 165,000 words by Microsoft Word count.  While I don’t have an exact page count, yet, the print version will probably top four hundred pages long.

Writing the book took almost nine months.  My editor took four months for his pass.  My own review of his edits (which also was a self-editing second pass of edits) took three months.

Fun news:  The book somehow sold three copies on Amazon before I was able to find a live link.  Two of those sales, oddly enough, were in the U.K.  (I’m not certain it’s hit Amazon.au or Amazon.ca yet; those are #s 3 and 4, resepectively, for the sales of my other books).  The book went live first on Amazon, then on Kobo, then on Smashwords.  In fact, it’s gone live on Inktera — which is a little remarkable, as you have to go through a 3rd party (in this case, Draft2Digital) to get to them.  As of when I’m first typing this, it still hasn’t gone live on Nook — they’re the slowpokes, this go around.

Links for sale will be edited in below as I find they’ve gone live, or you can go to the Fennec Fox Press website (where I’ll also be posting links as they go live).

Purchase from:

Amazon

Smashwords

Nook (eventually, a day after everyone else)

Kobo

Apple iBooks

Inktera

DriveThruFiction

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