Aniko Answers – An Interview

As promised, I’ve put together a video response to the questions you posed via Twitter or my blog. I thank Erika, Mr. Erika, and the rest of their family for letting me hijack their Saturday evening for filming. I thank the following contributors as well: J. Aric Keith, Hunter Shea, Kasia S. , and Mari Biella.

Before you settle in with your popcorn and wine to watch my video, I recommend hopping on over to Strange Amusements. Nicholas Strange, author of the blog, has posted a review of Stolen Climates! Here’s a quote:

While there is some connection to traditional tales of ritual sacrifice, much of what unfolds is a unique hybrid of family drama, pagan horror, and other influences that combine for one of the most interesting and effective horror novels I have read in a long time.

I hope you enjoy the video. It’s just under ten minutes, and I have tried to keep it on topic and interesting. There are some places where the splicing that resulted from cutting out my rambling is a tad rough, but overall, I think it turned out well. I had fun recording, and I hope you have fun watching.

 

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Publication Is a Question Generating Machine

Prior to publishing my first book, I spent five years writing. My goal was not publication; in fact, in the entire half decade of practicing, I sent a paltry seven short story submissions to literary magazines. My goal was to write. That’s it. To write was both the means and the ends. Back then the question everyone asked was, “Have you published?” My answer was a short, happy “No.”

Most of the time, I didn’t even share my stories with anyone. A few of my works were read by select handful of temporally and geographically disparate readers. In almost all cases, those occurrences can be linked back to participation in a workshop or online critique group. The online critiques helped, paradoxically, by providing too much help! The deluge of criticism initially led me to stray from my own intuition. I began to revise stories to take everyone’s suggestions. Can you imagine the steaming mess? A trusted critique partner, IrishJohnJohn, told me that he wept when he read a revised version of a story I had revamped to gain (of all things!) higher critique ratings. He was the one who told me to trust my voice – not by shutting out comments, but by learning how to evaluate all suggestions from the perspective of what I was trying to do with any given piece. The experience taught me that I cannot take a conglomeration of suggestions that may or may not be contradictory, incorporate all of them, and expect the resulting mash to read like something that is authentically mine. My friend, Jonathan Allen, discusses his experience learning this lesson in a recent blog post. I think he’s correct in saying a conscientious writer should “incorporat[e] feedback in an active, intelligent manner.”

During my five years of ‘going to the mountain,’ I wasn’t hiding that I was a writer, but I didn’t mention it often, either. The same old question would always rear its curlicue of a head: “Are you published?” By the end of the fifth year, my “No” began to feel hollow. I’d done good work. Not perfect, but I’d put in the time, practiced, and come out of it with increased skill and a completed novel.

Well, I thought it was complete.

Revision is a beautiful, time-devouring beast. Hereby amend the record!  Five and a half, not five, years elapsed before I had a work I felt was worthy of readers.

What I’ve learned in my one month post-publication interval is that where there once was one question, now there is a horde:

Who published it? Do you have an agent? Can I read it on my Nook/Kindle/Smartphone/PC? Why do you write horror? Did you try to run me over in the parking lot as a plot device? How are sales? How much does the book cost? Did publication cost anything? Did you hire an editor? Who is the person on the cover? Can I have an autographed copy?  Will you be using this in your next book? What is your next book? When will it be ready?

Do you want to know the answer to these questions? Do you have any of your own? I’d love to answer them!

You can leave your question in the comments, tweet @anikocarmean, or send an email to anikocarmean at gmail dot com. The plan is for me to record a video where I divulge all the secrets… um, answers to your questions. I’ll post the video here on my blog.

Feel free to be creative! In fact, feel free to try and stump me. You never know, I might be a Blade Runner replicant!

 

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Pitch Imperfect

Imagine:

This past weekend, you watched a movie that presented a fresh take on the story of  beautiful people besieged by evil. You have a friend you know will enjoy the movie, even though he isn’t typically a horror fan. When you meet for your weekly Monday martinis, you try to describe the  movie to him. You flounder. You sound increasingly uncertain of yourself as you explain the movie’s  premise of Nazi zombies attacking a group of camping med students. You wish your glass wasn’t empty so you would have an excuse to stop talking. Your conclusion is a mumbled, “It’s much better than I make it sound!”

Magnify the feeling you got reading that scenario by a factor of ten and you’ve just experienced what it feels like to bungle your book pitch.

Light Painting #10: Violin

Image by whertha via Flickr

As an indie writer, I stopped thinking about my book pitch when I stopped thinking about writing agent query letters. For some reason, I conflated the idea of representation with the idea that I will need to represent my book. Just because I do not need to officially Pitch My Book, I still need to entice potential readers.

I’m uncomfortable talking about my writing. Sure, I can talk for hours about the craft or about my creative process. Yet, ask me to discuss the content of my work and I clam up. It’s frustrating to know every detail of a story, but to be unable to verbalize it in a way that doesn’t sound confused, stock, or lame. I get panicky, thinking that I better hurry up and say something (anything!) because I’m the author. Not being able to respond adequately makes me flustered. It makes me feel like a fake. Worst of all, it makes my story sound uninteresting. It’s bad alchemy that turns a good story into an embarrassment.

This past weekend, prior to actually watching that movie about Nazi zombies,* I had an hair appointment at my usual salon. My regular stylist is out on maternity leave and my appointment was handled by someone new to the salon and to me. She moved to Austin two months ago to pursue her musical career. She told me that not only is hair more interesting in Austin than it is in Dallas, but also that her neighbors are part of a mariachi band, and she is often awakened by them practicing out on the patio. I told her about the bagpipe player in my neighborhood that practices every Sunday afternoon and we both agreed that her mariachi band trumped my bagpipe player. Then there was a lull before she said, “What do you do?”  I said I’m a software developer, which is how I pay my bills, but I knew that was a cheat.  After all, she had shared both her vocation (stylist) and her avocation (singer).  That’s when I told her that I write.

“Really? That’s neat! What do you write?”

“Horror.”

“Have you published anything?”

“I’m in the process of getting my first novel ready.”

“A novel! “

“Yep.”

“What’s it about?”

After a pause, I started to tell her. I’m not going to repeat what I said because I would like you to want to read my novel. It is far better than I made it sound.

Publishing is new to me. I’m wearing my novice boots and beginner’s hat. I’m finding sharp edges, hidden passages, and sidewalks that end nowhere even Google Earth can see. I am making mistakes. More importantly, I’m working on my pitch!

*The movie is DEAD SNOW.

 

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Indie Publishing Cost Analysis: Conclusions

There was a time when I didn’t tell anyone I wrote.  I thought I wasn’t a ‘real writer’ because I didn’t starve for my art. Not only did I have food, I also had shelter, clothing, money for fun, and stability to give myself the mental and actual peace in which to write. My work-life-write views led me to believe that having a job made me less of a writer.

Then I lost my job.

I had a good severance and was in no real danger of starving or being homeless, at least for a few months.  During the two months between jobs I had plenty of time to write, yet penned not a word that didn’t go in my resume or cover letters.  The financial uncertainty put my creative drive into hibernation. I learned I cannot create without a daily routine and the security of steady work. A job takes time away from writing, but to not have a job takes away my ability to write!

Simply put:

Living requires money.
Writing requires living.
Writing requires money.

It turns out having a JOB did not make me less of a writer, but more of one.  I am both worker and writer, and I am not less ‘real’ in either realm because of my participation in the other.  Now I tell people I work with that I write and I tell other writers that I work.

What does this have to do with my indie publishing cost analysis?  Everything.

I get by the same way you probably do: by going back into the office day after day, week after week, and year after year.  I need money to pay for my mortgage, my car, my food, my pets, and for the materials to xeriscape the deadscape that is my front yard after this year’s drought.  A financial venture of any sort requires cost analysis and budgeting, especially on what amounts to a fixed income.

Originally, I thought I would use kickstarter to try for third party funding.  I got my beautiful sister to star in both versions of my book trailer, which was intended to be the kickstarter video hook.*  I even started writing up the information I would need to submit to see if I could get kickstarter approval.

seed money & indie pub costs

Image by Images_of_Money via Flickr

Then my husband did something amazing.  He sold some things he no longer needed and went through our overbrimming spare change bowl and rolled all of that into usable amounts, saving even the percentage that would have been shaved off by going to CoinStar. He said he was going to use the money to buy himself something.  Instead, he brought it to me and asked me to please use it to publish my book. I was touched by the purity of the giving and the honesty of his belief. My husband, best friend, and partner of thirteen years believes in me enough to be my backer, emotionally and financially. That’s a sort of security that even a steady job can’t bring; it’s better than money in the bank.

Yet, it literally is money in the bank.  It is a fact and a financial boundary.  The starting capital is the final piece of information I needed in order to apply my cost analysis and determine an initial indie publishing route. My seed money is enough to get me into the POD + eBook cost path.  I will also be able to afford some targeted online marketing, which is not included in the original cost analysis.

This concludes my indie publishing cost analysis series.  I hope that it has been informative.  If you have experiences you would like to share or other perspectives on the endeavor, I’d like to hear from you.

*Both trailers are still going to be released as part of my marketing campaign & you’ll see, she really is beautiful!

STOLEN CLIMATES will be released in Kindle and Nook format as well as be available in 6×9 paperback via a POD provider – more details soon!

 

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Indie Publishing Cost Analysis: Part II

In the first post of this series, I analyzed an indie publishing cost path that included expenditures for marketing, research, a paperback format, and  an eBook format.  Today I will look at two additional cost paths. The first will calculate the cost of publishing both physical and electronic formats, but will significantly pare down expenditures  that do not directly produce book deliverables.  The second cost path will calculate the cost to publish only in electronic formats.  All of the calculations will use the same assumptions given in Part I.

Analysis: Barebones POD + eBook

This path focuses on the book itself.  No money is spent on research materials.  The marketing expenses have been cut until they, too, are almost non-existent.

Here is the chart for all expenditures:

POD + eBook

Click for larger image.

Here are the expenditures broken down by type and shown as percentages of the total cost:

Click for larger image.

Total Cost: $1431.18.

This is less than half of what was calculated for the ‘All In’ cost path.  The percentage of money going towards book deliverables has shot from 48% to 77% of the total cost!  For a grand and a half, the enterprising indie can bring a book to both the POD and ebook markets!

Analysis: eBook Only

If the price of entry for a barebones POD  + eBook is still too high, but the indie is determined to get their book out Now!, the next thing that can be cut is the POD.  In this cost path, I examine the cost of producing only an eBook.  All other expenses have been eliminated.

Here is the chart for all eBook only expenditures:

Click for larger image.

And here is the chart with eBook expenses broken down by type:

Click for larger image.

Total Cost: $1,260

The budget is cut to the bone!  This path is almost three times less expensive than the ‘all in’ path, yet the total amount saved by not offering a POD is only $200.  The percentage of money going directly towards book deliverables is 87% and indicates that financial barriers to enter the indie publishing market need not be prohibitive.

This analysis all begs the question:  What types of works sell best in which formats?  How have I used budget analysis plus market trends to help me make publishing decisions?  To find out, check back soon for the third post in this series!

 

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