Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Advice to the New Self-Publisher

A lot of writers new to the self-publishing world come to me for advice on Twitter. This blows me away a little because I don't really think of myself as someone who knows what they're talking about. I have, however, been at this self-publishing thing for over two years now. I'm not making a living at it, but I'm getting there.

So today a tweep asked me for advice and she had a long list of questions. It was easier for me to write a blog post than reply on Twitter, and now you all can benefit. I've never considered writing a how-to book because there's a ton already out there, but if I flesh this out and publish it I can count it in my Nano wordcount...so...that's an idea. :) So, in vague order, here's a bunch of stuff I was asked. It's not a complete guide, at least not yet. Anything else anyone wants to know/have a question about/want to add to, message me on Twitter @leighwilder42. (Don't DM--I never read them.)

Copyright in the United States pertaining to your book: 
 As soon as you’ve put a thought to paper it automatically belongs to you. You do not need to purchase a copyright for your work. In the old days the best way to prove you owned a work was to mail a copy of it to yourself and keep the envelope sealed, the postmark essentially giving you a governmental date stamp. These days our computer files are all encoded with the times they were created and edited, making life much easier for all.

 When you upload a book onto a publisher’s site, the publisher knows which book came first. Amazon also screens incoming books for plagiarism, so if someone tries to rip-off your book they will get caught and have their account deleted. All you have to do to copyright your work is type “Copyright 2014 by Author McAuthorson” on the front page of your work. If you’re writing under a pseudonym you can still use that name if you’d like, or your own.

 Editing your book: 
 There are many many ways to go about this. There are independent editors by the thousands available online. They’re all over Twitter. Prices vary, but its usually at least a couple bucks per page. This can get expensive fast but have no fear! There are other ways. I use http://prowritingaid.com, which has free editing software. You can also try Grammarly, but I can’t vouch for that one. A literate friend with a red pen is also a helpful and free editor.

 Unless you’re clueless and have a graphic-heavy book, there is no need to hire someone else to format your book. I follow the Smashwords Style Guide for all of my books, regardless of where I publish them.

 To sum it up succinctly:
--You need a Microsoft Word document.
 --Center your title, byline, and front matter. If you want to re-size it bigger you can, but no more than 16 pts.
--Insert a page break after your front matter.
--For the body of your work, do not use a space between paragraphs. To indent go to “Paragraph” and set it to indent the first line automatically. DO NOT use the Tab key.
 --Insert page breaks after each chapter.
--You can insert hyperlinks into your front and back matter to link to your other books, social media accounts, and web site.

 And that’s really all there is to it. Piece of cake.

 Stock photos can be had for $20 or less through hundreds of sites. If you’re going to be needing more than one image buying them in bulk is a good idea. I usually spend between $2 and $5 on cover art. If you have a good eye for design you can make your covers yourself for free. I use an online editor called PicMonkey, and an offline editor called Paint.net. Both are free editors. If you have a good stock image and a good font, you can make a good cover for very little money. Fiverr is also a great place to go for cheap covers, usually in the $5 to $30 range.
 DONT use the Amazon Cover creator.
DONT use a photo you took yourself unless you are a professional photographer with professional equipment.
DONT use a font that comes standard on your machine--there are tons of free fonts available for download online. This goes doubly for Comic Sans and Papyrus. Make sure your title is readable on a thumbnail image.

 Where to Sell your Book:
The two big places are Amazon and Smashwords. Smashwords distributes your book to about a dozen online retailers, including Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Sony. You can list your book in both places.

 The accounts are easy to sign up for--you Amazon publishing account links straight to your normal Amazon account. You will need to give both sites your SSN# for tax purposes. They will send you tax forms at the end of the year. It’s a simple process. As for payments both sites will send you checks when you get to a certain threshold. Amazon does direct deposit into your bank account. Smashwords pays via Paypal.

Amazon pays 35% royalties on all ebooks listed for less than $2.99. They pay 70% royalties on books at $2.99 and over. This is why $2.99 is usually a sweet spot for indie writers. You should price your work based on length--shorter stories should cost less.

Smashwords pays at least 50%, but up to 80% depending on a bunch of factors.

Amazon’s Kindle Programs: 
There are a lot of plusses and minuses to the KDP Select program. The biggest minus is that you are not allowed to sell your book anywhere else if it’s enrolled in KDP Select. Amazon wants as much of your profit as it can get its hands on, and forbidding you from using other retailers is one way to do it. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use KDP Select. Here are the plus sides:

Five free giveaway days a quarter. This is useful if you have more than one book out. If you give away a book and the reader likes it, they’ll come back for more. If you give a book away but there’s nothing else for them to buy, they will forget you LONG before you get your next book out.

Kindle Unlimited. Basically, Amazon puts a couple million dollars in a pot at the beginning of the month. Readers download your book and if they read at least 10% of your book, you get paid for the download. How much you get paid depends on how much money is in the pot (it goes up every so often) and how many books amazon sold as a whole for the month. Right now authors are getting about $1.50 per download, but we all expect this number to shrink, likely to the point where it’s not lucrative to sign up your book. But right now it is, and you have the option of pulling your book every 3 months. I see Kindle Unlimited ultimately only being useful for any book that would normally be listed for less than $2.99 because of the 35% royalty rule.

About the Author: 
They don’t need your life’s story. Keep it short and sweet. You don’t have to put a picture in the back if you don’t want to, but it cant hurt. Just remember that studio photographs are technically copyrighted by the photographer, even if they are picture’s of you. Ask permission--likely they'll be fine with it as long as you credit them.

A general rule of thumb is DONT PAY FOR REVIEWS. Offer free copies on Goodreads and visit review sites--they’ll have a submission page. You can find hundreds of review sites on Twitter/Facebook.

You should only pay attention to bad reviews if you get a lot of them and they all say the same thing. If every review you get complains about the same plot hole, or the same editing errors, you might need to re-evaluate your book. People give bad reviews over the stupidest things, but it usually boils down to taste. I have gotten several bad reviews because the reader didn’t actually *read* the description and were horrified to discover my books had gay sex in them. People don’t give bad reviews over one or two honest editing mistakes. They give bad reviews to bad books with zero editing. Relax and don’t worry about your reviews. In fact, its probably best to just not read them at all.

Don’t give your book to family and friends to review. They will likely not give an honest one, and that’s not fair to other readers.

Internet Presence and Marketing:
The best way to get your book out there is to be out there. You should be on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. You should have a blog and you should have a mailing list. You should not use these things to publish ads about your books non-stop. Yes, plug your book. Once or twice a day. Don’t flood your followers feeds with advertisements. CONTENT is key. Post about normal everyday things on Twitter and Facebook. INTERACT with your followers. Make friends.

As for Blog content, you need a theme based on the genre you write in, and blog about those things. Comment on news stories related to your books, review books of the same genre (but don’t give bad reviews--authors who badmouth other authors get into all kinds of trouble). If you write sex stories talk about sex. If you write murder mysteries talk about murder. You can post microfiction. You can simply talk about your life. Talk about writing, about publishing, about reading.

As for paying for advertising, I'm not a fan, personally. I'm sure it works for some people. Participating in blog tours are a good idea, though I've never done it. I think the review sites are gonna be your best bet for getting out there.

Avoiding Scams:
Really the biggest scam is that there are hundreds of companies out there charging for things you can do yourself. If you have money to spend on your book spend it on an editor and cover design. Make sure you do your research. If their website looks tacky, don’t trust them. If they promise big success, it will probably be a let-down.


So...that's nowhere near everything there is to know about self-publishing.  I think I will write that how-to.  It'll be called, "How to Publish your Book for Nothing."  Sure to be a best-seller.

Monday, October 13, 2014

New Release: "Snowdrop"

This story is different from what I normally write.  It's got some stuff in it that some readers might not be into, but I've been wanting to write a creepy lesbian version of Snow White for a billion years now, and I finally did it.

Snow White is just a creepy tale in general, as many of the German fairy tales are, especially when you start throwing sexual undertones into it.  This goes back to an earlier version where Snow White (or Snowdrop depending on the translation) ends up hanging out with a group of robbers instead of dwarfs. Not that dwarfs can't be sexy, but that's for another story.

I will spell it out for you here, if not in the Amazon description because god knows they love to censor indie authors: this story does contain creepy dubious consent lesbian vampire sex.  I make no apologies for it--it's just how the tale turned out. It also contains M/F, also not exactly...normal consent but its not non-consent either.  Guys, I don't know what the hell I wrote.  I listed it in fairy tales and horror (note, this is NOT romance), but it's got sex all over the place.  It's 11,700 words long and costs $1.49.

Buy it on Amazon
Buy it on Amazon UK
Buy it on Smashwords

Description (from Smashwords):
This is a dark/horror/erotic retelling of "Snow White." It contains sexual situations and violence. It is not suitable for readers under the age of 18.

 Lavinia married Snowdrop's father for one reason--to take possession of his beautiful daughter. Calling for the death of any man who dares to look at the innocent girl she quickly earns her the name "Blood Queen."

Four years after the wedding Snowdrop has no idea her relationship with her stepmother is anything but normal. Still, she has grown pale and sickly, and has a hard time remembering things. A chance encounter with a robber in the woods forces Snowdrop to look at her stepmother with a critical eye...and she begins to wonder exactly what Lavinia is. Something sinister, and something strong. She realizes escape to her robber's arms is the only way to survive, but Lavinia will not let go of her treasure so easily.

Contains: F/F, M/F, bloodplay, dubcon, defloration.

I just wanted to remind you that I'm publishing under a few other names now. One, Rosalyn Coleman, has just released two historical novellas-- A Pirate's Life and Miss Catherine Stewart's Fortnight of Debauchery.  Pirate's Life is a converted "Pirate's of the Carribean" fanfic I wrote in 2006. Fortnight of Debauchery is about a Regency-era orgy. Check them out along with my other work under the name Rosalyn Coleman.  Almost all of it is available for FREE through Amazon Unlimited.

Friday, September 12, 2014

New Release!

Over the next few months I plan on taking a bunch of 1/2 finished and nearly finished works and getting them out there under various pseudonyms, depending on the type and quality of the story.  (You can check out more of my work in the "other pseudonyms" link up top there.)

This week I salvaged this story from my 2012 Nanowrimo word count.  I discovered it was really easy to get your words in when you were just writing one sex scene after another and things...got out of hand.

What "Miss Catherine Stewart's Fortnight of Debauchery" lacks in complex plot, it makes up for with an insane amount of sex.  I think it's probably at least 50% of the 33,000 word novella.  So if you're a fan of my sex scenes (and I know many people are) it's definitely worth checking out.  It contains M/F, F/F, and M/M scenes.  There is some light to moderate BDSM, some rough sex (thats the M/M stuff), various toys, some seduction, some reluctance, a fisting scene...just everything. EVERYTHING.

Miss Catherine Stewart is visiting the home of Edward Linley with the express purpose of landing a husband. But she was invited there to be the plaything of his other guests. There is Miss Fay, who wears men's clothing, and Lavender, who seems to be having relations with everyone but her absent husband. There's Mr. Hale, and of course Edward, so kind and understanding of her naivete.

Catherine finds herself falling into the trap of pleasure and lust, doing things no proper lady would do. When Lavender's sadist husband appears the party takes a sinister turn, one Catherine is determined to survive with her sense of propriety (what's left of it) intact.

Buy on Amazon
Buy on Amazon UK

Monday, September 1, 2014

My Bookshelf

I cleaned my office recently, a major undertaking since for the last year I'd been using it simply as a depository for all of my junk.  (It looked like a room from that hoarders show.)  It took me over 5 hours, when all was said and done, but it's totally worth it. I can now sit in it, write in it, watch movies in it...all far, far away from my fiance because as much as I love him, we've been spending WAY too much time in the same room since he lost his job.

One of my undertakings was um, putting all the books back on the shelves.  The piles of books in that room were pretty impressive, I must say.   And not all of them were books I was planning to keep either. Those went down to the basement with the several boxes of "books to eventually get around to selling."

My book shelves were so pretty when I was done, I just had to take a picture and brag about them:

And now you're saying "Leigh, that's it?"  Yep, I'm afraid so.  I used to have hundreds of books. Really, HUNDREDS.  They overflowed 4 large book cases, into closets, into boxes. I hoarded them. I had every book I had ever gotten since about the 3rd grade. (That's when I became a book worm.)

Alas, I lost my job and then had to walk away from an up-side-down mortgage (I bought my house about a year before the market collapse) and ended up homeless for 6 months (well, I was on my grandma's couch). It wreaked havoc on my book collection.  I sold about 400 of them to a book seller for a nickle each, and I ended up leaving a few hundred behind when I had to leave.  (Foreclose on my house? You're gonna have one hell of a mess to clean up. I left almost everything behind.) And this is what I have left, even after 3 years of "recovery."

The two small shelves hold my non-fiction (the sparse one on the left) and my myth/legend/fairy tale section.  Highlights of that collection include a picture-filled biography of Arthur Rackham and a 1930's copy of Anderson's Fairy Tales, which has the most gorgeous illustrations. I've had it since I was a kid and its where I got my love of fairy tales.

The big wooden shelf I got when I was around 12 or 13.  A neighbor of my uncle's passed away and her relatives told him he could go through her stuff. Well, when he saw how many books she had (several layers against more than one wall), he called me. I took home a hundred at least that day, along with this shelf. I wish I'd taken all of them.  I also saw my first Playgirl that day (she was an eclectic old lady).

I have a mix of American and British paperbacks of Harry Potter. I got rid of my first edition hardbacks because they took up a lot of space. I hear they can be worth a lot of money, but mine were terribly battered.  A handful of my teenage books survived the move and most of them are here. M. E. Kerr was a big favorite, Margaret Mahy, and Paul Zindel. I have a 1970's boxed set of a few of his books on the top there.

 This shelf as a few random books, but it also has some of my most prized books. My Robin McKinley books are on the left, including a very early printing (possibly first paperback but I'm not sure) of Beauty. I've gone through 4 copies of that book since the age of 12 and I read it every year.

On the right are my Bordertown books. I discovered them when I was 13. It's a shared universe fantasy world from the 80s/90s created by Terri Windling full of runaway kids and punk elves on motorcycles. Half of them were already out of print when I discovered them so one was stolen (but paid for) from the library and over the years I've paid outrageous sums for a few battered paperbacks. A few years ago they released a new collection for the first time since 1998 and I cried real tears. Some of the novels have since been re-released too, but the cover art on the old ones are better.  Oh, also here are my My Little Ponies. This is collection #2. The first one was lost when I lost my house--I had about a hundred (all vintage), many of them rare too.  With the new show prices have gone up and I just can't bring myself to start collecting again...but I have a few.

I don't have a lot of comic books.  I'm not a
fan of super heroes and as a result just never got deeply into them in general, though I love pictures with my stories. I have the complete Sandman collection, and a couple of the Sandman books Jill Thompson wrote and illustrated. I think those are out of print. I only have some of Neil's books, but I am a big fan.

I have Warren Ellis's Transmetropolitan series, which I have read over and over.  I have Alan Moore's controversial Lost Girls series. It is beautiful and sexy.  I have some Buffy and Firefly comics but honestly season 8 was just kinda creepy.  I have the single-issue comics from when the show was still on the air too, but they're in my special Buffy collection in the closet. (I had a thing...) Oh, and Tank Girl. Actually I love the art but hate the writing. The movie was better.

Here's a few really old books. My prized possession is an 1898 copy of Study in Scarlet (the bottom one). The middle is a 1920's A Christmas Carol and the top is an 1860's (I think) copy of Merchant of Venice.

I used to have lots more old books, but all are gone now. There is a box of children's books in my closet, my very favorites that I can't get rid of. They include my boxed set of the Little House books.

Losing nearly everything I owned (what I had left all fit in a mini-van, and that included 3 cats in carriers, 3 people & a 50cc motor scooter) has really changed my idea of stuff.  I only keep books I really love. These books pictured are either 'To be read' or 'will read again.'  Most research is done with library books and the internet instead of buying more books.  If I can get it on kindle for free/cheap, I'll just have a digital copy.

Sometimes I really miss having an irrational number of books, but then, I miss a lot of things that I left behind. I try not to dwell on it too much. So these are my books. I hope you enjoyed the tour. What's your bookshelf like?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Release: "The Photographer's Muse"

First off, there's a new page on the site, "Other Pseudonyms." Check it out for more stories of mine you might not have read.

This is my work, but it isn't a Leigh Wilder release, so feel free to skip over it if you're only interested in fantasy and vampires and romance. If you're looking for hot BDSM action, on the other hand, you're in the right place.

"The Photographer's Muse" is contemporary M/M erotica with lots of BDSM, rough sex, and dirty talk. It is 8,500 words.

Buy it on Amazon FREE with a Kindle Unlimited account
Buy it on Amazon UK

Nick lives a solitary existence in NYC. Invisible. Alone. Until a photographer walks up to him in the park one day and asks to take his picture. Esteban lives in a world of art, sex, and domination. Nick is introduced to this world and he falls in love with it...and Esteban.

“Are you ready?” Esteban asked. Nick stared at the setup and nodded slightly. “Look, I might have to say or do things that might make you uncomfortable in order to get the shots I need. I promise not to hurt you or molest you, but I might hit or pinch you lightly or say some not nice things. Are you okay with that?” “Yeah.” As long as those not nice things were sexual he was more than okay with it.

“Do you have any triggers?” he asked, and when Nick looked at him blankly he continued. “Words or actions that might provoke a panic attack--anything that might remind you specifically of something bad that might have happened to you in the past.”Nick remembered the sad story in Esteban’s bio. He shook his head. “Nothing ever happens to me.”

Esteban gave him a smile. “Until now."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Library Books

For a life-long book lover and writer, I am terrible when it comes to library books. In 1992 (I was 9) I checked out a pile of books from the library a mere 4 blocks from my house (and this was 1992 so a kid could walk 4 blocks without their parents getting arrested for child endangerment) and I didn't return them for 6 years. I remember it was a handful of Boxcar Children mysteries and a collection of ghost stories.

 For 6 years these books sat on my shelf, not lost, perfectly safe. Finally in high school, when it became my own responsibility to buy my books and not my mother's, I returned the books (with some weird looks from the librarian) and got my card re-instated. But I couldn't hold on to that card to save my life and eventually the refused to give me a new one and they had to look me up in the computer every time I came in.

 Don't even get me started on the library policy at the university I went to. You could keep books all fucking semester, so there was no rush or reminder that they needed to go back. I would find the books in the middle of the summer from early on the semester before. I had to pay fines before they would let me graduate.

 As soon as I moved to Columbus I got a library card and made one trip, but it was kind of far away and Columbus traffic makes me nervous. Long story short, I was eventually sent a letter from a collection agency. I paid it, and I haven't been back since. Okay, full disclosure: Akron library has sent me to collections once or twice too. I'm thinking if I ever get a library card again it should probably be only to borrow ebooks. :/ I'm a terrible person. Forgive me. (And think of all the money I've given the library all these years to buy new books.)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Re-release: Depression, Love, & Swimming Pools

I wrote this story in 2012. It was a response to a call for submission from Storm Moon Press, looking for brother-on-brother incest erotica. I did the best I could, writing a story that had a sex scene in it, but definitely defied the over-all tone of most erotica.

They bought it, but the editors wanted me to change the ending. Everyone who read the anthology it appeared in hated it. I have a feeling they didn't have enough quality submissions to publish and they took mine simply because it was coherent. Not that its a bad story. I think it's a very good story. I had BBC's Sherlock and John in my head as I was writing it, and I took a lot of my own emotions (not the incest part, the depression part) and put them into the characters.

But this isn't a happy romance. When the call said incest I automatically knew it couldn't be happy. You will never catch me trying to claim incest is natural, no matter how often I write about it.  Its really not. But this is fiction, not real life, and that means anything can happen. But I wanted it to feel real. I wanted to write about broken characters, and I wanted the most broken part of their relationship to be the start of the healing process.

I don't have this listed under 'erotica' on Amazon, because it isn't.  It isn't a romance either, not really. It is a story of two fucked up brothers trying to be better. There just happens to be incestuous sex in it.

Buy on Amazon
Buy on Amazon UK

Cale might be the younger brother, but he is also the rescuer, the one who fixes everything. When he comes home for a visit he finds his brother Derrick floating in the pool their father killed himself in years before, unwilling to leave. Cale confronts his brother's depression head-on while dealing with his own demons, leading them to an unexpected shift in their relationship.  Cale and Derrick will never be the same again...and maybe that's okay.

This piece confronts the topics of suicide, depression, loss, recovery, and incest.  It contains graphic scenes. Not intended for young readers.

This is a 9,000 word short story.  This story was previously published in Storm Moon Press's "Fraternal Devotion" anthology.

Like the Chartreuse Fairy Book, I'm releasing a collection of contemporary erotic tales. These are my early works (mostly pre-Deadly Liaisons) and are kind of motley.  It's $3.49 and contains:

Saturday Night (M/M)
Depression, Love, and Swimming Pools (M/M)
Brian is Gay (and so am I) (M/M)
Boy (F/F)
In the Dark (M/F)
The Beauty and the Beast (M/F)
The Red Shoes (M/F)

Buy on Amazon
Buy on Amazon UK
Buy on Smashwords