C.J. Galaway discusses the publication of her first novel, Bite Marks

In two or three sentences, offer an overall description of your work.
What would you do if you met a real-life vampire face-to-face? Angela Stewart did one night and it changed her life forever…

How long did it take you to write your novel?
This one took about two years once I gave it my full attention. But from the beginning I’d say about eight on and off. I was working on it here and there while I was attending college. The second one is coming along more quickly, thankfully.

What was your main inspiration?
That’s a hard one to answer. The character of Angela Stewart came to me first. I see my characters as living, breathing people that exist in my imagination until the time comes to create his or her own world. One night she sat beside me and started telling me the story of how she became a vampire. And that’s when the fun began.

What would you most like people to know about you and your work?
My work is unique, and hard to set into a single genre. Which I’ve been told is both good and bad because while it’s unique it also makes it a challenge to market. I enjoy writing stories that tend to draw the reader in and compel you to read on. As for me, I tell the stories that my characters tell me and sharing them with my readers.

Can you tell me about your background as a writer?
I don’t really have much of one. I’ve been writing stories and novel ideas since the seventh grade. To be honest I’d never thought of my work as publishable until I started taking the creative writing classes at Cal that you taught. You’ve given me the tools and the confidence to fulfill my dream of publishing my novel.

What advice would you give to other writers?
Write because it’s what you love to do, not because you want to make money. If you’re passionate about what you write, then do it.

How does it feel to look at your own work in print?
It’s cool and surreal at the same time, if that makes any sense. I haven’t held a physical copy of it yet, but I have it on my Nook. The first time I saw it on my home screen; I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of it amongst the books I’m reading.

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Panel on Publishing

On Saturday I participated in a panel discussion on publishing with several other Pennwriters members at the Penguin Bookstore in Sewickley. The event gave us an opportunity to share our stories about how we were able to get our books published and proved, if nothing else, that our approaches were as varied as our personalities and genres.

Despite our differences, there were a few consistencies in our presentations. One was the incredible amount of time we put into our work, and the feeling that we would somehow be less of a person if we didn’t write. One panelist commented that when she didn’t write, she didn’t like the person she became. For her, writing seemed to provide an essential outlet. All of us seemed to agree that financial reward wasn’t the primary consideration, especially since in the present market, that sort of reward is virtually non-existent.

All of us also agreed on the changing market place, that the one approach that existed for so many years of finding an agent who would then sell a book to a publisher has evolved into many different approaches. As one member of the discussion noted, what works often is determined by the genre of the book. For me, a literary writer who teaches at a university and who uses publication as a validation of her work, self-publication is not a viable option, but it may be for an individual with a regional or other niche book that won’t appeal to a mainstream publisher or someone who has already established an audience through a blog or other outlet.

The discussion was also insightful in that it not only gave authors an opportunity to share their concerns, but also provided us with information about the marketing of books from a store owner’s perspective. The small independent book store, or at least the slim number still in existence, has traditionally been one of the best sources of support for the lesser-known writer, and still provides the best opportunity for book signings and promotion of local authors. But book stores, more than ever, have to focus on the bottom line–look at the number that have closed–and have only so much space on their shelves for local authors and so much time for events.


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Guest Post by Jason Jack Miller

2011 WRITING PERSPECTIVE A Whole Six Months Later (You’ve gotta be slightly stupid.)

I have a book out there.

It’s on Amazon.com and B&N.com and the Apple iBook store.

I’d call it an indie book, but some writers don’t want to let go of that term just yet.  Small press writers mostly, it seems.  They consider themselves ‘indie’ even though there’s nothing independent about their own publication process.  They’ve been edited and had covers created for them.  Most didn’t have a hand in any of their own distribution or marketing.  The only thing indie about them is the number of books they’ve sold.

My book is self-published. 

I published it myself.  I built my cover from scratch.  I formatted the book myself.  Sent my book to readers and discussed changes and edits with them.  I secured a few blurbs from some good friends who were willing to help a guy out.  I sent review requests and .PDFs to hundreds of bloggers and reviewers.  I’ve engaged hundreds, if not thousands of readers on Twitter, blogs and blog collectives.

I am an indie author.

I published my book myself.

Over the last ten years I’ve spent thousands of hours writing queries and synopses, researching agents and publishers, small and large, attending conferences and conventions, pitching, networking, working on my writing degree, writing and submitting short stories and non-fiction articles to magazines and newspapers.

Snooki didn’t do any of that, and Snooki has been published.  Snooki is not a writer.  Snooki, no doubt, has sold a few books.

I am prepared to defend my right to publish the way I want.

Why do so many writers hate the idea of self-publishing?  I didn’t cheat to get my book out there.  I didn’t lie to or sleep with an editor.  I sat down at my laptop and wrote the hell out of it.

Why does the way I decide to pursue happiness even matter to you at all?

Maybe it’s because people are reading me.  Maybe it’s because I’m spending more time working on my fiction than I am writing queries.  Maybe it’s because I’m interacting with readers on a daily basis instead of waiting for the rejection that comes every 3 months.  Maybe it’s because I’ve learned more in the last six months than I have in the last ten years about the industry and readers.  Maybe it’s because I am having fun and am rewarded for my writing on a daily basis.  I sure don’t know where that attitude comes from, but I’ve seen it enough to know it exists.

I have readers.  A few.  But I’ve learned more from a few readers than I ever did from an agent, and I’ve earned and cherish every contact I’ve made.  There is a small, but growing, group of people who know my characters and my plot, who feel like they’ve been to the places I’ve written about.  And I have a few people who can’t wait for my next book.

Now for the stupid part.

If you get a chance, read my earlier writing perspective to compare to this one.  I start the post by talking about Joe Strummer’s band before The Clash and the independent nature of those early gigs.  You see, I kind of admire Joe Strummer for doing it on his own terms.  I like the way he stood for what he stood for without making apologies.  He was a regular guy, just like me.  When I started writing I always had a bit of an inferiority complex because I wasn’t an English or Creative Writing major.  I got over  that complex by doing what Joe did–playing to my own strengths.

It was Joe Strummer that said to make it in the music business, “You’ve gotta be slightly stupid.”

Publishing my own book may have been the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.  Throwing a potential writing career down the tubes to do it on my own terms?  Please.  When you put it like that it does come off as pretty stupid.  But I’d do it all again tomorrow in a heartbeat.

How do I know I did the right thing?

A few months ago I posted a link to some Clash bootlegs, hoping to establish the tone of my blog and get some good energy out there.  This morning I woke up to a new comment on that post.  A photographer who’d been backstage at a few of the Clash Bond’s Casino shows left a link to photos he’d taking during the set and after.  I clicked the link, and there was Joe, looking back over his shoulder at me from 31 years ago this week.  I got goose bumps.  Like Joe had somehow reached through time and space to give me a slight nod of approval.

Something I had put into the universe elicited that response.

That’s how I know I am doing the right thing.

I am writing my future.  I am not going to let it be written for me.



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Jason Jack Miller is a writer, photographer and musician who has been hassled by cops in Canada, Mexico and the Czech Republic. An outdoor travel guide he co-authored with his wife in 2006 jumpstarted his freelancing career; his work has since appeared in newspapers, magazines, literary journals, online, and as part of a travel guide app for mobile phones. He also has several articles in the writing guide Many Genres, One Craft. He received a Master’s in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill where he is adjunct creative writing faculty and he is an Authors Guild member. He’s been a whitewater raft guide, played guitar in a garage band and served as a concierge at a five star resort hotel in Florida. When he isn’t writing he’s on his mountain bike or looking for his next favorite guitar. He is currently writing and recording the soundtrack to his novel, The Devil and Preston Black. Visit him at http://jasonjackmiller.blgospot.com.

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Virtual Book Tours

Yesterday I officially began my first virtual book tour for my new novel, The Tapestry Baby.  The whole idea of social networking is fairly new for me.  Until recently, I saw Facebook and Twitter as those annoying activities my students like to engage in during classes instead of focusing on what I’d like to teach them.  Having entered the world of blogging and tweeting and posting  several months ago, however, I beginning to come around.

Six months ago, if someone had referred to a VBT, I would have had no idea what they were talking about, and when my publisher first suggested a virtual book tour, frankly, I was skeptical.  My former books had been reviewed on-line and I had participated in quite a few interviews, but I was still thinking of a book tour as something you did in person.  I was used to doing signings and readings and participating in panel discussions and going to book festivals, places where I talked to my readers in person.  That was part of the publication experience that I truly enjoyed, an unexpected benefit that I was looking forward to again.  Authors, especially those with smaller publishers, tend to be very supportive of each other and I was looking forward to making new friends and discussing my work with people who were interested.

My thinking changed when I attended the AWP Conference in February.  I went to a session on virtual book tours that was intended for publishers, although half the attendees were writers like myself with books about to be released.  The presenters discussed the advantages of virtual book tours–the fact that so many more people can be reached through the internet,  that the posts don’t go away (the tour essentially lives one even years later) and the practical problems of arranging live appearances, such as expense and the fewer number of physical bookstores that are available.

The presenters gave a lot of practical advice.  Publishers or authors can arrange book tours on their own, without a publicist, but it is a time consuming activity.  They need to search the web for blogs that are related to the type of book they have written and send in requests for interviews or reviews or an opportunity to write a guest post.  Because of the time involved, most try to focus on more established blogs that have a good reader base, though the presenters emphasized the importance of treating every blog as though it were The New York Times Book Review.  As with any form of social media, authors should always remember that they are talking to people, even when they aren’t talking to them face to face.  Virtual book tours give an author an opportunity to connect with a audience, and should always be approached in a personal, human way.

A good tour, they said, should ideally involve about 60 different websites.  After listening to the presentation, I was sold on the idea of a VBT and was also sold on the idea of hiring a publicist.  From past experience, I had a pretty good idea just how long it would take to locate appropriate blogs and make contact.  My teaching schedule simply didn’t give me that kind of time.  I signed on with Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book for a one month tour and am happy with the decision.  While we are doing far fewer than 60 sites, I’m content with that, too.  Writing interviews and guest blog posts has been interesting and has given me new insight into my own work, but is also time consuming.

I have also arranged quite a few personal appearances.  One benefit I’ve discovered is that the VBT and other forms of social networking have led me to other writers and, through them, invitations to all sorts of events.

At the end of the month, once my tour is complete, I intend to offer more impressions about what it is like doing a VBT.  In the meantime, information about my tour is available here.  I’d love to hear from others who have experience in or who are thinking about organizing a virtual book tour.

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The Multiple Sides of Writing

I’ve often joked with my students that to be a good writer, you need to be mildly schizophrenic.  What I mean is that an effective writer needs to be able to live life, but also remain mildly detached from it, to be a participant and observer at the same time.  One of my writing professors once told me a story about a writer he knew who tried to help a woman at the scene of an accident.  As she sat inside her car afraid and covered with broken glass, he did everything he could to help her as they waited for paramedics to arrive.  At the same time, however, he was also collecting details–what the glass looked like shimmering on her skin, the expression on her face, the words she shared with him.  All of these, he knew, would eventually show up in a story.

The experience of sharing work with readers can also involve a major shift in perspective.  For me, at least, writing is an intensely personal experience.  I don’t like to share my work with anyone else while I’m in the process of creating it or even discuss basic themes and ideas.  When I write, I create a world that I move into completely, often pulling details of events and experiences around me into this imaginary space and incorporating them into my work.  Still, it remains an intensely private place.

The process of sharing work, whether through publication, workshops, readings, or just showing it to friends can be a jolt, especially for someone as private about their work as I am.  For years I published in small literary magazines and in many ways enjoyed the anonymity of them.  I knew somewhere, someone was reading my work, but I rarely had any contact with any of these people.  Book publication has been a whole different experience, one I wasn’t entirely prepared for ten years ago when my first novel came out.  All of a sudden, I had readers I actually met and who voiced opinions about this very private world I had created.  The experience was frightening in many ways, but also exhilarating.  The real surprise, though, came in the social connection that publication encouraged with other writers.  Writers with books spend a tremendous amount of time promoting their work, and the relationship I developed with  fellow writers I met at signings and book festivals and other literary events turned out to be one of the biggest unexpected rewards of publication.

I’ve been especially fortunate with the release of my current novel.  One of my former students, Cindy Speer,  by chance had a novel released by the same publisher, Zumaya Embraces, just weeks before I did.  Our joint publication experience has been discussed in several newspaper articles and has given us an opportunity to reconnect.  Meeting up with her again has been one of the best unexpected perks of publication I’ve ever received.

This time around I was more prepared for the social side of writing, the experience of sharing my work with others, but I’ve still had some surprises.  In the almost ten years that have passed since the publication of my earlier novel and short story collection, the social side of writing has changed substantially.  While I will be participating in signings and book festivals and talking to readers face-to-face, I’m also gearing up for my first ever virtual book tour, an experience I’ll describe in future posts.  While I was a little skeptical at first about connecting with readers through social media–the process sounded cold and impersonal–I’m finding that the key word in the phrase social media is “social.”  Reconnecting with Cindy has been one unexpected benefit.  Now that my tour is about to start in earnest, I can’t wait to see what new surprises are in store for me.

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Images that inspire words

I’ve always had an interest in art forms that combine words and images in unique ways.  At an AWP Conference several years ago, I remember a session where someone described an interactive exhibit that recreated the child’s board game, “Operation.”  The artists created a life-size operation board.  Using giant tongs, people would be able to pull out capsules from the “patient” that could then be opened to reveal stories about people’s experiences with the health-care system.

Visual and verbal art forms can be combined in may creative ways, ranging from the simple to the complex.  Photographs and paintings can be a wonderful source of inspiration for fiction writers or poets.  Several years ago, a friend who worked at a local art museum approached me with a project. The museum was interested in exploring ways of making visual art accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.  They wanted my creative writing students to write poems, stories, or even brief descriptions of paintings in their collection that would enable people who couldn’t see the work to be able to respond to it.

Combining visual and and verbal forms of art creates interesting elements of interpretation.  A photography professor and I used to collaborate on a magazine that included poetry, fiction, and visual art forms of all kinds.  Laying out the magazine posed some interesting problems, since most of the pages contained both visual and verbal works.  Often, when we combined the two, one would end up affecting the way people looked at the other.  In one issue, we used a black and white photograph of a house glowing with all its Christmas lights.  The poem we placed beside it was about a dysfunctional family, and once people read it, they could no longer see the photograph in the simple, positive spirit the photographer had intended.  Sometimes when laying out the magazine, some visual images would naturally seem to match the mood and tone of one of the poems or stories.  Other times we would intentionally place works together that had nothing in common simply so that one didn’t affect how readers saw the other.

The museum project ended up creating some interesting ethical questions.  While we realized that there wasn’t any way that we could create a specific image in someone’s mind through a description, we felt an obligation to both the artist and the person who would listen to our description to capture some part of the artwork.  Poems worked especially well for this project because of their length.   Some told a narrative, focusing on a story that involved a person in the painting, while others reflected the colors or general mood of the work, trying to interpret the emotional impact of the painting.   In some cases different students chose to write in response to the same painting and not surprisingly came up with very different interpretations.  The museum found these to be especially interesting.  Interpretation, they wanted to show, is always an individual experience.

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Guest Blogger Jodi Milner

I’m delighted to have a guest blog today from Jodi Milner

Jodi Milner, blogger and aspiring novelist, hopes to finish her fantasy novel “Stonebearer’s Betrayal” and start submitting it to agents before the end of 2011.  When she is not shepherding children or working on her novel, she writes posts at My Literary Quest which is full of advice and resources for writers, all gained from real world experience.

NYT Best Seller Barry Eisler turns down $500,000 advance in favor of Self Publishing

posted by tsuchgari on March 23, 2011

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...Cover via Amazon 

That’s right,  Mr. Eisler was offered a whopping half million dollar advance for his book from a mainstream publisher, and he said no.  For all of us struggling writers out here in the real world the thought seems completely insane.  Getting an offer from a mainstream publisher is a huge accomplishment – it means that all of our hard work has finally been acknowledged and someone believes in it.

However for Mr. Eisler it is a different story.  He’s been in the business for a long time and has had his share of success.  He understands the truth about advances and royalties.  He has established a name for himself.  By self publishing and epublishing he gets to pocket a larger percentage of the royalties, a whopping 70% compared to the puny 14.9%.

Here’s the math:

By self pubbing Eisler will have to sell 714,285 units at $1 to make $500,000.   There is no advance to work towards here, the money keeps rolling in with each unit sold.

By accepting the $500,000 advance Eisler will have to sell a crazy 3.3 million units at $1 before he even catches sight of a royalty check and then he will only get 14.9% of each unit sold after that.

Eisler is making a gamble, knowing his fan base and history with his other books he believes that he will sell enough on his own to compensate for not accepting a half million dollar advance.  In the long run getting the higher percentage will serve him better than what the publisher has to offer.

For the rest of us fiction writers who have yet to make a name for ourselves in the publishing world using the traditional route does have more advantages than disadvantages.  Contracting with a publisher means that they will provide services like editing, creating a cover, finding reviews, and distributing the book to the national market.  It is in their best interest to sell as many copies as they can to make a profit.

There are those stories of début authors hitting it big with e-pubbing, offering their books for low prices through Amazon and other services.  They had to find their own editor, design the cover, and create their own marketing plan.  Some would argue that doing this they have more control over all the aspects of their book, which is true.  At the same time, most writers aren’t great at marketing strategy and would rather spend their free time writing.   For every success story there are thousands if not more e-pubbed books that never sell more than a handful of copies.

The bottom-line?  Each writer must weigh the odds for themselves.  A traditional publisher will release a book on the market when there is a natural peak in interest for that genre.  This means an author might have to wait months before it is released, but more books will sell.  With e-pubbing it is a matter of how fast you can fill out the form, assuming that the other work, editing, etc, has been done.  Release your book when the market is interested in something else and it may never see the light of day.  Traditional publishing will give you an advance that you get to keep regardless of how your book does on the market.  With e-pubbing you only earn on what you sell, period.  To get a mainstream traditional publisher you must first get an agent which is a long and involved process.  That agent will fight for you and also help make your book the best it can be.  With e-pubbing you are on your own.

Learn more

Free Copies  of Carole Waterhouse’s new novel, The Tapestry Baby, and Mark Robert’s Unforced Error

In addition to thanking Jodi today, I’d also like to announce the release of my new novel, The Tapestry Baby. To celebrate its release, free ebook copies will be available through the following links until midnight, Sunday April 10.

Tapestry Baby PDF: <http://payloadz.com/d1/freeproducts.asp?id=1437555>

Tapestry Baby EPUB: <http://payloadz.com/d1/freeproducts.asp?id=1437559>

Tapestry Baby MOBI: <http://payloadz.com/d1/freeproducts.asp?id=1437563>

Print copies are also available at Zumaya and will soon be available at Amazon

Zumaya is also offering free ebook copies of Mark Robert’s Unforced Error at the following links, also until midnight, April 10.

Unforced Error PDF: <http://payloadz.com/d1/freeproducts.asp?id=1437566>

Unforced Error EPUB: <http://payloadz.com/d1/freeproducts.asp?id=1437568>

Unforced Error MOBI: <http://payloadz.com/d1/freeproducts.asp?id=1437570>





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