Publishing as an Indie Author: Scams

Publishing, and the marketing that goes with it, is hard. Very hard. It isn’t easy to draw attention to your books. Indie authors will use pay services like Bookbub, Reedsy, Allauthor.com, even Goodreads, to gain an edge.

I recently read a post by another indie author about her experiences with an indie press. She and several other authors paid hundreds of dollars to have their short stories put into a collection. This money went to pay publishing costs, and luckily for the press and the authors, the collection had a successful launch and became a bestseller.

Awesome, right? I cringed when I read it, though. My first thought was “predatory”. My second, “Scam.”

For the press, having authors pay the costs of publishing is a great deal. Whether the book fails or succeeds is irrelevant, they still get paid. If the book goes bust, they can put out another call for more desperate authors and their money because someone will bite. It won’t matter if they could not produce results, as long as they provide “a chance”. And if the authors receive no benefit for their time, money and effort? That’s the way it goes, better luck next time.

Predatory publishing is pretty common. Predatory journal publishers flourish in academia. Journals with a too-broad focus contact desperate people who need publications to get a job, and demand they pay money to have their papers appear in said journal. It’s a scam, and it doesn’t give the boost that academics need in their resumes, because the journals have no standing.

Predatory book publishers are right there with them, scamming authors out of money and making promises they usually can’t fulfill. And then they ask for more money.

Don’t assume, because it’s a small indie press, because its rep contacted you, because the rep “loves” your work, it has a vested interest in your success. It might have a vested interest in your money, but that probably won’t translate into a successfully published book. Reedsy has a great article about what to look for in scammy publishers–and the number one thing is the publisher wants you to pay them for the privilege of publishing your story.

DON’T DO IT.

Reedsy points out that there are a few legit hybrid publishers who have authors help pay costs, but you have to be very careful who to trust. This isn’t just a problem for indie authors, either. One of my husband’s undergrad students was contacted by a predatory academic journal. She was initially interested because they told her they had read her paper with an REU group and was interested in publishing it, and only after they demanded money, did she ask him about it. (BTW, it was already published so she wouldn’t have been able to publish with the predatory journal anyway–not that that would have stopped them from taking her money)

DON’T PUBLISH IN PREDATORY JOURNALS. It’s a waste of your money and your work, because you won’t be able to publish that particular paper in a legit journal afterwards.

The publishing industry is harsh. Don’t let it take a huge chunk out of your pocketbook with empty promises. Do your research into publishers. It will save you time and money in the long run.

________________________________
Shiobe Rising: The Wellspring Dragons Book 1 and Trouble in Tindrel: The Wellspring Dragons Book 2 are available in Kindle format. Lapis of Nicodem, a serialized dark fantasy, is available for free at World Anvil. Follow me, Kwyn Marie, on Facebook and Instagram. Check out my author website, and the Wellspring Dragons book site as well as the Lapis of Nicodem book site. And if you like what you see, buy me a KoFi!

Writing a Serialized Fantasy

My Lapis of Nicodem story is a bi-weekly dark fantasy serial. Why did I decide to write a chapter every two weeks? Well, I liked the story, but I didn’t think it would become one of my books. What to do with it, then?

I decided to create a serial with it.

By August 2020, I had published the first two books in my Wellspring Dragons series, and needed a break from the story. I still wanted to write, and while I have other tales that will eventually become books, I didn’t wish to undertake another one so soon. A serial seemed the perfect format for my situation.

World Anvil had just come out with their Manuscripts software, and made a space on their site for authors to post the books published with it. It seemed like a great way to attract readers and keep myself writing while on a brief hiatus from my other tale. But how, exactly, would I accomplish it?

as Shanda Nelson, I do all the illustrations for my stories

I set some ground rules for the serial. The chapters would be around 15 pages each, no less than 12, no more than 20. I would publish a chapter every two weeks, and I would publish even if I did not feel quite ready to do so. Why? I didn’t want to worry on a chapter for weeks on end–basically, falling to the “perfect is the downfall of the good” mentality. I would have the first draft completed by the end of the first week, edit it through the second, and re-read it the night before and the morning of publishing, over and over again. I would publish by 2:00 PM Pacific Time every other Friday. The entire project would be free to read, and I would create a world wiki to accompany it.

Writing on the timetable has been a challenge. There were weeks where I sat before my computer screen the Thursday before publishing, with a few words written and a complete creative block. Sure, I (mostly) knew what needed to happen. That didn’t make writing about it any easier. I would discuss my story with my husband, and sometimes that would be enough to prick my brain into writing mode. Sometimes I scanned artwork, listened to music, read, while trying to write words and make them sound like a coherent story. I hated those weeks, because I like to re-read my edits twenty to thirty times, and pushing the deadline made certain those re-reads did not happen.

Other weeks, I had already completed and edited the chapter by the first weekend. It allowed me to write ahead, so to speak. But mostly, I stick to my original schedule.

Feedback is not the same, either. If my deadline is the next day, having someone scan my chapter isn’t going to happen. And I’m OK with that. I find it liberating. I’m writing a story that I like, the way I want to write it. Maybe it is for an audience of one–me–but that hardly means no one else will enjoy it. Yes, mistakes are inevitable, but not as many as one might assume (I still use Aeon Timeline to keep track of dates and the like, and run spell/grammar check software. And yes, people–your editor uses the same spell/grammar software to check your work. I really don’t need an editor telling me to use the Oxford comma when the software does that just fine on its own, and I can ignore it without feeling guilty).

I’ve made certain to keep in mind, that each chapter needs to move the plot along. That’s good writing anyway, but it becomes really important when you are creating installments instead of handing readers a completely finished product. If you have a couple hundred pages of story, you can be slower in revealing the story because the wait to reach resolutions are only a few page-turns away. Part of this is a rethinking of cliff hangers. I look at them in a different way for my serial, because the next installment is not just a page-turn away, but two weeks distant. I need to create ways to keep readers interested in returning for more.

This has led me to craft individual chapters as entities unto themselves. They are far more self-contained than those present in my longer books. That being said, I still have a longer story to tell through the shorter ones that populate the chapters, and this keeps the flow between them. I know where the serial is going to end up. Getting there is the journey every pantser loves.

Overall, I’m pleased with how the story is progressing. It hasn’t always been easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. So check out Lapis of Nicodem and while you’re over at World Anvil, look at some of the other writing going on there.

________________________________
Shiobe Rising: The Wellspring Dragons Book 1 and Trouble in Tindrel: The Wellspring Dragons Book 2 are available in Kindle format. Lapis of Nicodem, a serialized dark fantasy, is available for free at World Anvil. Follow me, Kwyn Marie, on Facebook and Instagram. Check out my author website, and the Wellspring Dragons book site as well as the Lapis of Nicodem book site. And if you like what you see, buy me a KoFi!

A Thought on Secrets in Storytelling

Been thinking about plot surprises recently. I’ve been watching Fairy Tail, a Japanese anime based on a manga series by Hiro Mashima, because the pandemic has given me an opportunity to watch it where I left off years ago. I like Fairy Tail, a lot. I like the interactions between characters and the focus on unity accomplishing grand things. I don’t like the Ankhseram curse secret-turned-major-plotline. I find it annoying and not well thought out.

Supposedly, those inflicted by the curse kill everything around them until they don’t see value in life, then they stop. It’s a contradiction. But here’s the thing (at least in the anime; I haven’t read that far in the manga). Zerif, in his guise as Spriggan, says that it’s safer not to care about his subjects–which means he’s caring about their lives. Which means everyone around him should be dropping like flies. They aren’t. So much for a killing contradiction.

Maybe this is explained away a bit further into the story. But currently, I keep wondering: What’s the purpose of the curse? Is the god Ankhseram punishing the individual? How is a disregard of life supposed to accomplish that? Why is the curse killing all living things (plants included) for simply being around this person? Isn’t that punishing innocents? While gods can be that kind of a jackass, I don’t get the impression that’s the author’s intent.

It’s made me think about some of the secrets in my stories. Do they make sense? Are they just an excuse to motivate the plot in a certain direction because I’m out of other ideas? How valuable are they? Sure, some people might still think the secrets are stupid, but I’ll at least feel I’ve fleshed them out before I invest heavily in them and realize they don’t quite work the way I planned.

When it comes down to it, plots are hard, especially in long, complicated stories. This is a place where plotters, who carefully plan out their tales, have an advantage over pantsers, who free-wheel it and see what happens (seat-of-your-pants writing). Planning the story beforehand can definitely catch some of the unexpected weirdness of plot points and correct them before a single word is typed. Writers like me, however, who are plantsters–authors who do a bit of both–but fall heavily to the pantser’s side, need to be more creative in their corrections, which can happen long after the plot is set and an issue pops up. Rewriting an integral plot secret is hampered if its previous incarnation is already published.

At least when it comes to very important plot points, it’s a good idea for all writers to think about the future outcomes in their stories. It’s very hard to steer the car in the direction you want to go, if you don’t know where you’re going in the first place. While that road can be incredibly fun and exciting and surprising, driving unexpectedly over a cliff isn’t.

________________________________
Shiobe Rising: The Wellspring Dragons Book 1 and Trouble in Tindrel: The Wellspring Dragons Book 2 are available in Kindle format. Lapis of Nicodem, a serialized dark fantasy, is available for free at World Anvil. Follow me, Kwyn Marie, on Facebook and Instagram. Check out my author website, and the Wellspring Dragons book site as well as the Lapis of Nicodem book site. And if you like what you see, buy me a KoFi!

How I Handle Writer’s Block

When I sit down to the keyboard and begin to type, words flow. I can reach 4000 words in a couple hours on a good day. But on bad days, I stare at the screen and don’t realize I’ve just read the same paragraph ten times without it sinking in.

There’s a few things I do, when this happens. It depends on how I feel at the time I’ve hit a roadblock in my story, or I just can’t focus on editing.

1. PLAY AN INSTRUMENT.


Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay

I have a wooden and electric cello, several recorders and whistles, an electronic keyboard, and synth instruments (Pigments and Analog Lab, both from Arturia, VCV Rack, and Voltage Modular from Cherry Audio). I may not even have a specific song to play, and just jam, though I am working on the Brandenburg Concerto 3 for cello. Sometimes I break out WaveformFree (Tracktion) or Zenbeats (Roland) or MuseScore and compose.

2. DRAW!
I am an artist, and draw people, places and things from my stories. If I’m having problems writing, I tend to turn to drawing. Drawing gives me a way to focus on something visual while my mind whirls in the background, contemplating my story and where I need to go from the spot I am stuck. If I’m editing, it’s sometimes a relief just to put the story aside and work on something else for a few hours, then return when I feel a bit refreshed.


Banner image of Lapis from my Lapis of Nicodem serial

3. FORGE AHEAD.
Sometimes I find myself stuck at a particular point in the story, but I know where the action needs to go further on. I will skip ahead and write about that. Often, as I’m following my characters and their quests, I realize what I need to do to further the plot back where I left off. I’m not a writer who can sit down and create a carefully considered timeline of events to follow. I write and the story flows from there. I feel restricted, if I have to plot everything beforehand. That’s not to say I don’t know where I’m going, but the journey there is my adventure.

4. WORK ON ANOTHER BOOK
I have many, many stories that I have written over the years. Sometimes I just switch which book I’m working on, because I have a great idea for a different one that’s interfering with work on the current one. Once that idea’s typed out, I can return to my previous story and continue, no longer distracted.

5. VIDEO GAMES


Image by Fran├žois Bellay from Pixabay

Sometimes a mindless exercise is in order. Depending on the game you play, you can relax, let your mind wander around while clicking your way through a point-and-click, or farming, or, for me, playing Elder Scrolls Online. Some games are better distractions than others, but you never know what might trigger an idea while you’re concentrating on a different storyline.

6. READ A BOOK!
Authors can find inspirations for their own writing in the writing of others. I suppose this is a given. It’s fun to read someone else’s story, and have a flash of insight into my own work. Sometimes, though, especially when I’m editing, reading more words when I’m feeling tired of reading words isn’t helpful. I do enjoy manga, and the picture-heavy format gives me a way to read but not feel overwhelmed.

7. EXERCISE
I own an elliptical stair machine, which I work out on 3 days a week, and I walk another three days a week. Exercise can be as great an inspiration as anything else on my list. Repeating a motion over and over that I don’t have to think about, allows my mind to concentrate on other things. I’m usually developing stories in my head my entire workout.

8. WORK ON WEBSITE
As an indie author, there’s always a website page or a social media post waiting to be uploaded. It’s busy work, but it can distract me and get me back in the frame of mind to continue writing or editing.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

9. WATCH TWITCH
Yeah, I watch people play ESO to get Crown Crate Drops. I also

10. CHAT
In social media chat (depending on the site), I can ask a silly question about my writing and my writer’s block, and there are many, many helpful suggestions by helpful people that can get me back on track. Something like World Anvil’s Discord writer’s channel is a great place to ask questions about one’s writing. If you have a following, asking fans certain questions about what they might like to see in your current work can inspire your words.

11. TAKE A SHOWER
It’s amazing how a refreshing shower can change your outlook.

WHAT I DON’T DO:

12. WATCH MOVIES AND TV
I gave up on movies and TV a long time ago (I still watch an anime, but I haven’t seen an ad or read about anything that has struck me as a must-see in years). Most people, however, do. A TV show or a movie can be a welcome interlude, and can inspire an author who has hit that dreaded writer’s block wall. For me, the reality show craze coupled with “NOOOO” from Star Wars Episode 3 pretty much killed my enthusiasm for the big and little screens. There are only so many stupid people I can watch before my disgust levels me (I was also raised without TV because my parents couldn’t afford one, so I never developed the habit of watching).

Hah. And I was worried I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything to say.

Shiobe Rising: The Wellspring Dragons Book 1 and Trouble in Tindrel: The Wellspring Dragons Book 2 are available on Kindle and EPUB formats. Lapis of Nicodem,, a serialized dark fantasy, is available for free at World Anvil. Follow me, Kwyn Marie, on Facebook and Instagram. Check out my author website, and the Wellspring Dragons book site as well as the Lapis of Nicodem book site. And if you like what you see, buy me a KoFi!