Sunday, May 22, 2016

Things to consider before working with a small press

Just over a year ago, my first book, Winell Road: Beneath the Surface, a middle grade sci-fi adventure, was published. Well, to anyone who doesn't follow me on social media, this book is no longer published. Yep, didn’t even make a year. Play the violins...

I won’t babble on about why Winell Road is no longer out there in the world – that blog post might come later in the year. I’m still healing from the disappointment, as well as looking to get it back out there. But I thought maybe I’d let you in on some things I’ve learnt about publishing with a small press.

1.      Think sooooooo carefully before signing a publishing contract. Take your time, seek advice. If you have IP lawyer friends, ask them to review the contract. If not, join a society of authors who often have their own contract vetting service. If it costs, pay the money. It might be the best thing you ever pay for. I rejected more than one contract based on advice from a lawyer. Best move ever! Don’t consider yourself to be less worthy than authors with agents who will negotiate contracts on their behalf. Oh, absolutely DO NOT do this. You are as worthy and you must make sure you sign the right and best contract for you. Give yourself some credit.

2.      I took a chance on my publisher, they were brand new, so there weren’t any already contracted clients to speak with about their experiences. This was my choice, and one I did sweat over for a while. However, if the offering press is established, research them.

a)      Are their previous clients happy? And I don’t necessarily mean successful, because success is a personal thing that differs from one author to the next.

b)      Are their books well-edited and presented, professional? Readers will immediately be put off by poor quality books riddled with mistakes.

c)      How do they handle themselves on social media? Are they professional? Are they even on social media?

d)      Where are their books for sale?

e)      Google the press. What comes up?

f)       Are their books priced competitively?

g)      How are they actually earning their share of the profits?

h)      Do they have plans for growth? What’s in their future?

And so on. Put some time and effort into your decision BEFORE you sign.

3.      Decide what you want, and this relates to how you interpret success. If you want your book in all the big bookstores around the world and to make thousands of dollars, depending on the offering press’ size, the small press route probably isn’t the way to go (and you’re expectations might be a little high if you’re a first time author). Small presses will do their best to stock you in bookstores (well, some do), but print runs can often be VERY expensive for the press with not that many stores ordering Print-on-Demand books, thus not a viable option for them. With POD commonplace in the modern world of publishing, maybe being content with your book available to the world online and in local bookstores is enough. Only you can answer this question.

4.      What can this small press do that you can’t do yourself? It’s all well and good saying you want a supportive team to back you up, that you can’t do it on your own, but what kind of back up are you wanting exactly? If it’s purely someone to chat with via email every now and then and tell you you’re great, then super, but can’t a friend or your mum do this? If the back-up you require is a team of people who are also marketing and promoting your book, looking for opportunities to get your name out there, evaluating sales and evolving with the industry as time goes on; people that although might have a unique take on publishing, still have realistic expectations and ideas, then you need to go back to points 2 and 3. Research, think, decide.

5.      And this point should go without saying: Is this small press expecting money from you? Asking you to pay for editing, cover design, etc? If so, then they are not actually a small press, they are a self-publisher or vanity press. If this is something you’re happy with, again, ask yourself what this company can do for you that you can’t do yourself. Will sourcing your own team of reputable editors, designers, formatters, publicists and so on work out cheaper and be a far more personal, hands-on, and ultimately more rewarding experience for you?

6.      Most publishers, big and small, expect authors to be their own marketers and publicists these days. It’s the way it is. You need to put yourself out there, look for opportunities too. But if you’re doing ALL of this yourself maybe stop and ask yourself why you haven’t self published. Being an author is a business, and if you’re giving some of your profits to someone who is just sitting back with a cup of tea, probably not even watching the progress or reception of your book, then alarm bells should be ringing. It’s great that they might have produced this lovely looking book, but if it’s not reaching the hands of any readers, then what is the point?

Whatever you decide, just make sure your expectations are realistic and do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – this is your career. You need to be with someone that loves your book as much as you love it, someone who appreciates and understands this industry and who is willing to try new things to reach new readers. Signing with a creative team who say all the right things is great, but they need to back this up with results, an exciting approach, and their own grounded expectations.

As a writer, you’re likely (or certainly should be) a reader. Think about what you like in a book.

My checklist: Quality. Affordability (not free – I never download free books (unless it’s a buy book 2 get book 1 for free type deal)). Accessibility.

I would not advise even considering a small press unless they can deliver on these three points straight away.

I hope that helps some of you in some way. Good luck.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Crying Girl

I’ve been working on a new project that is set to be released later this year. It’s a YA mid-apocalyptic Sci-Fi with chemically-induced vampires and a very human, female protagonist.

I’m really proud of the project. My leading lady – Nola – is one of the few chosen to live out the apocalypse in comfort and safety. But she can’t do it. She can’t watch the pain of the people around her and just keep pretending that everything is fine. Her empathy distinguishes her. She is a loving human in a world where terrible things happen. And she cries.

Not all the time. She never cries because she’s hurt or just can’t rally to keep moving forward. But she cries. When she loses people. When she knows there is nothing else to be done. She also stumbles and falls. She gets hurt and bleeds. All normal things to happen when fighting for your life.
But then I worry. Can I have her get hurt and cry? Will that completely derail her as a strong female? Nola’s training as a botanist, and I’ve already been told more than once that Botany isn’t “a real STEM field.”

So then what do I do for sweet Nola? I want her to be a strong woman; I want her to care and to feel. I need her to want to save the world even if she can’t do it all on her own.

And is fighting without super powers or arrows or a perfect back kick still fighting? Can’t we have a girl who is strong but not a warrior?

I know it seems that, in an age where women fighting is becoming normal, it should be okay to have a book where a girl doesn’t. But by making girls have powers, have we moved to the point that without a sword or dragon you are assumed to be diminishing the power of females?

I don’t have an answer. I don’t know if people will see how strong Nola is and allow her heart to be her largest asset even when it’s breaking. Maybe they’ll call her just another weak girl waiting on a vampire. Only time will tell. But I’m proud of Nola, and until her story goes out into the world that will have to be enough.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Let Loose!

May is here and it's an exciting, fun and hopeful month! I love May (and not just because it has my birthday in it). It just seems to be a month full of freshness and hope.

With that in mind, I'd like to talk about letting loose.

As writers, we can be a serious, obsessive bunch, always looking for the next big tip, the next big piece of information that's going to elevate us to super stardom.

However, I want to bring us back to the core of why we write. Because we love it. Creating worlds. Meetings new characters. Crafting a story that speaks to the hearts and souls of others.

But there's also something else - fun! That's right. Pure, unadulterated fun. Sometimes, I think we forget that in the melee to be published. So taking the time to write without the burden of having to publish can be so liberating! You can be goofy, silly, exciting, adventurous, unexpected, act stupid, be serious, be can be everything and anything you want. And you can let the page capture it all!

So go on...grab that blank page and let loose!!!

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Power and Pain of Procrastination

Seeing as it’s Monday, May 2, my posting day, and I’m just now writing this, the title is completely appropriate. 
In most things, I am of two extremes. When it comes to food, I’m either totally committed to a healthy, self-controlled diet, or I eat everything with abandon and gain 10 lbs. in about a week (true story from last week). When it comes to deadlines, I either tackle the project immediately and get it finished and returned early, or I put it off until the absolute last moment (for example, this blog post).

When it comes to writing “have-tos,” I find that procrastination causes me a lot of pain. Not because I’ve put something off (again, this blog post) and have to rush to get it finished, but because often I procrastinate out of fear. Edits are too scary to look at. Contest scores are too terrifying to analyze. Editor suggestions are too overwhelming to peruse. But the reality is that none of these things are incredibly difficult once I commit to dealing with them. Edits are rarely as scary as I think they are. Even when every page is covered with note after note, many are simple fixes dealing with mechanics or rephrasing. A few are more complicated regarding motivation or reader confusion. But overall, the work involved isn’t nearly as much as the time I spent putting off the task! And the worst part is, I’ve probably lost sleep and relaxation time because my brain has stressed over the undone task of dealing with those edits or critiques or whatever else I’ve put off until “later.”

And that is the power and pain of procrastination.
The longer I put off dealing with something, the bigger it grows in my mind. The more daunting the task becomes. And each time I decide NOT to tackle that task, the bigger the fear grows. Even when it’s something as simple and safe as replying to a friendly email, when I put it off, it slowly turns into something I dread completing. And with the need-to-take-care-of task hanging over my head, I’m stressed, whether I’m conscious of that fact or not. I don’t sleep well and I check out by choosing to read or play games until I CAN’T put it off anymore.

As I said before, the task is rarely—RARELY—as difficult as I’ve built it up. But fear feeds on fear. As I given into the fear, all I accomplish is making the fear-monster bigger and harder to face. Harder to defeat. Yet, when I finally do face the fear-monster, he’s not that hard to slay. And yet, as often as I’ve been through this procrastination process, I can’t seem to get it through my head that the avoiding is ten times more painful than the actually task. Maybe a hundred-times more painful, depending on how long I procrastinate. But I do it again. And again.

But as we go into summer, the time of year when Alaska is all sunshine and light and hope exists in the world again, I’m committing to not procrastinating any longer (and to not eating everything with abandon, but that’s another subject). I want to enjoy my summer without the fear-monster lurking in the back of my mind. Instead of avoiding, I will act.

Do you procrastinate? What kind of power and pain has procrastination caused you?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Orange is the Color of Creativity

Our new family of three recently moved into a new apartment, and it just so happens that our son's room is pink. Pink carpet. Pink walls. Pink closet.

Can a boy have a pink room? Sure. Do I want to give my son this pink room? No. (But to be fair, I hate the shade and wouldn't want to give it to a girl either.) So I've been thinking about color schemes, digging into the effects of colors.

Did you know orange inspires creativity?

I wonder if we infused our writing spaces with splashes of orange, would it make a difference in our creativity? Internet research points to yes, and the internet can't be wrong. (Ha.)

So my gift to you is a bunch of orange images. Soak up the orange! Wiggle your toesies in the orange. And then sit your booty down and write the most creative words of your life!

You're welcome.  

So does your writing space have any orange? If not, what color is it and why? Comment below!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Short, Sweet and Inspiring

So, apologies from me today. My blog is a short one, what with attending the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention and so much work I don't know where to start, but I do hope inspiring, nonetheless.

If there's one thing I've learnt, heard and digested time and time again from published authors, experienced editors and supportive literary agents, is that not a single writer has landed a book deal without one essential element. And what do you think that ingredient is, people?

You got it...



And even when that contract has been signed, the persevering doesn't stop. Only those authors, proactive and hungry for success, who work tirelessly building connections, supporting fellow writers, conversing with book bloggers, reviewers, readers and new contacts are the ones who reap the rewards.

And we're not talking a few months of hard work; we're talking years and years of relentless effort, digging deep into their reserves for what's left of their hope. Through those low, depressing moments when they no longer believe in themselves or their work; during those times when they're ready to give in to the slow progress they make; when an attack from the green-eyed monster hits; when sales cease and confidence hits an all time low; when the rejections flood in; when the 1 star, hard hitting review comes in for EVERYONE to see. And on and on through the dark times of a creative.

WE ALL HAVE THESE TIMES. But if you give up when one hurts so bad, then you could just be about to walk right past the next door of opportunity.

Never give up. Put your party face on every day, and throw yourself, heart and soul, into everything you do. If you can't face your own writing, then support another author with theirs. We're in this together, and helping others might be the key to unlocking more of that precious commodity we all possess called hope. Luck and timing play a part in all we do, but we are the drivers of our destiny vehicles, no one else.

So stop whining, stop wishing, stop giving up. Get out there, get positive, pick yourself up and MAKE IT HAPPEN!

And to close, here's the coolest high five I have ever seen!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Different Doesn't Mean Alone

I am a professional musical theatre performer. I started dance at age three and spent most of my childhood getting ready for the next rehearsal. Theatre things were always normal to me. It was normal to wear dance tights under almost every outfit; it was normal to do your homework by flashlight during tech rehearsal; and it was normal to be gay.

I didn’t even realize that homosexuality was considered strange by some people until I was about sixteen. I went to a friend’s birthday party, and before I even got into the door he pulled me aside and whispered in a terrified voice that I had to pretend to be his girlfriend. He had told his parents we were dating. They had threatened to pull him out of theatre so he could find a nice girl to date. He had lied on the spot and told them he already had a girlfriend. Me.

I went along with it for the night, trying to get his mother to hate me so she would make us break up. Then my friend would have had heartbreak as an excuse to avoid dating until college. When he would be far away and out of his parents’ reach.

It hurt my heart so badly that my beautiful, loving friend had to hide who he was from his own family. It hurt me more to find out that he wasn’t the only one. But somehow I held onto this na├»ve notion that my peers would be the last ones to deal with having to hide their sexuality in order to be accepted by the people around them.

But that didn’t turn out to be true. I want to say it’s gotten better, but that might be too hopeful.
I’m in the process of submitting a new story that has some LGBTQ themes, and there are so many agents looking for LGBTQ characters. On the one hand, that’s awesome! People are actively pushing for inclusion in the publishing industry. But on the other hand, it’s terribly sad. Because if agents are searching so actively for LGBTQ books, that means they aren’t out there yet. That means there is another poor little gay boy asking a girl to pretend to be dating him so he can stay in theatre.

Maybe their generation will be the last. Maybe today’s teens will get to look back and say, thanks to us, no one has to be afraid of their sexuality. What they went through in high school will be a story to tell that their children will never believe. At least that’s the hope.

Until then, it’s up to us to write the stories so that those kids fighting to fit in will know that different doesn’t mean alone.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hanging out with MG author Christine Porter

Today I'm hanging out with a fellow South African writer, Christine Porter. Her MG books include Peril Beyond the Waterfall and Night of the Cologoro. 

A bit about Christine:

I am a Pretoria-based writer of children’s fantasy (mostly). This is largely because I refuse to take anything seriously, and believe things should be bent to my will. I did not anticipate that characters, much like people, have minds of their own and often will not be told. I am the middle of three sisters, bilingual, staunchly South African and an avid tourist (but a terrible photographer). When I'm not writing or travelling, I run a small electronic bookshop and provide friendly advice and manuscript prep services to other writers.

Instead of an author interview, today I'll be interviewing Jeremiah Dumnien, the central character in Peril Beyond the Waterfall. He also shows up again in Night of the Cologoro with a brand new sidekick.

1. Tell us about yourself in 140 characters or less.
I left my boring home town two years ago to find adventure and I don’t regret it. Laenutia is a lot more fun than Omondei!

2. What's the one thing you want the most?
To be a knight! I have to wait until my 14th birthday before I can even squire, but I’m practicing with the sword whenever my father’s not looking. I’m going to be the best knight Laenutia has ever seen.

3. What's the one thing you fear the most?
I’ve faced a lot of scary things, but nothing was more terrifying than Lord Null. I still have nightmares about his white staring eyes.

4. If you could be any animal for a day, what would it be and why? A dragon for sure! Imagine being able to fly around and breathe fire. I could go anywhere I wanted and do anything I wanted. What fun!

5. What's your favourite thing about Laenutia? There’s always something new happening. In Omondei it was just farming and chores. Now there’s magic everywhere, there’s always a creature to meet or a place to discover. I learn a lot about how things work and people treat me like a grown up most of the time. Except when I ask to be trained as a squire early, then it’s all “No, you’re still a kid!” Unfair.

Peril Beyond the Waterfall is available right now! Night of the Cologoro will be released May 31, so keep a look out for that. Jeremiah sounds like a really cool kid with big dreams.


Thursday, April 14, 2016


Years ago, the gardening bug bit me. I devoured plant books, magazines, and garden tags. After scorching some poor Hostas in the full sun, I learned what should be planted where.

If we hadn't moved to the country, maybe I'd be a Master Gardener now instead of an author. Out in the country the deer eat everything. My love affair with gardening came to screeching halt.

Now I focus my attention on indoor plants. Even my dead Grandmother would appreciate my African Violets. Everyone thinks I have a green thumb, when in reality I just chuck out the crappy plants. If they are wimpy and require too much coddling, out they go.

And this is how editing a manuscript reminds me of tending plants.

Dead leaves, branches, and limbs need to be removed to improve the overall health of the plant. The same can be said of cutting out words, phrases, or even whole scenes so that the book as a whole can fly.

Don't cut the life out of your manuscript. Just cut out the fluff and fat. Don't let your story take over, either. Don't be scared of it. Make it behave.

Years ago, I wrote my first full-length novel--a fairy tale saga with a word count of 140,000 (that's super full-length, right?). Besides the book being way too long, so were my sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.

So what did I do? Just give up?
No way.
That was just the beginning.

After consulting a professional editor, I cut out the outer story, joined a critique group to help my prose, and read books and blogs and articles galore.

Then I wrote something else. Something completely different.
By then my writing had transformed. I learned how and when to use commas. My chapter length varied from short to medium. Any sentences that strayed longer than necessary got chopped.

Instead of the water and sunlight needs of plants, I researched which candles should be used during spells to raise the dead or to end winter. I learned about the Blood Moon and the Book of Shadows.

I carefully tended the story, adding details and removing adverbs. I found a small beta reader group to help me transform my early manuscript into what became known as:

A happy ending came to both books, actually, because after years of sitting dormant, I once again picked up my fairy tale. The first time, I simply read it through. I still loved the story, but there was so much work to do reworking the manuscript.

But I'm not afraid of a work, and when it was ready I found a publisher for An Occasionally Grim Fairy Tale (to be released in 2016).

And they lived happily ever after... 

About the Author - Ann M. Noser

Growing up an only child, I learned to entertain myself. During summer vacations, my greatest form of exercise consisted of turning the pages of a book. Now I'm all grown up and full of stories half-written in my head. I have to write them down so I can find out what happens next.

Contact info/how to find me: