Susan

Apr 172014
 

One in an occasional series

I am one of those editors who likes to support my clients even if what they need help with is beyond the range of editing. Because of this, I’ve now started such services as offering help writing book descriptions, a While You Write service where you cough up cash and I’m available seven days a week for brainstorming plot wrinkles and other problems, and more. I’ve even brought some e-book formatters into the fold, but more about that another day.

The Book Description and While You Write services are available only to my editing clients.

One other thing I like to do is talk about your options for publication. A number of you like to explore your options, and that’s great. I’m totally supportive of that. And… a lot of you have found small presses who’ve been interested in publishing your books. Sometimes, that makes me sad because it means you’re moving on to a new editor (and when that editor’s not as good as me, well, double sad!) — but that sadness is also tempered with excitement for you. I want only the best for my clients.

But sometimes, you find yourself someone who is well intentioned but … maybe isn’t ready for a writer of my clients’ caliber (do I think highly of you guys, or what?). And you ask me about this publisher.

I came across one of these small presses the other day. When I find them, I crawl all over their website, looking for certain criteria:
1. Is the site well written? Seems like a silly thing to look for, but if a publisher’s website is riddled with grammar errors, what will your book look like? (and yes, I do wish I had the cojones to send them a letter, offering my non-fiction department’s services!)

2. What can you offer my author that s/he can’t do by him/herself? The latest was a publisher who said they were working on a relationship that would get them into brick-and-mortar stores. Sounds great, but … they weren’t there yet. What could they offer my client NOW?

3. What do they publish, and how does your book fit into their list? One publisher I came across had both erotic lit and a book about Jesus on their front page. I’d be surprised if people aren’t offended by that one!

There’s a reason niche publishers do well, folks: they break into one market and do it well.

4. What’s the background of the principals involved? Even if it’s not a publishing background, I’m sorry, but someone with an MFA in painting and a partner with a PhD in history just doesn’t make me confident that you know how to run a business — even though I’ve learned that running a business isn’t rocket science. But I want to see that you’ve got a clue what you’re doing before I’ll express confidence in your business.

(Before you ask about my lack of business background, I spent 2013 enrolled in a year-long business class and worked with a fabulous mentor. Like I said, running a business isn’t rocket science.)

5. How excited by your book is this publisher? I thought this was a no-brainer, but when a client forwarded a mail that said, “I skimmed your book and think it’d be a good fit…” I realized that the siren’s song of “it’d be a good fit” drowned out the red flag. This acquiring editor SKIMMED the book? The book he’s worked on for years and years? Sweat, blood, tears, marriage, friends, and an editor are all in that book and this acquiring editor admitted to SKIMMING it?

To paraphrase uber agent Janet Reid: You want someone behind your book who’s as passionate as you are.

Yes, we all want to have a publisher’s name behind us (okay, not all of us anymore!) but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let desire overrule your natural caution. I’ve seen too many small presses go under, heard too many stories about authors who have to go to court to have their rights reversed, seen what happens when expectations are crushed.

Don’t be that author.

But do be the author who is smart enough to reach out to people who can look past the emotional high of the offer and help you weigh your options with a clear mind. This is your business. It’s not rocket science, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be smart in the choices you make.

Apr 162014
 

Yes, boys and girls, after being full for months on end, right now, there’s no one in the queue for the Featured New Book Spotlight. Why not? I see books being published every day. I see free promotion right here at West of Mars. And I see the e-mails I get from readers, telling me they’ve bought a book they’ve seen in the spotlight and I was right: it’s worth a read.

Tell your friends. Take advantage yourself. Remember, it’s free if you’re willing to take the next open date (and only $5 to reserve the date you want).

Why are you still holding out? Flood my inbox today!

Apr 142014
 

People sometimes ask me what’s the purpose of a writer’s group in today’s world. Why not connect online and be done with it all?

Because there’s magic when you can connect in person and realize the person you’ve gotten to know online is so much more interesting in person.

Blood and Iron cover

Such it is with my buddy Jon Sprunk, who is a true writer pro and a super dude. And he’s got a new book out, as well. Which means he’s taking a turn in the spotlight.

Jon, what song makes you think of your book?

Answer: “Revelations” by Iron Maiden. I’m a child of the 80′s metal wave. This song in particular evokes the majesty and mystery that I tried to put into every line of my new epic fantasy, “Blood and Iron.” But, of course, I’m not writing just for the metal crowd. This new series is about the clash between rival cultures, the friction between social strata, and the real price of liberty. You won’t elves or unicorns within its pages, but you will find magic, the kind of elemental sorcery that can destroy as well as create. I hope you’ll give it a try.

 

Wait. He said IRON MAIDEN??? Duuuuuuude. I told you he was cool, didn’t I?

Now, after all that, you totally need to know what Blood and Iron is about.

This action-heavy EPIC FANTASY SERIES OPENER is like a sword-and-sorcery Spartacus set in a richly-imagined world.

It starts with a shipwreck following a magical storm at sea. Horace, a soldier from the west, had joined the Great Crusade against the heathens of Akeshia after the deaths of his wife and son from plague. When he washes ashore, he finds himself at the mercy of the very people he was sent to kill, who speak a language and have a culture and customs he doesn’t even begin to understand.

Not long after, Horace is pressed into service as a house slave. But this doesn’t last. The Akeshians discover that Horace was a latent sorcerer, and he is catapulted from the chains of a slave to the halls of power in the queen’s court. Together with Jirom, an ex-mercenary and gladiator, and Alyra, a spy in the court, he will seek a path to free himself and the empire’s caste of slaves from a system where every man and woman must pay the price of blood or iron. Before the end, Horace will have paid dearly in both.

 

Jon’s gotten some good reviews on this already, especially about his world-building, and especially from some of the industry’s big names in reviews. How can you ignore that??? You can’t, I know, so here are some buy links:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Books-A-Million
Indie Bound

Get to know Jon. You’ll be glad you did.

Jon’s website
Jon’s facebook fan page
Jon’s twitter

Apr 122014
 

I can hear you. “Come ON, Susan. It’s April. If I look at when you published your other books the past couple of years, it’s about the time for your annual birthday book release. So where is it???”

It’s coming. Just a delay because we’re going to put new covers on Demo Tapes 1 and 2 and bring you Demo Tapes 5. They’re all being professionally formatted, too, so they’ll look better on your readers.

Print versions will follow at some point. I’m not sure when.

And I’m not sure when the special surprise will follow, either.

Truth is, not only have I asked a lot of my cover designer and my formatter, but I’ve been kind of unmotivated this year. I’m so focused on editing and other behind-the-scenes the work here at West of Mars that my own writing has fallen by the wayside. I’ve learned an invaluable lesson about my writing, and I’ll bring that to you in a longer, more thoughtful post that any of you are free to send to Passive Guy.

Hang tight. More Trevor and Mitchell is on the horizon, and I particularly like Demo Tapes 5. But then, I like them all. While DT1 is still my all-time favorite, it’s hard for me to choose the runners up. Go and weigh in with your favorites — both collection and outtake — in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

 

Apr 102014
 

I smell a trend.

Authors who e-mail me, wanting me to edit their books while they’re on summer vacation. They want to take time off, be with their kids and their families, travel, see the world. Do those things that writers have to do in order to keep the Write What You Know furnace stoked.

I don’t blame a single one of you. In fact, I encourage every single one of my clients to step away from the computer and clear their brain. Go camping. Visit a national park. Breathe fresh mountain air or fresh salty sea air. I don’t care. Just unplug!

Which means I’m participating in creating my own crushing summer workload, and I’m more than glad to — so long as I can handle what you guys throw at me. I am very smart at managing workloads and even better with time management. Best of all, I know people who would give their eyeteeth to work under the West of Mars banner. I’m building a tradition of excellence, after all, and am pleased and flattered to have so many people who want to be part of West of Mars.

If you haven’t caught on by now, all of this is a fancy way to say get your dates booked now. Pick a deadline — I start new projects every Monday — and get your name on my calendar.

Summer dates are available. Get yours while the getting’s good. Because I promise you won’t be the only one waiting until the last minute. And I promise that existing clients won’t be turned away. If you’ve been wanting to cross the West of Mars threshold, this is your Bat Signal.

Book your dates for June, July, and August. New or existing, lock in your dates. We can always move ‘em later if we need to.